Human Rights Watch World Report 2001 - Slovakia
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||1 December 2000|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 2001 - Slovakia , 1 December 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8de4b.html [accessed 23 October 2017]|
|Comments||This report, Human Rights Watch's eleventh annual review of human rights practices around the globe, covers developments in seventy countries. It is released in advance of Human Rights Day, December 10, 2000, and describes events from November 1999 through October 2000.|
Human Rights Developments
Slovakia made significant progress in human rights protection, but incidents of employment discrimination, skinhead (racist youth) violence, and police brutality and weak antidiscrimination legislation and enforcement threatened the Slovak Roma minority. The governing Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), in office for two years, faced criticism for failure effectively to implement legislation such as the September 1999 Resolution and Measures Concerning the Roma National Minority.
Slovakia continued its movement toward European Union accession, took the first step toward NATO membership by signing a joint statement calling for membership by 2002, and became a member state of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Racially motivated attacks on Roma or foreigners are not subject to special sanctions under Slovak law, which provides no express protections against discrimination by reason of ethnic origin or nationality. Deputy Prime Minister for Human and Minority Rights Pal Csaky announced in May his plan to draft an antidiscrimination law. In November 1999 the Slovak National Labor Office director, despite criticism from rights groups, defended his office's policy of marking files of persons regarded as Roma with the letter "R"; he said the practice was implemented because of the "complicated social adaptability" of the group.
During a violent police raid in the Romani settlement Zehra on December 2, 1999, police shot a thirteen-year-old boy in the leg, and officers reportedly used ethnic insults and threatened to rape Roma women. Both the criminal complaint against the involved officers and the appeal were rejected.
On December 17, 1999, a skinhead in Car assaulted a twenty-one-year-old Romani man. A police spokesperson described the incident as one of "youthful imprudence" and ruled out a racial motive. On February 7, 2000, two Roma were run down and killed while walking with their son. Rather than arrest the suspect, a well-known Slovak, police threatened family members, beating some of them, the family said. On February 20, four assailants wielding baseball bats attacked Roma in a bar in the town of Velke Kapusany; two Roma sustained serious injuries.
On August 20, three men shouting racial epithets beat Anastazia Balazova, a fifty-year-old Roma woman, and two of her daughters. She died from her injuries two days later. Deputy Prime Minister Csaky called the crime "deplorable," but the chief investigator said that police had no evidence that the crime was racially motivated. On August 24, the Slovak parliament observed a minute of silence in memory of Anastazia Balazova.
In August Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky announced his opposition to the registration of homosexual partnerships, which supporters framed as a potential E.U. accession issue since four member countries of the E.U. recognize homosexual partnerships.
Protecting Human Rights
Slovak and international NGOs monitored threats to freedom of the media. In April the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in a letter to President Schuster, protested defamation charges brought against Vladimir Mohorita, a journalist from the Slovak far-right nationalist weekly Zmena.
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) continued active monitoring and advocacy on behalf of Slovak Roma at home and abroad. The ERRC provided legal expertise in a case of skinhead violence; the second court decision ordered the first instance court to widen its interpretation of race in accord with international standards, declaring the incident a racially motivated crime.
Slovakia earned praise among rights advocates for ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which calls for abolition of the death penalty.
Role of the International Community
In August the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination received Slovakia's periodic report on combating racial bias and adopted its concluding observations and recommendations. The committee stated its concern about allegations that Slovak police and prosecutors have failed to investigate acts of racially-motivated violence promptly and effectively and about the socioeconomic status of Roma citizens. It noted Slovakia's recognition of the committee's competence to receive discrimination claims from Slovak citizens.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
The OSCE high commissioner for national minorities issued a report on the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area in March, citing unemployment rates of up to 80 percent among Slovak Roma, the absence of Romani representatives in the 150-member Slovak Parliament, and disadvantages Romani children face in schools.
Council of Europe
European Court of Human Rights president Luzius Wildhaber ranked Slovakia among the countries flooding the court with high numbers of complaints; currently there are 250 registered complaints from Slovakia, the majority of which are likely to be accepted. Almost all of the complaints filed allege unfounded delays in court proceedings. A visit to Slovakia by the European Committee to Prevent Torture in 2000 was announced, but the findings had not been released at this writing. The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities visited Slovakia in February. In June the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance published its second report on Slovakia, acknowledging recent positive steps taken by Slovakia but recommending full adoption and implementation of antiracist legislation and of measures to combat discrimination against the Roma community.
In February the European Union (E.U.) opened membership talks with a group of six candidate nations including Slovakia. At the sixth meeting of the E.U.-Slovakia Association Council in June, the E.U. recognized progress in the protection of minorities, particularly the 1999 adoption of the minority language law. The E.U. urged implementation of the law and particular attention to improving the situation of the Roma.
Some E.U. countries retained visa regimes, imposed in 1999 when a flood of Slovak Roma sought asylum. Belgium suspended its visa requirement on August 1. Norway lifted visa requirements for Slovak nationals on August 15.
During U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's November 1999 Bratislava visit, a sign of dramatically improving relations with Slovakia, Albright called for better treatment of the Roma minority. In February 2000, the U.S. State Department, in its annual report on human rights, noted considerable improvement in Slovakia but said that the status and police treatment of the Roma remained problems.