Discrimination against Roma remained prevalent. The European Court of Human Rights found in favour of two Roma victims of police ill-treatment. A bill restricting access to abortion was rejected by parliament.
Parliamentary elections on 29 February resulted in a new government led by Igor Matovič, who was elected on an anti-corruption platform.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government declared a state of emergency in March and implemented a wide range of measures to stop the spread of the virus.
In April, a former soldier was convicted of the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, whose deaths sparked widespread protests. In September, a court acquitted businessman Marián Kočner, who had been accused of ordering the murder. The journalist had been investigating allegations of corruption, including in relation to the business activities of Marián Kočner.
Discrimination – Roma
Anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination remained prevalent as Roma communities were stigmatized as a public health threat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The authorities targeted Roma settlements with disproportionate and discriminatory measures in response to the COVID-19 virus.1 In April, the authorities tested residents of some Roma settlements for COVID-19 with the assistance of the army and ordered the mandatory quarantine of five Roma settlements on the grounds of public health. The legal basis for these mandatory quarantines, enforced by the police and army, was unclear, raising concerns of arbitrary detention. Residents were not promptly informed of the duration and conditions of the quarantine. Inadequate access to water and sanitation in informal Roma settlements and a lack of adequate alternative accommodation are long-standing problems that were not sufficiently addressed by authorities in their response to COVID-19, making compliance by the community with public health recommendations much more difficult.
In July, the Ministry of Education wrote to the European Commission regarding ongoing infringement proceedings against Slovakia for systemic discrimination and segregation of Roma children in schools. In the letter, the government acknowledged the existence of racial segregation in education in Slovakia and set out a series of measures, including the preparation of a legal definition of segregation.
Excessive use of force
Complaints of excessive use of force and ill-treatment by police against Roma continued. In May, the Ministry of Interior opened an investigation into allegations that a police officer beat five Roma children who had briefly left an area under mandatory quarantine in the village of Krompachy.
In January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in A.P. v. Slovakia in favour of a Roma boy who was subjected to ill-treatment by police in 2015 and criticized the authorities’ failure to effectively investigate his complaint. In March, the ECtHR formally requested a response from Slovakia regarding the alleged ill-treatment of six Roma boys in a police station in the city of Košice in 2009 (M.B. & Others v. Slovakia).
In September, the ECtHR ruled in R.R. & R.D. v. Slovakia that two Roma residents of the settlement of Moldava nad Bodvou had been subjected to inhuman treatment during a police operation in June 2013 in which over 30 people had been injured. The ECtHR also found that the authorities had violated the prohibition on discrimination by failing to investigate alleged discrimination in the planning of the operation.
Rights of women and girls
Violations of women’s rights, often under the guise of protecting religious or traditional values, increased.
Although Slovakia remains a signatory to the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, parliament has refused to ratify it and in February voted to reject the Convention altogether. Organizations working on violence against women reported an increase in domestic violence following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Public Defender of Human Rights expressed concerns regarding women’s access to safe and timely sexual and reproductive health care during the pandemic. Some health care providers suspended abortions, referring to a government requirement to postpone non-essential operations in response to COVID-19.
In October, parliament rejected a bill that would have imposed new barriers on access to abortion, and thereby endangered the health and wellbeing of women and girls.