Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Polish judges have become human rights defenders

April 8, 2019

Barbora Cernusakova (Amnesty International’s Poland researcher) posted in Euronews on 4 April 2019 a piece entitled “When Polish judges become human rights defenders”

“There is a danger when politics enters the judiciary,” warned Judge Sławomir Jęksa in his summing up of his decision to accept the appeal of a woman who had been charged for using offensive language at a rally. She had, he reasoned, not only been entitled to express herself in the way that she did, especially since she was expressing genuine concerns about the encroachment on human rights in Poland. Days after his ruling, Judge Jęksa found himself at the receiving end of just the sort of political interference of which he had warned. The Disciplinary Prosecutor started proceedings against him on the grounds that his ruling was an “expression of political opinions” and “an offence against the dignity of the office of the judge.”

Judge Jęksa does not have much faith in the disciplinary procedure which will take place in the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. The Disciplinary Chamber is a special body whose members were chosen by a body formed of politicians from the governing party. He is just one of several judges facing similar pressures. More than a dozen judges have faced disciplinary proceedings since last autumn. These may result in sanctions, including their dismissal from office.

Some of the more outspoken judges who publicly expressed their opposition to the government’s interference with the judiciary have even received death threats…..

This is all happening in the context of a wider smear campaign against judges that have upheld decisions in defence of human rights that began in 2017. Judges are constantly portrayed as “enemies of the people” who “damage the interests of Poland.” Pro-government media and social media accounts have gone as far as invading their privacy by regularly publishing their personal information, including details about their sick leave and their trips abroad.

Despite this, judges in Poland continue to organise and collectively resist the pressures from the government. “For the first time in our careers we have to stand our ground and show we are not just civil servants, but the authority that protects legal order,” Judge Dorota Zabłudowska told me.

But the ongoing struggle over the independence of the judiciary in Poland is not only about them. It is a fight for human rights that ultimately affects everyone in the country and indeed in Europe. In a significant move yesterday, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure to protect judges in Poland from political control. …The chilling effect of the abuse of this already flawed disciplinary system is real and this has now been called out by the Commission. Member states should back this step and call on Poland in the General Affairs Council next week to end the harassment and intimidation of judges.

This decision draws an important line in the sand and makes clear that interfering with the independence of the judiciary cannot and will not be tolerated. Allowing one member state to operate outside the rule of law would be to allow the entire system to be contaminated…

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/27/polish-ombudsman-adam-bodnar-winner-of-2018-rafto-award/

https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/04/when-polish-judges-become-human-rights-defenders-view

European Commission states that Turkey is taking “major steps” away from the EU

April 18, 2018

On Tuesday 17 April 2018 the European Commission released its most critical report on talks with Turkey since the country launched its bid to join the EU over a decade ago. The European Commission has warned that Turkey is taking “major steps” in the wrong direction and also warned that years of progress are being lost.

The report stated that “The state of emergency declared in the wake of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 remains in force, aiming at dismantling the Gülen movement, designated by the government as a terror organisation responsible of the coup attempt, as well as at supporting the fight against terrorism, against the background of repeated attacks in Turkey, overall a traumatic period in Turkey.” The EU, while recognising Turkey’s legitimate need to take swift and proportionate action, said “However, the broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures taken since the attempted coup under the state of emergency, such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.”

Turkish National Security Council (MGK)’s advice to extend the state of emergency will likely be approved by parliament. The state of emergency has so far been approved six times since the attempted coup in July 2016. ..Turkey “continues to take huge strides away from the EU, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights,” European Commissioner Johannes Hahn in charge of negotiations told a news conference. “The Commission has repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse this negative trend as a matter of priority and makes very clear the recommendations on this in today’s report,” he said.

Among the key findings of the European Commission’s 2018 Report on Turkey are the following:

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Since the introduction of the state of emergency, over 150 000 people were taken into custody, 78 000 were arrested and over 110 000 civil servants were dismissed whilst, according to the authorities, some 40 000 were reinstated of which some 3 600 by decree.

A State of Emergency Appeal Commission became operational and received altogether some 107 000 appeal requests. This Commission only started to take decisions in December 2017 and it has so far provided redress to only few applicants. Its decisions are open to judicial review. It still needs to develop into an effective and transparent remedy for those unjustly affected by measures under the state of emergency.

Beyond the Appeal Commission, the capacity of Turkey to ensure an effective domestic legal remedy in the sense of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been further undermined by a number of unfortunate precedents. In one instance a lower court refused to observe a ruling of the Constitutional Court regarding an emblematic case; a follow up ruling by the Constitutional Court for one of the defendants was eventually abided with by a lower court. Several court rulings favorable to prominent defendants, including Human Rights Defenders, were swiftly reversed by another or even by the same court, in some instances following comments from the executive.

Key recommendations of the Council of Europe and its bodies are yet to be addressed by Turkey. Allegations of wrongdoing need to be established by transparent procedures and on an individual basis. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the full independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial. Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay.

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Civil society came under increasing pressure, notably in the face of a large number of arrests of activists, including human rights defenders, and the recurrent use of bans of demonstrations and other types of gatherings, leading to a rapid shrinking space for fundamental rights and freedoms. Many rights‑based organisations remained closed as part of the measures under the state of emergency and an effective legal remedy has not been available with respect to confiscations…

The situation in the south-east has continued to be one of the most acute challenges for the country. The deteriorated security situation has in part shifted to rural areas. The government’s pledge to continue security operations, against the background of recurrent violent acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in acts of terrorism, remained as a defining element of the situation in the region.While the government has a legitimate right to fight against terrorism, it is also responsible for ensuring the respect for human rights, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the proportionate use of force. The government’s investment plan for the reconstruction of damaged areas in the south-east has resulted in the ongoing construction of thousands of dwellings but only few internally displaced persons received compensation so far. There were no developments on the resumption of a credible political process which is needed to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution.

Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary. The Constitutional amendments governing the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) entered into force and further undermined its independence from the executive. The CJP continued to engage in large-scale suspensions and transfers of judges and prosecutors. No efforts were made to address concerns regarding the lack of objective, merit‑based, uniform and pre-established criteria in the recruitment and promotion of judges and prosecutors.

The Turkish legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, which have however been further challenged and undermined by a number of emergency decrees. The serious backsliding on the freedom of expressioncontinued, an area where Turkey is at an early stage of preparation. The scope of actions taken under the state of emergency has been extended over time to many critical voices, in media and academia amongst others, in contradiction with the principle of proportionality.

Criminal cases against journalists – more than 150 of them remain detained – human rights defenders, writers, or social media users, withdrawal of press cards, as well as the closure of numerous media outlets or the appointment by the government of trustees to administer them, are of serious concern and are mostly based on selective and arbitrary application of the law, especially provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism.

The Internet Law and the general legal framework continue to enable the executive to block online content without a court order on an inappropriately wide range of grounds. There was also serious backsliding in the areas of freedom of assembly, freedom of association, procedural and property rights. Freedom of assembly continues to be overly restricted, in law and practice. Measures adopted under the state of emergency also removed crucial safeguards protecting detainees from abuse thereby augmenting the risk of impunity, in a context where allegations of ill-treatment and torture have increased.

Emergency decrees imposed additional restrictions to procedural rights including on the rights of defence. The enforcement of rights is hindered by the fragmentation and limited mandate of public institutions responsible for human rights and freedoms and by the lack of an independent judiciary. Extreme poverty and a lack of basic necessities remain common among Roma households in Turkey. The rights of the most vulnerable groups and of persons belonging to minorities should be sufficiently protected. Gender-based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of human rights of LGBTI persons are still a matter of serious concern.

Turkey made good progress in the area of migration and asylum policy and remained committed to the implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route. As regards the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, at the beginning of February, Turkey submitted to the European Commission a work plan outlining how Turkey plans to fulfil the seven outstanding visa liberalisation benchmarks. The Commission is assessing Turkey’s proposals and further consultations with the Turkish counterparts will follow

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Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the EU has expressed serious concern and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions that damages good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

https://stockholmcf.org/report-by-european-commission-urges-turkish-govt-to-lift-state-of-emergency-without-delay/#prettyPhoto

Greece prevents EU criticism of human rights in China

June 20, 2017

The European Union – when criticizing countries by name in the UN Human Rights Council – does so with unanimity. It was the first time that the European Union did not make a statement in the Human Rights Council regarding rights violations in specific countries, including China as it was blocked by one of its member countries: Greece! A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens called it “unproductive criticism.” The NYT reports that a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry (who requested anonymity) said in a telephone interview:  “When the stability of a country is at stake, we need to be more constructive in the way we express our criticism” …“because if the country collapses, there will be no human rights to protect.” It was an odd explanation, commented the NYT, considering that China’s stability does not appear to be at risk. Unless the stability at stake was referring to Greece?!

In its struggle for economic recovery, Greece is indeed increasingly courting Chinese trade and investment. China’s largest shipping company, known as China COSCO Shipping, bought a majority stake last year in the Greek port of Piraeus. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has visited China twice in two years. And China will be the “country of honor” at Greece’s annual international business fair in September in the port of Thessaloniki.

In the previous Human Rights Council session in March, the European Union statement pointed to China’s detention of lawyers and human rights defenders [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/19/letter-from-legal-experts-on-detained-lawyers-in-china/]. Human Rights Watch said it was “shameful that Greece sought to hold the E.U. hostage to prevent much-needed attention to China’s human rights crackdown.”

 

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

EU foreign ministers confirm backing and supporting human rights defenders

May 20, 2014

Yesterday, 19 May 2014, EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels for the Foreign Affairs Council on Development, reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to promoting all human rights, whether civil and political, or economic, social and cultural, in all areas of its external action without exception, as part of working towards a rights-based approach to development coöperation.  “The implementation of a rights-based approach to development cooperation should be based on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and the principles of inclusion and participation in decision-making processes; non-discrimination, equality and equity; transparency and accountability. The application of these principles should be central to EU development cooperation, thereby also ensuring the empowerment of the poorest and most vulnerable, in particular of women and girls, which in turn contributes to poverty reduction efforts,” said the Council conclusions. The Council also stressed the need for continued EU support for human rights defenders, capacity-building of local civil society organisations and promoting a safe and enabling environment in both law and practice that maximizes their contribution to development. Being closer to citizens and interacting with civil society, local authorities also play a crucial role in the effective implementation of a rights-based approach.
Moreover, the Council underlined that investment and business activities in partner countries should respect human rights and adhere to the principles of corporate social and environmental responsibility and accountability.
EU foreign ministers back human rights-based approach to all development cooperation.

Russian court declares ADC Memorial formally as “foreign agent” – others to follow

December 16, 2013

 

On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial was officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg, and was ordered to register as such with the Ministry of Justice, according to  information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Today, the court unexpectedly established that all the activities of ADC “Memorial” fall under the definition of “performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Accordingly, for the first time, a court has directly labelled a human rights NGO a “foreign agent”, and did not just order it to register as such. This decision could pave the way to increased harassment of all human rights organisations in the Russian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »

Retaliation against HRDs: GA Third Committee takes a step back – will General Assembly rectify?

December 4, 2013

The Monitor of the ISHR reports that in the Third Committee there was a serious setback in establishing an high-level ‘anti-reprisals focal point’ in the UN. In an unprecedented move, a group of States, led by Gabon and joined by others such as China and Russia, was successful in securing the passage of a resolution in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly to defer the appointment of such a senior UN official despite Read the rest of this entry »

Memorandum for the African Union-European Union Dialogue on Human Rights

November 20, 2013

On 19 November Human Rights Watch published a lengthy Memorandum on priorities it wants the African Union & the European Union to address in their upcoming Dialogue on Human Rights. In view of its length I give only

HRW_logo

the headings and a reference to the full document, except of course for the section specifically dealing with Human Rights Defenders.

Belarusian human rights defenders urge UN to establish office in Minsk and be firm on the question of Bialiatski

October 29, 2013

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should estabelarusian human rights forumblish a mission in Belarus, the delegates to the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum, which took place in Vilnius on Saturday and Sunday, say in a statement on 27 October. The delegates also urge the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to take measures to encourage Belarusian authorities to respect human rights. It is necessary for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to preserve its Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus and for all OSCE institutions and bodies, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, to step up cooperation with Belarus’ civil society. The delegates condemn violations of human rights by Belarusian authorities and urge them to abide by international commitments and implement recommendations within the framework of the UN Universal Periodic Review. Authorities should invite all UN special rapporteurs to visit Belarus, above all, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on Belarus.

Natallia Pinchuk: No concessions to regime

At the same meeting, Ales Bialiatski‘s wife called on the West to be consistent in relation to Belarus. Natallia Pinchuk calls not to close the question of rehabilitation, not to reduce pressure on the Belarusian authorities and not to make concessions until all political prisoners are released, Radio Svaboda reports. “Some human rights defenders began to propose in their articles and speeches to lift demands for the full rehabilitation of political prisoners. They say the regime will never agree on it. But I think we must be consistent first of all. If we began to demand the rehabilitation, we must keep to this position. Secondly, people’s rights remain restricted without rehabilitation. They have only half-freedom,” she said. “We, relatives of the political prisoners, expect firmness and applying all instruments from the European Union and the US. It’s very important that the US and Europe have a concerted approach,” she said. Natallia Pinchuk is sure that her husband, who serves his term in a correctional colony shares her opinion.

via Belarusian human rights defenders urge UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish office in Minsk | Belarus: civil society under attack | Freeales.fidh.net and

http://www.charter97.org/en/news/2013/10/28/78577/

Peace comes dropping slow says The Economist in relation to Malala being passed over for Nobel Prize

October 14, 2013

The Economist of this week (11 October) carries an interesting piece on peace under the title “Peace comes dropping slow”. It argues that MALALA YOUSAFZAI would have been an appropriate recipient of the Nobel peace prize, but that her admirers should be not be too disappointed that the award went instead to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. For the Western world, and indeed for many of her fellow Muslims, Malala is an extraordinary example of disinterested courage in the face of theocrats who practise tyranny by claiming a monopoly on religion and religious law. She was already famous at the age of 11 as the writer of a blog for the BBC Urdu service, giving an impression of life under the rule of the Taliban in her native Swat Valley.
She has been showered with accolades, as this blog has also shown including last week the European Union’s Sakharov prize. However, the Economist piece says that “people who really wish Malala and her cause well should be more relieved than let down. The Nobel Prize has not always brought blessings to its recipients. Mistakes made by Barack Obama as America’s commander-in-chief will be judged even more harshly because he was granted the award in 2009 as a kind of down-payment before his presidency had really got going. Mikhail Gorbachev will probably go down in history as a peace-maker, but the award (in 1990) did nothing to enhance his domestic standing which was in freefall at the time. And whatever history has to say about Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, garlanded in 1973, it will hardly describe them as doves of peace“[De Klerk and Arafat are not mentioned!]
In Northern Ireland, the article states the peace prize had in some respects a “kiss of death” [mentioning David Trimble, John Hume, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire] ….”Does 16-year-old Malala really need that? She too comes from a part of the world where international accolades can cause jealousy and cynicism as well as admiration. So she may be better off without the big prize. In any case, Malala will continue to pile up various honours and distinctions; and as with Ms Maguire, there is probably a good chance that she will use her fame to say things that disturb and provoke people, even those who are lining up to admire her.

The Nobel peace prize: Peace comes dropping slow | The Economist.