Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Slovak Romani Sterilization Victims Win Damages

WASHINGTON – U.S. Helsinki Commissioners welcomed news that the European Court on Human Rights issued a decision yesterday awarding damages to eight Romani women. The plaintiffs had sued the Slovak Government in connection with investigations into sterilization without informed consent. 

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, remarked on the decision: “I have personally expressed my concern to both Czech and Slovak officials regarding the sterilization without informed consent of Romani women. Neither government has done enough to acknowledge this past practice or to provide victims with remedies, so I am particularly pleased that these women have persevered and prevailed.” 

“It is a travesty of justice that these victims were denied adequate access to their very own medical records, which they have sought for nearly a decade now. I commend them for their courage and tenaciousness throughout this ordeal,” stated Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. 

Ranking Member Congressman Christopher H. Smith added that, “The full extent of the emotional and physical damage these women have suffered is incalculable, yet it is my hope that the court’s decision provides them some measure of justice and comfort, and serves as a clear warning to the human rights abusers who even today are coercively sterilizing women elsewhere in the world.” 


Based on theories of eugenics, the Czechoslovak communist state targeted Romani women for sterilization. Although the sterilization policy ended with the fall of communism, the practice continued sporadically in both the Czech and Slovak Republics even after the end of communism. 

An October 2000 Slovak Government national strategy paper reportedly stated, “[i]f we do not succeed in integrating the Romani population and modify their reproduction[,] the percentage of nonqualified and handicapped persons in the population will increase.” 

In 2001, the spokesperson for the Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities threatened that women who came forward alleging wrongful sterilization would go to jail. 

In 2001, Romani activist Alexander Patkolo was threatened with the criminal charge of “spreading alarming information” for even suggesting that Romani women had been sterilized without informed consent. 

In 2002, then-opposition MP Robert Fico (now Prime Minister) ran on a parliamentary campaign pledge to “actively effect the irresponsible growth of the Roman[i] population.” 

On December 13, 2006, Slovakia’s highest court ruled that the regional prosecution’s investigation in the cases of three Romani women alleging wrongful sterilization had been so faulty that it violated both the Slovak Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. 

In Case of K.H. and Others v. Slovakia, announced yesterday, the European Court on Human Rights found a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a hearing regarding civil rights and obligations) and article 8 (right to family life).

Media contact

Filter Topics Open Close

Helsinki Commission Advances Human Rights, Demands f...

Oct 19, 2023

By Shannon Simrell, Senior Policy Advisor Between October 2-13, 11 Helsinki Commission staff joined approximately 1,400 representatives of OSCE participating States (pS) and civil society representatives in Warsaw, Poland in an annual review of the human rights records of OSCE States. U.S. leadership highlighted demands for accountability from Russia and Belarus for their human rights […]


United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukra...

Jul 14, 2023

The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members […]


The Alarming Rise in Antisemitism and Its Threat to ...

Dec 13, 2022

In response to a rise in antisemitism in the United States and abroad, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on December 13, 2022, featuring experts on preventing and combatting it. Witnesses testified about current development and how best to respond, as well as reinforced the important role of multilateral cooperation. In an increasingly global world […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Deeply Concerned Over Latest Ele...

Jul 27, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and  Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) today expressed deep concern about an effort by the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia to impose changes on the country’s electoral system barely two months prior to general elections in early October. They issued the following joint statement: “We share the concerns […]

Press Releases


Jul 21, 2022

WASHINGTON—Margareta Cederfelt, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), has appointed Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) as the first-ever OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners. “I welcome the chance to serve as the voice of political prisoners across the OSCE region,” said Co-Chairman Cohen. “Every day, we witness more political arrests of […]



Jun 30, 2022

Press Releases

Cardin, Wicker Recognition of Romani Americans Clear...

Jun 10, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) lauded unanimous passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday of S. Res.124, the first official acknowledgement by Congress of the genocide of the Romani people by the Nazis. The resolution, first authored by Cardin and Wicker in 2019 and reintroduced […]


Helsinki Commission Digital Digest May 2022

Jun 01, 2022

Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Lavrov’s Antisemitic Comm...

May 03, 2022

WASHINGTON—In response to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent antisemitic comments regarding Ukraine’s president and the people of Ukraine more generally, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “In a despicable attempt to justify Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, including well-documented indiscriminate murders of civilians, including children; torture; and rape of […]


Following in the Footsteps of Tsar Nicholas II

Apr 27, 2022

As Vladimir Putin attempts to turn back the clock to the Russian Empire of the pre-Soviet era, he also adopts a tool of political manipulation used in Imperial Russia—fostering violent extremist organizations as a means to a political end. Tsar Nicholas II used this technique with terrorist organizations like the Union of the Russian People […]


Debunking “Denazification”

Apr 21, 2022

By Worth Talley, Max Kampelman Fellow​ On February 24, 2022, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine—in reality, a Russian invasion designed to subjugate the democratic, peaceful people of Ukraine. When the news broke, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen immediately decried the statement. “Like Mr. Zelensky, I […]

In the News

Lawmakers strike bipartisan note to condemn Putin, c...

Feb 24, 2022

In a show of unity, Republican and Democratic lawmakers swiftly condemned Russia’s military attack against Ukraine and vowed to inflict economic pain on President Vladimir Putin by imposing a torrent of punishing new sanctions. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she wants Russia cut off from the SWIFT international banking system. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on international law enforcement […]