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MPs session on Dubovcová resolves littleGovernment maintains stance amid condemnation of a racist speech
3 Feb 2014 Roman Cuprik Politics & Society
AN EXTRAORDINARY session devoted to the government’s treatment Ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová was convened January 29-30. Far from resolving things, the proceedings saw at least one speech now being condemned as racist and a pledge from the parliament speaker to move Dubovcová’s office on the Eastern Slovakia where she can deal with the issue of majority living together with Roma more rigorously. The session continued after The Slovak Spectator went to print on January 30.
Opposition MPs who initiated the session aimed to convey serious concern over the government’s conduct at January 8 cabinet session, to which Dubovcová was invited but not allowed to speak. Several opposition MPs stressed that they initiated session not to discuss a controversial violent police raid on a Roma settlement that Dubovcová has sought to highlight, but the government’s treatment of her
“We convened this session because you do not respect and act arrogantly towards other Constitutional bodies of Slovak Republic,” presidential candidate Pavol Hrušovský from The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
The session also shed light on an ongoing battle over where the ombudswoman’s office should be housed. The government does not provide space in a public building and instead Dubovcová’s office must spend much of its budget on renting space in a private building. Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška said he offered Dubovcová place in Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia but she refused.
“I will use all competences to change law in such way that residence [of Ombudswoman Office] will be on east,” Paška said, as quoted by TASR.
On June 19, 2013, 63 police officers raided the Roma settlement just outside Moldava nad Bodvou in eastern Slovakia, purportedly seeking seven men for which they had arrest warrants. They found none of those men, but violence ensued and 15 other Roma were taken to the police station. Several of those Roma were injured, and at least one of them contends that he underwent two more severe beatings at the police station.
While police allege they were attacked upon entering the 800-person settlement, none of the 15 detained were ever charged with a crime resulting from the clash. A second man alleges that he left the police station bleeding from his rectum. An NGO active in the settlement, ETP Slovensko, documented the injuries with photographs.
“They told us, ‘Every time you speak, you will be beaten’,” Milan Hudák, 30, said during an interview in September 2013. He was beaten and tasered, he said, before being taken to the police station and beaten twice more.
“They said, ‘We will break your arm so you can’t write and your mouth so you can’t speak’,” Hudák added.
In a lengthy report that investigated several areas of Roma policy, Dubovcová also found expressed serious concerns about the police raid incident and the investigation by the Interior Ministry that later found no wrongdoing by police. That report never made it even before the full parliament, as it was shelved by the Committee for Human Rights dominated by the ruling Smer party.
Tug-of-war over technicalities
Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák has dismissed claims that government has ignored Dubovcová, saying that Humans Rights Committee discussed the raid. He added that Dubovcová’s approach towards the parliament and government violated the law. He considers the whole case as “political game” of Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ). Dubovcová was an MP for the party from 2010 to 2012.
“She [Dubovcová] is not interested in majority community at all,” Kaliňák said as quoted by SITA. “We [the government] follow the law without concerning skin colour.”
Kaliňák insisted that Dubovcová submitted her report in conflict with the law since she should first approach the regional police offices and then the Interior Ministry. Every state body should follow the law and she has violated it several times, he told the TASR newswire on January 8.
“She has not contacted the regional [police] department. She sent some of her people there, who were threatening police officers, saying they will strip them of their uniforms,” Kaliňák said, as quoted by TASR.
Dubovcová prepared two sets of findings, one related to the police and a second for the Interior Ministry, she told the press after government refused to let her speak at a January 8 cabinet session. Instead Prime Minister Robert Fico lectured Dubovcová on her proper constitutional role, she said. Dubovcová said contacted the government because the ministry did not fulfil its legal obligation to inform her about measures adopted to prevent incidents like the Moldava raid in the future. Since the ministry does not have a supervising body, Dubovcová contacted the government, she said.
“The words of the prime minister showed that he does not have the correct information; therefore his conclusions are in conflict with the legal order,” Dubovcová said, as quoted by the daily Sme.
Allegations of racism
The parliamentary session took on a heightened tone as Dušan Muňko, the director of state-run social-insurer Sociálna poisťovňa and a Smer MP launched into what some called a racist speech. When someone hurts Roma it immediately becomes a scandal, he said, before asking why it is not equally scandalous when Roma attack police officers or seniors. Muňko said that the Roma population is continually increasing and that feeding them and dealing with their criminality will soon become a problem, TASR reported.
“Victims of those criminal acts have a different opinion about the treatment of Roma than activists or the ombudswoman,” Muňko said, as quoted by TASR. He added that the opposition’s actions leave the door open for far-right extremist Marian Kotleba, the leader of the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), to enter the parliament.
The opposition condemned his words as racist and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MP Martin Poliačik said the only thing preventing him from filing a criminal complaint against Muňko is his criminal immunity, TASR reported.
Peter Pollák of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) party, who is Roma and serves as the Government Proxy for Roma Communities, said he was offended by Muňko’s speech.
“You will find criminals both in [a Roma] settlement and in parliament; it is not fair to identify everyone [living] in a settlement as a criminal,” Pollák said, as quoted by TASR. “I am not a criminal.”
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