04 March 2019

By: Roman Kubovic

04 March 2019

By: Roman Kubovic


The third cycle of Slovakia’s review began with a presentation of the National Report by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr. František Ružička. Following the initial overview of the State Party’s progress in the human rights field since its last UPR in January 2014, the session proceeded with an interactive dialogue. During the dialogue, 80 delegations made comments, commendations and criticisms, asked questions, and offered recommendations for human rights improvements. The Slovak delegation responded to various points raised by UN Member States and finished with a few closing remarks. Afghanistan, Cameroon and Chile (so called ‘troika’) had been selected by the UN Human Rights Council to facilitate the review.

On Thursday, 31 January 2019, the Working Group adopted the report on Slovakia, which contained a total of 195 recommendations. The State Party will consider the recommendations and respond no later than the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council (June-July 2019).

The full report of Slovakia’s third UPR process includes:

  • Presentation of the National Report
  • Interactive Dialogue and Recommendations from States
  • Background information
  • Slovakia’s Participation in International Human Rights Treaties
  • Summary of UN Documentation and Stakeholder Submissions.

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Presentation of the National Report

H. E. Mr. František Ružička, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, described the main developments that had taken place in the country’s human rights situation since the second UPR cycle. The Government had adopted its National Strategy for the Implementation of Human Rights in February 2015. Amendments to the system of national human rights institutes (NHRIs), the role of which is to be taken by the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights (SNSLP), are underway; so are the legislative changes necessary for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  (OP-CAT). As of January 2018, a new law on the protection of victims of crimes entered into force by which the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended to prevent secondary and repeated victimisation, especially in cases where victims were children. Furthermore, in the area of justice, the Government reformed the General Prosecutor’s Office and combatted extremism, discrimination, racism and xenophobia. In that regard, several amendments to the Criminal Code and to the Code of Criminal Procedure had been adopted, including the creation of the Specialised Criminal Court, supervised by the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

Mr. Ružička explained that a plan to make pre-school education mandatory was under consideration. At the same time, measures were taken to improve education and training of teachers and to facilitate access to public services, particularly in respect of the Roma population (access to education, healthcare, housing). The National Programme for Development and Training 2018 concerned life-long education, integration of the Roma ethnic groups, interconnection with economic needs and needs of the labour market. The authorities planned to implement this project through 279 educational facilities. Healthcare professionals are protected by virtue of the instrument of conscientious objection. In the field of employment, the Government has worked on raising minimum wage, social benefits and pensions. A lot of focus has been placed on senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

The State Secretary further talked about the rights of women and gender equality. The State party had created better conditions for reconciling family life with working life, and a paternity leave of seven months had been established. In the current government, women lead one third of the national ministries. Slovakia has been working on the issue of domestic violence and the protection of children therefrom.

UPR 32, 21 January to 1 February 2019, Source: GICJ

Interactive Dialogue and Recommendations from States

Many countries commended Slovakia for the progress made in promoting and protecting human rights and praised the implementation of its 2015 National Strategy for Human Rights. States appreciated, in particular, the adoption of many action plans - anti-discrimination, protection of minorities, gender equality, protection of women and children from violence, combatting trafficking in persons. Several countries welcomed the establishment of the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. Slovakia’s administrative and legislative measures, including in the field of inclusive education and criminal matters, resonated throughout the room, as well as its constructive cooperation with the international human rights mechanisms. Some countries commended Slovakia for the adoption of the Act on Criminal Liability of Legal Persons and its efforts to combat racism, discrimination, extremism and other forms of intolerance. The Netherlands recognised some developments related to the rights of LGBTI persons, including the establishment of a Committee on the rights of LGBTI persons. The most positive recognition came from France which welcomed the very satisfactory human rights situation in Slovakia. Georgia, Honduras, Libya and Senegal appreciated voluntary pledges and commitments of the State Party made in the Human Rights Council and the latter also underlined Slovakia’s Rural Development Programme. Germany acknowledged the increasing participation of Roma in national, regional and local elections and Liechtenstein offered congratulations on measures taken to prevent the placement of children in special schools because of their social background. Maldives pointed out Slovakia’s achievement in providing safe drinking water for over 92% of the population through the public water supply network and the United States welcomed reforms in the selection process of judges and the adoption of a code of conduct for judges. On the other hand, numerous countries such as Albania, Australia, Germany, Jordan, Russia and Switzerland were concerned with persistent discrimination against the Roma population. Azerbaijan, Belarus and Germany also noted that intolerance against Muslims, Jews and persons of African descent and hate crime remained prevalent. Belarus, moreover, reproached the State Party for excessive use of police force, limitations on the right to vote of persons with disabilities and inadequate punishment for the crimes of human trafficking. Several Western countries were concerned about freedom of press, following a recent murder of a Slovak journalist in February 2018; though the number of concerned States was small. Austria pointed out that journalists had been subject to lawsuits and to serious verbal insults, including by officials. A few countries raised the issue of corruption. Croatia mentioned underrepresentation of women in the Parliament and the Government, while admitting that this did not apply to the judiciary. The Russian Federation pointed to the high rate of unemployment among the Roma population and Finland stressed the need to monitor the implementation of Slovakia’s anti-discrimination legislation. The Netherlands and Sweden were unsatisfied with the fact that LGBTI persons were still facing obstacles in the enjoyment of their rights and Denmark disapproved of what it viewed as legal barriers to abortion, introduced into the law with the effect of deterring women from accessing abortion services.

Numerous recommendations were offered by States during the interactive dialogue. The most common were that Slovakia should ratify the OP-CAT and other international human rights treaties, e.g. the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CRMW) and the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) and that it complete the legislative procedures to ensure that the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and can apply for reaccreditation with status A. Many countries further suggested that Slovakia promote and raise awareness of gender equality and increase the participation of women in the labour market, combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, hate speech and other forms of intolerance and increase efforts to guarantee the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons. Several countries recommended that Slovakia strengthen anti-corruption laws, develop a national action plan on business and human rights, continue to improve the functioning of the judicial system, take effective measures to guarantee the safety of journalists and enhance efforts aimed at combatting trafficking in persons and exploitation. Other recommendations aimed at ensuring the right to quality and inclusive education with a focus on access to education for children belonging to minority communities, promoting human rights education and training, continuing to address problems of reproductive health and strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities. Finally, a considerable number of recommendations asked that Slovakia secure the development and preservation of identity of national minorities, put an end to all forms of discriminatory practices against Roma, in particular in access to education, housing, healthcare, social services and employment, reduce segregation and improve integration and social inclusion and ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of foreigners, such as migrants, refugees and applicants for international protection.

The Slovak delegation was thankful for the open and inclusive process and responded to a number of issues and questions, many of which are summarized below.

Slovakia’s UPR, Room XX of the Palais des Nations, Source: GICJ

Implementation of anti-discrimination laws: The Government adopted an Action Plan for Preventing all Forms of Discrimination 2016-2019, to strengthen the implementation of the Anti-discrimination Act, and to support the efforts of public organisations and non-governmental organisations in combatting discrimination.

Rights of LGBTI people: Although the draft national action plan on the rights of the LGBTI persons was not ultimately adopted, there is continued effort to address the issues that the community faces. Several facets of the draft action plan are, nevertheless, being implemented such as recognition of diplomas for transgender people. Criminal laws prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and protect against hate speech and hate crime. An expert committee on the rights of LGBTI persons, composed of government and non-governmental entities, has been working on policies to ensure equality for LGBTI persons.

Judicial system: A large-scale project on the efficiency of the justice system is being implemented by the Ministry of Justice and the Council of Europe, several working groups of local experts are tasked with specific issues, e.g., specialisation of courts, new IT solutions for court management. Measures were taken to alter the procedures by which judges are appointed, civil courts’ agendas were decreased, and electronic payment orders were established.

Istanbul Convention: Although not yet ratified, legislation is already in line with the Convention, including the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women 2014-2019. In addition, to protect victims of domestic violence, the period for which expulsion orders may be issued was extended from 48 hours to 10 days, and the authorities created a helpline for women experiencing violence.

Human rights institutions: Slovakia adopted the Act on the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in 2016 to strengthen the protection of the rights of the child and those of the persons with disabilities by establishing independent institutions to receive and investigate individual cases and recommend remedies. The Commissioners were authorised to join civil proceedings as a third party, and to inform the Government if a public body did not accept or implement its recommendations.

Minimum wage, social pensions: The Act on Social Economy and Social Enterprises aimed at strengthening the rights of vulnerable groups in the labour market. The Government increases the minimum wage, social benefits and pensions annually to improve the standard of living and combat poverty.

Roma integration: There is a state body dealing with all questions related, inter alia, to the Roma population, the Plenipotentiary for National Minorities. The Government adopted the National Roma Integration Strategy for up to 2020, seven action plans are built on it, covering health, education, housing, employment, financial inclusion, non-discrimination and approaches toward majority population. In 2018, Decree no. 525 was approved, outlining eleven concrete steps to strengthen the efforts to ensure integration of the members of the Roma in society (e.g., social workers, labour market, middle schools). Compulsory pre-school education for all children starting at five years of age is expected to have a huge impact on Roma children.

Access to healthcare: Health professionals are required to follow codes of ethics in order to avoid violations of legal requirements in access to health care. The Government made efforts to provide adequate care for pregnant women and unborn children (prenatal health and life) - access to contraceptive methods, although not covered by public insurance unless in cases of health problems. Access to healthcare is guaranteed for marginalised Roma women: health awareness assistance in hospitals is being prepared. Since 2004, no new information on incidents of forced sterilisation have been received. Healthcare workers specialised in sexual and reproductive health were trained to understand that the requirement of having consent for sterilisation procedures is required.

Fighting extremism: A range of preventive measures has been taken due to a rise in extremism; they are included in the National Strategy on Human Rights and aim at fighting intolerance, racism and xenophobia. The authorities also adopted the Action Plan to Prevent and Eliminate Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance 2016-2018, and established in 2011 the Committee to Prevent Racism, Xenophobia and Antisemitism. In 2017, criminal laws were amended in order to make the investigation of extremism and racially motivated crimes more effective.

Access to education: The Government adopted the National Programme for Development of Education and Training, Quality and Availability of Education, which would be updated regularly depending on the status of implementation. The Programme aims at enhancing inclusion and the transition to a new education model taking into account the Finnish education model. It includes a set of measures to ensure inclusion in education and to strengthen support for Roma children and children from socially disadvantaged families, to develop pre-school compulsory education and to increase the number of school personnel.

Segregation in schools: Since 2016, the Ministry of Education has been implementing a national project – a school open to all – to ensure an inclusive education in 130 primary schools and 50 kindergartens. The project has focused on the prevention and elimination of segregation of Roma students and the enhancement of competencies of professionals in identifying segregation in schools.

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs concluded with three final remarks. First, sustainable development of the Slovak people is possible to achieve by ensuring security, prosperity and human rights. Mr. Ružička underlined the need to remain vigilant when rights and freedoms are under attack by referring to the killing of an investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak. He said that the authorities had brought eight individuals to justice in connection with the murder and the Government continued to explore how to improve freedom of press and how to ensure security of journalists.

Second, Slovakia remains committed to the rule of law as the only guarantee to ensure the sovereignty of its people. He warned against those with radical and extreme views attempting to gain power and to limit rights and freedoms through disinformation campaigns. Third, the State Party is committed to multilateralism and international cooperation to prevent and counter common threats representing a danger to human civilisation, human rights and democracy. The State Secretary reiterated that Slovakia would pay its utmost attention to all the recommendations received.

Background Information

To prepare for the review, the Working Group received two reports compiled by the OHCHR. One gave an overview of the reports of UN treaty bodies, special procedures and other relevant UN documents pertaining to human rights in Slovakia (A/HRC/WG.6/32/SVK/2). The other report was a summary of 8 stakeholders’ submissions on Slovakia related to the UPR process (A/HRC/WG.6/32/SVK/3). A list of questions prepared in advance by Belarus, Belgium, Germany, Portugal on behalf of the Group of Friends on national implementation, reporting and follow up, Sweden, Slovenia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was transmitted to Slovakia through the troika. These questions are available on the website of the universal periodic review. Below is a summary of the main issues raised in the above-mentioned OHCHR reports.

Slovakia’s Participation in International Human Rights Treaties

Summary of UN Documentation and Stakeholder Submissions

Scope of international obligations and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms and bodies
Several treaty bodies and other stakeholders, including the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights (SNSLP) recommended that Slovakia ratify the CRMW, OP-CAT and Istanbul Convention. SNSLP stated that despite having signed the Istanbul Convention, the Government postponed its ratification for an indefinite period. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE-Commissioner) also urged the authorities to accede to Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights), as well as to the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter Providing for a System of Collective Complaints. Another recommendation was to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a matter of international urgency.

National human rights framework
Three UN Committees and several other stakeholders and NGOs urged the Government to take legislative steps to ensure that the SNSLP was in full compliance with the Paris Principles, was accredited with status A and worked efficiently and independently as a NHRI. They also recommended that it was provided with adequate staff and sufficient funding. One UN Committee suggested the same in respect of the Commissioner for Children. The CoE-Commissioner expressed concerns that the National Strategy for Human Rights did not define clear objectives, tasks and benchmarks or assign coordination, implementation and monitoring responsibilities to concrete bodies.

Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law

Cross-Cutting Issues

Two UN Committees suggested that the Anti-discrimination Act be amended to include the definition of multiple discrimination. Several Committees noted the prevalence of racial discrimination against different minorities, especially Roma, Muslims and persons of African descent, and recommended that Slovakia counter stigmatization, take measures to prevent racist attacks, and prohibit any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Another recommendation was to adopt effective measures to combat hate speech, and to ensure that all incidents of hate speech be investigated and prosecuted and that the perpetrators be punished. Several UN Committees were concerned about the increasingly hostile environment against persons on the basis of their actual or perceived SOGI and urged Slovakia to abolish the requirement of compulsory sterilization and surgery for transgender women who wished to obtain legal recognition of their gender.

Some stakeholders recommended ensuring that law enforcement officers be adequately trained to properly investigate and follow-up all cases of racial discrimination, including through the initiation of independent investigations of alleged cases of police abuse. Another recommendation was that the authorities implement legislation on banning political parties openly hostile to human rights and enact legislation on suspending state funding for those parties and banning persons convicted of offences of racism or racial discrimination from running for public offices.

The CoE-Commissioner invited the authorities to consider favourably the possibility of providing cohabiting different sex and same-sex couples with legal means to address the practical problems related to the social reality in which they live.

Civil and Political Rights

Several stakeholders and relevant UN Committees were concerned at allegations of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, particularly towards ethnic minorities. They recommended that Slovakia effectively investigate all allegations of excessive use of force, including torture and ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials, ensure that those suspected of having committed such acts were immediately suspended from their duties throughout the period of investigation and prosecute them, and if they were found guilty, ensure that they received sentences commensurate with the gravity of their acts. Furthermore, they repeatedly urged the State Party to establish an independent monitoring mechanism to investigate crimes involving police officers.

The UN Committee against Torture was concerned at the lack of efficiency of the judicial system, including the slowness of judicial proceedings, and urged Slovakia to improve the functioning of the judicial system. It also recommended that the State Party guarantee all detained persons all fundamental legal safeguards from the outset of their deprivation of liberty in accordance with international standards, and that the duration of pretrial detention be reduced.

Concerning the safety of journalists, the CoE-Commissioner called for a prompt and effective investigation in the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová in order to identify and punish the perpetrators. He also called for an urgent public discussion about media freedom and the safety of journalists, focusing in particular on political discourse.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

UN entities and members of the civil society were concerned about the rights to education, social security and health. They urged Slovakia to ensure that inclusive education was given priority over the placement of children in specialized institutions and classes, and to train and assign specialized teachers and professionals in integrated classes to provide individual support. Another recommendation was to include human rights education in the school curricula.

Rights of Specific Persons or Groups

UN Committees urged Slovakia to promote the understanding of gender equality in line with international human rights standards, and to counter efforts made by any actors to downplay or degrade the pursuit of gender equality by labelling such measures as ideology. They also called on the State Party to promote women’s access to the labour market, eliminate horizontal and vertical segregation between women and men in the labour market and close the gender pay gap. The Committees were concerned that the protection of women from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace remained inadequate.

The Human Rights Committee recommended that Slovakia put an end to corporal punishment in all settings and encourage non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to corporal punishment. The Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Slovakia to establish early detection and investigative programmes for identifying child victims of violence and sexual abuse, and to ensure effective prosecution of perpetrators of violence against and sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Other concrete recommendations in respect of persons with disabilities, minorities and migrants may be found in the above-cited reports.

Adoption of the Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

On Thursday, 31 January 2019, the Working Group adopted the report on Slovakia, which contained a total of 195 recommendations. The State Party will consider the recommendations and respond no later than the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council (June-July 2019).

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