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SLOVAKIA 2021

The authorities continued to impose mandatory quarantines on Roma settlements in response to Covid-19. There were ongoing concerns over an investigation into excessive use of force against Roma people. Parliamentarians attempted to adopt amendments that would restrict access to abortion. Slovakia had not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention.

Background

In April, the Constitutional Court decided to carry out an inquiry into the lawfulness of the restrictions of the right to liberty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Discrimination

The authorities subjected Roma to widespread discrimination.

Right to health

The authorities continued to impose quarantines on Roma settlements, raising concerns over proportionality and lack of adequate socio-economic support. Regional health authorities in several parts of Slovakia introduced mandatory quarantines in dozens of Roma settlements after some of the residents tested positive. The quarantines were enforced by the police. On 23 February, the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities raised concerns over the widespread practice of mandatory quarantines. The authorities failed to carry out an adequate assessment whether these were proportionate or necessary. In December, the Constitutional Court declared the law providing for mandatory quarantines unconstitutional, due to the lack of limits to restrictions on human rights.

Throughout the year, there were concerns over unequal access of Roma to Covid-19 vaccines, resulting in low vaccination rates in Roma settlements. By the end of August, only 7% of residents of Roma settlements had been vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to 43% of general population. Before April, when an amendment to the law entered into force, foreigners and people with arrears on health insurance had not been eligible for Covid-19 vaccines. This disproportionately affected people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, including Roma.

Excessive and unnecessary use of force

In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in M.B. and Others v. Slovakia that Slovakia had failed to investigate allegations that police officers ill-treated six Roma boys in a police car after arresting them in 2009 in the city of Košice.

In May and June, the District Court in Košice terminated the criminal proceedings against five out of six Roma who had lodged complaints about ill-treatment during a police operation in Moldava nad Bodvou in 2013. The police claimed that the men had falsely accused them of wrongdoing. In December, the District Court also terminated the proceedings also against the sixth complainant. In June, the government apologized for the human rights violations during the police action but provided no justice or reparations to the Roma victims.

Right to education

In April, the NGO eduRoma published a report estimating that as many as 70% of Roma children in Slovakia did not participate in remote online learning during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. A lack of internet access was one of the key factors that hindered home schooling.

Slovakia continued to face infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission for systematically discriminating against and segregating Roma children in education, breaching the EU’s equality legislation.

Forced sterilizations

In June, Roma women who had been victims of unlawful sterilizations met parliamentarians to urge the state to ensure justice and remedy for the harm they had suffered. The Public Defender of Human Rights and the Centre for Civil and Human Rights NGO reiterated the call for adequate compensation. In November, the government officially apologized for the unlawful sterilization of thousands of Roma women. However, it had yet to put in place an effective compensation mechanism.

Gender-based violence

Ten years after signing the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Violence Against Women, Slovakia had still not ratified it. Drawing on the data of helplines for victims of domestic violence, a report by the Institute for Labour and Family Research highlighted an increase in cases during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, there was a 49% increase in calls to helplines in comparison with 2019.

In April, the prime minister allocated €3 million to centres for victims of domestic violence to increase the financing of shelters.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In June and November, parliamentarians unsuccessfully attempted to adopt amendments that would restrict access to abortion. The proposals, which were rejected by parliament, aimed to restrict access to legal abortion.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In August, Slovakia announced that it would only accept 10 Afghan evacuees. The party leaders of the government coalition stated that the country would not be open to accept a “larger number” of refugees.