Washington, DC- On October 18, Rep. Tom Lantos issued a letter to Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, requesting him to “publicly disavow the Benes Decrees and seek to ensure that ethnic Hungarians are treated as equal citizens in Slovakia.” (See attached letter.)
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Rep. Lantos refers to the Slovak Parliament’s vote last month to reaffirm the infamous Benes Decrees. In 1945, then-Czechoslovakia issued the Benes Decrees which revoked the citizenship of ethnic Hungarians (as well as ethnic Germans) and confiscated their property, on the basis of “collective guilt.” With the end of Communist rule and the emergence of a sovereign Slovak state, in 1991 Slovakia itself acknowledged that the Benes Decrees were unjust. Nevertheless, last month’s vote reaffirming the punitive anti-minority decrees added fuel to the fire of growing extremist Slovak nationalist sentiment, a source of support for Fico’s SMER party.
Rep. Lantos’ letter also raises another “troubling” issue: the failure of the Slovak judicial system to prosecute a hate crime against an ethnic Hungarian citizen of Slovakia, Ms. Hedvig Malina. Ms. Malina was attacked on the street in August 2006 by two assailants who told her to speak “only Slovak in Slovakia.” Ms. Malina was brutally beaten, and she turned to the police. After Prime Minister Fico and two other high-ranking government officials suggested that Ms. Malina was lying, officials ended their investigation of the attack and subsequently brought charges against Ms. Malina. The Slovak judicial system continues its investigation of Ms. Malina, who has appealed to international human rights forums. In his letter, Rep. Lantos urges Prime Minister Fico “to end the investigation against Ms. Hedvig Malina and ask prosecutors to resume proceedings against her assailants.”
The Hungarian minority of Slovakia numbers approximately 600,000, in a total population of 5 million.
For detailed background information on the Benes Decrees and the case of Ms. Malina, see “Statement on Recent Political Developments Affecting the Hungarian Minority in Slovakia” and attached documents prepared by the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, at http://www.hacusa.org.