US State Department points to corruption and treatment of Roma

In its annual report on human rights, the US Department of State points to insufficient punishment for public officials involved in corruption and to the widespread discrimination against Roma where Slovakia is concerned.

Integration/inclusion of Roma children is crucial, illustrative stock photo.Integration/inclusion of Roma children is crucial, illustrative stock photo. (Source: TASR)

The most significant human rights issues in Slovakia last year included interference with privacy, corruption, widespread discrimination against the Roma, and security force violence against ethnic and racial minorities, the US State Department claims in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017.

The Department noted, as quoted by the TASR newswire, that the Slovak government investigated reports of abuses by members of security forces and other state bodies, although some observers questioned the thoroughness of these investigations.

Top officials rarely punished for corruption

Meanwhile, some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, TASR cited the report on April 21. At the same time, two former cabinet ministers – Igor Štefanov and Marián Janušek – were convicted of corruption in public procurement during the year. Overall, however, high-level officials were rarely prosecuted for corruption, despite a series of high-profile corruption cases, the report claims.

The US department also observed concerns, particularly in the business sector, in connection to private-sector influence over judicial decisions, while some experts in non-governmental organisations reported that court proceedings had become a contest between vested interests and people with connections to the judicial powers.

“The media and NGOs criticised Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik, whose office has the lead role in prosecuting public corruption cases, for not filing any charges in the 61 corruption cases he has supervised the past eight years," the report stresses.

Roma, migrants segregated and fought against

Discrimination in society against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common in Slovakia in 2017; as much as 53 percent of the Roma population resided in marginalised communities, according to the State Department. While these communities were subjected to controversial police raids, the police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Roma and prevented crowds from entering these settlements or inciting confrontations.

The State Dept further cited reports from some NGOs on the alleged persistent segregation of Roma women in maternity wards in several hospitals in eastern Slovakia, while these hospitals claimed that they had been grouping persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race. At the same time, Roma children from socially excluded communities allegedly faced educational segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools.

“NGOs reported violence and online hate speech towards refugees,” the US State Department report reads further.

Moreover, government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum, including the opposition, engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims in Europe as a threat to society.

“In February, [far-right] ĽSNS MP [Milan] Mazurek stated that Islam allows paedophilia, zoophilia, and even necrophilia and that it is nothing other than the work of the devil,” the report reads. In May, [then] Prime Minister Fico stated that ‘Islam has no place in Slovakia’ and that he did not want ‘a unified Muslim community to appear in Slovakia” that could “push their matters through’.”

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