Europe has been experiencing a worrying intensification of activities of racist extremist organisations, including political parties. According to some commentators, the upsurge has even reached the point of “an early form of far right terror”. It worries me deeply that the European community and national political leaders appear not to be fully aware of the serious threat that these organisations pose to the rule of law and human rights.
The philosophy of racist extremist organisations is centred on denying the entitlement of “others” – mainly migrants and members of national, ethnic and religious minorities – to human rights and fundamental freedoms. They invent “enemies” who have to be fought and eliminated. Continue reading
As growing portions of journalistic activity take place on the Internet, Europe has not become a safer place for those expressing critical opinions. Clearly, people reporting can reach out faster and to a broader audience than before. But old and new threats await them when they decide to do so: violence, intimidation, prosecution for lawful speech, judicial harassment and surveillance of those reporting continue unabated in the digital era, including in Europe.
Every day, the Internet carries free expression in the public interest to people around Europe and elsewhere. This is the way in which, for instance, more and more people become aware of corruption, maladministration, unethical behaviour by public officials and businesses, and serious human rights violations. Bloggers, reporting citizens and others have therefore joined traditional journalists in the ranks of those who are at risk of retaliation by state authorities or interest groups (e.g., organized crime, rival ethnic or religious groups). Continue reading
Photo: Demonstrations in the streets of Minsk
Belarus is not a member state of the Council of Europe and should not even be considered a candidate until it releases all human rights defenders and opposition activists imprisoned for political motives, abolishes the death penalty and carries out far-reaching democratic reforms. This means that Belarus is not currently subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights or country reports by most monitoring mechanisms and my own office. However, this does not absolve the Council of Europe and its member states from taking an active interest in Belarus, abstaining from actions that can harm Belarusian human rights defenders, and seeking to support human rights in the country. Continue reading
© Council of Europe
Citizenship is the “right to have rights”. Without citizenship, one lacks not only political rights, but often social and economic rights as well. On a symbolic level, citizenship implies being a full member of a national community, and even further, of humanity. Continue reading
A man protests the law, which prohibits to provide aid to illegal immigrants on April 8, 2009 at Place St. Michel in Paris, France. The poster says ‘Arrest me, otherwise I do it again’ Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com
Defamation, threats, verbal and physical attacks, administrative sanctions and judicial harassment are used to deter human rights defenders from working with migrants and from combating the rising xenophobia and racism in Europe. Perpetrators can be both state and non-state actors.
It is not acceptable to intimidate and attack defenders of migrants’ rights
In several European countries, the rise of xenophobic and anti-migrant discourse has negatively impacted on the work of human rights defenders who protect and promote the rights of migrants. Human rights defenders are even increasingly labelled as traitors who are threatening national identity and security. They are often exposed to intimidation and abuse. Continue reading
Evictions of Roma are on the rise in Europe
In recent years, the situation of Roma has been largely debated in Europe. However, this attention for the situation of the most discriminated minority in Europe has not been matched by much concrete action by governments. European countries continue too often to resort to old methods of dealing with this pressing human rights issue, as the increasing evictions of thousands of Roma throughout Europe show. Continue reading
©Council of Europe / photo: Sandro Weltin
Roma children are experiencing segregated and substandard education in the school systems in the majority of the 47 Council of Europe member states. The consequences are devastating. It makes it very hard for these children to escape poverty and marginalisation later on in life. Non-integration also generates large – and unnecessary – costs for society at large. Continue reading
Source : Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)
Around the world – and indeed across Europe – women are beaten and threatened. Domestic violence is the most common form of abuse of women worldwide, irrespective of economics, religion or culture.
There is a strange acceptance of the prevalence of domestic violence and violence against women in every country. Far too often the problem is pushed aside, and far too often the woman herself is blamed. The question “why doesn´t she leave?” seems more frequently asked than “why does he hit her?”
Photo: Refugees from Kosovo*. Copyright: UNHCR / H.J. Davies/ April 1999
The media have frequently raised the prospect of a “lost generation” appearing in Europe as a result of the economic crisis. However, a different kind of “lost generation” has been struggling to cope in many European countries as the result of past military-political crises. I have in mind Europe’s internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom have been facing extremely difficult circumstances for decades. These victims of past or on-going conflicts continue to need the help of the European and international community. Continue reading
Great Mosque of Paris – Photo: Shutterstock/Tupungato
Muslims in Europe want to interact with other Europeans and participate as full and equal members of society, but regularly face various forms of prejudice, discrimination and violence that reinforce their social exclusion. This is the conclusion of recent research by various international organisations and NGOs. Unfortunately, commentators on the Arab Spring missed the historic opportunity to deconstruct harmful stereotypes about the alleged incompatibility of Islam and democracy, instead exaggerating the risk of migration to Europe.
Muslims as the primary “other” in European political discourse
Muslims have become the primary “other” in right-wing populist discourse in Europe. Political parties in Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland have employed anti-Muslim rhetoric for political gain. Politicians frequently refer to Muslims when discussing the alleged “failure of multiculturalism”. However, multiculturalism as a strategy of promoting intercultural dialogue while at the same time preserving cultural identities has hardly been tried in most countries. Continue reading