“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” states the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet discrimination is a major problem in Europe.
The European Convention on Human Rights states that all its provisions shall be secured “without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status” (article 14). This is important, but the protection against discrimination is limited to those rights covered by the Convention. Therefore Protocol No. 12 has been adopted to secure the equal enjoyment of any right in the law and to prohibit discrimination by any public authority. All countries should ratify this Protocol to achieve same standards of equal treatment across Europe.
Establishing non-discrimination legislation, however, is not enough. Governments should also take positive promotional measures to alter existing negative stereotypes. During country visits, the Commissioner evaluates the effectiveness of national non-discrimination norms. Non-governmental organisations representing groups of people who are discriminated against are important contact points for assessing the extent of discrimination. In addition to courts, victims of discrimination can turn to ombudspersons and national equality bodies to be heard.