Europe may seem like one continent that would be few and far between when it comes to human rights issues and abuses, but the European continent has several human rights issues within its borders. Granted, the death penalty and female genital cutting may not be present, but the human rights issues in Europe require equal attention from the local governments, the international community, and human rights organizations. Here four recent human rights issues in Europe right now:
Discrimination and Intolerance
The Roma, as well as members of the Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities, have all faced discrimination and intolerance in various countries in Europe. In Hungary, the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party won 13 percent of seats in the country’s parliament in 2010, making it the country’s third-largest political party. The party has strong anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric and is known to demonstrate in predominantly Roma communities.
Also in 2010, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would be cracking down on Roma camps, and the new president has not changed that policy or made a clear commitment to respect the Roma. Just weeks ago, residents in Marseille took it upon themselves to expel about 50 Roma from their camp before burning it down, so this is a problem that is continuing.
Persecution of Journalists and Human Rights Activists
Russia remains one of the most dangerous countries in Europe for journalists, while human rights activists have been prosecuted in Russia as well as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, just to name a few. Countries in Eastern Europe are more likely to have persecution because of the corruption in government and the restrictions against the media and freedom of expression.
Russia is also the home of Pussy Riot, of whom we are still working to get out of prison. The three members of the rock band were sentenced to several years in prison for “hooliganism” because they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. Only one member has been freed, and we are continuing to put pressure until the other two are released as well.
The case against Julian Assange has not been resolved, and the United Kingdom held him for 700 days without charged. Over 100 of those days were in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was unable to leave and the UK government threatened to storm the embassy to arrest him.
Greece, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania are the worst European Union countries at delivering justice through criminal trials. Some took up to four years to bring a case to trial, while others don’t have a legal maximum for detention. The EU currently has no common standard on how long anyone can remain in custody before being brought before a court. There are several reasons for taking so long, including a lack of interpreters, a lack of legal counsel, judicial corruption, and inability to challenge one’s detention.
This is a huge problem in Bulgaria, but in several other Eastern European countries as well. Thousands of women are trafficked to the West each year, almost two-thirds of them trafficked for sexual exploitation. On top of that, human trafficking in all of Europe increased by 18 percent between 2008 and 2010, while convictions for that crime decreased by 13 percent in that same period. In spite of this, only six EU members, out of 27, have tough anti-trafficking legislation.