Slovak Republic: Treatment of Roma, including acts of violence, forced sterilization and state protection (2009 - June 2012)
1. Violence Against Roma
Several sources report on racially motivated attacks against Roma in the Slovak Republic (US 24 May 2012, 24; ERRC Mar. 2011, 25-26; Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 2). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, in 2011, Roma were "singled-out for violence" (24 May 2012, 24). The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), a Budapest-based NGO that combats anti-Romani racism in Europe (ERRC n.d.), indicates that there is an "increasingly racist climate" in Slovakia (15 Jan. 2012). The ERRC indicates that between January 2008 and December 2010, racially motivated attacks against Roma, as reported by the media or documented by the ERRC, resulted in two deaths and eight injuries (Mar. 2011, 5). The ERRC also states that between 2008 and February 2012, there were at least 13 attacks against Roma (16 Feb. 2012). Incidents of violence include the following:
- On 16 June 2012 in Hurbanovo, an off-duty municipal police officer shot and killed three Roma and injured another two (ERRC 25 June 2012);
- On 14 September 2010 in Prievidza, an unknown person reportedly fired bullets into a building where Romani families were being evicted (ibid. 8 Feb. 2011, 2);
- On 6 June 2010 in Dubnica nad Vahom, following an argument about old car batteries, a 57-year-old man reportedly shot at a group of Roma, injuring five people; two men and a 13-year-old girl were hospitalized due to their injuries (ibid.);
- In December 2009 in Spišska Nová Ves, security guards at a disco reportedly attacked a Romani man after a group of Romani activists complained to the police for being denied entry to the disco (ibid., 3);
- On 7 June 2009 in Zohor, a 61-year-old Romani man was shot in the face with a gas gun by a 20-year-old man who was shouting Nazi slogans. The perpetrator had reportedly threatened a Roma family, chased Romani children with his vehicle and sent his dog after them one week before the incident (ibid.);
- On 26 April 2009, an armed man went to a Romani settlement in Monov, near Košice, and entered houses, broke windows and kicked in a door while shouting death threats and firing his gun (ibid., 4);
- On 5 April 2009 in Bratislava, four skinheads attacked ten Romani construction workers on a bus, resulting in "serious injuries" and the hospitalisation of three of the Romani men (ibid., 4).
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an official from the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa stated that Roma "are not victims of systematic or regular violent attacks" (Slovak Republic 13 June 2012).
1.1 Treatment of Roma by Extremist Groups
Sources indicate that there has been a rise of extremist groups in the Slovak Republic (ERRC 15 Jan. 2012; OSF 14 June 2012). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Bratislava stated that this increase has mainly occurred in the last two years (ibid.). The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights reports that attacks on Roma are usually committed by neo-Nazi or skinhead groups (20 Dec. 2011, 9). According to Freedom House, in 2011 there were "numerous displays of racist propaganda and physical violence against the Roma by neo-Nazi groups" (2011, 514).
Sources state that extremist groups have held demonstrations to intimidate Roma (OSF 14 June 2012; US 24 May 2012, 24-25). Sources indicate that these rallies often take place close to Roma settlements (OSF 14 June 2012), or in areas where there has been tension between Roma and non-Roma (US 24 May 2012, 25; ERRC 15 Jan. 2012), including villages where people have been attacked or killed (ibid.). The OSF representative said that the People's Party [also known as People's Party-Our Slovakia (LS-NS)] is an example of an ultra-right wing extremist group with an anti-Roma agenda (14 June 2012). Country Reports 2011 states that LS-NS held 13 rallies throughout the Slovak Republic within the first nine months of 2011, including a protest against "'gypsy extremists and gypsy parasitic criminality'" in Zilina in April 2011 (US 24 May 2012, 24-25). The OSF indicates that in 2009, an extremist group called Slovenska Pospolitost, which means Slovak Community, organized several public rallies in Eastern Slovakia protesting "Roma criminality" (n.d., 9). The OSF reports that in 2009, after an incident in which two local Roma beat a non-Roma in the village of Šarkišské Michal'any, Slovenska Pospolitost held an "anti-Roma" rally, during which approximately 200 members and supporters of the group clashed with the police, causing bystanders to join the rally (n.d., 9). Since then, extremists have organized more rallies and marches to protest "'Roma criminality'" (n.d., 9). OSF also indicates that public events held by extremist groups have been increasingly attended by local residents from all segments of society, including the elderly, women, and mothers with their children (n.d, 9). For information on the Slovak government's response to neo-Nazi groups, see SVK104114.E.
1.2 Forced Sterilization
Sources published in 2011 and 2012 state that forced sterilization of Romani women still occurs in the Slovak Republic (ERRC 5 May 2011; Council of Europe Feb. 2012, 96; UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 13). The ERRC states that "numerous cases have been documented" (5 May 2011). According to the Council of Europe, forced sterilization is being conducted by some health professionals when women go to them for obstetrical or gynaecological procedures, such as during or after a second Caesarean-section delivery (Feb. 2012, 15, 94).
On 8 November 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a case of forced sterilization, stating that the government violated the human rights of a Romani woman in the Slovak Republic by not obtaining her "full and informed consent" before sterilization (AI 2012; Human Rights Law Centre ). The victim was awarded compensation for court expenses and 31,000 Euros [C$ 38,923 (XE.com 5 July 2012a)] for non-pecuniary damages (Council of Europe 8 Nov. 2011, para. 184, 188). According to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, out of six civil law suits regarding forced sterilization that were decided by Slovak courts, damages amounting to approximately 1,500 Euros [C$ 1,883 (XE.com 5 July 2012b)] were granted in three cases, while the others were dismissed (20 Dec. 2011, 16). Additional cases related to forced sterilization are pending in Slovak courts (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 16) and the European Court of Human Rights (US 24 May 2012, 8).
Country Reports 2011 indicates that, according to a 2005 law, patients must request sterilization in writing at least 30 days before the procedure (ibid., 2). However, the Commissioner of Human Rights noted shortcomings in the implementation of this legislation, such as a lack of standardized procedures for health care practitioners to obtain consent (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 17). Further, the Council of Europe indicates that "no doctors or social workers have ever been punished" for coerced sterilization and that new cases have been reported, in part, due to this impunity (ibid., 96).
Sources indicate that the government has not acknowledged allegations of forced sterilization (ERRC 5 May 2011; Council of Europe Feb. 2012, 95).
2. State Protection
According to the Embassy of the Slovak Republic official, when attacks against Roma occur, they are handled through the application of Slovak national laws and the Constitution (Slovak Republic 13 June 2012). He also stated that "standard police procedures…are applied regardless of race, gender or nationality" (ibid.).
The embassy official stated that the Slovak Republic has implemented an outreach initiative consisting of 231 "Police Roma specialists" who spend 70 percent of their time in Roma communities to build trust (ibid.). The Commissioner of Human Rights stated that 120 police officers have been trained on "policing in a multiethnic environment," particularly Roma areas, and noted that the government has committed to recruiting Roma police officers to the national police force and to the municipal police (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 11).
2.1 Police Treatment of Roma
Country Reports 2011 indicates that the investigation of racially motivated attacks against Roma in 2011 varied by jurisdiction, but also states that several people were detained for racially motivated attacks (US 24 May 2012, 24). The Slovak government is reportedly implementing a plan that includes a special police unit in charge of monitoring extremist activities (ibid., 27).
The Commissioner for Human Rights states that police may fail to take testimony from a Romani witness or to thoroughly investigate a complaint (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 10). According to the OSF representative, some police officers are biased against Roma, particularly in Eastern Slovakia and in rural areas (14 June 2012). She noted that they may ignore complaints or fail to adequately deal with incidents against Roma (OSF 14 June 2012).
Sources report cases in which the racial motivation behind attacks against Roma is not recognized by law enforcement authorities (ERRC Mar. 2011, 25; Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 9). According to the ERRC, although the Slovak criminal code defines racial motivation as an "aggravating factor" for all crimes, there is "no specific protocol or guidelines developed for police and prosecutors on how to investigate and prosecute hate crimes" (Mar. 2011, 25).
Several sources report on police mistreatment of Roma (Council of Europe Feb. 2012, 76; ERRC Mar. 2011, 28; UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 8; US 24 May 2012, 2), including "racist attacks" by police (UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 8) and abuse of Roma suspects "during arrest and while in custody" (US 24 May 2012, 2). The Council of Europe indicates that due to the Slovak Republic's data collection, it is not possible to disaggregate statistics on offenses committed against Roma and monitor the follow-up by law enforcement authorities (20 Dec. 2011, 10). For information regarding police oversight mechanisms, see SVK104115.E.
Sources provide the 2009 example in which police officers in Košice detained six Romani boys, forced them to strip, hit and kiss each other, threatened them with loaded guns, unleashed police dogs on them, and yelled anti-Roma statements at them (ERRC Mar. 2011, 28; Council of Europe Feb. 2012, 77). Six police officers and four senior officials were reportedly dismissed following the incident (ibid.). The ERRC states that three officers were still employed by the police force at the time of the first court hearing on 26 August 2010 (Mar. 2011, 28). The court case against the police officers involved in the incident was reportedly pending at the end of 2011 (AI 2012; US 24 May 2012, 2).
Country Reports 2011 states that in May 2010, a Romani man died in Tornala, allegedly due to the excessive use of pepper spray by police officers at the time of his arrest several days earlier (ibid., 1).
2.2 Prosecution of Violence Against Roma
According to the ERRC, only a "limited number" of perpetrators are successfully prosecuted in cases of violence against Roma, and "[e]ven fewer" receive prison sentences (Mar 2011, 29). Similarly, the Council of Europe indicates that media sources report on "very mild sentences" for perpetrators of violence against Roma (Feb. 2012, 70). According to the Country Reports 2011, judges reportedly lacked "sufficient training in relevant laws and court cases involving extremism and often did not handle cases properly" (US 24 May 2012, 27). The Commissioner of Human Rights similarly stated that there are "shortcomings in the implementation of criminal law provisions against racially motivated violence," particularly regarding the acknowledgement of racial motivation as an aggravating circumstance (Council of Europe 20 Dec. 2011, 2). For example, the ERRC reports of a 7 June 2009 incident in Zohor in which a 61-year-old Romani man was attacked while the perpetrator shouted Nazi slogans (ERRC Mar. 2011, 27). The same source indicates that the police did not consider the attack to be racially motivated and suspended the prosecution; the perpetrator received two years of probation (ibid.). The Council of Europe draws upon an example of mild sentences for anti-Roma violence (Feb. 2012, 70), from an article translated from news source Korzár by Prague-based news server Romea.cz (Romea.cz 16 June 2011). Romea.cz Prague-based news server Romea.cz reports that in 2011, the Košice district court approved a suspended sentence for a 31-year-old man who punched and kicked a 14-year-old Romani boy in the head, gave the Nazi salute, and shouted Nazi slogans (ibid.).
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.
Amnesty International (AI). 2012. "Slovakia." Amnesty International Annual Report 2012: The State of the World's Human Rights. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/slovak-republic/report-2012> [Accessed 19 June 2012]
Council of Europe. February 2012. Commissioner for Human Rights. Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe. <http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner/source/ prems/prems79611_GBR_CouvHumanRightsOfRoma_WEB.pdf> [Accessed 5 June 2012]
_____. 20 December 2011. Thomas Hammarberg. 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. <https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?Index=no&command=com.instranet. CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=2000080&SecMode=1&DocId=1839228&Usage=2> [Accessed 19 June 2012]
_____. 8 November 2011. European Court of Human Rights. Case of V.C. v. Slovakia. <http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2011/1888.html> [Accessed 4 July 2012]
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 25 June 2012. "Slovakia and Ukraine Must Investigate Attacks Against Roma." <http://www.errc.org/article/slovakia-and-ukraine-must-investigate-attacks-against-roma/4011> [Accessed 29 June 2012]
_____. 16 February 2012. "Factsheet: Roma Rights in Jeopardy." <http://www.errc.org/cms/upload/file/factsheet-roma-rights-record.pdf> [Accessed 6 June 2012]
_____. 15 January 2012. "Attacks Against Roma in Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic." <http://www.errc.org/article/attacks-against-roma-in-hungary-the-czech-republic-and-the-slovak-republic/3042> [Accessed 5 June 2012]
_____. 5 May 2011. "Coercive Sterilisation of Romani Women." <http://www.errc.org/article/coercive-sterilisation-of-romani-women/3843> [Accessed 5 June 2012]
_____. March 2011. Imperfect Justice. Anti-Roma Violence and Impunity. http://www.errc.org/cms/upload/ file/czech-hungary-slovakia-imperfect-justice-06-march-2011.pdf>
_____. 8 February 2011. "Attacks Against Roma in Slovakia: January 2008-December 2010." <http://www.errc.org/ cms/upload/file/attacks-list-in-slovakia.pdf> [Accessed 6 June 2012]
_____. N.d. "Who We Are." <http://www.errc.org/about-us-overview> [Accessed 3 July 2012]
Freedom House. 2011. Grigorij Mesežnikov, Miroslav Kollár, and Michal Vašečka. "Slovakia." Nations in Transit 2011. <http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/ default/files/inline_images/NIT-2011-Slovakia.pdf> [Accessed 26 June 2012]
Human Rights Law Centre. . "V.C. v Slovakia  ECHR 1888 (8 November 2011)." <http://www.hrlc.org.au/ court-tribunal/european-court-of-human-rights/v-c-v-slovakia-2011-echr-1888-8-november-2011/> [Accessed 26 June 2012]
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.)
Romea.cz. 16 June 2011. "Slovakia: Assailant Gets Suspended Sentence for Violent Racist Attack on Romani Boy." <http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_2554> [Accessed 5 July 2012]
Slovak Republic. 13 June 2012. Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa. Correspondence from an official to the Research Directorate.
United Nations (UN). 20 April 2011. Human Rights Committee. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant. (CCPR/C/SVK/CO/3). <http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/ 422/77/PDF/G1142277.pdf?OpenElement> [Accessed 5 July 2012]
United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Slovakia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. <http://www.state.gov/documents/ organization/186615.pdf> [Accessed 22 June 2012]
XE.com. 5 July 2012a. "Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=31000&From=EUR&To=CAD> [Accessed 5 July 2012]
_____. 5 July 2012b. "Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=1500&From=EUR&To=CAD> [Accessed 5 July 2012]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to contact the European Roma Rights Centre, three lawyers in Kosice, a lawyer in Proprad, the Slovak Bar Association, and the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Centre for Civil and Human Rights; Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture; Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance; Hampshire College-Population and Development Program; International Monetary Fund; International Organization for Migration; Kuwait News Agency; Slovak Republic – Government Office, Legal Aid Centre, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Statistical Office; Slovak National Centre for Human Rights; Slovstat; Stop Torture in Health Care; World Bank.