Update to SLK30143.E on the situation of Roma (2001-April 2002) [SLK38610.E]

With a population estimated at between 380,000 (CTK 20 Sept. 2001) and 500,000 individuals (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002), the Roma constitute the second largest ethnic minority in Slovakia after ethnic Hungarians (ibid.) or approximately one-tenth of the total population (CTK 28 Feb. 2002). However, only approximately 90,000 individuals registered as Roma in the census conducted in 2001, a figure in keeping with the "long-lasting crisis of the Romany identity" in Slovakia, according to Klara Orgovanova, the government commissioner for Roma affairs (ibid.).

Government Action

In 2000, the government started implementing its Roma strategy at both national and local levels with a total budget of 4 million euros (Commission of the European Communities 13 Nov. 2001, 23) (CAN$4.57million) (Bank of Canada 4 Mar. 2002). In its November 2001 report on Slovakia's progress towards European Union accession, the Commission of the European Communities indicated that about half of the budget had been spent (ibid. 23). The strategy included more than 100 projects in the areas of housing and infrastructure, education and training, employment, social affairs, health, and culture (ibid., 23).

Commenting on measures taken by the Slovak government to improve the situation of Roma, the Commission of the European Communities stated that "the gap between good policy formulation and its implementation on the spot, as observed in last year's report, has remained" (13 Nov. 2001, 23).

According to Central Europe Review, the central government faces opposition from a number of local governments regarding its policies to improve the situation of Roma (5 Feb. 2001). Given that in Slovakia the rights to education, to housing, social welfare and health care rest with local governments, policies developed in Bratislava sometimes fail to be implemented by defiant local governments (ibid.). In some cases, local mayors refuse to implement the measures taken by Bratislava targeting Roma arguing that there are no Roma in their districts, but only Slovak nationals (ibid.).

Although some disputes have been solved, others still persist (ibid.). Central Europe Review makes a specific reference to a dispute between the central government and several local governments in northeastern Slovakia over the building of housing units for Roma (ibid.). Despite a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in favour of the Roma, concerns expressed by several international organizations and the United States, and orders from the Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, the authorities of the towns of Rokytovce and Nagov refused to repeal decrees banning Roma from settling on their territory (ibid.).

In Medzilaborce, in February 2001, the local government was still blocking the reconstruction of a building for Roma families despite the allocation of SK3.3 million (CAN$109,461) (Bank of Canada 4 Mar. 2002) by the central government (ibid.).

Among the activities run by the Office of the Roma Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities, are efforts to improve the situation of Roma in 30 settlements located in eastern Slovakia with respect to education, living conditions, employment and human rights (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). According to several non-governmental organizations, the influence of the Office, particularly on the government, is weakened because it was not created through a law and its funding comes from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities (ibid.).

The Roma and the Police

According to Human Rights Watch, there is "a continuing pattern of police failure to prevent racist violence against Slovak Roma" (2002). While Roma leaders reportedly claim that the police seldom investigate complaints of discrimination or of violent acts lodged by Roma, Ladislav Barkol, the head of Interior Ministry's Department of Complaints contends that the police take every complaint "very seriously" (The Slovak Spectator 26 Mar. 2001). Ladislav Barkol notes that the ethnic identity of the complaining party is not registered by the police (ibid.).

In cases of skinhead attacks on Roma, human rights monitors cited by Country Reports 2001, stress the reluctance of investigators to take action and claim that in some cases, police "tolerated" these attacks on Roma (4 Mar. 2002). Some non-governmental organizations explain these trends by an inadequate legislation governing investigations, the limited budget of the police and the lack of modern equipment for police officers (ibid.).

In 2001, the police reported 40 racially motivated attacks, whose targets were in most cases Roma (ibid.). Bratislava was the location of 10 of these attacks and Trencin (northwestern Slovakia) of 12 (ibid.). In total, the police solved 23 of these attacks perpetrated by 40 individuals, the majority of whom were skinheads under 18 years of age (ibid.).

Human Rights Watch makes reference to a week of incidents in the town of Holic in August 2001 where police reportedly failed to stop violent acts and harassment by "racist gang members" on local Roma residents despite several complaints (2002). As a result of the incidents, a Roma man suffered head injuries requiring brain surgery (ibid.). Two young individuals were charged with "causing bodily harm" (RFE/RL 21 Aug. 2001). Although the indictees denied any affiliation with a "racist group," the police were contemplating charging them with a racially motivated attack (ibid.).

Two sources refer to several cases of police violence against Roma in 2001 (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002; OSCE/ODIHR 20 July 2001). According to Klara Orgovanova, "Romani citizens continue to be the main victims of police brutality, threats, and torture during interrogations" (Transitions 10-16 July 2001). The Slovak Helsinki Committee adds that police brutality against Roma is a common phenomenon in Slovakia that both society and the authorities "quietly" tolerate (RFE/RL 13 July 2001). For example, Miloslav Kovac, a representative from the Roma non-governmental organization Roma Gemer, refers to common cases of "unexpected and violent police raids" of Roma houses (The Slovak Spectator 26 Mar. 2001).

However, Ladislav Barkol holds that allegations of police brutality against Roma usually turn out to be unfounded (ibid.). In 2000, no police officer was found guilty of racism or police brutality against Roma (ibid.). Miloslav Kovac explained this trend by the fact that investigations into complaints of police brutality lodged by Roma "were often swept aside" (ibid.). Country Reports 2001 cites human rights monitors as saying that police officers have pressured Roma claiming police brutality into dropping their complaints (4 Mar. 2002).

Several sources report the death of a Roma man in July 2001 after he was taken into custody and beaten by police officers in Revuca (central Slovakia) (HRW 2002; Commission of the European Communities 13 Nov. 2001, 20; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). In connection with the incident, the authorities charged the mayor of Magnezitovce, a village near Revuca and his son, who is a police officer, with "causing death" and two other police officers with abuse of power (HRW 2002). However, after he was temporarily suspended from his position, the mayor was reinstated in November 2001 after charges brought against him were dropped (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). The mayor's son was fired from the police force shortly after the incident while the two other charged police officers were suspended for an indefinite period for use of excessive force (ibid.). In October 2001, charges of torture, cruel treatment (RFE/RL 10 Oct. 2001; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002), and manslaughter (ibid.) were laid against seven police officers for their participation in the death of the Roma man (ibid.; RFE/RL 10 Oct. 2001). If found guilty, the police officers could spend 15 years in prison (ibid.; CTK 9 Oct. 2001). Referring to a recontruction of the incident, the interior minister indicated that "the crime was committed at the police station" (ibid.).

Shortly after the Magnezitovce incident, Ivan Simko, the interior minister, introduced a set of measures aimed at preventing police brutality (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002), including a stricter control over police procedures (RFE/RL 13 July 2001; OSCE/ODIHR 20 July 2001; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002), mandatory psychological tests for recruits (ibid.; RFE/RL 13 July 2001), the exclusive recruitment of individuals who graduated from special police schools (ibid.) and the improvement of curricula at law enforcement academies (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002; OSCE/ODIHR 20 July 2001), particularly with respect to use of coercion (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). According to the Czech news agency CTK, the interior minister also ordered all Slovak police officers to participate in a training programme on the use of force (RFE/RL 13 July 2001).

In the village of Hermanovce (eastern Slovakia), the Legal Protection of Roma Office in Kosice (eastern Slovakia) sent a petition signed by members of the local Roma community to the Interior Ministry, the European Commission and other international organizations to protest against the treatment of a Roma man arrested on suspicion of robbery in January 2001 (The Slovak Spectator 26 Mar. 2001). While The Slovak Spectator reports that the Roma accused a group of local police officers of brutality and sexual harassment, Country Reports 2001 mentions allegations of "police humiliation, torture, and sexual abuse" (4 Mar. 2002). The Presov Regional Police and the interior ministry's police inspection initiated separate investigations into these allegations (The Slovak Spectator 26 Mar. 2001). Country Reports 2001 indicates that the police found no evidence to support the allegations (4 Mar. 2002).

On 20 March 2001, police reportedly laid charges against unknown individuals after reading the report by a Kosice newspaper that a group of skinheads had allegedly beaten a Roma woman and her daughter (The Slovak Spectator 26 Mar. 2001). However, preliminary results of the investigation led the head of a Kosice district police department to question the credibility of the allegations (ibid.).

Skinhead Attacks

In its November 2001 report, the Commission of the European Communities recognized the serious threat that violence perpetrated by skinheads poses to the Roma in Slovakia (13 Nov. 2001, 22). There are several reports of skinhead attacks on Roma in 2001 (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002) and in 2002, including in Ganovce-Filice (eastern Slovakia), in Kosice (RFE/RL 26 Feb. 2002; CTK 1 Mar. 2002).

Judicial Decisions

In 2001, a court sentenced Peter Bandur to a seven-year term of imprisonment after he was found guilty of the death of a Roma woman in 2000 (HRW 2002). Two sources indicate different verdicts rendered by the court: While Human Rights Watch claims that Peter Bandur was found guilty of a racially motivated assault (ibid.), Country Reports 2001 indicates that he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter (4 Mar. 2002). There is conflicting information on the verdict reached by the court in the cases of Peter Bandur's accomplices. While Human Rights Watch indicates that two individuals were sentenced respectively to three and five years of imprisonment for assault (2002), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, citing Associated Press, and Country Reports 2001 reports that three accomplices were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from three to five years for "trespassing" (RFE/RL 31 Aug. 2001; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002).


According to Human Rights Watch and human rights monitors cited by Country Reports 2001, anti-Roma discrimination continues to exist in employment, education and housing (2002; 4 Mar. 2002), above all in the eastern part of the country where the unemployment rate is higher and the proportion of Roma larger (ibid.). In a number of cities in the eastern part of the country, there have been cases of hotels, restaurants or other public facilities, which refused admission to Roma (ibid.).

Human Rights Watch considers the state response to discrimination against Roma to be "inadequate," stressing the government's failure to realize and finance measures aimed at fighting anti-Roma discrimination (2002).

In an incident in Jarovnice (eastern Slovakia) which provoked indignation in Slovakia, a police officer allegedly refused to shake hands with a female Roma journalist and asked her to produce a "hygiene card" (CTK 12 Feb. 2002). However, an investigation completed by the Interior Ministry concluded that there was no racism in the policeman's behaviour as he was trying to protect his health (Radio Twist 7 Mar. 2002).


According to the Commission of the European Communities and Country Reports 2001, Roma children continue to be over-represented in special schools for children with mental disabilities (13 Nov. 2001, 22; 4 Mar. 2002).

According to an elementary schoolteacher, Roma children tend not to understand the Slovak language when they enrol in elementary school and therefore, are unable to follow first grade lessons (Central Europe Review 15 Jan. 2001). These Roma children tend to fall further behind in subsequent grades until schools decide to transfer them to special schools for mentally disabled children (ibid.). A transfer to special schools means the impossibility to complete secondary education and to be admitted to institutions of higher education (ibid.).

In its comments on the Opinion of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Report on the Implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minority in the Slovak Republic, the Slovak government indicated that mentally disabled children are placed in special schools only after the child's representative at law consents and after thorough psychological and pedagogical examinations are performed (6 July 2001). The Slovak government insisted that the national or ethnic origin of children had no bearing on the decision to place a child in a special school (ibid.). However, a director of such a school claimed that, in many cases, Roma children who are sent to special schools because of their poor results are not mentally disabled (Central Europe Review 15 Jan. 2001). According to Central Europe Review, Roma children who complete special education end up at best in a special occupation training school for blue-collar workers or at worst unemployed (ibid.).

According to the Commission of the European Communities, the government continues to set up "pre-school preparatory classes" for Roma children (13 Nov. 2001, 23). For example, Central Europe Review makes reference to two experiments: A preparatory programme for five-year old pupils which helps Roma children prepare for enrollment in elementary school and a free kindergarten which prepares children from socially and economically disadvantaged families for elementary school (15 Jan. 2001). However, according to Central Europe Review and the Commission of the European Communities, these types of programmes are in an insufficient number (ibid.; 13 Nov. 2001, 23), and are not the results of a systematic policy to reform the educational system, according to Central Europe Review (15 Jan. 2001).

The Commission of the European Communities makes reference to a number of cases where separate classrooms for Roma students have been set up (13 Nov. 2001, 22).

Other government measures targeting Roma schoolchildren include the construction of a number of schools in municipalities with a high proportion of Roma (ibid.).

Other problems mentioned by the Commission of the European Communities include the lack of adequate training for teachers to be able to address the specific needs of the Roma children (ibid., 23).

Living Conditions

According to a report by Commissioner Klara Orgovanova submitted on 27 February 2002, approximately 130,000 Roma live in Roma settlements, most of which lack electricity, basic sanitary equipment and drinking water supply (CTK 28 Feb. 2002).

According to the Czech daily Hospodarske, since late 2001, the government has been running a programme which aims at developing Roma settlements (ibid.).

The government reportedly added SK200 million (CAN$6.6 million) (Bank of Canada 4 Mar. 2002) to previous budgetary envelopes aimed at building social housing for Roma (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002).

On 2 October 2001, Walter Rochel, the European Commission ambassador, Istvan Harna, the construction and regional development minister and Klara Orgovanova attended a ceremony in Presov (eastern Slovakia) where Roma families were among those who received the first 88 apartments financed by the European Union and built following a decision of the Presov local council (RFE/RL 3 Oct. 2001; CTK 2 Oct. 2001). A total of 176 apartments were expected to be built for a cost of SK150 million (CAN$4.97 million) (Bank of Canada 4 Mar. 2002) and be handed over to families living in poor conditions in the centre of Presov by the end of 2001 (CTK 2 Oct. 2001).

In February 2001, the mayor of Medzilaborce [northeastern Slovakia] criticized a petition signed by more than 2,000 residents to protest against the resettlement of five Roma families in their town (Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002). The mayor prevailed and some Roma families were able to resettle in Medzilaborce (ibid.).


The unemployment rate among Roma exceeds 95 per cent (CTK 28 Feb. 2002). According to Country Reports 2001, the number of Roma among the unemployed is "disproportionate" (4 Mar. 2002). In part due to discrimination, Roma tend to have "exceptional difficulties" being hired and keeping their employment (ibid.).

However, Country Reports 2001 notes that half of approximately 64,000 jobs created since July 2000 went to Roma job seekers (ibid.).


According to Ondrej Srebala, the director of the Slovak National Center for Human Rights, the Slovak government does not protect the rights of the Roma in the same way as it does other ethnic groups (Radio Twist 2 Oct. 2001). For example, he claimed that the government was violating constitutional provisions by granting the Roma the right to use their language in official communication with the authorities in areas where the population is more than 20 per cent Roma (ibid.).

For a comprehensive assessment of the situation of Roma in Slovakia, please see the chapter on Slovakia in Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Minority Protection, a 2001 report published by the Budapest-based EU Accession Monitoring Program of the Open Society Institute. Describing its methodology, the Program states the following:

First drafts of each report were reviewed by a national expert and an international advisory board. Subsequently, round-table meetings were organised in eight of the ten candidate countries in order to invite critique of the draft from government officials, civil society organisations, minority representatives, and from the Commission itself. In countries where it was not possible to organise a round-table, the draft was submitted for comment by mail. The final reports underwent significant revision on the basis of the comments and criticisms received during this process. The Program assumes full editorial responsibility for their final content (EU Accession Monitoring Program 2001, 10).

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 to refugee status or asylum.


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