< Viewpoints

2009 Viewpoints

 

Each child in need should grow up in a safe and stable environment
[28/12/09 10:00]
 “The process of de-institutionalisation of large-scale institutions for orphans and children with disabilities must continue, but it has to be pursued with care in the best interests of the child”, declared Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. Stating that suitable alternatives must be developed and supported by the authorities – also in a period of economic crisis ­ he calls governments to enhance the process of supporting children at risk with a strong political backing and sufficient budget resources. Analysing the existing gaps, he considers that public policies should combine step-by-step closure of the old residential care institutions, determined efforts to support vulnerable families and creation of support services such as foster families. “We know now what to do to protect children in need. What is needed is the political will to turn appropriate programmes into reality”, he concluded.

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Drawing given by a child, Home Rainbow for children with mental disabilities, Sofia.

Commissioner Hammarberg: Andrei Sakharov still an inspiration for human rights activists
[14/12/09 10:00] “The example and thoughts of Andrei Sakharov remain acutely relevant,” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his Viewpoint published today, twenty years after Andrei Sakharov’s death on December 14, 1989. “Sakharov presented a universal vision for a peaceful and progressive society based on human rights standards.” Commissioner Hammarberg is also participating in the conference ‘Andrei Sakharov’s Ideas Today’ which is held in Moscow on 14-15 December. The conference is arranged by the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center with the support of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Information Office of the Council of Europe in Moscow. A video on Andrei Sakharov has also been released for this occasion. (more)
[The press release is also available in Russian]

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“Europe should embrace multiculturalism and avoid narrow definitions of national identities” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[30/11/09 10:00]  “Europe is still not free from racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Minorities are made targets of hate speech, violence and systematic discrimination, not least in the job market”, said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. He asked politicians to take such negative tendencies more seriously. “There is a need to analyse and address the very root causes of these human and political failures. Our ability to interact positively with one another will affect the future of Europe.” (more)

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"UN Child Rights treaty 20 years: Implementation still not satisfactory" says Commissioner Hammarberg
[16/11/09 11:00]  “The 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should be a moment of reflection: many children still suffer grave violations. Their concerns are seldom given top priority in politics" said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “The Convention on the Rights of the Child has become one of the most well-known and broadly supported international human rights treaties. Yet, its actual implementation has been less effective than we anticipated, mainly because of the absence of a systematic, comprehensive approach to children’s rights as a political priority.” (more)

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“Intelligence secrecy is no excuse for covering up human rights violations” says Commissioner
[02/11/09 11:00]  Intelligence agencies have acquired new powers and resources - but they are not kept under sufficient political and judicial control. Governments should improve the oversight of these services” writes Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg in his new Viewpoint article. In particular, he points out the need to control co-operation between agencies in different countries. “Investigations into human rights violations have been prevented with the argument that such exposure would disturb the inter-agency collaboration” he says.

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“Climate change is also a human rights concern” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[19/10/09 09:30]  “The daily lives of millions of people are already being affected by the natural effects of global warming. Basic human rights - such as the right to life, health, food, water, shelter or property - are also threatened” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. Calling for a spirit of global solidarity and the recognition of interdependence among countries, the Commissioner stresses the need to develop a stronger focus on the relationship between climate change and human rights. (more)

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“The death penalty is a fallacious idea of justice” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[05/10/09 09:30]  “Europe is today close to being a death penalty free zone. However, more must be done not only to abolish it, but also to persuade public opinion of the need to protect the right to life in any circumstances” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “Our position on the death penalty indicates the kind of society we want to build. When the State itself kills a human being under its jurisdiction, it sends a message that legitimises extreme violence. The death penalty has a brutalising effect in society.”(more)

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“Persons with mental disabilities should not be deprived of their human rights” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[21/09/09 09:30]  “Individuals with mental health or intellectual disabilities have been treated as non-persons whose decisions are meaningless, even in recent years. They have been deprived of basic human rights” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “Their mere existence has been seen as a problem and they have sometimes been hidden away in remote institutions or in the backrooms of family homes. Though much of this has changed with the progress of the human rights cause, persons with mental health or intellectual disabilities do still face problems relating to their right to take decisions for themselves, also in important matters. Their legal capacity is restricted or deprived completely, and they are placed under the guardianship of someone else who is entitled to take all decisions on their behalf.” (more)

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“The stigmatising of persons with intellectual disabilities is a neglected human rights crisis” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[14/09/09 14:30]  “Decision makers should fight harder against the marginalisation and stigmatisation of people with intellectual disabilities and ensure their participation and integration into society” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.  “Persons with intellectual disabilities are rarely consulted or even listened to and a great number of them continue to be kept in old-style, inhuman institutions. Conditions in some of the “social care homes” are appalling in many countries. In these segregated institutions very little, if any, rehabilitation is provided. Not infrequently, persons with intellectual disabilities are placed together with persons having psychiatric problems and unnecessarily given sedatives against their will. They are in some cases deprived of their liberty and treated as if they were dangerous.” (more)

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“Flawed enforcement of court decisions undermines the trust in State justice” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[31/08/09 10:00]  “Court decisions are not fully respected in several European countries. This must be seen as a refusal to accept the rule of law and is a serious human rights problem” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “Court decisions in these countries are often enforced only partly or with long delays - or sometimes not at all. This is a structural problem which should require the national authorities to take priority action.”  Cases of non-enforcement of domestic judicial decisions are raised in a great number of complaints to the Strasbourg Court of human rights. Among countries with such cases are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine.  (more)

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“Serious implementation of human rights standards requires defined benchmarking indicators” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[17/08/09 10:30] “Closing the implementation gap between the rights proclaimed in human rights treaties and the reality in member states requires a systematic approach and meaningful indicators” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.Highlighting models and categories of indicators adopted by international organisations such as the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations, the Commissioner stresses that “indicators make human rights planning and implementation processes more efficient and transparent. They make it easier to hold governments accountable for the realisation of human rights and also help highlight success through accurate criteria.”(more)

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State budgets reveal whether the government is committed to human rights
[03/08/09 09:30] “The current economic crisis has made it particularly important to screen state budgets for their compliance with human rights” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “The allocation of resources will affect human rights protection - including gender equality, children’s rights and the situation of old or disabled persons, migrants and other groups which risk being disadvantaged. The way state revenues are obtained will also have an influence on justice and fairness in society; in this regard no tax system is neutral.” (more)

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“Ethnic and religious profiling clashes with human rights standards” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[20/07/09 09:30] In his latest Viewpoint published today, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, states that “members of minorities are more often that others stopped by the police, asked for identity papers, questioned and searched. They are victims of ‘ethnic profiling’, a form of discrimination which is widespread in today’s Europe. Such methods clash with agreed human rights standards. They tend also to be counter-productive as they discourage people from cooperating with police efforts to detect real crimes.”(more)
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“States should put an end to Roma statelessness” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[06/07/09 10:30] “States should employ all possible means to end the statelessness of Roma and provide them with a nationality” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, releasing his Viewpoint today.“There are Roma in a number of European countries who have no nationality and live outside social protection. They face a double jeopardy as being stateless makes life even harder for those who are already stigmatized and facing a plethora of serious, discrimination-related problems. For those who happen to be migrants as well, their situation is even worse.“(more)
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"The International Criminal Court should be defended and strengthened" says Commissioner Hammarberg
[22/06/09 09:30] “European countries should defend the International Criminal Court and request the withdrawal of impunity for US nationals” says the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, releasing his latest Viewpoint today. “It is high time that the US policies towards the International Criminal Court are reviewed in the spirit of active and positive cooperation with the Court. The new US administration should contribute to making the Court an effective instrument of last resort against impunity for crimes that have gone unpunished despite their horrendous character”. The Commissioner criticises, in particular, the full-scale campaign against the Court, including the political and diplomatic pressure by former US administrations on a number of Council of Europe members states. He encourages European states which have still not ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, to come on board. “An effective and independent international justice mechanism is still needed” (more)
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"International organisations should be accountable when they act as quasi governments" says Commissioner Hammarberg
[08/06/09 14:00] “An international accountability deficit is no good for anyone, least of all the local population. No-one, especially an international organisation, is above the law” states Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint published today. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights underlines that “when international organisations exercise executive and legislative control as a surrogate state they must be bound by the same checks and balances as we require from a democratic government. Lack of accountability may undermine public confidence in the international organisation and thereby its moral authority to govern. It also promotes a climate of impunity and sets a negative model for domestic governments.” (more) 
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Commissioner: "Governments should welcome complaints about social rights"
[25/05/09 14:00] “The protection of social rights is particularly critical during times of economic crisis”, writes Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg in his most recent fortnightly Viewpoint. He welcomes the new ratifications of the revised European Social Charter by Hungary and the Slovak Republic and urges states to become parties to a special procedure for collective complaints. This procedure allows for trade unions, employers' organizations and other civil society groups to file complaints to the European Committee of Social Rights. “It has already been shown that input from such bodies have made the Charter more relevant and effective”, stresses the Commissioner. (more)
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“The response to the economic crisis should lead to more equality” says Commissioner Hammarberg
[11/05/09 11:00] “A serious attempt to address the enormous gaps between the wealthy and the destitute is long overdue” commented the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, today in his latest Viewpoint.The Commissioner points out inequalities and injustices which afflict European societies and calls for better protection of vulnerable groups. “Measures against the economic crisis should not only focus on restoring the banking system and encouraging investment and more spending” he says. “There is also an urgent need to protect the marginalised and restore social justice.”(more...)
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"Anti-gypsyism continues to be a major human rights problem in Europe" says Commissioner Hammarberg
[27/04/09 09:30]
“In spite of pledges made to combat anti-gypsyism, Roma rights continue to be violated all over Europe” said today Thomas Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint, stressing that the Roma population faces long-lasting high levels of discrimination in the continent.The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights therefore calls on European governments to take more effective and inclusive actions for the Roma. Furthermore, he reaffirms the importance for leading politicians and other opinion makers to avoid anti-Roma rhetoric and to stand up for principles of non-discrimination, tolerance and respect for people from different backgrounds.
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"Racism: Europeans ought to be more self-critical and remain open to thorough and frank UN discussions"
[14/04/09 11:30]
“Europe is not a racism-free zone” points out Thomas Hammarberg in his Viewpoint published today and goes on to say that “hate crimes must be stopped and action taken against discrimination in employment, education, housing, sport and other social contexts.” The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urges all governments to be self-critical and participate constructively in the UN Conference which will meet in Geneva from 20-24 April to review the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action against racism and intolerance adopted in 2001 in the framework of the first World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
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"Foreign policy should be based on a principled approach to human rights"
[30/03/09 12:00]
“The protection of human rights is not only a national but also an international concern and responsibility”, said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today. Pointing out that European governments have an obvious self interest in stability and peace, Commissioner Hammarberg encourages them to have a meaningful and sincere dialogue on human rights to find effective ways to implement active foreign policies based on human rights. “Several governments in Europe are now guided by a strategy directive for human rights in their foreign affairs policy. This has proved to be an effective way of clarifying basic principles and priorities. The adoption of such directives and reports on their implementation has provided a sound basis for in-depth discussions on human rights in foreign relations.”
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  "After the human rights breakdown during the “war on terror”, the damage must be assessed and corrective action taken"
[16/03/09 10:45]
“Since 2001, many European governments have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined basic values and violated human rights. They must now review their own conduct and take corrective action” declared the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his latest Viewpoint published today. Underlying that the exchange of intelligence information is needed to prevent terrorist acts, Commissioner Hammarberg added that inter-agency co-operation must respect the integrity of the international human rights legal framework and in any case should not result in human rights violations. “The work of intelligence agencies, including their international co-operation, must be regulated in line with human rights standards”, he concluded.
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"Think globally, act locally - for human rights"
[02/03/09 10:45]
“Local politicians and public officials should seize the opportunity to enhance the quality of life in their communities by implementing human rights in their ordinary work” says Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stresses that “authorities at local or regional level take key decisions in areas extremely relevant for individuals’ human rights, such as education, housing, health care, social services and policing. These decision-makers should therefore apply European and international human rights standards when they formulate their policies and ensure that their approach is rights-based.”
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"National parliaments can do more to promote human rights"
[16/02/09 10:30]
“Parliamentarians have an important role to play in building a sustainable human rights culture in their own country. More concrete discussion is needed about how this particular responsibility can be exercised” commented the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his latest Viewpoint published today. “Law-making is not the only aspect of parliamentary work with relevance to human rights” says the Commissioner. “The adoption of a state’s budget and action plans, for example, are examples of parliamentary initiatives that can contribute to promoting and protecting human rights. Moreover, their role is fundamental in ensuring that a government’s human rights pledges are not forgotten.”
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"Children should not be treated as criminals"
[02/02/09 10:30]
“Children should not be treated as criminals. Young offenders are children first and foremost and should be protected by all the agreed relevant human rights standards” says the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his latest Viewpoint. Analysing the “disturbing trend in Europe to lock up more children at an earlier age” the Commissioner underlines the need to find alternative solutions to children’s imprisonment and to reinforce preventive measures. “Time has come to move the argument away from fixing an arbitrary age for criminal responsibility. Governments should now look for a holistic solution to juvenile offending”.
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Equal justice
under law

"Europe must open its doors to Guantanamo Bay detainees cleared for release"
[19/01/09 11:00] "While the United States has created the Guantánamo problem and has the primary responsibility for correcting the injustices, there are strong arguments for European assistance in closing Guantánamo Bay, writes Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. To achieve this goal, Council of Europe member states should stand ready to receive some of those remaining detainees who cannot go back home for fear of persecution and torture if returned. Giving such an offer would be both the right thing to do, and of critical importance in our attempts to push for the prompt closure of Guantánamo Bay.
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"Discrimination against transgender persons must no longer be tolerated"
[05/01/09 09:45] "Transgender persons encounter severe problems in their daily lives as their identity is met with insensitivity, prejudice or outright rejection" says Commissioner Hammarberg in his latest Viewpoint. Analysing the various difficulties transgender people face, the Commissioner underlines that "they are discriminated against in all member states, in areas such as employment, health care and housing". He concludes calling on member states to "take all necessary concrete action to ensure that transphobia is stopped and that transgender persons are no longer discriminated against in any field."
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