Amnesty International criticizes walls around Roma neighborhoods of Slovak towns
The Slovak Government has promised to address segregation in education on the basis of ethnic origin, but Roma people in Slovakia continue to be discriminated against in access to education, health care, and housing, according to the annual report by Amnesty International (AI) on the state of human rights in the world. In the section devoted to Slovakia, AI has noticed several cases of walls being erected to separate Roma communities from non-Roma residents. The organization also emphasized that Slovakia ignored an order from the European Court for Human Rights and returned a refugee seeking political asylum to Algeria.
AI says last October's verdict by a court in Košice, which found Roma people had been discriminated against when they were not allowed into a café in Michalovce, was one of the first verdicts of its kind in the country. The court refused to award compensation to the victims, however.
In August the new government recognized that ethnic segregation in education is a systemic problem in the country. However, in September the Slovak Education Ministry denied the segregation of Roma children was a serious problem and stated that it had only received a few complaints about this form of discrimination, AI reports.
Several municipal authorities have begun erecting walls separating areas inhabited by Roma people from the non-Roma sections of towns and villages, AI reports. The examples of Michalovce, Ostrovany and Prešov were given. The Slovak National Center for Human Rights said such walls represent social separation and that the construction in Prešov in particular was a confirmation of inequality. In Michalovce, residents have begun calling the construction "the Berlin Wall", but in September the Slovak Ombudsman concluded the erection of the walls did not violate fundamental rights and freedoms, AI reports.
In April 2010, the Slovka Interior Ministry forcibly returned asylum-seeker Mustafa Labsi to Algeria, despite the fact that in 2008 the Slovak Constitutional Court had halted an effort to surrender him to Algeria on the basis of concerns that his human rights would be violated there. Labsi had been convicted of terrorism in absentia in Algeria. He tried to get political asylum in Slovakia for several years and claimed he would be tortured if returned to Algeria.
AI reports that in August 2008 the European Court for Human Rights called on the Slovak authorities not to surrender Ladsi before the appeal of his asylum request was heard. By the end of 2010, however, Labsi was imprisoned in Algeria, awaiting trial on charges that he belongs to a "foreign terrorist group".
In January, Slovakia accepted three men who had been imprisoned at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo. They were first detained in a center for illegal migrants in Medveďov. In June and July 2010 they went on hunger strike to protest the conditions of their detention. In July the Slovak Government issued them residency permits good for five years, AI reports.