< Viewpoints

2008 Viewpoints

"More control is needed of police databases"
[15/12/08 10:30] “The use of fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles in our criminal justice systems is undeniable when determining innocence or guilt. But caution still needs to be taken when we decide on whose data should be stored in police databases and for how long”, says Thomas Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. Noting that several jurisdictions in Europe allow the indefinite retention of fingerprint and DNA material in respect of any unconvicted person and regardless of the seriousness of the offence, the Commissioner underlines that “clear rules are needed to avoid the risk of abuse.”
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"Arbitrary procedures for terrorist black-listing must now be changed"
[01/12/08 10:30] “The ‘war on terror’ has gravely undermined previously agreed human rights standards” says Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint published today. Recommending a change in counter-terrorism measures and reparations for  innocent victims, the Commissioner stresses that “measures taken for the maintenance of peace and security must respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights” and calls “member states to ensure that their commitment to human rights does not waiver."
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"In times of economic crisis it is particularly essential to ensure the protection of social rights"
[17/11/08 11:30]
The less wealthy will suffer most from the recession the world is now facing. Increased unemployment will place a further burden on state budgets and there will be less space for support at a time when needs will grow. “This is an extraordinary challenge for governments today, requiring wise leadership”, said Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest  viewpoint. Underlying that economic and social rights are essential for the stability of society, Commissioner said that “it is also necessary to develop concrete programmes which promote social cohesion and prevent any watering down of the already agreed human rights standards”.
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  "Concrete and comprehensive action plans are needed to ensure implementation of human rights"
[03/11/08 11:15] Focusing on concrete measures, the Commissioner stresses that “Systematic work for human rights is a continuous process. Baseline studies, action plans and evaluation exercises are tools for clarifying and assessing the steps to be taken to reach our objectives"
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“Respect and rights-based action instead of charity for people with disabilities”
[20/10/08] "More than 80 million persons are still neglected in Europe simply because of their disabilities. More inclusive policies must be implemented, stamping out social stigma and all kinds of barriers." With these words, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, released today his latest Viewpoint on the rights of persons with disabilities. 
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"Human Rights education is a priority – more concrete action is needed"
[06/10/08] “Education about human rights is central to the effective implementation of the agreed standards” writes the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his latest Viewpoint. The Commissioner underlines that governments have not given sufficient priority to human rights education in schools and call for further efforts in promoting inter-cultural understanding and respect.
Primary school pupils drawing for peace. Photo©Unesco
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"It is wrong to criminalize migration"
[29/09/08] In his latest Viewpoint the Commissioner voices his concerns over the trend to criminalise the irregular entry and stay of migrants. “Such a method of controlling international movement corrodes established international law principles. It also causes many human tragedies without achieving its purpose of genuine control” he writes, proposing a more principled approach for immigration policies.
Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa, Italy, August 2007. Photo© Sara Prestianni
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"Persons displaced during conflicts have the right to return"
[15/09/08] In the aftermath of the South Ossetia conflict, Thomas Hammarberg analyses the humanitarian challenges posed by forced displacements in crisis situations. The Commissioner recalls States’ obligations to offer internally displaced persons (IDPs) long-term settlement solutions and, until such time, to assure them adequate living conditions. He also recommends governments address the root causes of forced displacement in the light of Council of Europe standards.
A group of displaced Georgians in a UNHCR tent on the outskirts of Gori. © UNHCR/I.Arabidze
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“Roma representatives must be welcomed into political decision-making”
[01/09/08] Roma under-representation in political life is a shortcoming in our democracies, explains Thomas Hammarberg in this Viewpoint. The Commissioner sets out practical ideas and examples of good practice to achieve their full political participation. "There is a need to develop a comprehensive approach in order to empower Roma populations", he says.
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"The shameful history of anti-Gypsyism in Europe is forgotten – and repeated"
[18/08/08] Commissioner Hammarberg here underlines the need to understand the history of Roma people to avoid repeating tragic mistakes done in the past. "The rhetoric from some politicians and xenophobic media has revived age-old stereotypes about the Roma. Once more, it is argued that they are a threat to safety and public health. This is not only shameful but also dangerous."
Roma people near Uzhgorod, Slovakia. Czechoslovakia, 1938. Photo©US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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"Refugees must be able to reunite with their family members"
[04/08/08] Family unity is also a human right for refugees, reminds Thomas Hammarberg. As restrictive refugee measures are put in place in a number of European countries, the Commissioner speaks in favour of positive and humane policies which facilitate family reunification, in line with agreed international norms.
Photo©UNHCR/A. Hollmann
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“Hate crimes – the ugly face of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism, Islamophobia and homophobia”
[21/07/08] In this Viewpoint the Commissioner reviews recent episodes of intolerance in different countries and proposes concrete measures to combat hate crimes. He also calls on political leaders to firmly stand up for human rights and respect for diversity. "Hate crimes are a daily reality all over the European continent. Government authorities have a responsibility to put an end to these shameful assaults."
Photo©Pawel Herzog
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"Fighting terrorism – learn the lessons from Northern Ireland"
[11/07/08] Commissioner Hammarberg here reminds that terrorism must be fought with methods which respect human rights and democratic values. “The experience in Northern Ireland underlines once again the importance of addressing the underlying causes of conflict” he says. “Effective programmes to tackle poverty, education gaps and discrimination are necessary as human rights requirements but also in order to prevent social exclusion, anger and violence”.
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“Corruption distorts the system of justice and damages poor people in particular”
[24/06/08] In this Viewpoint, Commissioner Hammarberg focuses on the widespread perception in several European countries that the judiciary is corrupt and that the courts tend to favour people with money and contacts. "Though this perception may sometimes be exaggerated, it should be taken seriously" he says. "What is needed is a comprehensive, high-priority programme to stamp out corruption at all levels and in all public institutions".
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“No one should have to be stateless in today’s Europe”
[09/06/08] The Commissioner assesses the critical situation of statelessness in Europe affirming that “the persistence of ‘legal ghosts’ is unacceptable”. Reviewing concrete examples related to citizenship and residence, Thomas Hammarberg calls on the Council of Europe member States to implement measures to reduce and eliminate statelessness, thus helping prevent conflicts and promote social cohesion.
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“Strong data protection rules are needed to prevent the emergence of a surveillance society”
[26/05/08] In this Viewpoint, Thomas Hammarberg focuses on the need to reinforce people’s protection from improper collecting, storing and use of their data. If States have the duty to fight against terrorism and organised crime, they must ensure that private information is not misused. The Commissioner also lays out some key principles to help find a balanced approached between security measures and data protection.
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“Time to recognise that human rights principles apply also to sexual orientation and gender identity”
[14/05/08] "Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people have the same rights as others", recalls Commissioner Hammarberg on the eve of the International Day against Homophobia. He points to the relevance of the Yogyakarta Principles for the protection of LGBT people’s basic human rights, and encourages all States to build on them through concrete action.
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"Aged people are too often ignored and denied their full human rights"
[28/04/08] The rights of old persons are often ignored and sometimes totally denied, says Thomas Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. Recalling a number of protection measures, the Commissioner recommends that European leaders develop adequate policies to improve the living conditions of elderly people.
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“International human rights bodies worldwide need more support and more self-criticism”
[14/04/08] Governments should truly respect the independence of international human rights monitoring mechanisms which they helped set up, declares Thomas Hammarberg. This is a key prerequisite for the efficiency of those bodies, which could themselves better co-ordinate their activities. There is a need for a broader evaluation of ways of improving and strengthening the international human rights system, also drawing lessons from the successes, the many examples of policy reforms, legislative changes and individual measures in which they played some role.
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“The key to the promotion of Roma rights: early and inclusive education”
[31/03/08] Quality education is essential to promote Roma rights and eradicate Antiziganism. Commissioner Hammarberg calls for more efforts to ensure an early and non-discriminatory children schooling, as well as more inclusive education programmes.
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“States should not impose penalties on arriving asylum-seekers”
[17/03/08] In this Viewpoint, the Commissioner for Human Rights expresses his concerns over the detention of refugees and asylum-seekers at their arrival on the European territory. Restriction of their freedom of movement may take place only on exceptional grounds and exclude vulnerable categories, reminds Thomas Hammaberg, while pointing out the need for common European procedures.
Asylum-seekers, Calais, France. Photo © René Collin
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“Mind the gap - women are underpaid all over Europe”
[03/03/08] The gender pay gap is a demonstration of the too many social injustices towards women, says Commissioner Hammarberg. Criticising the fact that women receive lower salaries, the Commissioner advocates a more forceful action by responsible politicians, private employers and trade unions.
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“The protection against torture must be strengthened”
[18/02/08] The very consensus against torture is being challenged by misdirected counter-terrorism strategies, also in Europe. In this Viewpoint, the Commissioner reminds that there shall be no exception to the ban of torture and encourages governments to set up independent, preventive mechanisms to safeguard this major human-rights achievement.
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“Serious human rights violations during anti-terror campaign must be corrected - and never repeated”
[04/02/08] Thomas Hammarberg condemns the illegal methods used during the US-led "war on terror" and call for a reparation of serious human rights violations occurred during anti-terror campaigns. “The full truth about European cooperation with the secret detention and unlawful rendition programmes must be exposed” says the Commissioner. “Victims must be granted reparation and decisions must be taken to ensure that these violations will not be repeated”.
Anti-Guantanamo demonstration outside the Swedish Parliament
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“Europe is moving towards a total ban of domestic violence against children”
[21/01/08] An increasing number of European countries are showing determination to ban domestic violence against children. In this Viewpoint, the Commissioner comments this important step towards the promotion of non-violent methods in child-rearing and equal protection of children and adults against corporal punishment.
Photo©UNICEF
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“An international or European treaty is needed for the protection of women against violence”
[07/01/08] The Commissioner focuses on violence against women and the need for an enhanced effort to protect women’s rights. Proposing some practical measures to address the issue, Thomas Hammarberg also calls for a comprehensive international treaty aimed to “develop legally binding norms for the prevention and prosecution of violence against women".
Photo©UNHCR
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