Tag Archives: Human Rights

COVI19: Italian military to control migrants

The Italian government will send soldiers to Sicily to stop recently arrived migrants leaving holding centers after a raft of breakouts in recent days, including some by people who had been quarantined to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The government ensured citizens and toursists none of the escapees had tested positive for the virus and that most had been caught soon after breaking out of the facilities.

But the breakouts are adding to unease over rising numbers of migrants who have made their way across the Mediterranean in recent weeks. Italy largely tamed the virus after one of the longest and strictest lockdowns among Western countries. Everyday life is returning to something approaching normalcy. A requirement to wear masks in enclosed places is one of the few hints the virus is still circulating.

So far in July, 5,583 migrants have arrived in Italy, almost five times as in the same month last year, though fewer than in the crush who came during the height of the European migrant crisis. So far this year, around 12,500 have arrived, compared with about 180,000 who came in 2016 alone.

The government now plans to make it all but impossible for new migrants to break free from their initial quarantine by confining them for two weeks on a large ship that will lie off the southern coast of Sicily before transferring them to migrant centers on land. It isn’t yet clear when the ship will be in place and, meanwhile, migrants centers have filled beyond their capacity in recent days. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has promised to transfer 500 migrants from Sicily to other parts of Italy by July 28.

The government has assigned soldiers to prevent migrants leaving the holding centers. The first soldiers were due to arrive in the area on Tuesday and their numbers will eventually reach about 400, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Italy eventually slowed the initial flow of migrants by striking an agreement with authorities in Libya, the main point of departure, to fund and train the Libyan coast guard along with the European Union.

From January to July this year, 4,537 Tunisians reached Italy, more than five times the number by the same timline last year.

EU-Georgia human rights dialogue

The EU and Georgia held the 13th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue by video-conference on 2 July 2020. Reviewing developments since the previous dialogue in May 2019, the dialogue allowed as previously for an open, constructive exchange on the human rights situation in Georgia, on Georgia’s commitment to making sustainable progress in human rights protection and on the latest developments with the EU’s policy for the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights.

The sides stressed their commitment to the universality of human rights for all, regardless of religion or belief, ethnic origin, race, sex, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or other. The EU and Georgia welcomed progress on human rights protection in Georgia, and acknowledged the particular challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to international human rights protection.

The EU reaffirmed its support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The EU expressed concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, especially with regard to ethnic discrimination in particular towards ethnic Georgians, restriction of freedom of movement, including for health care and access to other social services, arbitrary detentions, violation of property rights and education in mother tongue, as well as about the persistent obstacles to the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

The EU and Georgia reaffirmed that the Russian Federation has an obligation to implement the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, and stressed the need for tangible results in the Geneva International Discussions in order to solve the security and human rights challenges of people affected by the conflict. The EU expressed deep concern about the complete closure of the administrative boundary line in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia since September 2019, which has led to critical humanitarian consequences in Akhalgori district particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic. The sides underlined the importance of ending impunity in the cases of deprivation of life of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria. The EU and Georgia stressed the need for unhindered access by international humanitarian and human rights mechanisms of the relevant international organisations, as well as the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), to both Georgian regions. The EU encouraged increased efforts in addressing the fate of missing persons with a view to giving closure. The EU reiterated its support to Georgia’s peace initiative “A Step to a Better Future” aimed at improving the socio-economic situation of conflict-affected people and at building confidence among the divided communities and welcomed its implementation

The EU welcomed the adoption of the constitutional amendments in Parliament on 29 June 2020 that establish a more proportional electoral system and will promote greater parliamentary pluralism. The EU raised the importance of adopting, with broad parliamentary support, ambitious electoral reform legislation arising from the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations as well as the importance of its timely adoption and effective implementation. Both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining a free and pluralistic media environment, and political pluralism as a prerequisite for the conduct of democratic elections, including in the context of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The parties agreed on the importance of the fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and committed to upholding them for all.

The EU welcomes progress on support to those belonging to ethnic minorities and ensuring civic integration processes in Georgia and encourages Georgia to continue efforts to improve the participation of women and representatives of those belonging to ethnic minorities in all areas of public life.

The EU recalled the importance of combating all forms of discrimination and of protection and better integration of those belonging to vulnerable groups including LGBTI persons. The EU welcomed Georgia’s efforts to continue ensuring the effective implementation of its anti-discrimination law and strengthening the policy framework. The EU also encouraged Georgia to progress on legislation and coordinated efforts to deliver real benefits in the lives of persons with disabilities.

The EU noted progress made in combatting domestic violence and all violence against women, hate crimes and discrimination, and ensuring victim-centred investigations. The EU recalled the importance of implementing commitments related to the Istanbul Convention.

The Georgian Inter-Agency Human Rights Council’s meaningful cooperation with civil society was recalled and the EU encouraged Georgia to continue integrating the voice of civil society into the policy making process. The valuable ongoing work of the Public Defender’s Office and the new State Inspectorate Service was also discussed and the important role of independent oversight bodies in holding governments to account and in shaping laws and policies.

The EU welcomed progress in the implementation of the Law on Occupational Safety to all sectors of the economy and again encouraged efforts to ensure that the labour inspectorate is transformed into a fully-fledged labour inspectorate. The EU welcomed the adoption of the Child Rights Code and progress with the Juvenile Justice Code as part of necessary efforts to address the situation of children in vulnerable situations and children in situations of extreme poverty. The EU stressed the importance of finalising the deinstitutionalisation process.

The EU noted the considerable progress made in and priority attached by Georgia to preventing torture and ill-treatment. The EU welcomed the ongoing reform of the penitentiary and crime prevention systems under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and human-centred corona responses of the Special Penitentiary Service. The EU looked forward to the continued implementation of all recommendations of the Committee on the Prevention of Torture and of the National Preventive Mechanism.

The parties highlighted the importance of coordinated work to protect and promote human rights utilising national policy mechanisms, such as the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan. The parties also agreed to continue to identify ways to further strengthen their cooperation on human rights issues in multilateral fora, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe and on the importance of strengthening multilateralism. The EU welcomed Georgia’s achievements under its Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The EU also welcomed Georgia’s continued active engagement in the “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative. In line with its policy of consulting civil society ahead of its meetings on human rights, the EU drew on the valuable input of Georgian and international NGOs and international and regional organisations active in Georgia.

The Georgian delegation was headed by Mr. Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs while the EU delegation was led by Mr Richard Tibbels, Head of Division in the European External Action Service. The dialogue took place back-to-back with the Justice, Freedom and Security Subcommittee meeting on 1 July. The next Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Georgia is scheduled to take place in Tbilisi in 2021.

EU prolongs Belarus arms embargo

Today the Council decided to prolong the restrictive measures against Belarus for one year, until 28 February 2021. These measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment that could be used for internal repression, as well as an asset freeze and travel ban against four people designated in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and in 2000.

The Council also prolonged the derogation to the restrictive measures to allow the export of biathlon equipment and limited number of specific-use sporting rifles and sporting pistols to Belarus, which remain subject to prior authorisation by national competent authorities on a case by case basis.

The restrictive measures against Belarus were initially introduced in 2004 in response to the disappearance of the four persons referred to above. Additional restrictive measures were adopted in 2011 against those involved in the violation of international electoral standards and international human rights law, as well as in the crackdown on civil society and democratic opposition. The arms embargo was introduced in the same year.

On 15 February 2016, the Council decided to lift the restrictive measures against 170 individuals and four companies, while maintaining the arms embargo and the sanctions against the four persons.

Image: illustration EU Council Europa building interior

Turkey remains candidate country

I will say a word on Turkey… which remains a candidate country, a key partner and a strategically important neighbour for the European Union, also given its proximity to a very volatile Middle East, whose stability is a key priority for both of us. The Turkish government states its commitment to European Union accession but we see the country continues to move further away from the European Union” EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said, addressing Brussels press corps.

“We believe it would be beneficial for all and in particular for the Turkish citizens if this trend is reversed urgently, which we will obviously always welcome.”

“We also emphasize the importance of good neighbourly relations and avoiding tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and you have seen my recent statements in particular on this issue.”

 

 

 

Europarliament Human Rights week

The European Parliament is organising a week of events for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A High Level Conference will focus on how to integrate human rights in business, sustainable development and external actionBetter social security for cross-border workers is on the table. The aim is to allow them to receive unemployment benefits and health services even when they’ve changed country. (Image above: Catalan protests).

Members vote to better protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest. They would have legal and financial aid and help protecting their identity. Members vote on rules to limit workers’ exposure to new cancer-causing chemicals, particularly in laboratories, construction work and the textile industry. Parliament debates clear regulations on autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars and automated aircraft. It wants to promote real-life testing and new research, while ensuring data protection and consumer safety.

“Absurd” accusations against Hungary

This morning, Hungarian Minister Gergely Gulyás  (pictured) made it clear that the pro-immigration political parties in the European Parliament will stop at nothing to push their ideological agenda. In an information note on the Article 7 procedure Minister described their action as a ‘political accusation disguised as rule of law concerns’.

As a result of a political decision, there is an ongoing political procedure against Hungary, despite the many attempts to disguise them as rule-of-law concerns.” said Gergely Gulyás, Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office, at a press conference this morning,

The European Parliament takes positions on matters, which don’t belong under the European Union’s competence” he added. “We believe that the accusation stating there is a systemic threat to rule-of-law in Hungary is completely absurd,” Gulyás concluded. “… The European Parliament’s adoption of the decision is not valid,  and we are challenging it in the European Court of Justice“.

On Monday, November 12  the Council of the European Union will assess the Sargentini Report, examining the European Parliament’s recommendation to pursue an Article 7 procedure against Hungary based on the MEP Judith Sargentini  research findings. Since its publication, the Report was criticized by the Hungarian government, pointing at its highly subjective vision, and a deliberate omittance and distortion of reality.

Earlier this month at the Congress of the European People’s party in Helsinki Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban warned about the risks illegal mass migration imposition on sovereign nations represents for  the future of the European project.

MEPs vote cutting Turkey accession funds

This week the European Parliament decided to cancel €70 million in pre-accession funds earmarked for Turkey, as conditions to improve the rule of law were not met.

Last November, during the budgetary negotiations, Parliament and Council intended to place in reserve €70 million in pre-accession funds for Turkey (€70m in commitments and €35m in payments), under the condition that “Turkey makes measurable, sufficient improvements in the fields of rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom, according to the annual report of the Commission.”

However, the European Commission annual report on Turkey published on 17 April 2018, concluded that “Turkey has been significantly moving away from the European Union, in particular in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights and through the weakening of effective checks and balances in the political system”.

The condition set by the budgetary authority has therefore not been met, MEPs underline.

They accordingly support the draft amending budget 5/2018, in which the Commission proposes transferring the €70 million earmarked for Turkey to reinforce the European Neighbourhood Instrument. This would be done through commitments– to cover actions linked to the Central Mediterranean migratory route and to fulfil part of the EU pledge for Syria – and to boost Humanitarian Aid by €35 million.

The report by Siegfried Muresan (EPP, RO) has been adopted with 544 votes, 28 against and 74 abstentions.

Orban blames EU witch hunt

Prime Minister Viktor Orban denounced the EU “witch hunt” in an open debate over democracy and the rule of law in his country, which took place this week at European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

MEPs will vote on September 12 whether the launch a reprimand against Hungary in what would be the most significant attack on Orban’s right-wing anti-illegal immigration government by the EU. It would also mark the first time Parliament has invoked Article 7, the EU tool  designed to denounce human rights abuses.

Article 7 of the Treaty of European Union is a procedure in the legal endeavor of the EU to suspend certain rights from a member state.While rights can be suspended, there is no mechanism to expel a member.

Orban, who won a third consecutive term in power this year, has been conducting a consequent policy of border protection, causing an argument with  the EU leaders over his country’s stance on illegal immigration policies and for the pressure on democratic institutions — including civic organizations, the media and academic centre while Orban consolidated power – accusations he vehemently denied, blaming EU lack of objective vision, based on individual trips of the rapporteur MEP Judith Sargentini to Hungary. No EU fact-finding mission has been send to Hungary so far.
Orban underlined that Hungary did not change, being loyal to European values, and protecting borders thus protecting citizens from traffic of illegal migrants. Ensuring security of its citizens is a prime obligation of a state his government conducted upon the democratic mandate, and in line with the EU laws.
AMENDMENT:
MEP Judith Sargentini report adopted by European Parliament:
The European Union parliament’s decision to start a punitive procedure against Hungary is the “petty revenge” of pro-immigration politicians against Hungary, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, commenting on the outcome of the vote.

“Endemic” police torture in Azerbaijan

Torture in Azerbaijan by police and other law enforcement agencies is “systemic and endemic,” according to a report from the Council of Europe’s torture prevention body.

The report by The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), based on six visits to Azerbaijan from 2004 through 2017, documented repeated cases of “severe physical ill-treatment” of detainees, including some as young as 15. The cases appeared to follow a consistent pattern: mostly occurring in police establishments, during the initial hours of detentions, to coerce confessions or other testimonies.

The torture methods ranged from slaps, kicks, and truncheon blows to beatings on the soles of a suspended victim’s feet and the use of electric shocks.

The CPT also found that perpetrators get away with torture because of a lack of effective investigations and insufficient legal safeguards. Human Rights Watch research has also shown that in Azerbaijan, detainees are often denied access to lawyers of their choosing, and even if complaints are made of serious ill-treatment, the investigations almost never result in anyone being held to account.

Publicizing police abuse can invite official retaliation. Mehman Huseynov, one of Azerbaijan’s most popular bloggers, is serving a two-year prison term on grounds that he “defamed” police officers because he went public about the ill-treatment he had suffered in custody. A group of disguised in civilian cloths officers attacked Huseynov, blindfolded and gagged him, forced a bag over his head, used an electroshock weapon on his groin, and punched him, bloodying his nose. The investigation into Huseynov allegations was swiftly closed after a summary finding that they were groundless.

While the Committee found some improvements, such as renovations of old and building of new prisons, many problems persisted, including overcrowding, lack of meaningful activities for inmates, inadequate medical care, rampant corruption, and a “generalized culture of violence” among prison staff.

Azerbaijan is party to multiple human rights treaties, including the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment of detainees. Azerbaijan’s agreement to publish the Committee’s report – as is required – is an important step. But not enough. Azerbaijan’s leadership should make an unequivocal public statement of “zero tolerance” for torture and other forms of ill-treatment and ensure prompt and effective investigations into all such allegations.

Earlier this month the European Parliament expressed the opinion of MEPs, requesting improvement of human rights situation.

EU-U.S. cooperation on HR continues “whenever possible”

Reacting upon the decision of the United States decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European External Action Service issued a statement, regretting the move, and underlining that it “risks undermining the role of the US as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage”.
However the EU via a spokesperson ensured that it will “nevertheless” continue  to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms, whether in multilateral fora or around the world, also by cooperating with the US “whenever possible”.
“We will remain fully engaged and committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which we this year proudly celebrate the 70th anniversary, and whose values and principles are inseparable from those of the European Union itself” – the statement concludes.

The United States announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, to which they were elected in 2016 for a three year mandate: “With members like China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Venezuela the Human Rights Council is not worth its name”- Ambassador Nikki Haley said, explaining the decision.

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