UN body finds racism pervasive in Slovakia
Hate speech, segregation, discrimination and police brutality against Roma are among the ‘worrying concerns’ highlighted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in its most recent concluding observations on Slovakia. These observations stand as a full endorsement of the ERRC’s submission to CERD late last year.
Police brutality and a culture of impunity
News out this week confirmed that Slovak authorities have dropped the investigation into police brutality against officers despite video evidence showing them beating Roma with batons during an intervention in the Romani neighbourhood in Zborov. On top of the fact that Roma who sought justice in the courts following the vicious police attack in Moldava nad Bodvou have ended up facing charges of perjury, it would seem that the UN’s ‘worrying concerns’ about the “excessive use of force and ill-treatment, including verbal and physical abuse by law enforcement officers against ethnic minorities, in particular Roma”, are well-founded.
The CERD report is fairly damning in this regard and makes special mention of the investigative failures that follow raids in Roma settlements, often carried out without arrest or search warrants, where children and elderly persons have been injured.
The Committee notes with great concern that the majority of these reports are, either not duly investigated or when investigations have been initiated, they have been suspended, and most complaints against law enforcement officers have been dismissed.
CERD also expressed ‘deep regrets’ that the State party failed to act on previous recommendations to establish an independent monitoring mechanism to investigate crimes involving police officers.
Hate speech, discrimination and segregation
CERD also remains concerned that despite the prevalence of racial discrimination, Slovakia once again completely failed to provide any information on the number of complaints lodged, of investigations carried out and of sanctions imposed in cases of racial discrimination. Also concerning is that court proceedings in cases of racial discrimination drag on for so long that victims are denied effective access to justice.
Persistent hate speech in the media and on the Internet is not confined to far-right misfit keyboard warriors; and CERD called attention to the use of racist political discourse among politicians against ethnic minorities, particularly Roma, Muslim ethnic minorities and non-citizens.
The Committee regretted the lack of concrete information about measures to combat the persistent structural discrimination against Roma; and was concerned about the insufficient resources allocated for its effective implementation of the NRIS, which is further weakened by failures in coordination between national, regional and local authorities. Yet again, CERD drew attention to the continued failures to provide Romani children with equal access to quality integration education, and once more urged the authorities to “take all necessary measures to address the root causes of discrimination and segregation of Roma children in the education system.”
The Committee expressed specific concerns about living conditions in settlements where the basic facilities such as sanitation, drinking water, electricity, sewage systems and waste disposal are lacking. CERD called for explicit prohibitions against the construction of walls that separate Roma and non-Roma communities, and to hold accountable local authorities that encourage or adopt segregation policies.
Slovakia was urged to intensify efforts to provide security of tenure to Roma communities in order to prevent forced evictions. Where evictions cannot be avoided, the state was called upon to ensure that the families and individuals affected are provided with alternative adequate housing and compensation.
Right to health
Reports of discriminatory treatment by medical personnel against Roma and segregation of Roma, particularly women and girls, in different hospital departments was also highlighted as an issue of serious concern. CERD was seriously concerned by reports of verbal and physical violence faced by Roma women when accessing sexual and reproductive health services. And CERD once again noted that compensation to victims, access to justice, reparation and compensation remain difficult for Romani women who have been subjected to forced sterilization.
The report concludes with clear sets of reasonable recommendations that are entirely consistent with democratic norms; realistic recommendations that concur with accepted notions of what constitutes human dignity. CERD requested that the Slovak government provide information on its implementation of these recommendations in a year’s time. But does anyone imagine the Slovak authorities will call time on racial discrimination anytime soon?