The fear of terrorism, technology that is developing at the speed of light, private companies and state security agencies compiling personal information – this topical mix has become a severe threat to the right to privacy. Despite the intentions, secret surveillance to counter terrorism can destroy democracy, rather than defend it. Continue reading
Migrant children are particularly vulnerable – especially if they are unaccompanied, travelling without parents or relatives. Many have been traumatised and abused before arriving in Europe. They must be met with care and with respect for their rights. Yet, there are many accounts of harsh treatment. Continue reading
Strasbourg, 11/9/2013 – Twelve years ago, almost three thousand people were killed by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Commemorative events provide an occasion to pay respects to the innocent victims, but also to reflect on the anti-terrorist response adopted by the USA and Europe. By allowing unlawful detentions and interrogation techniques amounting to torture, this response caused further suffering and violated human rights law. Continue reading
Many observers thought that child labour was a thing of the past in Europe. However, there are strong indications that child labour remains a serious problem and that it might be growing in the wake of the economic crisis. Governments need to monitor this situation and to use the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Social Charter as guidance for preventive and remedial action.
Vulnerable people are always disproportionately affected in times of economic down-turn. The link between declining economic growth and increasing child labour is therefore no surprise. With the recession many European countries have drastically cut social aid. As unemployment soars, many families have found no other solution than sending their children to work. Continue reading
More than 20 years after the first war in connection with the dissolution of Yugoslavia the legacy of the violence still lingers across the region. 12 200 persons are still missing, 423 000 refugees and displaced persons still cannot return to their homes, about 20 000 persons remain stateless or at risk of statelessness and at least 20 000 women subjected to wartime sexual violence still need stronger support.
All this, combined with impunity for wartime crimes, hampers reconciliation and endangers the full enjoyment of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Continue reading
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
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
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
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