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TITLE:  SLOVAK REPUBLIC HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                        
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                           SLOVAK REPUBLIC


The Slovak Republic became an independent state on January 1, 
1993, following the dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federal 
Republic (CSFR).  The Slovak Constitution, which went into 
effect on October 1, 1992, provides for a multiparty, 
multiethnic parliamentary democracy.  Slovakia chose to carry 
over the entire body of CSFR domestic legislation and 
international treaty obligations, which gradually are being 
renewed or updated.  The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia 
(HZDS), which won a plurality in the June 1992 elections, 
formed a coalition with the Slovak National Party (SNS), giving 
them a majority in Parliament.  When the SNS left the coalition 
in March, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the HZDS continued 
in office, governing as a minority party until November when 
the coalition was renewed.  

Prior to its dissolution, the CSFR had dismantled the 
repressive security apparatus of pre-1989 Czechoslovakia.  The 
Slovak Information Service is responsible for all security and 
intelligence activities in Slovakia.  A parliamentary 
commission headed by the president of Slovakia's National 
Council (parliament) oversees the service.  During 1993 there 
were no reports indicating human rights abuses by the Slovak 
Information Service or the military security apparatus of the 
Slovak Government.  There was one report of two possible 
extrajudicial killings by a policeman (see Section 1.a.).  

Economic reform, initiated in 1990 in the former CSFR, 
continued in Slovakia in 1993 at a slower pace.  With the 
disruption of established commercial relationships caused by 
the dissolution of the CSFR and the collapse of former Warsaw 
Pact markets, Slovakia's gross domestic product fell, 
unemployment rose, and many enterprises became insolvent.  
Although small-scale privatization was nearly completed, the 
process of privatizing larger enterprises slowed amidst 
cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and political struggles.  
Nevertheless, Slovakia succeeded in keeping inflation 
manageable, rebuilding its foreign currency reserves, 
attracting new Western investors, and limiting its budget 
deficit.  

Freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and religion are 
widely respected.  Still, some human rights problems remain.  
Societal discrimination against Romanies remained a serious 
problem, as evidenced by a local ordinance discriminating 
against the Romany population, which the Constitutional Court 
declared illegal.  Human rights monitors as well as some 
journalists expressed anxiety over the Government's apparent 
use of financial and bureaucratic actions to attempt to 
exercise control over journalists' activities.  Human rights 
monitors and some minority representatives criticized 
restrictions on schooling in the mother tongue, the posting of 
bilingual roadsigns, and the registration of names.  The 
Government condemned the few instances of "skinhead" attacks 
against Jews and desecration of synagogues and cemeteries, 
acting promptly to investigate and to redress wrongdoing.  Laws 
and regulations guarantee equal rights to women and minorities 
but are not always respected in practice.  Some groups 
(notably, Romanies) remained disadvantaged due to a variety of 
social, educational, and economic causes which the Government 
had only begun to address.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.  On October 26, a 
policeman reportedly instructed a 34-year-old male inhabitant 
of a Romany settlement at Klenovec to accompany him to the 
police station for questioning about a crime.  Instead, the 
policeman allegedly took the man to a meadow where he killed 
him with a gunshot to the back of his head.  The policeman 
returned to Klenovec and allegedly repeated the scenario with a 
second victim.  A third intended victim managed to escape.  The 
policeman was detained and charged with two counts of murder 
and one count of attempted murder.  

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions, disappearances, secret 
arrests, or clandestine detentions.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of any such practices.  Prison conditions 
reportedly meet minimum standards.  


     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for protection against unlawful or 
unreasonable detention.  A person accused or suspected of a 
crime must be given a hearing within 24 hours and either set 
free or remanded to the court.  During this time, the detainee 
must be offered access to an attorney.  If remanded to the 
court, the accused is entitled to a hearing within 24 hours, at 
which the judge will either set the accused free or issue a 
substantive written order placing the accused in custody.  
Investigative detention can last up to 2 months, with further 
pretrial detention permitted.  The total length of pretrial 
detention may not exceed 1 year, unless extended in exceptional 
circumstances by the Supreme Court when the detainee's pretrial 
release could pose a serious danger to society.  The law 
provides for a court-paid attorney, if needed, and family 
visits.  No violations of these rules were reported during 1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under the Constitution, the courts are independent, impartial, 
and separate from the other branches of government.  Judges, 
appointed for life, are bound only by law and international 
treaties.  To help reinforce judicial independence, the 
Minister of Justice in 1993 obtained parliamentary approval to 
raise judges' salaries to those of parliamentarians.  
Parliament appoints judges of the highest court, while the 
Minister of Justice appoints others on the recommendations of 
their peers.  Judges may not be transferred or dismissed 
without their consent, and only Parliament may recall them.  
During 1993 there were no reports of judges being recalled.

The highest judicial body in Slovakia, the 10-judge 
Constitutional Court based in Kosice, reviews the 
constitutionality of laws and the decisions of lower level 
courts, as well as the decisions of national and local 
government bodies.  The Court may also address cases in which 
the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens are 
involved, provided no other court has addressed them.  

Controversy surrounded the naming of the first members to the 
Constitutional Court in January.  Article 102 of the 
Constitution provides that the President's powers include the 
naming of "higher state functionaries."  Parliament voted to 
postpone the naming of the court members until they elected a 
new President.  Parliament's constitutional committee, however, 
decided that justices of the Court did not fit into the 
category of "higher state functionaries," even though the Chief 
Justice and his deputy did, and the Prime Minister was allowed 
to name the members of the Court.  This led some human rights 
monitors to question whether the Prime Minister used a 
constitutional loophole in order to name judges sympathetic to 
his own views.  The President later designated which of the 
members would be Chief Justice and the deputy.  

In addition to the Constitutional Court, Slovakia's multitiered 
court system consists of a republic-level Supreme Court; 
regional courts in Bratislava, Banska Bystrica, and Kosice; and 
38 local courts responsible for individual districts.

The Ministry of Justice complained repeatedly of a shortage of 
judges which has led to a case backlog, resulting in long 
waiting periods for trials and between hearings.  In response 
to the overload, the courts have begun to specialize, dividing 
into commercial, civil, or criminal branches.

Persons charged with criminal offenses are entitled to fair and 
open public trials.  They have the right to be informed of the 
charges against them and of their legal rights and to retain 
and consult with counsel sufficiently in advance to prepare a 
defense.  If a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, one is 
provided at government expense.  Defendants have the right to 
confront witnesses.  They enjoy a presumption of innocence and 
have the right to refuse to testify against themselves.  They 
may appeal any judgment against them.

The lustration law of the former CSFR, barring from high public 
office persons who previously collaborated with the 
Communist-era secret police, is technically still in effect in 
Slovakia, though not enforced.  Opponents of the law called it 
discriminatory and a violation of due process, since decisions 
may be based on unverifiable secret police records, and no 
mechanism for appeal is available.  The law's supporters cited 
the need to ban from public office those responsible for abuses 
of power and repression during the years of Communist rule.  In 
January 1994, the Government voted to seek a judgment from the 
Constitutional Court on whether the lustration law was 
constitutional and consistent with international human rights 
treaties.  

There were no reports of political prisoners in 1993.  


     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Criminal Code requires police to obtain a search warrant in 
order to enter a home.  Search warrants may be issued by a 
chief judge or, during investigation, by a judge upon the 
recommendation of the prosecutor.  House search is permitted 
only if there is a well-founded suspicion that important 
evidence or persons accused of criminal activity are present 
inside or if there is some other important reason.  A search 
warrant must be presented before the house search is conducted 
or, if some serious circumstance prevented this, within 24 
hours after the search.  

There were no reports of illegal surveillance of persons or 
communications.  A government investigation into mail tampering 
determined that there were incidents of individual post office 
employees searching for money or valuables.  

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution prohibits censorship and provides for freedom 
of information and the right of expression.  During 1993 
numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals spanning the 
entire spectrum of political views were published freely.  

Throughout 1993 media criticism of the Government was 
widespread, and there were no reports of overt restrictions, 
although the Government's financial and bureaucratic maneuvers, 
as well as threats of lawsuits against critical journalists and 
periodicals, seemed designed to inhibit such criticism.  Some 
journalists noted that government officials criticized their 
work and questioned their loyalty, accusing them of besmirching 
the image of Slovakia.  Some periodicals that carried articles 
criticizing the Prime Minister and the Government apparently 
suffered financial retribution.  The Ministry of Culture 
announced early in the year that it would remove subsidies from 
a number of cultural periodicals on the grounds that their 
readership was marginal.  But the only periodicals to lose 
their subsidies were ones such as Kulturny Zivot, Slovenske 
Pohlady 93, and Fragment K, which were either critical of the 
Government or provided a forum for writers whose views were at 
odds with official views.

Danubiaprint, the newsprint manufacturer, continues to be a 
government monopoly after its privatization process was halted 
in 1992.

Other journalists complained that the government-sponsored 
Slovak Republic Press Agency subsidized the newspaper 
Republika, which generally adopted positions sympathetic to 
government policy, while other publications were allowed to 
fail when their subsidies were eliminated.

The January 1993 firing of the editor of the government-owned 
newspaper Smena for alleged poor management was perceived as a 
punishment for the paper's critical stance.  The syndicate of 
Slovak journalists condemned the dismissal, and, of 
approximately 60 editors and journalists who worked for Smena, 
49 quit following the editor's firing.  The fired editor and a 
group of former Smena staff members went on to found a new and 
even more critical daily, Sme, which conducted its activities 
unhampered.  

On December 23, a Slovak company subordinate to the Transport 
and Communications Ministry abruptly canceled, effective 
January 31, 1994, its 5-year contract to broadcast Radio Free 
Europe (RFE) medium-wave transmissions on three transmitters in 
Slovakia.  Though the Transport Minister asserted this decision 
was merely technical, the move followed months of criticism of 
RFE in government-supported media for alleged lack of its 
objectivity and antigovernment slant.  At year's end, it was 
unclear whether the Slovak Government would nullify the 
decision.  

Slovakia has one government-sponsored television station 
broadcasting on two channels; steps were under way for partial 
privatization.  One of Slovakia's 17 radio stations is 
government-sponsored; the remainder are privately owned and 
controlled.  

Government-appointed boards, made up of nine members elected by 
Parliament to 6-year terms, administer Slovak radio and Slovak 
television.  During 1993 five of the nine members of the 
television board resigned.  In October Parliament dismissed two 
more Slovak Television Council members and appointed seven new 
members, five from the HZDS and two from the SNS.  Objecting to 
the political imbalance this created, another board member 
immediately resigned, citing exhaustion.  At that time a 
competitive process was already under way for selection by a 
board of a permanent director, who would then require 
parliamentary approval.  Some journalists expressed concern 
that government proposals to combine the two boards under one 
overarching board and to replace their personnel might result 
in an unacceptable degree of government control.  

When radio journalist Lubomir Lintner was fired from his post 
in October 1993, he attributed the move to pressure by members 
of the Government.  

During 1993 a regular feature of Slovak television was the 
Sunday night program "Ten Minutes with the Prime Minister," 
originally envisioned as an interview but criticized by 
journalists for its monolog format.  In October an opposition 
political leader demanded equal air time to ensure a balanced 
picture for the viewing public.  In the fall, "Ten Minutes" was 
replaced by "Press Club," a roundtable discussion and interview 
show that includes government and opposition political figures, 
as well as journalists from a broad spectrum of media.  

During 1993 many journalists were apprehensive of calls by 
government officials for "ethical self-regulation," fearing 
that in practice this could lead to a form of censorship.  In 
response, government officials pointed to Council of Europe 
resolution 1003 of July 1, 1993, on the ethics of journalism, 
which includes a section entitled "Ethics and Self-regulation 
in Journalism," suggesting the establishment of self-regulatory 
bodies to issue precepts, judge the truthfulness of the media, 
and generally serve as a "barometer of credibility" for 
citizens.  

There is no civil service law protecting jobs after a change in 
government.  The Government replaced a substantial number of 
state, district, and local officials, as well as leaders in the 
health and education sectors, with HZDS-sanctioned candidates.  
When the staff of one hospital in Rimavska Sobota protested the 
replacement of their director, six department heads were 
replaced as well.  In October the director of the National 
Oncology Institute was fired after he pointed out the problems 
in the health care system on Slovak television.  

Academic freedom is guaranteed by law.  Current legislation 
grants universities the authority to decide their internal 
affairs, including pedagogic and academic orientation and 
internal structure.  Concern over academic freedom was raised 
after the Minister of Education replaced the heads of all 
district school boards with his own candidates, although the 
law stipulates that local boards are supposed to nominate their 
heads.  During 1993 conflicts between the Government and the 
independent University of Trnava appeared to subside.  Private 
funding sources have kept the embattled University alive, and 
there have been no reports of government attempts to hamper its 
activities in 1993.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right of persons to assemble peacefully is protected under 
the law.  Permits for some public demonstrations are required, 
but there were no reports of refusals, nor of police 
interference with public demonstrations.

The right of persons to associate freely and to form political 
parties and movements is also protected under the law and was 
respected in practice during 1993.  Some organizations, 
including political parties, are required to register, but 
there were no reports that this requirement presented an 
obstacle to free association.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religious belief and faith are guaranteed by the 
Constitution and by law.  Citizens who associate on the basis 
of a particular religious persuasion may freely proclaim and 
practice their beliefs.  

Under existing law, only registered churches and religious 
organizations are explicitly granted the right to conduct 
institutional activities, such as public worship services and 
meetings, educational and cultural activities, publications, 
and health and social services.  The State provides financial 
subsidies only to registered churches and religious 
organizations.  According to the Ministry of Culture, which has 
responsibility for implementing the laws pertaining to 
religion, 15 churches are registered.  New churches and 
religious organizations that seek registration must have 20,000 
adult members with permanent residence in Slovakia.  (The 
numerical membership requirement does not apply to churches or 
religious organizations which were active, based either on the 
law or on the approval of the State, prior to September 1, 
1991, when the current law entered into force.)    Slovak 
officials indicated that they were aware of deficiencies in 
existing regulations and have initiated a review.  

On September 29, Parliament passed the "Law on the 
Reconciliation of Certain Property Injustices Perpetrated 
Against Churches and Religious Organizations," providing for 
the restitution of church property confiscated after 1945, and 
of Jewish community property confiscated after 1938.  Its 
provisions were negotiated between the law's drafters and 
representatives of the religious communities involved.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on the freedom of movement of Slovak 
citizens.  Former Czechoslovak citizens who emigrated during 
the period of Communist rule are free to return for visits and 
are able to gain Slovak citizenship if they wish.  Passports 
are readily available for all wishing to travel abroad.

Refugees and asylum seekers are treated according to 
international norms.  

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have the constitutional right to change their 
government through the periodic free election of their 
representatives.  Citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to 
vote, and voting is by secret ballot.  On January 19, the 
Slovak Parliament passed a law setting the conditions for 
determining, acquiring, and losing citizenship in the Slovak 
Republic.  Any person who had been a citizen of the Slovak 
Republic under the Czechoslovak Federation (by birth or 
naturalization) automatically became a citizen of the Slovak 
Republic after the split.  Persons permanently residing in 
Slovakia, whose place of birth was in the Czech Republic but 
who wished to choose Slovak citizenship, had until the end of 
1993 to execute a written declaration to that effect at any 
local administrative office.  

The Slovak Republic is a functioning multiparty, multiethnic 
democracy.  Its Constitution reserves certain powers to the 
President as Chief of State (elected by the Parliament), but 
executive power rests with the Government.  Legislative power 
is vested in the National Council of the Slovak Republic (NCSR, 
the Parliament), and an independent court system exercises 
judiciary responsibilities.

The Constitution calls for elections every 4 years.  The last 
parliamentary elections were held in June 1992, prior to 
independence.  Election to Parliament is based on proportional 
representation within each of the four electoral regions, with 
a 5-percent threshold for a party's entry into Parliament (7 
percent for a coalition).  This could result in a parliamentary 
candidate receiving a plurality of votes but not being seated 
because his or her party did not achieve the requisite 
threshold.  

As of October, all ministers of the Government were members of 
either the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the 
largest political entity, or the Slovak National Party (SNS).  
The HZDS ruled in coalition with the SNS until the latter left 
the coalition in March.  The HZDS then governed without 
commanding a majority in Parliament until the coalition resumed 
office in November.  New elections are scheduled for 1996, but 
in the latter half of 1993 several parties urged early 
elections to resolve the parliamentary stalemate caused by the 
HZDS's lack of a working majority.

There are no official restrictions on the participation of 
women or minorities in politics.  Female politicians enjoyed 
the same rights and status as their male counterparts.  They 
were represented in all political parties and served as 
deputies in Parliament, and in government ministries.  There 
are 26 women in the National Council, 17 percent of the total 
number of deputies.  

Members of all the minorities in the Slovak Republic 
participated in the political process, and several were 
represented in Parliament, but few reached the highest levels.  
The largest minority in Slovakia, ethnic Hungarians, 
participated fully in the political process, both in mainstream 
political parties and in Hungarian-oriented parties, and is 
represented in Parliament.  Ethnic Hungarians expressed 
concern, however, that rumored government plans to redistrict 
Slovakia could dilute their vote by incorporating their 
communities into overwhelmingly ethnic Slovak districts.  In 
December ethnic Hungarians in southern Slovakia called for a 
mass meeting to proclaim a self-governing ethnic Hungarian 
province.  Most government and political leaders called the 
meeting legal but warned that attempts to establish a 
self-governing province would be unconstitutional.  Public 
reaction was emotional.  The meeting took place on January 8, 
1994, in Komarno.  The participants stopped short of calling 
for a self-governing province but issued a statement on the 
status of minorities.  The government redistricting plan 
submitted to Parliament in early January 1994 was characterized 
by representatives of the Council of Europe as meeting European 
norms.    


Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Representatives of local and international nongovernmental 
human rights organizations worked freely in Slovakia, without 
government interference.  Although the Government refrained 
from actually penalizing human rights critics, its 
representatives publicly criticized Hungarian politicians who 
complained about government policies toward the ethnic 
Hungarian minority.  The Government's view was that these were 
not genuine human rights complaints but politically motivated 
demands for advantages over and above international human 
rights norms.  The ethnic Hungarian activists considered their 
demands legitimate and the Government's policies inadequate.

The Government welcomed the February visit to Slovakia of the 
High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Conference on 
Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE); his subsequent visit 
to prepare a report on the Roma; and followup visits by CSCE 
experts on minorities.  The Government also encouraged the 
March visits of CSCE and Council of Europe rapporteur 
missions.  The Ministry of Justice convened a meeting in 
Bratislava of 50 directors of human rights centers in other 
countries to obtain their advice for setting up a similar 
center in Bratislava, which has been funded and approved for 
opening in January 1994.  

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Slovak law prohibits discrimination and guarantees the equality 
of all citizens.  Health care, education, retirement benefits, 
and other social services were provided regardless of race, 
sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.

     Women

Women in Slovakia are equal under the law.  They enjoy the same 
property, inheritance, and other legal rights as men, and 
receive pay equal to that of male colleagues for the same job.  
The largest women's organization in Slovakia is the Democratic 
Union of Women of Slovakia, a nonpolitical organization based 
on the principles of humanism and democracy.  It monitors 
observance of the rights of women and their families in light 
of internationally accepted documents and the Slovak 
Constitution, especially as they affect the social and family 
spheres.  Other women's organizations, also nonpolitical, 
include the Council of Women, the Slovak Women's Center, and 
the Federation of Women for World Peace.  Despite the lack of 
any overt discrimination, the small proportion of women at the 
higher echelons of professional and government employment 
during 1993 suggested that cultural barriers to their 
advancement might exist.  

No public debate or explicit government policy statements on 
the subject of violence toward women (spousal abuse) or child 
abuse were evident in 1993.  Spousal abuse, child abuse, and 
other violence against women are reported along with other 
criminal offenses.    Anecdotal evidence suggests that such 
cases often go unreported or are reported too late for 
effective followup.  Once reported, they are subject to the 
general investigative procedures under the Criminal Code.  

     Children

There does not appear to be a comprehensive body of law 
specifically addressing the rights of children.  Children's 
rights and welfare are addressed in part by the Labor Code and 
in part by the system of child welfare payments to families 
with children.  The working age is 18, except for 
apprenticeships, which may begin at age 14.  There is no 
evidence of a pattern of abuse or denial of rights to 
children.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Slovak Constitution provides minorities the right to 
develop their own culture, receive information and education in 
their own language, and participate in decisionmaking in 
matters affecting them.  During 1993 the Government continued 
to provide funding for cultural, educational, broadcasting, and 
publishing activities for the major ethnic minorities.  The 
President sponsored a regular roundtable for minority 
representatives, including Czechs, Poles, Bulgars, Croats, 
Hungarians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Romanies.  
(Jewish leaders declined to be designated officially as an 
ethnic minority but participated in the roundtables.)  At the 
roundtable, minority representatives raised issues such as 
legalization of dual citizenship; cultural, educational, and 
regional self-government; registration of names; bilingual 
place names; territorial division according to ethnicity; 
financial support for cultural development; guaranteed 
representation in Parliament for nationalities; racial 
discrimination; and support for development of religious and 
cultural programs.  The roundtable chairman asked responsible 
government ministers to reply in writing to the issues and 
concerns that were raised.  While the roundtable has not yet 
resulted in institutional changes, it appears to have had some 
success in engaging the Government and minorities in a dialog 
aimed at constructive solutions to problems.  

Slovakia's Hungarian minority, which is the most numerous, is 
concentrated primarily in southern Slovakia, with a population 
estimated at 570,000.  During 1993 ethnic Hungarians 
participated successfully at all levels in the political, 
economic, and social life of the country.  Under Slovakia's 
1990 language law, in localities with over 20-percent minority 
populations, citizens may conduct their government business in 
Hungarian (some Hungarian activists advocated lowering the 
threshold to 10 percent).  Ethnic Hungarians criticized a 
rumored government plan for redistricting, slated to take 
effect in 1994, because they feared it would result in 
districts with an ethnic Hungarian population of less than 20 
percent, thus eliminating the optional use of Hungarian in any 
government activity (see also Section 3).  

The Government provides elementary and secondary education in 
Hungarian.  Alternatively, ethnic Hungarian children are free 
to attend Slovak-language schools.  In 1993 the Government 
proposed to provide a "mixed" educational option, under which 
ethnic Hungarian students could choose to study the humanities 
in their mother tongue and technical subjects in Slovak in 
order, it said, to offer ethnic Hungarian students a chance to 
achieve a level of proficiency in technical fields that would 
enable them to compete more effectively for technical jobs 
later in life.  Some Hungarian representatives, however, 
criticized the proposal as aimed at eroding the Hungarian-
language educational base.  They asserted that, as of September 
1993, existing university-level pedagogical training in 
Hungarian for future teachers at Hungarian schools was 
eliminated for levels above grade four, as well as for teachers 
of specialized subjects.  Statistics on ethnic Hungarian 
enrollment and course attendance provided by the Nitra Higher 
Pedagogical School, which trains future teachers, demonstrated 
this was not the case.  

In connection with its acceptance into the Council of Europe, 
Slovakia made a commitment to alter its legislation on two 
issues of concern to its Hungarian minority, namely, given 
names and road signs.  Parliament in September passed a law 
permitting Hungarians to register names of their own choosing 
for their newborn children but retaining a requirement that 
feminine names conform to Slovak grammatical forms.  Some 
Hungarian representatives objected to this provision.  The 
Government subsequently stated its intention to enforce the 
rule in public, Slovak-language discourse (i.e., media), but to 
allow the use of Hungarian grammatical forms in registration 
documents.  The Government also made a commitment to revoke the 
law banning bilingual road signs.  While the old law was still 
in effect, however, officials continued to enforce it, despite 
the objections of ethnic Hungarian municipalities.  An 
unresolved issue debated during the fall was whether the 
Hungarian-language road signs would be Hungarian transcriptions 
of the current Slovak names or the historical Hungarian-
language names.

Romanies constitute Slovakia's second largest ethnic minority.  
Many in this group do not officially declare their ethnicity 
because of the social prejudice against them, and the official 
census figure of 81,000 is therefore considered low; estimates 
range as high as 500,000.  Romanies are an economically 
disadvantaged group.  Though the nation's higher pedagogical 
school has a division to train teachers destined for schools 
with a high Romany population, during 1993 education was not 
available in the Romany language.  Romany representatives said 
that many Romany children were placed in remedial classes due 
to their language problems and that this fact would cast a 
stigma on their ability to find jobs later in life.  In 1992-93 
Parliament initiated a 2-year pilot project for Romany 
preschoolers in the town of Kosice to prepare them for 
successful entry into the Slovak school system.  The project 
yielded impressive results in its first year, but its advocates 
feared that budgetary constraints might preclude its 
continuation or expansion.

Although discrimination is illegal, Romany representatives said 
that many employers were reluctant to hire Romanies and that 
unemployment among Romanies soared when the Communist-era 
practice of universal mandatory employment ended in 1989.  In 
an effort to diminish discrimination by employers, the human 
rights organization Charter 77 in 1993 persuaded government job 
agencies to remove from their application forms a question 
asking explicitly for the applicant's ethnic background.  

There were documented acts of social prejudice against Roma, 
such as refusal to serve Romanies in shops or restaurants.  In 
July Parliament overturned as unconstitutional a discriminatory 
law enforcement ordinance passed by the town of Spisske 
Podhradie, imposing a curfew and other restrictions on 
Romanies.  In the wake of that and other incidents, public 
calls increased for a broad governmental approach to Romany 
problems, encompassing education, employment, health care, 
housing, and law enforcement.  One obstacle to achieving a 
broad solution was that Romanies were represented by a diverse 
variety of organizations that often disagree amongst themselves 
as to the best approach.  

During 1993 an interagency government task force chaired by the 
Foreign Minister was charged with preparing a policy paper on 
Romanies.  The Prime Minister in September voiced 
disappointment that dialog with Romanies had broken down, 
bemoaned the "catastrophic" health and sanitary conditions in 
which Romanies lived, and called for Romanies' reintegration 
into the nation's economic life.  In the same speech, however, 
he also voiced concern over the rapid growth of a population 
with so many social problems and advocated restructuring child 
welfare subsidies to avoid encouraging the growth of large 
welfare-dependent families.  This elicited sharp criticism at 
home and abroad by many who interpreted his remarks as 
anti-Romany and racist.  

During 1993 there were a small number of incidents involving 
skinhead violence or vandalism against Jewish and some other 
religious persons or property.  The Government and prominent 
Slovak public figures forcefully condemned such acts and moved 
promptly to arrest the perpetrators, provide restitution, and 
take measures to prevent recurrence.

     People with Disabilities

There does not appear to be a body of legislation that directly 
addresses the rights of the disabled.  Discrimination against 
the disabled, however, has not been a subject of significant 
policy or public debate.  Citizen's groups have started 
activities to raise the profile of the issue and to advocate a 
more systematic approach.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right to form and join 
unions, except in the Slovak armed forces.  In 1993 about 65 to 
70 percent of the work force was organized.  Slovak unions are 
independent of the Government and of political parties.  There 
are no restrictions on the right to strike.  During 1993 no 
full-fledged strikes occurred, although four demonstrations 
were organized.

There were no reported instances of retribution against 
strikers or labor leaders, but Slovak law and regulation does 
not explicitly prohibit such retribution.  There were no 
reports of human rights abuses targeted against unions or 
workers.  Unions in Slovakia are free to form or join 
federations or confederations and to affiliate with and 
participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining is protected by the collective bargaining 
law and is freely practiced throughout the country.  Wages are 
set in free negotiations between unions and employers.  
Discrimination by employers against union members and 
organizers is prohibited by the law on citizens' associations.  
Complaints may be resolved either in collective negotiations or 
in court.  If found guilty of antiunion discrimination, 
employers are required to reinstate workers fired for union 
activities.  

A 12-hectare free trade zone exists in Kosice.  It is required 
to comply with the Slovak Labor Code, but to date there has 
been no special involvement of the trade unions.  A second free 
trade zone is planned for Bratislava.  

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited both by the Slovak 
Constitution and by the Employment Act.  During 1993 there were 
no reports of violations.  Responsibility for enforcement is 
assigned to the labor section of the Ministry of Labor, Social 
Affairs, and Family, as well as to district and local labor 
offices.  

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Slovak law sets the minimum employment age at 14 years of age.  
These provisions are enforced by the Office of Labor Safety.


     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

At the start of 1993, the minimum wage provided an adequate 
standard of living for an individual worker and, when combined 
with special family allowances paid to families with children, 
provided an adequate standard of living for a worker and 
family.  However, during 1993 several factors eroded standards 
of living across the board.  In June inflation stood at 12 
percent and was expected to reach 25 to 30 percent by year's 
end.  At the same time, government belt-tightening measures 
reduced certain social welfare allowances.  Enforcement of the 
minimum wage is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor, 
Social Affairs, and the Family.  Late in 1993, the Government 
raised the minimum wage to $74 per month.  

The standard workweek mandated by the Labor Code is 42.5 hours, 
though collective bargaining agreements have achieved 
reductions in some cases.  The law requires annual leave of 3 
weeks.  There is no specifically mandated 24-hour rest period.  

Enforcement of health and safety standards are governed by the 
Labor Code and effectively enforced by the Office of Labor 
Safety.  Workers undergo medical screening for hazardous 
employment under the supervision of a physician.  They have the 
right to refuse to perform work in situations where their 
health and safety are endangered and may file complaints 
against employers in such situations.  


[end of document]

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