The state of human rights in Slovakia, an EU member state located in central Europe, is in need of major reform. The discrimination against the Romani people – also known as Gypsies – has been carried out in various forms, such as restrictions on the right to education and ill treatment by police forces.
The Roma population, which constitutes approximately two to four percent of the Slovakian population, is the second largest minority group in Slovakia. The most prevalent type of discrimination against the Romani people in Slovakia has occurred in the education system, in the form of segregating Romani children. A joint report by the Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), published on March 1, 2017, revealed that Romani children are regularly assessed as having “mild mental disabilities” and are sent to special schools that provide an inferior education. Although Slovakia had already received a threat of fines from the European Commission two years ago for breaching EU discrimination laws, racial segregation in schools is still rampant across the country.
Another form of discrimination that is representative of the current state of human rights in Slovakia is the ill treatment of Roma by the police. According to the Slovakia 2016 Human Rights Report published by the U.S. Department of State, a number of NGOs and members of the Romani community have reported incidents of police officers abusing suspects both while being arrested and after being imprisoned. For instance, in 2010 a Romani minor who was arrested for robbery claimed that police officers committed acts of violence against him in order to force him into giving a confession. In July 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the state failed to carry out an adequate investigation into this incident and ordered the Slovakian government to pay €1,500 to the minor, in addition to legal costs.
The aforementioned cases of discrimination illustrate that human rights in Slovakia are in need of substantial improvement. While numerous members of the Romani community are already fighting for social inclusion and equal opportunities, efforts from the civil society and government will be crucial in eliminating such deep-rooted human rights issues.
– Minh Joo Yi