MINELRES: ERRC: Slovakia to UN Economic and Social Rights Committee

European Roma Rights Center minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Wed Nov 20 18:39:00 2002


European Roma Rights Center Press Release:

Slovakia Under Review by the United Nations Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights
November 12, 2002

Today the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights reviews the Slovak Republic’s compliance with the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In the run-up to
today’s meeting, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) sent written
comments to the Committee for consideration during its review. The ERRC
submission documents widespread discrimination against Roma in Slovakia
in the fields of employment, housing, and education.

On the occasion of the review, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova
said: "Slovakia has a new government and, from last week, that
government has a programme. We eagerly await what the government will
tell the Committee as to how it plans to address the very pressing
issues facing Roma in the area of economic and social rights. We hope
the Committee will use the occasion to secure real commitments from the
Slovak government, such that the rights of Roma in Slovakia can finally
be realised effectively."

Roma in Slovakia are caught in a vicious pattern of discrimination and
disenfranchisement. Racial discrimination in access to education
prevents Roma from acquiring basic skills, and discrimination in
employment frequently denies Roma the possibility to earn a living. Many
Roma live in inadequate -- often appalling -- housing conditions, and
are sometimes even homeless. Local authorities often deny Roma
registration as resident in municipalities, and in some instances have
actually banned the entry of Roma into the territory of the
municipality. In Slovakia, local residence is a condition for access to
social assistance benefits, education and other services necessary for
realising the rights protected by the Covenant; lack of such residence
can mean effective exclusion from basic rights protection. Extreme
poverty, compounded by poor environmental conditions and discrimination
in access to health care and basic municipal services, seriously
deteriorates the health of Slovak Roma, whose life expectancy is far
below the national average.

The ERRC is aware of the efforts undertaken by the Slovak Government to
comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as detailed in its report to the
Committee. To date, however, these measures have been insufficient to
ensure the effective implementation of the Covenant, particularly with
regard to Articles 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 13.

As to Article 2 of the Covenant, the ERRC is concerned that Roma in
Slovakia are subjected to discrimination when seeking to realize the
rights protected by the Covenant. Slovakia lacks adequate
anti-discrimination legislation, and Roma frequently fall victim to
racial discrimination, notably in the sectoral fields of employment,
housing, health, and education. The few existing legal provisions
relating to discrimination are rarely if ever invoked, rendering the
protections offered by them effectively illusory. The ERRC is
particularly concerned about the recent withdrawal of draft
comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation from consideration by
Slovak Parliament.

As to Article 6, Roma in the Slovak Republic face unemployment rates at
least four times the national average. Slovak employers routinely
discriminate against Romani job applicants. The geographical isolation,
educational segregation, and ghettoisation of the Romani population
exacerbate the problem of unemployment. The Government’s action to
remedy the problem of unemployment among Roma has been grossly
inadequate thus far.

As to Article 9, many Roma are denied access to or are inadequately
covered by social assistance programmes. Direct as well as indirect
discrimination bars Roma from full access to social assistance.
Furthermore, alarming statements by public officials seem to condone and
encourage discrimination in the sphere of social assistance.

As to Article 11, Roma face systemic discrimination in their right to
adequate housing. Municipal authorities have openly sanctioned
segregation or even expulsion from municipalities of Romani inhabitants.
In addition, Roma often live in inadequate conditions in settlements and
neighbourhoods without basic infrastructure or utilities such as waste
removal, potable drinking water provisions, and/or electricity.

As to Article 12, Roma also face discrimination in the provision of
health care by doctors, emergency care personnel, and hospital staff.
Roma are often denied treatment on racist grounds, and hospitals
reportedly segregate Romani patients from non-Roma. Additionally, the
state of health of Roma in the Slovak Republic falls far below that of
the average Slovak citizen. Life expectancy is over 10 years lower and
infant mortality rates, as well as rates for most communicable disease,
are markedly higher in the Romani population.

As to Article 13, Roma in Slovakia are denied equal access to education.
Romani children frequently attend racially segregated classes or
schools; in some instances, Romani children are segregated in schools
for the mentally disabled. When Romani children attend regular schools,
they offen suffer racial discrimination and humiliating treatment by
both school staff and non-Roma.

Finally, the ERRC has identified the practice of local authorities
refusing to register Roma as resident in municipalities as a central
bureaucratic obstacle to the effective implementation of nearly all
substantive rights protected by the Covenant, in particular by Articles
9, 11, 12 and 13. In many areas, despite having lived in a given
location for generations, Roma are refused registration for permanent
residence. This practice effectively precludes Roma from access to
services fundamental for the realisation of basic social, economic and
cultural rights.

In view of the above, the ERRC recommends that the Slovak Government
undertake the following:

- Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation by bringing Slovak
law into conformity with the requirements of Council Directive
2000/43/EC “implementing the principle of equality between persons,
irrespective of racial or ethnic origin”. Ensure that the implementing
body mandated by the Directive is strong, fully independent and
adequately staffed and funded.
- Without delay, ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention of Human
Rights.
- Without delay, ratify the revised Social Charter of the Council of
Europe and make a declaration accepting the collective complaints
procedure under Article D, paragraph 2 of Part IV of the revised
Charter.
- Ensure effective remedy for cases of discrimination against Roma in
the field of employment, housing, health care, and access to public
goods and services.
- Implement a comprehensive school desegregation plan, such that all
Romani children may fully realise the right to education. Without delay, 
end the practice of segregating Romani children into classes for  mentally 
disabled children or other separate, substandard classes.
Integrate all school-age Romani children into mainstream classes and,
where necessary, design and implement adequately funded and staffed
programmes aimed at easing the transition from segregated to integrated
schooling.
- Design pre-school programmes for Romani children to learn the primary
language of schooling and to attain a level ensuring an equal start in
the first class of primary school.
- Develop and implement catch-up or adult education programmes aimed at
remedying the legacies of substandard education and non-schooling of
Roma.
- Where instances of abuse in the school system are reported ­ abuse
including exclusionary practices, physical and verbal assault,
humiliating treatment, and failure by teachers and school administrators
to protect Romani children from peer abuse ­ without delay, punish
school authorities responsible, and implement measures aimed at
preventing further abuse.
- Develop curriculum resources for teaching Romani language, culture,
and history in schools, and make them available to all schools, so that
all children in Slovakia learn of the valuable contributions Roma have
made to Slovak society.
- Without delay, implement effective desegregation measures in the
fields of housing and health care.
- Undertake effective measures to ensure that local authorities register
all persons actually residing in a given municipality, without regard to
race.
- Provide security of tenure for residents of Romani communities and
settlements, and protect the inhabitants from forced and arbitrary
evictions, as well as segregationist local practices.
- Provide free legal aid to members of weak groups, including Roma and
the indigent.
- At the highest level, speak out against the problem of anti-Romani
sentiment and discrimination; at all levels, acknowledge and speak out
against racism, racially motivated crime, patterns and practices of
discrimination, and segregation. Address the root problem of anti-Romani
racism in Slovakia by developing and implementing anti-racism curricula
for schools and campaigns for the media, so as to address widespread
negative attitudes against Roma and racism generally.
- Conduct comprehensive human rights and anti-racism training for the
national and local administration, state and private employers, labour
offices staff, school officials, and health care providers.
- Proactively recruit qualified Roma for professional positions in the
national and local administration, labour offices staff, health care
providers, and school officials.

The full text of the ERRC submission is available on the Internet at:
http://errc.org/publications/legal/index.shtml.

More information on the situation of Roma in Slovakia can be found at:
http://errc.org/publications/indices/slovakia.shtml


_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence
in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European
Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary


Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201

_____________________________________________

SUPPORT THE ERRC!

The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank transfers
are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

For correspondence, to subscribe and unsubscribe from this list, please use 
mailto:office@errc.org.