Back Annual Report 2022: Commissioner Mijatović calls for renewed commitment to human rights protection to address numerous systemic problems

Annual report 2022
Strasbourg 24/04/2023
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Annual Report 2022: Commissioner Mijatović calls for renewed commitment to human rights protection to address numerous systemic problems

“The protection of human rights in Europe has suffered serious setbacks in 2022,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, presenting her Annual Report today. “A renewed commitment to human rights is needed to reverse the trend.”

The report largely focuses on the atrocities committed by the Russian Federation in its military attack on Ukraine. “The appalling crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine must not go unpunished. Justice must be done, including through effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court and long-term support for the Ukrainian justice system,” the Commissioner writes. This includes addressing violations of the human rights of Ukrainian children transferred to the Russian Federation or temporarily occupied territories, some of whom have been given Russian citizenship in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.

The Commissioner also stresses that the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Europe shows a consistent and deliberate failure by many member states to uphold their international human rights obligations in this area. “Pushbacks, refusals to rescue boats in distress, inhumane conditions and treatment are the common features of an approach to migration disproportionately focused on security that endangers human lives. Instead of continuing down this path, member states should focus on providing safe and legal routes, humanitarian assistance along migration routes and search and rescue at sea.”

2022 was also marked by a pervasive climate of intolerance, hostility and even violence against LGBTI people. “The political instrumentalisation of issues related to their human rights, such as the legal recognition of same-sex couples or their right to family life, has only served to increase hostility and disinformation against LGBTI people and to polarise society,” writes the Commissioner, stressing that this situation is a symptom of a wider problem of regression in the commitment to ensuring equal rights for all.

The Commissioner also stresses that the space for civil society, human rights defenders and individuals in general to exercise fundamental freedoms has continued to shrink.

Another area where progress is still needed is the protection and promotion of women's rights and gender equality. Women and girls in Europe still face significant challenges, such as gender-based violence and obstacles in accessing their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where she presented the report, the Commissioner stressed that the European system of human rights protection is strong enough to address and reverse this negative trend. “Commitment to upholding human rights standards has been waning in many of our member states for a number of years. However, in all my country visits and thematic work, I meet national authorities, NGOs, journalists, human rights defenders, activists, national human rights and Ombudsman institutions who continue to defend and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law, sometimes at great personal risk. I call on state authorities to recommit to the founding values of our organisation and to create an enabling environment to facilitate the exercise of human rights by all.”