ECRI: Slovakia Must Support Education of Roma and Adopt Action Plan for LGBTI

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illustration picture (photo by TASR)

Brussels/Strasbourg, December 8 (TASR correspondent) – Slovakia should provide more support to educating Roma and adequate preparation of Roma children for compulsory schooling, and it should also develop an action plan for people from the LGBTI community in order to protect them from discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech, according to a report published by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Tuesday.

The ECRI stated that Slovakia has made headway in some areas since the previous report in 2014. The National Human Rights Centre’s budget has been significantly increased, an action plan against racism has been adopted and some politicians and media have faced sanctions for hate speech. The ECRI also welcomed the fact that Criminal Code provisions covering hate crimes have been amended, with specialised units within the police, the prosecution service and courts tasked with combating these crimes.

According to the ECRI report, which monitored developments up to July 1, 2020, the Slovak authorities “are aware of the scale of the exclusion of a large part of the Roma population and have shown determination to improve the situation of Roma through systemic measures, including in the fields of education, housing and employment. However, there are some other measures that need to be taken as well”.

The document states that negative developments have been seen as a result of persistent hate speech against LGBTI people, meaning that progress in promoting equality for them has been limited. The ECRI expressed regret mainly over campaigns against the LGBTI community carried out by certain political parties. It pointed to the fact that a draft action plan from 2015 aimed at improving the situation of LGBTI people wasn’t adopted in the end.

Therefore, the ECRI recommends that Slovakia should develop and implement a plan to boost LGBTI rights to equality, raise public awareness of the problems that this community faces and protect it from hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination. Slovakia should stop forcing transgender people to undergo sterilisation before they can change their officially registered gender, as there is no basis for this in Slovak legislation and it contradicts rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

The ECRI in its report states there has also been an escalation in hate speech against certain groups, especially Jews, Muslims, immigrants, Roma and black people. Very little hate content is removed from the internet, and operators don’t enforce compliance with their ethics codes. A great many hate crimes go unreported to the authorities, partly because victims don’t trust the police. In this connection, the ECRI recommends several reforms to the Criminal Code, such as the inclusion of racist, homophobic and transphobic motives as aggravating circumstances in all types of criminal offence.