"The Andorran authorities intend to respect their obligations to ensure human rights protection in the country. However, further efforts are needed, for example to prevent domestic violence, protect against discrimination, and promote national independent monitoring of human rights standards", said the Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, at the end of a two-day visit to the country.
The Commissioner recommends that the authorities continue to give priority to extending assistance to victims of domestic violence and to allow longer stays in the shelter. "As in other places, in Andorra victims of domestic violence tend to suffer in silence. Measures to better protect such persons, who are predominantly women, should be adopted, including a wider use of restraining orders to oblige offenders to leave the house, the adoption of a specific law addressing gender-based violence, awareness-raising to dismantle cultural stereotypes and measures to address the reluctance of those subject to violence to report the problem." Commissioner Hammarberg also calls for an explicit prohibition of corporal punishment of children.
In relation to discrimination issues, the Commissioner calls upon the Andorran government to ease the requirements to apply for Andorran citizenship. "As the Andorran authorities themselves have recognised, the 20-year residence requirement is far too long. In this connection the Commissioner recommends the ratification by Andorra of the European Convention on Nationality."
Discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other state services is prohibited. However, non-governmental organisations have pointed out that there is a gap in what is written in the law and the situation in reality. "This gap must be bridged" added the Commissioner, "there is the need to increase the awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities and the removal of all barriers, physical and cultural, which impede persons with disabilities from living in dignity.
Some of the officials met by the Commissioner stressed the need to conduct evaluation to ensure the proper implementation and effectiveness of social assistance programme. This is all the more important in period of economic crisis. As concerns monitoring of human rights standards by independent national bodies, the Commissioner considers it necessary to reinforce the national system in order to ensure that the country has a national mechanism for the prevention of torture.
Finally, in view of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers that Andorra will take up next November, the Commissioner recommends the ratification of several treaties, including the Council of Europe conventions on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.