Slovakia Found in Violation of International Law for Failing to Remedy Racial Exclusion of Roma
22 July 2005
In a decision received March, 17 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Slovakia had violated three provisions in the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in a housing discrimination case. On March,20 2002 the councillors of the Dobsina municipality approved a plan to construct low-cost housing for the Romani inhabitants of the town. About 1,800 Roma live in Dobsina, many in appalling conditions without drinking water, raw sewage removal or drainage, and in very poor quality huts. The Dobsina chairman of the Real Slovak National Party, one of several political parties in Slovakia with tacit or explicit anti-Romani platforms, together with four other nationalists, organised a petition aimed at stopping the housing plan. They presented this petition to the municipal council, which proceeded to vote to cancel the earlier decision to build social housing and agreed a resolution that included an explicit reference to the racist petition.
Roma from Dobsina asked the District Prosecutor to investigate the legality of the municipal council's actions. The Prosecutor refused. They applied to the Slovak Constitutional Court, which also refused to consider the merits of their claim. A number of Romani individuals from Dobsina, together with their legal representatives, the European Roma Rights Centre and the Slovak NGO League of Human Rights Advocates, then brought their claim before the CERD.
The Committee found Slovakia in breach of its obligations under international law not to engage in any act of racial discrimination and to ensure that all public authorities act in conformity with this obligation. It also found Slovakia in breach of its obligation to guarantee the right to everyone of equality before the law in the enjoyment of the right to housing. In addition, "…having established the existence of an act of racial discrimination, it must follow that the failure of the [Slovak] courts to provide an effective remedy discloses a consequential violation of the Convention". The CERD held that Slovakia must provide the Roma from Dobsina with an effective remedy, in particular, it must take measures to ensure that the Roma from Dobsina "are placed in the same position that they were in upon adoption of the first resolution by the municipal council [to build low-cost housing]."