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The new European migration policy should be based on human rights principles, not xenophobia

17/12/2007 Strasbourg

The demographic trend in Europe gives a clear message: the ageing continent needs more immigration. However, anti-foreigner parties have advanced or maintained their strong position in recent elections. At the same time, some of the mainstream parties - instead of explaining facts and defending...

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There must be no impunity for police violence

03/12/2007 Strasbourg

Police brutality is still a grave problem in several European countries. During my missions I have received numerous allegations against the police of unprovoked violence before, during and after arrest. When I have asked the victims why they have not filed complaints, the answer has often been...

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Listen seriously to the views of children

19/11/2007 Strasbourg

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been a remarkable success. It has not only been ratified by all countries of the world except the United States and Somalia, it has also acted as a catalyst for a series of concrete actions for real implementation of the agreed norms. However, much...

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Time to re-examine the use of life sentences

12/11/2007 Strasbourg

There is now a trend in Europe towards more life sentences for an increasing number of convicts. Many of those sentenced to life-long imprisonment are deprived of the possibility of ever being freed, they are “actual lifers”. This is a reaction to incidents of extremely serious, violent and...

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No one should have to be homeless – adequate housing is a right

29/10/2007 Strasbourg

All cities over our continent have a population of homeless persons – often in poor health. We can see them spending their nights under bridges or on park benches. They are living proof of failed social policy. Less visible are the extremely primitive housing conditions for many migrants and...

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Long delays in court proceedings threaten the rule of law

15/10/2007 Strasbourg

Courts in Europe are not all perfect. One unfortunate reality in many countries is the excessively lengthy proceedings. In spite of a broad recognition that “justice delayed is justice denied”, too little has been done to secure conclusions in courts within a reasonable time. We know this because...

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Media diversity: a core element of true democracy

01/10/2007 Strasbourg

Governments often complain about the mass media in their own country; they feel that their messages are distorted and unfairly criticized. True, there are media outlets which are not very serious and professional. However, this problem should not be exaggerated and is not a good excuse for...

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“Investigative journalists and whistle blowers must be protected

17/09/2007 Strasbourg

In Europe today journalists are threatened or even put in prison for merely doing their job. Individuals who provide information to the Media about abuse of power or corruption run the risk of dismissal or worse. Such tendencies undermine democracy and must be countered through a clearly...

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States should protect the right of individuals to apply to the Strasbourg Court

03/09/2007 Strasbourg

The right of individuals to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has to be protected. Governments must not try to hinder anyone from submitting a complaint and they must cooperate fully when the Court examines a case – relevant national documentation should willingly be...

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The slow march towards gender balance in politics

29/08/2007 Strasbourg

The distribution of power between men and women is still very unequal. This was the underlying motivation for a milestone recommendation by the Council of Europe four years ago. The Committee of Ministers agreed on action for “balanced participation of women and men in political and public...

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Children in migration should get better protection

06/08/2007 Strasbourg

Migrant children are one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe today. Some of them have fled persecution or war, others have run away from poverty and destitution. There are also those who are victims of trafficking. At particular risk are those who are separated from their families and have no...

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Victims of human rights violations deserve more

23/07/2007 Strasbourg

Torturers and others who violate human rights should be brought to account – at the same time, we should not forget the victims. What they have gone through tends in many cases to cause distressing trauma, disruption of everyday life and destruction of the future. Justice requires that redress is...

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Europe is not free from child poverty – concrete action is needed

09/07/2007 Strasbourg

Poverty among children and young people was one of Gordon Brown’s priorities when he formed his new government. This is to be welcomed. It is important to give new strength to the fight against child poverty, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over Europe. Clearly, the first step is to...

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Security agencies must be put under democratic control

25/06/2007 Strasbourg

We know that European national security services have taken part in the US-lead “war on terror”. They have cooperated in actions which have violated human rights in the most flagrant manner. The leading and coordinating role has been played by the American CIA, but European agencies must assume...

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Do not criminalize critical remarks against religions

11/06/2007 Strasbourg

The famous little mermaid in the port of Copenhagen was found dressed in a headscarf recently, according to media reports. No one took responsibility for this provocative action – maybe it was just a joke, maybe it was intended as a message in the debate about the lack of respect for Muslims....

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Racial and religious profiling must not be used in the combat against terrorism

29/05/2007 Strasbourg

Profiling has been increasingly used in the fight against terrorism since nine eleven: from the German data-mining initiatives to identify so-called terrorist “sleepers”, to the United Kingdom’s stop and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000, and beyond to EU policy. The fear of further terrorist...

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Homophobic policies are slow to disappear

16/05/2007 Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights has recently taken another significant decision against tendencies of homophobia. A non-governmental group in Poland, the Foundation for Equality, had been denied permission to organise a demonstration in Warsaw on their “Equality Days” two years ago. The Court...

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Judges must be independent and protected from both political and economic pressure

30/04/2007 Strasbourg

Former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe have experienced the challenge of moving from a system in which judges served the political interests of the regime, to an order based on the rule of law. While progress has been made in many areas, I have observed that the independence of...

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The Greek case became a defining lesson for human rights policies in Europe

18/04/2007 Strasbourg

Forty years have now passed since the military take-over in Athens. The coup in the early morning of 21 April 1967 was a shock for democrats all over Europe: how was it possible that a simple group of colonels could wipe out democracy in one of the oldest member states of the Council of Europe?...

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Roma job seekers are discriminated against

02/04/2007 Strasbourg

Roma do not get jobs, they are put in a “glass box”. This is a conclusion of a survey published by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in Budapest. In Central and South Eastern European countries employment discrimination is still endemic and blatant. For Romani job-seekers the vacancies are...

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Lustration must not turn into revenge against former collaborators

19/03/2007 Strasbpirg

Countries moving from totalitarian rule to authentic democracy have to settle accounts with the past. Persons who committed gross human rights violations must of course be prosecuted and barred from holding public office. It is also necessary to reform and screen the judiciary, law enforcement...

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Prisoners should be treated with dignity

05/03/2007 Strasbourg

Conditions in prisons are appalling in several European countries. In some cases the treatment of the inmates is clearly inhuman and degrading. This is not acceptable as prisoners also have human rights. It may not be popular to invest in the improvement of detention centres but governments have...

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Prevent trafficking in human beings by addressing the root causes

19/02/2007 Strasbourg

There has been much talk about trafficking in human beings, but not enough action. UNICEF and Terre des Hommes recently reported on the failure to protect children from traffickers in South-Eastern Europe. They requested stronger action to address the root causes and the patterns of supply and...

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Past human rights crimes should not be denied - instead we must remember and learn

05/02/2007 Strasbourg

Europe may pride itself on a decent human rights record today, but it has a bloody history. During the last century, some of the worst crimes against humanity were committed on our continent. It is important that these heinous violations be exposed, remembered and presented in an open, honest and...

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Muslims are discriminated against in Europe

22/01/2007 Strasbourg

European Muslims have met a more hostile social climate since 11 September 2001. The murder of a Dutch film director and the fatal bombings in Madrid and London have further exacerbated prejudices and fuelled more incidents of hostility and aggression. Islamophobia is a widespread phenomenon all...

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It is wrong to punish the child victim

08/01/2007 Strasbourg

These days there are two very different approaches to juvenile crimes. One is to lock up more children at younger ages for more crimes. The other trend – in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – is to avoid criminalisation and to seek family-based or other social...

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