(Washington) - On April 8, International Roma Day, the United States Helsinki Commission released a report on renewed allegations that Romani women in Slovakia have been subjected to sterilization without informed consent. The report describes the human rights situation of Roma in which the sterilization issue arises.
Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), commenting on release of the publication, said, “This report illustrates the vulnerable position of Roma in Slovakia – the human rights problems they face, and underscores why I am so concerned about information that Romani women have been sterilized without their knowledge. Their vulnerability also warranted the letter sent last month by Members of the Commission to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.”
Joining Smith in the letter were Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Commissioners Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).
Prime Minister Dzurinda responded in a letter dated March 20, saying, “Sterilizations without consent or with coerced consent are horrific manifestations of such violations which plagued Europe during the last century, and we will stand to face them. This is an unequivocal message to everyone.” The Prime Minister also stated that his government has launched an investigation and promised to act on its findings.
“I am encouraged by the Prime Minister’s response to our deep concerns,” Smith said. “I hope this investigation will produce necessary changes in Slovakia’s health care system that would prohibit the abuse which has now been exposed. I also hope Slovakia’s reform government – which has brought meaningful improvements in many areas of human rights – will quickly adopt anti-discrimination legislation. Slovakia has one of the largest concentrations of Roma in Europe, and the aggressive prosecution and punishment of violent crimes against Roma would set a welcome precedent.”
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.