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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

     
  • 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 8:55 am on May 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    When Spanish spring turns violent 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Friday, 27 May 2011. Violent clashes between protesters and police — or shall we say unprovoked attacks by the police on the peaceful demonstration — took place in Barcelona, with some 120 people injured and scores arrested. Could this become the last straw that would break the camel´s back?

    It is not surprising that this sort of violence occurred in Spain, but it is amazing how it has been avoided so far considering people are utterly fed up and protests are regular. For a self-proclaimed “estado de bienestar” the level of social injustice and inequality is staggering. Nearly half of young people (aged between 16-25) are out of jobs. Small businesses are strangled by banks who no longer issue loans but nevertheless continue paying their bosses multi-million bonuses (with a bit of state support). Large corporations fire people by thousands (shifting them onto social security of the near bankrupt state) — to cut costs, we a re told — but still manage to find resources to reward their top management. The government continues to lie about the true state of affairs, either being in denial or in hopes to push the can further down the road and avoid responsibility and repercussions for just a bit longer. Arrogance and short-sightedness of the so-called “elites” is of epic proportions.

    Apparently, people do not want to take it anymore, especially people who may have nothing left to lose — no job, no home, no future — which means any spark can trigger a massive social explosion. The question is: can violence in Barcelona spark a conflict that can potentially bring down not only the Spanish but the EU edifice down? Whatever the future holds, let us hope that any violence could be contained, or better still averted.

     
  • 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 7:25 am on March 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , class, , , equality, , , , , , , race, ,   

    It is the race, stupid! 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CiDH ProIgual

    Academics, policy-makers and rights advocates often ponder which of the identity markers is decisive for measuring social disadvantage of minority groups: class, faith, sex, citizenship/nationality, disability, or race? The simplest thing to do to in order to find out, it appears, is to cross-compare each factor.

    Let´s start with disability and class. Who is more disadvantaged: a poor person with a disability or a rich person with disability? Clearly, money can buy many things. Although it may not be able to buy health, it can certainly buy healthcare. So, class would appear to easily trump disability.

    Now let´s compare religion with a few factors. Who is more disadvantaged: Christians or Muslims in Europe? Many may immediately answer — and there is sufficient research to support it — that Muslims are more disadvantaged. But then who is disadvantaged more: citizen (usually convert) Muslims, let´s say, in France, or immigrant Muslims in the same country? Or, to twist it a bit, who is more disadvantaged, a Muslim woman who is a citizen, or a Muslim woman who is an immigrant? The answer still seems rather obvious: immigrants are more disadvantaged.

    But are all immigrants disadvantaged in the same way? Do immigrants from, let´s say, Eastern Europe, which would be undoubtedly poorer in their majority than West Europeans, find themselves in the same disadvantage as migrants from Africa or Asia? Are immigrants from South America, let´s say in Spain, in the same place as Africans or Asians? For some reason, it seems like a resounding no.

    Now let´s pay a virtual visit to a country of immigrants, the USA. It is a widely held belief that immigrants can make it in America if they work hard. And perhaps more than any other place the USA boasts a number of prominent personalities who were born elsewhere but did very well for themselves in the new home country. So, let´s compare immigrants from Asia or Eastern Europe with citizens … of African-American descent. Who is more disadvantaged in the USA? For some reason, it feels that nationality does not play as decisive a role anymore.

    Now let´s go down the map, to South America. Technically, most countries there are poorer than countries in Europe or North America. They also have their own inequalities, quite possibly class-based. But which groups are still more disadvantaged, let´s say in Brazil: white (Hispanic) or black/mixed? The answer comes out almost automatically: black people. Some Brazilians even comment, informally, that everybody has a place in society strictly in accordance with his or her race. There are exceptions, obviously, like rich football players or movie stars, but they are what they are: exceptions.

    So, it seems rather obvious even to an unarmed (by scientific methodology) eye that race consistently comes first as a decisive factor of social disadvantage in society.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 3:43 pm on March 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Can a democratic state´s institution be responsible for encouraging hate crimes? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    A hate crime is an offence where the perpetrator selects a victim because of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group (race, faith, gender, age, disability, opinions, etc.). Discrimination refers to an act of exclusion on the basis of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group. In plain language: some people do not like some other people for who they are and actively show it. Different states have different legal mechanisms to deal with them.  But it is important to remember that both phenomena — hate crimes and discrimination — are illegal.

    Using these tentative definitions, it can be concluded that an individual or an organisation, especially in the position of power, that orders to infringe, en mass, fundamental rights of a group of people on the basis of their skin color, commits if not a hate crime then at minimum an act of discrimination.

    In January 2010, the Spanish Ministry of Interior issued a secret Circular 1/2010 that essentially ordered the police to round up and detain “preventively” anyone who on spot could not prove their legal presence in Spain. So, basically, anybody who ran out of home to buy a soda without an ID could end up in a cell? Not quite anybody. The Circular clearly was not directed at the Spanish people. Nor was it directed at foreigners who were perceived to be in the country legally, i.e. Northern Europeans. Or any Europeans for that matter. It was most certainly directed at persons perceived as “non-Spanish,” that is, the Circular of the Ministry of Interior in essence ordered the police to racially profile people and deprive individuals of liberty, as well as due process guarantees, without as much as a reasonable suspicion. (Surely, a suspicion that every black person is in Spain illegally cannot be reasonable?!)

    Lawyers could not even begin to count how many things were wrong with this document (secret law?). Evidently, not just human rights champions, but the very recipients of the order – the police — were appalled. The Spanish police syndicate went to court asking it to annul the Circular 1/2010, See: http://www.sup.es/es/contenido.asp?id=C0BDFB0CA8B74E028DD53B9E8D868300.

    Perhaps, it is too far-fetched to suggest that the Spanish Ministry of Interior is guilty of inciting hate crimes, without the court decision at least. But this secret order to round up, incarcerate and deport non-Europeans certainly brings about some disturbing historic memories. And if the courts do not find this act illegal, then it may be high time to revise some of the laws and definitions.

    To follow on this issue, please visit the website of the CIDH Pro Igual.

    P

     
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