Friday, December 07, 2012

Russian report on EU record on civil rights

The Russian government has published a Report on the Human Rights Situation in the European Union, seriously criticising the EU's record on human rights. The report reads as though it has been put together by a team of people tasked with trawling the national press in member states. They have included a range of stories critical of each particular jurisdictional authority's behaviour which have a civil rights angle/s. They are  not always accurate in their reporting of the cases - take this at the bottom of page 17:
"On April 2, 2012 a 21-year-old student Liam Stacey from Swansea was sentenced by a British court to the a 56-day imprisonment for his insulting comment on the social network "Twitter" about an exhausted football player who had African roots. In spite of support provided by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Liam Stacey did not manage to appeal the sentence."
The claim that Fabrice Muamba was "exhausted"is a little strange is it not?!

But they have chosen a relevant selection of cases - Stacey, the torture of Omar Awadh, the killing of Baha Mous, MI6 alleged involvement in torture of Abdel-Hakim Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad, Moazzam Begg(former Guantanamo Bay detainee), News International phone hacking, Matthew Woods (jailed for Facebook obscenities about murdered little girl April Jones), alleged untrammeled police surveillance of protesters, and a selection of others on alleged racism, discrimination, immigration, child protection, homophobia and general lack of engagement with several international instruments associated with human rights.

Liam Stacey, for example, behaved like a moron.  But he was not a criminal and should not have been jailed.

Yet this kind of reaction by the British authorities in this and other similar cases and the mass production/implementation/normalisation of rights abusing laws and behaviours by the public and private sectors in the UK act as an absolute gift to governments and regimes with, to Western eyes, nominally less respect for human rights. Civil rights activists have been pointing out for years that it is hypocritical to lecture Russia or anyone else on about the speck in their eye on human rights when the Russians believe they can point our the plank in ours. President Putin would greet with glee the notion that the UK government were driving through a measures like the Communications Data Bill.

The authors devote 6 pages to the UK - more than any other country with Germany being the nearest challengers with 4 - but the cases they choose, at least in the UK context, have raised significant rights questions. So there is little surprise that they are highlighted even if the report is occasionally a bit fuzzy to say the least on the details. So when the government panders to the 'tough' (aka stupid) on crime, stupid on the causes of crime mob, they do substantial damage that extends way beyond the UK's borders.

I can't comment on the detailed cases chosen in a lot of the countries highlighted but I was a little disappointed that my homeland merited a mere half a page in the report:
"In general, the human rights situation in Ireland can be described as satisfactory. At the same time, the following problems exist in this area.
In Ireland, the continued marginalization of the Romani that form an unrecognized ethnic minority is a rather stringent social issue. In spite of the State adaptation policy, in daily life they often face discrimination in employment, medical care and education.
There are some problems for refugees and internally displaced persons, in particular, the excessively long bureaucratic procedures for registration. As a result, persons of that category have to wait for their residence permit for much longer than 6 months provided for by law.
National and international human rights activists pay special attention to the implementation of human rights during the extradition of criminals, including those suspected or accused by the U.S. authorities of belonging to terrorist organizations, from European countries via the airport of the city of Shannon to the United States. The Irish Human Rights Commission has repeatedly proposed to launch its own monitoring of foreign aircrafts to exclude cases of torture and degrading treatment of prisoners. The Irish authorities do not allow it referring to relevant provisions of the national legislation.
The media has repeatedly touched the issue of human rights violation in national prisons. It mainly consists in exceeding the number of prisoners in cells determined by law, inconsistency of places of detention with health and conditions of detention standards.
Since the end of 2008, due to the economic difficulties, the Irish government has conducted a number of budget cuts in the area of activities of public authorities related to human rights implementation in Ireland. For example, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and the Combat Poverty Agency were disbanded. National human rights activists have expressed serious concern about those actions of the government. According to them, the measures taken caused serious damage to the national human rights institutions and to Ireland’s international image in the human rights sphere."
"Satisfactory"! That's an insult.  I demand a recount.  They really could do with some serious lessons in the history and contemporary politics of the beautiful Emerald Isle.

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