EU should first improve own human rights approach - AI head


22.01.2014 14:33

Brussels - The EU should put its own house in order to be a credible voice when speaking about human rights, Amnesty International (AI) General Secretary Salil Shetty said in an interview for CTK, citing discrimination against Romanies in Europe, including the Czech Republic, as an example.


Generální tajemník Amnesty International Salil Shetty v rozhovoru s ČTK. ČTK Dospiva Jakub

"Lot of work has been done, effectively, on developing strategies, capacity building, support system, which need to be put in place. They have done quite a lot, but at the end, when governments are not following their legal obligations, there also needs to be accountability for it," Shetty noted.

Up to 12 million Romanies live in the EU.

According to AI, Romanies are still being discriminated against in the access to education, health care, jobs and housing.

Shetty said the European Commission (EC) could, for instance, launch proceedings against some countries over the violation of European rules, which might be brought even to European courts.

"Political processes often impede legal action being taken," he said.

Shetty is negotiating with representatives of a number of European institutions in Brussels these days.

Shetty recalls that the new European Parliament will be elected this year and thus a new EC will assume office.

"We thought it very important that current leadership leave a legacy behind and set path for human rights... for the next batch of leaders who come in," he told CTK.

Europe has always been perceived as a global leader in human rights, Shetty recalled.

"Our feeling has been that in recent years there has been a severe erosion of this situation. And the economic crisis has been used as an excuse," he noted.

"We want to remind the leaders that the founding values of the EU were always human rights and freedoms and democracy. And you can´t compromise on those values," Shetty added.

According to him, immigration is a significant issue to which the AI points in connection with the EU.

The debate on changes to the immigration policy has been intensified in the EU, mainly in reaction to last year´s tragedy at Lampedusa Italian island where hundreds of illegal refugees from North Africa and Middle East died.

However, AI is of the view that the current policy more focuses on the effort to keep immigrants outside the EU than on the protection of general human rights, Shetty said.

"Nobody is suggesting that you open it up and everybody comes in. But there can be systems put in place where you respect human rights and there is a way of legally getting people in in a systematic way," Shetty points out.

The third issue highlighted by Amnesty International is European countries´ participation in the programmes of U.S. secret services that probably illegally detained persons in secret facilities, allegedly in Poland, for instance.

Particular responsibility should be drawn in these cases, Shetty said.

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