Discrimination against Roma
Many Roma continued to be caught in a cycle of marginalization and poverty. In November, the European Commission called on Slovakia to take concrete measures on the ground to “bridge segregation” and to end discrimination against Romani children in education. Several Slovak Members of the European Parliament also urged their government to deal with segregation of Roma in housing and schooling, which they referred to as a “time bomb”.
Huge numbers of Romani children were still being placed unnecessarily in special schools and classes for children with mental disabilities and learning difficulties, where they followed a reduced curriculum which gave little possibility for reintegrating into mainstream schools or advancing to secondary education. Others were segregated in Roma-only mainstream schools across the country. Poor housing conditions, physical and cultural isolation, poverty and lack of transport continued to hinder Romani children’s ability to attend school.
The persistent segregation of Romani children in the education system violated their right to an education free from discrimination, and their future employment prospects remained blighted by the failure of the government to provide them with adequate education.
Housing – forced evictions
Many Roma experienced very poor living conditions, lacking access to plumbing, gas, water and sanitation facilities and connection to the electricity grid. Romani settlements are very often physically segregated from the main town or village, with little public transport; when it exists, many Romani families cannot afford the bus fare.
Roma continued to suffer forced evictions. In January, the NGOs Milan Šimečka Foundation and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions along with the European Roma Rights Centre released a report on what they described as a wave of forced evictions experienced by Roma in Slovakia.
- In September, reportedly more than 200 Roma were forcibly evicted from their houses in Nové Zámky, moved to neighbouring villages and allocated inadequate housing. The Plenipotentiary for Romani communities of the Slovak government, Anina Botošová, criticized the increasing policy of evictions by several municipalities and said that those acts were “illegal”.
Forced sterilization of women
In January, the Constitutional Court demanded the reopening of an inquiry into the forced sterilization of three Romani women. In a landmark decision, the Constitutional Court asked the Košice Regional Court to compensate the three women, who were subjected to forced sterilizations between 1999 and 2002. The women were to be awarded damages of 50,000 Slovak koruna (approximately €1,420). Previously, the authorities had refused to admit that any forced sterilisations took place in the country’s hospitals, only recognizing that there were “procedural shortcomings”.
Attacks against foreigners and minorities
Minorities and foreigners continued to be subjected to racist attacks. NGOs expressed fears that these attacks were on the rise.
- In March, a man from Nigeria was assaulted in Bratislava. According to the NGO People Against Racism (PAR), the attackers allegedly shouted: “What are you doing here, negro! This is not Africa!” and knocked him to the ground. PAR reported that when police arrived and the man pointed out his attackers, the police officers told him: “Shut up, you’re not in Africa!”
- In May, Hedviga Malinová lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court after the police halted a criminal prosecution opened in relation to an alleged ethnically motivated attack on her by two men in Nitra in August 2006.
A police investigation in October 2006 had concluded that Hedviga Malinová fabricated her account, and in May criminal proceedings were opened against her for alleged perjury. In July, Police Chief Ján Packa admitted that Hedviga Malinová had been assaulted but “not as she described”. In September, Prosecutor General Dobroslav Trnka admitted that some evidence from the investigation was lost in “procedural errors by the police and the prosecutor’s office”.
Hedviga Malinová filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in November, claiming that she has been subjected to inhumane and humiliating treatment by the Slovak authorities.
- In November, three men reportedly attacked and shouted Nazi slogans at a 16-year-old half-Cuban girl and told her to “get out of Slovakia”. The girl suffered head and spinal injuries. Two attackers were detained and charged with causing bodily harm and advocating incitement to hatred.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In January, rejected asylum-seekers were given increased protection against forcible return to countries where they may be in danger of serious human rights violations. However, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, remained concerned at the low number of successful asylum applications in Slovakia. The government’s Migration Office reported that between January and September 2007, Slovakia granted refugee status to only eight people out of 2,259 applicants.
‘War on terror’
The government failed to reject the use of so-called “diplomatic assurances” from states not to torture people subject to an extradition procedure.
- In November, the Bratislava regional court ruled that the extradition of Mustapha Labsi, an Algerian national, was admissible. Accused of terrorist activities in France and the UK, Mustapha Labsi had been held in custody in Slovakia since May on the basis of an extradition request by Algeria. The Slovak Prosecutor’s Office told the court and media that it had assurances from the Algerian authorities that Mustapha Labsi would not face torture or the death sentence. In September, the Migration Office of Slovakia refused Mustapha Labsi’s request for asylum and for subsidiary protection.
Amnesty International urged the authorities on several occasions not to extradite Mustapha Labsi, where he would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including incommunicado detention at a secret location, torture or other ill-treatment. Amnesty International urged the Minister of Justice not to accept any diplomatic assurances from Algeria. By the end of the year, no substantive response from the Slovak authorities had been received.
Police – allegations of ill-treatment
- In November, Balli Marzec, a journalist and Polish citizen of Kazakh descent, was arrested for protesting in front of the Presidential Palace during a visit by the Kazakh President. Although her demonstration was reportedly lawful, a police officer asked her to stop disrupting “the public peace”. She refused, and was taken to a police car by two police officers. She told Amnesty International that she was punched in the stomach and hit on the head by one of the police officers. A medical examination performed during her detention, the results of which she was not given access to, showed minor injuries. Balli Marzec was released from police custody shortly before midnight, accompanied by the Polish consul. Once in Poland, she underwent a second medical examination and was operated on to stop severe internal bleeding allegedly caused to the assault. In December, Minister of Interior, Robert Kaliňák, announced that the head of the Bratislava police involved would be fired.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Slovakia in January, March and November.
- Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International’s concerns in the region: January-June 2007 (EUR 01/010/2007)
- Slovak Republic: Still separate, still unequal: Violations of the right to education of Romani children in Slovakia (EUR 72/001/2007)
- Slovakia: Romani children denied equal education free from discrimination (EUR 72/009/2007)
- Slovak Republic: Open letter regarding the Slovak chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe (EUR 72/010/2007)
- Slovakia: Extradition to Algeria would put Mustapha Labsi at risk of torture or other ill-treatment (EUR 72/011/2007)