Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Slovakia
|Publication Date||24 May 2012|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Slovakia, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe391132.html [accessed 28 February 2015]|
Head of state: Ivan Gašparovič
Head of government: Iveta Radičová
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 5.5 million
Life expectancy: 75.4 years
Under-5 mortality: 6.9 per 1,000
Roma continued to experience discrimination in access to education, health care and housing. The government was found to have violated the human rights of a woman who alleged an enforced sterilization.
Following a vote of no confidence in October, early elections were scheduled for March 2012. The Prime Minister and her cabinet had limited powers to act on crucial social and economic policy measures.
At the end of November, after negotiations failed between the government and the trade unions over hospital privatization and working conditions for doctors, over 1,200 doctors in public hospitals resigned from their jobs, and a number of hospitals were reportedly unable to provide adequate health care services. The government declared a state of emergency which obliged the doctors to come to work. A failure to comply risked criminal charges. A compromise was reached between the government and the doctors and the state of emergency ended on 8 December.
Discrimination – Roma
Slovakia was criticized by international human rights monitoring bodies and NGOs for continued discrimination against Roma. In April, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that Roma were excluded from political participation, and faced discrimination in access to education, health care and housing.
In June, the Minister of the Interior responded to existing tensions between non-Roma and Roma in the village of Žehra, eastern Slovakia. He proposed an amendment to the Act on Municipalities, allowing a municipality to separate into two parts. NGOs and the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities (Plenipotentiary) criticized the initiative, as it could lead to municipalities dividing on ethnic lines.
In September, the municipality of Vrútky constructed a concrete wall to separate a kindergarten, retirement homes and apartment buildings from an area mostly inhabited by Roma.
Right to education
In April, the UN Human Rights Committee noted that reports of de facto segregation of Romani children in schools continued, and that Romani children were placed too often in classes for pupils with "mild mental disability". The Committee urged the government to eradicate segregation in the educational system. In May, the European Commission held a meeting on Roma inclusion in Slovakia, where participants recognized the continuation of segregation in education. The meeting concluded with a call on the government to adopt a clear strategy for desegregation. In December, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that the Slovak authorities introduce a duty on all schools to desegregate.
In September, Romani parents learned that the elementary school in the town of Levoča was to have separate first grade classes for Romani children. The school established the classes allegedly due to a petition submitted by non-Roma parents calling for a restriction on the number of children coming from "anti-social" communities. The school's director stated that the classes were intended to create a suitable education environment for the Romani children. The Plenipotentiary expressed concerns that the establishment of separate classes may amount to segregation based on ethnicity and said that a complaint would be filed to the State School Inspectorate if the practice continued.
Prešov County Court in eastern Slovakia ruled in December that the primary school in the town of Šarišské Michaľany had violated the anti-discrimination legislation by placing Romani children into separate classes.
Inhabitants of informal Romani settlements faced the threat of, and experienced, forced evictions, and lacked access to basic services. In September, the Parliament proposed an amendment to building regulations, to oblige municipalities to demolish unauthorized constructions without legal title to the land. The proposal suggested penalties for those municipalities which failed to carry out the demolition within a period required by law. The Plenipotentiary's office expressed concerns that the proposal contravened anti-discrimination legislation and that it would severely affect Romani informal settlements. The Ministry of Construction and Regional Development announced in November that it would work on this proposal and submit a new draft amendment in 2012.
On 16 May, Demeter, an informal Romani settlement of approximately 80 people in Košice, was demolished by the municipality, which argued that the settlement and a nearby landfill site were a hazard to health and safety. Residents who asked for emergency housing were accommodated in tents. The Plenipotentiary expressed concerns that the municipal action amounted to a forced eviction, contrary to both Slovak and international law.
In May, the mayor of the town of Žiar nad Hronom called on the central government to "address the Roma problem", in particular that of informal settlements. The initiative – reportedly supported by more than 300 mayors – called for strict rules and control of "anti-social inhabitants". In June, the municipality of Žiar nad Hronom announced the relocation of Roma from an informal settlement to a site providing accommodation in metal containers. The eviction was carried out in November. The local authorities reportedly did not provide any help to the affected individuals arguing that none of them had asked, and 13 Roma were effectively made homeless.
Nearly 90 Romani families in the village of Plavecký Štvrtok, north of Bratislava, continued to be threatened with forced eviction. Previous demolition notices issued in 2010 were stopped by the prosecutor's office due to procedural shortcomings. However, the mayor of the village announced that the municipality planned to issue new demolition notices to the owners of the illegally constructed houses. In October, the houses were cut off from running water. The municipality installed a water tank for the settlement to use on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Enforced sterilization of Romani women
In April, Slovakia was criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee for the narrow focus of the investigation into past allegations of enforced sterilizations. The Committee also expressed concerns over the lack of information on the elimination of forced sterilizations, which, allegedly, continued to take place.
On 8 November, the European Court of Human Rights, in its first judgement on enforced sterilization, ruled that the government had violated human rights of V.C., a Romani woman. The sterilization – without her full and informed consent – amounted to a major interference in her reproductive health status. Her right not to be subjected to ill-treatment and her right to respect for private and family life had been violated. The Court also noted that in her records, medical staff would refer to V.C.'s ethnic origin, which indicated a certain mindset in the way the health of a Roma should be managed. A legal representative from the NGO Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pre občianske a ľudské práva) said that V.C.'s case was just the tip of the iceberg. She called again on the government to stop denying its responsibility for the practice, apologize to all its victims and fully compensate them.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Slovakia was repeatedly reminded by the UN Human Rights Committee that it should strengthen its efforts to combat racist attacks committed by law enforcement personnel, particularly against Roma.
In September, the District Court in Košice opened a hearing in the case of alleged ill-treatment of six Romani boys by police officers in April 2009. The accused police officers and the parents of the Romani boys gave testimonies. The case was pending at the end of the year.
Two out of the three men formerly held in US custody in Guantánamo Bay, accepted by Slovakia in 2010, left for their native Tunisia and Egypt. One of them was reportedly arrested upon his arrival in Egypt in June and charged with terrorism. The Minister of the Interior stated that the departure of both men from Slovakia was their choice. All three former Guantánamo detainees had received residence permits in Slovakia in 2010. While waiting for these permits, they had been detained in a centre for illegal migrants where they went on hunger strike to protest against their detention and the living conditions.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
In April, an amendment of the Labour Code came into force, extending the protected grounds against discrimination to include sexual orientation.
In June, the second annual Bratislava Pride march included more than 1,000 participants. The organizers acknowledged good co-operation with the police and therefore progress from the previous year (when the police had announced they would not be able to protect the participants, and the organizers had therefore changed the march's route). Minor incidents were reported, and the police arrested a few counter-demonstrators. The Pride march was attended by the mayor of Bratislava, as well as some members of the parliament.