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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:57 pm on April 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Anti-discrimination “crisis cards”: know your rights and defend them 

    Low awareness about one´s rights and opportunities for redress for rights violations can be a serious obstacle to attaining equality. Unfortunately, groups which are most likely to experience discrimination are also the ones which are least likely to know their rights and of the existing remedies. Thus, despite considerable evidence of discrimination and harassment against minorities, foreigners, and other vulnerable groups – in Spain as elsewhere, – reporting of discrimination is rather low. Known cases most probably present only a tip of the iceberg.

    In response to this problem, CIDH Pro Igual has developed anti-discrimination “crisis cards.” The AD “crisis cards” provide key information for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and other most likely victims of discrimination in Spain on steps to take if they experienced discrimination or harassment from public or private entities. The “crisis cards” are currently available on the Pro Igual website: http://www.cidh.es/ in EnglishSpanish, and  Romanian for downloading, printing, and sharing. In future, translations into other languages spoken by the principal minority and immigrant groups in Spain will be also available. In addition, Pro Igual will look into opportunities to disseminate this practice among other NGOs, as well as official bodies, and develop other thematic cards.

    USER INSTRUCTIONS: Each A4 sheet contains five cards that should be cut along the horizontal lines and folded in half, so they become a size of an average credit card. If desired, the cards can be also laminated and kept along with other cards in one´s wallet.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:36 pm on March 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Not a very good day for equality in Germany 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Last week the highest appellate court in Germany ruled that hotels could turn away right-wing extremists on grounds of the latter´ political views.

    The case that received considerable domestic attention concerned a hotel in the state of Brandenburg which, in 2009, refused to provide a room to the former head of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD), Udo Voigt. Voigt sued the hotel for discrimination, for banning him on the grounds of his political opinions. The hotel argued that the right-wing extremist´s presence was detrimental to the hotel´s image and reputation. The lower instance courts found in favor of the hotel.

    The Federal Court of Justice ruled that while the hotel could not retroactively cancel the booking, because it failed to demonstrate how Vogt had previously upset other guests with his presence, the hotel was fundamentally “free to decide whom it accepts and whom it does not.” The highest Court admitted that the case raised extremely difficult legal issues, including whether hotels (and by extension restaurants, discos, shops, etc.) are public spaces open to everyone. The case also pitted personal freedom/autonomy against equality. Article 3 of the German Basic Law bans discrimination, inter alia, on the basis of religious or political views. However, the Court stated this principle may not apply between private people and companies.

    This is where the Court, in my opinion, was monumentally wrong. First of all, the principle of discrimination does apply in both public and private sphere. Although the concept may be still new and even somewhat alien in Germany, the EU Race Directive, which Germany had to transpose, extends prohibition of discrimination to both public and private sector. Article 3.1(h) of the Race Directive specifically stipulates non-discriminatory “access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.” Second, the German Basic Law (Article 18) contains a clause whereby persons abusing their constitutional rights could forfeit those rights. The German Court chose instead to conclude that private establishments are free to choose whether and to whom render their services.

    So, before we yield to the temptation to celebrate that neo-Nazi thugs would from now on sleep in the streets instead of hotels, let´s consider implications of the ruling. In reality, what is more likely to happen and in fact happens practically on a daily basis: that private service establishments would turn away white right-wing extremists, or unpopular immigrants/minorities? This was a rather unique case involving the known neo-Nazi, that is, someone a priori rejecting the very principle he tried to invoke. But with this ruling, the Court has handed German private establishments a legal license to discriminate.

    All in all, not a very good day for equal treatment in Germany.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:48 pm on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Tyrant is gone. Long live the Tyrant. 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Finally, the Libyan rebels produced a draft “Transitional” Constitution. Although the title suggests that it is provisional, or temporary, human experience teaches us that there is nothing more permanent than temporary, take for example the German Basic Law (although these two documents are further apart than the continents).

    Article 1

    “… Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)”

    Not a word about international treaties to which Libya is a party and peremptory norms of international law (such as most fundamental human rights).

    Article 6

    “Libyans are brothers (SIC!) … Libyans shall be equal before the law. They shall enjoy equal civil and political rights, shall have the same opportunities, and be subject to the same public duties and obligations, without discrimination due to religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship, or political opinions or social status. The State shall guarantee for woman all opportunities which shall allow her to participate entirely and actively in political, economic and social spheres.”

    Article 7

    “Human rights and his (emphasis added) basic freedoms shall be respected.”

    So, in the new Libya, women will have opportunities to participate “entirely and actively,” but they are not equals of men, regardless of religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship, or political opinions or social status? The new regime would have to do some convincing that for Libyan women this is going to be better than a travelling harem of the MIA colonel. Tyrant is gone, Long Live the Tyrant?

    One could say no great surprises there, but a bitter aftertaste of disappointment remains.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:50 am on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Freedom of intolerance 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    As was to be expected, Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech against Muslims. The media reported that the case tested limits of freedom of speech in a “traditionally liberal” country. But could it be that the case merely tested the limits of intolerance?

    Indeed, The Netherlands has been traditionally considered a “liberal” country. But perhaps we should specify what we mean by “liberal”, as it may mean different things to different people. For some, the US democrats are “liberals”; for others, staunch free marketeers are “liberals”. Some assume that not killing opposition members is a sign of “liberalism”; yet others might mean something completely different. Let´s face it: for many people outside of The Netherlands, its “liberalism” essentially equals the red lights district plus permissive soft drugs policies (a propos, something that the Wilders´ party has vowed to do away with).

    But if you belong to the first, second, third or other generation of non-European immigrants, especially if you look Muslim (whatever that might mean to different people), and especially if you insist on doing “Muslim things” (whatever that might mean to different people), then you are entitled to have your doubts about the Dutch “liberalism.” The Volendam girl expelled from a school for wearing a headscarf is certainly entitled to have her doubts.

    Many critics point out that freedom of expression, including religious expression, is applied inconsistently across Europe; The Netherlands is no exception. For example, Muslim women are not permitted to wear headscarves in a number of countries, even though nobody has any issues with the nuns´ outfits. Holocaust denial is outlawed in several countries, but speech that offends Muslims´ religious feelings is permitted (remember the Danish cartoons?) And now hate speech against Muslims as a group has also been upheld in the Dutch court.

    In my opinion, there is formidable consistency of Dutch, or for that matter European, attitudes towards Muslims. This consistency is manifested in two clear patterns. Pattern I: religious expression of Muslims is curbed. Pattern II: anti-Muslim expression is protected. To put it bluntly, intolerance against Muslims is not intolerance, it is freedom.

    So, it appears that the Netherlands has just got itself a new right: freedom of intolerance. But this is hardly an achievement to be proud of.

     
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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:58 pm on December 31, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Biggest assaults on fundamental rights in Europe in 2010 

    It seems like a tradition in the end of each year to have countdowns of the top/most memorable events or objects of the finishing year. Here is our Top 5: the list of most memorable breaches of fundamental rights that occurred in 2010 in Europe. The selection is based mostly on the media coverage and social reactions, and is open to discussion.

    5. Ban on burqas in France.

    Even though invisible rights violations, such as discrimination in various areas of life, may be a much greater problem, media provided rather extensive coverage of the legislative ban on full veil (burqa) in France.

    4. Ban on burqas in Belgium.

    They are higher on the list simply because they were a few days ahead of France and the media coverage was more or less equivalent with that of the French ban.

    3. Spanish secret police circular on roundup and detention of undocumented migrants.

    The event got a considerable resonance in Spain although was hardly mentioned in the non-Spanish media.

    2. Swiss referendum on expulsions of foreigners committing a crime.

    Again, this received major media resonance and is likely to face legal challenges before international human rights tribunals.

    1. Roma expulsions from France.

    This was definitely the biggest — in our view — affront to human rights in Western Europe happening in 2010. It was also a historic chance for European institutions (particularly the Commission) to take a decisive stand for human rights. An opportunity, unfortunately, waisted.

    What will 2011 bring for human rights in Europe? Let´s hope more freedom and fewer human rights violations. Happy New Year!

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:59 pm on July 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Saving on Roma health rights is bad economy 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Analysis of various barriers for Roma access to health care in Southeast Europe suggests that money – for better or worse – is now rivaling discrimination, which traditionally was among the major deterrents.

    For better, because at least money is color-blind (or so we believe). This means that a paying person is guaranteed access to the best available health care regardless of his or her background, as long as there is money to pay for it. For worse, because money denotes dehumanization of healthcare: a poor person can be left without vitally important treatments. Incidentally, the majority of Roma may fall into this category.

    But paradoxes arise when some doctors or hospitals try to save money by refusing what seem to be expensive procedures for people who cannot pay, but then end up providing them much more expensive procedures for free, as a matter of emergency, since withholding necessary preventive treatments can and often leads to complications of all sorts.

    A few examples follow.

    • A pregnant Roma woman in Romania was refused a Cesarean in an overdue delivery (Caesareans are evidently expensive). But after her unborn baby died, and a host of complications occurred, her uterus had to be removed (which is a much more expensive procedure than the Cesarean). Given it was an emergency operation, it was free. That, on top of potential charges for doctors/the hospital if the patient decided to sue for negligence and/or malpractice. Where exactly was the saving here is difficult to see.
    • A Roma boy in Macedonia broke his arm but the doctor didn´t do a very good job with the cast. When the boy´s arm swelled and the family brought him back to the hospital, the doctor did not find time (an expensive commodity) for giving it a better look. The arm subsequently developed a gangrenous infection and had to be amputated, with the boy´s life endangered. Obviously, there were no  bills for the boy´s family, and as soon as the court´s decision is out in this highly publicized case, the doctor/hospital might have to loosen their purse strings to compensate the boy for the life-long disability caused. Again, it is hard to see any savings here.
    • In Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and other countries in the region Roma are routinely denied tests capable to detect health problems early on and to prevent the development of serious illnesses. State-provided mammogram, ultrasound, and other tests and specialists are systematically “overbooked” whenever Roma patients need or request them. (By the way, the same services are available at any time, for a fee, as “private.”) But as a result of withholding preventive treatments, the state often has to provide more expensive emergency and rehabilitation procedures, naturally for free.

    The list can go on indefinitely, but the point is: saving on Roma health and health rights, shows to be bad economy.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:42 am on June 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Halal sandwiches – new battleground for french résistence 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    It seems that anti-Muslim debate in France has moved beyond headscarves — into restaurant menus. Quick, a fast food chain, started offering pork-free burgers in some of its restaurants located in predominantly Muslim immigrant areas. The hostile media, social, and political reaction has been mind-blowing, as halal sandwiches have become a new battleground for the french “résistence.”

    Some of the less mature social reactions include a pork sausage and booze party, a clearly deliberate provocation against the country´s 5,000,000 strong Muslim population. The chosen venue for the party is quite symbolic: the Arc de Triomphe is where 2,000 schoolboys defied a Nazi ban on protest and marched against the occupants 70 years ago. The date is meaningful, too: on 18 June 1940, Charles DeGaulle called on the French to resist Nazi occupation. Remarkably, opposition to halal burgers has united the French politicians on the right and the left — much more so that the Nazi invasion did. But mon dieu, if the French resisted the Nazi occupation as vehemently as they oppose turkey sandwiches, the WWII might have been much shorter. Is it, perhaps, that people need to be in a numerically inferior and non-dominant position — and unarmed — to trigger the famed french “courage”?

    Some of the anti-halal demonstrators have added “porc” to the slogans of the French revolution “liberty, equality and fraternity.” It is not clear if the pork party-goers fully grasp the meaning of the words “liberty,” “equality”, and “fraternity.” But the French philosophers and revolutionaries behind the slogans may be turning in their graves when the likes of Le Pen & Co. usurp them.

    French Muslim activists rightly ask if there would be as much hostility if instead of halal, organic, kosher, or other ethnic menu, like Chinese or Mexican, was offered? Mais no, the answer is obviously no.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 7:10 pm on June 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Halfway through the Roma Decade: going anywhere? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    An opinion piece on the debate site Has the Decade of Roma Inclusion made a difference for Roma in the communities? is highly critical of the absence of the tangible progress of the Roma Decade to date.

    To be fair, many Roma and non-Roma civil society organizations work hard on various issues of concern to Roma, and often achieve remarkable results. But as some rightly point out, these organizations worked before the Decade, definitely would have worked without the Decade, and most likely would continue working long after the Decade. Others, however, and specifically some of the big international names that were so enthusiastic prior to the Decade launch, do not seem quite as active as many would have expected. Of course, speeches are still being periodically made, and Roma-related and Decade-related conferences and events are being attended faithfully, but that spark seems to be gone. What is left is more like a lip-service than a heart-felt effort.

    EU is one such example. It seems, after the then Commission´s composition had changed, the Roma Decade lost both its protagonists and its drive. The EU Roma Strategy is still missing, despite persistent calls from a wide range of Roma organizations to adopt one. There are other big players, too, that have not been heard much from since the Decade.

    And it would be entirely inappropriate to try and bring economic crisis as an excuse for diminished activism. First, because it would just stress that Roma issues are so unimportant to them that anything else, by default, acquires higher priority. Second, because, if anything, at times of economic crises — and international organizations can bet their annual budgets on it — Roma are guaranteed to be affected more and more severely than anyone, and therefore there are more, not less, reasons to ensure the Decade´s proper implementation.

    It is no wonder that without continued international support and pressure only limited progress has been reported with the implementation of the Decade´s objectives in the participating countries, half-way through the Decade, as evidenced by the Decade Watch monitoring. And it is no wonder that Roma are becoming somewhat disappointed with the Decade´s achievements.

    Decade partners need to step up their involvement, if the Decade to lead somewhere. Surely, grass-roots NGOs must do their bit — nothing without the Roma. But as mentioned before, they have been doing their job anyway and did not need the Decade for that. But if other partners committed themselves to the Decade, they too should stick to the agreement and do their bit in good faith. Otherwise, why did they even bother getting involved?

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 4:17 pm on March 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Anti-discrimination bodies in Spain: myth or reality? 

    For months now the team of CIDH Pro Igual has been trying to find out who to turn to in Spain in case of ethnic/racial discrimination. (Stress on discrimination – not hate crimes, or gender violence, or illegal immigration). The mission appears impossible.

    According to the EU equality provisions (inter alia, the Race Directive), the EU states must establish independent equality bodies in charge of providing assistance to victims of discrimination. Spain was quite late to establish such a body, the European Commission even started proceedings against it. But finally such body or rather bodies were established. The EU website provides links to the Institute of the Woman, the Spanish Ombudsman and the Disability Council, while the Equinet points to OBERAXE (see below). With the Disability Council things are clear — it deals with discrimination on the ground of disability.

    The Spanish Ombudsman, on the other hand, can address discrimination on any grounds, including racial or ethnic origin. A slight problem: it only deals with acts of discrimination or injustice allegedly committed by public bodies. It specifically states that it is not competent to deal with conflicts between private parties, which incidentally present a very large portion of discrimination cases. This is true of the National Ombudsman as well as the Ombudsmen and Ombudswomen of autonomous communities.

    Spain also has Ministry of Equality. Under Ministry´s auspices, besides the Disability Council, there is also the Non-Discrimination Council/Racial and Ethnic Origin. But it is proving quite elusive: there is no contact for this Council. Contact information provided on the website of the Ministry of Equality leads to the Institute of the Woman, that is, issues of gender discrimination/violence, and to the Observatory of Racism and Xenophobia (OBERAXE).

    On the website of OBERAXE, the email address provided for contact is incorrect or outdated: oberaxe@mtas.es (letters that the CIDH Pro Igual tried to send to that address bounced, on file). Then there is also contact information for other competent authorities in charge of dealing with discrimination cases, by province: http://www.oberaxe.es/creadi/. It leads to: local governments (ayuntamientos), Ombudsman of a respective autonomous community, and … NGOs. (Interestingly enough, NGOs are apparently regarded as state agents in this case.)

    But then things get even more interesting. Some provinces are better endowed with civil society organisations than others. Somebody lucky enough to live in Madrid or Barcelona has at his or her disposal an impressive list of anti-racism NGOs that can assist with filing claims, offer psychological and other help. Somebody living in a smaller and more remote/less cosmopolitan area has the local government, and maybe a church to turn to. Still many other of the so-called contacts provided on the Observatory´s website are outdated and lead nowhere.

    But even when the organisations are valid, the question arises: are NGOs really equipped to take on the role of the national equality body? There is not a single nongovernmental organisation in Spain that is big enough to reach to all corners of the country or cover all grounds of discrimination. Nor do they get sufficient resources for this task. Has the Spanish state simply created a ghost body without real tasks and pushed its own responsibility for anti-discrimination work onto NGOs?

    Last but no least, a special mention should be made of the police. In communications between CIDH Pro Igual and the Ministry of Equality (on file), a representative of the Ministry of Equality suggested that in case of ethnic/racial discrimination an alleged victim should go to the police, furnishing as much proof of discrimination as possible. It seems rather strange that the police would deal with non-violent cases, such as a polite refusal to let minority persons to a private disco or a shop, especially if some sort of an excuse is offered. Some NGOs (SOS-Racismo Madrid) have claimed that, on the contrary, if persons complaining of discrimination did not have valid residence papers, the police would open deportation proceedings against them. Well, in that case the police may be effective in reducing the number of potential victims of discrimination by removing them from the country, rather than having a real impact or deterrence on the actual phenomenon of discrimination.

    The question, however, remains — where CAN a victim of alleged racial (nonviolent) discrimination committed by private parties turn to in Spain?

    P

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:27 am on February 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Hello world! 

    Welcome to a new blog of Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos (CIDH) Pro Igual, a non-profit non-governmental organisation dedicated to the defense of human rights, above all the right to equality and nondiscrimination on any grounds and in any sphere of life. CIDH Pro Igual subscribes to a holistic approach to equality, which entails: equal treatment before laws; prohibition of direct and indirect discrimination on any grounds; countering intolerance; promoting respect for everyone´s dignity and identity; promotion of social inclusion and participation in society for all, and providing meaningful equality of opportunities for everyone.

     
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