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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

13 May 2009 (afternoon)

For use of information media; not an official record· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Slovak Republic, this afternoon, during which 48 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Yemen, following the review of the country on Monday, 11 May.

· Presenting the national report of the Slovak Republic was DIANA ŠTOFOVÁ, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, who noted that following the transition to democracy and the establishment of a sovereign state in 1993, legal guarantees safeguarding the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms were enshrined in the Constitution of the Slovak Republic. Pursuant to the Constitution, international treaties on human rights and fundamental freedoms prevailed over national laws. The Slovak Republic was a party to almost all fundamental UN human rights conventions and treaties. Moreover, amendments were being made to the provisions of the Penal Code on the implementation of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in order to ratify it. In response to the advanced questions concerning ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the Slovak Republic was currently conducting analysis of the provisions of the Optional Protocol with the aim to identify the necessary legislative amendments in respective national law, as well as its conformity with other international law instruments covering these issues. Judicial and non-judicial mechanisms were set in place in order to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals. A key component of the latter was the public defender of rights (ombudsman). Another institution of this kind was the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights set up in 1993. One of its tasks was providing legal assistance to victims of discrimination and intolerance. At the Governmental level, human rights issues fell within the competence of the Deputy Prime Minister for the Knowledge-Based Society, European Affairs, Human Rights and Minorities. Several bodies were created to advise the Government, inter alia, on national minority policy issues, issues of elderly persons, persons with disabilities or gender equality.

In order to establish an effective institutional framework to address problems of the Roma minority, the position of the Governmental Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities was created in 1999, she added. The general legal framework for the observance of the principle of equal treatment was provided for by the Antidiscrimination Act of 2004 as amended in 2008. The government further elaborated, on periodical bases, a systemic instrument to combat and reduce negative phenomena in the society, such as racism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination. The new Action Plan for a period 2009 – 2011 has been adopted just today. The main new feature of this Action plan was to find ways for gathering statistical information and data, disaggregated on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, while preserving the maximum level of protection of personal information. Another step towards combating racism was the re-codification of criminal law in 2005, the positive effects of which were already being realized in practice.

In addition to the majority Slovak population, approximately 14 per cent of the population of Slovakia claimed other than the Slovak nationality, she stated. There were 12 officially recognized national minorities and ethnic groups. The State promoted minority culture and education development through various means available. The language rights of members of minorities were defined in a number of legal regulations, including through the 1999 Act on the Use of Minority Languages. Responding to an advanced question it was recalled that according to the Act on Employment Services of 2004, the Slovak government does not foresee any special measures with respect to the position of minorities in the labour market. In reaction to the recent case of the excessive use of force by the police against Roma children in Košice, the head of delegation reported that the behaviour of the policemen was incompatible with their service, authorization and moral code of policeman; hence both preventive and repressive measures have been taken by the Ministry of Interior. In order to prevent and eradicate all forms of police harassment, measures for enhanced psychological care of policemen were taken and new educational programs were being prepared for special police schools.

With the aim to step up the efficiency in the system of children rights protection, the Government established a permanent Ministerial Committee for Children and intended to extend the powers of the Public Defender of Rights to enable him to act as an ombudsman for the rights of the child, the State Secretary announced. Children’s rights have also been monitored also by the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights. On the issue of domestic violence against women and children, it was noted that various campaigns organized by non-governmental organizations and the Government had served well to "de-taboo" such acts in recent years. In this context an amendment of the Police act that entered into force in December 2008 allowed to ban the perpetrator of domestic violence from the house up to 48 hours. In order to eliminate the existing gender stereotypes in education and employment, the Slovak Government adopted an updated National Strategy for Gender Equality for 2009 – 2013 in April this year and was finalizing the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women for 2009 – 2012. Women and men had the right to equal treatment in access to employment, remuneration, career growth and professional training. As to trafficking in human beings, in April 2008, the Government adopted a National Program to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings for 2008-2010. The document also comprised an Action Plan designed to coordinate the activities of all stakeholders engaged in the elimination of risks and preventing human trafficking as well as in creating conditions for the provision of support and assistance to the victims.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the introduction of a constitutional complaint procedures; Government efforts to integrate the Roma community, including the formulation of a Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015; accession to nearly all the core international human rights instruments; the national strategy to eradicate domestic violence; the national plan of action to combat human trafficking; the good quality of the healthcare system; low incidence of HIV/AIDS; the Anti-Discrimination Law; the Family Act Law; the adoption of the National Action Plan for Children; the establishment of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights; and recent amendments to legislation on the status of foreign nationals and on asylum aiming to bring them in line with EU legislation.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, steps being considered to ensure that Roma children had equal possibilities as the main population to enjoy the right to education; plans to improve the housing conditions of the Roma population; challenges faced by the Government in better integration of the Roma; initiatives to improve the situation of vulnerable groups of children, especially Roma; measures taken to improve health services for Roma; how the Government planned to address reports of police mistreatment of Romani suspects, including recent reports of abuses of six Romani minors in Kosice while in police custody; whether the Government intended to draw up a new action plan for the prevention of discrimination, as it had done for the period 2006-2008; intentions to become party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; whether human rights training had been provided for police officers and prison personnel; and steps taken to prevent human rights violations committed by police officers.

Other issues and questions pertained to the process of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; whether same sex partners were provided equal rights and responsibilities as opposite sex partners; whether Slovak legislation provided for punishment for the sexual exploitation of children and ill-treatment of them; the mechanism of cooperation with UNICEF for ensuring that adequate standards of juvenile justice; steps to establish an independent monitoring mechanism on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the position of the Government on corporal punishment; efforts to address the issue of wage gaps between men and women; the efficiency and outcomes of the national strategy to address cases of human trafficking; steps taken to adopt a new national strategy for gender equality; measures taken to address the concerns of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women as to cases of violence against women and girls; steps being taken to follow up to the recommendations to the human rights treaty bodies; the functioning of the Office of the Ombudsman; plans to address the OSCE’s concerns about he media law; and the status of freedom of expression for members of the press.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to take concrete measures for the improvement of socio-economic status of Roma communities; to take further concrete measures to improve the realization of the right to education by Roma children, taking into account special educational needs; to ensure effective participation of the Roma communities in the process of implementing their right to adequate housing; to organize targeted vocational programmes, in particular young people, to increase the employability of members of the Roma minority; to investigate all reported cases of harassment of members of the Roma minority by the police forces; to provide incentives for the Roma community to build their capacity to participate in civil society; to address the status of persons belonging to minorities within Slovakia through greater engagement and effective use of EU funds, expert level cooperation and strengthening of national procedures; to step up efforts to change the stereotype and traditional perception of the Roma by the majority of the population; to ensure the right to work for people belonging to the Roma community; to develop more legislative guarantees in order to fully comply with the provisions of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages; and to enact and implement new legislation as well as practical measures to end discriminatory practices against Roma.

Other recommendations included: To conduct a thorough criminal investigation and prosecution of the police officers involved in the abuse in Kosice; to apply legal and other measures to protect Roma and other minorities from violence and police mistreatment; to intensify efforts to address the problem of racially motivated crimes and excessive use of force by police against the Roma community; to consider becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to set up a monitoring mechanism to register acts of police violence; to take steps to eliminate all forms of violence committed by the police; to provide human rights training and education of members of the judiciary, police and prison personnel; to facilitate access to justice by accused persons; ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; to create a specialized detention centre for dangerous prisoners who suffered from psychological conditions and who required special care; and to ensure that juvenile justice was fully implemented.

The Slovak Republic was also encouraged to accede to the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; to step up efforts to prevent racially motivate crimes; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; to enable the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights to monitor the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation, to initiate investigations and recommend remedies in individual cases involving discrimination in the employment of the right to education; to formulate and implement a national action plan for the protection of the civil rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people; to take measures to avoid that minority groups were disproportionally affected by the economic and financial crisis; to continue to guarantee the invocation of conscientious objection by health professionals in order to safeguard the freedom of conscience of medical professionals; and to work with the OSCE toward the implementation of recommendations to address concerns about the limits that the media law placed on freedom of expression.

Additionally, States recommended that the Slovak Republic take measures to improve the representation of women in public life; step up efforts to eliminate occupational segregation, to ensure equal pay for men and women; combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children; to continue measures to prevent any acts of forced sterilization; monitor health centres to ensure that patients were able to fully provide their consent before any sterilization procedures; take further steps to ensure that legislation on violence was full in line with international standards; ensure that legislation on violence against women was both specific and wide ranging; implement the recommendations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; effectively implement the respective procedures and to further promote rights of foreign nationals, migrants and asylum seekers; ensure that national legislation provided for punishment for the sexual exploitation of children and ill-treatment of them; prohibit corporal punishment by law in all settings; and ensure that juvenile justice standards were fully respected.

Moreover, the Slovak Republic was encouraged to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; to upgrade the Slovak National Human Rights Centre to a full-fledged national human rights commission in compliance with the Paris Principles; to follow up on its commitment to increase Overseas Development Assistance; to further strengthen the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights so that it could discharge its mandate in a comprehensive and effective manner; to raise awareness about the UPR recommendations; and to include interested NGOs in discussions on how best to implement the recommendations received during the UPR.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, India, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Switzerland, Germany, Ukraine, Cuba, the Netherlands, Argentina, Slovenia, Jordan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malaysia, Angola, France, Nigeria, Japan, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Bangladesh.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Finland, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Austria, Serbia, Singapore, Iran, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, the Holy See, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, Hungary, Croatia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Spain, New Zealand, Montenegro, the United States and Bulgaria.

· The 15-person delegation of Slovakia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government for Roma Communities, the Ministry of Culture, the Department for Human Rights and National Minorities, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Slovakia are Chile, Angola and Pakistan.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on the Slovak Republic can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Yemen: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Yemen are Indonesia, South Africa and Nicaragua. Introducing the report GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia) commended the willingness of Yemen to consider the suggestions made by States and for their openness to the recommendations. It was hoped that Yemen received positive encouragement from the UPR process and that they constructively apply the recommendations that enjoyed their support. Representing the State under review, HUDA ALI ALBAN, Minister of Human Rights of Yemen, said her country would its best to adopt most of the recommendations put forth by the Working Group. There was a visible revolution in human rights in Yemen to which the Government had contributed.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Slovak Republic on Friday, 15 May.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Friday, 15 May at 3 p.m. it is scheduled to adopt the reports on Vanuatu, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Comoros and the Slovak Republic after which it will conclude its 5th session.

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To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.aspx.

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