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Racial beatings increase

As in 1999, the year 2000 was repeatedly marred by racial tension in Slovakia. The single case which received the most local and international attention was the August 22 murder of Anastázia Balážová, a Roma mother of eight in the northern Slovak city of Žilina.
While Balážová's family slept, three assailants broke into the house and attacked the youngest children. The killers, screaming racial epithets such as "We will kill you, black faces!", struck Balážová in the head with a baseball bat. She died in hospital from her injuries two days later.


Lambardo Mabu, a 33 year-old refugee from Angola, was the victim of a knife-wielding pair of skinheads.
photo:Tom Nicholson

As in 1999, the year 2000 was repeatedly marred by racial tension in Slovakia. The single case which received the most local and international attention was the August 22 murder of Anastázia Balážová, a Roma mother of eight in the northern Slovak city of Žilina.

While Balážová's family slept, three assailants broke into the house and attacked the youngest children. The killers, screaming racial epithets such as "We will kill you, black faces!", struck Balážová in the head with a baseball bat. She died in hospital from her injuries two days later.

In the US, Helsinki Commission Chairman Christopher H. Smith lashed out against the attack: "More - much more - must be done to combat the injustices to which Roma are subjected. I raise my voice to strongly oppose this barbarous act."

The Balážová murder was only one of several attacks, the first of which occurred on January 29 when a black man was beaten on a crowded Hlavné námestie (Main Square) in the Bratislava Old Town.

On February 17, two Japanese tourists were attacked by eight skinheads, one of whom had a swastika tattoo on his chest, also in the Bratislava city centre. "During the investigation, the boys proudly explained that they were involved with the skinhead movement," said police spokeswoman Marta Bujňáková.

Less than a month later, skinheads in Bratislava struck again when two Brazilian and two Angolan students were attacked off Michalská Street by a group of around eight skinheads, one armed with a baseball bat.

The violence continued on May 1 when two skinheads attacked three Slovaks with a knife in front of the president's palace, then stabbed 33-year-old Angolan refugee Lambardo Mabu three times on a bus.

"They got on the bus and said, şWhat are you doing in our country, you black monkeyş," Mabu said. "Then the little one said that he was going to kill me, and the big skinhead stabbed me in the forehead."

Providing a depressing backdrop to the violence on the streets was the often boorish behaviour of several Slovak politicians. Róbert Fico, head of the non-parliamentary party Smer, twice proffered 'Roma problem solutions', saying on January 15 that the Social Benefits Law should be amended in order to deny Slovak Romanies their legal right to collect benefits if they leave the country to seek asylum elsewhere.

On June 9, Fico suggested social benefits also be cut for Romany families with more than three children. Fico explained that the Roma issue was a "time bomb that will cause trouble if we do not keep it under control."

Members of the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) also contributed heavily to the country's racial tension, beginning on January 28 when SNS MP Rastislav Šepták proposed that asylum seekers have their passports revoked for five years upon return to the country.

His party colleague and Žilina Mayor Ján Slota in February announced plans to dedicate a plaque to Jozef Tiso, the president of the 1939-45 fascist Slovak Republic who supervised the deportation of some 70,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Under public pressure, Slota decided against honouring Tiso.

But the SNS found its way back into national headlines in late August when MP Víťazoslav Moric called the Roma "idiots" and "mental retards" and recommended they be put on reservations. Moric was stripped of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution in September, clearing the way for charges of inciting racial hatred to be brought against him. Charges were laid October 2 by a Bratislava district prosecutor.

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