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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 1:23 pm on April 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual has a new website 

    Dear friends,

    We have just finished restoring the Pro Igual website after it was maliciously hacked a few weeks ago. For technical reasons, it was easier to start from scratch than to try and save the pieces of the compromised site. So, please update your bookmarks and help share the new link among your contacts who you think might be interested in our work:

    http://proigual.org

    We also welcome your feedback on the site´s “new look.”

    Thank you and kind regards,

    Pro Igual team

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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 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 10:35 pm on September 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Flexible European values 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

    The actions of France expelling Roma received wide international resonance. Even Cuba´s Fidel Castro, not exactly the pioneer of human rights, issued harsh criticism of the French authorities, comparing current expulsions of Roma to deportations that took place under the pro-fascist Vichy government. However, France apparently does not enjoy to be on a receiving side of accusations of human rights violations.

    “The use of ‘holocaust’ by Mr. Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “Such words are unacceptable.” (Oh-la-a! The words kettle, pot and black spring to mind. Isn´t Mr. Valero who is somewhat ignorant of history and of Holocaust victims?)

    President Sarkozy aptly summed up the nature of the French objections to criticism: “That´s not how you deal with a great state.”

    Is it also, in a nutshell, the reason why the EU has been quite selective as to which countries it chides for their human rights record, while politely overlooking far worse violations elsewhere? Because Slovenia and Macedonia (for example) are not considered as great as China or Russia? Is it also the reason for a number of EU countries to allow secret CIA renditions? Because a great state can do no wrong?

    Evidently, the EU member states´s values and standards have been rather flexible throughout recent history. But there is a chance to finally demonstrate what the Union is really made of: by sanctioning the “great state” of France for violating fundamental rights of EU citizens.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:43 am on September 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Article “While France Deports Roma Gypsies, Spain Integrates Them” 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    An informative, if somewhat embellished, account of integration initiatives of Roma in Spain was presented in Time magazine in an article by Andres Cala “While France Deports Roma, Spain Integrates Them.”

    Some of the most relevant facts are as follows:

    • Spain spends c. €36 million a year on Roma integration, making good use of EU´s social funds.
    • About half of Spanish Roma are homeowners; only an estimated 5% still live in makeshift camps.
    • Practically all Roma in Spain have access to health care.
    • Practically all Roma children start elementary school (although only about one third actually finish it), and an estimated 85% of Spanish Roma are literate.

    Furthermore, the article notes:

    Spain’s two-pronged integration approach has been instrumental in those results, pairing access to mainstream social services with targeted inclusion programs. For example, Roma can have access to public housing and financial aid on the condition that they send their children to schools and health care facilities. Then there’s the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation Acceder program, which experts say is one of the best integration initiatives in Europe. The program takes young, unemployed Gypsies and teaches them technical skills and helps them earn the equivalent of a high school degree. At the end, they are placed in jobs through a series of agreements with private companies.

    While the Time article may gloss over some of rather serious issues, such as deeply rooted prejudices, discrimination and other racism-related problems Roma experience in Spain on a daily basis, the question posed by the article in the end appear a legitimate one: can the rest of Europe replicate Spain’s success?

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 5:59 pm on September 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    I have nothing against Germany, but the racist discourse there is troubling… and never dying 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    There appears to be an unhealthy preoccupation with immigrant fertility rates among European elites. A German banker with an interesting name Thilo Sarrazin appears concerned — and has made his concerns public — that Muslim immigrants in Germany procreate too much and that in 90 years

    the land of his grandchildren and great grandchildren to be predominantly Muslim, where Turkish and Arabic are spoken in broad sections of the country, where women wear a headscarf and where the daily rhythm of life is determined by the call of the muezzins.

    Christian Science Monitor quotes German federal authorities who “have disputed his claims, saying that second and third generations of immigrants are already showing significantly reduced birth rates…” Furthermore, it also quotes Brookings Institution expert Justin Vaisse who “argues similar declines with immigrant birth rate in France.”

    In other words, don´t worry, Thilo, hopefully Muslims won´t outbaby Germans after all.

    But why am I left uncomfortable with those expert views even more than with the racist banker´s bluntness? Is it because Germany´s preoccupation with “fremde Rassen” and their fertility has chilling historic associations?

    After all, nobody can know which people will be a majority in which land in what time (and frankly who cares?) British Isles, North and South America, Australia, Africa, and most countries in Europe too, were populated by a variety of different peoples throughout history, before the present make up, and surely the present make up is not final, either. Unless Thilo Sarrazin, or German federal authorities, have a specific plan in mind, they hardly can change inevitable forces of history. And if they do have a plan, I´d like to know what it consists of.

     
    • Volker 5:23 am on September 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Another racist anti-German remark on the web, how refreshing.

      • Rajka 8:38 am on September 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        how is it racist?

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:20 pm on August 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    I have nothing against France, but… 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Recently the France´s First Lady spoke out against the pending death by stoning of an Iranian woman for adultery and murder:

    Shed your blood and deprive children of their mother, why? Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you’re a woman and because you’re Iranian? Everything within me refuses to accept this.

    There can be no doubt about it — lapidation has no place in a civilized society, and it is laudable that Carla Bruni-Sarkozi has intervened in support of human and women´s rights. But why does her human rights work have to be limited to Iran?

    Why doesn´t she speak out for the women´s rights to wear what they like in France? (Like, a veil, maybe, if they choose?) Why does she remain silent while en masse deportations, smacking of the ones carried out by Nazis a few decades ago, of Roma continue?

    By no means, she should not stop calling for human rights in Iran. But maybe she should ALSO pay a bit more attention to what is happening in her own backyard. Because some may argue that racism and discrimination, like stoning, have no place in a modern civilized society, either.

     
  • 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.

     
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