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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 5:17 pm on March 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2012 

    The 2013 Pro Igual submission for the OSCE-ODIHR Annual Report on Hate Crimes highlights the deficient Spanish legislative framework regulating political parties whose goals and activities contravene democratic values of the Spanish Constitution. As a result, political parties which openly propagate xenophobia and intolerance are allowed to exist and operate, gain adepts and even attain legislative seats.

    As in previous years, Pro Igual calls to attention of the national authorities and international monitoring bodies that hate crimes are not isolated incidents and do not take place in a vacuum. Activities of the legally permitted extreme right parties in Spain are one of the strongest factors contributing to a fertile climate for xenophobic hate crimes. It should come as no surprise that the hate crimes committed by adherents of extreme right and neo-Nazi ideology are becoming ever more brazen and premeditated.

    Notwithstanding some steps taken by the Spanish State to address hate crimes, even despite the simultaneous decrease of net immigrant population, the number of such crimes in Spain does not diminishes but continues to steadily rise.

    The Pro Igual Report is available here.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:39 pm on August 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and xenophobic parties in Spain, Part II 

    By Daria Terradez Salom, CIDH Pro Igual

    This is Part II of the article analyzing Spanish extreme right and xenophobic parties. It continues the Pro Igual series of blogs exploring the connection between the extreme right movement and hate crimes in Spain. 

    Party pluralism is a barometer of the political health of a state, as well as a fundamental pillar of the democracy. The very first article of the Spanish Constitution affirms “political pluralism” as one of the “superior values” of the Spanish political system. That said, it is unfortunate that under the guise of freedom of expression and that same political pluralism, the forces are surging that propagate racism, xenophobia and exaggerated protection of the “Spanishness” in face of supposed invasion of foreigners “threatening” national stability, social tradition and culture in Spain. This analysis sheds light on the apparent discord between the legal existence of hate-mongering parties and organizations, on the one hand, and the democratic system and the rule of law, on the other. We seek to explain, by analyzing the existing legal framework, how such political parties manage to legally exist, take part in elections and enjoy participation in local organs of the government.

    We must stress that the present analysis by no means pretends to play down the importance freedom of expression, association or political pluralism. However, we do believe that from the point of view of active democracy there must be reasonable limits on the abuse of fundamental rights, for the sake of democracy itself.

    Constitution

    In addition to Article 1 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution listing political pluralism among the “supreme values,” Article 6 states: “Political parties express democratic pluralism, assist in the formulation and manifestation of the popular will, and are a basic instrument for political participation. Their creation and the exercise of their activity are free within the observance of the Constitution and the laws.” (“Emphasis added.)

    The Constitution envisions a rather flexible regulatory framework for political parties. But if apparently there are minimal limits on the creation of political parties to guarantee political pluralism, the constitutional limit acquires even greater importance. Freedom to form political parties is bound to respect the supreme norms, and one of such norms is respect for fundamental rights, including nondiscrimination established in Article 14 of the Constitution, as well as human dignity outlined in Article 10, paragraph 1, as a basis for public order and social peace. Article 6 is also closely related to Article 22, which establishes the fundamental right to association, and to Article 16, which guarantees freedom of ideology and beliefs.

    Political parties play an enormously important role in the democratic life of the state. They are a sign of political pluralism and of respect for the fundamental freedoms of ideology and association. They are not random formations, but are communities of like-minded individuals, who can take part in the elections and represent the wishes of their voters. That means they can end up in the state´s representative organs, which obligates them to firmly respect the Constitution and the legal norms regulating their activities.

    Law 54/1978 on Political Parties

    The Law 54/1978, presently superseded by a newer legislation of 2002, was the first norm regulating the creation of political parties in Spain. It was promulgated in 1978, just a few days before the Constitution. The 1978 Law established essentially an absolute freedom for establishing political parties, derived from the fundamental right to association. At that time Spain was trying to shake off forty years of the dictatorship and it was crucial to maximally facilitate the creation of political parties to ensure the uttermost political pluralism and representation which up to that point simply had not existed.

    The Law 54/1978 did not establish a rigid procedure for registering parties. In practice, the only limit on the party establishment and activities was a clear intent to commit a criminal offense or to fail to respect democratic norms, nothing more. When the registration documentation was delivered to the Ministry of Interior, the latter examined the papers and if there were no indications that the entity planned to commit a criminal offense, the party was registered. If such indications were noted, the Interior forwarded the papers to the Prosecutor who re-examined them. Only if the Prosecutor also found the intent to commit illegal activities, could the party be denied registration or dissolved.

    Such initially very liberal framework resulted in proliferation of political parties, including political organizations with extreme nationalist tendencies, for example, the Basque parties demanding political independence. We must also add that, thanks to the Law 21/1976 on the Right to Political Association, Falange Española de las JONS (established in 1976) – the only legal party under the Franco regime – managed to join the democratic playfield, despite having foundations clearly contrary to the Constitutional principles that would be adopted two years later.

    The Spanish political panorama since 1978 till the derogation of the Law 54/1978 has been developing in giant steps, given an incredible ease with which new parties could be registered. It was necessary for the young democracy, which Spain was at the time, to catch up, by guaranteeing political pluralism and stressing the importance of fundamental political rights, such as freedom of expression, ideology and association.

    Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties

    After 25 years of the original law on political parties, there was a broad consensus that the time was ripe for a new legislation. The two main reasons, expressed in the Preamble of the new Law 6/2002 on Political Parties (hereafter, “LOPP”), were as follows. Besides being pre-constitutional, the 1978 Law was simply too brief and by then has fulfilled its objective of “establishing a simple procedure for registering political parties.” Sufficient time has passed and experience has been accumulated on functioning political parties, so as to systematize and adapt this experience to the more mature constitutional system.

    The second reason for changing the law was much more critical. It was recognition that the old norm lacked “concrete constitutional limits for the establishment and functioning of parties and for their conformity with the Constitution and the laws.” Obviously, the old law could not demand conformity with the Constitution which at that moment had not yet been adopted. And that reason alone necessitated the adoption of the new norm.

    Noting passing, this omission in the old law is responsible for allowing the registration of the PxC and Democracia Nacional (both established prior to the 2002 LOPP), parties known for their racist and xenophobic tenor. The new LOPP aimed to prevent that: “the goal is to guarantee the democratic system and fundamental liberties of the citizens and to prevent that parties, in a continued and aggravated manner, attack this democratic order based on liberties, justify racism and xenophobia or support violence and terrorist activities.”

    However, notwithstanding some convincing reasoning in the Preamble, not all of the intended constitutional boundaries entered into the text of the new LOPP. For example:

    • In the Preamble to the new LOPP, the legislator reasoned that some other (foreign) legal systems when regulating fundamental rights have “formulated much more categorically a duty of compliance and stricter subjection to the constitutional order, and moreover a positive duty to realize the active defense and pedagogy of democracy, withfailure to fulfill this duty leading to the exclusion from the legal order and democratic system.” Such “pedagogy of democracy” is not part of the constitutional doctrine in Spain where any “project or objective is deemed compatible with the Constitution so long as it does not involve activities violating democratic principles or fundamental rights of citizens.”Thus, the pedagogical aspect of democracy has been omitted from the text of the new LOPP.
    • While putting emphasis on political pluralism, the legislator seemed to forget that Article 1 of the Constitution also listed liberty, justice and equality as “superior values” of the social and democratic rule-of-law state. If we add to this the concept of human dignity, advanced in Article 10 as the basis for a political order and social peace, and affirmed by the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal (hereafter, “CT”) as a logical and ontological prius for the existence and fulfillment of all other human rights (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional 53/1985), then parties infringing on human dignity should not be allowed to exist. Instead, the legislator added that this norm “is placed in equilibrium, carefully mediating between the high degree of freedom inherent in political pluralism and respect for the human rights and democracy.” This argument was trying to explain the reasons for excessive laxness of the law, but still left the door open to promoting pretty much “any project,” as stated in the Preamble, without articulating further limits.
    • The legislator expressed the intent to prevent that “a political party… attack the democratic order based on liberties, justify racism and xenophobia or support violence and terrorist activities.” However, the new law overlooked a small and seemingly insignificant detail. The cited paragraph of the Preamble mentions as separate activities, on the one hand, “justification of racism and xenophobia,” and on the other hand, “political support for terrorist activities,” separated by “or.” This “or” disappeared from Article 9 of the LOPP being substituted by “and.” The result of this substitution is that in order to be deemed illegal, parties or political organizations need to do both, otherwise, by default, they could continue their activities.

    While the new LOPP stipulated that “political parties could operate freely,” it did set out the boundaries on their activities: “They must respect constitutional values expressed in democratic principles and human rights.” The LOPP further outlined the motives for outlawing and potentially dissolving a political party:

    A political party shall be deemed illegal when its activities violate democratic principles, especially when it attempts to undermine or destroy the order of liberties or make impossible or eliminate the democratic system by one of the following acts, committed repeatedly and maliciously:

    a) Violate systematically fundamental rights and freedoms, by promoting, justifying or glorifying attempts on life or on integrity of persons based on ideology, religion or beliefs, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation.

    One is left to wonder how a party like España 2000 could have passed through the filter of this norm and was legally registered, given its racist and xenophobic attitude it does not even try to conceal either in the founding documents or in public declarations of its official representatives.

    There are two more grounds for dissolution. However, this is where the legislator substituted “or” with “and” (please see above), thus requiring both clauses to be satisfied in order to ban or dissolve a party. So the apparent intention of the legislator here was not so much to ensure the existence of parties that respect the Constitution and fundamental human rights, as to outlaw political formations that supported ETA (a Basque terrorist organization).

    We do not mean to criticize this legislative intent, but wish to warn of the danger of political organizations which even though do not officially resort to violence still attack fundamental rights and the very Constitution by their discourse and attitudes. The law, in principle, should have prevented that. It is not healthy for our democracy that parties, openly propagating the inferiority of other races and calling for denying to specific groups of people some of the most fundamental human rights, enjoy the constitutional freedom to act in this manner.

    Constitutional jurisprudence

    In one of the earlier cases before the CT, the case of Violeta Friedman, concerning the revisionism and denial of the Holocaust by Leon Degrelle, a Nazi fugitive resident in Spain, the Court de facto recognized limits of the freedom of expression in the face of human dignity. It reasoned that in regards of human dignity (Article 10), there is an obligation to respect it, and “in so far as public bodies and citizens are subject to the Constitution and the rest of the legal order, this has to be demanded also of political parties.”

    However, in the case of Pedro Varela Geiss – Librería Europa (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional 235/2007), the CT issued a confusing decision. On the one hand, Varela´ conviction for denying the Holocaust was confirmed. On the other hand, the CT ruled unconstitutional the provisions of the Penal Code that restricted activities of political parties. The CT rejected the argument of the prosecution that the Spanish system does not follow the model of “militant democracy” and thus fundamental rights cannot be restricted even if used for unconstitutional purposes. This, by the way, was the same reasoning found in the Preamble to the 2002 LOPP. The CT did affirm that there are limits to Article 20.1 of the Constitution regarding freedom of expression when expression is “vilifying, racist or humiliating” to human dignity. The reason for declaring the provision of the Penal Code unconstitutional was its interference with the exercise of the right to freedom of expression itself.

    In the more recent case, which concerned the dissolution of a political party (Fundamento jurídico 16, Sentence 5/2004, of 16 January 2004: dissolution and banning of the Herri batasuna), it was re-affirmed in respect of political parties that those are “a medium designed for expressing pluralism and to which they serve as expression; consequently, they find in freedom of ideology the basis necessary for defining their political identity, a genuine reference for those whom they offer to represent in the process of forming the popular will.” The CT added that “restricting the liberty to create political parties amounts to trampling the rights for whose exercise … this liberty has been conceived in the first place.”

    The party in question was dissolved and banned. Yet the case served to reiterate the tremendous importance attached in the Spanish juridical system to providing protection to political parties and organizations, given their role of the guarantor of other fundamental rights and freedoms.

    Conclusions

    Analysis of Spanish legal norms and constitutional jurisprudence on the matters of political parties and freedom of speech leads to various conclusions.

    One of the conclusions is that the Spanish constitutional system seems to waver when it comes to condemning racist and xenophobic expressions and attitudes of political parties, which do no more than contaminate the quality of our rule-of-law state. Even though such parties are in minority, they still enjoy representation in the state organs of power, with all the consequences this entails.

    Another conclusion is that we cannot ignore the latent danger posed for democracy by political parties and organizations propagating racism and xenophobia. With the ongoing economic crisis, their scape-goating of immigration becomes much more extensive and socially acceptable than would be appropriate and desirable in our democratic system.

    The final conclusion is that freedom of expression should not be a catchall where every ideology could be lumped together. Human dignity is a natural and necessary limit on free speech. The Spanish state ought to adopt a more pro-active approach of “militant democracy” and constitutional pedagogy to prevent that political pluralism and freedom of expression are swayed by anti-democratic discourse.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:39 am on August 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and xenophobic parties in Spain, Part I 

    By Daria Terradez Salom, CIDH Pro Igual

    This article continues the Pro Igual series of blogs exploring the connection between the extreme right movement and hate crimes in Spain. Part I reviews the three biggest ultra-right parties legally existing in Spain. Part II analyzes the Spanish legislative framework on political parties and movements and exposes its weaknesses.

    Introduction

    Freedom of opinion and expression are among the most treasured values in a rule-of-law state. They ensure diversity that must be guaranteed and protected in any democracy. However, there are groups that wrap themselves in constitutional protection while attacking and undermining the very freedoms upon which the democratic states are based. Such groups use their fundamental freedoms to spread the message of hate that has no place in a rule-of-law social democracy.

    Among the multitude of extreme right, racist and xenophobic parties currently populating the Spanish political landscape, we have chosen in this analysis to focus on Plataforma x Catalunya, España 2000 and Democracia Nacional. The choice of these particular three is based on the following objective criteria: their active involvement in government structures on different levels; their considerable media presence; and their ever hardening xenophobic rhetoric and stance during the election campaigns. The parties are reviewed in order of increase of their radical extremism, the latter party being the most candid proponent of fascism and the Nazi ideas of racial superiority.

    Plataforma per Catalunya

    Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) was formed in April 2002, after the entry into force of the Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties that was much more lax in its legality requirements than the previous legislation. Led by Josep Anglada, PxC advocates the priority of setting up the national, especially Catalan, front to stop the “hordes of immigrant invaders” that undermine the national Catalan identity and way of life. PxC estimated that “Catalonia was Number 1 in Europe and Number 2 in the world (after the US) in reception of immigrants” (without providing figures or sources). This did not square with the data of the National Institute of Statistics which showed that in 2011 there was negative net migration in Spain, with the biggest drop in immigration registered in the province of Barcelona.”

    To stop the advance of the hordes, PxC proposed the following program during the 2011 election campaign: absolute priority for Catalans in access to jobs, as well as to benefits and subsidies provided by the Catalonian administration; making illegal immigration a criminal offense; and total elimination of the budget for social integration policies for immigrants. The proposed measures would require reforming the Spanish regulatory framework on immigration, the Penal Code, and even the Constitution (article 14) in order to be implemented. Notwithstanding this program, as well as some questionable public statements from its leaders, PxC does not define itself as a xenophobic party.

    For example, in an interview to the program “Between the Lines” in 2008, a high-ranking member of the PxC, Sergio Serralvo declared his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Among other things, he insisted that “it cannot be denied that our race is superior, because while the rest of the world did not exist we already had culture and civilization,” and “cultural mixing does not bring us anything. The only consequence of it is unemployment, crime and price inflation. Since the world started, it has been proven time and again that the only thing mixing does is destroy civilizations. I am a racist, but I am not a xenophobe.”

    During the latest elections held in May 2011, PxC launched a polemic video: the first image subtitled “Catalonia 2011” shows three girls jumping rope, with a typical Catalan song playing in the background; the next image subtitled “Catalonia 2025” shows three girls clad in burqa with an Arabic melody in the background. In the third image Mr. Anglada appears to promise salvation.

    As a result of the elections, PxC support increased fivefold, especially in the areas with high concentration of immigrants from outside the EU. Although in absolute terms this was not significant, the media registered this increase in xenophobic vote as popular support for stopping immigration.

    España 2000

    This political formation was established in July 2002. It defines itself as “part of anti-immigration movement concurrent with the opinion of large sectors of the Spanish and European population opposed to massive and illegal immigration altering the European landscape.” Among its main program points is cancelling residence permits for family reunification. Other proposals are very similar to those advanced by PxC and both groups reportedly maintain close relations and coordinate their positions.

    Like PxC, España 2000 does not openly proclaim itself racist or xenophobic, since it could hurt its election chances as well as run afoul of the Spanish laws. However, its position formulated during the II Congress does not leave doubts: in addition to outspoken preference for immigration from the European Union, it rejects “massive influx from other cultures and religions,” proposes “barriers for immigration from countries whose nationals, as statistically demonstrated, have over-proportionately contributed to worsening of security situation,” and demands that “the State cracks down on bands of delinquents that arrived with immigration.” España 2000 intolerance goes beyond immigrants, extending to other “marginal” and “overprotected” groups, such as gays, feminists, and transsexuals.

    Setting aside their attitudes towards immigration, another preoccupying aspect of such formations is their stress on security as “the primary human right without which no other right could be realized” and the demand of “the law on legitimate defense.” There is no fundamental right to security, outside of personal security, while legitimate self-defense in face of unlawful aggression, as defined in the Penal Code (article 20), entails very strict criteria to be considered as such. In other words, the political program of España 2000 not only justifies but encourages violence, and taken in conjunction with its notorious anti-immigration stance, is precisely something that Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties sought to prevent.

    During the last elections, the campaign of the España 2000 candidate in Alcalá de Henares (the province of Madrid), Jesus Dominguez, launched an unconcealed attack on immigrant businesses in the area: “Alcala has totally changed. Due to uncontrolled immigration the foreigners already exceed 25% of the local population. Our streets are filled with their bazaars, call centers, fruit stalls, butcher shops… On top of making our streets look ugly, lots of those establishments host shady business. I am not saying all immigrants are criminals, but without a doubt more immigration means more crime.”España 2000 managed to get representation in Alcala.

    As other extreme right organizations, España 2000 is not merely an abstract idea. It actively utilizes social networks and other media to mobilize sympathizers and spread their xenophobic message. For example, on its Facebook profile, followers rooted for Marine LePen to win the election in France so she would throw away foreigners (Muslims) and lead the rest of Europe to do the same, as well as insulting various groups of immigrants.

    From the legislative point of view such conduct may seem harmless and falling into the scope of freedom of expression. However, in the words of the late Constitutional Judge Roberto García-Calvo y Montiel, this conduct is also degrading to the freedom of expression as well as to human dignity.

    Democracia Nacional

    Democracia Nacional (DN) was founded in 1995 merging together several extreme right groups, including the openly neo-Nazi CEDADE. DN is also part of EuroNat, formed in 2005, a bloc of ultra-nationalist parties in the European Parliament and led by the extreme right National Front from the neighboring France. DN explicitly propagates ideas of racial superiority of the white race, idealizes the past Nazi or fascist regimes, and demonizes foreigners.

    DN leader, Manuel Canduela, is a former frontman of the RAC band Division 250, and in 1993 was sentenced to prison for participating in the activities of the outlawed neo-Nazi group Radical Action and his role in assassination of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló, as well as violent attacks against gays, foreigners and left-wing activists. Following his criminal conviction, Canduela changed his tactics but not his ideology: “We had to decide what was more important, our ideas or shaven heads. …When we abandoned our skinhead style (and I repeat, this was the only thing we abandoned), our lives stayed exactly the same. Fighting the system.”

    DN insists on strict discipline among its members during the public manifestations: “Above all – absolute DISCIPLINE. Give good image, surely TV will be there. It´s an opportunity to show we are normal Spaniards. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT CLOTHING. They hope to snap a photo of a skinhead – don´t give them a chance. NO MISTAKES. ”

    DN so far has minimal political representation in Spain, obtaining less than half a percent of votes in the general elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008. During the general election 2011, DN slogan “Our people first!” was nearly identical to that of España 2000 (“Spaniards first!”), while their electoral program was nearly entirely focused on restricting immigration. Like other extreme right movements, DN members talk of “invasion” by illegal immigrants (especially Muslims) yet deny their racist or xenophobic persuasion: “we are neither racists nor xenophobes… we defend our national sovereignty and the rights of the Spaniards and to do that we consider necessary to effectively restrict illegal immigration…”

    However, DN managed to attract considerable following among disenfranchised youth and, owing to their style, also among military. It is not by chance that some of the highest profile violent attacks in the recent years had been committed by DN sympathizers, for example the murder of Carlos Palomino. Considering the unfolding economic crisis affecting ever great numbers of Spanish people and the DN aggressively populist message, they are likely to attract even more supporters.

    In the next article, we will discuss the Spanish legislative framework on political parties highlighting its weaknesses that allow parties, such as PxC, España 2000, Democracia Nacional, among others, to exist and poison the political discourse on immigration.

     
  • 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 9:58 am on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011 

    Recent CIDH Pro Igual submission for the OSCE Annual Report on Hate Crimes 2011 focuses on three main issues that are crucial for understanding and addressing hate crimes in Spain: 1) weak legislative framework against hate crimes, 2) increase in extreme right membership, and 3) infiltration of law enforcement by extreme right elements.

    The first issue is weak legislative framework for dealing with hate crimes and absence of the data on hate crimes. As covered in one of our earlier blog articles, the Spanish law against hate crimes is obsolete and ineffective. Adopted in 1995, the Spanish Penal Code does not even include the concept of “hate crimes.” The application of other relevant provisions is restrictive and inconsistent, resulting in an underestimated record of hate crimes within the judicial system and failing to deter hate crimes.

    The second issue is increasing number of adherents to extreme right organizations and their activism. In the past five years, the number of skinheads in Spain has more than tripled from c.3,000 to well over 10,000. Likewise, the number of neo-nazi, neo-fascist and other extreme right organizations and groups has nearly tripled from c.70 some five years ago to c.200 as of 2011. Their activism and appeal has intensified in the context of the economic crisis and rampant unemployment among the youths.

    The third issue is infiltration of the law enforcement agencies by elements sympathetic to extreme right ideology and/or hostile to immigration. Such infiltration has its roots in Spain´s past (the fascist dictatorship), but it has never been addressed and has been allowed to continue to this day. Disturbingly, some members of the Spanish police, Civil Guard and army themselves have been implicated in a number of high-profile hate crimes, or their cover up.

    All these factors contribute to a fertile climate for hate crimes and impunity for perpetrators. As a result, the number of racially-motivated hate crimes in Spain continues to steadily rise, while reporting, investigating and especially sentencing lag behind.

    To read/download the text of the Pro Igual submission to the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011, please click here or visit our website: http://www.cidh.es/

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 4:53 pm on November 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Serial hatred 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    The Swedish police recently managed to capture the so-called “lone gunman” who terrorized the immigrant community of the city of Malmö over the past year. Allegedly, in separate incidents, he shot to death one and wounded half a dozen other persons, all of whom were ethnically not Swedish. With the “lone gunman” off the streets, can immigrants be now safe in Malmö?

    Regardless of whether or not the court finds any mitigating circumstances, on their face the gunman´s actions constitute a hate crime, by far not a new phenomenon in most societies. In hate crimes, victims are selected on the basis of their real or perceived membership in a certain (racial, ethnic or religious) group.

    Judging by ever more intolerant rhetoric of even mainstream politicians, in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, judging by the recent election success of the right-wing Democratic party in Sweden, it appears that the conditions for intolerance and hatred of others, especially against people perceived as alien to the society, are ripe. And with the capture of the alleged perpetrator, the phenomenon of hate crime is still on the loose. And so the question should be asked: can the immigrants still be safe, and very importantly welcome in Sweden? And the answer to that, unfortunately, is not so straightforward.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:21 am on October 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Home of human rights? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    No, really, I don´t have anything against France. In fact, I am a fan of French culture, especially its amazing literature. But things that have been happening there are deeply disturbing.

    One of the latest revelations in France´s Roma deportations saga is the existence of an illegal database on Roma. Which makes all the more hypocritical the indignation of the French authorities at the remark of EU Commissioner Reding that deportations were reminiscent of the Nazi-era policies. (She subsequently apologized, but may be in light of this info she should withdraw her apology?)

    Also, recently media reported that President Sarkozy and Carla Bruni used state security services to find out who was gossiping about their marriage. I had to rub my eyes and re-read it to believe it. I would expect to read something like this about China, North Korea, or a host of other former Communist countries. But how is this possible in a “home of human rights,” to borrow an expression coined by none other than President Sarkozy himself’?

    I will not even dwell here on banning burqa and rampant Islamophobia in France which have been covered widely in the international media. Instead, I would like to reprint a statement by the French representative of the Coordinating Body for Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience at the recent OSCE Human Dimension Implementation conference (available from hrwf.net). It also adds to a feeling that even if France ever was a “home of human rights,” somehow it is now moving in the direction of a police state.

    Created over ten years ago to fight against discrimination of religious or belief minorities in France, the Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience which I am representing wants to express its strongest disapproval concerning the statement made on 26 November 2009 by the French Secretary of State for Justice, Jean-Marie Bockel, about minorities of religion or belief derogatorily labelled as “sectarian”.

    According to him the growing quest of personal fulfilment and the emergence of unusual religious syncretism are significant of the sectarian phenomenon which “can be analyzed as pathology of belief on a background of individuation and deregulation of belief.”

    This public statement made in 2009 at the first national conference of the Inter-Ministerial Mission of Fight and Vigilance against Sectarian Deviances (MIVILUDES) is still posted on the official site of the Ministry of Justice to this day. For the French authorities, it is necessary to repress minorities of belief they consider as deviant and to attempt to regulate beliefs.

    The Secretary of State added that “sectarian deviances” are “comparable to mutating viruses which spread in often insidious ways the poison of manipulation of human behaviours and spirits”. We understand that viruses as such should be eliminated.

    In spite of the French government’s assertions to the OSCE and the United Nations that MIVILUDES does not take in consideration the content of beliefs, the fact is that the main criterion retained by MIVILUDES in its 2008 Report to characterize mental manipulation is that “one or more people start to believe in certain ideas which differ from the ideas generally accepted by society”.

    But States have no business in assessing the legitimacy of beliefs. France committed by ratifying the Helsinki Accords and the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the right to freedom of belief and to remain neutral towards all creeds.

    Although France has been pointed out by the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom in 2005 for keeping a black list of “sects”, MIVILUDES has now compiled a repository of records on around 600 minority movements established from denunciations, accusations and tattling. Targeted faiths have no access to these records although they have been made available to Justice officials and public authorities.

    Our association regularly receives testimonies on the 1995 black list of sects which is still in use to justify discriminatory measures against the targeted groups. This practice is now aggravated with the repository of records of MIVILUDES resulting for minority movements in denials to open bank accounts or to use conference halls, and discrimination of their members in their professional and family life.

    Under the impulse of Mr Fenech, judges, prosecutors, police officers and social workers receive sessions of “education” on the minority groups he put on files. A special anti-sect task force has been created to intervene during police operations targeting minority movements to make sure that prosecutions are initiated.

    Independence of Justice is not guaranteed in France as long as minorities of religion or conviction are concerned.

    Additionally, Mr Fenech has launched a new way of intervention: he organizes unannounced visits by MIVILUDES in the communities, using his official title to force his way into their premises and impose the presence of the media to stigmatize them through an avalanche of slanderous accusations in the media.

    A letter of protest sent by members of the Ecumenical Monastery Le Moulin des Vallées in Brittany summarizes the problem: “Mr Prefect, we solicit your help to understand how Mr. Fenech can legally introduce himself in a monastery, under the cover of a Ministerial investigation, in order to actually help journalists make an unauthorized report?”

    We solicit the help of OSCE representatives to intervene with the French authorities and put an end to this policy of intolerance and harassment of minorities of religion or conviction.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:59 am on September 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , minorities, , , , , ,   

    A ghost of racism in Europe? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

    Rephrasing a late European philosopher, a ghost wonders about Europe, a ghost of racism. How else can those facts be interpreted:

    • Nicolas Sarkozi deports Roma indiscriminately, and his approval rating with the French public shoots up from 30 something to over 60%.
    • Thilo Sarazin publishes an anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim book, and it is a bestseller in Germany before even hitting the bookshelves. (He must be chuckling to himself for all the free advertisement he got, thanks to frantic media coverage.)
    • Geert Wilders recycles a few unimaginative islamophobic slogans of the late Dutch xenophobes, and he comes third in the national election. And his promise to join in Muslim bashing on “ground zero” only seems to push his popularity higher.
    • “Mother Reich” Barbara Rosenkranz, spouse of an effective neo-nazi, came second in Austrian elections on strikingly ultra-right rhetoric.
    • Berlusconi… well, the point is clear.

    Something is profoundly wrong with the political climate across Europe. And there is no point in sacking, condemning or silencing the people who just say what the majority of others think and evidently support. They are merely messengers of the public opinion which does not want foreigners, Roma, Muslims, Africans, others (insert as appropriate) in their countries.

    In 2000, Jorg Haider´s xenophobic slogans led the rest of Europe to spring up in defence of human rights, Austria even faced EU sanctions. Ten years later, much stronger-worded xenophobia, sometimes coupled with action, of the above politicians does not seem to prompt similar reaction and action. Is it fatigue? Or is it acceptance that xenophobia, far from being a marginal force, is the political mainstream, best expressing what European public support?

    Perhaps, concentrating anger on groups regarded as alien provides, albeit illusionary, escape from much more complex and invincible every day issues, such as economic crises, ever increasing climate problems, and so on, and so forth. It is certainly more placable than suggesting that racism, intolerance and persecution of difference may be part of common European psyche, “European common values.”

    For the sake of Europe, I would very much like to believe that one day this propensity to look for scapegoats will be overcome, and more rational and pragmatic thinking will prevail among the majority. Let´s hope this happens before the “beware of the enemy” attitude would result in yet another great human  catastrophe.

     
    • thilo2 1:34 pm on October 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      es sind einfach zu viele geworden die menschen verlieren ihre identität.

    • Adam 12:22 pm on September 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Oh stop with the lies. and smear. It is only right and fair that all European Countries are being reluctant to allow people in who don’t want to live by European Values – and it is also fair European’s want to ensure there countries are populated, in the distant future, with people of their descent. You must be a women, or a person desperately trying to become a journalist by writing about politically correct speaking points, in the hope of some day getting on with a major news paper. Maybe you should try to do some actual reporting on the streets before you start with your ‘opinion piece’, because, quite frankly, you seem to have no clue what you are talking about.

    • Rick 5:48 pm on September 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I believe that most Europeans are not opposed to the presence of foreigners living and working in their countries. What they ARE against is a large demographic change that will , over time, destroy the uniqueness of their Caucasian nations, and turn them into multi-racial, multi-cultural Towers of Babel!

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 5:59 pm on September 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , minorities, , , , ,   

    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 8:59 pm on July 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , minorities, , , , ,   

    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.

     
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