Slovak Republic: Government response to neo-Nazi and extremist groups, including political parties and gangs (2009-June 2012)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||12 July 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||SVK104114.E|
|Related Document||Slovaquie : information sur les mesures prises par le gouvernement en ce qui concerne les groupes néo-nazis et extrémistes, y compris les partis politiques et les gangs (2009-juin 2012)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Slovak Republic: Government response to neo-Nazi and extremist groups, including political parties and gangs (2009-June 2012), 12 July 2012, SVK104114.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50533b412.html [accessed 29 August 2014]|
1. Government Actions Against Extremism
Sources indicate that the fight against extremism is primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior and the police (Meseznikov 19 Nov. 2010, 7; Slovakia n.d.). According to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the police are responsible for the investigation of racially motivated crimes (ECRI 26 May 2009, para. 91). Two sources state that the Ministry of Interior and the police monitor neo-Nazi and right-wing extremist groups (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6; Freedom House 2011, 514) and conduct preventive actions against them (ibid.).
Sources report that Slovakia adopted an anti-discrimination act in 2004 (UN 16 Mar. 2011; Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 14; see also Slovakia 5 Mar. 2009, para. 26). The Act prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, national or ethnic origin, colour and language (ibid.; Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 14). However, the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe states that the Act has been "largely under-implemented, notably due to: a somewhat limited knowledge about the Act itself and discrimination issues generally among the legal profession, including judges; court proceedings lasting several years; and a reported reluctance to granting meaningful compensation" (ibid.). Sources indicate that the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Act (AI 2012; Council of Europe 26 May 2009, para. 28). The Centre also combats racism and provides legal assistance to victims of racial discrimination (ibid.). According to ECRI, the Centre had 26 employees in 2010 and 16 in 2011 (ibid., 21 Mar. 2012, 6).
Sources state that the Slovak government continued to implement its Action Plan for the Prevention of all Forms of Discrimination, Racism, Xenophobia and Other Expressions of Intolerance (UN 16 Mar. 2011; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6; Slovakia 5 Mar. 2009, para. 29), which was initiated in 2000 (ibid., para. 81). The Action Plan focuses on strengthening tolerance among citizens, as well as on the activities that promote multiculturalism and non-discrimination (ibid.). Its priorities include the following:
combating extremism through preparation and implementation of relevant legislation, more effective identification of and punishment for extremism-related criminal activities, systematic training and opinion-forming activities in relation to professionals and the general public, promotion of cultural and social scientific activities, and efforts to address the issues of disadvantaged (marginalised) population groups. (ibid.)
A report submitted in 2009 by the Slovak government to the UN Human Rights Council indicates that a committee was set up between the police, NGOs and individuals in order to coordinate activities with the goal of eliminating racially motivated crimes and extremism (Slovakia 5 Mar. 2009, para. 79). The committee also "gathers information on the occurrence of all forms of intolerance, xenophobia, extremism and racism" (ibid.). Although a new system for gathering statistics on racist crimes was introduced in 2006, the Commission for Human Rights of the Council of Europe points out shortcomings related to the collection of data on racist incidents and the state response to such incidents (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 31).
The report of the Slovak government to the UN Human Rights Council states that the government adopted the "concept for combating extremism" in 2006, which was the first comprehensive document addressing this issue (Slovakia 5 Mar. 2009, para. 80). According to the report, "the document analyses the existing state of affairs in anti-extremism efforts and provides basic outlines for their further improvement" (ibid.). According to the official of the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa, in June 2011, the government adopted the second concept for combating extremism for 2011-2014 (ibid. 25 June 2012).
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe indicates that there are no specific guidelines available for police and prosecutors in addressing racially motivated crimes (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 30). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 notes that judges reportedly lacked "sufficient training in relevant laws and court cases involving extremism and often did not handle cases properly" (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). However, the report of the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the Office of the UN indicates that the Ministry of Interior, in cooperation with the Attorney General, drafted a procedure for the police force on how to deal with the issues of extremism and racially motivated criminal activities (Slovakia 28 Mar. 2012, 4). According to the Commissioner's report, the representatives of the Department of Human Rights and Equal Treatment of the government of Slovakia entered into negotiations with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Co-Operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) in 2011 to implement training programs for police officers and prosecutors in order to fight hate crimes (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 28). For instance, the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the Office of the UN notes that in 2011 the Slovak police force participated in an international conference related to the issues of hatred and extremism (Slovakia 28 Mar. 2012, 4).
1.1 Extremist Organizations
Sources report that Slovakia prohibits extremist (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 5) and racist organizations (Freedom House 2011, 514). Country Reports 2011 states that, according to the Criminal Code, membership in an extremist group is punishable by two to six years imprisonment and by three to eight years for the production of extremist materials (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). However, right-wing organizations continue reportedly to operate as registered and unregistered civic associations, societies and movements (SITA 8 June 2011; Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 3). Country Reports 2011 indicates that there were approximately 500 active members of the neo-Nazi groups and several thousand sympathizers in Slovakia in 2010 (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). Corroboration of the above-mentioned information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources name two far-right or extremist political parties and several extremist or neo-Nazi groups, including
- People's Party - Our Slovakia (SITA 28 Nov. 2010; ENAR Mar. 2011, 27; Slovakia 25 June 2012);
- Slovak National Party (ibid.; PHW 2011, 1271);
- Slovenska Pospolitost (Slovak Togetherness or Slovak Congregation) (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 3; SITA 10 Jan. 2012; Slovakia 25 June 2012);
- Oravska Straz (Orava Guard) (ENAR Mar. 2011, 22);
- Narodny Odpor (National Resistance) (ibid.);
- Nove Slobodne Slovensko (New Free Slovakia) (Slovakia 25 June 2012); and
- Slovenske Hnutie Obrody (Slovak Revival Movement) (ibid.).
According to a study entitled Right-wing Extremism in Central Europe: An Overview, published by the non-profit German "political foundation" Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), which focuses on the advancement of public policy issues (FES n.d.), Slovenska Pospolitost (SP) is the "most significant manifestation of right-wing extremism" in the Slovak Republic (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 3). The study indicates that SP has been registered at the Ministry of Interior since 1995 as a civil association (Abbass et al., 4). The Ministry of Interior wanted to ban the organization in 2008, but the court overturned the decision (SITA 10 Jan. 2012). The organization also had a political party named Slovenska Pospolitost - Narodna Strana, which was disbanded in 2006 because its program contained Nazi elements (ibid.) and because of its "antidemocratic character" (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 4). According to the Abbass et al. study, the group's ideology is "based on nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, neo-Fascism and also neo-Nazism," and the organization cooperates with other far-right groups in Slovakia and abroad (ibid.).
A report of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), entitled Racism and Discriminatory Practices in Slovakia, indicates that People's Party - Our Slovakia, which is reportedly a "political branch" of the SP (Meseznikov 13 June 2012), is the "most active and best-known movement in Slovakia, whose members are connected with extremist crimes" (ENAR Mar. 2011, 22). The party obtained 1.33 percent of the vote in the 2010 parliamentary elections (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 4; Meseznikov 13 June 2012). The Embassy official indicated that in the 2011 parliamentary elections, the party obtained less than 5 percent of the vote and they are not represented in the parliament (Slovakia 25 June 2012).
According to the ENAR report, leaders of People's Party - Our Slovakia have been accused several times of crimes of extremism, "but none of the cases went to court" (ENAR Mar. 2011, 22). However, according to the Slovak news agency Slovenska Tlacova Agentura (SITA), in 2011, the District Court and the Appellate Senate of the Regional Court in Banska Bystrica County acquitted Marian Kotleba, a former leader of the SP and a current leader of the People's Party - Our Slovakia, who was charged with a criminal offense of defaming a nation, race and confession (SITA 18 Jan. 2011). Kotleba was accused of distributing an election leaflet in 2009 stating "'eliminate unfair advantages for not only the Gypsy parasites'" when he ran for the office of Banska Bystrica County Chairman (ibid.). Both courts decided that "no criminal offense was committed by the contested statement" (ibid.).
1.2 Extremist Crimes
According to a report by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe, authorities recorded 155 racially motivated crimes in 2007 and 158 in 2008 (26 May 2009, para. 90). ENAR reports that 132 of such crimes were registered in 2009 and 156 crimes in 2010 (Mar. 2012, 24).
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an official of the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa indicated that the criminal code of the Slovak Republic was amended in 2009 (Slovakia 25 June 2012). The amended criminal code is "punishing all forms of extremism, racism and xenophobia as well as other crimes committed of racial, religious or national motivation" (ibid.). According to Article 149(d) of the criminal code, "racial motivation is an aggravating factor in respect of all crimes" (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 30). However, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe identifies a number of shortcomings in the implementation of this Article (ibid.). For instance, in a case where a man attacked a 61-year-old Romani man while shouting Nazi slogans, the police "ruled out racial motivation stating that it was a conflict between neighbours" (ibid.). The report does not indicate the date of the incident.
According to sources, the 2010 Rainbow Pride Parade in Bratislava was marked by violence (US 13 Feb. 2012; AI 2011, 290). Amnesty International indicated that police failed to provide adequate protection for the participants, two of whom were reportedly injured (ibid.). However, according to a report by the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), the police were finally able to push back 50 "skinheads/neo-Nazis" (US 13 Feb. 2012). SITA reported that during the parade, police detained about 30 extremists (SITA 31 July 2010). The OSAC report adds that the 2011 Parade "was considered a success largely due to better preparation by the police and city government" (US 13 Feb. 2012).
Country Reports 2011 states that criminal proceedings were initiated against a group of right-wing extremists who verbally and physically attacked a man of African descent in Bratislava in June 2011 (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). Further information on the results of the proceedings could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
The Slovak government reported to the Commissioner for Human Rights that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published in September 2011 its opinion on a suspended sentence of imprisonment for 7 months for disorderly conduct given to "one of the most famous figures of the neo-Nazi movement in Slovakia" (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 28). According to the report, the man was acquitted by the District Court Bratislava III of the accusation of promoting fascism (ibid.). The report further notes that the "result is not a positive signal for all victims of crimes whose motive is racial religious or other hate and undermines the confidence of victims in the legal state and its instruments" (ibid.).
Sources state that the SP held anti-Roma marches, some of which resulted in "clashes" between SP sympathizers and the police (Abbass et al. Dec. 2011, 4; OSF n.d., 9). According to a representative of the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Bratislava, when extremist groups demonstrate near settlements and harass Roma people, "Roma sometimes complain that police do not deal with such incidents" (OSF 14 June 2012). Country Reports 2011 indicates that the investigation of racially motivated attacks against minorities in 2011 varied by jurisdiction, but also states that "numerous" people were detained for racially motivated attacks of Roma people (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). For information regarding anti-Roma marches and attacks that have been carried out against the Roma by ultra-right groups and extremists, please see Response to Information Request SVK104113 of 6 July 2012.
1.3 Response to Hate Speech
According to Country Reports 2011, "the law prohibits the defamation of nationalities, punishable by up to three years in prison" (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 2). However, the report indicates that police enforced the law "only when other offenses, such as assault or destruction of property, were also committed" (ibid., Sec. 6).
There were instances of defamation of Roma and other minorities by public officials at every level in 2010 (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, para. 22) and 2011 (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). In a letter to government officials of the Slovak Republic, dated 15 February 2012, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and some of its Slovak partners expressed concern over the "election materials that negatively target Roma" (ERRC 15 Feb. 2012). The ERRC indicated that the election posters of the Slovak National Party made reference to the "'cost'" of supporting Roma" (ibid.). The ERRC is a Budapest-based NGO that combats anti-Romani racism in Europe (ibid., n.d).
According to the report adopted in May 2010 and published in January 2011 by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe, there was an "increase" in hate speech and racism on the Internet (Council of Europe 18 Jan. 2011, para. 98). Act 421/2004 amending the criminal code criminalizes offences committed through the Internet (UN 10 Dec. 2004, para. 4). Country Reports 2011 indicates that police monitored Internet sites posting hate speeches and reportedly "attempted" to arrest or fine the authors (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 2).
2. Complaint Mechanisms
According to the Embassy official, a victim of extremist, neo-Nazi or a hate crime can submit a complaint to any police station or police department in person, in writing or electronically (Slovakia 25 June 2012). Thereafter, the complaint will be forwarded "immediately" for investigation to the Department for Combating Extremism created at the Regional Police Directorate (ibid.). Without providing further details, the official indicated that the Department for Combating Extremism is also "obliged" to follow and investigate anonymous complaints related to racist, extremist and hate crimes, as well as offences committed through the Internet (ibid.). Corroboration of the above-mentioned information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Abbass, Merin, Katerina Tvrda, Vaclav Walach, Bartosz Rydlinski, and Tomas Nociar. December 2011. Right-wing Extremism in Central Europe: An Overview. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Berlin.
Amnesty International (AI). 2012. "Slovakia." Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 48th Session, May 2012.
_____. 2011. "Slovakia." Amnesty International Report 2011: The State of the World's Human Rights.
Council of Europe. 21 March 2012. European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). ECRI Conclusions on the Implementation of the Recommendations in Respect of Slovakia Subject to Interim Follow-up. (CRI(2012)29)
_____. 20 December 2011. Commissioner for Human Rights. Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Following his Visit to Slovakia from 26 to 27 September 2011. (CommDH(2011)42)
_____. 18 January 2011. Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Third Opinion on the Slovak Republic Adopted on 28 May 2010. (ACFC/OP/III(2010)004)
_____. 26 May 2009. European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). ECRI Report on Slovakia. (CRI(2009)20)
European Network Against Racism (ENAR). March 2012. Irena Bihariova. 2010-2011 Shadow Report. Racism and Related Discriminatory Practices in Slovakia.
_____. March 2011. Irena Bihariova and Marek F. Hojsik. 2009-2010 Shadow Report. Racism and Discriminatory Practices in Slovakia.
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 15 February 2012. "ERRC and Slovak Civil Society Call for End to Anti-Roma Election Materials in Slovakia."
_____. N.d. "Who We Are."
Freedom House. 2011. Grigorij Meseznikov, Miroslav Kollar, and Michal Vasecka. "Slovakia." Nations in Transit 2011.
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). N.d. "About Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung/FES."
Meseznikov, Grigorij. 13 June 2012. "Slovak Parliamentary Elections 2012: Is Radical Nationalism Rising or on the Decline?" Deconspirator.
_____. 19 November 2010. Combating Right-Wing Extremism in Slovakia: State of Affairs, Actors, Strategies.
Open Society Foundation (OSF). 14 June 2012. Telephone interview with a representative in Bratislava.
_____. N.d. "Recommendations for Slovakia - EU Roma Framework: Policy Paper." Sent to the Research Directorate by a representative of the Open Society Foundation in Bratislava.
Political Handbook of the World 2011 (PHW). 2011. "Slovakia." Edited by Thomas C. Muller, William R. Overstreet, Judith F. Isacoff, and Tom Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Slovakia. 25 June 2012. Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa. Correspondence from an official to the Research Directorate.
_____. 28 March 2012. Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the Office of the United Nations. Commentary of the Slovak Republic to Recommendations No 7, 8 and 13 of the Committee for Human Rights, in connection to the presentation of the 3rd Periodic Report of the Slovak Republic related to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (CCPR/C/SVK/CO/3).
_____. 5 March 2009. National Report Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 15(A) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Slovakia. (A/HRC/WG.6/5/SVK/1)
Slovenska Tlacova Agentura (SITA). 10 January 2012. "Different Versions of Zlate Moravce New Year's Incident Appear." (Factiva)
_____. 8 June 2011. "Cabinet Approves a Strategy to Fight Extremism." (Factiva)
_____. 18 January 2011. "Regional Court Definitely Acquits Marian Kotleba." (Factiva)
_____. 28 November 2010. "Political Parties Respond to Outcome of Municipal Elections." (Factiva)
_____. 31 July 2010. "PRIDE Organizers: Government Program Statement is Vague and Unclear." (Factiva)
United Nations (UN). 16 March 2011. Human Rights Committee. "Permanent Representative Describes His Country's Significant Progress' as Human Rights Committee Takes up Third Periodic Report of Slovakia."
_____. 10 December 2004. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Slovakia. (CERD/C/65/CO/7)
United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Slovakia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.
_____. 13 February 2012. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). "Slovak Republic 2012 Crime and Safety Report."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation. An official from the Embassy of Canada in Vienna was unable to provide information.
Internet sites, including: BBC; ecoi.net; Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation; Human Rights Quarterly; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; Minority Rights Group; Open Society Foundations; Slovakia — Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa, Government Office of the Slovak Republic; Slovenska Pospolitost; United Nations - UN Department of Economic and Social Development, UN Development Program, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, UN Population Fund, UNHCR RefWorld, UN Women.