Will the Greek presidency seize the opportunity to put human rights before politics
(Brussels, 21 January 2014) Amnesty International today handed over its ‘’recommendations to the Greek EU presidency’’ to the Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, Mr Charalampos Athanasiou, in Brussels. Amnesty International is calling on the Greek presidency to ensure that the EU develops a substantive response mechanism to address systematic human rights violations in the EU.
As the European Parliament and Commission reach the end of their current mandates and the European Council prepares to draft the strategic guidelines in the field of freedom, security and justice for the new Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) multiannual programme, the Greek presidency has a unique opportunity to shape the future of human rights protection in the Union.
“The presidency will lead on a new JHA framework and must ensure that discrimination, fundamental rights and a substantive change to migration policy are included”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “At the very minimum, the shameful treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the EU’s borders, the discrimination faced by Roma, the alarming level of hate crime and the endemic violence against women and girls must be comprehensively addressed”.
Among others, Amnesty International is specifically calling for concrete action in the following areas:
Across the EU, and at its borders, migration control policies continue to violate the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and risk lives. The adoption of the strategic guidelines provides a unique opportunity to fundamentally revise European migration policies. Amnesty International is calling on the Greek presidency to press member states to take robust action to prevent further loss of life at sea and to seek border-management policies and practices that fully respect human rights. Member states’ widespread use of immigration detention must be reversed by promoting alternatives.
Discrimination against the EU’s six million Roma is evident up to the highest level of political rhetoric and policy, and in all walks of life; including in access to housing, healthcare, employment and education. Amnesty International is calling on the Greek presidency to take the lead in ensuring member states do not violate the EU’s clear anti-discrimination laws; and that the European Commission uses the tools it has to hold any member states who do accountable (infringement proceedings).
Roma, migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals often face hate-motivated violence. Yet EU legislation on hate crime does not protect LGBTI people or ensure that hate motives are adequately recognised in the investigation and prosecution. Amnesty International is calling on the Greek presidency to push for a more comprehensive EU approach to combat hate-motivated violence to address existing gaps. The development of the strategic guidelines will be a key opportunity to comprehensively tackle hate crime in the EU.
Women’s rights must be robustly protected if the EU is to remain a credible human rights actor, both within and beyond its borders. Amnesty International is calling on the Greek presidency to ensure that women’s rights remain a core EU priority, and build on the good work achieved by the European Commission’s communication on female genital mutilation (FGM), by gathering support from the Council and member states for its implementation.
Individuals at Risk
The recommendations also call on the Greek presidency to ensure the EU’s active engagement in 11 cases of individuals at risk around the world. These include “The Bolotnaya Three”, three prisoners of conscience imprisoned in Russia in 2012 for peacefully exercising their beliefs. Since the time of writing, one of the trio, Vladimir Akimenkov, has been released. However freedom of expression in Russia remains a pressing issue; indeed, the other two prisoners of conscience are still incarcerated. We urge the presidency to raise the plight of these 11 individuals at risk, and press for tangible progress on each of the thematic calls.
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