Permanent Representative Describes His Country’s ‘Significant Progress’ as Human Rights Committee Takes Up Third Periodic Report of Slovakia
Permanent Representative Describes His Country’s ‘Significant Progress’ as Human Rights Committee Takes Up Third Periodic Report of Slovakia
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Human Rights Committee
2778th Meeting* (PM)
Permanent Representative Describes His Country’s ‘Significant Progress’
as Human Rights Committee Takes Up Third Periodic Report of Slovakia
Experts Focus on Situation of Roma Minority, Claims of Forced Sterilizations
With its legislative, institutional and procedural mechanisms for protecting human rights meeting the highest European standards, Slovakia had made significant progress in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee heard today.
Presenting his country’s third periodic report on compliance with the Covenant, Miloš Koterec, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations, highlighted the State’s efforts to promote gender and racial equality, and to protect its citizens, minorities among them, against all forms of discrimination, including racially motivated criminal offences.
He said Slovakia’s criminal law had recently been overhauled, while the scope of competencies of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights had been widened with the 2004 enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Act. The Government had carried out institutional dialogue with non-governmental organizations, largely through its Council for NGOs, and fostered equal treatment of men and women through its Labour Code. It had also supported specific measures aimed at reconciling family and professional life.
Underlining the multi-ethnic nature of Slovakia’s population, which includes a dozen nationalities in addition to ethnic Slovaks, he said the rights of minorities were guaranteed by the Constitution and laid down in more than 30 specific laws. Alongside the Government’s Council for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, the newly constituted Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality provided forums for dialogue with and representation of national minorities. The latter Council had joined the Government’s Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities as the main bodies advising the State on minority concerns.
Zeroing in on the Roma minority, he said the Government’s main goals and priorities for marginalized Roma communities centred on creating a more favourable environment in the areas of education, health, employment and housing. While the Government had an “obligation of conduct” regarding the Roma — and was determined progressively to improve the situation — practical results had been slow to materialize. “As far as the Roma communities are concerned, we are still far from being satisfied with the progress achieved,” he acknowledged.
When the Committee’s experts took the floor, they expressed serious concerns about the situation of the Roma in Slovakia, including their access to special schools and classes; social obstacles to their employment arising from racial and cultural stereotypes; and continuing allegations of the forced sterilization of Roma women.
Iulia Antoanella Motoc, expert from Romania, pressed the delegation to explain reports that Roma schoolchildren were separated from the mainstream school population on the basis of the perception that they did not perform at the same level as other students. Given that the Roma had historically endured difficulty in finding employment, what was the State doing to help them find jobs? she asked, wondering also about the extent to which the stereotype of the Roma prevailing throughout Europe had been dissipated in Slovakia.
A number of experts requested the delegation to address further the extremely serious question of forced sterilization, with several noting that concerns had been raised about whether the practice, if it existed, amounted to genocide. Pointing out that the Government had amended legislation to include the concept of informed consent in the wake of those allegations, they asked how that concept was implemented in practice.
“How can you give consent when you are illiterate, for example?” asked Christine Chanet, expert from France. She said she did not understand how leading populations systematically to opt for sterilization could be justified, as that clearly contravened the Covenant and other conventions.
Touching on other issues, Yuji Iwasawa, expert from Japan, said it was “wonderful” that Slovakia’s Constitution explicitly stated that international treaties prevailed over national laws, noting that it was among the few national charters containing such a provision. Concerned, however, that the Covenant was not invoked in court, he requested information on the familiarity of Slovakians with the Covenant and asked whether the Government was disseminating information about it.
Lazhari Bouzid, expert from Algeria, raised a number of concerns about the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, suggesting that defending human rights was not part of its mission. Moreover, the Centre played no role in the adoption of legislation, a requirement of international conventions, and did not encourage the State to ratify or join such instruments, he said.
Responding to the experts’ concerns about forced sterilization, a member of the delegation said that since 2004, sterilization had only been carried out upon a patient’s request. After the consequences and aims of sterilization, as well as the chances of such procedures failing, were explained to them, the patients were given sufficient time to decide whether to consent, she said, adding that the patients themselves paid for the service.
For its part, Slovakia’s independent health-care monitoring body had not identified any cases of forced sterilization, she continued. Moreover, no non-governmental organization had submitted any evidence of forced sterilizations besides mere allegations. Should they have such evidence, it should be submitted directly to the monitoring body, she suggested.
The Human Rights Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 17 March, to conclude its consideration of Slovakia’s third periodic report and take up the second periodic report of Serbia.
The Human Rights Committee, the 18-member expert body that monitors global implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, continued its 101st session today, taking up the third periodic report of Slovakia. It was expected to receive information on developments occurring between November 2001 and December 2008 in the areas covered by articles of the Covenant. The report was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close cooperation with the Slovak Government Office, other ministries, the General Prosecutor’s Office and other institutions. Certain sections are complementary to the second periodic report and provide only basic information on certain issues in order to avoid duplication.
Presentation of Report
MILOŠ KOTEREC, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations, presented his country’s third periodic report, saying that significant progress had been made in implementing civil and political rights, and that the legislative, institutional and procedural mechanisms of Slovakia’s human rights protection systems met the highest European standards. “Proper implementation of the Covenant requires a good legislative basis, the absence of which inevitably impairs the quality of its practical implementation.”
In 2004, Parliament had adopted the Anti-Discrimination Act, which specified the content of the Constitution’s equality and non-discrimination provisions, as well as international instruments, he said. Providing protection against all forms of discrimination and enabling victims to seek adequate and effective judicial remedies, it postulated the generally applicable principle of equal treatment, and widened the scope of competencies of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, a provider of legal assistance to victims of discrimination and intolerance and a publisher of annual reports on human rights in the country. In addition to the Centre’s report, the “Action Plan for the Prevention of All Forms of Discrimination, Racism, Xenophobia and Other Expressions of Intolerance” constituted one of Slovakia’s systematic anti-discrimination tools, he said.
Slovakia had enacted new penal legislation effective 1 January 2006, he said. Comprising the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, it contributed to the detection and prosecution of the perpetrators of racially motivated criminal offences. Together with the Prosecution Service Act, the new legislation fostered general civil and political rights. “The Slovak Republic pays particular attention to the principle of equal opportunities, which is enshrined in all relevant laws and regulations,” he said, highlighting the Labour Code in terms of equal treatment of men and women. The State supported measures aimed at reconciling family and professional life, including through the diminution of the “job-versus-family” dilemma and increased support for family services.
A multi-ethnic State, Slovakia was home to 12 nationalities besides Slovaks, who amounted to 14 per cent of citizens belonging to other nationalities, he said. Through its advisory body, the Council for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, the Government had developed dialogue with the associations and unions representing various national minorities, he said, emphasizing that the rights of those minorities were guaranteed under the Constitution and laid down in more than 30 specific laws. Moreover, the existence of minorities was perceived as an asset that enriched society. At the political level, the interests of ethnic Hungarians, the most populous minority, were defended by the “Most-Hid” party in Parliament.
He went on to say that the Government was committed to creating appropriate conditions for minorities through its Manifesto for the years 2010-2014. Just days ago, the Government’s Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality had been constituted as a representative and functional forum for national minorities. As a permanent advisory body to the State, the Council would issue opinions on domestic compliance with international human rights commitments, he said, adding that it would also discuss reports on fulfilling international conventions and human rights treaties. Additionally, the Government had created the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, with a particular emphasis on culture and education among minorities.
Another advisory body, the Government’s Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities, implemented comprehensive measures to improve the situation of that minority group and facilitate its integration into society, he said. That office also supported the social and cultural need of Roma communities to build their capacity to participate in the civil society activities, among other things The Government’s main goals and priority efforts for the Roma minority were described in the “Medium-Term Concept for the Development of the Roman National Minority SOLIDARITY-INTEGRITY-INCLUSION for 2008-2013”, which aimed to develop a model for the creation of a more favourable environment for marginalized Roma communities.
Its four main priorities included education, health, employment and housing, he continued. “As far as the Roma communities are concerned, we are still far from being satisfied with the progress achieved,” he conceded, acknowledging also that the Government had an “obligation of conduct” regarding the Roma and was determined progressively to improve their situation. However, practical results were slow to materialize, he noted.
Turning to the issue of institutional dialogue between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), he said it took place mainly through the Government’s Council for NGOs, a coordination and advisory body that supported organizations performing humanitarian and charitable services, caring for children, youth and sports, education, and regional development, among others.
He said that since Slovakia’s accession to the European Union and the Schengen Area, the number of foreigners residing in the country on both short-term and long-term bases continued to rise. Their status was regulated by a separate, frequently-amended law that, generally speaking, increased the legal certainty of foreign nationals living in Slovakia. The country’s migration policy covered legal asylum and illegal migration, he said, adding that the number of asylum seekers was declining, although asylum was only granted to a fraction of applicants due to non-compliance with underlying asylum–granting criteria.
Before introducing other members of the delegation, he underscored the importance of his country’s commitments in the area of civil and political rights. “We shall do our utmost to minimize any shortcoming, which undoubtedly exist, in the future.”
Committee Experts’ Comments and Questions
IULIA ANTOANELLA MOTOC, expert from Romania, asked what measures the courts took to invoke the Covenant, and whether it was indeed invoked. She also asked if there was more of a focus on the European Court of Human Rights, rather than the Human Rights Committee. In its response, the Government had explained that, due to upcoming elections, it was not the time to revisit the Constitution or to grant the Constitutional Court jurisdiction over international treaties. However, most Constitutional Courts did have jurisdiction over such matters, she pointed out. Moreover, since time had passed since the elections, and given reports from non-governmental organizations that the new Government was more human rights-oriented, did the delegation believe there was a heart-felt interest in making a constitutional amendment?
Regarding question 6, she pointed out that the Government had stated in its written reply that a ruling by the Constitutional Court prevented action to protect the Roma, and requested more information on that ruling. Explaining that she was a member of the Council of Ministers that had examined the implementation of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, she asked about programmes to eliminate special classes for Roma with disabilities. Based on a perception that the Roma had not achieved the same mastery of topics as others, they had been separated from the mainstream population, she said, asking whether domestic legislation been created in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
She went on to note that the Roma had historically had difficulty in finding employment, and she asked what was being done to help them find jobs. There was a stereotype about the Roma prevailing throughout Europe, she said, wondering about the extent to which it had been dissipated in Slovakia. How many people made up Slovakia’s Roma community? Since 2003, another concern had focused on sterilization of the Roma, she said, citing reports from non-governmental organizations that the practice continued and that hospitals had requested consent forms in order to continue it. Did such consent constitute informed consent? she asked.
Finally, she noted Slovakia’s “impressive” statistics on gender equality in some sectors, citing the greater number of female judges, for example, and the significant number of women in public administration. How many women were in high-level decision-making positions, and further, how many had been educated about their rights?
LAZHARI BOUZID, expert from Algeria, said legislation regulating the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights was not in line with the principle of parity. The Centre did not have a mission to defend human rights, nor did it provide periodic reports to Parliament. It played no role in adopting legislation, a requirement of international conventions, but did not encourage the State to ratify or join such instruments, he noted. It neither guaranteed a quantitative representation of civil society nor enjoyed financial independence. As for its mediation role, he asked whether citizens had recourse to mediation, and if so, whether that had ever resulted in reparations. If so, what form had they taken?
In terms of the Centre’s research, he sought information about the practical measures it took in assessing people’s understanding of human rights and legality in general, asking also what relationship the Centre had with the Public Defender.
On question 4 (non-discrimination), he said that several reports, including those from non-governmental organizations, stated that the law was not implemented in reality, as seen in the small number of cases examined by the courts. Citing one case in which the “cost” of discrimination had amounted to €130, and another in which the Roma plaintiff had agreed to a simple apology, he said that a third case presented to the courts had not been taken up, fuelling a perception that cases put forward by the Roma were not addressed.
Moreover, even though the National Centre for Human Rights was charged with providing services for victims, it had not brought even one of the 4,000 complaints received between 2004 and 2008 to court, he noted. How willing was the Government to implement its non-discrimination laws? he asked.
He then asked about the results of measures intended to curtail racial violence and whether any statistics were available. Besides the Roma, which other communities suffered racial violence?
As for question 9, he said that sending people to countries where they risked torture contravened fundamental human rights. Citing one such case, he said the European Court of Human Rights had requested that the people concerned not be handed over to the country in question. What was the Government’s position on that issue?
He also asked what the Government was doing to ensure the dignity of people without the right to education or health. Did they not fulfil the conditions for a normal life?
In other areas, he noted that the Government had amended the law on forced sterilization in 2005, introducing the concept of informed consent. Reports by non-governmental organizations asserted that the amendment had not been applied and that the Ministry of Health lacked the documents necessary to implement the law. Had hospitals taken ad hoc measures to obtain consent for such sterilizations? he asked. Citing one Government survey that did not cover Roma women, he wondered whether Slovakia had created an independent committee to examine those issues and provide reparations to victims.
CHRISTINE CHANET, expert from France, requested clarity on why the Covenant was not invoked in the courts, a question linked to the issue of “constitutional review”. Was there a legal obstacle, or perhaps insufficient knowledge of legal frameworks? The delegation had said that reforms would require the courts to have the competency to rule on international treaties, she recalled, asking what alternative solutions could be put forward in the absence of an amendment to the Constitution.
She went on to describe the 18 October 2005 ruling of the Constitutional Court as “interesting” in that, while it condemned “positive discrimination”, it provided for the abuse of rights. She asked the delegation to explain the ruling so that the Committee could grapple with its implications.
In response to question 8, the Government had stated that sexual orientation was part of a package of laws intended to combat discrimination, she recalled, wondering, however, how Slovakia put that into practice. Did laws forbid that type of discrimination, or punish those who discriminated against homosexuals, for example, or those who did not rent to or allow homosexuals to buy property?
Regarding forced sterilization, she said the issue was one of “extreme seriousness”, especially given that people were being subjected to it because of their ethnic origin. The practice should be seen as a form of “genocide”, she argued. Non-governmental organizations believed that forced sterilization persisted, she said, asking whether the Government knew of any such cases. How could one provide consent, or even express it? she asked. Was it medical consent? “How can you give consent when you are illiterate, for example?” She said she could not understand how leading populations systematically to choose sterilization could be justified, adding that such an action clearly contravened the Covenant and other conventions.
YUJI IWASAWA, expert from Japan, asked first about the application of the Covenant, saying that the Constitution stated explicitly that international treaties prevailed over national laws. “This is wonderful,” he said, adding that it was among the few constitutions with such a provision. Article 154 (c), paragraph 1 was especially commendable. However, such provisions did not mean much if the Covenant was not invoked in the courts, he pointed out, asking whether the treaty was known among Slovakians and if the Government was disseminating information about it.
Turning to violence against women, he expressed appreciation for the efforts made thus far to combat it, especially as outlined in the National Action Plan, which set forth “down to earth” goals. Seeking clarity on “secondary victimization”, he requested details on measures to address that problem, asking also how Slovakia ensured that the will of victims was considered and protected, especially in the context of “victims’ consent”. The Committee had not received enough information about sanctions against perpetrators, he said, asking what other options were available, besides restraining orders and penalties.
Noting that the criminalization of marital rape could involve complex issues, he asked for examples showing that the judiciary viewed it as a crime in practice. Finally, he pointed out that the Committee’s request for comment on the “reporting rate” had not been answered.
A delegation member said international human rights treaties had supremacy over other Slovak legislation, noting that there was ongoing parliamentary debate on the balance. However, nobody had ever filed an appeal based on the violation of any article of the Covenant, she said, further highlighting the role of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in addressing violations of international treaties and covenants.
Another delegation member said that, according to the findings of the Constitutional Court, the only aim of the temporary mitigation measures outlined in the Anti-Discrimination Act was the removal of the consequences of previous discrimination or unequal opportunity. Following that decision, the Act had been amended. At present, temporary mitigation measures could only be adopted in areas stipulated in the Anti-Discrimination Act.
Turning to Roma-related issues, a third member of the delegation said the Anti-Discrimination Act did not allow positive discrimination, but the State aimed to foster equal and dignified coexistence with other minority populations, as well as the majority. Stressing that the goal was integration of the minority into the majority, he said the very word “integration” could be found throughout the State’s laws and policies.
He went on to explain that integration was not limited to physical inclusion, but applied also to the equal opportunity and application of every Roma’s skills, dreams and ambitions to live a dignified and equal life with Slovakia’s other citizens. Unofficially, there were an estimated 360,000 Roma in Slovakia, he said, emphasizing that the last official census had put their number at 89,000. To close the gap between those figures in the upcoming census, the Government was already working through its local offices to increase awareness of the census among the Roma in order to secure more accurate population figures.
Half of the Roma population currently lived in 600 “settlements”, he said, adding that the majority’s picture of them was based on that half, rather than on Roma living in more integrated communities. The Government’s goal was to turn that perception around. Moreover, since the most concentrated poverty was located in the Roma settlements, the Government believed that by addressing that poverty, it would be able simultaneously to tackle the “Roma problem”. Among other things, that effort entailed programmes providing social and educational services to the settlements, he said, emphasizing, however, that to “do this right”, those programmes must be systematized and incorporated into the legal framework so as to ensure their continuity and standardization.
He went on to state that Slovakia was developing a law on socially excluded communities that would provide support through an economic prism rather than a racial one. For the first time that legislative initiative would be implemented through community centres, he said, adding that the social system was being modified to give social welfare a more motivational dimension, thereby encouraging people to work.
Before concluding he noted that, as a result of the national elections held in December, Slovakia now had a Roma town mayor for the first time in its history.
Taking up the issues of special schools and disability, another delegation member highlighted the new Schools Act which promoted equal access and prohibited all forms of discrimination. It characterized children with special needs, such as disabled children and pupils from a “socially disadvantaged environment”, the definition of which hinged on the lack of motivation for child development within that child’s home. Noting that few Roma children attended special schools, she said the Government’s focus was on poor children, which allowed for the inclusion of Roma children in special education services.
To remedy past problems, whereby Roma children were wrongfully enrolled in special schools, any transfer to a special school must now be based on the expert opinion of a doctor or credentialed evaluator, she said, adding that attendance in special schools was not compulsory, as it was in basic primary schools. The inclusion of pupils in a special school or class must be recorded, and principals were obligated to provide parents with full information on the ramifications of enrolling their child in a special school or class. Parents then filled out a consent form if they wished to enrol their children. That parental consent must in turn be approved by a special forum, she said, adding that children located in asylum facilities were allowed to attend school.
Another member of the delegation said that since 2004, sterilization had only been carried out at upon a patient’s request. The patients were given sufficient time to decide whether to consent, and paid for those services themselves. Before they did so, however, they had to be advised on alternative methods of birth control and the possible changes to their lifestyle so as to eliminate the circumstances that had led them to consider sterilization. The consequences and aim of sterilization, as well as the chances of such procedures failing, had to be explained, she said, emphasizing that informed consent could be revoked prior to the procedure.
Slovakia now had an independent health-care monitoring body, she said, noting no cases of forced sterilization had been identified. Emphasizing that no non-governmental organization had submitted any evidence of forced sterilizations, she said they were only allegations and requested that the organizations submit any evidence directly to the monitoring body.
Responding to queries on the National Centre for Human Rights, a member of the delegation said that, as outlined in a 2010-2014 “manifesto”, the Government wished to exert a more flexible and efficient functioning of mechanisms supporting human rights, including the Centre, which was part of the broader architecture of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Centre needed a stronger mandate that would include a sanctions option as well as a responsibility to cover migrants and detained persons.
Moreover, the Centre’s independence and plurality must be improved, in line with the Paris Principles, she said, noting that its tasks were limited by existing legislation, which neither reflected international standards nor allowed use of the Centre’s full potential. Calling for an emphasis on monitoring, among other things, she said the Government was preparing an analytical report on the Centre, to be completed by April and for which there would be “consequences and conclusions”.
On cooperation between the Centre and the Ombudsman, she said the former was an independent legal entity in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It provided legal assistance and representation, including in court, in cases dealing with equal treatment. Anti-discrimination law 384 (2008) allowed plaintiffs to seek remedy in discrimination cases, including those in which large the rights of numbers of people had been threatened. The Centre could seek court action when it deemed that rights had been violated. The Ombudsman, on the other hand, was an independent institution that protected the fundamental freedoms of physical and legal persons before public administration bodies, she said.
Regarding sexual minorities, non-discrimination provisions had been built into Slovak law, she said. The Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights was preparing a draft amendment to the principle of equal treatment, regardless of religion, disability or sexual orientation, among other things, and supported efforts by non-governmental organizations to sensitize public opinion regarding minorities.
Speaking about extraditions and forced refoulement, another delegation member said that, as a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, Slovakia was responsible for foreigners residing on its territory. No legal resident could be subjected to either of those actions, and when an illegal alien was found, the Government started by examining obstacles to refoulement. The foreigner could not be expelled to a country where there was a threat of persecution based on that person’s political opinion, race or religion, and neither could such a person be sent to a country where they were under sentence of death. Those positions were fully compatible with article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, she said, adding that an illegal stay was immediately transferred to a legal stay.
Referring to a case in which an Algerian had been subjected to refoulement, she said the person in question had already been sentenced for an act of terrorism in France. His sentence of imprisonment had been accompanied by expulsion from France, since European Union members were obliged to carry out such expulsions automatically. The person in question had continued to act in ways that targeted Slovak national security, and the Government had made the decision to expel him on the basis of guarantees provided by Algeria that he would face no threat of a death sentence or life imprisonment.
As for the expulsion of those enjoying legal status in Slovakia, she said the “ Dublin system” section of the European Court of Human Rights stated that asylum seekers should not be expelled to Greece, because that country did not meet the standard for humane conditions. Slovakia was respecting that decision.
Experts’ Comments and Questions
Ms. MOTOC, expert from Romania, returned to the issue of sterilization, asking how the term “genocide” had been qualified during the 1997-2002 investigation. That was a very strong word, she pointed out.
She said Slovakia must consider how the Roma situation in Eastern and Central Europe related to that in Western Europe, especially how the displacement of Roma people to those countries affected their feelings of discrimination. When Slovak Roma went abroad, they were considered to be primarily a social problem, she said, agreeing that while they could be “poor” in some countries, thinking of them as a social problem must consider their economic and cultural rights. “We forgot about their identity,” she said. That was fundamentally important for minorities, she said, stressing the importance of balancing those varying aspects.
NIGEL RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, noted that not so long ago, the Committee against Torture had expressed concern that the body investigating cases of police ill-treatment might not be so independent, and had recommended the inclusion of a more independent entity. Had the Government considered that recommendation? That Committee had also expressed regret over the lack of an independent body allowed to visit prisons or police detention centres. He asked about measures to protect people in such places.
On the question of sterilizations, he asked for statistics on the number that had taken place since the change from the former communist regime, and noted the reference to investigations undertaken. What proportion of sterilizations had been carried out on people of Roma origin as opposed to the general population? he asked, emphasizing that answers would help in monitoring the situation. “Even the law on its face does sound important,” he said. “The monitoring is all important.”
Mr. BOUZID, expert from Algeria, asked whether any cases would be brought as a result of the 2007 investigation into forced sterilizations.
A delegation member said allegations of forced sterilizations of Roma women had raised major concern. The Government had investigated the situation and initiated criminal proceedings. The investigation team had been headed by a woman, accompanied by four other female investigators, and the Health Ministry had appointed gynaecological experts to conduct an independent investigation into 67 hospital obstetrics departments.
Criminal proceedings had been stopped in 2003, after it had been determined that no criminal acts had taken place, she continued, adding, however, that the inquiry had revealed shortcomings in health legislation and administrative errors committed by individuals. The experts had found no segregation of Roma women, she said, adding that in regions with an increased proportion of Roma patients, the frequency of sterilizations and hysterectomies had been found to be low relative to the majority. No “genocide” had been committed, she emphasized, adding that the investigation had found that no law had been violated. Sterilizations had been performed without regard to ethnic origin and only in efforts to foster health and save lives.
Moreover, cases of forced sterilization were followed by international organizations, she said, pointing out that they worked in close collaboration with the Government. There could have been cases of illegal forced sterilization, but requests had been made for the authorities to remand the victims, which was why measures had been adopted to prevent such cases in the future. The Criminal Code now included illegal sterilization as a new crime, she said, adding that sterilization must be carried out within a 30-day period after the patient provided informed consent.
Responding to queries on the Roma, another delegate noted that a standardization of their language had been adopted in 2008, while Roma theatre, events, festivals and other performances enjoyed Government support. The spectrum was broad, he said. As for the great number of Roma abroad, Slovakia was surprised by the speed at which everything had taken place in the late 1990s, he said, adding that destination countries were not always “correct” with the Roma. That had created a strange mix of events.
Referring to events in 2010, he said the Slovak Roma had not behaved in any way that would lead to their expulsion, in any numbers. Though they travelled abroad, they did not cause major conflicts, he said. For example, the majority of Slovak Roma — as many as 40,000 to 50,000 people — were in the United Kingdom, but the Government of that country had not recorded any problems that would force it to take measures. Slovakia was in touch with the United Kingdom authorities and was monitoring the situation, he added.
Responding to a question about police officers allegedly committing illegal acts against illegal Roma boys, he said that situation dated back to April 2009, when criminal proceedings had been initiated against police officers for abuse of power. During the main trial, 10 of them — nine men and one woman — had been convicted of bullying children and extortion, among other things. Their sentences were not yet valid, since they had the right to appeal, he said.
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