COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD EXAMINES REPORT OF SLOVAKIA

Committee on the Rights of the Child

22 May 2007




The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the second periodic report of Slovakia on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Introducing the report, Igor Grexa, Director-General for Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, underscored that in the review period (2001-2005), radical changes had been introduced to the system of social and legal protection of children in Slovakia. Beneficial results were most noticeable in the area of substitute family care and institutional care. The system of assistance to children with behavioural disorders was gradually changing, with various preventive measures being introduced, and emphasis being placed on cooperation and coordination with the involved parties. At the same time, ambitious reform of institutional care was taking place. The transformation of living conditions for children in institutional care had been implemented, with the transformation of dormitory-type children's homes into family-type homes.

In preliminary concluding remarks, Committee Expert Moushira Khattab, who served as Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, said that the Committee had noted Slovakia's efforts to improve the situation of children, in particular with regard to the elaboration of educational materials, and assistance to vulnerable groups. Slovakia now needed to focus on implementation. It had excellent rules, but it appeared that the implementation on the ground was not always up to the same standard.

Hatem Kotrane, the Committee Expert serving as co-Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, noted the number of reforms that had been undertaken in Slovakia during the last six years with respect to children. What was needed now was more coordination and special attention to follow-up measures, as well as redoubled efforts to prevent discrimination against Roma children, which remained a source of concern. Furthermore, Slovakia should increase efforts to disseminate information on the rights of children, particularly at the family level. In that regard, attention should also be paid to the issues of violence in the family and corporal punishment.

During the discussion, other Experts raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, why budgeting funds for children's issues had steadily increased up until 2001, and had since fallen off; whether the delegation could provide concrete examples of cases in which the best interests of the child were taken into consideration; whether the child helpline was toll free, and whether there had been funding to expand that service to reach vulnerable groups outside the major cities; what recourse there was for victims of bullying and sexual harassment in educational settings; whether corporal punishment was prohibited in the home; why children over 15 were so often taken into institutional care; what mediation and restorative justice measures existed for children; statistics on child labour, and penalties issued in that regard; statistics on dropouts; and what vocational training options there were in Slovakia.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Slovakia towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 8 June 2007.

Also joining the delegation of Slovakia were Dušan Èaploviè, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Knowledge-Based Society, European Affairs, Human Rights and Minorities; Anton Pinter, the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva; other representatives from the Permanent Mission; the Director-General for Human Rights and Minorities at the Office of the Government; the Spokesperson of the Deputy Prime Minister; and representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Interior, the Police Force Presidium, the Ministry of Health, the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia.

As one of the 193 States parties to the Convention, Slovakia is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to comply with the provisions of the treaty. The delegation was on hand throughout the day to present the report and to answer questions raised by Committee Experts.

When the Committee reconvenes on Wednesday, 23 May, at 10 a.m., it will consider the combined second and third periodic reports of the Maldives (CRC/C/MDV/3).

Report of Slovakia

In 2005 the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights drafted and implemented the Rights of the Child Monitoring Project. According to the second periodic report of Slovakia (CRC/C/SVK/2), that Project focuses on monitoring of substitute family care for children given to pre-adoption care or being adopted under the Convention on Intercountry Adoption; custodial measures enforcement in the education and upbringing provided by youth diagnostic centres and re-educational homes for children and youth; mandatory vaccination of children, with a special focus on vaccination of Roma children; and placement of children in special schools with a particular focus on children belonging to the Roma minority. In 2006, the Rights of the Child Monitoring Project will focus on the right of children placed under institutional care or in foster care to see their parents; the child’s right to express his/her views; the protection of the child against violence; and the right to education of the children of aliens living in the territory of the Slovak Republic.

The right of persons belonging to national minorities and ethnic groups to an education in their mother tongue is guaranteed in article 34 of the Constitution of Slovakia. In the school system of the Slovak Republic, neither ethnically oriented schools nor schools segregated in any way from the main school system exist. The network of special schools provides education to pupils having special educational needs due to their disability preventing them from attending other types of schools. Education received at special schools, except the education from special schools for mentally disabled pupils, is equal to the education received at primary and secondary schools. The wording of the School Act valid before 1 September 2000 made it possible to also send pupils lacking prerequisites for mastering the primary school to a then special school. The amended wording of the law (in 2000) clearly states that a special school for pupils with a mental handicap is meant for pupils with mental handicaps and/or pupils with multiple disabilities in combination with a mental handicap. Slovakia is searching for a solution to the high number of Roma children at special schools. On 1 January 2006, Methodological Guidance No. 12/2005, which regulates the procedure applied by educational and psychological counselling centres when assessing school readiness of children from socially disadvantaged environments upon admission to the first grade of primary schools, came into effect. When diagnostic examinations of the child from socially disadvantaged environments exclude a mental disability of the child, the educational and psychological counselling centre shall not suggest admission into a special primary school.

The Ministry of Health is also implementing a project to ensure health care availability for marginalized Roma communities in selected localities in a systematic manner and improving Roma minority access to health care. Funds amounting to €1.59 million have been earmarked for the acquisition of teaching aids for health education for the Roma; medical equipment for health centres; mobile medical units; training activities for Roma healthcare field workers; and refurbishment of selected healthcare centres.

Presentation of Report

IGOR GREXA, Director-General for Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, said that the second periodic report of Slovakia formally covered the period between 2001 and 2005, but it also considered how Slovakia had dealt with the concluding observations adopted by the Committee in October 2000, and the whole dynamic picture of children's rights in Slovakia. In addition to government authorities, the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights and several non-governmental organizations had participated in the drafting process.

In the review period, significant reforms had been carried out in Slovakia in the fields of education, social security, health care, family law, criminal law, access to information and public administration. Most of those reforms had had an impact on the situation of children in the country. Slovakia had also now become a full-fledged European Union member, and in that respect had also been developing its legislation. Mr. Grexa highlighted that, especially after the recent reforms, all of the provisions enshrined in the Convention had been reflected in the legal system of Slovakia at all levels – in Constitutional law, civil law, family law, and criminal law.

Among the most recent developments, Mr. Grexa underscored that a child's right to express his or her views, and the freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion had been reflected in a newly adopted Family Act, and the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as amendments to it. The views of the child had to be paid appropriate attention corresponding to the age and mental maturity of the child. For example, the newly adopted Code of Criminal Procedure regulated interviewing of children as witnesses and victims so that such interviews could be carried out only if strictly necessary.

Parental rights and responsibilities had been specified in detail in the new Family Act, effective from April 2005, Mr. Grexa said. In cases of divorce, the right of children to maintain their relationship with both parents and the right of the parent who did not have custody of the minor to be regularly informed about the child were respected. The principle of the consideration of the best interest of the child was reflected in the Family Law, in the Law on Social and Leal Protection of Children and Social Guardianship, the Code of Civil Procedure, as well as the Civil Code.

The criminal law protection of children and young people from any physical or psychological violence, insults and abuse, including sexual abuse, neglectful treatment, mistreatment or exploitation at the time of being in the custody of one or both parents, legal guardians or any other person taking care of them was guaranteed through the provisions of the Penal Code, which had entered into force on 1 January 2006. The Penal Code considered criminal acts committed against children as aggravated offences and contained special provisions governing proceedings against juveniles, such as the requirement that a juvenile already had to be represented by a lawyer at the moment that they were charged with a crime.

Turning to international legal instruments, Mr. Grexa affirmed that international conventions that had been ratified were directly applicable in the country. He was pleased to inform the Committee that Slovakia had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2007, and in July 2006, it had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Mr. Grexa also wished to draw attention to Slovakia's governmental action plans, among them the Action Plan for the Prevention of All Forms of Discrimination, Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Other Expressions of Intolerance. The 2006-2008 Action Plan was currently being implemented. It continued efforts to improve the awareness of citizens, to implement effectively the anti-discrimination legislation, and particularly addressed the situation of migrants in Slovakia. Its priorities included the prevention of extremism and anti-Semitism, mainly by educating professional groups. According to the UN Guidelines, Slovakia had also adopted the 2005-2015 Human Rights Education National Action Plan in February 2005.

In the review period, radical changes had been introduced to the system of social and legal protection of children, Mr. Grexa underscored. The monitoring of the effects of the new legislation and annual assessment of the changes introduced had shown positive results, despite the fact that the new legislative and regulatory measures had been in force for a very short time. In particular, he was referring to the legislation on social and legal protection of children that had been effective since 1 September 2005, and the amendments to the related legal regulations, including regulations on allowances promoting alternate custody, and the new Family Act, among others.

Beneficial results were most noticeable in the area of substitute family care and institutional care. The system of assistance to children with behavioural disorders was gradually changing, with various preventive measures being introduced, and emphasis being placed on cooperation and coordination with the involved parties. Cooperation between non-governmental organizations and municipalities was being targeted, and conditions were being created for the provision of substitute family care as a vocation. At the same time, ambitious reform of institutional care was taking place. The transformation of living conditions for children in institutional care had been implemented, with the transformation of dormitory-type children's homes into family-type homes.

Mr. Grexa said that the Slovak Committee for the Rights of the Child, which had been established in 2000, had initially had the ambition to operate as an institution effectively protecting the rights of children, but its activities had gradually become too formal and it had failed to meet the goals for which it had originally been created, in particular due to its dependent position. In its programme of August 2006, the new Government had undertaken to resolve that situation, and the delegation would be happy to provide more details in the following discussion.

Turning to education, Mr. Grexa drew attention to the legislative amendments implemented in that sector since 2002, in compliance with the Convention, which were related to the issues of instruction of children coming from socially disadvantaged environments, including Roma children; education for children with disabilities; transfer of certain competencies in the area of education from State administration to municipalities; the reinforcement of education in the area of human rights and the rights of the child; and the improvement and extension of services in the area of pre-school establishments, through the adoption of the education policy related to the preparation of children for school attendance, in February 2007.

Regarding the situation of Roma children, Mr. Grexa noted that the main document in that field was the "Basic Theses of the Slovak Government's Policies for the Integration of Roma Communities", which had been adopted in April 2003. That document set out medium- and long-term objectives and methods, which relevant ministries had transformed individual tasks as defined in the Basic Theses into concrete measures and policies. For example, the Ministry of Education had elaborated the Integrated Education Policy for Roma Children and Youth, including the Development of Secondary and Tertiary Education, and the Ministry of Health had developed a programme for Roma healthcare field assistants. In 2002, the profession of a teacher assistant as educational staff working in kindergartens, primary schools and special primary schools had been introduced, with the aim of improving the education of Roma children. Teacher assistants participated in the creation of conditions necessary for overcoming mainly the linguistic, health and social barriers encountered by children in the educational process.

On the issue of minor asylum-seekers, Mr. Grexa said that Slovakia had adopted a set of measures concerning unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in order to protect their interests in compliance with the Convention, with three basic objectives: to act in the best interest of the minor on the basis of his or her individual needs; to prevent any form of discrimination and provide minor aliens with all the advantages and opportunities enjoyed by children who were Slovak nationals; and to enable social participation and participation in decision-making in family and community life.

Questions by Experts

MOUSHIRA KHATTAB, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, began by highlighting progress made by Slovakia. In March 2004, it had joined NATO, and in May 2004, had joined the European Union. Slovakia had been diligently harmonizing its legislation with that of the European Union, and that process would strengthen guarantees for upholding human rights, including the rights of children. The education system in Slovakia was well developed at all levels, and the quality of education was high. Slovakia had taken important steps to ensure higher implementation of the rights of its children.

Ms. Khattab was concerned, however, that the independent authority for children had not been established to date. It sounded as if Slovakia was having second thoughts about whether to establish such a mechanism, to which the Committee attached great importance.

Ms. Khattab appreciated the priority given by Slovakia to action plans for the prevention of all forms of discrimination and racism. She wondered, however, if those plans specifically targeted children, and would appreciate further details on budgeting and evaluation of those plans, in particular, whether those plans had achieved their goals to raise awareness and protect individuals.

Did the National Centre for Human Rights, established in January 2006, have a segment specifically devoted to children, Ms. Khattab asked?

On the issue of child abduction and child maintenance, Ms. Khattab noted that Slovakia had made a reservation to article 60 of the Hague Convention, but was unclear on which Hague Convention that applied – to the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, or to the 1998 Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition and Cooperation in respect to parental responsibility measures for the protection of children. She was also concerned that, following other reservations by Slovakia to the 1998 Convention, a two-tiered system of protection had been created whereby some courts respected rulings of other European Union courts whereas others did not.

While acknowledging progress achieved for Roma children in Slovakia, Ms. Khattab said that the Committee feared societal discrimination against them still persisted. The Committee was concerned also that although most ethnic Slovak and Hungarian children attended school on a regular basis, Romany children still exhibited a lower attendance rate. Romany children were also disproportionately enrolled in schools for the mentally handicapped, despite diagnostic scores that were often within the normal range of intellectual capacity. In certain remedial schools in the eastern part of the country, registered students were nearly 100 per cent Roma.

The Committee was also seriously concerned about data collection for Roma children, Ms. Khattab emphasized. The report stated that collecting data on the Roma population faced serious problems, owing to a traditional reticence of Roma to declare themselves as such, and because of the data protection law prohibiting the gathering of special statistics on the basis of ethnic origin. However, how was it possible to design a policy or allocate a budget to improve the situation of Roma children if Slovakia did not know the size of the targeted groups?

HATEM KOTRANE, the Committee Expert serving as co-Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, also welcomed the numerous laws and international conventions relating to children and to human rights that Slovakia had adopted, including the Hague Conventions relative to children.

In that connection, Mr. Kotrane wondered if Slovakia was planning to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. That was one of very few that Slovakia had not ratified, and it related directly to the work of the Committee.

Mr. Kotrane was also interested to know more about the situation in Slovakia, whereby children between the ages of 18 were able to marry, if a judge ordered that it was possible. What was the exact legal status of, say, a 16 and a half-year-old who had been married in this way? Furthermore, did children have the right to create institutions and associations?

Other Experts then raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, why civil society in Slovakia appeared to be less vibrant than in neighbouring countries; why budgeting funds for children's issues had steadily increased up until 2001, and had since fallen off; whether the delegation could provide concrete examples of cases in which the best interests of the child were taken into consideration; whether the child helpline was toll free, and whether there had been funding to expand that service to reach vulnerable groups outside the major cities; whether one parent could be granted exclusive custody of a child, and in that case, what rights the other parent retained; what recourse there was for victims of bullying and sexual harassment in educational settings; and whether corporal punishment was prohibited in the home.

Response by Delegation and Follow-Up Questions

Responding to these questions and others, the delegation said that, with regard to a children's component in Governmental action plans, of 24 projects, 11 of them included children. Among those were a website for children, a UNICEF project targeting social protection for children, an educational project that provided for children to teach other children, and a scout camp for Roma and non-Roma children where they could meet each other.

The delegation said that it was true that civil society in Slovakia was not as united as it could be, and could also be more vibrant, but was not sure why that was so. Responding to an Expert's comment that it was the Government's responsibility to promote the health of civil society, the delegation recalled that the Government had been encouraging involvement of non-governmental organizations, in particular with regard to the rights of the child. In particular, non-governmental organizations, which had been involved in the anti-discrimination action plan, had unified and provided joint proposals for the amendment of the anti-discrimination law, and those proposals had been taken into consideration.

In terms of an independent institution to promote and protect children's rights, at the moment, Slovakia was exploring several avenues, the delegation said. The first was to establish a children's Ombudsman, the other was to establish a coordinating committee of ministers. It was also important to note that the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights had been gaining many new competencies, in particular in the field of children's rights. Since 2005, it had been involved in monitoring children's rights issues. This year, it was finalizing a report on children's rights for 2006. It was hoped that an independent body for children's rights could eventually emerge from that body.

In terms of a comparison between the Hungarian minority and the Roma, the delegation wished to point out that the Hungarian minority was the largest in the country, and that funds were budgeted on a proportionate basis. About 80 per cent of funds set aside for minority education, for example, therefore went to Hungarian minority.

Responding to the assertion that educational opportunities for Roma pupils were less than for others, the delegation underscored that every child in Slovakia – whether Slovak nationals, Roma or others – had to attend 10 years of compulsory primary education.

An Expert, in a follow-up question, asked what was the ratio of Roma children that were being educated at special schools. An Expert also asked what monitoring mechanisms were in place to ensure attendance by Roma pupils.

The delegation said that in 2000 a law stipulated that children could not be put in special schools on the basis of weak performance, but that such schools were reserved only for children with mental handicaps or psychological disorders. In addition, such placement was only possible with the agreement of the children's parents or guardians. That law had seen progress not only in ensuring that non-handicapped children were not placed in special schools, but had also seen improvements in education for children with mental disabilities. The fact that there were a majority of Roma children in areas of eastern Slovakia merely reflected the fact that the majority of the population in those areas were Roma.

Further Questions by Experts

During the second round of questions, the Rapporteur, Ms. Khattab, on the issue of violence against children, wondered if Slovakia had any plans to implement the recommendations of the Secretary-General's Study on Violence against Children, published last October.

Concerned that Roma children, in particular, were subject to trafficking, Ms. Khattab was concerned to know more about the children's helpline and what measures were being taken to ensure that it was easily accessible by all children, including having a four-digit number.

The co-Rapporteur, Mr. Kotrane, asked if Slovakia had considered setting up a fund for child maintenance for children in cases where the parents had refused to pay.

Concerned about the high percentage of children living below the poverty line in Slovakia, Mr. Kotrane wondered what measures were being taken to address that situation.

Other Experts asked further questions on topics including, among others, what support was being provided to parents who were having difficulties; why children over 15 were so often taken into institutional care; what mediation and restorative justice measures existed for children; statistics on child labour, and what penalties had been issued in that regard; whether training on children's rights in Slovakia included a gender dimension; whether Slovakia was considering specifically criminalizing sexual exploitation; statistics on dropouts; and what vocational training options there were in Slovakia.

With respect to children in alternative care, an Expert wondered what Slovakia's position was with regard to granting custody to members of the extended family, and if it had undertaken any follow-up studies to determine the effect of State care on children who had been in care. Also, how many of the children in care were "culturally disadvantaged", a term which had appeared to be synonymous with Roma in the report. An Expert wondered what the difference was between alternative custody and foster care. In that connection, she noted that between 2001 and 2006, the number of children in alternative custody had almost doubled, while the number in foster care had slightly dropped. Were children in foster care simply being transferred to alternative custody? An Expert was concerned about the use of cage beds for children in institutional care.

An Expert was concerned that the Roma remained largely segregated, including during medical treatment and hospital stays, and was further worried that the new policies would exacerbate that situation. She was also worried that Slovakia had insufficient adolescent health services, in particular, sexual and reproductive health services.

An Expert was unclear on the ages of legal responsibility in Slovakia. Moreover, he was concerned that there were no special judges or courts for juveniles.

Response by the Delegation

Responding to these questions and others, the delegation said that, with regard to court allowed marriages for minors over 16 years of age, those minors became legal adults upon such marriages, and remained so, even if that marriage subsequently resulted in a divorce before the members reached the age of 18.

The delegation confirmed that the Convention had been incorporated in domestic law, that it superseded national legislation, and that judges used such human rights conventions in their case law and referred to them in their every day practice. The Judicial Academy was particularly instrumental in the training of judges with regard to the international conventions applicable in Slovakia.

With regard to children in institutional care, the delegation said that, of the children in care, more than half were in substitute families. That programme of substitute families had been a great success for Slovakia. Through funding of substitute families, since 2005, which was now funded on an equal footing with foster care, the number of cases that could be put in that system had increased substantially. In terms of finding substitute parents, it was only when all other possibilities were exhausted, starting with looking for parents in that region and then in Slovakia as a whole, that inter-country adoption was considered. However, that did not mean that the authorities stopped the search for members of the child's family.

It was not true that the number of children in institutional care was the same as in 2000, the delegation affirmed. Between 2000 and 2005, that number had fallen by just over 500 children. The increase in the number of children's homes, with 87 in 2000, and 98 today, was largely due to the reform of the institutional care system, with the break up of some larger homes and an emphasis on family-style over dormitory-style.

In terms of follow-up on children who had been in care, the delegation said that, starting a year and a half ago follow-up on such children's situation had been mandated. They were working to put that follow up and evaluation in place.

In terms of unaccompanied foreign minors, there had been 334 cases identified in Slovakia last year, which was about average, the delegation observed. Those children were immediately put in a care situation, either in a children's home, and procedures were started to investigate the children's situation and to try and find their families, with the help of the International Organization for Migration. As a result of those procedures, of the over 300 unaccompanied minors, about one third of them could be returned, one third went into the asylum procedure, and the remaining one third generally received a tolerated stay permit.

On the high poverty rate for children, the delegation observed that the poverty rate for children up to 15 had actually decreased in 2004 by 1.8 per cent – from 18.4 to 16.6 per cent. However, following poverty studies, the Government was well aware that families with children, and particularly single-headed households, were at the highest risk for poverty and was taking steps. The fight against poverty was one of Slovakia's national priorities. It was doing so by ensuring health care, education, and access to services for children, and ensuring access to education and employment of their parents. There was a complex system in Slovakia to ensure income for low-income families, as well as education and food subsidies for disadvantaged children.

Turning to issues involving education of Roma children, the delegation said that the Government Office was considering extending compulsory education to five-year-olds, with the inclusion of certain equalization measures for the Roma community, by requiring Roma children to attend school as of the age of four, to pre-prepare them for their integration into the educational system. Another possibility to increase the education level of the Roma was through the promotion of the Roma language curriculum. In 2004 a pilot project on the introduction of a Roma language teaching curriculum had been introduced, and the results would be incorporated in Roma language curriculum texts.

Within the last two years integration of children with disabilities in the school system had increased. Often a specialist or a teacher assistant was allocated to the disabled student, and an individualized plan was drawn up.

The primary aim of police specialists working with Roma communities was to build trust. Between 2004 and 2006, 18 such specialists worked in the programme. In 2007, 100 specialists had been added, so that there were now 118 police specialists, and the programme had been rolled out to further areas in the country. Funds for the programme had also increased, with approximately 130,000 euros allocated for 2008 and 150,000 euros for 2009.

There was no crime of sexual exploitation per se in the Penal Code of Slovakia. However, the delegation pointed out that the Penal Code defined rape, sexual abuse and sexual violence, prostitution, and child pornography, as well as separate articles for trafficking in children and pandering.

In terms of child labour and street children, those were not issues for Slovakia. In recent times, there had only been one case of child labour, which had been signalled by social workers. Similarly, street children were not an issue in Slovakia. That was perhaps, in part, because children who practiced street begging only transited through Slovakia, heading to richer countries in the European Union. However, the delegation noted that the appropriate legislation was in place with regard to both issues, and should either become a problem the authorities would be in a position to promptly address them.

Regarding concerns about vaccines stored at home, the delegation noted that in the past the Department of Health had distributed vaccines to health clinics. Today, the vaccines were distributed by prescription to parents, following the philosophy that that would involve the parents more and raise their awareness about the health of their child. It had met with a high compliance rate: 95 per cent of parents participated. However, the Government was planning on returning to the distribution of vaccines through health clinics.

On abortions, the delegation said that if a child up to the age of 15 asked for an abortion, doctors were obliged to inform her parents. Between 15 and 18 years of age, parents were notified after the abortion had been performed, and after the age of 18 abortions were available without the consent or notification of parents.

With regard to juvenile justice, the age of criminal responsibility had been lowered from 15 to 14 because it was felt that children from the age of 14 were increasingly mature from the point of view of cognitive recognition of their acts, and also as a measure to avoid repeat offences. However, the delegation stressed that, even for juveniles of 15, it was important that, although they were fully liable for those offences, such adolescents were still analysed from the point of view of whether there were fully cognizant of their responsibility for their acts; if they were found not to be, they would not be held criminally liable. Children below 14 could not be prosecuted and were not criminally liable.

In terms of juvenile judges, in Slovakia judges specialized in specific areas, in criminal and civil cases, and in cases involving juveniles the judge with the most experience in that field would be selected, the delegation explained.

Finally, the delegation affirmed that Slovakia had prohibited the use of cage beds in children's institutions.

Preliminary Concluding Remarks

MOUSHIRA KHATTAB, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, in preliminary concluding remarks, said that the Committee fully appreciated the efforts of Slovakia. However, with Slovakia's excellent economic performance, the Committee would want to see that performance matched with regard to the situation of children. The Committee noted Slovakia's efforts, in particular with regard to the elaboration of educational materials, and assistance to vulnerable groups. In its conclusions regarding the situation of children in Slovakia, the Committee was going to focus on implementation. Slovakia had excellent rules, but it appeared that the implementation on the ground was not always up to the same standard.

HATEM KOTRANE, the Committee Expert serving as co-Rapporteur for the report of Slovakia, thanked the delegation for their replies. The Committee had received a lot of information with regard to the situation of children in Slovakia. They had noted the number of reforms that had been undertaken during the last six years. What was needed now was more coordination and special attention to follow-up measures, as well as redoubled efforts to prevent discrimination against Roma children, which remained a source of concern. Furthermore, Slovakia should increase efforts to disseminate information on the rights of children, particularly at the family level. In that regard, attention should also be paid to the issues of violence in the family and corporal punishment.
__________


For use of the information media; not an official record