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Society has an obligation to support abandoned children and offer them a positive home environment – also when budget resources are limited

28/12/2009 Strasbourg

The notorious large-scale institutions for orphans and children with disabilities are being phased out, including in the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This process of de-institutionalisation must continue, but it has to be pursued with care in the best interests of the...

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Human rights activists all over Europe are still learning from the example of Andrei Sakharov

14/12/2009 Strasbourg

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a unique person of whom both Russia and Europe should be proud. He became a voice of moral conscience which could not be silenced even by the repressive machine of a super power. His principled messages inspired others and contributed to the non-violent,...

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Multiculturalism is an important dimension of our national identities

30/11/2009 Strasbourg

Europe today is not free from racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, anti-Gypsism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other phobias directed against others. Minorities are made targets of hate speech, violence and systematic discrimination, not least in the job market. Responsible politicians must take...

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Realising children’s rights requires more than rhetoric – systematic and concrete actions are now needed

16/11/2009 Strasbourg

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has become one of the most well-known and broadly supported international human rights treaties. Practically all the states in the world have ratified it and thereby legally bound themselves to implement its provisions. As a result, the situation of...

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Intelligence secrecy must not be used as an excuse to ignore or cover up human rights violations

02/11/2009 Strasbourg

Lessons are only now being learned from the breakdown of human rights which followed the US-led “war on terror” after September 2001. While more and more detailed and shocking information is gradually emerging about systematic torture, secret detentions and other serious human rights violations,...

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Climate change is causing an unprecedented, global human rights crisis – and must now be countered by co-ordinated, rights-based action

19/10/2009 Strasbourg

The daily lives of millions are already being affected by the effects of global warming: desertification, droughts, flooding or cyclones. Basic human rights - such as the right to life, health, food, water, shelter or property - are threatened. The ones who will suffer most are those who are...

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It is still necessary to act for the abolition of the death penalty

05/10/2009 Strasbourg

Step by step the death penalty is being abolished. Most countries of the world have now stopped using this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment: 94 states have decided on total abolition, 10 have abolished the penalty for all ordinary crimes and 35 others have not executed anyone for more than...

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Persons with mental disabilities should be assisted but not deprived of their individual human rights

21/09/2009 Strasbourg

Individuals with mental health or intellectual disabilities have been discriminated, stigmatised and repressed even in recent years. 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. They have been...

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A neglected human rights crisis: persons with intellectual disabilities are still stigmatised and excluded

14/09/2009 Strasbourg

People with intellectual disabilities tend to be among the most marginalised. Even today their treatment is clearly inhuman in country after country, even in Europe. They have limited possibilities to make themselves heard and this has contributed to making their situation a hidden human rights...

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Flawed enforcement of court decisions undermines the trust in State justice

31/08/2009 Strasbourg

Court decisions in several European countries are often enforced only partly or with long delay - or sometimes not at all. This is one of the most frequent problems identified by the European Court of Human Rights (the Strasbourg Court). Flawed execution of final court decisions must be seen as a...

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Serious implementation of human rights standards requires that benchmarking indicators are defined

17/08/2009 Strasbourg

A gap still exists between the rights proclaimed in human rights treaties and the reality in member states. Closing this implementation gap is crucial for all human rights work today. It requires a systematic approach, including effective collection of relevant data and comprehensive planning...

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Stop and searches on ethnic or religious grounds are not effective

20/07/2009 Strasbourg

Members of minorities are more often than 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...

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Many Roma in Europe are stateless and live outside social protection

06/07/2009 Strasbourg

There are Roma in a number of European countries who have no nationality. They face a double jeopardy - 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,...

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European countries should defend the International Criminal Court and request the US authorities to withdraw the idea of impunity for US nationals

22/06/2009 Strasbourg

The new administration in Washington has taken several encouraging steps to undo the damage to human rights protection caused by its predecessors. Torture is no longer accepted, the Guantanamo detention centre will be closed and secret interrogation prisons will no longer be used. Yet, another...

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International Organisations acting as quasi-governments should be held accountable

08/06/2009 Strasbourg

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. Potential abuse of governmental power is combated in normal democracies by a separation of powers between...

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Governments should open up channels for civil society complaints against violations of social rights

25/05/2009 Strasbourg

The protection of social rights will be further tested during the current economic crisis. Like other human rights they are enshrined in treaties agreed by governments, one of them being the European Social Charter . The challenge is to ensure that these agreements are enforced in reality. This...

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The response to the crisis must include a shift towards more equality

11/05/2009 Strasbourg

Measures against the economic crisis should not only focus on restoring the banking system and encouraging investments and more spending. There is also an urgent need to protect vulnerable groups from injustice. To prevent a financial meltdown governments have used colossal amounts of tax payers’...

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Anti-Gypsyism continues to be a major human rights problem in Europe – governments must start taking serious action against both official and inter-personal discrimination of Roma

27/04/2009 Strasbourg

New pledges were made on International Roma Day to combat anti-Gypsyism. At the same time we received information that a group of Roma children, arrested in Kosice in eastern Slovakia, had been forced to strip and slap one another violently in the face in the police station where they were held....

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Racism: Europeans ought to be more self-critical and remain open to thorough and frank UN discussions

14/04/2009 Strasbourg

Europe is not a racism-free zone. An intensified struggle against xenophobia and intolerance is acutely needed in most European countries. Hate crimes must be stopped and action taken against discrimination in employment, education, housing, sport and other social contexts. All this requires an...

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Foreign policy should be based on a principled approach to human rights

30/03/2009 Strasbourg

Some governments take an active approach to human rights in their foreign policies. Others are more cautious or even oppose what they see as meddling into the internal affairs of others. My view is that European governments should also pursue the values enshrined in international treaties,...

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After the human rights breakdown during the 'war on terror', the damage must be assessed and corrective action taken

16/03/2009 Strasbourg

The Obama administration has banned torture during interrogation of terrorist suspects and declared that the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America can no longer use secret prisons in the United States or abroad. The detention camp in Guantánamo Bay will be closed within one...

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Think globally, act locally - for human rights

02/03/2009 Strasbourg

The struggle for human rights is also a local affair. Authorities at local or regional level take key decisions on education, housing, health care, social services and policing – areas extremely relevant for people’s human rights. These decision-makers should apply European and international...

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National parliaments can do more to promote human rights

16/02/2009 Strasbourg

The ideal parliamentarian is also a human rights defender. Elected representatives of national parliamentary bodies should give priority to the promotion of freedoms and the protection of justice. More concrete discussion is needed about how this particular responsibility can be exercised to...

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Children should not be treated as criminals

02/02/2009 Strasbourg

There is a disturbing trend in Europe today to lock up more children at an earlier age. The age of criminal responsibility is already very low in some countries, such as the United Kingdom. Suggestions to lower the age limit to 12 years old have recently been made in France, while a similar law...

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Europe must open its doors to Guantanamo Bay detainees cleared for release

19/01/2009 Strasbourg

The closure of the United States military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay seems at last in sight. President-elect Barack Obama has indicated that closing the camp is one of his priorities. But questions remain as to how this will be done. Europe should offer its help and accept a number of the...

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Discrimination against transgender persons must no longer be tolerated

05/01/2009 Strasbourg

During missions to member states of the Council of Europe, I have been reminded of the on-going discrimination many face on account of their gender identity1. Transgender persons encounter severe problems in their daily lives as their identity is met with insensitivity, prejudice or outright...

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