Council of Europe: Refugees and violence against Romani people are current problems
Last year was a bad year for fundamental human rights in the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe (CoE). CoE Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks says in his annual report that the reasons for this are the crisis around refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, the conflict in Ukraine, and attacks on media freedom.
The Czech Republic is mentioned in the report in the context of persistent violence against Romani people. "Last year thousands of people died who should not have, especially in the Mediterranean Sea and in eastern Ukraine. They should not have died in a Europe that prides itself on being an area governed by democracy and the rule of law, on a continent that claims it has learned the lessons of its own bloody, violent history," said Muižnieks on 24 April when presenting the 73-page report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The Mediterranean Sea, according to the Commissioner, is transforming into an enormous mass grave for people fleeing persecution, poverty, and war. According to the report, restrictions on fundamental freedoms are a reason for concern in Russia and Ukraine.
Muižnieks lists those countries and Turkey as ones where journalists are physically attacked and media outlets are publicly vilified. "Geopolitics and politics" related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine have reportedly overshadowed a serious humanitarian crisis afflicting occupants of the region.
The situation of Crimean Tatars is reportedly also cause for concern. The report also emphasizes the serious deterioration in the state of human rights in Azerbaijan, where authorities have prosecuted many significant human right defenders, beginning last summer.
In the report, Muižnieks notes the persistent discrimination and exclusion of Romani people, saying that it is a serious problem that has been noted in almost all of the CoE member countries. Specifically, he also expressed "concern over the persistent assaults on Romani people by extremist groups and the growing number of violent anti-Romani events in Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania."
Muižnieks also recalled a letter he sent at the end of February to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. He said he had expressed "concern over the persisting trend of anti-Romani violence in the country" in the communication.
In the letter, the Commissioner recommended the Czech authorities consider banning such demonstrations near Romani neighborhoods should there exist indications that the demonstrators intend to head into such localities. Given the extensive discrimination and violence against Romani people in the Czech Republic, the report says there is a need to promote greater tolerance among members of the majority society there and that key roles in the promotion of human rights and social solidarity must be played by opinion-makers and politicians.
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