24th Oct 2016

Europe faces worst human rights 'crisis' in decades

  • 'We need to put Europe back on the path of unity and co-operation, based on common values, standards and legal obligations', says Jagland (Photo: Council of Europe)

Europe is facing its largest human rights crisis in over two decades, according to the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe (CoE).

The human rights watchdog, in a report published on Wednesday (16), says corruption, human trafficking, racism and discrimination persist across Europe.

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Coupled with unemployment and poverty in many of the 47 countries under its mandate, the violations help feed extremism and fuel conflict, it notes.

“The challenges to security in Europe are more often caused by conflicts within territories, within states rather than classical conflicts between states,” Daniel Holtgen, CoE spokesperson told this website.

CoE secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland – in a statement entitled "Europe in biggest human rights crisis since Cold War” – said the lack of democratic checks and balances, free media and an independent judiciary is the cause of widespread corruption and misuse of power.

He is calling for a “new pan-European security agenda” to help stem the abuse.

The idea is to make sure human rights are woven, from the beginning, into security-driven policies and laws.

He says members must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights to stop the erosion of fundamental rights, which has now become the source of conflicts inside Europe.

CoE says issues like discrimination and austerity measures gave rise to the far-right in Greece.

Meanwhile, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s dire economy, unemployment, and popular resentment against the ruling class are fuelling protest movements.

Last year’s Taksim Gezi Park protests in Turkey and its clamp down on free media is also a source of growing internal conflict.

The 72-page report notes the current crisis in Ukraine illustrates “the dangers that we face”.

The report points out Ukraine’s lack of an independent judiciary, of free press, and of checks and balances on government, created conditions ripe for corruption and misuse of power.

“This caused mistrust, social unrest and ultimately a revolution. The annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation by a unilateral action clearly in contradiction with the Constitution of Ukraine provoked a fully-fledged crisis in Europe,” it notes.

Specialised bodies set up inside the Council to monitor human rights standards found that ethnic discrimination against national minorities is the most common.

Discrimination is a serious issue in 39 of the CoE member states.

Poor detention conditions, including prison over-crowding are found in 30 states.

Corruption is prevalent in 26 followed by police abuse in 20 states, among other violations.

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