Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution of the Slovak Republic guarantees the right to life:
(1) Everyone has the right to life. Human life is worth protection even before birth.
(2) No one shall be deprived of life.
(4) No infringement of rights according to this Article shall occur if a person has been deprived of life in connection with an action not defined as unlawful under the law.
Article 16(2) of the Constitution stipulates that: "No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Article 28(1) guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. According to paragraph 2:
The conditions under which this right may be exercised shall be provided by a law in cases of assemblies held in public places, if it is regarding measures necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, for the protection of public order, health and morals, property or of national security. An assembly shall not be subject to a permission of a body of public administration.
The Constitution does not address the use of force by law enforcement agencies.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints
|CAT Optional Protocol 1
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights
Police Use of Force
The Police Force of the Slovak Republic is the country's primary law enforcement agency. The Decree of the Minister of the Interior of February 2002 on Code of Ethics of the Police Force stipulates in its Article 1 that police officers "shall respect the human rights, freedoms and duties and avoid malicious and illegal conduct." Article 2 provides that: "Police officers shall perform their duties without respect to religious, racial, national, social, political, class and other external factors."
Act No. 171/1993 addresses the police force. Section 50(3) provides that:
Before using force, the police officer is obliged to call on the target to refrain from any unlawful conduct, with a warning that force will be used. It may only not do so if the life or health of another person is attacked or threatened and the danger cannot be otherwise prevented.
According to Section 50(4):
Depending on the particular situation, the police will decide which type of force they use, in order to achieve the purpose pursued by the service and the force used and the intensity of its use were not manifestly disproportionate to the danger of the attack.
Section 61 governs police use of firearms and knives. Paragraph 1 authorises police use of such weapons inter alia:
- in necessary defence and extreme distress
- to prevent the escape of a dangerous perpetrator who cannot otherwise be detained;
- in the immediate area of the State border, to force a means of transport the driver of which fails to heed a repeated call or sign.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
Article 224(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code provides that a person who by negligence and in violation of his or her duties causes a serious injury to health or the death of another person shall be punished with a prison sentence of between six months and five years or with a fine.
Slovakia has no dedicated independent civilian police oversight body. The Department of Control and Inspection Service of the Ministry of the Interior is an internal investigatory mechanism. In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Slovakia, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
that investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by police officers are carried out by the Department of Control and Inspection Service of the Ministry of the Interior, which is not sufficiently independent....
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Slovakia, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed its serious concerned "at the numerous reports of excessive use of force and ill-treatment, including verbal and physical abuse, by law enforcement officers against ethnic minorities, in particular Roma". The Committee was concerned "that raids in Roma settlements are often carried out without arrest or search warrants and that in many cases members of the Roma minority, including children and elderly persons, have been injured".
In its 2015 Concluding Observations on Slovakia, the Committee against Torture called on the "State at the highest political level" to ensure
that there will be no tolerance for excessive use of force against persons deprived of their liberty by law enforcement officials, including against members of ethnic minorities; [and to]
Take measures to eradicate all forms of harassment and ill-treatment by police during investigations and ensure that law enforcement officials are trained in professional techniques and international standards on the use of force and firearms....
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Slovakia, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
about allegations concerning the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, including ill-treatment and torture, and about the low number of prosecutions and convictions in such cases.
R.R. and R.D. v. Slovakia (2020)
The applicants, R.R. and R.D., are Slovak nationals. The case concerned their complaint of police ill-treatment, lack of a proper investigation, and discrimination on the grounds of their Roma origin. On 19 June 2013, a police operation was carried out in the town of Moldava nad Bodvou in eastern Slovakia, with the declared purpose of searching for wanted persons and objects originating from criminal activities. The operation on the street, which is home to a Roma community, involved 63 officers, of which 15 were from the rapid-reaction force, and 23 vehicles.
The first applicant, R.R., submitted he had been handcuffed, dragged outside his house and beaten with truncheons. He had also been kicked by police officers and struck with an electroshock weapon. A police report on his detention stated that he was suspected of having committed a minor offence by disorderly conduct, that he had resisted being taken to the police station in connection with it and that officers had used lawful force, such as holds, grabs, blows, kicks and handcuffs. A forensic report of August 2014 found, among other things, that he had suffered a fractured rib and had probably been hit by a baton on the back.
The second applicant, R.D., submitted that police officers had beaten him and struck him with an electroshock weapon. He had also received blows from a baton on his right shoulder, back and the left side of his legs. A police decision on his detention stated that he had resisted arrest aimed at taking him to the police station in order to be investigated over a suspicion that he had also behaved disorderly in the course of the operation and that force had been used on him according to the law, consisting of holds, grabs, blows, kicks and handcuffing. A forensic medical report of August 2014 found in particular that injuries on him had been caused by a blunt, flat and oblong object, probably a baton. The injuries had been minor, and had not necessitated any sick leave and any treatment longer than seven days.
Experts in medicine had found that some of the applicants’ injuries had most likely been caused by beating with batons. The use of batons against them as such was not recorded in the official documentation. Although a note of the legal provision governing the use of batons as “means of overcoming resistance and repulsing assault” was made in the reports concerning the use of coercive measures against the applicants, this was specified with reference to “blows and kicks in self‑defence in order to overcome resistance and repulse assault”. The Court further noted the lack of any extraordinary circumstances that would justify the use of batons rather than the other coercive measures applied. The operation was planned in advance, discharged with ample police presence and means, and was subsequently referred to by the authorities in general as a routine affair. Moreover, in view of the critical level of intoxication of the first applicant at the relevant time, bordering on poisoning, it would call for a specific explanation how he could have posed a significant threat or mount resistance justifying the use of batons rather than other type of coercive measures against him. While the ill-treatment that produced them could not be qualified as torture, it was serious enough to be considered inhuman.
Mižigárová v. Slovakia (2010)
Mr Šarišský was 21 years old and in good health when he was taken into custody at approximately 8 p.m. on 12 August 1999. Several hours later he was rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to his abdomen and injuries to his neck, right shoulder, face and ear. The fatal shot was fired from Lt. F.'s police service pistol while Mr Šarišský was alone with Lt. F. in his office. Mr Šarišský and Lt. F. clearly had previous dealings with each other..., and the evidence would suggest that Lt. F. volunteered to interrogate Mr Šarišský while he was off duty, without first obtaining the permission of his commanding officer.
In the course of the investigation into his death, at least three accounts were given of how Mr Šarišský was shot. Lt. F. indicated that Mr Šarišský had taken his gun and shot himself. Mr Šarišský allegedly told the investigator that Lt. F. had given him the gun and he had shot himself. The applicant, on the other hand, submitted that her husband told her that Lt. F. had shot him. In carrying out the reconstruction on 8 September 1999, the ballistics experts concluded that Mr Šarišský “most probably” shot himself. Further reconstructions were carried out to determine how Mr Šarišský was able to forcibly remove Lt. F.'s service pistol. No attempt appears to have been made, however, to investigate the allegation made by Mr Šarišský himself, namely that Lt. F. gave him the firearm. Moreover, the Court also observes that no explanation was given for the inconsistencies in the different statements provided by Lt. F. in the course of the domestic proceedings.
The European Court of Human Rights had
grave concerns both about the circumstances surrounding Mr Šarišský's death and the extent to which the authorities have provided “a satisfactory and convincing explanation”.... The inherent improbability of the theory that, while in police custody and while temporarily left alone during his interrogation by Lt. F, Mr. Šarišský would compose a suicide note and on Lt.F's return seize his pistol from his belt and use it to shoot himself in the abdomen gives serious cause to doubt that the authorities have discharged the burden imposed on them under the Convention.
Although there was insufficient evidence to enable the Court to find that the authorities either knew or ought to have known that Mr Šarišský was a suicide risk on the night of his death, the Court noted that there are certain basic precautions which police officers and prison officers should be expected to take in all cases in order to minimise any potential risk. First, the Court would observe that compelling reasons must be given as to why the interrogation of a suspect is entrusted to an armed police officer. For the Court, the facts of the present case disclose no justification whatsoever for allowing Lt. F. to remain in possession of his firearm during the interrogation of Mr Šarišský, a young man who had been arrested on suspicion of bicycle theft. Secondly, at the time of Mr Šarišský's death there were regulations in force which required police officers to secure their service weapons in order to avoid any “undesired consequences”. The domestic courts held that Lt. F's failure properly to secure his service weapon amounted to negligence which resulted in the death of Mr Šarišský. The Court found
that even if Mr Šarišský committed suicide in the manner described by the Government and the investigative authorities, the authorities were in violation of their obligation to take reasonable measures to protect his health and well-being while he was in police custody.