Slovakia
Head of state
Ivan Gašparovič
Head of government
Iveta Radičová (replaced Robert Fico in July)
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
5.4 million
Life expectancy
75.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
9/8 per 1,000

Commitments were made to eliminate segregation in education on grounds of ethnic origin, but Roma continued to face discrimination in education, housing and health care. Slovakia ignored rulings from the European Court of Human Rights and returned an asylum-seeker to Algeria.

Background

A new centre-right coalition government came to power in July. The government programme adopted in August included the commitment to implement measures to eliminate segregation in education on the basis of ethnic origin.

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Discrimination – Roma

Discrimination against Roma continued at several levels. The Ministry of the Interior reportedly announced that it had started working on a system of collection of data on crimes committed by people living in Romani settlements. In September, the Minister stated that “municipalities in the proximity of segregated settlements belong to areas with higher criminality”.

In October, the Regional Court in Košice ruled that Roma were discriminated against on the ground of their ethnic origin when they were prevented from entering one of the cafés in the town of Michalovce; it was one of the first rulings of this kind. However, the Court refused to grant any compensation to the victims.

Right to education

The CERD Committee published its concluding observations on Slovakia in March. It reiterated its concerns about the de facto segregation of Romani children in education. The Committee urged Slovakia to end and prevent such discrimination and to take into account its close link to discrimination in housing and employment.

In August, the new government acknowledged the existence of ethnic segregation in education as a systemic problem. However, in September the Ministry of Education denied that segregation of Romani children was a serious issue, and alleged there had been only a few complaints against this form of discrimination.

  • In November, the NGO Centre for Civil and Human Rights made a complaint to the Office of the Regional Prosecutor regarding an order issued by the municipality of Prešov in 2008, which allegedly breached the Anti-discrimination Act. The order established catchment areas for the town’s seven elementary schools. The NGO claimed that the municipality designated streets, in some cases even house numbers, in such a way that streets primarily or exclusively inhabited by Roma fell under the catchment area of one particular school, and as a result the school became progressively a Roma-only school.

Housing rights

Several municipalities either adopted a decision to build or started building walls to separate the areas where Roma live from the non-Roma parts of towns or villages.

  • Following the construction of a wall separating a Romani settlement from the rest of the village of Ostrovany in 2009, the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights stated that, while the construction did not amount to a discriminatory action, the municipality had not sufficiently fulfilled their obligation to prevent discrimination. The Centre also highlighted that the construction of walls represents social separation.
  • In August, the municipality of the town of Michalovce finished building a wall to separate the Romani settlement and a non-Roma residential area of the town. Romani inhabitants of the settlement referred to the barrier as the “Berlin Wall” and expressed discontent about the separation. In September, the Ombudsperson held that the building of the wall did not violate basic rights and freedoms.
  • In September, the municipality of Prešov erected a wall that separates the predominantly Roma housing estate from the town. The mayor of Prešov allegedly stated that this was how the municipality reacted to complaints about vandalism. The Slovak National Centre for Human Rights held that the construction constituted an affirmation of inequality.
  • Nearly 90 Romani families in Plavecký Štvrtok, a village approximately 20km north of Bratislava, were at risk of forced eviction from their homes. Since January, the municipality had issued notices to 18 families asking them to demolish their homes themselves, arguing that the families had failed to provide documents to prove the houses were constructed in compliance with the law.

Enforced sterilization of Romani women

In March, the CERD Committee urged the authorities to establish clear guidelines to ensure patients are fully informed before giving consent to sterilization and to ensure that practitioners, as well as Romani women, are familiar with such guidelines. Five cases involving allegations of enforced sterilizations of Romani women were pending before the European Court of Human Rights. In two cases, the Court declared the case applications admissible.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

  • In November, the District Court in Košice held the first hearing in the case of the ill-treatment by police of six Romani boys in April 2009. The Prosecutor General charged 10 police officers with abuse of powers, including racial motivation. Four of the accused police officers faced charges of lack of due diligence, as they allegedly witnessed the abuse without intervening. All of the accused police officers reportedly pleaded not guilty and refused to testify at the court hearing. Three of them continued to work for the police.
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Counter-terror and security

The authorities returned an individual to a country where he might have been at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

  • In April, the Ministry of Interior forcibly returned an asylum-seeker, Mustafa Labsi, to Algeria, despite a 2008 ruling of the Constitutional Court that had halted an extradition attempt on human rights grounds, particularly due to the risk of torture. Algeria had requested Mustafa Labsi’s extradition in 2007, after convicting him in his absence in 2005 for crimes of terrorism, and sentencing him to life imprisonment in 2008. The European Court of Human Rights had also issued an order for interim measures in August 2008 requiring the authorities not to extradite, until the appeals on his asylum claim had been completed. Before his extradition in April, Mustafa Labsi had been held in detention since 2007; in October, the Constitutional Court found that the detention violated his right to freedom and security. At the end of the year, he was being held in El Harrach prison in Algeria, awaiting trial on charges of belonging to a “terrorist group abroad”.
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Refugees and asylum-seekers

Guantánamo detainees

The government agreed to accept three men formerly held in US custody at Guantánamo Bay, and they were transferred to Slovakia on 5 January. The three were detained at Medveďov centre for illegal migrants on their arrival. In June and July they went on hunger strike to protest against their detention and poor living conditions. In July, the government issued the three men with residence permits valid for five years.

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Right to health – reproductive rights

According to the Slovak Family Planning Association, the top management of hospitals often abused the right of conscientious objection in relation to abortion. As a result, it was alleged that only one of the five public hospitals in Bratislava carried out abortions because of the decisions of the hospital management. Despite recommendations by the CEDAW Committee in 2008, the authorities had not issued regulations on invoking conscientious objection as grounds for refusal to perform certain health procedures.

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Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

The organizers of Bratislava Pride had to change the route of the first LGBT Pride march on 22 May after the police announced that they would not be able to protect the participants from attacks by counter-demonstrators. The march was reportedly marked by violence and intimidation due to the failure of authorities to ensure adequate security. According to the organizers, at least two men who were carrying the rainbow flag were injured by counter-demonstrators before the rally started.

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