Roma, LGBTI and disabled people need more protection

SLOVAKIA must do more in combating discrimination in law and in practice, and take effective measures to improve the protection of Roma, persons with disabilities and LGBTI people.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

This stems from the report released on the Council of Europe’s website on October 13, authored by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks who visited Slovakia last June.

Slovakia’s anti-discrimination framework is comprehensive but it provides a differing degree of protection for various vulnerable social groups. So, this needs to be reformed to “close all protection gaps”, Muižnieks stated, as reported by the TASR newswire.

The commissioner praised the recent adoption of the first national human rights strategy as an important step towards framing a coherent and multi-faceted approach. The strategy started out under the auspices of the foreign ministry but was later transferred to the justice ministry.

He further urged Slovakia to provide Ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová and the National Centre for Human Rights with adequate support and resources to effectively carry out their mandates.

At the same time, Muižnieks remains seriously concerned by what he called the persistent manifestations of anti-Roma attitudes and hate speech, and instances of excessive use of force by police during raids in Roma settlements. It appears that the authorities underestimate the incidence and implications of racial hate crimes, including what he views as racially motivated police violence affecting the Roma, according to him. More and resolute efforts are needed to condemn, effectively investigate and sanction such crimes, therefore.

Muižnieks also believes that the placement of Roma children in special schools, the spatial segregation of Roma and their substandard housing situation must also be addressed as a matter of priority.

“I urge Slovakia to redouble its efforts aimed at protecting the human rights and social integration of Roma, in line with the Council of Europe standards,” Muižnieks said, as quoted by TASR. “In this context I highly recommend the creation of an independent and effective complaints mechanism covering all law enforcement bodies to fight racially motivated police violence, and establish accountability for all human rights violations.”

Addressing LGBTI issues, Muižnieks claims that the strengthened policy and institutional framework notwithstanding, persistent anti-gay public discourse and hate speech are “very worrying”. This must be countered by effective measures, including extension of the provisions of domestic hate speech legislation to cover sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. The provisions of the Criminal Code establishing hatred based on ethnicity, race, skin colour and sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance should also be extended to cover hate and hate crimes involving transexuals, Muiznieks added. As well, law enforcement officials should be adequately equipped to identify and effectively investigate such incidents.

The commissioner also called on the Slovak authorities to promote and fully respect the human rights of trans- and intersex persons, including intersex children, as reported by TASR.

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