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Sterilisation claims stain Slovakia's image

ALTHOUGH much has been said about Roma problems and both foreign and domestic delegations have continued visiting Roma settlements throughout the year, Slovak society seems no closer to finding a solution to the "Roma problem".
Moreover, Slovakia's planned accession to the EU, accompanied by loosened migration restrictions and allegations of human rights violations, have brought the administration under the closer scrutiny of international experts, who have mostly not been too impressed by the government's track-record.

ALTHOUGH much has been said about Roma problems and both foreign and domestic delegations have continued visiting Roma settlements throughout the year, Slovak society seems no closer to finding a solution to the "Roma problem".
Moreover, Slovakia's planned accession to the EU, accompanied by loosened migration restrictions and allegations of human rights violations, have brought the administration under the closer scrutiny of international experts, who have mostly not been too impressed by the government's track-record.


January -The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Slovak Centre for Civil and Human Rights release a report entitled Body and Soul that documents 110 cases of Roma women who were sterilised against their will in public hospitals in eastern Slovakia. The report says that "coerced and forced sterilisation practices continue in Slovakia," especially in its eastern region, where most Roma people live.


February 4 - Managers of a hospital in the eastern Slovak town of Krompachy file a complaint over a report that said it carried out forced sterilisations on Roma women. Krompachy hospital is one of those named in the Body and Soul report.


Early March - The Health Ministry's chief gynaecology expert, Karol Holomán says he found that no laws had been breached in a number of eastern Slovak hospitals suspected of carrying out coerced sterilisations of Roma women. Holoman announces that he will push for an update on the law governing sterilisation so that medical professionals will be required to give all women considering the operation a complete explanation of its consequences and a minimum of 72 hours to think about it before going through with it.


Late March -The Košice regional court upholds an earlier ruling by the Spišská Nová Ves district court that Monika Bikárová was not illegally sterilised by doctors in 1986. She had been calling for Sk400,000 (€9,600) in damages in the first case to be brought forth following allegations that doctors were illegally sterilising Roma women.


September 3 - A joint commission on Roma migration is established to monitor the issue of Slovak Roma moving to the Czech Republic. The formation of the commission comes on the heels of an exodus of Slovak Roma to the Czech Republic. The Czech authorities say they have no official statistics confirming media speculations that as many as 20,000 Slovak Roma have recently moved to the Czech Republic.


October 29 - Deputy PM for Human Rights Pál Csáky states that allegations of sterilisations are not confirmed. "[The] Slovak cabinet considers this issue and this case a closed matter," he says.


October 29 - Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, suggests in a statement that the Slovak cabinet should accept "objective responsibility in the matter for failing to put in place adequate legislation and for failing to exercise appropriate supervision of sterilisation practices, although allegations of improper sterilisations have been made throughout the 1990s and early 2000s".


November -The largest political party representing the Slovak Roma minority calls on the country's government to stop the "mindless spending of money for worthless activities connected with the Roma minority".


November - Representatives of Roma parties warn that as a result of worsening social conditions, thousands of Roma are preparing to leave Slovakia after it becomes a member of the EU in May 2004. Roma leaders say that Roma would mainly be heading to Great Britain after the country lifts its visa regime with Slovakia, and that Roma also want to go to Belgium and the Netherlands.


December -The American Helsinki Committee is not satisfied with the results of the Slovak investigation of the alleged illegal sterilisation of Roma women. In a letter to Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, the committee writes that the investigation had serious deficits and overlooked some important circumstances of the cases.


Compiled by Lukáš Fila

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