MINELRES: ERRC: Slovak Officials Release False and Misleading Information

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Oct 10 09:29:44 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


ERRC Urges Prime Minister to Issue Prompt Correction and to Lead in 
Ensuring that Victims Receive Justice

4 October 2005, Budapest, Bratislava.    
Acting in response to the publication by the Slovak General Prosecutor’s
office of extremely misleading information concerning the coercive
sterilisation of women  including Romani women - in Slovakia, the ERRC
yesterday sent a letter to Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda,
urging him to undertake a number of matters including: (1) publicly
correct the information issued by the Slovak General Prosecutor; (2)
affirm that the Slovak government remains committed to justice for any
and all identified victims; and (3) in light of the evident bad faith
demonstrated by members of the Slovak Attorney General’s office, to
demonstrate leadership in matters related to providing justice to
victims of coercive sterilisation in Slovakia.

On 21 September 2004, the ERRC submitted, under a confidential complaint
mechanism available before the United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW Article 8
procedure”), details concerning procedures undertaken by Slovak medical
officials with respect to 49 Romani women. This complaint included
details of 22 cases of sterilisation performed without any form of
consent; 23 cases of sterilisation in which consent to sterilisation was
obtained by coercion; and four cases in which sterilisation had been
performed following consent secured absent the provision of information
regarding alternative contraceptive measures.

In a communication of 1 August 2005, the CEDAW declined to conduct an
Article 8 inquiry into the matter, primarily as a result of the entry
into force, on 1 January 2005, of a new Act on Healthcare, including
provisions to ensure “ethical medical practice as well as access to a
patient’s file”.

The CEDAW communication states, however, that while it would not at
present conduct an inquiry into the matter, under the Article 8
procedure, “it remains concerned that there may have been individual
cases of sterilisation of Roma women without consent or with consent
obtained by coercion and that, within this context, the issues of
responsibility and redress have so far not been sufficiently addressed.”
The
Committee further advised the Slovak government “to pursue and
appropriate consideration of these questions”.

This decision, issued confidentially to the ERRC and the Slovak
Government has, in the week foregoing, been dramatically misrepresented
by Slovak officials in public statements. In addition, the views of a
number of European expert bodies which have expressed extreme concern at
the actions of Slovak medical officials have also been misrepresented by
Slovak officials. A summary of wrong, misleading or otherwise
manipulative information disseminated by Slovak authorities and widely
quoted in the Slovak media in the past week follows below:

According to the Slovak news agency SITA from September 29, 2005, Mr.
Jozef Centes, Vice President of the Criminal Division of the Slovak
Attorney-General’s Office, made statements that “illegal sterilisation
of 
Romani women has never happened in Slovakia” and claimed that the same
conclusion had been reached by a UN Committee after examining the issue
upon request submitted by the European Roma Rights Centre. The
statements of Mr. Centes were welcomed, endorsed and repeated by a
number of Slovak officials, and have been widely quoted in the media.

As of October 3, the Internet website of the Slovak General Prosecutor’s
Office included a news item, at 
http://www.genpro.gov.sk/index/go.php?id=38&prm1=53, containing
extensive misleading information on the issue, including for example the
following: “The non-existence of evidence of the crime of genocide has
been
affirmed also by an independent parliamentary survey by the
Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development
(IEPFPD), Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe for Social, Health and Family Affairs Christine McCafferty, as
well as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Alvaro
Gil-Robles”.

The statement of the Slovak General Prosecutor is formally correct
solely because none of authorities listed, including the ERRC, have
alleged the crime of genocide in Slovakia in connection with these
practices. Indeed, the Slovak General Prosecutor opened investigation
into the crime of genocide  which carries with it a very high burden of
proof - against the explicit recommendation of a number of parties, and
apparently for the sole purpose of dismissing the claims.

In actual fact, every one of the officials listed above has expressed
concern at practices of sterilisation of women carried out absent
informed consent in Slovakia, as well as in particular the targeting of
Romani women for coercive sterilisation.

In one example of statements misrepresented by the Slovak General
Prosecutor, in 2003, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human
Rights Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles stated, following visits to Slovakia:
“...on the basis of the information contained in the reports referred to
above, and that obtained during the visit, it can reasonably be assumed
that sterilizations have taken place, particularly in eastern Slovakia,
without informed consent. The information available to the Commissioner
does not suggest that an active or organized Government policy of
improper sterilizations has existed (at least since the end of the
communist regime). However, the 
Slovak Government has, in the view of the Commissioner, an objective
responsibility in the matter for failing to put in place adequate
legislation and for failing to exercise appropriate supervision of
sterilisation practices although allegations of improper sterilizations
have been made throughout the 1990’s and early 2000.”

The foregoing statement was reiterated in the High Commissioner’s
Preliminary Report on the Human Rights Situation of Roma, Sinti and
Travellers in Europe, dated May 4, 2005, to which was added the comment
“I remain concerned that sufficient consideration has not, at least as
yet, been given to the question of responsibility for the violations
that have already occurred as well as providing redress for the
victims”.

The Commissioner further concluded that “The issue of sterilizations
does not appear to concern exclusively one ethnic group of the Slovak
population, nor does the question of their improper performance. It is
likely that vulnerable individuals from various ethnic origins have, at
some stage, been exposed to the risk of sterilization without proper
consent. However, for a number of factors, which are developed
throughout this report, the Commissioner is convinced that the Roma
population of eastern Slovakia has been at particular risk.”

Similarly, an independent study mission of the Inter-European
Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (IEPFPD) after, as
noted above, agreeing with all parties that the practices alleged likely
did not amount to genocide, concluded, “Participants did find, that in
most cases Romani woman were sterilized without sufficient information
to make an informed consent. This is due to the fact, that hospital
doctors do not consider it their duty to inform the woman, even when
they should have realised that the patient has not attended prenatal
care, where this information is supposed to be given and will also not
attend post natal care. In cases of emergency the patient is also not
informed. This is open to very strong criticism.”

Since plausible documentation was first brought forward in 2003 that
practices of coercive sterilisation of Romani women have recently taken
place in Slovakia, high-level Slovak authorities have repeatedly misled
the Slovak public on the nature and dimensions of the issue. Indeed,
Slovak authorities have even threatened prosecution of the authors of
“Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma
Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia”, the first comprehensive study
published on the matter. To date, although some Slovak officials have
occasionally acknowledged the practice, justice has been denied to
victims.

The ERRC letter to Prime Minister Dzurinda of October 3 was copied to
the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which
remains in the course of the most recent very disturbing developments in
Slovakia described above.

Further information on the coercive sterilisation of Romani women in
Slovakia, as provided in a number of public statements by the ERRC and
partner organisations, is available at:
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=1680&archiv=1
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=312&archiv=1
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=326&archiv=1
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=324&archiv=1

_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre 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 Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

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


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

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