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Title:  Slovak Republic Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                            SLOVAK REPUBLIC 
 
 
The Slovak Republic became an independent state in 1993, following the 
dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (CSFR).  Its 
Constitution provides for a multiparty, multiethnic parliamentary 
democracy, including separation of powers and an independent judiciary.  
Slovakia chose to carry over the entire body of CSFR domestic 
legislation and international treaty obligations, which gradually are 
being renewed or updated. 
 
The national police, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry 
of Interior, are the primary law enforcement agency.  In addition to 
domestic law enforcement, the national police also have responsibility 
for border security.  The Slovak Information Service (SIS), an 
independent organization subordinated directly to the Prime Minister, is 
responsible for all civilian security and intelligence activities.  A 
five-member parliamentary commission, which includes only government 
coalition deputies, oversees the SIS.  The civilian authorities maintain 
effective control of the security forces.  At year's end, investigations 
were in progress regarding the violent abduction across the Austrian 
border of President Kovac's son in which involvement by SIS personnel 
has been alleged.  Police have been used in what appeared to be 
politically motivated actions aimed at intimidation of government 
opponents. 
 
Slovakia has made intermittent progress toward a market-based economy, 
with over 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) now generated 
by the private sector.  However, the Government has been reluctant to 
relinquish control over certain sectors such as agriculture and those 
deemed "strategic" (transportation, telecommunications, energy).  GDP 
growth in 1995 was strong at around 6 percent, inflation was under 8 
percent and falling, and the National Bank of Slovakia, in concert with 
the Government, continued its adherence to a disciplined monetary and 
fiscal policy.  The privatization process, while moving rapidly, lacked 
transparency and largely excluded foreign investors.  The economy is 
industrially based, with just 7 percent of GDP derived from agricultural 
production.  Major exports are machinery and transport equipment, 
chemicals and fuels, minerals, and metals.  GDP per capita is 
approximately $2,400, providing most of the population with an adequate 
standard of living.  Unemployment was high, though declining, at 13.5 
percent, with some areas of the country reaching levels as high as 28 
percent.  A large number of unemployed are Roma. 
 
While the Government generally respected most of the human rights of its 
citizens, disturbing trends away from democratic principles emerged.  
There were credible allegations of politically motivated dismissals of 
public officials, intimidation of opponents of government policy, police 
misuse of authority, and interference with the electronic media.  
Discrimination and violence against women are serious problems.  Roma 
faced societal discrimination, and the police failed to provide adequate 
protection against continued attacks on them by skinheads. 
 
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 or other extrajudicial killings.   
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.   
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution prohibits such practices.  The President's son was 
tortured during the course of his violent abduction to Austria in which 
SIS personnel are alleged to be implicated.  The SIS initially refused 
to permit its personnel to be questioned and accused police 
investigators of wrongdoing.  One lead police investigator resigned 
under pressure; another was removed from the case, as was their 
supervisor.  An opposition journalist covering the case asserted that he 
had been under surveillance and was beaten.  In September an opposition 
politician was beaten at his home after 2 days of surveillance.  In all 
three cases some government representatives sought to discredit the 
victims' reports of their injuries, while others denied any government 
involvement. 
 
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and 
the Government observes this prohibition. 
 
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 has the right to an attorney.  If remanded to a 
court, the accused is entitled to a hearing within 24 hours, at which 
time the judge will set the accused free or issue a substantive written 
order placing the accused in custody.  Investigative detention may last 
up to 2 months and may be extended.  The total length of pretrial 
detention may not exceed 1 year, unless the Supreme Court extends it by 
determining that the person constitutes a serious danger to society.  
Pretrial detainees currently constitute roughly 25 percent of the total 
prison population.  The average pretrial detention is 7.2 months.  The 
law allows family visits and provides for a court-paid attorney if 
needed, although human rights monitors point out that this applies only 
to defendants whose alleged offenses are punishable by more than 5 years 
in prison.  A system of bail exists.  
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for courts that are independent, impartial, 
and separate from the other branches of government.  Some critics 
allege, however, that the dependence of judges upon the Ministry of 
Justice for logistical support, the granting of leave requests, and 
other services undermines their independent status.  Also, the Ministry 
of Justice can and did remove several Presidents and Vice Presidents of 
the courts.  The stated reason was incompetence, but at least in one 
instance the judge in question had written a newspaper article critical 
of the Government.  In April the independent Association of Slovak 
Judges (ASJ) revoked the ASJ membership of Chairman of the Senate of the 
Supreme Court Jozef Stefanko, after he publicly criticized a peaceful 
demonstration critical of the Government. 
 
The court system consists of local and regional courts with the Supreme 
Court as the highest court of appeal.  In addition, there is a separate 
military court system, the decisions of which may be appealed to the 
Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.  Under the Constitution, the 
President appoints and removes Constitutional Court judges.  Parliament 
elects other judges, based on recommendations from the Ministry of 
Justice, and can remove them for misconduct. 
 
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, to retain and consult with 
counsel sufficiently in advance to prepare a defense, and to confront 
witnesses.  There was a report that one lawyer withdrew from the defense 
of a government opponent after his wife was threatened with loss of her 
government job.  Defendants 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 enforcement consider the law discriminatory and a violation 
of due process because decisions would be based on unverifiable secret 
police records, and no mechanism for legal appeal is available.  The 
law's supporters cite the need to ban from public office those 
responsible for abuses of power and repression during the years of 
Communist rule. 
 
With respect to the Romani minority, human rights monitors continued to 
charge that police appear reluctant to take the testimony of witnesses 
to skinhead attacks on Roma.  Further, they reported that police used 
the device of countercharges to pressure Romani victims of police 
brutality to drop their complaints, that medical doctors and 
investigators cooperated with police by refusing to describe accurately 
the injuries involved, and that lawyers often were reluctant to 
represent Roma in such situations, for fear this would have a negative 
effect on their practice. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Criminal Code requires police to obtain a judicial search warrant in 
order to enter a home.  The court may issue such a warrant 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.  Police must present the warrant before conducting the 
house search or within 24 hours after the search.  There were credible 
allegations that SIS conducted routine surveillance of all senior 
political figures and their spouses.  
 
In July police with a legal warrant searched the diocesean headquarters 
of Bishop Rudolf Balaz, Chairman of the Conference of Bishops.  The 
search occurred soon after Balaz had led the Conference in a statement 
of support for President Michal Kovac, who has been the target of 
criticism by supporters of Prime Minister Meciar.  Police said that 
Balaz was involved in the illegal sale of art works listed in the 
register of national treasures.  Denying this, Balaz's office director 
stated that the Government was intent on discrediting Balaz and that 
police had searched areas clearly inconsistent with their alleged 
mission. 
 
The 1993 Police Law regulates wiretapping and mail surveillance for the 
purposes of criminal investigation, which may be conducted, on the order 
of a judge or prosecutor, only in cases of extraordinarily serious 
premeditated crimes or crimes involving international treaty 
obligations. 
 
In September the President's son reported that police investigators, 
while questioning him in connection with his abduction, revealed 
knowledge of his private domestic conversations that could only have 
been obtained by electronic surveillance.  There were no reports of mail 
tampering. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government generally respects this right in practice.  Though mostly 
dependent on state-owned printing and distribution companies, the print 
media are free and uncensored, and newspapers and magazines regularly 
publish a wide range of opinions and news articles.  However, the 
politicization of state-owned broadcast media remains a significant 
problem. 
 
A number of individuals reported that they no longer felt free to 
criticize the Government openly without fear of some form of reprisal.  
The use of police to investigate signatories of Democratic Union (DU) 
electoral petitions (see Section 3), the abduction of the President's 
son (see Section 1.c.), the beating of an opposition politician and 
journalist (see Section 1.c.), and widespread dismissals of public 
officials for political reasons contributed to an atmosphere of 
intimidation, as did public questioning of the patriotism of citizens 
and journalists who spoke critically of developments in Slovakia.  An 
April proposal to amend the Criminal Code, which would make it a 
punishable offense to facilitate the spread of false information 
damaging to the interests of the Slovak Republic, added further to 
citizens' fear of speaking out freely.  In September a prominent writer 
sued the Slovak Republic at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing 
that the Supreme Court had admitted that his charges against a prominent 
politician (in 1993) were true but had still found him guilty of 
defamation.  In another case, human rights monitors noted continued 
police interrogation and investigation, based on a Criminal Code 
provision prohibiting defamation of the President, of a newspaper editor 
who published a letter of a reader (in 1994) which was indirectly 
critical of the President. 
 
In October Peter Toth, a journalist investigating the abduction of 
President Kovac's son, was physically attacked outside his apartment.   
 
Slovak radio and television are supervised by three boards appointed by 
Parliament.  The Slovak Television and Radio Councils establish 
broadcasting policy.  The Slovak Radio and Television Council is 
responsible for issuing radio and television broadcast licenses.  The 
Radio and Television Council has made significant progress in fostering 
the spread of privately owned broadcast media.  Twenty-seven private 
radio stations have been issued licenses.  Of these, only five are not 
yet on the air.  State-owned Slovak television broadcasts on two 
channels.  A private company has been granted a license to broadcast 
nationwide on a third channel.  Four private companies and one local 
government have been granted licenses to broadcast regionally.  One 
company broadcasts nationally via satellite.  There are 73 cable 
television license holders, including private companies and 
municipalities.   
 
The state-owned electronic media have become increasingly politicized 
since the new Parliament named new Television and Radio Councils, which 
hired new directors in November 1994.  The diversity of views, political 
coverage, and objectivity of news and documentary programming on Slovak 
television have dropped sharply, which is a disturbing trend since an 
estimated 84 percent of the population watches television.  Slovak 
radio's coverage of internal political developments, although severely 
cut back, remains more objective.  Opposition views are given scant 
coverage in news programs.  Slovak television also carries relatively 
little coverage of the activities of the President, who has been the 
target of repeated attacks by members of the governing coalition.  In 
April it refused to broadcast a speech by the President, although it has 
carried others.  In December an employee of Kosice television was forced 
to resign after protesting editorial refusal to cover President Kovac's 
trip to the region. 
 
In January the new director of Slovak television refused to continue 
broadcasting three highly popular satirical programs which had as their 
main targets members of the new Government.  Opposition leaders and the 
producers of the programs organized a petition campaign and mass public 
demonstrations in March, calling for the programs' restoration and 
charging that the cancellation violated freedom of speech.  Although the 
Government did not interfere in the demonstrations, television coverage 
omitted a report of their content; it did broadcast a critical 
commentary by the Chairman of the Supreme Court.  Several of the 
canceled programs are now being broadcast by private satellite 
television companies. 
 
In August the Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting granted Radio 
Free Europe a 1 year license extension, rather than the requested 3 year 
extension.  The license was conditioned on the "improvement" of the 
"anti-Slovak" editorial bias.  
 
The law provides for academic freedom, which is generally respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief and faith, and 
the Government fully respects this provision.  Under existing law, only 
registered churches and religious organizations have the explicit right 
to conduct public worship services and other activities, although no 
specific religions or practices are banned or discouraged by the 
authorities.  The State provides financial subsidies only to registered 
churches and religious organizations, of which there are 15. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.  The Government cooperates with the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting refugees.  There were no reports of forced expulsion of those 
having a valid claim to refugee status.  However, some refugee claimants 
had difficulty in getting access to initial refugee processing.  A law 
on refugees, passed by Parliament in November, limits the period for 
filing asylum claims to 24 hours from the time of arrival and contains 
no provisions for family reunification once refugee status has been 
granted.  
 
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 national representatives.  
Citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote, and voting is by 
secret ballot.  The 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 (Parliament). 
 
A number of actions served to consolidate the Government's power in a 
manner, which, taken as a whole, gave rise to concern over the future 
course of pluralism, separation of powers, and democratic development 
overall.  For example, in the absence of a civil service law, the 
Government replaced hundreds of national and local government officials 
with its supporters, apparently based largely on political loyalty.  The 
government-controlled Parliament took away the President's right to name 
the Director of the intelligence service and the Chief of the General 
Staff, placing these institutions under government control.  In 
September and again in December, Parliament refused to include any 
opposition representation on the body which oversees the Slovak 
Information Service; Parliament continued to allow only token opposition 
representation on other key committees and oversight bodies.   
 
In December it approved a budget which radically reduced the President's 
budget for the second year in row, while sharply increasing funds for 
the Prime Minister and the intelligence services.  Finally, the 
government coalition, in its handling of the privatization of large 
state enterprises, appeared to favor primarily its supporters. 
 
There was another disturbing instance of apparent abuse of government 
authority for political reasons in May, when police began questioning 
nearly 15,000 individuals who signed Democratic Union Party petitions, 
to verify that they had signed their names for the DU, an opposition 
party, to run in the fall 1994 parliamentary elections.  In some cases, 
police also allegedly questioned these citizens on their political views 
and threatened them with reprisals, such as loss of their pensions, if 
they confirmed their signatures as genuine.  The Government claimed the 
action was a legitimate investigation of charges that the DU signatures 
were fraudulent; opposition leaders strongly disagreed, saying the 
Government was using the police to intimidate their supporters, and 
pointed out that the Slovak election commission had certified the DU as 
eligible to run in the 1994 elections.  In a further violation of 
privacy, unknown persons used the state printing press to publish a book 
containing the names of all who had signed the DU petitions. 
 
Women are underrepresented in government.  They hold only 2 of 15 
ministerial portfolios:  Labor/Social Affairs and Education.  One of 
three Deputy Prime Ministers is a woman.  Women hold 22 seats in the 
150-member Parliament, a reduction from 26 in the previous Parliament. 
 
The large ethnic Hungarian minority, whose coalition gained 17 seats in 
the 1994 elections, is well represented in Parliament and in local 
government but not in the central Government.  Roma are not represented 
in Parliament and hold no senior government positions. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  
Nonetheless, on occasion government officials responded aggressively 
toward nongovernmental organizations (NGO's).  In May, for example, 
following criticism of the Government by international philanthropist 
George Soros, who funds a number of human rights NGO's in Slovakia, the 
head of the Slovak National Party (SNS) filed a petition asking the 
General Prosecutor to investigate Soros-funded NGO's.  The General 
Prosecutor agreed to conduct the investigation, which appears based 
purely on politics. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The law prohibits discrimination and provides for the equality of all 
citizens.  Health care, education, retirement benefits, and other social 
services are provided regardless of race, sex, religion, disability, 
language, or social status. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence, particularly sexual violence against women, remains a serious 
and underreported problem.  Experts say that in 1993, the latest year 
studied, there were 47,000 acts of violence or intolerance (defined as 
physical, sexual, emotional, and economic) against women.  Physical and 
sexual violence accounted for almost half of all reported cases.  These 
experts conclude that most of the unreported cases, estimated to be as 
high as half of all cases, involve sexual violence.  They note that 
although police (in 1993) reported a drop of 19 percent in officially 
reported cases of sexual violence, counseling centers registered a 60 
percent increase in such cases.  Police estimate that two-thirds of 
female rape victims fail to report the cases for personal reasons.  
Police deal with spousal abuse, child abuse, and other violence against 
women in the same way as other criminal offenses; specific sections in 
the Criminal Code deal with rape, sexual abuse, trade in women, 
pandering, and illicit abortions. 
 
As a result of amendments to the Criminal Code which took effect in 
1994, prostitution is not an illegal act.  However, the Code prohibits 
activities related to prostitution, such as renting apartments for 
conducting prostitution, spreading contagious diseases, or trafficking 
in women for the purpose of prostitution. 
 
Women are equal under the law.  They enjoy the same property, 
inheritance, and other legal rights as men.  Women are well represented 
in the judicial and administrative professions but are underrepresented 
in other public service areas.  Labor law prohibits women from engaging 
in certain types of work considered dangerous to their health.   
 
Despite the lack of overt discrimination, women face large wage 
discrepancies in the workplace.  Women receive 25 to 30 percent less pay 
than men for the same work.  A February report prepared by the Ministry 
of Foreign Affairs in advance of the U.N. Conference on Women stated 
that for the period 1988-1993, "gross earnings of men are 71 percent 
higher than those of women."  The report concluded that "since there is 
little difference in the level of education achieved by men and women, 
and since a significantly greater number of women are graduates of 
technical universities as well as universities, the discrepancy in wages 
is caused by factors other than educational achievement." 
 
The Democratic Union of Women of Slovakia (DUZS) monitors observance of 
the rights of women and their families in light of internationally 
accepted documents and the Constitution, especially as they affect the 
social and family spheres.  A May DUZS poll found that the number one 
problem facing women was insufficient resources to provide for everyday 
family needs.  Other major problems included women's health and the 
health of their family members.  In a June meeting, the DUZS pushed to 
establish a parliamentary committee on women and the family and to 
obtain quick passage of a law on the family.  Regarding the latter, the 
DUZS was particularly interested in more day care and preschool 
programs.  The DUZS also complained about growing discrimination against 
middle-aged and older women in employment. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's rights and 
welfare through its system of public education and medical care.  The 
Ministry of Labor oversees implementation of the Government's programs 
for children.  The Constitution, the law on education, the Labor Code, 
and the system of child welfare payments to families with children each 
provide in part for children's rights. 
 
While there is no evidence of a pattern of societal abuse of children, 
some problems remain.  In June workers at orphanage homes, as well as 
representatives of foundations and local government, founded the SOS 
group to protest the standard of living of orphans.  The group stated 
that this standard had fallen below the minimum and complained that the 
Government had not fulfilled its financial responsibilities.  They 
advocated establishing orphanages as legal entities to make the 
Government more responsive.  Recognizing the lack of statistics on 
children's welfare, the head of the Slovak U.N. Children's Fund 
committee said in April that his most important task is to produce an 
analytical work on the state of children in Slovakia. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
The Constitution and implementing legislation provide for health 
protection and special working conditions for mentally and physically 
disabled persons, including special protection in employment relations 
and special assistance in training.  An October 1994 decree provides 
incentives to employers who create a "sheltered" workplace, that is, a 
certain percentage of jobs set aside for disabled persons.  The law also 
prohibits discrimination against physically disabled individuals in 
employment, education, and the provision of other state services.  
Nevertheless, experts report discrimination in such areas as 
accessibility of premises and access to education (especially higher 
education).  Although not specifically required by law, a September 1994 
government decree mandates the provision of accessibility for the 
disabled with regard to new building construction.  The decree provides 
for sanctions, but lacks a mechanism to enforce them. 
 
The Government in February created a coordinating committee for issues 
concerning disabled citizens, chaired by Labor/Social Affairs Minister 
Keltosova.  The committee is made up of representatives of various 
central government ministries, local government, advocacy organizations, 
and other groups. 
 
   Religious Minorities 
 
Isolated incidents of verbal harassment of Jews by skinheads and others 
continued during the year.  Despite Jewish community protests over 
commemoration of the wartime Slovak Fascist state, Matica Slovenska, the 
nationwide Slovak cultural organization, sponsored an exhibit in April 
extolling wartime President Josef Tiso.  The exhibit, which Education 
Minister Slavkoska attended on opening day, depicted Tiso as the savior 
of the Slovak nation during World War II and a martyr for Slovak 
independence.  In August vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in 
Stupava, near Bratislava.  Local police are investigating the incident.  
Also in August, Premier Meciar presented a journalism award to a weekly 
which had printed anti-Semitic cartoons and targeted international 
philanthropist George Soros for being a Jew.  
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Constitution provides minorities with the right to develop their own 
culture, receive information and education in their mother tongue, and 
participate in decisionmaking in matters affecting them.  The Government 
continued to provide funding for cultural, educational, broadcasting, 
and publishing activities for the major ethnic minorities but at greatly 
reduced levels.  In March the Government signed a bilateral treaty with 
Hungary, which deals extensively with treatment of ethnic minorities.  
Parliament, however, had not ratified the treaty by year's end.  In June 
Parliament ratified the Council of Europe framework Convention on Ethnic 
Minorities. 
 
The politically active ethnic Hungarian minority, which is the most 
numerous, is concentrated primarily in southern Slovakia, with a 
population registered at 570,000 (many of whom are also Roma).  Most 
ethnic Hungarians and ethnic Slovaks living in mixed areas coexist 
peacefully, but there were occasional outbreaks of anti-Hungarian 
feeling, mostly in areas where the two do not coexist.  In May, after a 
soccer match in northern Slovakia, several ethnic Hungarian fans were 
thrown from a train; one remained in a coma at year's end.  Ethnic 
Hungarian leaders complained about large cuts in government subsidies to 
Hungarian cultural organizations, as well as a number of government 
initiatives which they said sought to reverse gains made in previous 
years.  Most importantly, the leaders criticized the Ministry of 
Education's "alternative education" plan, which seeks to introduce the 
use of the Slovak language for certain subjects in schools where 
Hungarian is the language of instruction.  They claimed that the 
Government had as its ultimate goal the assimilation of ethnic 
Hungarians.  The Ministry denied this charge, noting that the initiative 
was entirely voluntary, was being implemented only in the few schools 
where parents had requested it, and was intended only to improve the 
Slovak language ability of ethnic Hungarian school children. 
 
Ethnic Hungarians also expressed great concern over the State Language 
Law enacted in November saying that it violated constitutional minority 
language rights as well as the Council of Europe Convention on Minority 
Rights.  Government leaders have denied these accusations, declaring 
publicly that minority rights will not change as a result of the law.  
These leaders have also committed the Government to passing a separate 
law on the use of minority languages, particularly with regard to 
official communications.   The OSCE High Commissioner on Minorities has 
expressed concern with the law and stated that he would evaluate the 
State Language Law after the enactment of the promised new law on 
minority languages.   
 
Roma constitute the second largest ethnic minority and suffer 
disproportionately from high levels of poverty and unemployment.  
Credible reports by human rights monitors indicated that Roma continued 
to suffer from discrimination in employment, housing, and administration 
of state services.  Skinhead violence against Roma was a serious and 
growing problem, and human rights monitors reported that police remain 
reluctant to take action.  In July skinheads attacked a number of Roma 
in Ziar Nad Hronom, central Slovakia, injuring many.  One Rom, Mario 
Goral, whom the skinheads set afire with a flammable liquid, died of his 
injuries.  Ten days after the incident, the Government issued a 
statement condemning racial intolerance, offering Goral's family 
monetary compensation and proposing the establishment of a government 
plenipotentiary to deal with problems of "disadvantaged citizens."  
Romani groups welcomed the establishment of the plenipotentiary but 
asked that the office deal solely with Romani affairs, or, at the very 
least, that a Rom occupy the position.  In September the Government 
affirmed the general nature of the office and named a non-Rom as 
plenipotentiary. 
 
Persons of color also suffered occasionally from attacks or 
discrimination.  In March a Sierra Leone native working for a Western 
consulting firm was called derogatory names and then beaten unconscious 
at a local bar in Bratislava; he sustained serious head injuries.  
Despite the lodging of a complaint, police charged no one in the 
incident.  In October skinheads severely beat an Asian medical graduate 
student on a public bus; also in October, skinheads beat an African 
tourist, breaking his nose, while he was waiting with his family at a 
bus stop. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to form and join unions, except 
in the armed forces.  According to one reliable independent estimate, 
approximately 50 percent of the work force is organized.  Official 
sources state that the figure is closer to 75 percent.  Unions are 
independent of the Government and political parties.  There are no 
restrictions on the right to strike, but there were no reports of 
strikes during the year.  However, four demonstrations were organized 
during the months of August and September by the trade union 
confederation to protest increased public transportation costs and 
social and economic conditions.  All were carried out peacefully with no 
government interference. 
 
There were no reported instances of retribution against strikers or 
labor leaders, but the law and regulations do not explicitly prohibit 
such retribution.  There were no reports of human rights abuses targeted 
against unions or workers. 
 
Unions 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 
 
The law provides for collective bargaining, which is freely practiced 
throughout the country.  Employers and unions set wages in free 
negotiations.  The Law on Citizens' Associations prohibits 
discrimination by employers against union members and organizers.  
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. 
 
The Customs Act of 1992 regulates duty-free stores and free customs 
zones.  Firms operating in several such zones must comply with the Labor 
Code; to date there have been no reports of special involvement by the 
trade unions.  Slovakia has no special legislation governing labor 
relations in free trade zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Both the Constitution and the Employment Act prohibit forced or 
compulsory labor.  There were no reports of violations.  The Ministry of 
Labor, as well as district and local labor offices, have responsibility 
for enforcement. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The law sets the minimum employment age at 15.  Children must remain in 
school for 9 years or until age 15.  Workers under age 16 may not work 
more than 33 hours per week; may not be compensated on a piecework 
basis; may not work overtime or night shifts; and may not work 
underground or in other specified conditions deemed dangerous to their 
health or safety.  Special conditions and protections, though somewhat 
less stringent, apply to young workers ages 16 to 18.  The Ministry of 
Labor enforces this legislation.  There were no reports of violations. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The current minimum wage, effective since October 1993, is $82 (2,450 
crowns) per month.  Even when combined with special allowances paid to 
families with children, it does not provide an adequate standard of 
living for workers and their families.  The Ministry of Labor is 
responsible for enforcing the minimum wage.  No violations were 
reported.  The standard workweek mandated by the Labor Code is 42.5 
hours, although collective bargaining agreements have achieved 
reductions in some cases (most often to 40 hours).  The law requires 
overtime payment up to a maximum of 8 hours per week, and 150 hours per 
year, and provides 3 weeks of annual leave (though the norm is most 
often 4 weeks).  There is no specifically mandated 24-hour rest period 
during the workweek.  The trade unions, the Ministry of Labor, and local 
employment offices monitor observance of these laws, and the authorities 
effectively enforce them. 
 
The Labor Code establishes health and safety standards which the Office 
of Labor Safety effectively enforces.  For hazardous employment, workers 
undergo medical screening under the supervision of a physician.  They 
have the right to refuse to work in situations which endanger their 
health and safety and may file complaints against employers in such 
situations. 
 
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[end of document]

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