March 7, 2003
Media Contact: Ben Anderson
H.E. Mikulas Dzurinda
Republic of Slovakia
Dear Prime Minister Dzurinda:
We write regarding recent reports alleging that Romani women in Slovakia have been coerced to undergo sterilization procedures. We urge you to publicly condemn this practice, ensure its cessation, and take concrete steps to meaningfully improve the situation of the Romani minority.
As you may know, Charter ‘77 first reported on the practice of coerced sterilization in Czechoslovakia in 1978. Unfortunately, it is now clear that this practice in Slovakia did not end with the fall of communism.
Tragically, forced sterilization is among the horrific manifestations of the eugenics movement that gained currency in so many countries during the last century. As recently as 1995, then-Slovak Minister of Health, Lumomir Javorsky, made this chilling pledge at a public rally: “The government will do everything to ensure that more white children than Romani children are born.” In recent years, Norway and Sweden have acknowledged that they carried out forced sterilizations until the 1970s; more than 30 states in my own country had such programs, and they were in place for the better part of the 20th century.
While the practice of coerced sterilization of Roma in Slovakia does not appear to have been directed by any arm of the current government, we believe your government has a responsibility to ensure its cessation. Just as you have played a leadership role in addressing many other human rights violations of the communist era and the Meciar regime, we hope you will play a strong role in ending human rights violations of the Romani minority. In particular, we recommend the following:
– Implement reforms of the health care system, including training for social and medical professionals and the improvement of legal protections against coerced or involuntary sterilization.
– Government officials at the highest level should speak out against calls to limit the birthrate of Roma.
– Government officials at the highest level should condemn racially motivated act of violence against Roma -- such as the attack against Milan Daniel that has left him permanently disfigured or the six skinhead attacks against Roma in Poprad last year. Such acts must be aggressively prosecuted and the perpetrators punished.
– Adopt and implement comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, consistent with Slovakia’s commitment in the 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit Document and its requirements under the European Union’s race directive.
Mr. Prime Minister, we have great respect for the progress Slovakia has made in improving respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms since 1998. We welcome Slovakia’s partnership with the United States on a broad range of issues and believe Slovakia can play a leadership role in the region. We bring these issues to your attention and urge you to address them with a goal of building our trans-Atlantic dialogue and contributing to the breadth and depth of U.S.-Slovak relations. We believe that Slovakia will be a stronger democracy, and therefore a stronger partner, when respect for the human rights of its most vulnerable minority is improved.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Commissioner
Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Commissioner
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Commissioner
Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, Commissioner
Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, Commissioner
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Commissioner
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Commissioner