7 February 202009:16

Human Rights situation in certain countries

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Unofficial unedited translation

 

The Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the Russian Federation

Moscow, 2020

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

AUSTRALIA

AUSTRIA

ALBANIA

BELGIUM

BULGARIA

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

UNITED KINGDOM

HUNGARY

GREECE

GEORGIA

DENMARK

IRELAND

ICELAND

SPAIN

ITALY

CANADA

CYPRUS

LATVIA

LITHUANIA

LUXEMBOURG

MALTA

MOLDOVA

THE NETHERLANDS

NEW ZEALAND

NORWAY

POLAND

PORTUGAL

ROMANIA

SAN MARINO

NORTH MACEDONIA

SLOVAKIA

SLOVENIA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

UKRAINE

FINLAND

FRANCE

GERMANY

CROATIA

MONTENEGRO

THE CZECH REPUBLIC

SWITZERLAND

SWEDEN

ESTONIA

JAPAN

KOSOVO*

____________________

* The name of Kosovo is mentioned in the context of UN Security Council resolution 1244.

 

 

 

Abbreviations used in the text

FRA –

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

ODIHR –

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

CPT* –

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

ECHR –

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

ECRI –

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

ECtHR –

European Court of Human Rights

AC FCNM* –

Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

CEDAW** –

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

CERD** –

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

CED** –

Committee on Enforced Disappearances

CRPD** –

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

CAT** –

Committee against Torture

CRC** –

Committee on the Rights of the Child

HRCtte** –

Human Rights Committee

CMW** –

Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers

CESCR** –

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

HRMMU –

United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine

UNDP –

United Nations Development Programme

CoE –

Council of Europe

HRC –

United Nations Human Rights Council

OHCR –

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

OHCHR –

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

FIFA –

Federation Internationale de Football Association

UNICEF –

United Nations Children's Fund

____________________

* Operates within the Council of Europe

** Operates within the United Nations

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

2020 is the year of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory over Nazism. The Second World War caused unspeakable sufferings to mankind. An attempt to put in practice one of the ideological pillars of the National Socialism, that is the theory of racial superiority, resulted in tens of millions of victims.

1945 is the starting point in the creation of the international system for promotion and protection of human rights. The victory in the Second World War created conditions for the establishment of the United Nations and for the elaboration of such fundamental document as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Later on, it was complemented with multilateral treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international instruments on various aspects of human rights. All these major treaties provide a basis for the development of multilateral international cooperation in the area of human rights, as well as a legal framework to counter negative developments in the area.

There has developed over the years a whole system of international global and regional mechanisms designed to monitor and protect human rights. At the global level, such mechanisms include UN treaty bodies monitoring the implementation by the States Parties of their obligations under the relevant human rights instruments. Major human rights events had been regularly held by the OSCE – in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Vienna and elsewhere. A number of mechanisms based on the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and other international instruments are also active in the framework of the Council of Europe.

Human rights are a major universal (in terms of applicability) institution of both contemporary international and national constitutional law. In national legal systems, human rights constitute an important element of the national body of law.

Legal obligations, per se, do not provide an unconditional guarantee of the observation of law as that requires relevant implementation mechanisms to be in place. In addition, political will and other factors can be as instrumental in ensuring respect for human rights as their legal recognition.

Despite multiple discussions at various levels on the principle of universality of human rights and seemingly general understanding of the essence of the matter, the issue of human rights is still used by some countries as a prefect for interference in internal affairs of independent states in violation of their sovereignty. Moreover, as a result of manipulations with regard to that basic principle and human rights as a whole there has developed a double standard approach to assessing various situations and phenomena.

In addition, historical truth has been often sacrificed for the sake of political expediency. Unfortunately, attempts to revise history, especially with regard to the period of the World War II are not a new phenomenon. And one should note that the word "revise" is quite a euphemism. Putting it bluntly, we face a systemic policy of falsification and distortion of history, including with a view to revising the outcomes of the World War II and understating or even distorting the role of the USSR in defeating Nazism and fascism. An idea is promoted that the Nazi regime recognized as criminal by the Nuremberg Tribunal was, in fact, quite a match to the regime of the state which was one of the leading member of the anti-Hitler coalition and a founder of the UN. Events of the past have become subject to selective citing with unsavoury episodes of the history of Europe, such as the Anschluss of Austria, the Munich Conspiracy and German invasion of Poland, that preceded the World War II being completely hushed up.

Of special concern is the campaign aimed at rewriting the history of the Second World War which is underway in the space of the European Union and in the United States, Canada and Ukraine, as are cynical attempts to whitewash war criminals and their accomplices – those who created and used to implement the theory of racial superiority, or to present Nazi collaborators as participants in national liberation movements, as well as blasphemous efforts by political elites of a number of Western and East European countries to erase historical memory. Such irresponsible actions incompatible with international obligations have led to the emergence in Europe and the United States of a generation that does not know the truth about the most horrible war in the history of mankind, including the truth about the mission and numerous war crimes of the Waffen SS recognized as a criminal organization by the Nuremberg Tribunal. We are also concerned about a growing number of xenophobic and racist incidents, and manifestations of violent nationalism, chauvinism and other forms of racial and religious intolerance in the countries mentioned above, as well as in some other countries where the allegedly absolute character of the freedom of opinion is invoked to justify the lack of response to such incidents and manifestations.

That complex issue problem is a subject of a separate report by the Russian Foreign Ministry devoted to the situation with regard to the glorification of Nazism and the spread of neo-Nazism and other practices contributing to the escalation of modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Information on their manifestations in various countries provided in this report is supposed to complement that report in terms of analysis of modern forms of Nazism.

The war waged against historical truth creates, directly or indirectly, new threats for the modern society. Of serious concern is a new trend followed by racist and xenophobic ideologies, the one to incorporate populist ideas to recruit new followers. Of even greater concern is the increasing involvement of young people in radical movements. A significant factor contributing to these trends is the connivance of the authorities which often turn a blind eye to extremists and even pander to them to divert public attention from pressing issues.

This is especially graphic in the European continent. It is with great concern that we watch Nazi and ultraright organizations getting increasingly rampant in a number of European countries, as well as on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a well-known phenomenon: various radical forces and movements propagating aggressive and nationalistic ideas become increasingly popular in periods of economic and social distress. Calls can often be heard in such periods to deal with those "responsible" for the misfortunes. All that leads to an increasingly hostile attitude to migrants and refugees, and to the aggravation of interethnic, interreligious and intercultural conflicts. Political hatred and right‑wing extremism directed against Muslims and refugees have become a fact of life in all European countries. We also witness the increased use of Internet to incite hatred, and that trend correlates with the incidence of actual racist crimes and abuses.

One should also mention that Europe which is a part of the Christian civilization has become lately a stage of increasingly frequent attacks against traditional values organized by those who propagate ultraliberal ideas, who try to impose on others their perceptions of justice, responsibility, sense of duty, cooperation, etc. and who attempt to replace such values with the notions of permissiveness and moral relativism. In fact, one can talk about the discrimination of the Christian majority versus supporters of ultraliberal values.

The above trends have seriously aggravated the human rights situation of national minorities and ethnic groups, including, first of all, with regard to their linguistic and educational rights. Of special concern in that context is the situation of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic countries and Ukraine. Measures adopted by their authorities can only be described as discriminatory.

Studies conducted by specialized national bodies, academic circles and non-governmental organizations reveal a range of problems faced by a number of Western countries. One of them is a high incidence of racist attitudes and prejudices. Also widely spread are such phenomena as Afrophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In March 2018, the Institute of Economic and Social Studies and the Irish Commission for Human Rights and Equality have carried out a study on the public attitude towards ethnic diversity and race. As a result, on the basis of data compiled in the framework of the European social study, it was found that 14 per cent of the population of ten of EC Member States believe that people belonging to some ethnic groups "are born less intelligent" and that about 45 per cent of the respondents are of the view that "some cultures are superior to others" while 40 per cent of them believe that people belonging to some races "are born more industrious".

There remains a significant employment gap between various groups of population and a high level of discrimination in the fields of employment and education. In most cases, the discrimination is even more pronounced where there is a combination of factors, such as sex, age, color, religion and social background. A related and frequent problem is the reluctance of victims of discrimination to report it to the relevant authorities for the lack of confidence in the latter or for fear that their situation might get even worse.

In European countries, as well as in the United States and Canada there has been a trend towards racial and ethnic profiling by law-enforcement officers, and the latter do not even deny that as revealed by the studies conducted by human rights organizations. Moreover, the law-enforcement bodies have no means to prevent that practice. There does not exist a clear-cut and consistent policy supported with relevant guidelines with regard to identity checks. Also, there is often no training offered on the subject.

Another frequently manifest problem is a hostile attitude towards Roma people. Media often reports about the demolition of Roma dwellings and their evictions, as well as about their discrimination in the area of education, healthcare and employment.

The situation with migrants has also been in the focus of attention of human rights organizations as problems in that area exist in many European countries and in the United States. Complaints relate to the practice of expulsion of illegal immigrants and to their blocking at borders to prevent them from applying for asylum. Grievances are expressed with regard to the separation of family members, lengthy periods of consideration of asylum applications and inadequate living conditions in migration centers which are often overcrowded and lack basic infrastructure.

A separate and important block of problems relates to the abuse of power by law-enforcement bodies which often results in the death of suspects. There are frequent reports about the excessive use of force and the use of riot control weapons against peaceful protestors and, indeed, media people who also often get into trouble when covering protests.

Deficiencies can also be found in the functioning of the judicial system in a number of countries. Political expediency sometimes prevails in their work over legal norms.

Human rights activists often criticize the widespread practice of surveillance of mass media and civil society leaders conducted by law‑enforcement agencies and security services. To that end, the latter illegally monitor personal contacts of people and keep an eye on them using advanced technologies, such as a face recognition system. In fact, they intrude upon the privacy of people. There are frequent reports about pressure brought to bear on civil society and human rights activists who oppose mainstream views.

Trends of that kind pose, in our opinion, a direct threat to the basic values of democracy and human rights, and present a major challenge to international and regional stability as a whole. We are convinced that one of the most effective means to deal with that is an equal international cooperation among states in strict conformity with international law and such principles as respect for sovereignty, non-interference and non‑use of human rights as an instrument of political pressure. All relevant parties should follow that approach while abandoning double standards and narrow political considerations.

This report is a continuation of efforts by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to draw international public attention to the increased incidence of human rights violations observed in a number of countries. The study covers the human rights situation in individual countries, including those that list themselves among advanced democracies claiming to set standards in the area of protection of human rights, as well as those that associate themselves with the latter. Such countries often try to "export" democratic and human rights standards invoking their universal character and actively criticize the human rights situation in dissenting countries pursuing independent foreign policy agendas and asserting their own historical, cultural and religious values and norms.

Based on data from international and national sources, and reports by human rights organizations, the report summarizes factual information on human rights violations in the above-mentioned category of countries and attempts to single out developments of systemic nature. It takes into account recommendations of international global and regional human rights mechanisms, including treaty bodies and regional (particularly European) human rights institutions, in respect of those countries. In that context, we would like to make a special reference to very substantive studies on the human rights situation in the United States prepared by the Chinese Human Rights Research Society.

We hope that the threat to democratic and human rights values will be recognized not only by civil society organizations and experts but also states mentioned in the report, including their legislative and executive bodies. At the same time, a formal recognition will not be enough. What is needed are concrete resolute measures, including an unbiased effective monitoring of human rights, as well as consistent follow-up steps and steps to ensure effective functioning of the existing mechanisms and to prevent their politicization in the interests of certain factions.

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AUSTRALIA

Australia regularly reiterates its commitment to universal international human rights values, emphasizing the development of democratic institutions, promotion of multiculturalism and gender equality, and the advancement of women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.

Canberra had ratified seven core international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Second Optional Protocol; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol; Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

In 2017, the government announced its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This has resulted in the work on establishing the national system of independent and regular monitoring of all detention facilities.

At the same time, Australia, being a State party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, continues to refuse to establish acts falling under article 4 (a) of the document as a criminal offenses. Claims against Australia by the relevant United Nations human rights entities and international non-governmental organizations (in particular, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) are systemic.

Country's increase in manifestations of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, including those in the public sphere, political debates and media, that mostly target migrants, especially Arabs, Muslims and people of African descent, as well as representatives of Indigenous peoples, has been noted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination following its consideration in November 2017 of Australia's 18th to 20th periodic reports on the implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination[1], as well as by the Human Rights Committee when considering the sixth periodic report in October 2017.[2]

Maintenance of criminal responsibility for children as of the age of 10 remains a separate problem of Australian society. The need to review this rule was noted by the Human Rights Committee in October 2017.[3] A similar recommendation was made to Australia during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council.

For many years, Australia's "Achilles heel" in the human rights field has been the situation of Indigenous population (total number is estimated at approximately 500,000 persons) who are not constitutionally recognized and remain the poorest and most vulnerable part of Australian society. Since 2008, "Closing the Gap" government initiative is being implemented to more inclusively engage Aboriginal people in economic and social activities, however, according to the 11th annual report of the Australian Prime Minister S.Morrison that included this project's status report (February 2019)[4], the results remain unsatisfactory.

The implementation of only two paragraphs out of the seven goals set out are proceeding as planned – "education" (rate of Aboriginal schoolchildren who have completed grade 12) and "access to preschool education". As of 2019, 61.5 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 attended 12th grade, while in 2008 this rate was 45.4 per cent. The proportion of four-year-old Indigenous children getting pre-school education has already amounted to 95 per cent (initially scheduled for 2025).

However, according to the report, the planned objectives in such areas as life expectancy, reducing child mortality, increasing school attendance, increasing literacy rates and combating unemployment have not been achieved. Furthermore, the deadlines set for the last four goals expired in 2018.

Although mortality rate among the Aboriginal population had fallen by 15 per cent, it has also dropped among non-indigenous population, as a result a significant gap remains unchanged. Life expectancy for Aboriginal men is on average 10.6 years less than that for "white" Australian men. This gradient is 9.5 years for women. Figures also vary across states. Thus, in Western Australia, Indigenous mortality has decreased by 30 per cent since 1998, while in New South Wales and South Australia, this indicator had made no progress over the entire project implementation period.

The child mortality gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is more than 200 per cent. According to statistics, average national child mortality rate is less than 100 cases per 100 thousand people, this figure reaches 165 among Aboriginal people, and the highest number of deaths (333) is recorded in the Northern Territory. Experts note that high infant mortality occurs, among other things, due to a rheumatic heart disease, caused by unhealthy maternal lifestyles and lack of routine vaccination.

Despite the positive trend in Indigenous school attendance (about 82 per cent), bridging the gap with Australians of European descent (93 per cent of the educational institutions attendees) is not moving fast enough.

Aboriginal unemployment is 51.6 per cent (an increase compared with 46.2 per cent in 2008). Moreover, the situation is more favourable in large cities – only 42.5 per cent of the Indigenous population are unemployed.

Statistics show that Indigenous people account for almost a quarter of Australia's prison population[5]. Thus, the proportion of Indigenous prisoners (approximately 10,000 prisoners out of 500,000 Indigenous Australians) exceeds the number of "white" criminals among the total number of non-Indigenous population (about 30,000 out of 24 million) by almost 16 times. Rate of child removal from Indigenous families is 35 per cent, which is 10 times greater than that for "white" Australians.

"Closing the gap" initiative is criticized by human rights actors not only for its inefficiency, but also for listing negative indicators, as well as lack of suggestions for improvement. Experts' disappointment is also caused by the refusal to engage Aboriginal-led organizations, in particular, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. Generally, the point at issue is the need to establish decision-making models with wider local community participation. At the same time, the main focus is on the need to take into account the appeal from the Indigenous people to the Australian government ("Uluru Statement from the Heart" of 2017, calling for the Aboriginal rights for a representative body in the country's Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution). However, the ruling coalition consistently refuses to take action on this initiative.

The plight of Indigenous people in Australia, including political participation issues, lack of protection of their land rights, discrimination in the socio-economic field, disproportionate violence against indigenous women, and the level of Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal system, especially children, was noted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[6] and the Human Rights Committee when considering the combined 18th to 20th periodic reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in November 2017 and the sixth periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 2017,[7] respectively. In addition to the above issues, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, during its review of the fifth periodic report of Australia on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May 2017, expressed concern about the high levels of all types of socio-economic disadvantage of Indigenous population, as well as failure to respect the principle of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples in developing policies on mining operations on the lands traditionally used by Indigenous peoples.[8]

Canberra's migration policy is also criticized by the human rights community. Australia does not provide asylum for refugees arriving illegally and indefinitely holds them in temporary detention centres on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and in Nauru. Poor conditions in such centres, including lack of adequate mental health-care, serious security issues and incidents of violence, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths, as well as the fact that poor conditions allegedly force some asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin were indicated by the Human Rights Committee in October 2017.[9] As of June 2019, 844 people remain in Australian remand centres. 822 migrants voluntarily returned to their homelands. Resettlement to the United States is proceeding slowly: only 531 people have relocated so far in the framework of the Australian-American arrangement, another 295 refugee applications have been approved (initial number – 1,250 people). 300 migrants have been denied entry to the United States. There is no certainty regarding the fate of those recognized as refugees, but not selected under the US quota. At the same time, the S. Morrison government continues to stubbornly refuse any conclusion of an agreement on migrants with Wellington (despite New Zealand's willingness to accept 150 refugees).

Experts also note an increase in the number of homeless people in the country (estimated at 105,000 in 2014), the majority of whom are young people, victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers and Indigenous peoples.[10]

Australia is criticized for the involuntary non-therapeutic sterilization of women and girls with intellectual disabilities and/or cognitive impairment, despite the fact that in its July 2013 report, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs recommended limiting the sterilization of persons for psychosocial reasons and strengthening the safeguards against abuse. In particular, the Human Rights Committee drew attention to this problem in October 2017.[11]

Human rights advocates' attention was also brought to the human rights aspects of the counter-terrorism activities of the Australian special services. In particular, they are empowered to detain individuals suspected of terrorist activity for more than 48 hours without charge, conduct surveillance on individuals without a proper court order, and access bank account information, electronic and text messages, computer and telephone devices of citizens without a warrant. The Telecommunications Amendment Act became effective in 2015, obligating telecommunications companies to retain metadata of Australians' phone calls and electronic messages for at least two years. In addition, in December 2018, a law came into force obligating electronic messaging services that use cryptographic encryption technology to provide security authorities information on the correspondence of terrorism suspects. According to human rights activists, all these powers can be used for uncontrolled and unreasonable interference into citizens' privacy. For example, the Human Rights Committee has pointed out the risk of such extreme measures becoming, with time, the norm rather than the exception.[12]

Country's continued impunity of abuse of power by law enforcement officers is criticized by the international human rights community. The Human Rights Committee, in particular, indicated that the independence of investigations could be questioned due to existing close ties between forensic specialists and police officers.[13]

Australia's free and independent media was compromised in June 2019 after the federal police raided the home of Annika Smethurst, political editor of "News Corp" media holding newspapers, and the head office of ABC – state-owned media corporation – and seized materials "based on secret government documents leaked to journalists."

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AUSTRIA

Respect for and protection of human rights continues to be among the priorities of the Austrian Government. In general, the situation in this field is considered by experts to be positive and is meets the standards established in the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The violations that take place are usually widely covered in the media and generate public backlash supported by numerous non-governmental human rights organizations operating in Austria and monitoring these issues. The NGOs regularly publish reports on the human rights situation and use their Internet portals and social media accounts to expose violations and release their perpetrators' names often triggering law enforcement investigations into such cases.

The most illustrative in this regard is the promotion of the human rights of migrants, as Austria is yet to overcome the consequences of the 2015 migrant crisis. Despite the overall reduction in the number of migrants, the Austrian social services still come under increased pressure often resulting in isolated cases of overzealous bureaucracy that are criticized in the human rights context. Statistics from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior reveal that 13.4 thousand asylum applications were submitted in 2018 (45.8 per cent less than in 2017), compared with 88.3 thousand in the record 2015. In 2017, Austria ranked first among the EU member states in the number of refugee claims per capita (237 per 100 thousand), leaving behind Germany (187), Luxembourg (184), Sweden (152) and Greece (92). The majority of claims were filed by citizens of Syria (3307, which is 55 per cent less than in 2017), Afghanistan (2053, a decrease of 45.7 per cent) and Iran (1097, an increase of 10.4 per cent). As of December 31, 2018, there were more than 38 thousand claims for refugee status pending before local authorities, including 30 thousand submitted for reconsideration. In 2017, 51 per cent of claims were approved.

Human rights activists criticize the authorities' focus on shortening the time frame for expulsion of rejected refugees, the lack of systemic approaches towards providing legal assistance to migrants, as well as the practice of detaining children under 14 for further expulsion. In May 2018, following its consideration of the initial report of Austria, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances expressed its concern over the introduction of a fast-track asylum procedure at the borders, as well as the lack of clear and specific criteria and/or procedures for assessing the risk of the asylum-seeking person being subjected to enforced disappearance upon return.[14] According to the Committee, it may result in the disappearance of asylum seekers upon return to their country of exodus. Experts note an increase (from 1436 in 2015 to 4627 in 2018) in the number of arrests of migrants (for further extradition) compromising the simplified form of expulsion without detention. The practice of restricting the freedom of pregnant and nursing women, migrant victims of persecution and persons with physical disabilities is considered questionable.

Experts believe that the inefficiency of the system of legal protection for migrants is confirmed by the statistics of the Federal Administrative Court of Austria that approved only 15 per cent of all requests for legal assistance from asylum seekers in 2018.

Conditions in temporary refugee holding centers remain a primary focus of human rights NGOs. Despite steady improvements, they are still deemed insufficient to meet special needs of certain persons (victims of torture, trafficking, and gender violence) in many facilities. There is a need to enhance the quality of health services provided to the persons requiring particular attention, for instance, unaccompanied minors. Social services still fail to fully ensure interpretation during obligatory interviews with migrants.

The Austrian media also regularly publishes information on offences committed by refugees and members of ethnic groups. For instance, according to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior, 40 per cent of all suspected perpetrators in 2019 were foreigners.

Hence, there is a certain polarization of public attitudes towards the migrant issue. Opinion surveys (March 2018) reveal that 67 per cent of respondents believe that Austria should help refugees, yet 74 per cent agreed that there is a parallel society of migrants in the country.

The level of integration of foreigners in general and refugees in particular remains quite an important indicator for Austrian authorities and local society. Given the persisting "migrant-phobia", the police observes an increase in the number of violations committed by locals as well, first and foremost against temporary migrant holding facilities (damage to property, arsons etc.). The 2018 Racism Report published by the Civil Courage and Anti-Racism-Work (ZARA) human rights NGO indicates a significant rise in intolerance in the Austrian society towards individuals of different racial identity and religious affiliation. In 2018, 1920 cases of racial intolerance were recorded (compared to 1162 in 2017), which is the highest figure in recent years. Most cases were registered on the Internet (60 per cent of all offences), in public spaces (16 per cent) and in service sector (7.8 per cent), and some of them involved police personnel (4.2 per cent). Most often, racism occurs on social media (around 60 per cent online offences are committed on Facebook) and in everyday life and is manifested in slogan-shouting or inscription of national socialist symbols. According to human rights activists, the concept of zero tolerance for migrant offenders actively used by the Freedom Party of Austria that is part of the Federal Government of Austria (December 2017 – May 2019) has contributed greatly to the increased number of such manifestations.

This problem was also highlighted by international human rights monitoring bodies. For instance, in its Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of Austria on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of December 2015, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern over the fact that, despite action taken by the Austrian authorities, immigrants, foreigners and ethnic minorities, including the Roma minority, continue to face intolerance and discrimination. In particular, there was a rise of advocacy of racial or religious hatred against migrants and asylum seekers, as well as Roma, Muslims and Jews, an increase in political hate speech, which had not been systematically countered, and advocacy of hatred against persons of a different faith by some radical Islamist preachers. Hate speech on the Internet and online forums was on the rise. In addition, the Committee noted in this regard the low representation of ethnic minorities in political and public life, including in the legislative and executive bodies.[15]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also expressed its concern at incidents of hate crimes and attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, including women and girls, in July 2019.[16]

Besides, experts of the Human Rights Committee believe that polarized public attitudes are manifested in the increasing radicalization and the resurgence of far right-wing groups inspired by extremist national socialist ideologies and neo-Nazism, as well as the growing activities of extremist groups, including members of the Muslim communities.[17]

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the decision of the authorities to ban face-concealing clothing in public places has a discriminatory impact on Muslim women residing in Austria and migrant women and girls coming to the country.[18] In the Committee's opinion, this ban restricts the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion of the population group that wears certain religiously influenced clothing, as well as contributes to its social isolation.

Human rights organizations point out the examples of police officers and special forces abusing their powers and using excessive force against detainees. According to the research conducted by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice that analyzed 1,500 police misconduct allegations, only 7 of those cases were referred to court and never resulted in guilty verdicts. In 10 per cent of cases, the complainants themselves faced defamation charges. In 2017, only 7 out of 509 complaints against law enforcement officers suspected of abuse of power filed with the Public Prosecutor's Office were investigated, confirming infringements of the law.

Besides, there were cases of racial profiling by police officers of certain individuals on the basis of their physical appearance, colour or ethnic origin. This was highlighted, in particular, by the Human Rights Committee in December 2015.[19]

Human rights activists criticize the reform in the field of social security for the poor, among whom the number of refugees has increased in recent years more than 30 per cent. The reduction in payments is expected to primarily affect 66 thousand individuals with refugee status out of 230 thousand beneficiaries of basic assistance. The most significant cut-backs will hit families with a large number (more than 3) of children (a decrease of the country average from 2,084 to 1,350 euros), as well as individuals who are not proficient enough in German. The payments to single refugees are expected to be reduced from 863 to 560 euros. Experts believe that at the end of the day, this reform will have the most impact on the welfare of children and minors residing in Austria.

The migrant reception issue is also associated with the phenomenon of human trafficking. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Austria is a destination and transit country for trafficking in women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation (95 per cent) and forced labour. Besides, the Committee expressed its concern over the fact that while the number of investigations and prosecutions of traffickers increased (with 63 arrests for trafficking and 75 arrests for cross-border prostitution in 2017), the sentences imposed on traffickers by the courts of the State party are too lenient, despite article 104 (a) of the Criminal Code providing for penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment.[20] The Human Rights Committee also noted with concern the insufficient identification of victims trafficked.[21]

Another persisting social issue is the gender gap. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted in July 2019 that the gender pay gap in Austria (19.9 per cent in 2017) is one of the highest in the European Union. The Committee believes that it adversely affects women throughout their working life and in terms of their pension benefits. It is evidenced by the fact that the average pension level for women is about 40 per cent lower than that for men. Besides, according to the Committee, despite the relatively high employment rate among women between 15 and 64 years of age (68 per cent), almost half of them (47.5 per cent of employed women) are currently holding part-time positions, predominantly owing to family responsibilities.[22]

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ALBANIA

Albania is party to most of the European and universal international human rights treaties. Drawing on these instruments, the Government is taking steps to improve legal protection of its citizens and developing its own plans and programmes in cooperation with national and international NGOs.

Ensuring human rights protection is one of Tirana's top five priorities for launching accession talks with the EU; however, the attempts by the Albanian leadership to bring the country up to the EU standards have yielded no tangible results so far.

Despite certain positive developments, the human rights situation in Albania remains complicated. The most painful issues, as international experts point out, include human trafficking, law enforcement brutality, inappropriate prison conditions, use of hate speech, double standards on property rights, blood feuds, discrimination against members of national minorities and domestic violence.

Such problems are mainly caused by widespread corruption, nepotism, the country's imperfect legal framework and weak judicial system, lack of professionalism among judges and prosecutors, a low level of legal literacy of the population, traditional social mores, high unemployment, poverty, which prompt people, especially youth, to migrate outside the country.

In the field of combating human trafficking, despite the significant efforts that have been made at the national level in recent years, Tirana still fails to meet the minimum standards for detecting, prosecuting and preventing this type of crime. There are no witness protection, assistance or rehabilitation programmes for victims. According to experts, the indicators for the country remain at the level of 2013. Albania has not overcome its negative image as a source and transit country – and in some cases a destination country – for sexual slavery and forced labour, including begging. The primary risk groups include Roma people, children and socially vulnerable segments of the Albanian population. This was indicated, inter alia, by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination following its consideration of the combined ninth and twelfth periodic reports of Albania in December 2018.[23]

The Albanian Government is working to fight human trafficking and implement preventive measures, mainly on the initiative and with the support of its Western partners. In 2018, with support from UNICEF, the country's ombudsman developed a new strategic action plan to improve the human rights situation for the period 2018–2022, which focused on countering modern slavery and human trafficking.

It should be noted, however, that Albanian organized crime groups remain strong. From time to time, information appears in open sources about newly identified organized crime groups that profit from human trafficking, operating both in Albania and abroad (Italy, Greece, Kosovo[24], etc.).

The tradition of blood feuds is another persistent problem. According to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights, about 10,000 people (120 families) are involved in these obsolete customs. Today, neither the ombudsman nor religious leaders nor the Coordination Council for Combating Blood Feuds are able to put an end to these practices. The international community has also expressed concern about this phenomenon since many Albanians, including minors and often those who are not involved in blood feuds, seek refuge in Western Europe under the pretext of an impending vendetta.

Human rights monitoring bodies of the OSCE and the Council of Europe consistently report that there is no freedom of the media in Albania and that media outlets are often controlled by the authorities and show bias, especially in the run-up to parliamentary and municipal elections. In fact, the situation in the country with strong political biases and a low level of professional culture in the media has not changed over the last 20 years.

Albania has also been criticized for the continued use of hate speech by politicians and opinion leaders in public discourse. There is no available information about prosecutions or convictions on these grounds. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also noted that the 2011 census did not provide reliable demographic data on ethnicity, religious practices and languages used.

The Roma people is the most vulnerable national minority, which is discriminated against in access to employment, education, health care, housing and services. International experts encourage Albania to strengthen the implementation of its Action Plan for Integration of Roma and Egyptians for the period 2016–2020 and to develop other special measures to combat discrimination against these groups.

At the same time, there are certain improvements in the human rights situation in Albania. The country shows a high level of tolerance towards people of different cultural and religious identities. There is no discrimination against members of any faith represented in the country. Local government bodies and key institutions have almost equal representation of men and women (although, it is often enforced by the Government and has little support in traditional Albanian society).

The report by Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following her visit to Albania (published in September 2018) focuses on the children's rights situation. Like many Western officials, Ms Mijatović concluded that the situation had improved considerably in recent years, but the country should continue updating its legislation. The report also commends the reforms in the social sectors that were carried out over the first half of 2018 (including the increase in cash payments for socially vulnerable groups – children and people with disabilities).

The Commissioner also noted that vulnerable groups continued to have limited access to justice. The results of a 2017 UNDP survey on access to justice demonstrated a high level of legal illiteracy, in particular among Roma, dubious attitudes on justice and a lack of trust in the justice system among Albanians. According to this survey, Roma, low earners, persons with little formal education, persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and children from residential institutions face various obstacles that make accessing justice even harder than for the average Albanian citizen. Many of them are victims of discrimination and economically deprived, which leaves them unable to access better quality services. As a result some do not even attempt to have their legal issues addressed.[25]

In 2018, important changes were made to the Law on Punishment for Domestic Violence and Emergency Measures for Detection and Prevention of This Phenomenon along with a number of amendments to ensure gender equality.

Using Western funds, the country regularly holds human rights round tables and conferences (often at the initiative of Western countries' diplomatic corps) on topics related to the fight against intolerance, discrimination, cruelty, etc., which are usually widely covered by the media. One of such high-profile events was organized in parliament in December 2018 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In autumn 2018, national human rights institutions (the Ombudsman, the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection), with the support of the OSCE Presence in Albania, signed a cooperation agreement to ensure a more effective exchange of data and experience on human rights issues.

There are still approximately 4,900 stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness in Albania, many of whom are Roma without identity documents, Roma children or children born abroad and having no birth registration. Another group of persons at risk of statelessness are Albanian emigrants who have gone abroad and become stateless because they voluntarily renounced their citizenship and/or did not acquire citizenship of their country of destination.[26] The Law on Citizen Status has been revised to preclude the possibility of children having a "non-citizen" status.

In 2018, the Law on the Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Albania (2017) was amended to stipulate that in areas where minorities made up at least 20 per cent of the population school education would be provided in their native language.

According to the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Law on the Protection of National Minorities, adopted in 2017, contains declarative provisions for protection, preservation and development of the cultural identity and languages of national minorities. The Law determines the personal scope of application and the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The Committee noted that the Law was very general and programmatic in nature. In many important areas it delegates specific matters to Council of Ministers' decisions. Enabling secondary regulations, in the form of Council of Ministers' decisions, are needed however to make the legislative provisions effective. These decisions have not been adopted within the legally prescribed deadline of six months, thus depriving persons belonging to national minorities of access to rights. Moreover, the Council of Ministers' decisions, being of subordinate legal status, provides a lesser degree of protection of rights.[27]

The Committee noted a lack of progress as regards teaching in or of minority languages. Schools teaching in the Greek language continue to do so in Gjirokastër, Sarandë, Delvina and Korçë counties, and teaching in the Macedonian language is carried out in schools in the Korçë county. Apart from limited teaching of the Romani language, no teaching in or of other national minority languages has been introduced. The new law on national minorities opens up the possibility of opening classes teaching languages of all national minorities in Albanian schools. However, restrictive criteria for setting up classes teaching national minority languages have been formulated in the draft Council of Ministers' decisions.[28]

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BELGIUM

Although Belgium is a party to the major international human rights treaties and the promotion of the corresponding high standards is declared as one of the State's key priorities, violations of the universally recognized rights and freedoms are reported there on a regular basis. Thanks to the activity of the media and national and international human rights organisations, such facts are usually made public, but authorities do not always take measures to remedy the situation. According to the survey carried out by the non-governmental organisation Amnesty International Belgique in September 2018, only 13 per cent of Belgians thinks that the government makes an adequate contribution to the improvement of human rights standards.

The Flemish authorities continue to strictly oppose the ratification of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities signed by Belgium back in 2001. The NGO "Association for the Francophonie in Flanders" points out that the Walloons residing in the north of the country are discriminated. In particular, they have a limited access to social housing; French-speaking cultural associations cannot apply for funds from the region, document flow at the level of local authorities in the vast majority of communes is in Dutch, which contravenes the dispositions of the Belgian Constitution on linguistic freedom.

Belgium has not signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of 1992 that, together with the Framework Convention, is at the core of the activity of the Council of Europe to protect national minorities.

The Kingdom has decided to heed the repeated recommendations of authoritative international institutions (in particular, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council) on the necessity to create an institution that would be independent from the executive power and charged to monitor the situation in the field of human rights. Meanwhile the institution responsible for the collection and analysis of such information is the Belgian Ministry of Justice. In April 2019, the Belgian Chamber of Representatives adopted the relevant draft law, but the task of creating the new institution has not been passed at the practical level yet.

The Belgian society acutely feels the consequences of the migration crisis. The main grievance of human rights defenders to the Belgian authorities is improper living conditions for asylum seekers, illegal migrants and their families. According to the experts, these are due to the lack of funding for pertinent Belgian services and insufficient trained personnel.

In its last annual overview of the human rights situation in the country, the NGO "Human Rights League" notes that the practice to place minor children in restricted-access camps that has been used by the authorities from August 2018 to April 2019 contravenes the dispositions of major international documents protecting the rights of children. The fact that non-accompanied children are placed in centres for adult asylum-seekers was mentioned by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2019. It also noted that disappearances of non-accompanied children transiting through the territory of the country are frequent in Belgium.[29]

In July 2018 a new detention centre for families with children awaiting their return was opened in Belgium. The NGO "Children on the Run" strongly criticized the activity of this centre. The Commissioner for Children expressed concern about the extension of the maximum period of stay in families for unaccompanied migrant children, noting that it resulted in stress and fear among children.[30]

Due to the fact that the migration service is still unable to receive all the asylum-seekers, potential refugees have to stay in the street. A spontaneous campground persists in the Maximilian Park in the central part of Brussels. The situation aggravated by the end of 2018 due to temporary quota for accepting relevant requests (50 per day). This practice has been condemned by a group of Belgian human rights NGO, including the "Human Rights League", as well as by "Médecins sans frontières".

The "punitive measures" of the authorities towards migrants/refugees sympathizers also raise concerns. Thus, two journalists, a social assistant and one more person have been brought to justice for having granted asylum or otherwise supported migrants.[31]

Migration issues have become one of the key themes of the 2018–2019 election campaign. Worthy of note is a wave of conservatory rhetoric from representatives of right-wing parties and nationalist movements, not always in line with Belgian international obligations. Thus, for example, proposals were made on immediate removal of all illegal migrants, on "clearance" of parks and railway stations, on granting migrants a "special status" that would allow them access to social welfare only after several years of stay in the country. Belgian human rights defenders criticized the discriminatory police instruction that appeared just prior to May elections, calling on school administration to supply to the law enforcement authorities the records on "troubled" teens from migrant environment.

The protection of the rights of children in Belgium is also far from favourable. This is clearly indicated in the Final observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child upon examination of consolidated 5th and 6th periodical reports of Belgium on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Apart from many problems faced by migrant children due to prejudices and discrimination (added to which are serious difficulties in schooling), experts noted a number of other serious issues.

The Committee noted the growing number of children suffering from such psychological problems as stress, and high incidence of suicide among children. In this context, it noted the insufficiency of timely first psychological aid. Measures like drug administration and hospitalizations in psychiatric institutions are used instead, which is ineffective for many cases at the early stage.

The CRC experts are concerned about radicalization of children and incitement to hatred, including towards vulnerable children. Bullying and violence in schools remain frequent in the country, from peers as well as from teachers.

The CRC also noted that data about child abuse and domestic violence are underreported by the authorities or not fully registered.

The Committee expressed concern about the serious problem of frequent sexual harassment in public spaces.[32]

National and international human rights defenders express the opinion that Belgian authorities often go too far in their counter-terrorist activity, using issues of fighting terrorism and ensuring security as reasons for limiting freedom of expression and interference in privacy. Such examples are cited in the progress report of the thematic "Committee T" within the Belgian Parliament (oversees the work of the government and the law enforcement authorities in the field of antiterrorism).

In particular, the law of July 30, 2018 is criticized, which fixed the legal framework for massive supplying by employees of social organisations of personal information about their supervisees to the law enforcement authorities. Data transfer is organized through the "Departments of integrated safety on the local level" created in every Belgian commune. These organizations, bringing together police officers, representatives of district administrations and social assistants, systemize, in particular, information on radicalized elements registered in the district. Human rights defenders insist that such a system might imply violations of Article 23 of the Belgian Constitution, which guarantees equal rights to social protection, access to health care and legal aid.

From September 2017, social assistants have been obliged to report to the police about any suspicions concerning the relations of their clients with terrorists. But in March 2019 the Constitutional Court cancelled this norm as violating the right to privacy.

Incidents concerning abuse of office and use of excessive force against citizens from the part of the police are frequent in Belgium.

In this respect, refugees have been the most vulnerable. According to the NGO "Médecins Sans Frontières" (Doctors without Borders), about 100 persons of the 600–700 migrants having stayed during 2018 near Park Maximilian have suffered violence from the police. Human rights defenders reported incidents of offensive language, psychological pressure and beating.

In May 2019 the parliamentary "Committee P" that oversees the activity of law enforcement authorities published another report on offences committed by police officers. The reports points out that grievances submitted to the committee are steadily growing in number: 2452 in 2010, 2733 in 2017. According to statistics, in 2017, courts rendered 97 guilty verdicts concerning law enforcement officials, including on charges of theft, drug trafficking, falsification of documents. Disciplinary measures have been taken 531 times. Systematic illegal use of service databases for personal purposes by the police officers is another unresolved problem stressed by the authors of the report.

The non-governmental organization Amnesty International interviewed more than 48 police officers and officials in nine local police districts in Belgium about racial or ethnic profiling during inspection and identity documents control. Half of the police officers think that ethnic profiling does take place and they often do not have instruments to prevent this practice. According to the interviewed, a clear and consistent policy for identity documents control is absent due to the lack of guidelines, instructions, training or monitoring of identity control.[33]

One of the most acute problems of the Belgian justice is the crisis mode of functioning in penal institutions. The criticisms of independent experts are aimed before all at prison overcrowding.

By 2018, the penal system counted 35 prisons. 17 of them were in Flanders, 16 in Wallonia and 2 in the Brussels-capital region. They are divided in three types – closed, semi-open and open.

From the early 2000s the federal government tries to reduce the number of inmates. Under the current Cabinet of Charles Michel the goal was set to the Ministry of Justice to reduce the rate of persons serving sentences to 10,000. Attempts have been made to decrease this number by preventing offences, rendering lesser sentences for low-level crimes, replacing imprisonment by house arrest with mandatory wearing of an electronic bracelet or by corrective labour. In November 2018, Belgian minister of Justice Koen Geens declared that the goal was achieved and there were less than 10,000 persons detained in the prisons of Belgium. But, as of January 2019, this rate surpassed the established level again and amounted to 10,305 persons.

According to the information from the General Prison Administration of the Kingdom, published in December 2018, there are 113 inmates per 100,000 residents in Belgium. This rate is one of the highest in Western Europe (it is at 53 in the neighbouring Netherlands). Penitentiary facilities designed for an average of 500–600 persons contain up to 700–900 inmates. Earlier it was possible to resolve the problem due to a joint programme with Netherlands where the number of inmates steadily decreased from the mid-2000s. This led to liberation of prison places that could be given in rent to Belgians. But the partnership programme was terminated by the end of 2017, as with growing number of migrants the number of crimes and sentences also grew considerably, which posed the same challenge of prison overcrowding before the Dutch government. All the Belgian inmates had to be returned back.

In some penitentiary facilities the number of inmates is almost twice bigger than that of planned places (prisons in Ypres, Dinant, Namur, Huy). Specialists are particularly concerned about massive and serious violations of public health standards and fire safety. In its report of 2018, the Council for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment within the Council of Europe also expresses its concern about this problem and calls upon Belgian authorities to address it.

Another important problem of the penitentiary system in Belgium is the prohibition of carrying firearms for prison staff in the country. Personnel are authorized to carry as equipment only batons, more rarely electric shockers, and radio sets. Special equipment exists in case of prison riot; it consists of a protective suit and a shield. Usually, in case of emergency prison staff is charged to block all the exits and to wait the armed police. All this leads to reduced safety level in penitentiary facilities, increasing chances for inmates to escape successfully. An illustrative case was reported from the prison near Ostend, when the accomplices of an inmate rented a helicopter in a private firm, flew in it to the prison and took him away directly from the exercise yard. Due to the lack of any defence means, security personnel were unable to act. As demonstrated by the studies, most prison staff suffer from chronic diseases due to permanent stress, including neurotic disorders and, as a result, overweight. Strikes of prison staff requiring better working conditions are frequent in the Kingdom.

The international human rights community expresses a certain concern about the independent functioning of the media in Belgium. According to the report of the NGO "Reporteurs sans frontières" (Reporters without Borders) of April 2019, during the last year Belgium has gone down from the 7th to the 9th positions in the rating of press freedom due to more frequent cases of pressure against journalists.

Attempt to censure the news are reported. In February 2019, the circular of the General Prosecutor's Office entered into force, according to which representatives of the print and audio-visual media have to submit their materials on the work of law enforcement authorities for approval of the spokesperson of the concerned structure. This person has the right, unilaterally and without any explanation, to correct the report, to remove any of its elements or to prohibit its publication entirely.

The presence of Flemish nationalists (N-VA or New Flemish Alliance) within the Belgian governmental coalition, so far, has not contributed to the improvement of overall situation concerning manifestations of neo-fascism, extremism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

A number of neo-fascist organizations are still active in Belgium; the most visible among them are "L'Assaut" (Assault), "Racial Volunteer Force", "Vlaamse Militanten Orde" (Flemish Combat Order), "Westland New Post". Cases of glorification of Nazism or actions of neo-Nazi are regularly reported throughout the country. Experts note that marches of nationalists and neo-Nazi groups have increased in number recently (reaching another peak in December 2018 – January 2019), more and more cases of illegal use of Nazi symbols are reported, especially in Flanders.

An illustrative example is the installation of the monument to Latvian legionnaires of Waffen-SS in September 2018 in Zedelgem (West Flanders) by local authorities in collaboration with the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. The monument is installed at the place of the former British PoW camp where Latvian legionnaires of Waffen-SS were detained after World War II. In response to the appeal from the activists of the Belgian federation of Russian-speaking organizations the mayor of Zedelgem Annick Vermeulen said that the monument was installed taking into account the "historical relations" of the city with Latvia to "remember the former legionnaires from purely human point of view" and "to promote contemporary art".

Along with Nazi and fascist followers, Belgian skinheads are continuing their activity.

All this contributes to the fact that the situation concerning extremism, racism, xenophobia, neo-fascism, and anti-Semitism in the country not only is far from improving, but tends to deteriorate. This problem is especially acute in the context of the perception of the terrorist threat by the population. The climate is deteriorating in the relations between different ethnic and religious communities within the Belgian society.

The report of the Belgian interregional Centre for Equal Opportunity and Action to Combat Racism states that 6,602 grievances concerning discrimination have been submitted during the year (rise of 16.5 per cent compared to previous period). Discrimination usually takes place in occupation and employment (recruitment), services (refusals to rent accommodation), education. Among the main reasons for discriminations is race, ethnicity, disability or religious beliefs.

Manifestations of anti-Semitism are rising (from 56 to 101). Most cases are reported in Brussels and Antwerp. The most frequent are insults of Jews in public places, vandalism (exposing of the swastika, nationalist stickers on the building of the Jewish museum and the Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights), written and oral threats, anti-Semite rhetoric on the Internet. In 2018, at least one verdict was rendered for Holocaust denial in Belgium.

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BULGARIA

Generally, the situation with human rights in Bulgaria has shown no tendency to either deteriorate or improve in the recent years. At the same time, reports of international non-governmental organizations as well as of local human rights activists stress negative dynamic and absent tangible results of government activities. They believe that measures taken by the government are fragmentary and that existing profound problems in social and economic area aggravate the situation of vulnerable groups of citizens and "bind the arms" of local authorities.

Several nationalist and frankly neo-Nazi structures are conducting their activities in Bulgaria propagating racial hatred, ideas of national socialism and intolerance to national minorities living in the Bulgarian territory, first of all to Roma.[34] Ethnically-motivated attacks continue to take place. Experts point to the lack of government efforts in Bulgaria to integrate the Roma minority. Specific programs (the National Integration Strategy 2014–2020, the National Roma Integration Strategy, Human Resources Development 2014–2020) have been elaborated to ensure their employment. However, the majority of representatives of this diaspora do not have permanent and legal sources of income.

International monitoring structures expressed their concern over the reports on increased number of incidents related to hate speech and hate crimes, especially with incidents against minorities groups such as the Turks, the Roma, the Muslims, the Jews, the people of African descent, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated this after considering the combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic reports of Bulgaria on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in May 2017[35], and the Human Rights Committee stated the same after conducting an overview of the fourth periodic report of Bulgaria on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[36] In this regard they stressed the vulnerable situation of the Roma, who are often subject to stigmatization and discrimination, including children, which results in violence and hate speech against them.

In October 2019, Bulgarian fans shouted racist slogans and ostentatiously raised their right hand imitating the "Nazi greeting" during the football match of the Euro-2020 qualifying phase between the Bulgarian and English teams. As a result, the Bulgarian Football Union leadership was forced to resign.

Incidents of vandalism in the places of worship also took place. Investigations of such cases rarely resulted in identification and prosecution of those responsible.

There are cases of glorification of Nazis and their accomplices in Bulgaria.

Since 2003, Sofia has been hosting Lukov march, an annual torchlight neo-Nazi procession in memory of general Hristo Lukov – a Bulgarian Nazi figure in the World War II and leader of the extremist nationalist organization in 1930-1940s – the Union of Bulgarian National Legions – which supported the alliance with fascists. Those who participated in the march wore military uniform, had nationalist symbols and shouted relevant slogans.[37] The regular march, held on February 16, 2019, was attended by about 200 persons, including foreigners. Since 2016, Sofia's authorities have been trying to ban the Lukov march, but its organizers have been defending their rights in court using the provisions of the Assemblies, Rallies and Marches Act.[38]

In October 2019, Dzhambzakiy, the European deputy and candidate for Sofia's mayor, member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, said in the "Panorama" program, which was broadcasted live on the Bulgarian National Television, that he fully supported holding of the Lukov march torchlight procession in the capital. The authorities failed to react to this.

Far-right materials can be found on websites of the Bulgarian National Union (www.bgns.net) and the Lukov march torchlight procession (www.lukovmarsh.info). Popular social network Facebook has been actively used by nationalists for propaganda and fund-raising. One can find flyers and graffiti with swastika or the SS units logo (Schutzstaffel) on Sofia's streets. Hitler's Mein Kampf, the so-called works of Goebbels, as well as of other foreign and Bulgarian nationalists and those who deny Holocaust, e.g. Richard E.Harwood, Alexander Panaiotov, Stankov, and others, are freely available.

Since 2017 the traditional commemoration of the Bulgarian fascist accomplice, Dimitar Spisarevski, has been taking place in a form of a torchlight procession (has been conducted every year since December 20, 2006 in Dolni Pasarel village, the region of Sofia).

On April 21, 2019 the representatives of far-right European organizations participated in the founding congress of the Neonazi association "Fortress Europe", which took place in Sofia.[39] Bulgaria was represented by members of the "Bulgarian National Union". On April 30, 2019 (another anniversary of Adolf Hitler's death), flyers praising the Nazi leader were pasted up in the Sofia's streets and region.

For their part, the Bulgarian authorities have been actually "turning a blind eye" on such events in spite of regular protests of local Jewish organizations.

Individual cases related to violation of freedom of expression arouse concern. Broadcasting of the programs Predi Vsichki and Horizont of S.Velikovaya on the Bulgarian National Radio (the BNR) was suspended without prior notification. Broadcasting was stopped for five hours. BNR Director S.Kostov said that during this period cable maintenance activities had been carried out. However, the inquiry held by the Council for Electronic Media demonstrated that broadcasting was interrupted intentionally.

Significant decrease in migrants flows has not resolved the problem concerning adaptation of illegal migrants who had previously moved to Bulgaria. Living and sanitary conditions in specialized migrant camps are poor and, generally, do not meet European requirements.

Human rights activists stress some problems in ensuring the functioning of mass media. Media representatives are regularly becoming subject to harassment by local officials and unknown persons. There were cases of intimidation and infliction of bodily harm to journalists. Government officials exercise significant influence on local information agencies, and major mass media are in the hands of a narrow business elite group.

Commissioner for Human Rights in Bulgaria M.Manolova states in her report the negative tendency concerning violation of the rights of the child. It mainly occurs during family conflicts and in the framework of activities of guardianship authorities. There were acts of violence and unacceptable practices in child-rearing in kindergartens and nurseries. There is an increase in attempted child molestation with the use of social networks. During consideration of the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Bulgaria on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in June 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child pointed also to discrimination concerning access to education and health care against children from ethnic minorities, primarily Roma, as well as children with disabilities, asylum-seeking children, refugee children and children living in remote areas.[40]

Human rights activists report domestic and sexual violence against women. They also point to the problem relating to lower participation of women in the labor market, maintaining horizontal and vertical occupational segregation between men and women and gender-based wage gaps. Particularly, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlighted this problem while considering the sixth periodic report of Bulgaria on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[41]

The situation of persons with disabilities remains difficult. Necessary elements of infrastructure are absent in the majority of cities, it is difficult for such people to realize their potential in the labor market, and the state is ready to pay social workers only 200 lev (which is about 100 Euro) per month for an eight-hour work day. Such salaries discourage those potentially willing to ease the lives of people with disabilities.

A number of human rights organizations draw attention to the fact that Bulgarian authorities do not comply with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Particularly, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee points to it in its recent report (208 decisions have not been implemented by December 2018). It notes that the majority of them are related to misuse of authority by law enforcement agencies (including fatal cases), to poor detention conditions in detention facilities and to complaints about the lack of control over activities of the Chief Prosecutor.

There are difficulties in functioning of religious structures. Spiritual leaders of Islam are also reported to feel that their rights have been infringed upon. Initiatives to build religious schools in order to educate children about Islam and to publish Muslim literature have been ignored at the local level.

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BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The human rights situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remains generally satisfactory. The legal framework that was established in the aftermath of the 1992 – 1995 armed conflict is still deficient. Sarajevo continues to improve its national legislation and implement international human rights treaties and is committed to fulfilling its international obligations in this field.

The country's population continues to face challenges related to the ethnic differentiation in society following the 1992 – 1995 armed conflict and persistent social and economic difficulties.

The implementation of a number of constitutional provisions of BiH (Annex 4 of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Dayton Agreement), as well as human rights laws developed and adopted on its basis, faces certain difficulties due to both the continuing deep discord between the three constitutive peoples of the country (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) and the specifics of activities in BiH by international presences. According to the annual report by the Commissioner for Human Rights in BiH, the largest number of incidents and complaints in 2018 were related to the administration of justice (primarily lengthy court proceedings) and health care (non-payment of insurance, violation of the rights of disabled persons, etc.).

This problem was also pointed out by the UN human rights treaty bodies – independent expert bodies established under the main international human rights treaties to monitor the implementation of states' obligations under these instruments. For instance, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination following its consideration of the combined twelfth and thirteenth periodic reports of BiH in August 2018, noted that more than 20 years after the end of the war and the Dayton Peace Agreement, ethnic tensions and schisms persist in the country, impeding legal, institutional and policy progress towards greater societal integration and reconciliation.[42]

The case of Sejdic-Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina before the European Court of Human Rights is a vivid practical example illustrating the above-mentioned issues. In 2006, a Roma public figure, Dervo Sejdić, and the head of the Jewish community in BiH, Jakob Finci, filed a complaint against Bosnia and Herzegovina with the ECtHR in order to eliminate discrimination and ensure the passive voting right for the "rest" of the citizens of BiH (not belonging to the three constitutive peoples) for the supreme governing body (Presidium) and the upper chamber of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. In December 2009, the ECtHR ruled in their favor, ordering BiH to provide for a mechanism allowing national minorities to participate in these state institutions by introducing relevant amendments to Constitution and electoral law. The implementation of the ECtHR judgment has not yet yielded results, as no agreement has been reached among the leading political forces of the country in this regard. According to a study by the NGO European Academy for Education and Social Research, there are more than 100 laws in BiH with similar restrictive wording.

CERD also noted that the Constitution and electoral laws in BiH, as well as respective acts at entity level still have discriminatory provisions, despite the ECtHR ruling in the case of Sejdic-Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which prevent the "others'' from running as candidates for membership in the Presidium and the House of Peoples. Furthermore, the Committee noted with concern the remaining discriminatory provisions in some laws and regulations granting special privileges to the constitutive peoples in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska over "others".

In this regard, CERD recommended BiH to take specific measures aimed at promoting a more integrated society based on the values of equality and non-discrimination, and where all citizens take part, irrespective of their ethnic, ethno-religious or national affiliations.[43]

According to estimates of the Croatian community, the discriminatory attitude of the Bosniak majority towards the legal rights of the Croatian people in BiH is still observed. It is noted that following the general elections in BiH in autumn 2018, Bosnian Croats failed once again to have their legitimate representative in the Presidium. The situation around the failure to hold municipal elections in Mostar, where the population has been unable to exercise their legitimate electoral rights since 2008, is potentially dangerous. CERD expressed its concern regarding the limited representation of ethnic minority groups in decision-making bodies and public positions at entity and local government levels. However, the number of cases of racial discrimination registered, investigated and brought before both the courts and the Ombudsman is very low[44].

Another category of vulnerable groups in BiH are returnees and displaced persons who face difficulties in their sustainable reintegration into society, full restitution of their property, and access to the labor market and social benefits[45]. The UN human rights treaty bodies have observed high rates of locating and identifying persons reported missing during the 1992–1995 armed conflict. However, the work in this area is far from complete. For instance, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances noted that the fate and whereabouts of about one third of the 30,000 persons reported missing as a consequence of the Bosnian conflict remained unknown. He observed the insufficient budget allocated to the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the lack of sufficient forensic experts to carry out the work in a timely manner.[46] Obstacles to the integration of returnees and internally displaced persons have been previously pointed out by the Human Rights Committee.[47]

International monitoring mechanisms expressed concern that hate speech and statements had been reported in public discourse by public and political figures and in the media, including the Internet. In particular, this takes the form of nationalist and ethno-religious rhetoric towards returnees, anti-Semitism and intolerance towards Roma and attacks against them. Only a small number of hate crimes were prosecuted in a proper manner. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[48] and the Human Rights Committee[49], among others, drew attention to this problem.

BiH has a number of streets and educational institutions named after "figures" of modern and contemporary history. In particular, there have been cases of renaming the streets in Mostar, Široki Brijeg and Čapljina (with the majority of the Сroatian population) in honor of the leaders of the Ustasa movement – Mile Budak and Jure Francetić, Ante Vokić and Mladen Lorković. In February 2018, the students of the Faculty of History of the University in Mostar replaced the street signs with the name of Mile Budak on them at night, with the name of antifascist C.Spuzevic, but the removed signs were brought back to the place in the morning.

Due to controversies between Bosniaks and Croats over the administrative structure of Mostar, its city council cannot reach a consensus on street names. In 2018, the Sarajevo school received widespread media coverage as it was named after Mustafa Busuladžić, the bearer of anti-Semitism and fascism ideas during the Second World War. Criticism towards the authorities of Bileća (RS), where a monument to the Chetniks' leader Draza Mihailovic was erected in June 2019, has yet to subside.

Education remains an area of concern, as ethnic segregation in this field has not yet been fully addressed. The practice of "two schools under one roof" is still common, where children of different nationalities study in the same institution not only under different programs but also on different shifts is still common in areas of the Muslim-Croatian Federation BiH (FBiH) with a mixed population. Such practices are a matter of serious concern to the Council of Europe and the OSCE and require the Bosnian authorities to put an end to segregation in schools.

Many UN human rights treaty bodies have drawn attention to this issue which undermines reconciliation efforts. Thus, this was noted by the Human Rights Committee in March 2017[50], the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2018 (the situation in some cantons of Central Bosnia and Herzegovina-Neretva was of particular concern to the committees)[51] and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2019[52].

Educational problems in BiH are often politicized. One example is the debate over the name and language instruction of the Bosniak-Muslim national language in the schools of the Serb entity. The wording used to name the subject in Bosnian-Serbian educational institutions – "the language of the Bosniak people" – is stipulated in the Constitution of the RS and dissatisfies the parents of the students who defend, with substantial political support, the right to study "the Bosnian language". In other cases, the debate is heated by the choice of the adjective "Bosnian" instead of "Bosniak", which is also seen by repatriated refugees as an act of infringement of their rights. However, such an inconsistent position has not been spread to some of the cantons of BiH itself so far.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child drew attention to broader educational challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In particular, it was pointed out that many schools were not provided with teaching materials and did not have the necessary teaching equipment. In addition, many school buildings lacked heating and sewage systems. Among children from marginalized families, the largest number of dropouts were from schools. In rural areas, preschool attendance was low, largely due to lack of funding.[53]

The situation with regard to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in BiH is also complex.

Human rights organizations have noted difficulties in ensuring the rights of the country's large Roma community (up to 30,000 persons). The Roma population remains the most marginalized group in BiH.

Despite the efforts by local NGOs and the international community, this segment of the population remains under-integrated in the educational process. Only 1.5 per cent of Roma children attend preschool institutions, 69 per cent attend primary and only 22.6 per cent attend secondary school. No effective mechanisms for the social integration of Roma in BiH have yet been found. Despite the freedom of self-determination on the basis of nationality guaranteed by law, the right to organize and convene meetings to express and protect their cultural, religious, educational, social and economic, as well as economic and political rights, the freedom to use symbols, the right to use their mother tongue, including in social and legal relations in those areas where they constitute more than one third of the population, the right to secondary education in the mother tongue in municipalities where the national minority constitutes more than one third of the population (if it is more than one fifth of the population, education in the mother tongue is allowed as an option), in practice these rights and freedoms are not exercised. If, for example, there are enough children of certain ethnic community to attend school in their mother tongue in a particular locality, then another problem arises – the lack of teachers. Many Roma have to express themselves as Serbs or Bosniaks so that their rights are respected. Only three national minorities in BiH have their own facilities where they hold meetings and events.

The situation of the Roma population in BiH, in particular the persistent marginalization of the Roma, obstacles to their integration into society, high levels of unemployment, lack of adequate housing and identity documents, difficulties in accessing health care, as well as low school attendance of Roma children and discriminatory attitudes of teachers towards Roma students, were emphasized by the Human Rights Committee in March 2017[54], the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2018[55] and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2019[56].

The status of women in BiH is below the European average in many respects. Despite the existing legislative framework (BiH Law on Prohibition of Discrimination of 2009 and Law on Gender Equality revised the same year), the bodies responsible for gender equality lack functionality and efficiency.

The problem of violence against women was noted by the UN human rights treaty bodies. Thus, in March 2017, the Human Rights Committee drew attention to the inadequacy of protection and assistance measures to victims of violence.[57] In November 2017, the Committee against Torture noted that violence against women remained widely prevalent and underreported. The Committee against Torture also observed the inadequacy of protection measures and insufficient assistance to victims.[58] In September 2019, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern the protracted process to harmonize legislation on domestic violence in the entities and local administrations on domestic violence.[59]

According to the Agency for Statistics of BiH, about 100,000 children are in a difficult family situation, of whom 40,000 live in families with incomes below the minimum subsistence level. Despite the child benefits guaranteed by the Constitution of BiH, in 2018 there were cases of non-payment in the Una‑Sana, the West Herzegovina and the Central Bosnia cantons of BiH. The authorities hope to solve the problem by adopting a draft law on support to families with children in FBiH at the parliamentary level.

Vandalism against the facilities of all three major confessions (Islam, Orthodoxy and Catholicism) is not uncommon in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In April and May 2019, cases of desecration of the Arnaudija Mosque in Banja Luka and Serbian Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Annunciation in the village of Donje Vukovsko, municipality of Kupres, as well as arson of the Serbian Cathedral of the Birth of Mary in Visoko were recoded. In February 2019, Metropolitan Hrizostom of Dabar-Bosnia informed the Council of Europe Office in BiH on systemic cases of discrimination against the facilities of the Serbian Orthodox Church in BiH.

Persons with disabilities continue to experience systemic social vulnerability: the budget payments they receive are lower than the pensions paid to military veterans and disabled persons affected by the armed conflict of 1992‑1995 in BiH.

No mass violations of the rights of Russian citizens and compatriots were BiH. In 2018, three Russian citizens, including the writer Zakhar Prilepin, were denied entry to BiH, allegedly on the grounds that their "presence in the country threatens security, public order, peace as well as international relations of BiH".

Despite the adoption in recent years of a number of laws aimed at improving the situation with regard to the media and the right to freedom of expression, violations of journalists' rights and pressure on media have been recorded in BiH. Most of the local press, radio and television are kept under close supervision by certain national and political elites and receive grants from foreign states. As a result, there is a difference in interpretation of the same events, a biased presentation of the recent tragic past, which is a negative aspect on the way of rapprochement of the Bosnian peoples. All this suggests that free access to information in BiH is not fully ensured.

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UNITED KINGDOM

The United Kingdom positions itself as the benchmark in promotion and protection of human rights while showing utter disregard for principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs of States.

Teaching sovereign States how to behave and repeating trite age-old clichés, London tries to disguise its own problems in promotion and protection of human rights. They include increased racism, comfortable existence in the territory of the country of various organizations with neo-Nazi and racist ideologies, discrimination of ethnic minorities in many areas of public life, well-documented abuse of powers and use of torture by law enforcement officials, and activity of a pedophiles network. This list is far from exhaustive. Besides, it should be mentioned that crimes of British soldiers against civilians during military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq remain unpunished.

The modern British political correctness largely prefers to ignore the painful issue of neo-Nazi organizations' activity in the country. In their turn, the extreme right, who tend to call themselves "the true conservatives", continue to fight for further unity of the United Kingdom as the heir of the Empire in every sense – territorial, cultural and racial, which greatly appeals to British nationals weary of the dominance of immigrants.

British far-right and nationalist organizations are distinctly marginal. In their activity they are focused on the Internet and high-profile public actions in big cities, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Belfast.

The British National Party (BNP), founded in 1982, has been the most notable far-right organization until recently. It is against mass migration to the country and highly critical of the creation of a "federal Super-State in Europe", i.e. European Union. For a long time the BNP's slogans have included such concepts, as preservation of values of the "white" British family, complete closure of the border for immigrants and repatriation of those who already arrived in the country. Its supporters have not once put forward anti-Semitic ideas and called the Holocaust a "historical hoax".

The BNP's goals include consolidation of the global, primarily, the European camp of the far-right. In the 2009 elections to the European Parliament the BNP received two seats, which is its best political "performance". The BNP still claims the leadership in the British nationalist camp. However, the inter-party controversies led to the decrease in the Party's official membership – from 13,500 in 2009 to 500 in 2019 (the BNP representatives allege that in the early 2019 its members amounted to 3,000).

Another British Nazi organization, which is worth mentioning, is Britain First, founded in 2011 by former BNP members, which is against the Islamization of the UK and mass migration to the country. Its partisans declare as its main objective the protection of the traditional British way of life, ethnic and cultural heritage and Christianity. The Party supports the earliest Brexit to "to save this country and our people from the EU, and the politically correct, multicultural insanity that is now engulfing us" and it has a paramilitary action force named the Britain First Defence Force.

The Organization captured attention in 2014 by a number of provocative actions against Muslims in London, Glasgow and Luton (attacks on mosques, forced distribution of propaganda anti-Muslim booklets and protests in the vicinity of homes of local community leaders). Also in London, they organized "Christian patrols" of 12 activists total to counter Islamic extremism (their actions were condemned by religious leaders of both the Muslim community and the Anglican Church).[60]

The English Defence League has been gaining weight recently; it appeared spontaneously in the form of a street movement in March 2009 as a protest in response to demonstrations organized by the Islamic group al‑Muhajiroun against Luton homecoming parades of the British military following their posting in Afghanistan.[61]

This is an informal, predominantly youth movement, which openly opposes the Islamization of the country. Their main activity includes marchers and demonstrations, organization of public protests against construction of new mosques and against attributes of the Islamic culture imposed on the British.

Each year, a large memorial concert is held in the United Kingdom on the day of Ian Stuart Donaldson's death, founder of the international neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour (died on 23 September 1993 in a car accident). In 2008, the concert in Redhill (Somerset) attracted widespread BBC, radio and newspaper coverage. The 2013 event devoted to the 20th anniversary of Donaldson's death was the biggest of the kind in the UK in the last 15–20 years (various estimates suggest it was attended by 1,000–1,200 neo-Nazis from across Europe).[62]

Serious concerns about the sharp increase in the number of racial hate crimes, especially in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, were expressed in August 2016 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Concluding observations on the combined twenty-first to twenty-third periodic reports of the United Kingdom[63] and by the Human Rights Committee in July 2015[64]. The CERD noted, in particular, the wide-spread, including on the Internet, "anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric" and "the negative portrayal of ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities, immigrants… and refugees by the media". Experts stressed that "many… political figures not only failed to condemn such rhetoric, but also created and entrenched prejudices, thereby emboldening individuals to carry out acts of intimidation and hate towards ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities and people who are visibly different". It was also noted that "the problem of underreporting on the number of hate crimes persists, and the gap between reported cases and successful prosecutions remains significant. As a result, a large number of racist hate crimes seem to go unpunished".

A marked increase in the incidence of racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-disabled crimes in recent years was noted by the Committee against Torture in May 2019 in the Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom. The Committee also pointed out that, by estimates, only 2 per cent of all hate crimes result in a successful conviction with an enhanced sentence for hostility on the basis of a protected characteristic.[65]

According to human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the process of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union affects the human rights situation in the country. In particular, it is noted that the potential scenario of a "hard Brexit" (withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement on the principles of future relations) may lead to mass violations of rights of EU countries nationals residing in the UK (in particular, in the form of national discrimination in recruitment), as well as of the British in the territory of the EU.

The British Government is often criticized for treatment of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who met with Julian Assange in the Belmarsh Prison, his state of health is the same as of those with prolonged exposure to psychological torture. Nils Melzer underlined that the Australian was displaying "extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma". It was emphasized that the UK authorities together with the US and Sweden had been behind the campaign of intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange.

Human rights structures have regularly noted that the United Kingdom authorities have not conducted any independent investigation into cases of torture overseas, including those committed during UK military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.[66] Special concern of the Committee against Torture in May 2019 was caused by conclusions of the UK possible involvement in torture contained in the reports on Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition published in 2018 by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament following the inquiry into actions of the UK intelligence and security Agencies in treatment of detainees overseas and their extradition. The mentioned Inquiry was terminated ahead of time due to inability to obtain key evidence as the British authorities refused to allow the intelligence agencies staff to testify.

The Committee also observed with concern that while the Iraq Historic Allegations Team had received around 3,400 allegations of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment by the United Kingdom armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, no prosecutions for war crimes or torture had resulted from the Team's investigations. Moreover, before its work ceased in June 2017, the Team's remaining investigations were transferred to the Service Police, which had closed 1,127 of the 1,280 cases of allegations transferred to it as of 31 December 2018.[67]

Besides, there is some progress in prosecution of perpetrators of crimes committed during the participation of the British military in the campaign in Iraq. Following the statement by the former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson the Government is drafting a law aimed to establish a 10-year statute of limitations for prosecution of the military participated in overseas operations. However, no approximate dates of its submission to the Parliament have been identified.

Against this background, human rights organizations and law firms representing the interests of victims of actions of the British military speak about unprecedented pressure by the military lobby on the judicial system of the country aimed at prompt closure of the pending cases.

The British authorities take tough measures to suppress undesired civic actions. For example, in April 2019, 1,130 people total were arrested for participation in mass "climate" demonstrations organized in London by the Extinction Rebellion movement. However, the Crown Prosecution Service informed that as of the end of May 2019 only 70 people were formally charged.

The London Police authorities said (in particular, Lawrence Taylor, Deputy Assistant Commissioner) that law enforcement agencies were actively working to ultimately prosecute those arrested for participating in protests but subsequently released without charge.

The human rights community has repeatedly highlighted the social inequality of certain vulnerable groups in the UK. Following the consideration of the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern about the adverse impact that recent changes to the fiscal policy, such as the increase in the threshold for the payment of inheritance tax and the increase of the value added tax, as well as the gradual reduction of the tax on corporate incomes, are having on the ability of the State to address persistent social inequality and to collect sufficient resources to achieve the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights for the benefit of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. It was underlined that the reforms to the legal aid system and the introduction of employment tribunal fees restricted access to justice in areas such as employment, housing, education and social welfare benefits. The Committee experts noted that, despite the increase in the employment rate, some disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups continued to be disproportionately affected by unemployment, including persons with disabilities, young people and persons belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities. The Committee was deeply concerned about various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 (such as the reduction of the household benefit cap, the removal of the spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four-year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits). The Committee was particularly concerned about the adverse impact of these changes and cuts on the enjoyment of the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children.

The Committee noted with concern that certain groups of the population were more affected by, or at an increased risk of, poverty, in particular persons with disabilities, persons belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities, single-parent families and families with children.

Besides, the Committee was concerned about the persistent critical situation in terms of the availability, affordability and accessibility of adequate housing in the UK, in part as a result of cuts in State benefits. The lack of social housing has forced households to move into the private rental sector, which is not adequate in terms of affordability, habitability, accessibility and security of tenure.[68]

In November 2018, following his visit to the UK Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published a report in which he criticized the country's social safety net. It was underlined that the policy of austerity implemented since 2010 by the Treasury has had adverse effects on its citizens' well-fare and brought suffering and division into the social sphere. The Welfare Reform failed, first of all due to tougher requirements for applicants and significant delays in payments. The current UK tax system has negative impact on the well-being of the most vulnerable groups (including women, persons of Asian and African origin, representatives of ethnic minorities, single parents, disabled persons and asylum seekers).

It should be noted that the concern about the vulnerable situations of women, especially "Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic" women, as well refugee women, was expressed in February 2019 by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women following the consideration of the eighth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Committee, in particular, pointed out the disproportionately negative impact of austerity measures on women, who, in its view, constitute the vast majority of single parents and are more likely to be engaged in informal, temporary or precarious forms of employment. It was also noted that austerity measures had resulted in cuts in funding to organizations that provide social services to women, as well as budget cuts in the public sector, where more women are employed than men. The Committee believes that reductions in social care services increase the burden on primary caregivers, who are disproportionately women.[69]

In response, the UK Government tried to accuse Mr. Alston in substitution of notions, stressing the alleged non-existence of signs of extreme poverty in the country and that the given remarks did not characterize the overall situation in the social sphere.

The human rights community criticizes the measures taken by the UK Government to tighten the counter-terrorism legislation. It was the issue of focus as early as in mid-2010s, particularly for the Human Rights Committee (July 2015)[70] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (August 2016)[71]. They noted, inter alia, that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 further extended the power of police officers to seize and temporarily retain travel documents (if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person intends to travel abroad to engage in terrorism-related activities) and to place suspects under surveillance at long distances from their place of residence. Experts were also concerned by the ambiguous paragraphs governing the interception of communications and communications data, which allowed for mass interception of communications and lacked sufficient safeguards against arbitrary interference with the right to privacy. In particular, there was practice of untargeted warrants for the interception of external private communications and communications data sent or received outside the United Kingdom. In addition to it, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 provides for wide powers for the retention of communications data, and access to such data.

Currently, the human rights community is concerned about provisions of a number of existing laws and Government's concept documents in the field of counter-terrorism.

Criticism is often focused on the 2010-introduced measure allowing the Home Office to denaturalize persons involved in terrorist activity or otherwise posing a threat to country's national security (given, however, they have the nationality of another State). This measure has been actively applied since 2016 and, according to official statistics, its use has increased: 14 decisions in 2016, 104 – in 2017 (2018 data were not published at the time of reporting).

The new Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted in June 2018 is often criticized. According to the Home Secretary of the time Sajid Javid, it is based on the principle of "ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists internationally, in the UK and online". In line with the document, UK special services are "to share more information with a broader range of partners, including government departments, Devolved Administrations, and local authorities". Besides, the Strategy provides for design-out of vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, increased security measures in crowded locations, and fast response to suspicious purchases. The document also suggests involvement of private companies, which shall report to the police about suspicious purchases (chemicals) and clients' behaviour (e.g., when leasing a car, etc.).

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 has become an object of criticism recently; it provides for increased penalties for dissemination of illegal digital content via the Internet. Human rights defenders argue that the language of the relevant provisions is ambiguous and may be interpreted by uniformed agencies as widely as possible, resulting in absolutely legitimate actions being criminalized, including accessing extremist content in academic, research and professional purposes. An intensive discussion continues around higher liability for posting extremist content on the Internet, as well as enhanced instruments of pressure on disseminators of extremist ideology.

The initiative of former Prime Minister Theresa May to suppress extremist content online: web-sites of large IT companies, social media and video hosting services. IT companies are willing to cooperate with uniformed agencies only if the authorities strictly observe human rights. The Facebook leadership, in particular, believe that excessive access of law enforcement agencies to personal data may aggravate the situation as criminals would move their activities to those countries where they cannot be detected or brought to justice.

In addition, since 2014 the Face Recognition system has been operational in the UK: 6 mln cameras with such functions have been installed in the country. Human rights defenders point out that law enforcement officers, under cover of objectives to ensure national security and search for perpetrators, often use those data without legal grounds, which may result in adverse consequences for many citizens. Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material Paul Wiles criticized police's 'chaotic' use of facial recognition and called for a clear legal framework for the use of such technology to avoid violations of human rights.[72]

Amnesty International criticizes the UK Government for non-compliance with earlier undertaken commitments to receive Syrian refugees in the country.

It is noted that London has broken its promise given in 2016 to grant asylum to 3,000 Syrian minors. In fact, only 480 such persons were received in the country, and since July 2018 the Government informed about the closing of the programme. The subsequent attempt of the NGO Help Refugees to challenge this decision in court failed – the High Court of Justice remained it in force and dismissed the further appeal.

The difficult situation of asylum seekers was pointed out by UN human rights treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Committee against Torture, Human Rights Committee and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It was noted, in particular, that refugees, asylum seekers and persons who have been denied asylum, as well as Roma, still face discrimination in accessing health care. Moreover, human rights defenders highlighted the lack of clear time limits for detention in expulsion centres for migrants. A big problem in the UK remains mistreatment in temporary detention centers for migrants, as well as in prisons and detention centers – treaty bodies recorded a great number of complaints in this regard. It was pointed out, inter alia, by the Human Rights Committee in July 2015[73] in Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the United Kingdom and the Committee against Torture in May 2019 in Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom. To that end, the latter Committee provided statistics according to which over 6,500 investigations were launched into allegations of misconduct and 2,600 prison staff were subjected to disciplinary action between 2013 and 2018, including disciplinary action against 50 prison officers for assault in 2017–2018.[74]

The human rights community is concerned about the situation in the UK prison system. The main problems include over-incarceration and bad conditions in male prisons in England and Wales. Besides, experts note a disproportionate number of representatives of ethnic minorities among both male and female prisoners in these parts of the Kingdom. This fact was also recognized by the UK official delegation in May 2019 during the "presentation" of its sixth periodic report in the Committee against Torture and was reflected in the Concluding remarks. The Committee is also concerned about the reported increase in the use of electrical discharge weapons (tasers), including on children and young people, and their disproportionate use against members of minority groups. Between March 2017 and March 2019 there were 8 apparent homicides and 160 self-inflicted deaths in the prison system in England and Wales.[75]

The protection of human rights of children in childcare facilities is still discouraging. The Committee expresses its profound concern about the findings of the Historical Institution Abuse Inquiry report published in January 2017 on the extent of physical and sexual child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organizations in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The Committee noted this problem, having underlined that the recommendations arising from the inquiry have not been implemented and that, as a result of this inaction, victims of ill-treatment identified by the inquiry have not obtained compensation or other forms of redress.

Moreover, the CAT experts expressed concern at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published in February 2019, which said that in 2009‑2017, despite a significant decrease in the number of children detained, there were 1,070 cases of child sexual abuse in custodial institutions for minors in the UK. It was noted that investigations into complaints are very rare. The Committee also mentioned the remaining concern regarding the need to investigate historical practices in institutions not covered by the inquiry, namely the Magdalene laundries and mother-and-baby homes.

Statistical data on certain spheres of life of the UK society confirm that discrimination of ethnic and national minorities remains a problem.

London declares observance of the rights of national minorities residing in the country and says about ongoing efforts to fight discrimination and to support the development of minorities' cultures and identities, emphasizes State guarantees of rights and liberties, including related to ensuring access to education and mass media, protection of languages of ethnic minorities and their involvement in public life. However, in reality the state of affairs in the area of combatting racial discrimination and discrimination against ethnic minorities is opposite.

A high-profile event was the publication by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in August 2016 of a report on violations of rights of ethnic minorities, which shows a very worrying picture.[76]

The document, which local experts call "the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain", notes that representatives of ethnic minorities (Black people), on average, are three times more likely to become victims of crimes than White people. Unemployment rates are significantly higher for ethnic minorities at 12.9 per cent, which double the country's average. There is discrimination at work places: Black workers with degrees earn 23.1 per cent less on average than White workers. While just 6 per cent of African/Caribbean/Black school leavers attend a Russell Group university (24 leading universities), compared with 12 per cent of mixed and Asian school leavers and 11 per cent of White school leavers. There is also discrimination against ethnic minorities in employment to judicial and law enforcement bodies. In general, the document concludes that the situation of ethnic diasporas has deteriorated in last five years.

Head of the Commission David Isaac said: "Today's report underlines just how entrenched race inequality and unfairness still is in our society". He added: "So far, the Government's economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity". He also noted that "if you are Black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you're living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society".

The official statistics is not encouraging as well. According to data published on 16 October 2018 by the Home Office, in 2017–2018 there was a surge in the number of hate crimes: 94,098 crimes (in 2016–2017 – 80,393, an increase of 17 per cent; and of 123 per cent compared with 2012–2013). Race hate crimes (71,251 or 76 per cent of the total) are the absolute majority.[77]

According to the UK Home Office, in 2017–2018 the number of reports of the alleged manifestation of far-right extremism increased by 36 per cent and of Islamic extremism decreased by 14 per cent. The ‘Tell MAMA' organization recorded 1,201 verified anti-Muslim incidents in 2017.[78]

Persons of African origin are more likely to become victims of abuse by UK law enforcement agencies. "The Metropolitan Police Service in August 2017 indicated that people of African descent and of ethnic minority background, in particular young African and Caribbean men, were twice as likely as other people to die from the use of force by police officers and the subsequent lack or insufficiency of access to appropriate health care. Despite making up just 14 per cent of the population, black, Asian and minority ethnic men and women make up 25 per cent of prisoners, while over 40 per cent of young people in custody are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds". The human rights defenders note that the Metropolitan Police Service Gangs Matrix has been criticized: "the representation of young black males on the Matrix is disproportionate to their likelihood of criminality".[79]

In the United Kingdom, individuals from black and minority ethnic groups are four times more likely to be stopped than those who are white, the Home Office's latest statistics show. In particular, black individuals are over nine times more likely to be stopped than those who are white. Similarly, black people were stopped and searched for drugs at almost nine times the rate of white people, research findings show, while Asian people and those in the ‘mixed' group were stopped and searched for drugs at almost three times the rate of white people.[80]

Despite statements by the UK authorities on the need for a tougher fight against race discrimination in the juvenile justice system, the situation continues to deteriorate. According to February 2019 estimates, the number of Black of 15–21 years of age in young offender institutions is 51 per cent of the total young offenders (in 2017 – 40 per cent). Experts believe that it is caused by an array of factors, which include cuts in funding of local authorities, police and mental health services, and increase in confiscation of Black families property, etc.[81] Children of Caribbean descent are 3.5 times more likely to be expelled from public schools than the rest pupils.

Since 1999 police have been trying to get the proportion of officers from ethnic minorities to match the proportion in the populations they serve. However, experts note that activity in the area is slow and is criticized by law enforcement officials themselves, for example, Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council (coordinates the UK police forces work) Sara Thornton saying that over 20 years "not one of the 43 forces in England and Wales has achieved that and it will be 2052 at the earliest before that happens".[82]

In May 2019, the Guardian published data of the Opinium agency opinion poll among ethnic minorities, according to which 71 per cent of the respondents have faced race discrimination (in January 2016 – 58 per cent).

One in four employees with a black, Asian or minority ethnic background had witnessed or experienced racist harassment or bullying from managers in the last two years, the governmental review ‘Race in the workplace' found.[83]

At the same time, 50 per cent noted that they see manifestations of racism on the Internet and in social media.

Despite public condemnation and wide media coverage of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, human rights defenders estimate the situation as rather negative. According to the report of the Community Security Trust NGO, in 2018 the number of anti-Semitist incidents broke the record. In the period, 1,652 cases of anti-Semitism were in total – 16 per cent more than in 2017, with the overwhelming majority of them in London and Manchester, cities with the biggest Jewish communities.[84] Manifestations of anti-Semitism by Labour party members are compiled in the report of Labour Against Antisemitism, which they submitted to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.[85]

In her report on contemporary forms of racism and combatting the glorification of Nazism pursuant to Assembly resolution 73/157 the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, E.Tendayi Achiume, indicated the scope of the problem.[86]

Persons of African and Asian descent, representatives of national minorities and Roma face institutional racism in their enjoyment of rights, including the specific areas of concern, such as health, employment, education, stop and search practices and in the criminal justice system. The rate of unemployment among persons of African and Asian descent is high, as well as occupational segregation, with a concentration of persons from ethnic minorities in insecure and low-paid work.

In August 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that the reforms to the legal aid system and the introduction of employment tribunal fees restricted access to justice for individuals belonging to ethnic minorities. Experts noted the significant reduction in the number of cases concerning racial discrimination in employment since the introduction of fees in employment tribunals. The Committee underlined that these communities continued to face exclusion and are subject to negative stereotypes and stigmatization in the media. It noted the continued discrimination of persons belonging to ethnic minorities, particularly Gypsies, Travellers and persons of African descent, in access to health services and in the quality of care. It was also noted that the mentioned categories of population continued to be disproportionately targeted throughout the criminal justice system. Additionally, the ethnic composition of the majority of the police forces in the UK is not representative of the communities that they serve, particularly in Scotland.

Moreover, the Committee remains concerned at continued reports of racist bullying and harassment in schools across the UK, as well as at the disproportionate rate of exclusion from school of pupils belonging to Gypsy, Traveller, Roma or Afro-Caribbean communities.[87]

In early 2019, public outcry was caused by protests in Birmingham against including LGTB lessons in school curriculum, aimed "to promote LGBT equality and challenge homophobia". The protesters voiced their opposition to such lessons explaining that at best they should be optional rather than compulsory.

The UK authorities' main stance was to marginalize the protesters, the majority of whom are Muslims. In mass media they were qualified as "aggressive minority" and "extremists". Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education at the time, said: "It is not right to protest in front of schools; it is frightening to children and disrespectful to hard working teachers". Supporters of opposite views are criticized. For example, statement by House of Commons MP Esther McVey that parents needed to have the final say on the presence of their children at such lessons was vigourously criticized by her Party, in particular, by former Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening (she is in a same-sex relationship) and former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd (well-known supporter of the LGTB community empowerment).

As a result, on 31 May 2019 the High Court of Justice granted the injunction of the Birmingham City Council and decided to ban protests in the vicinity of schools as they allegedly threaten "safety and wellbeing of the staff, children and parents". The organizers of the protests intend to appeal this verdict before a higher tribunal.

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HUNGARY

The situation with the observance of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Hungary as a whole is in line with the generally accepted international standards. The UN, OSCE and EU specialized human rights mechanisms do not raise against Budapest any specific, not tied to the world situation claims.

At the same time, in recent years, the Hungarian government headed by Victor Orban, leader of the right-conservative Hungarian Civic Union (Fidesz), remains a subject of criticism essentially for reasons of expediency from Washington and Brussels as well as international and national non-governmental human rights institutions. The EU is particularly irritated by Hungarian's continuing unwillingness to receive migrants. From Brussels we hear threats to impose punitive sanctions on Budapest.

In May 2019 D.Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, issued a report on her visit to Hungary. The Commissioner believes that the Hungarian government's policy has brought about a legislative framework undermining the process of admission of asylum seekers. She also notes that the rights of refugees to international protection are systematically restricted in two transit areas along fortifications on the Hungarian-Serbian border. The Commissioner called upon the Hungarian authorities to refrain from antimigration propaganda campaigns.[88] Budapest, for its part, strongly rejects these claims and reiterates the steadiness of its course.[89]

The concern over negative consequences of the major migration-related legal reforms undertaken by Budapest in recent years was expressed by the Human Rights Committee following the consideration, in March 2018, of the 6th periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[90]

The Conservative Government of Hungary is being criticized also by such an international NGO as the Freedom House. Actually, since V.Orban came to power in 2010, Hungary has been the target of attacks by this organization. Thus, in the report on the situation of human rights and freedoms in the world issued in early February 2019 Hungary was listed as one of "partly free countries" due to alleged "attacks on democratic institutions and pressure on civil society and opposition".

Budapest is also criticized by the West for the commitment of its current Cabinet to exercising sovereignty in the regulation of foreign educational institutions as well as foreign non-governmental organizations active within the country. In 2015‑2017, the government adopted a number of legal acts regularizing this sphere (Act on "Foreign Agents" and a revised Act on Higher Education), which that in fact ousted from the country the organizations controlled by George Soros, particularly the regional branch of Soros Open Society Foundation what curtailed its activity in Hungary in August 2017 by liquidating its Budapest headquarters and relocating its main branches to Berlin, London and Barcelona. Soros Central European University acting in Hungary also was forced to considerably reduce its academic and political activities and relocated most of its training to other cities.

International human rights institutions are also dissatisfied with the situation of the Roma population in the country, the overwhelming majority of which have low social status and, in the eyes of human rights defenders, are subjected to various kinds of discrimination. The relevant NGOs regularly note that only one out of four able-bodied Roma is more or less permanently employed. In his reports the Hungarian Human Rights Commissioner has repeatedly drawn attention to the deplorable living conditions of this national minority and called upon the government to exert real efforts to improve the situation in this regard since "the Roma are unable, on their own, to break the vicious circle of poverty". He emphasized that over past decades in some parts of the country, primarily in the North-East, in fact, about a hundred Roma ghettos have been formed that do not facilitate an improvement of either living conditions or social adaptation of the Roma people.

The vulnerability of the Roma population, particularly in spheres of education, elimination of poverty and unemployment as well as development of infrastructure of Roma settlements was also emphasized in June 2019 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination following consideration of the 18th to 25th periodic reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination[91] and, in March 2018, by the Human Rights Committee following consideration of the sixth periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[92]

In addition to the above-mentioned subjects the international human rights institutions have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the general state of the Hungarian penitentiary system, the practice of enforcement of punishments, detention conditions in places of deprivation of liberty and in remand centers (prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowded cells, poor diet and so on).

Neo-Nazi and racist organizations are legally prohibited in Hungary. The largest among the factions that existed earlier and were dissolved by courts were "Blood and Honor", "Betyársereg", ("Brigand Army"), "National Guard – the Carpathians and Fatherland", "National Self-Defense", "Hungarian National Guard", and "For Better Future" movement.

Another ultra-right organization – "64 Areas" (by the number of counties that formed part of the Hungarian Kingdom until 1918), when faced with a real threat of dissolution, promptly amended its statute and got rid of the prohibited symbols (Nyilasosisztá and Nazi) and at present positions itself as a "sporting patriotic movement for preserving traditions". But in fact it is this organization that has brought together the majority of pro-Nazi youth, including from the above-mentioned prohibited factions.

The government of Hungary recognizes the existing challenges, asserts that it is making every effort to rectify the situation, and expresses its willingness to cooperate both with the European Union and with international human rights institutions. It explains the European criticism of the recent years by intrigues of Hungarian and European left-wing liberals seeking to discredit Hungarian conservatives for their principled position regarding migration policy and firm defense of the Christian values, rather than by the EU concern over the current reality.

It should be noted that the opinions of the international human rights NGOs really look biased and seem to be motivated by the desire of Brussels and Washington to punish Hungary for its efforts to pursue an independent foreign policy in line with its national interests. Therefore, the overt annoyance of "westerners" predictably encourages V.Orban's Cabinet to build pragmatic and mutually beneficial relations with Russia.

Altogether, the Hungarian Government is rather responsive to any alarming signals in the sphere of human rights and have made marked progress in the prevention of xenophobia and racism. Here, no cases of major abuse of power by law-enforcement officers have been reported and as a whole an effective work has been conducted to prevent manifestations of xenophobia and non-tolerance on confessional grounds.

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GREECE

The human rights situation in Greece remains mixed. On the one hand, the legislative framework has been progressively modernized with regard to the recommendations of human rights monitoring structures and the European Union directives. On the other hand, problems in various human rights areas remain unresolved, especially in practical law enforcement, due to the impact of the financial and economic crisis 2010–2016 and the influx of refugees and illegal migrants from the Middle East and North Africa region.

Human rights activists stress progress in the development of relevant legislation aimed to combat racism. The law No. 4285/2014 on Combating Certain Forms and Expressions of Racism and Xenophobia By Means of Criminal Law increased the penalties for incitement to hatred and violence against certain groups of population (punishable by up to three years' imprisonment and a fine in the amount of €20,000). Decisions to close maximum security prisons, to replace imprisonment with house arrest for convicts with more than 80 per cent incapacity and to release on parole persons over 75 years old have been implemented. Amendments to the Greek Nationality Code, approved in July 2015 by the Law No. 4332/2015, provide that a sufficient basis for acquisition of the Greek citizenship is the fact of birth and getting primary education in the Hellenic Republic. According to statistics, 203,500 people acquired the Greek citizenship in 2011-2018.

On July 1, 2019, the new versions of the Greek Penal Code and of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure entered into force, bringing the national law enforcement practice closer to that of the EU.

Greece has been implementing national action plans on human rights, asylum reform, migration management and social integration of the Roma.

The government has been taking measures to create a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities: according to the approved unified building regulations, the developer is obliged to coordinate and guarantee full accessibility of buildings for people with disabilities; it is planned to complete reconstruction of existing facilities no later than 2020. At the same time, due to the lack of infrastructure, special transport, audiovisual materials, personnel and funding in schools, many children with disabilities are still deprived of access to compulsory secondary education. Few Greek educational institutions which work with children with psychosomatic and intellectual disabilities are in a difficult situation.

The austerity measures which have been taken by the Greek government since 2010 in the framework of its obligations owed to international lenders have led to the erosion of social and economic rights. According to experts, some reforms violated labor and pension rights guaranteed by the European Social Charter as well as standards set by the International Labor Organization. The health system is still underfunded, which has led to the reduction of personnel in medical institutions, shortage of medicines, wear and tear on medical equipment, ambulances, etc.

In spite of the signs of economic recovery observed in the last two years, the long-term crisis has led to a lack of demand for highly qualified personnel, violation of the right to work and, as a result, to a large-scale "brain drain". Since 2010, about half a million people have left the country; most of them are university graduates, 9 per cent of them with academic degrees; 28 per cent at the age of 25–30 years and 35 per cent at the age of 30–35 years.

The unemployment rate which is the highest among the EU member states and which amounted to 19 per cent on average and 40 per cent among the youth at the beginning of 2019 as well as the degradation of social and household indicators have increased destructive social trends, including suicides, drug abuse, etc.

A large number of problems are related to the ongoing migration pressure on Greece in recent years. This was also noted by the Human Rights Committee after considering the second periodic report of Greece in October 2015 as well as by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination after overviewing the twentieth to twenty-second periodic reports of Greece in August 2016. They stressed that despite the fact that the migration crisis has placed a heavy burden on the public system, the authorities have continued to take measures, including the reform of the asylum system and the opening of several new regional asylum offices.[93] The refugee flows, which had begun to decline in 2017, resumed in 2018. As of mid-2019, the number of migrants who settled in the country has exceeded 70,000 people. A significant part of them remain on the islands of the Aegean Sea, where they come from Turkey, primarily on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros (17,000 people), as well as in large camps in the metropolitan area of Attica and in northern Greece. During the press briefing on October 1, 2019, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees paid attention to the grave situation in migration centers in Greece.[94]

Human rights activists have concerns over conditions in reception centers. They stressed that such centers are overcrowded, do not meet sanitary standards and have limited access to qualified medical care. For instance, after the closure of major camps at the former Hellenico Airport in the capital, their residents were redirected to other centers, which led to overcrowding. According to UNICEF, as of the end of August 2019, there were more than 8,700 migrants, including about 3,000 children in the Moria refugee camp designed for 3,100 people and situated on the island of Lesbos.[95] Médecins sans Frontières noted that over 500 people had been arriving on the island each week. Thus, in early October 2019 the number of refugees there reached 12,600 people. The camp has a shortage of drinking water, no hygienic sanitation facilities, and no sewerage and electricity. Unsatisfactory detention conditions in migrant reception centers were highlighted by the Committee on Human Rights in 2015[96], the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2016[97], and the Committee against Torture in 2019[98].

A report published in early 2019 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights states that in December 2018, more than 12,500 people lived in tents and containers, which were not adapted to winter conditions, in the reception and registration centers for migrants in the Aegean Sea islands. As of the end of 2018, there were 3,700 unaccompanied migrant children in these centers while there were no more than 1,000 places available in Greece for this category of refugees. According to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, only 15 per cent of them have access to educational services.

In addition to objective factors (unsanitary conditions, lack of food, lack of regular access to health care), human rights activists accuse the Greek authorities of violating detention limits, the rules for the separation of children from adults, and the rules providing for a qualified interpreter. According to Human Rights Watch, the rights of other vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, are also infringed upon. Poor living conditions and unstable morale and psychological state regularly result in outbreaks of aggression and antisocial behavior. In 2018, mass fightings among migrants (the Lesbos Island) were recorded as well as cases when local residents exercised violence against them, also using firearms.

The EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights reported with reference to the Committee against Torture that migrants have been returning to Turkey in mass across the Evros River, sometimes being subject to violence. Civil society organizations have published testimonies of people who entered Greece by land from Turkey in the Evros region, some of whom declared that they had been beaten and forced to return to Turkey across the river in their underwear after their clothes had been taken off.[99]

The experts note that racist and xenophobic attitudes have become regular, especially towards refugees arriving in Greece as well as towards the Roma. In this regard concern has been expressed by the Human Rights Committee in October 2015[100] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2016.[101] Athens' "Racist Violence Monitoring Network", consisting of 35 NGOs, notes an increase in the number of cases of ethnically motivated beatings by far-right organizations, both in the capital (more than 100 cases per year) and in the islands. It often takes many months to complete investigations of such cases, if at all. The first case in the history of Greece alleging Islamophobia initiated against the writer S.Triandafilou in spring 2017, who posted statements considered as religious hatred in a Weblog, was dismissed by a court in May 2018.

The experts are concerned over the ongoing trend of excessive and arbitrary use of force by law enforcement agencies. This problem was highlighted, inter alia, by the Human Rights Committee in October 2015[102] and the Committee against Torture in July 2019. Tear gas has been further used while dispersing demonstrations. The Committee against Torture mentions cases when tear gas has been used against anti-fascist demonstrations in Kerastini in 2013, as well as by police while dispersing migrants who protested against inadequate conditions in migration centers in Moria, Lesbos and Samos in 2017 and 2018[103]. At the same time, the passivity of the police officers, who did not interfere in the actions of the anarchists wreaking havoc, is noteworthy in some cases.

Access to justice is limited due to overburdened courts and understaffing. Trials have been extremely lengthy. For example, the trial against the leadership of the nationalist party "Golden Dawn" and its members, seventy people in total, has been held with delays since 2013. They are also charged with murder. During the elections to the European Parliament in late May 2019, the party won 4.8 per cent of votes.

According to a report published in February 2019 by the European Committee against Torture, which functions within the framework of the Council of Europe, prison and detention conditions in Greece often do not meet international standards. Typical problems are overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, insufficient material and medical care, staff violence, failure to separate persons of different genders as well as adults and minors, and also convicted persons and people held in pretrial detention.

Women and children remain a vulnerable population group, along with persons with disabilities. According to the EU "Gender Equality Index" 2017, Greece was ranked last among the EU countries for the respect for rights of women. Human rights activists indicate a high level of domestic violence and bullying in schools, even resulting in suicide, for an EU member state.

The UN human rights treaty bodies have expressed concern about socially excluded Roma in the Greek society. It was indicated that they regularly faced stereotypes and prejudices, had significant difficulties in accessing basic social services such as housing, employment, education and health care, faced segregation in education, and were disproportionately subjected to checks of documents and arbitrary arrests by police and other law enforcement bodies. This had been highlighted by the Human Rights Committee[104] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[105].

The Greek state does not regularly exercise oppression or discrimination against Russian compatriots. The authorities are loyal to their initiatives to strengthen ties with Russia and preserve cultural and linguistic identity.

Against this background there was an alarming precedent related to the detention of the Russian citizen A.Vinnik in July 2017 on the peninsula of Halkidiki by the Greek law enforcement agencies at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was charged with laundering the proceeds of criminal activity through an electronic cryptocurrency exchange.

Respect of the right to ethnic, cultural and linguistic self-identification of the Muslim population in the Thrace region in north-eastern Greece bordering Turkey as well as on some of the Aegean islands has its specific features. The only officially recognized minority (there is no notion of the "national minority" in the Greek legislation) in Greece is the "Muslim" minority, which unites all the representatives of the non-indigenous groups living in Thrace – Turks, Pomaks, Roma, etc., more than 120,000 people in total. The Muslims of Kos and Rhodes are not officially recognized and, unlike the Muslim residents of Thrace, do not have access to specialized schools.

There remain legal barriers to the use of "Turkish" in the names of public, political, sports, cultural and any other associations. The NGOs Muslim Association of Thessaloniki, the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe and others believe that this violates the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Concerns that Greek Muslims might be denied the right to self-identification because they are recognized only as a religious minority and not as an ethnic minority had been expressed by the Human Rights Committee[106] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[107].

At the same time, the authorities are taking steps to build new places of worship. In 2016, the Greek Council of State made a positive decision regarding the building of the first mosque in the modern history of Athens which had been a subject of debates for more than 30 years (the construction was completed in May 2019, the mosque had to be opened until the end of the year).

The campaign to drive the church out of society, launched by the government built by the Coalition of Radical Left Forces (Syriza), whose four-year legislative period expired in 2019, is one of the specific human rights problems in Greece. For instance, it has been prohibited for metropolitans to hold open classes in secondary schools; the subject "Basics of the Orthodox Religion" has been reclassified and now, in fact, falls within the category of cultural disciplines and does not have the spiritual and educational aspect in its program; the parishes' ability to freely manage received donations are limited, etc. From the perspective of the Greek Orthodox Church, such actions violate provisions of the Constitution establishing the prevailing position of Orthodox Christianity in the Greek society (Article 3) and the obligation of the state to develop the religious consciousness of its citizens (Article 16). The hierarchs condemned the steps taken by the authorities to decriminalize insulting of the feelings of believers, blasphemy and desecration of sacred places in the country's Penal Code, and opposed attempts to deprive priests of the status of public servants and of budget salaries, which the Greek Orthodox Church considered as a violation of the social rights of clergy.

In 2018, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance welcomed the step of Greece establishing relevant working group composed of representatives of public authorities, the Ombudsman, the Greek Human Rights Council, NGOs and trade unions to develop a strategy to combat racism and intolerance. Athens had done it in response to the recommendations of the Commission provided in 2015.

While approving the draft document adopted by Greece in September 2017, the Commission also called for further attention to be paid to the implementation of anti-discrimination measures. According to Greek experts, the relevant national legislation does require follow-up measures since it prohibits discrimination based on nationality, religion or other belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, however only in the area of employment and occupation, but not in such areas as social security, education, access to goods and services, etc.

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GEORGIA

With regard to promotion and protection of human rights in Georgia the human rights society notes certain positive changes in the area of legislation where we can see measures to prevent domestic violence and violence against women, the reform of the judicial system and the adoption of occupational safety legislation. At the same time, the experts indicate the absence of progress with respect to the right of persons with disabilities, and convicts (a number of suicides was recorded in the penitentiary institutions), who were victims of crimes but did not receive a relevant status. Multiple cases have been recorded of violation of the rights of freedom of peaceful assemblies and association and freedom of expression as well as the use of excessive force by the law enforcement agencies.

The problem of excessive use of force by the law enforcement officers including in crack down of peaceful demonstrations and by prison guards against the convicts was noted by the Committee on Human Rights in its concluding remarks upon the results of examination of the fourth periodic report of Georgia in July 2014.[108]

The human rights community has questions regarding the judicial system functioning in that country.

It was noted that despite certain improvements a respectively low number of not guilty sentences are passed on criminal cases. The system of jury courts does not give an opportunity to appeal on the guilty sentences on the substance of issues under examination. It was also indicated that there are no sufficient legal guarantees for defense of the accused within the existing system of pre‑trial agreements including with regard to the abuses and coercion to enter the pre‑trial agreement; low transparency of negotiations on pre-trial agreement between the defendant and the suer and the limited role of the judge and court lawyers in that process. This problem was said highlighted by the Committee on Human Rights in July 2014 upon the results of examination of the fourth periodic report of Georgia, which was also provided information that in October 2012 the General Prosecutor's Office of Georgia received thousands of complains from persons who claimed that they were compelled to conclude pre‑trial agreements. The Committee noted in this connection that such a practice can be the reason of a low number of not guilty sentences.[109]

The OSCE Bureau of democratic institutions and human rights prepared in September 2019 the report on the new procedure of appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court of Georgia. In particular, the ODIHR noted the lack of transparency in certain criteria of that process. It noted in particular the absence of clear criteria of compiling the "short lists" of candidates to judges and the parameters of their ranking and appointment. Moreover the mechanism of personal clearance of nominees is not transparent either: the interview is announced one day prior its holding, the place of interview has a limited capacity and all interested persons cannot participate. Different approaches are applied to candidates during the interview therefore they are substantially different by the duration and content. Another substantial shortcoming is the impossibility to appeal the final decision before the list for approval is presented (it is possible to challenge only the decisions adopted at the first stages of selection). All these aspects seriously undermine the possibility of legal remedy for candidates who did not pass the selection.

In the main focus of attention of the human rights society are the salient cases of violation of the fundamental human rights by the state authorities and their impunity.

The events in June 2017 were such high-profile event when the Kutaisi court acquitted a police officer accused of "exceeding official authority". The alleged victim, the 22-year-old resident of Dapnari village (Western Georgia), Demur Sturua committed suicide on 8 August 2016. The suer presented as an evidence a note of Demur Sturua where he blames the policeman in his suicide; the results of autopsy confirming the brutal treatment; a video where it can be seen that the policeman during the day of suicide takes away Demur Sturua in his car; and telephone calls records. The NGOs criticized the court decision calling it unjustified in light of the existing evidence. The suers appealed on the court decision. In the same line the investigation of the murder of the two adolescents in Tbilisi should be regarded as a result of the conflict between the minors in 2017. The father of one of the suspected perpetrators is a high-ranking employee of the General Prosecutor's Office M.Subeliani was blamed by public of obstruction of justice and was arrested as a result. After the mass protests initiated by the father of the killed adolescent Z.Saralidze the General Prosecutor handed in his resignation and the parliament established a provisional investigation commission to clarify the circumstances of the case. However, later the parliamentary majority disagreed with the conclusions of the commission and the case was referred to the appeal court which served the reason to accuse the authorities of the incapacity to guarantee the equality of citizens before the law and ensure a fair trial.

The events of December 2017 were another case when as a result of counter-terrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge the 19-year-old T.Machalikashvili was mortally wounded. The public was outraged by the actions of the security services who were imputed of unjustified use of force and withholding evidence during investigation that was conducted by the State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG). According to information provided by the relatives and human rights activists the victim did not receive timely medical assistance. Until now the investigation of this case did not move forward.

The nationalist organizations existing in Georgia propagate their ideas mostly through social networks. There are cases when the state media channels provide the broadcasting time to the Georgian organizations of nationalist orientation and use live broadcast to insult Russia and its people.

Moreover, during the last decade the system of education of Georgia is taking efforts to rewrite the history and the results of the World War II and form indifferent-negative attitude of the students to the historical memory. In particular, it is indicative that in the textbook of history for the 12th year only one page is dedicated to the fight of more than 700,000 Georgians against Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army while much more pages are dedicated to a handful of local collaborationists who fought in the ranks of the Wehrmacht.

The Consultative Committee of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities noted that the Georgian society continues to distrust the minorities in the context of state security and national development. Therefore, the issues related to the implementation of the rights of language and religious minorities are quite often politicized.[110]

According to the research conducted in 2018 under the auspices of the CC FCPNM 36 per cent of Georgian citizens have a negative attitude to ethnic diversity and 46 per cent – to religious diversity. According to the respondents this diversity "threatens the culture and traditions" (47 per cent), weakens the national unity (17 per cent) and compromises the security of the country (13 per cent). 43 per cent of the respondents believe that the persons belonging to national minorities have no right to publicly express their protest and 39 per cent believe that these persons have no right to be elected, 36 per cent believe that they have no right to participate in decision making on important state issues and 25 per cent believe that they do not have the right of vote.[111]

The international monitoring mechanisms continue to indicate that there are cases of physical assault against ethnic and religious minorities, they also record the xenophobic and discriminatory statements by the state officials and representatives of political parties, hatred expressions in the media and in the Internet and also note the absence of a completed investigation and court prosecution of persons who committed such acts. In particular the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination paid attention to this in May 2016 upon the results of examination of the joint 6th‑7th periodic reports of Georgia as well as by the FCPNM and ECRI functioning within the Council of Europe. Moreover the CERD indicated that the Georgian courts do not refer to the motives of racist nature as aggravating circumstances for all criminal offences (amendments to Article 53 of the Penal Code adopted in March 2012).[112]

At the same time the instigation of animosity is not considered to be a criminal act. The investigation is launched only if this is a case of the threat of violence on the basis of Article 239-1 of the Penal Code, which prohibits a public instigation to violence. In spite of the ECRI recommendations the Georgian authorities did not establish a system of monitoring against the instigation to hatred.

It is regrettable that such a practice is not prevented by the authorities, no systematic measures to prohibit the language of hatred are taken, the xenophobic statements by the politicians are not immediately and unequivocally condemned and on the contrary the discriminatory manifestations are getting stronger with the acquiescence and even the consent of the authorities. A recent example of such manifestations is an artificial stirring up of the anti-Russian sentiments in Georgia, and undisguised manipulation for political goals of public awareness of Georgian people when the radicals assaulted the Russian journalists in June 2019.

The realization of the rights by ethnic and religious minorities looks precarious. In particular artificial administrative barriers have been established to prevent the issuance of license for construction of places of worship existence of language barriers in having access to the state services including the area of justice.

The religious minorities confront systematic discrimination in their attempts to have access to the places of worship and their financing. The procedures of restitution and issuance of construction permits for religious sites are not transparent and not based on clear an objective legal criteria.

In its report the CC of the FCPNM noted a number of cases of religious intolerance and proselytism in the state schools including physical punishment, the sale by the teacher is of religious goods or compulsory collective sermons.

The state control over the Muslim organizations has been noted. The calls of the popular Defender of Georgia to investigate an alleged compulsory resignation of the former Mufti of Georgia did not bring any results. The arrest under unclear circumstances of another Mufti causes our concern. The Public Defender of Georgia established in 2017 the cases of direct discrimination on religious grounds against the Muslims who crossed the Georgian-Turkish border.[113]

Article 37(3) of the Law on the state language provides for two language program of education for persons from language minorities.

According to the data of the CC of the FCPNM there are 211 state general education schools in Georgia where all subjects of school program are taught in the language of national minorities and the Georgian language as the second language (82 such schools provide education in Azeri, 118 in Armenian and 11 in Russian). 76 schools teach only in Georgian, but also give the opportunity to the minorities to study the subjects as "language and literature of national minorities". The languages of national minorities are not taught in the institutions of professional education. However, the representatives of minorities note that the number of hours for teaching their language is insufficient to learn it at the required level.

In primary and secondary education there is a problem with the quality of teaching materials (incomplete or inadequate translations), as well as with the training of teachers (absence of multilanguage model of education).

As to the educational material, during 2012‑2019 only 70 per cent of the content of every text book was translated into the language of national minorities while 30 per cent remained in Georgian language to maintain the bilingual education. This creates difficulties for the teachers who do not sufficiently know the Georgian language to effectively teach their subject. In spite of this they had to translate the lacking materials by themselves. The problems persist in obtaining the text books for the Ossetian and the Avar communities.[114]

The human rights mechanisms also note with concern the limited opportunities in education and employment for the young people in the remote areas where national or ethnical minorities live such as Punkisi valley which puts them on the threat of radicalization or recruitment by terrorist groups.

The human rights activists also raise a question of limited accessibility of programs in the media for national or ethnical minorities. The information program broadcasts the news in five languages (Abkhaz, Azeri, Armenian, Ossetian and Russian). But this is reduced to 11‑12 minutes of information packs which is clearly insufficient for broadcasting coverage. In 2018 the state broadcasting program launched a project to create an information Internet broadcasting platform in seven languages (Georgian, Abkhaz, Azeri, Armenian, Ossetian, Russian and English). The programs of the languages of national minorities are absent on the state channels.

The Georgian authorities support the edition "Vrastan" newspaper in Armenian and Gurjistan in Azeri as well as Evening Tbilisi in Russian. However, the assistance in the issues of newspapers in other languages of national minorities is quite limited.[115]

The persons belonging to national minorities are still unrepresented in the political life of the country. They are prevented from participating in public affairs by the prohibition established by Article 23.3 of the Georgian Constitution to create political parties on the territorial principle. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued repeatedly negative conclusions with regard of this constitutional norm.[116] It is emphasized that as the main impediment for participation of minorities in the political and public life of the country the authorities refer to the poor knowledge of Georgian language by those categories of population. Compulsory use of the Georgian language also can prevent national minorities from performing certain official functions at the local level. This leads to the marginalization and limited representation in the political life. This problem was emphasized in particular by CERD in May 2016[117] and the Committee on Human Rights in July 2014.[118]

Article 9.3 of the Law of the state language provides that in the municipalities were national minorities live in compact settlement the government ensures all communications of the persons related to national minorities with state bodies and local government in the language of that national minority with the assistance of translator. However, during administration of justice and contacts with the law enforcement bodies there are difficulties with the provision of translation services into Armenian and the Azeri languages. As a rule, such services are provided not by the accredited companies but occasionally hired translators from relevant national minorities without any guarantee of the quality of service with the minimum understanding of the legal procedures.[119]

The international monitoring entities were especially concerned with the situation of the Gypsy community in Georgia which is subjected to marginalization and is living in unstable social and economic conditions. It was emphasized that special programs aimed at social and economic integration of Roma in Georgia are absent. Many Roma representatives have no identity documents. The Gypsy children enrollment in schools is low, especially after the primary school.[120]

The consultative mechanisms created under the Popular Defender create a favorable platform for national minorities to express their concerns and interests. However, the national authorities systematically ignore them.

There is a long-term problem of the Meskhetian Turks repatriation because Tbilisi does not comply with its obligations in this area. The international monitoring mechanisms noted that during the repatriation to Georgia the Meskhetian Turks confront a lot of difficulties beginning from limitations and bureaucratic conditions related to the filing of applications (including the requirement to present the archive confirmation of the fact of deportation while most of the archive documents on deportation are kept in Georgia) and ending up by the absence of programs of integration of the Meskhetians both from the viewpoint of finance and public outreach. The Monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe (Consultative Committee of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe on the Protection of National Minorities and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) assessed as insufficient the preparation to the resettlement of the Meskhetian Turks and their integration in the society and in this connection recommended to the Georgian authorities to adopt comprehensive measures both at local and national level regarding the returnees and the hosting population. The experts noted that the Georgian population is still hostile to the Meskhetian Turks, due to the absence of objective information about this people. Concerns regarding their situation were expressed in May 2016 by CERD that noted, in particular, the absence of a specific strategy and a plan of action to host the representatives of this people and stressed the remaining administrative and bureaucratic barriers that contain the process of granting of citizenship to the Meskhetian Turks. As a result, only an insignificant number of the Meskhetian Turks were granted the status of returnees.[121] At the same time, according to the information of a number of civil society organizations presented also during the OSCE annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (held in Warsaw in September 2019) the Georgian authorities still do not take any measures to address this issue.

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DENMARK

Although Denmark maintains a consistently high level of respect for political and civil human rights and freedoms, flaws in the Danish human rights record pointed out by national human rights institutions, for instance, the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR)[122] attract attention. Such flaws are primarily related to the violations of universally accepted human rights standards in the area of safeguarding the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, the social integration of foreign migrants into Danish society and the strengthening of xenophobic sentiment among ethnic Danes towards people from the Muslim and other non-Western countries.

The Danish human rights community is critical of the authorities' legislative measures considering them an attack on the freedom of opinion and expression. For example, amendments to the Danish Criminal Code (Act) adopted by the Danish Parliament in March 2019, which introduced a penalty of up to 12 years' imprisonment for cooperating with foreign intelligence services to influence the Danish decision-making and public opinion, have raised concerns among the Danish human rights defenders about the difficulty of distinguishing between the statements and expression of opinion falling and not falling under the amendments, as well as disproportionate penalties that can be imposed for such actions. Despite statements by representatives of the Danish Ministry of Justice on the necessity to prove in each specific case the fact of cooperation, in particular paid cooperation, with foreign intelligence services, the Danish lawyers fear that the blurred wording of the amendments will lead Danish citizens, for instance users of social networks, to self-censorship and self-limitation of the right to freedom of expression.

Concerning the protection of the right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy and family life in Denmark, it is noteworthy that the Danish Passenger Name Records Act, which came into force in January 2019, in the opinion of the DIHR does not meet all the requirements of the Court of Justice of the European Union with regard to the peculiarities of collecting the relevant information. In particular, the use of such data is supervised by the relevant Danish public authorities only with regard to Danish citizens. Despite the 15-year period set out in the Act on the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (the PET Act), after which sensitive information about Danish citizens that is not used for ongoing work must be destroyed, the relevant archives of the service are transferred to the State Archives of the Realm for storage. At the same time, the intelligence service retains the possibility of access to these data without any independent legal control (the Data Protection Agency which controls the State Archives has no authority over the intelligence services).

The human rights community is concerned about the legislative measures developed to combat terrorism. Thus, in June 2016, in its concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Denmark, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about section 780 of the Administration of Justice Act, which allows interception of communication by the police domestically and which may result in mass surveillance, despite the legal guarantees provided in sections 781 and 783 of the same Act. The Committee also referred to the use in article 114 of the Criminal Code of vague terms defining actions constituting acts of terrorism and establishing responsibility for these offences. The HRCtte was also concerned about the statutory possibility of revoking the citizenship of persons with dual nationality.[123]

In August 2018, a ban on wearing of clothes concealing a face in public places came into force in Denmark. This innovation, dubbed the "burqa ban" in the Danish Parliament at the discussion stage, was originally aimed at Danish Muslims. A number of Danish human rights NGOs, as well as the DIHR, therefore consider that the ban restricts the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion of female Muslims living in the country who, due to religious beliefs, wear the relevant clothes. The ban promotes their social exclusion and the development of a "parallel society" in the Kingdom.

Regarding the protection of children's rights and State guarantees of child protection measures, the DIHR is concerned about the reform of the system for combating child crime carried out in 2018, which, in particular, provides for the establishment in the regions of special commissions on child crime, consisting of a judge, a representative of the police responsible for preventing child crime, a representative of the municipality, a social worker, and a parent/guardian and the child himself/herself. The commissions are entitled to consider the introduction of response measures for children aged 10-17 who are suspected of having committed certain crimes. The range of possible penalties ranges from community service (e.g. washing of fire engines) to removal from the family and placement in a social institution. It is noted, however, that the new system created in the image of criminal procedure, unlike the latter, does not provide adequate legal protection for a suspected/accused child (e.g. commissions do not involve the participation of a child's lawyer or a child psychologist).

The situation around the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities in Denmark has not improved in the main areas of public life in the country, which can be partly explained by the lack of the relevant comprehensive national action plan. The DIHR, for example, points out that since 2018 the requirements for building regulations on the accessibility for persons with disabilities in the construction of detached single-family homes have been considerably simplified. The DIHR insists on developing specific goals and measures at the national level to increase the number of persons with disabilities who pursue their education after graduating from school (according to the DIHR research, currently the opposite trend is observed).

Denmark continues to use coercive measures in psychiatry (in particular, statistics show an increase in the use of medical methods of immobilization from 2.5 per cent of the patients concerned to 3.2 per cent, while the frequency of physical immobilization decreased from 7.7 per cent to 5.4 per cent of patients in the period from 2011 to 2017). At the same time, although the use of physical immobilization of patients for more than 48 hours is reduced, it is still used (in 2017 – 449 cases). The Human Rights Committee expressed its concerns about this problem in its concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Denmark on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in June 2016.[124]

Human rights defenders point out that there has been no visible change in gender equality and underline that the Danish Government has not put forward any visible legislative initiatives to improve the situation. This is despite the fact that as of 2018, the difference in income between men and women with the same level of education is between 17 and 29 per cent for different categories of employed citizens, and 835 of the 1595 largest private companies in Denmark have no female executives, including on boards (data as of 2018).

Experts remain concerned about the level of violence against women in the country. Thus, in 2018, according to the State Institute of Public Health, about 38 thousand women became victims of physical partner violence (the figures have remained practically unchanged since 2005).[125] The Human Rights Committee noted that a high number of women continue to experience violence. The HRCtte also underlined the lack of statistical data relating to complaints received by the competent authorities on domestic violence, investigations, prosecutions of perpetrators, including in Greenland and in the Faroe Islands. The Committee was also concerned about information on inconsistencies in the application of the legislation on domestic violence in different police districts of Denmark.[126]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, citing a study conducted in the European Union in 2014, indicated that 46 per cent of women in Denmark had experienced some form of physical, sexual or psychological violence when they were under 15. In this context, the CRC noted with concern that sexual abuse of children, including online, prevails, especially in Greenland.[127]

The high level of sexual violence and the lack of statistical data on these crimes were pointed out in October 2019 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[128]

Overall, there are relatively few children in Denmark living on the verge of poverty or social exclusion compared to other European countries. According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child[129] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[130], the highest rates of child poverty are found in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The situation with the reception of refugees by Denmark (within the quota agreed with the UN) is not improving. The decision of the Danish authorities of September 2016 to suspend the admission of the "United Nations" refugees (since 1979, the Kingdom has received 500 people per year), established in November 2017 after the adoption of a law by the Folketing (the Parliament), according to which the decision on the number of accepted refugees under the UN quota or the refusal to accept them is made by the relevant authority of the Danish government – the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

Human rights defenders note the current government's tough anti-migration policy. Thus, in 2018, benefits for migrant families living in Denmark for over three years were reduced by 30 per cent. The rules for family reunification of persons who have been granted asylum in the Kingdom have been considerably tightened, including increased requirements for the degree of integration into Danish society, available housing conditions, requirements for the level of the Danish language skills; a new requirement for "economic security" has been introduced. The right of refugees to receive a standard Danish pension in the event of early retirement if the person had not permanently resided in Denmark for the past three years has been revoked.

The migrant situation in Denmark and measures developed by the Danish authorities in this regard have been brought to the attention of the UN human rights treaty bodies. In June 2016, the Human Rights Committee noted with concern that the 2011 amendment to the Aliens Act establishes the initial period of detention of migrants awaiting deportation as 6 months with a possible extension of a further 12 months. Further amendments to the Act adopted in 2016 provide for the possibility of confiscating asylum seekers' assets in order to compensate for the costs of their reception. Besides, the HRCtte expressed concern about the poor conditions of detention of migrants, particularly at Vridsløselille Prison in the Albertslund municipality.[131]

In October 2019, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that the authorities had recently taken a lot of measures that directly or indirectly affected the rights of refugees and migrants in the economic, social and cultural fields, often they were elaborated not due to the reduced resources. Among these measures, the Committee noted the introduction in 2016 of a family reunification gradation dependent on different conditions, the introduction in 2018 of the policy of temporary stay for refugees, according to which municipalities no longer require to provide them with permanent housing, as well as the restriction in 2019 of the entitlement to free interpretation in health services.[132]

Migrant children also face difficulties in Denmark. In September 2017, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern that between 2014 and 2016 an increasing number of unaccompanied children went missing from asylum centres and may thus have become victims of sex trafficking. The Committee was also concerned that in 2016 the Danish authorities had abolished the poverty line (was introduced in 2013), established a "cash benefit ceiling" and adopted a rule according to which recipients of cash benefits needed to prove 225 hours of work in the course of the previous 12 months. All these measures may, according to the Committee, particularly affect the children from migrant families.[133]

According to human rights defenders, such a migrant policy conducted by the authorities enjoys the support of the parliamentary majority and is primarily directed at refugees, IDPs and migrants from non-Western countries, especially Muslims. The increase in hate crimes against relevant ethnic and religious groups in Denmark occurs largely due to these phenomena. For example, in 2017, the Danish police reported 223 racially motivated hate crimes (140 in 2016, 104 in 2015) and 142 religiously motivated hate crimes (88 in 2016, 60 in 2015). 67 of the latter were committed against Muslims.[134]

It is noteworthy that in Denmark followers of Judaism make the second largest group of victims of religious hate crimes after migrants (38 cases in 2017). According to a study by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights published in December 2018, Danish Jews, like Jews in other EU member states, have experienced an increase in anti-Semitism over the past five years. 80 per cent of those surveyed by the Agency in Denmark are constantly (9 per cent), often (32 per cent) or sometimes (39 per cent) forced to avoid wearing or displaying things and objects that could identify them as Jewish. Although only 56 per cent of the Danish Jews surveyed by the Agency consider anti-Semitism to be a very serious or rather serious problem (14 per cent and 42 per cent respectively), the largest association, the Danish Jewish Community, with its 2400 members, traditionally warns against public display of relevant accessories or clothing.

Moreover, since 2012, this organization has been preparing and publishing reports on manifestations of anti-Semitism in Denmark. According to the latest report, 30 cases were recorded in 2017, including assaults and physical assaults (2), threats (3), and anti-Semitic statements (24). Moreover, the number of incidents tends to increase, with 22 such cases recorded in 2016. Alleged ill-wishers include both individuals born in the Middle East and ethnic Danes.

Against this background, it is noted that the Danish authorities prioritize the Evangelical Lutheran Church over other religious communities. The Human Rights Committee has indicated, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is authorized, inter alia, to register births and to perform legally binding marriages according to the Danish Marriage Act, without conditions.[135]

In May 2015, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the growth of xenophobia, hate propaganda against natives of foreign countries in Denmark, as well as the increase in racist publications in the media and online, the increase in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism after the terror attack against the Jewish community in Copenhagen in February 2015, and the stigmatization of the Roma community. The Committee also expressed its concern at the high rate of unemployment and poor economic situation of stateless persons and persons belonging to minority groups.

A specific problem is that measures taken by the authorities formally aimed at eradicating segregation in housing and developing a better composition of tenants in reality may have a negative impact on access to housing for persons from minorities and socially marginalized groups. Thus, under the "mixed rent" rule, only 28 out of 709 tenants who had been refused resettlement in a particular housing received alternative housing from municipalities. In addition, when renting private housing, persons with Middle Eastern last names have to submit 27 per cent more applications than persons with Danish last names in order to receive a positive response.

According to the National Integration Barometer data presented by the CERD, 45 per cent of people belonging to ethnic minority groups believe they are discriminated on the basis of their ethnicity.

In this regard, the Committee recommended that the Danish authorities redouble their efforts to combat racial prejudice as well as violence, xenophobia, and intolerance in the country, and contribute to building tolerance and intercultural understanding among different groups.[136]

It should be noted that information provided by the Danish authorities on the implementation of the concluding observations has not addressed the CERD's concerns about measures to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance, to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice, to improve access to justice for victims of discrimination, and to increase the participation of members of minorities in the labour market. One year later, the Committee specifically requested that these issues be reflected in Denmark's next periodic report.[137]

In October 2019, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also drew attention to shortcomings in the field of combating discrimination. In particular, experts of the Committee pointed out the lack of a legal prohibition of discrimination on grounds such as age, disability or religion outside the labour market. The CESCR also noted that the Danish authorities have taken legislative measures that explicitly impose different treatment on grounds such as ethnicity, social status, residence, which contravenes the country's international legal obligations.[138]

The CERD also noted the lack of provisions in the Danish Criminal Code prohibiting organizations that promote racial discrimination as well as participation in their activities.[139] Consequently, neo-Nazi right-wing organizations such as the Danish National Front (DNF)[140], the Danish Defence League, the Danish National Socialist Movement and White Pride[141] continue operating in the country with varying degrees of activity. The latest notable action of the Danish neo-Nazis was organized by the DNF unit in Skive in March 2016. Conducting passive public campaigns, the nationalists continue their activities on spreading racist, neo-Nazi, misanthropic ideas, as well as fundraising and recruitment of new members on the Internet and social networks (mainly in closed thematic groups).

The experts do not confirm the growing number of extremist and radical nationalist political parties, movements and groups of racist and xenophobic nature in the country or their great involvement in the political life of the country. On the whole, they agree that the low level of activity of the neo-Nazi movement in Denmark at this stage is related not so much to the preventive activities of the law enforcement agencies, but rather to the objective reasons, among which are a change of generations in the respective organizations as well as the lack of funding caused by the reduction in the number of their members. As a result, the activities of such associations are mainly limited to activities in social networks and on the Internet.

It is also noteworthy that in 2018 the rules for processing applications for Danish citizenship from stateless persons born in the Kingdom were changed. Previously, offences against the State or a court sentence of more than five years imprisonment for another offence could be the grounds for refusal. Under the new rules, the relevant Ministry of Integration and Immigration does not consider applications for Danish citizenship from persons belonging to the above category, unless the Danish Security and Intelligence Service conclude that these persons may pose a danger to the State. Human rights defenders note that there is no clear time limit for suspending the processing of applications, the applicant is not even informed of the suspension of the processing of his or her documents and he or she is not able to appeal against the decision of the intelligence service.

The human rights community has been recording certain problems in the socio-economic sphere. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has expressed its concern about the shortage of affordable housing in the country and, at the same time, about the significant increase in the number of homeless persons. This has largely been exacerbated by the property acquisition by private investors and the increase in rental prices, as under Act No. 5.2 of 1996 on Housing Conditions, private investors are authorized to increase rents up to the "value of the rented dwelling".

Despite the measures taken by the Government to expand the availability of quality day-care centres for children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop their communication and language skills, a much smaller number of such children are enrolled in education.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, following the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, noted with concern the different approaches taken by the Danish authorities in providing education in mother tongues for children from European countries and children of non-European origin. According to experts, such a discriminatory approach would have a negative impact on the integration of minorities and foreigners into the Danish education system.[142]

One of Denmark's specific human rights problems is the situation with the penitentiary system of the Danish autonomous territory, Greenland. In 2018, the DIHR and the Human Rights Council of Greenland stated that due to limited resources, detainees sentenced to imprisonment as well as persons sentenced to so-called preventive imprisonment[143] are accommodated in prisons together despite differing grounds for their imprisonment. Women have to serve their sentences together with men, while juvenile offenders are sometimes imprisoned together with adult prisoners.

The human rights community is concerned about the decision of the Danish authorities to convert a research centre for viral animal diseases such as swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and rabies on Lindholm Island (the Zealand Region) into a deportation centre. In December 2018, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concerns about this decision. According to the plan, since 2021 the centre will accommodate persons who stay in the country within the so-called permitted stay. This status applies to persons who are denied to stay in the territory of the Kingdom (this category includes both persons who have committed crimes against humanity or war crimes, including foreign terrorist fighters, and persons sentenced to deportation for a criminal offence in the territory of Denmark, including refugees, who are denied asylum and who have committed a crime in the area of the refugee accommodation camp).

Following its consideration of Denmark's combined sixth and seventh periodic reports in November 2015, the Committee against Torture[144] criticized the Danish practice of solitary confinement (in particular, it recommended that the Danish authorities de jure abolish solitary confinement for minors and, as a disciplinary measure, limit the maximum duration of permitted solitary confinement to 15 days and abolish the practice of voluntary isolation). In June 2016, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about the practice of placing of detainees in solitary confinement for up to eight weeks for adults if the charges can lead to imprisonment for more than six years, and four weeks for minors. It also referred with concern to the use of solitary confinement for up to 28 days as a disciplinary measure for convicts[145].

Moreover, human rights defenders note that the number of cases of solitary confinement of persons serving sentences in the Danish prisons is increasing (4,752 cases in 2018, 4,085 cases in 2017, 2,995 cases in 2016). Such isolation of minors continues, albeit with certain restrictions (since February 2019, if the case does not involve violence against prison staff, minors may be placed in solitary confinement for a maximum of seven days). The reasons include increased disciplinary penalties in the Danish prisons by the decision of the Danish Ministry of Justice in 2017 as well as an increase in the number of prisoners seeking voluntary isolation from other prisoners.

Human rights defenders also note a significant increase in the use of tear gas by corrections officers and the police in the Danish prisons (in 2017 there were 125 cases of its use against prisoners; in 2015 – 35 similar cases). The statistics on the use of force against prisoners are similar (1,434 cases in 2017, 897 cases in 2015). At the same time, specialized NGOs have not recorded a noticeable increase in the number of prisoners.

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IRELAND

Legislation and enforcement practices in Ireland with respect to the promotion and protection of human rights are shaped in accordance with the Constitution (Articles 40-44), which details all provisions in this field. According to the fundamental law of the State, all citizens, regardless of their age, religion, social status, mental or physical condition, shall enjoy equal rights, which the State ensures through the judicial system. Furthermore, as a result of Ireland's membership in the European Union and the Council of Europe, key human rights elements of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU were incorporated into Irish domestic legislation through the enactment of relevant legislation between 2004 and 2014. However, since those actions have been incomplete, the Irish judiciary continue to rely primarily on domestic legislation rather than on international treaties to address individual cases of human rights violations. According to local and international human rights defenders, this system does not allow Ireland to be considered fully compliant with the human rights standards set by the international community. Irish nationals have to regularly bring their claims before the European Court of Human Rights and other international courts due to the fact that they have been dismissed in Irish courts. The majority of complaints concern violence against women, the right of migrants to acquire citizenship, and the employment of migrants in special reception centers.

In general, Dublin's human rights policy is organized according to Western European standards. The Irish are willing to criticize those who do not support "neoliberal" values, while silencing obvious human rights concerns in the West or in countries with which collaboration is advantageous for Ireland.

Ireland's political leadership is taking practical steps to remedy the human rights situation under pressure from the international universal and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms and local communities.

Following a national referendum in May 2019, artificial termination of pregnancy was legalized (Ireland had been subject to strong international criticism for the prohibition of abortion for many years) and divorce rules were significantly simplified (previously, the divorce process could take up to eight years). In this regard, Ireland was criticized by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in February 2017[146].

A specific issue related to violence against women is the historical abuses, ill-treatment of women and girls in the Magdalene Laundries (or shelters). Despite the adoption of the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act of 2015, the Irish authorities have not been able to conduct independent, thorough and effective investigations that meet international standards in respect of all allegations of abuse, mistreatment or neglect of women and children in the Magdalene Laundries, which would make it possible to determine the role of the State and the Church in the alleged violations. Concerns about the scale and systemic nature of forced labor practices that took place under State patronage from 1922 to 1996 in the Magdalene Laundries have been repeatedly expressed by virtually all UN human rights treaty bodies, in particular the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[147], the Committee against Torture[148], and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[149], noting the need to investigate outrageous abuses. However, the concerns of human rights treaty bodies in this regard still remain, despite the apologies of the authorities to women who had worked in these institutions and the establishment of a voluntary restorative justice system in 2013. The investigation of the relevant violations had been the subject of particular concern to the Committee against Torture, which requested the Irish authorities in May 2019, to take steps to investigate the abuses and provide redress to the victims of those shelters (it should be noted that this request was made by the Committee after receiving the Irish authorities' report on the implementation of the Committee's recommendations in this regard in February 2017)[150].

According to the European commission, Ireland is among the most progressive countries in the EU in terms of interracial tolerance and intolerance against all forms of discrimination and racism. In 2004, Ireland adopted a new version of the Equality Act, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of their nationality or religion. The Act prohibits all forms of racism and discrimination in all spheres of social and economic life. The Equality Authority and the Equality Tribunal, as well as the Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office of the Garda Síochána, are responsible for the observance and implementation of its provisions. Under Irish law, any case of racism, discrimination and xenophobia (Nazism and neo-Nazism are not mentioned) is subject to a review procedure before a court. In practice, sentences were limited to administrative fines in a few cases, although the law also allows for deprivation of liberty for this type of offence. It should be noted that the aforementioned Equality Act does not prohibit organizations and movements that promote racial discrimination as Irish law, which establishes the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, requires evidence that the organization is such.

In Ireland, a wide range of events (roundtables, conference seminars and meetings) organized by NGOs have become commonplace and focus on the need to consolidate society in order to combat manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.

The national NGO Irish Network Against Racism is active in the prevention of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The situation is complex with regard to the realization of the rights of migrants. According to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, between May 1, 2018 and May 1, 2019, approximately 300 racist incidents were reported (a 5 per cent decrease compared to 2017). They were mostly of a domestic nature and were not violent. The Committee against Torture has also noted the practice of holding migrant detainees and asylum-seekers in prisons and police stations together with arrested offenders.[151]

During a visit to Ireland in July 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed concern over the conditions in local refugee detention centers. It was noted that a total of 6,000 people were currently living there, of whom 1,000 were living in unacceptable living conditions that required immediate improvement. In addition, a delay in the issuance of status and employment permits to refugees was reported.

The situation of the ever-growing Muslim community in Ireland (about 70,000 people) is of greatest concern to human rights defenders. Human rights defenders point out that the number of racist incidents against Muslims generally remained the same, with around 40 per cent of Muslims in Ireland reporting having experienced violence (verbal or physical) at work, in educational institutions and in everyday life due to their religion. However, in some cases, the complaints received have not been substantiated. However, there have been instances of intolerance and hatred by Muslims against Irishmen and persons of other nationalities residing in Ireland. Human rights defenders argue that the indirect and direct responsibility for these cases lies with radical Islamic preachers, who make extremist statements in their sermons, taking advantage of the inaction of law enforcement agencies, which sometimes do not comply with the 1988 Prohibition of Incitement to Racial, Religious or National Hatred Bill.

Another issue related to discrimination on the basis of religion is the widespread practice of discriminatory admission of children to schools depending on the child's and parents' religion and whether his or her parent(s) are former students of the school.[152]

The problem of involving children in pornography remains quite acute. According to reports published in 2018 and 2019 by the Ireland's National Police and Security Service An Garda Síochána and the Central Statistics Office, as well as by independent experts from the universities of Limerick and Galway, there is now a steady increase in the involvement of children (aged 4‑16 years) in pornography in Ireland. In 2018, the cases (over 7 thousand) of such offers with photos of children on the Internet continued to be recorded. It is noted that calls by members of the Irish Parliament and the public for the Government to implement special filters and to block such sites remain unfulfilled. At the same time, human rights defenders draw attention to the following paradox: at the legislative level, "pirate" sites for downloading films and music have been blocked, while child pornography remains freely available in Ireland.

Presumably, the fact that almost 200,000 underage children live in persistent poverty (the total number of such children in Ireland is 750,000) may also contribute to the spread of this illegal activity. This has been noted with concern by the Committee on the Rights of the Child[153] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[154]

In Ireland, there is a worrying trend of increase in cases of physical and sexual abuse of children. It is estimated that four or five such incidents are recorded weekly (up to three hundred per year). Practice shows that children are often afraid to report abuse.

The fight against child suicides has not changed for the better. 10 per cent of Irish teenagers aged 15 to 19 years are suicidal and 20 per cent of children aged 11 to 15 years have psychological problems that contribute to the growth of these phenomena. The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the high suicide rate among teenagers.[155]

According to data provided by American and European human rights organizations, the situation with regard to domestic violence and pay inequality for women in Ireland is one of the worst in comparison with other Western European countries.

The conclusions of the UN human rights treaty bodies also confirm this finding. For example, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights indicated in 2015, that there were still legislative gaps in investigating and sanctioning the perpetrators as well as providing protection and assistance to victims of domestic violence and at the lack of systematic data collection, as well as insufficient support services for these victims due to funding cuts.[156]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern that domestic violence is not criminalized and there is no specific definition of domestic violence in the legislation. The Committee criticized the failure of the Irish authorities to address psychological, emotional and economic violence, as well as online stalking and harassment. Victims of domestic violence face barriers in accessing civil legal aid services. These include long waiting lists, restrictive financial eligibility criteria and the requirement to pay financial contributions where safety, protection or barring orders are sought. In these cases, low-income women are in fact denied access to justice.[157]

According to the Central Statistics Office, although women workers make up more than 53 per cent of the workforce, their average pay is almost 7 per cent lower than that of men. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also drew attention to the widening wage gap.[158]

The situation of persons with disabilities remains problematic. According to the National Commission on Human Rights and Equality, 20 per cent of citizens in this category experienced discriminatory treatment by Irish social and public authorities.

Cases of torture or inhumane treatment in detention facilities continue to be reported. In almost all such institutions there is an increase in violence, "blood vengeance", etc.

Human rights defenders are calling on the Irish authorities to bring order as a matter of urgency, including more stringent provisions for discipline among prisoners. The international human rights monitoring mechanisms have also drawn attention to this issue. For instance, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also noted overcrowding in women's prisons in Ireland[159]. The Committee against Torture referred to overcrowding in prisons (the most prominent examples included the situation in the Dochás centre for female prisoners in Mountjoy prison, as well as in the male and female wards of Limerick prison) the unresolved problem of internal plumbing in cells, the understaffing of prison staff, as well as the shortage of qualified medical staff, psychiatrists and psychologists, and the continuing practice of joint detention of remand and convicted prisoners. In addition, the Committee against Torture noted an increase in violence (including sexual violence) among prisoners of both sexes. The Committee also observed an increase in aggression against prison staff: according to the Committee, 78 per cent of prison staff were attacked while performing their duties.[160] The Committee against Torture remains concerned about the situation in this field: in May 2019, the Committee addressed a letter to the Irish authorities requesting further information on the situation in the prison system and the mechanism for appealing police actions.[161]

There have been recorded issues in official approaches to the implementation of civil liberties. In this area, for example, Ireland has been criticized by local and international public opinion for being overly liberal in its treatment of certain organizations and individuals who freely disseminate extremist and racist content in the electronic media under the guise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and for having used complex and highly specific Irish legislation to rebut the charges in court. The Government refuses to take decisive action against such entities (ban, closure), citing the need to protect the right to freedom of expression.

The authorities actively support (including for commercial reasons) the idea of Dublin becoming an international gay center, while ignoring critical comments from the church and conservative part of Irish society.

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ICELAND

Iceland has traditionally portrayed itself as one of the most active human rights defenders in the world.

Within the country, the government makes vigorous efforts in this regard. In early March 2018, on the initiative of the Icelandic Ministry for Social Affairs, a forum on gender equality took place, during which the Minister for Social Affairs, Ásmundur Einar Daðason, presented a report on progress towards gender equality in 2015-2017 and singled out further steps for its achievement. Since the end of March 2018, the country has counted with an expert working group for the preparation of a report on the necessity to review Icelandic legislation in order to ensure gender equality.

On June 18, 2019, the Icelandic parliament approved the Sexual Agency Act introduced by the Icelandic Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, that establishes a mechanism for resolving issues related to gender autonomy. The new law recognizes the right to a neutral gender, neither male nor female.

However, activists who uphold a position opposite to the policy of the State are often persecuted under various pretexts. In 2016, the Reykjavik district court registered a case against a presenter of the Icelandic radio station Útvarp Saga, Pétur Gunnlaugsson, for denouncing Icelandic LGBT community while he was live. Later, in 2017, Pétur Gunnlaugsson had to pay a fine and expressed his conviction that he had been a victim of a political campaign against him. He had previously been subject to attacks for "unorthodox" statements in live shows that went against state policy.

In spite of changes introduced to the Icelandic legislation in late 1990s that abolished the obligatory assignment to a foreigner granted Icelandic citizenship of an Icelandic name in place of their given name, the country still has a list of 1,800 names and their forms approved by the Government. The Registers Iceland has a designated Name Council. A citizen whose name is different from an approved form, or an applicant who wishes to take a name that is not on the official list, has to face serious problems with civil registration and the issuance of identification documents. Review of the relevant applications by the Council is a lengthy procedure. To protect their rights, citizens have to resort to courts, in some cases – even to the European Court of Human Rights. The most high-profile lawsuits by Icelandic families requesting the authorities to recognize children's names that were not on the approved list, took place in 2013 and 2014.

Within refugee quotas, Iceland prioritizes particularly vulnerable groups, mainly women and children who have arrived from regions of military conflict. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Iceland has accepted 137 Syrians. According to the data provided by the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration, as of June 2019, it has received 322 applications for asylum. In the first half of 2019, Iceland accepted 46 refugees out of the total quota of 75 people, mainly from Syria and Kenya.

At the same time, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that in 2015-2019, cases of potential human trafficking have been identified: there has been information about 74 possible cases of human trafficking, 27 official investigations have been carried out, finding 88 victims. The victims are mostly foreigners from Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, South America, and East Asia.[162]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has criticized Icelandic authorities for inadequate financing of police activities related to the investigation of cases of human trafficking, as well as lack of prosecution for crimes related to human trafficking. CEDAW has also noted a disproportionately high number of migrant women working in the so-called champagne clubs.[163] Besides, cases of forced labor have been registered in tourism and the construction sector, chiefly involving migrant workers from Eastern European EU members (in particular, Lithuania and Poland).

In general, Iceland respects the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. At the same time, cases of unnecessary police brutality during arrest of citizens have been registered, as well as detention of juvenile offenders together with adult offenders.

On several occasions, the right to the freedom of movement through the country and entry to it has been denied. For example, in January 2015, relatives of an Icelandic citizen of Syrian descent were denied entry to a wedding ceremony without any explanation. The affected party sued Icelandic authorities, the investigation is under way.

Some well-publicized incidents are related to the exercise of the right to privacy. For example, in November 2018, a scandal erupted when the local media published an audio recording with fragments of the conversation held in a bar in Reykjavik by six members of parliament (consisting of 63 MPs) – Bergþór Ólason, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir from the Center Party, and Karl Gauti Hjaltason, Ólafur Ísleifsson from the People's Party of Iceland. They made offensive and derogatory remarks about several female MPs, including Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, minister of education, science and culture. This incident led to the first time in the country's history when the Althing's Ethics Committee was convened to conduct an investigation.

In general, the right to marry and found a family is not violated in Iceland. However, the local legislation makes it rather difficult to dissolve a marriage. The procedure takes from one to two years, sometimes even more. For example, divorce proceedings initiated by A.Paulmason, disabled since childhood, have taken many years. In recent years, 40 court hearings have taken place, including 6 criminal proceedings.

Recently, the country has seen an increase in crimes related to sexual violence. As one of the measures, the Ministry of Justice of Iceland announced an increase in spending to address sex crimes, in particular sexual slavery, by 407 million kronas (ISK) (3.9 million USD). The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has noted growing violence against women. Moreover, the Committee has been concerned with a high number of discontinuances in criminal proceedings on charges of violence against women, in particular rape, by the State Prosecutor and the low number of convictions.[164]

In spite of the measures taken by Icelandic authorities to combat racist hate speech (including measures to increase the level of awareness about the value of diversity, adoption in 2011 of the Law No. 38/2011 on mass media, with its article 27 prohibiting incitement in mass media to hatred on account of various characteristics, including race), human rights defenders note with concern the increase in hate speech, especially against ethnic and religious groups and Muslim foreigners, incitement to racial hatred, propagation of ideas of racial superiority, and the use of racial stereotypes, including in political campaigns and debates, as well as in mass media, the Internet, and social networks. Besides, penalties established by law are only imposed in case of serious and multiple violations, hampering effective prosecution and punishment of those culpable of the dissemination of hate speech. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination paid attention to this in August 2019. The Committee noted that racist hate crimes still occurred, and may remain underreported, indicating that only eight hate crimes based on racism and xenophobia were recorded in 2017. Among other things, CERD was concerned that, thus far, because of that high threshold, no complaints under article 27 of the Media Act have resulted in prosecution.[165]

Human right defenders have found some problems with the exercise in Iceland of religious freedoms, and have indicated cases of intolerance towards representatives of certain religions. In particular, on November 27, 2013, on a plot allocated to the construction of a Muslim mosque in Sogamýri, a suburb of Reykjavik, a group of people scattered pig heads, surrounded a Koran with pig hooves and splattered pig blood on it. After identifying Icelandic citizens behind this episode, the police effectively let the case slide. What is more, the authorities have not taken a public stand on this episode, as the Icelandic public opinion is partly against the construction of a mosque due to fears of growing terrorist threats.

In May 2015, a mosque constructed by artist Christoph Büchel and presented at Iceland's pavilion during the Venice Biennale, was closed and banned by Venetian police. The Iceland Art Center filed a complaint to the official authorities of Venice.

In general, the right to work and equal pay is complied with in Iceland. Lately, the gender pay gap has been significantly narrowed. The Government aims to achieve gender parity by 2022. According to the published statistical data, Iceland is among the top six countries where women are most successful in the working life, moreover, Iceland is number one on the list among Scandinavian countries.

Iceland is among the leaders among Scandinavian countries regarding paid paternal leave for fathers. In Iceland, this leave is 13 weeks long, making it 8th on the list compiled by the OECD. In 2016, the Ministry of Social Affairs of Iceland presented new maternity leave conditions. Under the new rules, the maximum salary paid to persons on maternity leave will increase from 370 thousand to 500 thousand ISK. What is more, the duration of the leave for parents will increase from 9 months to 1 year. New maximum salaries came into effect on October 16, 2016, while the prolongation of maternity leave will take place gradually, from January 1, 2019, to January 1, 2021.

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SPAIN

Protection of human rights is a priority of the Spanish government's domestic and foreign policy and is constantly monitored by the authorities. However, there are a number of problems in this area that are systemic in nature. These include racism, neo-Nazism, xenophobia and religious and ideological intolerance, including against migrants; misuse of power by law enforcement officials; ensuring of the judiciary's independence; difficult situation within the penal system; and violence against women.

In its concluding observations of July 2015 on the sixth periodic report of Spain, the Human Rights Committee pointed out cases of discrimination faced by ethnic minorities, foreigners and migrants.[166]

In its concluding observations of April 2016 on the combined 21st to 23rd periodic reports of Spain, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that those of African origin, both from African countries and descendants of Africans of the second and subsequent generations, faced systemic discrimination and negative stereotyping. In addition, the mass media and social media spread negative stereotypes relating to various ethnic minorities. There are also cases where, when reporting on such crimes, the media refer to the offenders' social media accounts.[167]

Both the HRCtte and CERD expressed concern over the common practice of racial and ethnic profiling among Spanish law enforcement agencies.[168]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[169], the Committee on the Rights of the Child[170], the Human Rights Committee[171] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights pointed out multiple discrimination against Gitanos[172].

Racial intolerance and xenophobia in Spain are mentioned in a report on this country published in February 2018 by the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance following the 5th monitoring cycle.

In its concluding observations of March 2018 on the sixth periodic report of Spain, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern that the measures adopted by the authorities had not been successful in combating the persistent de facto discrimination still being experienced by certain groups, including the Gitano population, persons of African descent, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.[173]

Statistics from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior show that the number of hate crimes in 2017[174] increased by 11 per cent to reach 1,419 (1,272 in 2016), including those related to racism and xenophobia – 524 (416), ideology – 446 (259), religious intolerance – 103 (47), and sexual orientation – 271 (230).

These are only duly recorded cases. The Movement against Intolerance, a Spanish NGO, annually records more than 4,000 such incidents in the country, noting that the vast majority of victims thereof, especially the disabled, homeless, Gitanos and immigrants, do not contact the police. This figure includes attacks on Muslims in the street, online insults, desecration of mosques in a number of Spanish cities and other incidents of this kind. The detection rate for such offences stands at about 64 per cent on average, however, as to anti-Semitism, it is up to 30 per cent.

According to the Movement against Intolerance, local far right groups, comprising over 10,000 people, annually hold dozens of mass events to spread their ideology, and the Spanish segment of the Internet has about 1,000 registered sites that promote neo-Nazism, racism and xenophobia. On October 25, 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)) which contained, inter alia, a call for the prohibition of various kinds of associations and NGOs glorifying Nazism or fascism. The appeal focused on the Francisco Franco Foundation as an entity that "glorifies a dictatorship and its crimes".

A ECRI's report also highlights the need to create conditions for their children to receive full schooling, especially for Gitano children (55 per cent of whom leave school early) and non-EU children (44 per cent).

NGOs Amnesty International and SOS Racismo report cases of discrimination on nationality grounds when it comes to considering asylum applications from refugees by the Spanish authorities, and of the local police being biased against people of African and Middle Eastern origin.

The Civic Platform against Islamophobia, a local NGO, recorded 546 anti-Islamic incidents in 2017[175], including attacks on Muslims in the street, online insults, and desecration of mosques in Barcelona, Granada, Logrono, Madrid, Parla, Seville and Fuenlabrada.

There are also cases of discrimination in education. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights pointed out the persistence of school segregation, which, in some cases, was a consequence of residential segregation. This negative practice particularly affects disadvantaged groups and ethnic minorities, primarily Gitanos and migrants. In addition, austerity measures have a greater adverse impact on access to and quality of education in certain autonomous communities, particularly those where the percentage of the population at risk of ending up below the poverty line and in social exclusion is high. It is also noted that repetition and dropout rates are higher among secondary school students from the most disadvantaged groups, especially Gitano and migrant children, as well as those from low-income families.[176] Poorer performance among children of Gitano and migrant families was confirmed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in February 2018.[177]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted with concern the differences in the quality of education which especially affected children from ethnic minorities. The Committee's experts also expressed concern about the existence of "ghetto" schools which contain high numbers of migrant and Gitano children.[178]

Illegal migration continues to be one of the leading systemic problems for Spain. According to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, during the period between January 1 and June 30, 2019, 10,475 illegal immigrants arrived in Spain from Morocco through the neighboring Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which constitutes a 27.4 per cent drop compared to the same period in 2018. However, according to the International Organization for Migration, the mortality rate among migrants remains high: 201 persons (for the period from January 1 to June 19, 2019).

The migration crisis generates problems in the humanitarian and human rights field. Opposition parties, the ombudsman, human rights activists, independent lawyers and the public in Spain are seriously concerned about the government's strict measures to thwart migrants (including refugees) in their attempts to enter the country illegally. This includes the practice of immediate removal of migrants, even those who have physically crossed the Spanish border, back to Morocco without verifying their documents, drawing up a report or granting the right to seek asylum (procedures provided for in EU Directives and according to Spain's international legal obligations). The European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations human rights treaty bodies also highlighted the need to legislate against this practice.

The Human Rights Committee[179], the Committee against Torture[180], the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[181] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[182] raised concerns over such problems as overcrowding in migrant temporary stay centers, poor state of the centers' premises and, in some cases, unsanitary conditions.

The Committee against Torture[183] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[184] drew attention to the practice of placing migrants in an irregular situation under custody in detention centers for foreigners, as well as to cases of ill-treatment by the centers' officials, and cases of violence among detainees that did not involve any interference from the centers' staff.

The Human Rights Committee[185], the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[186], the Committee against Torture[187] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[188] criticized Spanish border officials for their ill-treatment of migrants and refugees, the practice of their deportation with no possibility to seek asylum, as well as the difficult situation in Ceuta and Melilla.

Draconian border measures result in increasingly massive and aggressive attempts to cross the borders of Ceuta and Melilla. On July 26, 2018, for example, over 600 natives of the Maghreb and Sahel broke through the Spanish border checkpoint near Ceuta, using violence against Civil Guard officers. 27 of them were detained and handed over to the Moroccan police. On August 23, 2018, 118 illegal immigrants broke through the border in a similar but even more aggressive attempt. This time, the Spanish authorities returned 116 of them the following day to the Moroccan side. On May 11, 2019, 52 of 100 illegal immigrants managed to break into the territory of Melilla (Spain), and another major attempt (200 people) had been made in that area in October 2018.

At the same time, there is an increase in even more risky attempts to reach continental Spain or the Canary Islands by craft.

As to migrant temporary stay centers in Ceuta and Melilla, the number of migrants there often exceeds acceptable standards: over 1,500 and 1,000 migrants respectively (with an estimated capacity of 500 in Ceuta and 780 in Melilla). Studies of recent years by NGOs and Spanish universities note a lack of improvement in living conditions of migrant temporary stay centers. A report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights on the observance of migrants' rights in certain EU countries (March 2019) notes that a migrant temporary stay center in Melilla does not provide adequate protection to vulnerable categories of migrants (primarily families with small children and religious minorities).

Experts draw attention to outdated and inaccurate methods of forced medical verification of minor immigrants' age.

According to NGOs Amnesty International and SOS Racismo, refugees and migrants start to be discriminated against on nationality grounds from the moment they enter a migrant temporary stay center and, subsequently, when their asylum applications are considered by the Spanish authorities. It has been reported that in 2018 and 2019 alone the Spanish authorities budgeted some 10 million euros for deportation of illegal immigrants.

Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed out that the asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan Africans took longer to be processed by the Spanish migration authorities than those submitted by other asylum seekers.[189]

In Spain, there are cases of disproportionate use of force by law enforcement agencies and cruel treatment of those they detain. The most widely reported cases of this kind are those involving participants in demonstrations supporting the results from Catalonia's independence referendum on October 1, 2017. Dozens of people faced criminal charges of calling for terrorist acts. It is noted that in more than 100 cases of violence by law enforcement officials none of them has been brought to justice.

The autonomous police force of Catalonia, Mossos d'Esquadra, reportedly acted in a similar manner against "pro-Madrid" demonstrators in Barcelona.

Human rights activists document cases of violations of the principle of impartiality of the Spanish judicial system. For example, according to International Trial Watch, an international NGO which monitors trials around the world, the trial of three Catalan politicians (O.Junqueras, J.Sanchez, J.Cuixart), accused of holding an illegal referendum, is politically motivated and carried out with a large number of violations.

The county has problems with its penal system. Spanish prisons, for instance, face a major challenge of providing qualified medical care for persons suffering from serious conditions. According to the Spanish Society for Prison Health, some 4,000 out of 9,400 hepatitis C-infected people do not receive the necessary medication. There is an increase in the number of people infected with HIV and suffering from a mental illness. In addition, there is a shortage of doctors for the 50,000 inmates of 72 Spanish prisons: only 184 out of 491 vacant positions have been filled.

The Spanish Supreme Court notes the precarious state of most pre-trial detention facilities in the Autonomous Community of Madrid. There is evidence of insufficient funding for their maintenance and repair, as well as understaffing. This has an impact on security, with more than 300 prisoner‑on‑guard assaults recorded annually.

The Committee against Torture pointed out excessive use of solitary confinement, with prisoners held in solitary confinement cells for a maximum period of 42 days.[190]

The CAT[191] and the Human Rights Committee[192] noted cases of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies during custody, as well as excessive use of force by police officers. Treaty bodies were also concerned that offenders were often not brought to justice. Such practice therefore contributes to a culture of impunity among law enforcement and prison officials.

In Spain, the problem of domestic violence against women and children is systemic in nature, despite all efforts of the Spanish authorities to implement the Plan against Gender-Based Violence adopted in September 2017 by the local parliament.

According to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, as at June 30, 2019, there have been 552,467 cases of violence against women throughout the country since 2003. Surveys show that 12.5 per cent of Spanish women and girls have experienced domestic violence and just some 20 per cent of them have reported it to the police. Over 27,000 women are on registers of different risk levels, while 6,300 men are serving criminal sentences for gender-based violence.

Violation of women's rights, including harassment and insults in the street, still remain a challenge. Some 92 per cent of Spanish women heard sexist remarks at various times.

The Committee against Torture[193] and the Human Rights Committee[194] noted with concern the extent of violence against women and obstacles to victims seeking protection and lodging complaints.

Children in Spain are also affected by gender-based violence. Dozens of them become orphaned annually when their mothers die and fathers face criminal charges (over 500 cases since 2004). In addition, 27 children have been killed since 2013 when a man was motivated by jealousy of a woman.

In addition, there is a prevalence of bullying and harassment among children in schools and on social media.[195]

Spain still has a problem of unequal pay between women and men. This problem was also pointed out by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which noted that widespread gender stereotypes contributed to discrimination against women and adversely affected the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. Women, along with such vulnerable groups as young people, the least educated and migrants, are most at risk of falling below the poverty line, with their unemployment being at its highest.[196] Women earn 12.7 per cent less than men doing identical job and, in addition, they continue to experience discrimination on the workplace due to the need for maternity and childcare leave.

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ITALY

The Italian Constitution guarantees to the citizens a wide range of civil and political rights and freedoms. This means the "fundamental principle" enshrined therein: acknowledgement by the State and strict respect of human rights realized on a personal or collective basis. All Italian citizens are equal before the law without any division by language, sex, race or religion. Everyone is granted the possibility to take part in political, economic and social life of the country, in particular, the right to vote and to create political parties and other non-governmental associations. The Constitution also obliges the State to provide free education for citizens for nine years.

By May 31, 2019, the European Court for Human Rights had under consideration 3,000 cases of violations of rights and freedoms in Italy (5.1 per cent of all cases considered by the ECtHR).

The percentage of unemployed among active population by April 2019 was at 11.1 per cent. This rate is traditionally high among Italian youth (15 to 24 years) – 31.4 per cent.

According to the data published in June 2019 by the National Institute of Statistics ISTAT, by the end of 2018 there were 5.034 million absolutely poor people in Italy (8.4 per cent of the population). This is the lowest rate since 2010. In comparison, as of year-end 2017 it was at 6.1 million persons (10.1 per cent of the population). The rate of relatively poor is at 9 million persons (15 per cent of the population).

The protection of women's rights is still a pressing issue in Italy that draws particular attention at the national level. The government takes measures aiming at increasing the representation of women in governing bodies of ministries, agencies and State-owned companies.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted in 2015 a high concentration of women in the informal sector of the economy and in low‑paying fields, which lead to continued vertical and horizontal professional gender segregation by sex and wage gap.[197]

Italian human rights organizations report conflicts between employers and female workers who are required to sign letters of resignation due usually to pregnancy.

The problem of violence against women, including domestic violence, remains pressing despite the law criminalizing it, which entered into force in 2014. According to ISTAT, 49,152 women applied to specialized support centres for victims of domestic violence in 2017. It should be noted that in most cases women prefer not to contact law enforcement authorities or support centres, thus the real landscape may be quite different from official reports. This issue has drawn the attention of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[198] and the Committee against Torture[199].

According to the statistics cited by the Agency, the number of murders of women is gradually reduced. So, 120 cases are reported in 2015, 115 in 2016, 113 in 2017, and 86 in 2018. In 80 per cent of cases the murderers are known by the women, in 44 per cent of cases they are husbands or partners of the victims.

Article 6 of the Italian Constitution stipulates the "protection of the rights of linguistic minorities by means of appropriate measure". That being said, the drafters of the Fundamental law have deliberately excluded the term "national minorities". This is explained by the fact that "language, and not nationality or ethnicity, is the defining instrument of identification for foreign-language and multi-language communities in need of protection". The law "On the norms of protection of historically established linguistic minorities" is the unified framework defining the linguistic policy of the country. The State recognizes 12 linguistic minorities, established as ethnic communities within their linguistic areas. They include 2.5 million persons residing in 14 region of the country. That being said, the law mentions only ethnic groups historically residing in the region within modern Italy. Therefore, the law ignores the needs of numerous Roma, that is the reason why Italy is criticized by international global and regional monitoring structures in the field of human rights, in particular those of the Council of Europe.

A set of issues is related to Roma settlements in the country. This usually means illegal buildings on the fringe of settlements. Such districts are much criminalized, drug trafficking often flourishes there. Law enforcement authorities regularly carry out raids in the locations of Roma housing, illegal buildings are regularly demolished. At the same time, left-wing liberal media and human rights organizations use these facts to accuse government of racism and xenophobia, and the proposal to carry out a census of Roma population, voiced in 2018 by deputy Prime minister and head of Italian Ministry of internal affairs Matteo Salvini, was qualified as lacking legal basis by human rights experts. The court supported this estimation. The importance of settling the Roma issue, including in the sphere of housing, access to social services and education, labour market, has been stressed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2015, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December 2016, the Human Rights Committee in March 2017, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2019.

Due to the rigid position of the Italian government toward illegal migrants arriving in the Apennines, the ruling cabinet is strongly criticized by international and national human rights organizations. On May 15, 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet addressed to deputy Prime minister and Minister of internal affairs of Italy Matteo Salvini a 12-page report criticizing his directive ordering to the police and coast guard not to allow to Italian ports ships of international non-governmental humanitarian organizations that save illegal migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The UNHCHR is strongly preoccupied by the "Law on Security-bis", which grants to the head of the Ministry of internal affairs of Italy powers to close the country's territorial waters to certain ships for the purposes of law enforcement and countering illegal migration.

The UN human rights treaty bodies are understanding about the problem of the flux of migrants fleeing armed conflicts and persecutions and note the efforts of Italian authorities in this field. In particular, the Law No. 67/2014 that decriminalizes the entry into the territory of Italy and stay therein in violation of the statutory rules, adopted in April 2014, received a positive review. However, need was identified to guarantee the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers, improve living conditions in the "hot spots" (special centres for primary registration of migrants where persons arriving in the country in violation of the statutory rules may be quickly identified), the first and second level migrant reception centres, as well as special "crisis centres" and centres for unaccompanied children, to stop the practice of detaining migrants for more than 48 hours. It was noted, in particular, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[200], the Human Rights Committee[201], the Committee on the Rights of the Child[202], the Committee against Torture[203], and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[204]. In particular, the CERD retains control over the issue on the situation of Roma in Italy. In its subsequent letter upon examination of the information on the matter, submitted by Italian authorities, the Committee, apart from information on Roma community, requested to specially include the information on the settlement of Roma issues in the next periodical report of Italy (in the same letter, the CERD issued a proposal to examine the issue of promoting the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers).[205]

Penalties for humanitarian assistance to migrants are strengthening. Apart from prosecutions for smuggling of migrants, authorities are increasingly using other means to prevent humanitarian activity. In 2016, the mayor of the Italian border town Ventimiglia referred to the problems with health and hygiene standards for food products to prohibit distribution of food to migrant. The non-governmental organisation "Médecins sans frontières" talked to migrants returned to Italy by France at the French-Italian border in Ventimiglia – 14 migrants declared having suffered violence from Italian police. However, Italian authorities have not received any grievances on these statements.[206]

Though representatives of executive and legislative power try not to give reason to be accused of nostalgia for the Mussolini period in social and political life in Italy, according to the experts, politicians, regardless of political views of the ruling cabinet, are quite tolerant towards his ideological followers and do not see a real threat to public order and State security in these marginal political associations.

To date, a number of ne-fascist organizations are active on the far right of the political spectrum; the most known are national far-right parties "Casa Pound" ("Pound's House"), "Forza Nuova" ("New Force") and "Movimento Fascismo е Liberta – Partito Socialista Nazionale" ("Movement "Fascism and Freedom" – National Socialist Party"), each of which does not get more than 1 per cent of votes at parliamentary and European elections. At the same time, smaller radical associations exist at regional and local levels – "Lealta Azione" ("Loyalty and Action", Lombardy region), "Skin4Skin" (Milano), "Hammerskin" (Milano), "Generazione Identitaria" ("Generation of Identity", Milano), "Manipolo d'Avanguardia" ("Vanguard", Bergamo), "Do.Ra." (Varese), "Militia" (Rome), "Avanguardia Nazionale" (Rome), "Rivolta Nazionale" (Rome), "Fortezza Europa" (Verona), "Veneto Fronte Skinheads" (Vicenza).

The concern about the frequency of racist speech and negative stereotypes concerning migrant, Muslims, people of African origin and Roma communities during political debates in the media has been expressed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.[207]

Thus, on June 7, 2018, the mayor of Gazzada provided one of the halls of the city administration for the presentation of the book written by the leader of "Do.Ra." and telling about "crimes" of the local Italian partisans during the war.[208] On February 19, 2019, the authorities of the Lombardy region have consented patronage to martial arts competitions among children, organized by one of the associations within "Lealta Azione". On March 23, 2019, a neo‑fascist meeting authorized by the municipality took place in Milano at the Monumentale cemetery. The concert scheduled for the same day and organized by "Casa Pound" was prohibited by the decision of the prefect of Milano. The deputy prime minister declared his intention to impose a curfew at 9 PM for all "ethnic shops and enterprises", allegedly places of attraction for drug dealers. Italian MEP Cécile Kyenge suffered racial insults in 2013 from the party "Northern League" and is now a defendant in the case concerning defamation initialized by the party and its leader, the deputy prime minister, for having accused the party of racism.[209]

As for manifestations of xenophobia in Italy, according to the experts, most of them are not related to neo-fascist activity and have domestic nature. Among the main reasons for the rise of xenophobia in recent years are the deterioration of the social and economic situation, a high level of unemployment among young people and the presence of migrants from Africa and Asia.

A far-right adherent has shot to death and wounded six African migrants. He was sentenced to 12 years of prison for attempted murder and incitement of racial hatred. In 2018, Afrophobia and racism towards Europeans of African descent were acknowledged at the EU level in the resolution of the European Parliament, but a systematic approach to the settlement of such issues at the national level is still absent. Different research results published during the year have stressed how the problem is widespread.

On June 2, 2018, a 29-year-old Malian, trade union activist supporting migrant farmers was shot to death only several hours after the deputy prime minister / minister of internal affairs declared: "The Party is over for illegals". The criminal was arrested.[210]

According to extracts from the report of the Office of the Administration of the Italian Council of Ministers for the elimination of racial discrimination, published in March 2019, 3,260 cases of racial and ethnic discrimination have been identified in Italy in 2018 (10 per cent more than in 2017), and this means only registered grievances. The organisation for monitoring of hate crimes "Chronicles of ordinary racism" registered 628 racially motivated incidents in Italy in 2018, with 564 in 2017.[211]

At the same time, there are legal mechanisms in Italy to counter racism and neo-Nazism. So, under the penal law the notions of defamation and threats are qualified as aggravating circumstances if they are identified as discriminating or based on ethnic, national, racial or religious hatred. A special structure (Observatory for protection against acts of discrimination) supervises the investigation of such crimes as racial hatred or incitation to racially motivated violence. The National Office against Racial Discrimination tracks the manifestations of discrimination, racial stereotypes and prejudices in the media and the Internet. In January 2016, the National Centre for Combating Discrimination in the Media and the Internet was also created. The Centre keeps record of hate speech in the Internet and analyses it. If the materials are identified as strongly discriminating (their rate is low), measures are taken: they are made known to the administration of the relevant social media for further removal or law enforcement authorities are notified thereof for investigation and prosecuting those responsible.[212]

Italian human rights defenders are also concerned about prison overcrowding. According to the data by May 31, 2019, submitted by the Italian Ministry of Justice, 60,476 persons are detained in local penitentiary facilities with the capacity of 50,528 persons. The Committee against Torture cited 57,551 inmates as of September – October 2017. In some prisons the number of inmates was far higher than the maximal capacity, and 35 per cent of inmates were detainees awaiting trial or having appealed their verdict.[213] At the same time, according to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, stateless persons constituted almost a half of all inmates.[214]

Regular violation of the law is noted concerning separate confinement of persons serving sentences and detainees involved in investigations. Among other problems are disproportionate use of force and insults from the guards. This was noted with concern by the Committee against Torture[215] and the Human Rights Committee[216].

Some problems are also noted in the field of freedom of the media in Italy. According to the report of the international NGO "Reporteurs Sans Frontières" (Reporters without Borders) published in April 2019, threats and attacks on journalists in relation with their professional activity from "mafia and extremists" are the main problem (to date, 30 Italian journalists are protected by the police). In 2018, incidents with beating of journalists covering radical events by neo-fascists caused public repercussions. Apart from this, according to local media, public attacks on the representatives of the media from Italian politicians became more frequent recently.

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CANADA

In Canada, negative dynamics in the field of human rights and human freedom continue to be observed. Ottawa continues to use "pathetic rhetoric" regarding the importance of ethnic minorities and "first nations" and their heritage for Canada, showing if not indifference, then clear disinterest in resolving the decades-long problems.

Racial discrimination is becoming an increasingly common feature of the Canadian society. Members of the Afro-Canadian community compactly living mainly in the provinces of Ontario and Atlantic Canada are among its main victims. According to an analytical report released in late March 2019 (Halifax, Nova Scotia: Street Checks Report), law enforcement agencies apply "curfew" norms to the people of African origin, they are five times more likely to be stopped on the streets to check documents than representatives of other ethnic groups. Over the recent 12 years, about a third (28 per cent) of the black population of Halifax, the capital of the province of Nova Scotia, have been weekly subject to police interrogations and unjustified detention without valid reasons (this rate is about 4 per cent among whites). The situation is deteriorated by the fact that decisions to initiate cases on abuse of power by law enforcement officers are made by the same authorities, which reduces the victims' expectations for an objective investigation.

International human rights monitoring bodies have repeatedly expressed their concern over the manifestations of racial discrimination persisting in many areas of public life in Canada. In August 2017, in its concluding remarks following a review of Canada's combined 21st to 23rd periodic reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the lack of comprehensive statistics on the ethnic composition of the country's population, including indicators disaggregated by ethnic group (including Canadians of African descent, representatives of indigenous peoples, stateless persons), information on the representation of national minority groups in public and political life. However, it pointed out that not all Canadian provinces or territories have framework legislation to combat racism. CERD was concerned over the use of the term "visible minorities" by Canadian authorities to describe minority groups, which, in its opinion, makes invisible the differences in different communities' life experiences.

The Committee's experts expressed concern that the actual number of racially motivated hate crimes in the country could be much higher than statistics, since not all cases of law violation are reported to Canadian law enforcement agencies. The Committee noted that the number of recorded racially motivated hate crimes against Muslims had increased by 61 per cent.[217]

According to a study by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the probability of a black man killed by a police officer is thrice as high as that of a white Canadian. Representatives of the Caucasian race, Canada's largest racial group, account for nearly the half of the victims in all reported killings. However, given the racial and ethnic composition of the country's population as a whole, it turns out that the statistics show a bias towards two separate population groups – Afro-Canadians and representatives of indigenous peoples.[218]

In Canada, racial profiling is common among law enforcement officials. For example, CERD has indicated that racial profiling by police, security and border officials is the everyday practice in Canada. It has particularly harmful consequences for indigenous peoples, as well as for Muslims, Canadians of African descent and other ethnic minority groups. In addition, the Committee expressed concern over the disproportionately high percentage of incarceration rates among members of minorities, especially Canadians of African descent, as well as indigenous peoples. In its opinion, this is also due to the factors such as socio-economic inequality, excessive police oversight of certain population groups and racial bias in sentencing.[219]

The prevalence of racial profiling in Canada was highlighted by the UN Human Rights Council Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in its report to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. With reference to the Ontario Provincial Human Rights Commission's report, "Under suspicion: research and consultation report on racial profiling in Ontario", it is estimated that about 1,500 Ontario residents were racially profiled by the police in their workplaces, educational institutions, hospitals, shopping centers, and the airport. As one example, a case is quoted when a Canadian of African descent was constantly given an eye to by sales consultants in a store, with the purpose of not offering help, but finding out what she was doing there. At the same time, the sales assistants often ignored her and turned to white buyers. It is also noted that most black Canadians can remember how the cashier throws change in the palm of his hand so that the coins bounce off, while putting change delicately into the palm of white shoppers' hands.[220]

A Canadian group of researchers from York University, conducting research in the Ottawa police stopping road users disaggregated by race, found out that black drivers and immigrants from the Middle East were stopped oftener than others, regardless of their gender or age. Although drivers of African descent made up less than 4 per cent of drivers in Ottawa, they were stopped 7,238 times during the biennium, which is 8.8 per cent of the total number of motorists stopped during that period.[221]

CERD experts pointed out to the negative developments in ensuring the migrant rights in Canada, which is partly due to the significant number of representatives of this category annually admitted by the Canadian authorities. In particular, it was emphasized that the Canadian authorities continued to practice the mandatory detention of stateless persons who "enter the country in violation of the established procedure". However, the legislation provides for no limits on the duration of such detention. In addition, there are no effective mechanisms in place to address the legality of detention. Inadequate quality of medical and psychiatric medical care in federal and provincial detention centers for migrants is also noted, which in some cases leads to deaths.

Migrant children are also being detained and often held together with adults. The same problem was paid attention to by the Human Rights Committee in its July 2015 concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Canada on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Committee against Torture in its November 2018 concluding observations on the 7th periodic report of Canada on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.[222]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its February 2016 concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Canada on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressed concern over the persisting socio-economic differences between indigenous peoples and national minorities on the one hand and "non-indigenous" citizens on the other, expressed in access to housing, education and health services. The Committee pointed out that the vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities, youth, Afro-Canadians, migrants, other national minorities and indigenous people are disproportionately affected by unemployment.[223]

CERD noted with concern the unequal distribution of public resources for education and the inadequate funding of mother tongue education programs, as a result of which some groups of children, especially those from Canadians of African descent and indigenous peoples, do not have equal access to quality education and may find themselves in an unequal, compared with others, socio-economic situation. In addition, CERD emphasized that Afro-Canadian students are subject to more severe disciplinary measures than other students, which often forces them to drop out of school being a factor of the "from school to prison transfer track".[224] The CESCR also paid its attention to this problem in February 2016, emphasizing that children of Afro-Canadians and indigenous people have lower levels of education and academic performance, which leads to a greater dropout among this category at all the levels of school education.[225]

The indigenous people of Canada, who include the Indians and Inuit Arctic tribes, are still in the most disadvantaged position. The existing treatment of indigenous people in the country is that of systemic discrimination. A report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls published in June 2019 is a proof hereto unequivocally concluding that such treatment is tantamount to genocide.

To date, the First Nations remain the most deprived of rights and discriminated against category of Canada's population. Reservations continue to exist in the country where aboriginals live in the conditions of poverty and lack of infrastructure, sanitation, often without access to drinking water. Within the framework of their mandates, all UN human rights treaty bodies pay attention to the problematic situation of Canada's indigenous people. Poverty, inadequate housing, poor health, low attendance and graduation rates, low employment, low incomes, high levels of violence and barriers in accessing justice are mentioned among the challenges the indigenous Canadians face, both in reservations and beyond.

To a large extent, these problems are caused by a lack of public funding allocated for the needs of the First Nations. Thus, the CESCR concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Canada note with concern a reduction in the already inadequate funds allocated to aboriginal peoples living both in reservations and beyond. This situation is worsened by jurisdictional disputes between the federal government and provincial governments regarding the financing of indigenous peoples.[226]

It is noted that in the territories where indigenous people live, they have no representatives in the Canadian local self-government. Thus, the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, in her report to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, pointed out to the lack of representation of the Inuit in the Government administration of Nunavut, hence the claims that it does not adequately incorporate and implement Inuit traditional knowledge.[227]

In addition, over the recent years, the environment protection regulations have been relaxed, including in relation to mining enterprises.[228] This contributed to the deterioration of the already unfavorable situation around the lands of indigenous peoples, to which such activities are detrimental. For example, CERD, the HRCtte and the CESCR note that environmentally harmful decisions in resource development affecting the lives and territories of indigenous peoples are still being taken without their free, prior and informed consent. Costly, time-consuming, and ineffective litigation is often the only way to resolve problems.[229] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in this context expressed concern over the limited access of victims to judicial remedies and the fact that existing non-judicial mechanisms for eliminating violations (such as the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor) are not always effective.[230]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination gave an example of the Site C Dam construction opposed by indigenous peoples whose territories, including sacred lands and burial sites, were affected by this project. The implementation of the Site C Dam construction project continued despite a joint review of its environmental impact by the Canadian federal and provincial authorities, concluding that the consequences of the construction for indigenous peoples would be long-term, large-scale and irreversible.

Another example of the negative impact of extractive industries on indigenous people is the Mount Polly field development project. This project was approved without an environmental impact assessment and consultation with potentially affected indigenous peoples. CERD noted with concern that the work at the field had devastating consequences for the quality of water, fish resources, and traditional medicines used by tribes living in the area.[231]

The facts of the dubious quality of work done by law enforcement officers in Native American reservations were exposed in the report prepared by the NGO Council of Canadian Academies at the request of Public Safety Canada ("Toward Peace, Harmony, and Well-Being: Policing in Indigenous Communities"). So, the elementary police ignorance of local laws and customs of tribes is cited as the main source of problems. In addition, the lack of dialogue between government officials and local residents, according to the authors of the report, entails a lack of understanding and open enmity of the white majority towards representatives of other racial and ethnic groups.[232]

The human rights community is seriously concerned about the situation with indigenous people's access to drinking water. Unsatisfactory is the current situation with wastewater treatment facilities in the Northern Ontario First Nation reserves, where the situation has finally come to a standstill. In early April 2019, it became known that the chiefs of the North Caribou Lake First Nation settlement requested the federal government to allocate funds to repair the collector, through which sewage pollutes the local lake, the main source of drinking water for the inhabitants of the village. Earlier, an amount of CAD 265 thousand had been already allocated for these purposes, but the money never reached them. This glaring case is not a single one. Such actions contradict the policy of "reconciliation" declared by Trudeau cabinet.

In addition, in June 2019, two more egregious cases of the Canadian authorities' negligence of indigenous peoples became known. A high concentration of harmful chemicals (trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids), several times higher than the norm, was found in the water supply of the places of residence of two tribes (Attawapiskat and Eabametung). These chemicals are very dangerous for human health as they bring about serious consequences up to cancer. Moreover, this situation continued for many years. For a long time, tribal communities expected the authorities to take measures and provide funding to address these problems and build new wastewater treatment plants, but only relatively recently have the authorities promised to address this issue.

The described cases are not isolated. As of July 2019, long-term precautionary regimes for the use of drinking water were lifted in 106 reserves, but in 57 others they remained valid. Also, the number of poorly functioning water supply systems remained unchanged.

The living conditions of indigenous peoples still remain hard. In January 2019, the Ontario reserve of Cat Lake (a population of 565 people according to the 2016 Canadian census) declared a state of emergency in connection with the catastrophic condition of the housing stock. Cardboard drying houses of local residents without basic amenities were unable to retain heat for a long time even when heated by "potbelly stoves". As a result, outbreaks of disease occurred among indigenous peoples, including the spread of pulmonary infection. The municipal council urgently asked the provincial and federal authorities to intervene with the situation and consider evacuation (in December 2018, CAD 200 thousand was allocated for the inspection of 110 houses).

These issues have been repeatedly considered by the UN human rights treaty bodies. In October 2016 CERD expressed its concern about the serious lack of housing, in particular in indigenous communities, and the lack of access to clean water.[233] In the same year, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights indicated that indigenous peoples live in poor housing conditions, including overcrowding, which pose health problems. In addition, the CESCR noted that the First Nations have limited access to safe drinking water and sanitation.[234]

Indigenous people, as well as Afro-Canadians, are overrepresented among individuals serving sentences in Canadian penitentiary facilities.

According to the government report on the state of the prison system for the period of 2009–2018, the number of indigenous prisoners in Canadian correctional facilities has significantly increased, accounting for 28 per cent of the total number of prisoners. At the same time, over the recent 10 years, among women serving their sentences, the number of indigenous women has especially increased, reaching 40 per cent of the total number of female prisoners.

This issue was mentioned by the UN human rights treaty bodies when considering Canada's national reports. For example, in July 2015, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the disproportionate number of indigenous people, including women, in federal and provincial prisons throughout the country.[235] In October 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted with concern the proportional growth of indigenous women in federal and provincial prisons.[236] In August 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that indigenous peoples, as well as Canadians of African descent, were overrepresented among persons who were "segregated" (solitary confinement) in prisons and that the average length of stay of indigenous prisoners in solitary confinement was the highest. Moreover, 50 per cent of indigenous female prisoners went through solitary confinement.[237]

In November 2018, the Committee against Torture noted an increase in the number of detainees. In CAT's view, this was due solely to the broader application of measures related to deprivation of liberty against representatives of indigenous peoples and other minority groups, including offenders from Asian and Latin American countries and Afro-Canadians, which led to their overrepresentation among the detainees.[238]

The stay of representatives of the First Nations in prisons negatively affects their mental health. According to Statistics Canada for the period 2011‑2016, the rate of suicide among indigenous people was significantly higher as compared to that among white and other Canadian citizens. So, an average of 24.3 suicides per 100 thousand people occurs among Indians per year (this is thrice as high as among the white population, where this indicator stopped at the level of 8 cases), among Inuit – 72.3 suicides per 100 thousand people (this indicator is 9 times higher). Experts refer to deep depression among aboriginals caused by difficult living conditions as the main reason for this situation.

The Human Rights Committee also expressed concern over the suicides of indigenous prisoners in its concluding observations on the 6th periodic report of Canada.[239]

Poverty and vagrancy among indigenous teenagers have become widespread in Canada. The fact that less funding is being provided for services to indigenous children than for services to children from other Canadian communities, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted in their concluding observations. According to the report of the NGO Assembly of First Nations, the percentage of low-income indigenous children is several times higher than among the white population of Canada. The highest rates (47 per cent) are among the Indian tribes (in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan they are up to 65 per cent).

Over the past decade, the situation has sharply deteriorated in British Columbia, one of the most economically developed provinces. Distressful situation is developing in the city of Kamloops and its suburbs (a population of about 300 thousand people, including 84 thousand Indians), where poverty among individuals under 18 reaches 30 per cent. According to experts, there are 7.7 socially disadvantaged children per 1 thousand people here (twice as high as in the whole country), of whom 78 per cent are children of indigenous people.[240] The lack of funds due to the inability of parents to maintain their offspring leads to the fact that guardianship services initiate 4 times more investigations against them and remove children from their families 12 times oftener. The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have noted with concern the higher likelihood of children of First Nations being isolated from their families, communities and culture and placed in childcare facilities.[241]

The Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism E.Tendayi Achiume, citing relevant studies in sociology and history, in her report to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on compensation for racial discrimination in the era of slavery and colonialism, noted that the goal of the Canadian Government's residential school system for Indians was to assimilate indigenous children by depriving them of the opportunity to adopt the traditions, customs, values and languages of their peoples. The system "used targeted and often violent strategies to break family and community ties". In addition, approximately one in three children was physically, sexually and emotionally abused.[242]

The conditions Canadian youth at risk find themselves in, sooner or later push them to the "crooked path", as a result of which teenagers get acquainted with the Canadian correctional system with segregation of prisoners with prolonged solitary confinement remaining its scourge. According to a special report prepared by the NGO Manitoba Advocate in February 2019 ("Learning from Nelson Mandela. A Report of the Use of Solitary Confinement and Pepper Spray in Manitoba Youth Custody Facilities"), the Province of Manitoba ranks first in Canada in terms of the number of children held in solitary confinement during investigative activities. So, between September 2015 and August 2016, human rights defenders recorded 1,455 facts of youth segregation in Manitoba prisons, among which in 399 cases the length of stay in an isolation ward was over 24 hours each, and in 99 of them lasted more than 15 days (one of the prisoners spent a record 650 days in solitary confinement). As a result, according to researchers, 167 individuals found themselves in these inhuman conditions 498 times, that is, each offender was transferred there thrice during his imprisonment.

The indigenous education in mother tongues remains another major challenge. Many indigenous languages are at risk, the Human Rights Committee[243] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[244] pointed out with concern. A report on the current state of the study of northern dialects in schools in the Nunavut Territory ("Is Nunavut Education Criminally Inadequate?") notes that despite the indigenous peoples' inalienable right to receive education in their native language, only 11 institutions in this region offer a set of basic subjects in Inuktitut (one of the main Inuit dialects), and then only up and through grade 5. Thus, in high school, students are already engaged in the English or French program which prejudices significantly their national identity. The authors of the report note that the program under development by the government of the territory for employing teachers with the compulsory knowledge of local languages is designed for 10 years and will not bear fruit soon.[245]

Inhabitants of the Canadian Far North become victims of questionable experiments. In May 2019, the media shared information about a mysterious study conducted in the early 1970s in the village of Igloolik, Nunavut Territory. According to witnesses, at that time 30 local residents were taken DNA samples (a small layer of skin was removed from the palm of the subject) as part of the International Biological Program, supposedly "to study the effect of vaccinations on the health of members of isolated communities". Both the author of the study (Professor J.Dossetor) and the official authorities (Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada) refused to report anything to the public.

The Canada section of Human Rights Watch 2018 World Report notes that despite the relentless declaration of commitment to protecting the rights of national minorities, in fact, the Canadian authorities show neglect of the indigenous peoples' needs (for example, 68 reserves are still awaiting funds to repair wastewater treatment plants).

The situation of indigenous women who face discrimination in a wide range of forms is still an acute problem. CEDAW noted that indigenous women form a significant contingent in the group of marginalized individuals, among them there is a high percentage of the poor in poor health and inadequate housing condition, a low percentage of those having secondary education, and a low level of representation on the labor market. In addition, the Committee noted with concern the disproportionately high unemployment rates among indigenous women and their lower pay as compared to non-indigenous men and women.[246]

The Human Rights Committee[247] and CEDAW pointed out to the persisting discrimination of indigenous women with regard to the transfer of Indian status, preventing them and their offspring from enjoying all the benefits provided in connection with such status.

The issue of violence against indigenous women in Canada is particularly acute. The international human rights monitoring bodies paid considerable attention to the issues of disappearances and murders of indigenous people, as well as the large-scale forced or mandative sterilization of indigenous women and girls that took place in the second half of the 20th century and in some provinces already in the 2000s.

Canadian specialized NGOs specializing in this issue indicate that about 150 thousand people have passed through residential schools for indigenous children. Moreover, neither the cause of death of a child nor his or her name and surname were recorded in more than half of such establishments. Therefore, it is impossible to reliably determine the exact number of those dead and missing.

The UN human rights treaty bodies, including CEDAW, CERD, CAT, HRCtte, CESCR in their concluding observations touched upon the issue of disappearances and murders of First Nations' women and girls, the importance of investigating such cases and the need to establish a national body for this. It should be noted that the disappearances and killings of indigenous women were investigated by CEDAW in 2013, a separate relevant report was published in March 2015.[248]

In early June 2019, a report was published on the results of the work of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (hereinafter referred to as the National Inquiry)[249] established by the Canadian authorities under pressure from international human rights mechanisms. In this document, the federal authorities of Canada actually recognized the situation with the already missing and continuing to disappear people as "Canadian genocide". This, in particular, was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in early June 2019. [250]

The findings of this expert structure, created in 2016 in pursuance of the election promises of the now ruling liberals, showed the real situation of indigenous peoples in Canada, far from that stated by the authorities. In fact, this is one of the few attempts to reveal the ugly past and the dubious present of Canadian statehood, the genocide of North American Inuit, Indians, Mestizos, and other small nationalities remaining its integral part.

The main point of the document is that over the centuries, Canadian authorities have subjected the aboriginal population to systematic socio-economic, cultural, linguistic discrimination based on colonial, ethnocentric, racist and sexist views rooted in that society, which should be qualified as deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide. And since this is not about the distant mythical past, but about the present-day country, whose laws and state institutions continue to violate the fundamental rights of a fairly large part of its population, the government is encouraged to urgently engage in shaping new social foundations devoid of colonial ideology.

The two-volume publication "Reclaiming Power and Place" (over 1,200 pages) includes materials and testimonies from 2,380 people collected during three years, including from victims and their families, experts and elders. Experts have established that the contemporary "colonial violence" in Canada is manifested in the form of historical and intergenerational injuries, socio-economic marginalization, inaction of state authorities and the denial of right for indigenous women to make independent decisions. It is also obvious from the testimonies of witnesses that the country continues to regularly and grossly violates the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples, and most human rights instruments, including international ones, often do not work or are not efficiently applied.

The main attention is paid to the destruction of cultural heritage and identity of indigenous women, which mainly occurred during the re-education of children in residential schools, where they were subjected to physical and sexual violence as part of the "enculturation", and implementation of the state policy on forced removal of tribes from the new territories taken in by Canada.

Also outlined is the problem of the lukewarm attitude of law enforcement agencies to the problems of and unwillingness to investigate crimes committed against the indigenous people, because in the eyes of law enforcement officers they are associated with marginalized layers of society. And this largely leads to the fact that most trials are unfair. For the same reason, the percentage of indigenous people in Canadian penitentiary establishments surpasses manifold that of representatives of other ethnic groups.

The National Inquiry came to disappointing conclusions having considered the problem of access for female representatives of the First Nations to medical services. There is a drastic imbalance in this regard in the Canadian society. The situation is such that when seeking medical advice, indigenous women receive less quality service than their white compatriots. Shelters and rehabilitation centers created by Native American NGOs are poorly funded. It even came to glaring cases – forced sterilization of indigenous women by surgical blocking of the fallopian tubes, practiced in a number of provinces until recently. As a follow-up to the November 2018 review of a Canadian national report, CAT cited a class action suit filed by at least 55 indigenous women against doctors and healthcare providers at Saskatoon Public Hospital for applying tubal ligation without proper consent.[251]

It is noteworthy that, under pressure from the public, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first agreed to use the term "genocide" as applied to the Canadian authorities' policy regarding part of his citizens, but then, worried about the international legal consequences of such a hasty "open-hearted confession" (especially against the background of the appeal by OAS Secretary General L. Almagro to establish an independent investigative body under the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) the head of the cabinet and some of his ministers preferred to use milder formulations in public describing those events as "socio-cultural oppression".

In addition, the National Inquiry issued a supplementary report entitled "A Legal Analysis of Genocide". Based on the collected evidence, it described Canada's policies regarding its indigenous peoples as "colonial genocide" and called for "a broader examination of other international crimes [committed by Ottawa], including in particular, crimes against humanity". The main expert conclusion is that not individual historical personalities, but "Canada as a state is responsible for the genocide committed by it" in relation to its aboriginal population. And in accordance with international law, the government is obliged to consider compensatory payments to all victims.

The importance of such an analysis, revealing the truth and allowing victims of crimes to be heard, was noted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights M.Bachelet after she visited Canada in June 2019.[252] She also called on the authorities to take immediate remedial action against the existing inequality.

Human rights activists also note other problems that are not directly related to the rights of the First Nations, in particular, the disproportionate impact of austerity measures on marginalized and disadvantaged groups and individuals taken in several provinces of the country. In addition, due to the tightened rules, the number of the unemployed entitled to employment insurance has decreased. An increase in the number of homeless people, a lack of temporary accommodation centers for such people and the existing legislative provisions aimed at punishing the homeless, rather than solving the problem itself were noted, in particular, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in February 2016. The CESCR also pointed out to the underfinancing of housing construction by the State which results in a lack of social housing, an insufficient share of the housing subsidy as part of social assistance package, as well as increasing cases of eviction for the debt on rent.[253]

Problems are registered in the Canadian penitentiary system. The Human Rights Committee drew attention to several overcrowded prisons, the insufficient level of medical care for prisoners suffering from serious mental illness.[254]

CAT expressed its concern over the deplorable conditions of detainees in places of detention. He also pointed out to the unlawful treatment of detainees by law enforcement officials, including lengthy interrogations, sleep deprivation and unlawful searches with full undressing. The Committee was seriously concerned about the use of force in the Dorchester Prison, which resulted in the sudden death of detained Mathew Ryan Hines on May 26, 2015. CAT's concerns were not dismissed by the report of the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada dated February 15, 2017 following an investigation into the incident. In addition, the Committee's experts noted with concern an 18 per cent growth in the number of pretrial detainees between 2013 and 2016. There has been an increase in the number of disabled prisoners in federal prisons, including those with mental disorders. Following the suit of the Human Rights Committee, CAT noted the problem of excessive use of restraints and the lack of necessary resources and infrastructure in prisons to assist individuals with serious mental disorders, especially acute in female prisons. [255]

Experts recorded the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, including during mass protests. The Human Rights Committee noted that similar incidents occurred during the protests of indigenous peoples, students, social policy-related events, and during G20 summit in Toronto. It is noted that the investigation of complaints of police unlawful actions was not always carried out promptly, and when the perpetrators were held accountable, the penalties imposed were mild.[256]

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CYPRUS

The main problem concerning the application of international standards on human rights and freedoms in Cyprus relates to its de facto division into the Republic of Cyprus and the part of the island which is not under control of the official authorities of the island, the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The division of Cyprus and its consequences aggravate the challenges to full enjoyment of rights to equality and non-discrimination by all people. This problem as well as absence of significant progress in its resolution contribute to continuing inter-ethnic tensions. Many Cypriots are internally displaced persons. Local legislation permits Cypriots and residents as well as temporary foreign visitors to move freely from one part of the island to the other through official border checkpoints. The European Commission report (June 2018) stressed an increase in the number of crossings of the buffer zone by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in 2017. Similar trends were in 2019.

At the same time, in 2019 there were many cases when foreign citizens from non-EU countries, including the Russian Federation, were denied entry into the Republic of Cyprus through international checkpoints (Larnaca and Paphos airports) because foreigners intended to go further to the TRNC. However, there is no published legal rule providing for such a denial in the Republic of Cyprus.

The issue of mutual property claims between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities remains unresolved. Several thousand applications are currently pending before the inter-community Real Estate Commission. In June 2019, the property issue was exacerbated by the unilateral decision of the Turkish Cypriot authorities to take an inventory of all property located in the closed city of Varosha in the area of Famagusta (TRNC). This decision has raised fears among Greek Cypriots, who own a large part of Varosha's property.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus continues to exert pressure on universities, urging them to refrain from any contact with universities in the territory of the TRNC, since the government considers them illegal. At the same time, the number of universities in TRNC has been constantly increasing (now there are already more than 20 universities). The number of international students studying in the north of the island (over 100,000) has been also increasing.

The lack of active inter-community dialogue has a negative impact on such a fundamental right of every individual, as the right to life. Existence of minefields in and on the both sides of the buffer zone continues to pose a risk and threat to human life according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions (2398 and 2430). In this respect, the Security Council calls upon both parties to ensure access for sappers and to facilitate removing mines remaining in and outside the buffer zone. According to UNFICYP, it is suspected there are 47 hazardous areas in Cyprus, covering an area of 1,700,000 square meters, 42 per cent of which are in the buffer zone.

Under the Constitution, all religions, confessions and rituals conducted not in secret are free and equal before the law. The main religion in the south of the island is Orthodoxy, while in the north it is Islam. Religious leaders in Cyprus remain committed to joint dialogue and religious freedom in the framework of the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden in the Republic of Cyprus. Annual pilgrimages to the island's Muslim shrine, the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Larnaca, have been becoming more widespread. However, last year's report of the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights in the Republic of Cyprus pointed to the lack of an appropriate place of worship for the Muslim community in Paphos during Ramadan, which may hinder the exercise of the right to freedom of religion. Earlier, in 2015, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about arbitrary obstruction of the right to freedom of religion and belief of some minorities, in particular Muslims, due to limited access to the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, as well as about reports of inadequate maintenance of Muslim cemeteries.[257]

Cypriot law provides for protection of workers, assistance to the poor as well as for social insurance. There is no minimum wage set in the Republic of Cyprus, but there are minimum wage rates for the most vulnerable groups, including migrant workers. However, abuses related to the labor of illegal foreign nationals (mainly from Eastern Europe, South and South-East Asia), who work in violation of the legal rules regulating working hours and for low wages, continue to take place. In 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stressed that migrants have been employed to perform mainly manual job – in particular in agriculture, livestock and fisheries.[258] In addition, migrant domestic workers, especially women, remain at risk of being subjected to exploitation and abuse. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women pointed to this.[259]

The number of migrants has been increasing recently. According to NGOs, Cyprus does not demonstrate the adequate level of compliance with international standards regarding the treatment of refugees in places of temporary accommodation and during deportation procedures. Moreover, the influx of refugees has significantly aggravated the situation in Cyprus over the past year. More than 3,000 refugees have moved to Cyprus from Syria, Nigeria, Cameroon and a number of other countries in the first half of 2019, making the island a record-breaker among the EU member states in terms of the number of refugees per capita. The situation is compounded by the shortage of receiving centers, lack of employment opportunities for them and of decent living conditions. Long delays in the processing of asylum claims, which can last several years, make the situation even worse. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted the limited number of refugee reception centers.[260] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has noted with concern the difficulty of access to justice for migrant domestic workers due to their possible detention and subsequent deportation pending trial.[261] A special judicial body which processes asylum claims on an accelerated basis has been functioning in Cyprus since June 2019, which is a positive development.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in the area of recruitment, education, political participation, access to health care and other public services. However, this group of citizens does not have full access to all facilities. There are no special institutions in the Republic of Cyprus to assist persons with intellectual disabilities in need of permanent guardianship. The Commissioner for the Rights of the Child in the Republic of Cyprus, L.Koursoumba, noted a number of violations of the rights of children with disabilities in her recent report on access to social services for children with disabilities.

The situation in detention facilities has recently changed for the better. For example, conditions in the Nicosia Central Prison have been improved and additional sports facilities have been built last year. There were no significant complaints made by the human rights community alleging ill-treatment of prisoners.

Apart from the Greek Cypriot community, which also includes Armenians, Maronites and Latins, the Turkish Cypriots residing in the territory controlled by official authorities have also been participating in national elections since 2005.

All citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and citizens of the EU member states living in Cyprus, including Turkish Cypriots residing in the territory of the "TRNC", have the right to vote and to be elected in the framework of elections to the European Parliament.

The Cypriot authorities have taken measures to ensure the full enjoyment of rights and freedoms in Cyprus. The main efforts are focused on bringing the situation into line with the EU standards. In general, Cyprus succeeded in this area in 2019. However, the recent conclusions (June 2019) of the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance draw attention to the failure of Cyprus to implement two recommendations of the Commission's report on Cyprus issued in 2016. In particular, the Office of the Commissioner for Administrative and Human Rights of the Republic of Cyprus has not carried out any activities since 2016 in support of vulnerable groups, nor has it published reports and recommendations on discrimination issues. The second recommendation concerns the need for the involvement of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights in the selection of candidates to be appointed to his office. The ECRI now considers that appointments are made exclusively by the Public Service Commission.

Although the overwhelming majority of the population of the Republic of Cyprus adheres to traditional political ideas, nationalist ideas resonate to some extent in the society against the background of the crisis in negotiations on resolution of the Cyprus problem, growing number of migrants on the island and a variety of unsettled social and economic issues. Such ideas are disseminated by the far-right party the National Popular Front (ELAM). ELAM is opposed to migrant workers from third world countries, considering them the reason for unemployment in Cyprus and heavier fiscal burden for its native citizens, and supports deportation of all illegal migrants from the country and introduction of quotas for migrants coming from the EU member states.

The situation with manifestations of racism by football fans is quite acute in Cyprus. There have been disciplinary sanctions imposed on Cyprian football teams by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Media reports violence and racist yells at Cyprian stadiums during the matches of national and international level. In this context, the government expressed its intension to improve work with football fans communities, but until now the latter represent generally uncontrolled groups consisting of aggressive young people, who are often drug addicted and excessively consume alcohol.

In May 2017 the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed its concern over the spread of racially motivated verbal abuse and physical attacks by far-right extremist and neo-Nazi groups against people of foreign origin, including people of African descent, as well as against human rights activists and Turkish Cypriots in the Cypriot society. The Committee also expressed concern over the spread of racist stereotypes and hate speech in society against members of certain ethnic minority groups as well as against Muslim Roma, which is often inspired by the media. Experts pointed to the lack of legislative provisions to ensure liability for such acts, as well as of efforts made by law enforcement bodies.[262]

Despite the existing division of Cyprus, there have been a number of positive developments in the protection and promotion of human rights in the island in 2019. These include ongoing inter-community cooperation and progress (albeit slight), in the search for and identification of missing persons, sustained efforts made by civil society actors to foster dialogue and cooperation, opening of two new official border checkpoints and restoration of several religious and cultural heritage sites.

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LATVIA

The human rights situation in the Republic of Latvia remains unfavorable. The ruling coalition formed after the October 2018 parliamentary elections proceeds with its line towards building a mono-ethnic state model. The Russian-speaking population of the country is still seen as a foreign destabilizing element. As a result, the nationalist policy of official authorities is accompanied by numerous national minority rights violations.

The fact that a considerable portion of Latvian population live without citizenship (10.7 per cent, or 205,500 persons according to the Central Statistical Office) remains the main human rights challenge in Latvia. For a long time, the official authorities in Riga have taken no real steps to address this problem, limiting their efforts to various "cosmetic" embellishments.

However, upon the entry into force on 1 October 2013 of amendments to the Law of the Republic of Latvia on Citizenship, the share of children of "non-citizens" given Latvian citizenship nearly doubled, reaching 90 per cent of their total number. Besides, on 21 March 2019, Latvian president Raimonds Vējonis resubmitted for consideration by the Saeima the initiative to grant automatic citizenship to children born to "non-citizens" after 1 January 2020. On 5 November 2019, a relevant law that will de-facto terminate the "reproduction" of this status was adopted. However, potential changes are more like a symbolic gesture and will have no effect on the status of more than 200,000 discriminated "non-citizens" living in the country. The particular issue of newborn "non-citizens" in Latvia is not that pressing: in 2018, the status was only given to 33 children (47 children acquired the status of "non-citizens" in 2016, and 51 in 2017). There thus remains a considerable number of people, and the total number of minor "non-citizens" is less than 5,000. At the same time, the 2013 amendments to the 1994 Law on Citizenship, which allow "non-citizens" to register as Latvian citizens upon their own initiative their children born in Latvia, are welcome as a positive development. The birth registration procedure has been simplified. An application for citizenship for a child born to a family of "non-citizens" may be submitted by either parent instead of both, as was the case before. As a result, the number of newborn "non-citizens" reduced in 2017 to 23.[263]

"Non-citizens" are still refused a number of social, economic, and electoral rights. Latvian human rights defenders currently point out about 80 differences between citizens and "non-citizens" (against 61 in 2004), including 47 restrictions in terms of professional fulfillment (against 25 in 2004). "Non-citizens," for instance, have no right to serve at public, including municipal authorities, in the military, become judges, prosecutors, etc. In the social and political sphere, "non-citizens" are not entitled to found political parties and deprived of the right to participate in the work of courts as lay judges or conclude transactions on land and real estate acquisition without authorization of municipal authorities, etc.

Official statistics confirm the unfavorable state of affairs with naturalization: every year, the naturalization rate slows down (in 2016 through 2018, it remained at a historically low level of 987, 915 and 930 persons accordingly, accordingly, against the rate in 2005, when 19,169 persons were naturalized; in 2012, the number dropped to 2,213).

The latest comprehensive survey on the attitude of "non-citizens" towards naturalization was conducted in 2016 with support from the Office of Citizenship and Migration of the Latvian Ministry of Internal Affairs. It showed a steadily growing interest in acquiring Latvian citizenship. Yet, only 35 per cent of "non-citizens" expressed their readiness for naturalization during the survey (mostly young people under 20 years old).

If the current line in the domestic policy of the Latvian authorities continues, further slow-down in the naturalization rate can be expected. Today, the decrease in the number of "non-citizens" is mostly due to the natural decline and out-migration of this category of population.

Local civil society organizations representing Russian-speaking residents, first of all the Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC), are paying much attention to the "non-citizenship" issue. The organization systematically engages in collaboration with international human rights institutions, the diplomatic corps in Riga and other stakeholders. Its activities arouse suspicions of local authorities and are annually included in the final reports of the State Security Service (former Security Police).

At the European level, the issue of mass statelessness in Latvia and Estonia was discussed in 2017 and 2018 by the relevant committees of the European Parliament (EP) on the initiative of European MP Tatjana Ždanoka  and former European MP Andrey Mamykin, who succeeded in gaining 20 thousand votes of EU citizens in support of a petition to grant "non-citizens" the right to vote not only at municipal elections but also at the EP elections. In April 2018, following the results of the vote within the EP Committee on Petitions, it was decided to send letters from European MPs to Latvian authorities expressing concern over the situation of "non-citizens". In April 2018, the Minority Safepack Initiative launched by the Federal Union of European Nationalities (NGO) (with Tatjana Ždanoka's active support) helped collect more than a million signatures required for its further consideration by the EU structures.

The situation of vulnerable social groups (children, women, elderly people, persons with disabilities) has not been criticized by international human rights institutions. Meanwhile, Latvia's level of pension provision is among the lowest in the EU. According to Eurostat, the proportion of pensioners at risk of poverty in Latvia currently amounts to 43.7 per cent. According to assessments, the share of persons exposed to the risk of economic insecurity totaled 23.3 per cent of the population in 2017 (exceeding by 1.2 per cent that in 2016), with the highest percentage (44.2 per cent) in Latgale, the region predominantly populated by the Russian-speaking minority.

The remaining Great Patriotic War veterans living in Latvia continue to face discrimination. Unlike the "Forest Brothers," who were recognized national partisan fighters (many of these had served in Waffen-SS volunteer legions during the war years), WWII veterans are not entitled to pension supplements or a social package. In January 2018, the law on the status of the WWII participants was adopted, virtually bringing Soviet Army soldiers on the same footing with legionnaires who had fought for the Nazis. The decision on granting benefits for holders of this status is up to local governments.

These measures are completely in line with the consistent policy of the Latvian authorities to promote historical revisionism, justification and glorification of former SS soldiers and their accomplices, rehabilitation of Nazi criminals. The glorification of Latvian Waffen-SS legionnaires and attempts to present Hitler`s sycophants as "freedom fighters" remain a key element underlying the idea of the "Soviet occupation" and the youth's "patriotic upbringing"[264].

Every year on March 16, former Waffen-SS legionnaires march the streets of Riga, joined by representatives of extreme right-wing parties. Official Riga tries to present these neo-Nazi actions as peaceful events, claiming they are up to democratic standards.

On 16 March 2019, another shameful procession of legionnaires took place in the centre of Riga, featuring parliamentarians belonging of the National Bloc party as well as the prime minister's advisor on demography. At the same time, the Latvian Anti-Fascist Committee was refused the right to organize symmetrical "response" actions. Despite the timely submission of relevant requests, the venue of the picket of Great War veterans and former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps was transferred from that near the Liberation Monument (which was the destination point of the march in support of the legionnaires) to a more remote location, allegedly "for security reasons."

Marches of former Waffen-SS legionnaires are severely criticized by the international community. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance set up by the Council of Europe in its reports has repeatedly expressed concern about the annual commemoration ceremonies on 16 March for soldiers who fought in the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS. ECRI has taken note of the fact that parliamentarians from the National Alliance party, which is part of the ruling coalition, were seen among those attending these ceremonies. The Commission has repeatedly come up with recommendations to the Latvian authorities to condemn all attempts to commemorate persons who fought in the Waffen-SS and collaborated with the Nazis, as well as to call on MPs to abstain from attending such commemoration ceremonies.[265]

But instead of taking measures to combat neo-Nazism, Latvia is applying efforts, at the national level, to shift the emphasis and provide Latvian neo-Nazis with a legal basis for their activities. For instance, the initiative to declare the 17th of March the day of remembrance of the national resistance movement was voiced by Latvian president Egils Levits. The initiative is presented as an urge to pay tribute to the memory of Latvian patriots who resisted "occupation regimes." This is in fact an attempt to give an official state recognition to the commemoration of the "Forest Brothers," whose ranks included many of former SS legionnaires who had fled from justice.

Latvian officials make regular public statements to justify and even glorify the Nazis' accomplices. Among the recent examples one can name the speech of Latvian defense minister Artis Pabriks delivered at an event at the legionnaires' cemetery near More settlement on 27 September 2019 dedicated to "the 75th anniversary of defense battles against the Red Army." The head of the defense ministry in his address called SS legionnaires the pride of the Latvian people and state and called to honor their memory. He was supported by his fellow party member, regional development minister Juris Pūce, who said that he did not see any problem with Pabriks' calling Latvian legionnaires heroes.

Latvian-language mass media serve as a tool for advancing the authorities' policy. On the eve of 16 March 2019, they published another set of materials aimed at preparing the population for the "right" perception of this date and associated events. The authors recalled "humiliations which befell Latvians through the fault of the USSR" and contraposed the 16 March commemoration against the 9 May remembrance events in Riga to be held "at the Victory symbol imposed by the occupants," meaning the Monument to Soldiers Liberators in Pardaugava.

Not only do the Latvian authorities persistently call for commemorating the accomplices of Nazi criminals inside the country: they are doing their best to bring the issue to the European level. On 23 September 2018, on the initiative of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, a monument to Latvian Waffen-SS legionnaires who we held in the local POW camp towards the end of WWII was unveiled in Zedelgem, Belgium.

Other efforts to glorify Nazism and falsify history are typical of Latvia. Recent examples include the case of Herberts Cukurs (who was involved in the massacre of the Jewry during the years of the Great Patriotic War), the collection of signatures in support of the demolition of the Monument to Soldiers Liberators and the desecration of the Riga War Memorial.

In February 2019, the Latvian Prosecutor General's Office ruled that no criminal action on suspicion of Gerberts Cukurs's involvement (a member of the Arajs Kommando, a division of the Latvian Auxiliary Police, who was nicknamed "the Bucher of Riga) in the mass murder of the Jewish population of Latvia during WWII be discontinued. The criminal proceedings were initiated in 2006 on the accusation of "genocide" under Article 71 of the Criminal Law of Latvia. The Latvian prosecution office failed to establish elements of crime in Cukurs's actions. Yet, after the application of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia submitted to the Prosecutor General on 16 September 2019, it was reported that the Prosecutor General's Office decided to resume the criminal proceedings against Cukurs, having indicated that the judgment pronounced by the previous prosecutor on the case had been reached "prematurely, without due implementation of all the procedural and fact-finding actions provided for in the Law on Criminal Proceedings in order to obtain and verify evidence." Another prosecutor on the case was appointed.

Repeated attempts to destroy the Monument to the Soldiers Liberators of Latvia in Riga are registered. It should be noted that the demolition of this memorial would mean a violation of the Russian-Latvian Intergovernmental Agreement of 30 April 1994 on the social protection of war pensioners of the Russian Federation and members of their families living in Latvia. In March 2019, over 10 thousand signatures of Latvian citizens were collected in support of the initiative of a certain Ugis Polis to remove the monument. This was enough for the Saeima to start the consideration of the initiative, which was submitted to the first instance – the Saeima's Mandate and Ethics Committee. On 13 June 2019, the Saeima continued discussions on the future of this initiative: the majority (45) voted in favor of transmitting the initiative for consideration by the relevant Saeima commissions on foreign affairs and on education, culture and science. On 11 September 2019, the Saeima Education, Culture and Science Commission decided to neither support nor reject the initiative to dismantle the monument, promising to develop other ways to minimize the "adverse effect" of the memorial. Furthermore, most parliamentarians agreed that the monument must be altered. The solution that gained most support implied changing the interpretation of the message and meaning of the memorial in a dramatic way. As a result, the initiative was transmitted to the Saeima Foreign Affairs Commission for consideration.

Another example of the cynical revision of history is the attitude of the Latvian authorities to anti-fascist organizations and their activities. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance points out in her report to the 38th session of the Council that the annual report of the Public Order Police Department for 2016 issued in April 2017 contained an entry stating that informal celebrations of Victory Day over Nazi Germany posed a threat to national security.[266] There are no indications whatsoever of a possible shift in the line pursued by the Latvian authorities.

In the first half of 2019, the Latvian authorities' campaign aimed at "de-Sovietizing" and downplaying the importance of the feat of Red Army soldiers, placing them on the same footing as Latvian SS legionnaires who fought alongside fascists, reached an unprecedented level. On 30 May 2019, the Saeima transmitted to the Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission for consideration amendments to the Law on Meetings, Processions and Pickets banning the use of St. George ribbons at public and festive events; on 20 June 2019, the Saeima approved in the final reading amendments prohibiting wearing uniforms of totalitarian regimes, among them the Soviet Army uniform, at public events.

The demolition on the night of 30 October – 1 November 2019 of the monument to Soviet submariners of the Baltic near the Latvian Navy Headquarters, which had been taken care of by activists from the sailors' association and locals, raised concern among civil activists that this action might lead to a chain of similar acts.[267] The memorial was destroyed in violation of the 1994 Russian-Latvian Agreement on the Social Protection of War Pensioners, while the State Real Estate Agency responsible for the works claimed that during the dismantling the monument fell into pieces and was not subject to reconstruction.

The trend aimed at restricting the use of non-state languages promoted by the authorities grows increasingly visible. Latvian is the only language authorized in dealings with the administrative authorities, in topographical signs and other inscriptions and in personal identity documents.[268] In this regard, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities concluded that the national authorities' language policy led to diminishing the space for the use of other languages, in particular those used by persons belonging to national minorities, and thereby restricting the right to freedom of expression for ethnic and linguistic minorities.

In 2017 and 2018, Saeima parliamentarians from the National Alliance made repeated attempts to push through legislative amendments to make it compulsory for those employed in the services industry to use only the state language, as well as amendments prohibiting election campaigning in Russian and rebroadcasting Russian channels in the Latvian territory.

The de facto elimination of the Russian-speaking educational space is being carried out through a comprehensive education reform (transition of schools and kindergartens to instruction in Latvian, development and introduction of new educational content, optimization of school infrastructure, prohibition of instruction in Russian at private universities).

In April 2018, new amendments to the Law on Education and the Law on General Education were adopted; they provide for a gradual full transition of schools to instruction in the Latvian language starting with the school year 2021/2022. In accordance to these amendments, instruction in primary school (7th through 9th grades) will be provided in the proportion 80 per cent (in Latvian) to 20 per cent (in minority languages), and in secondary school (10th through 12th grades) only in the state language.

Beginning with the school year 2017/2018, all pupils, including those who used to study national minority programmes, are to sit centralized exams in Latvian on such subjects as mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer science, geography and economics.

In June 2018, amendments to the Law on High School Education were adopted, extending prohibition to instruct in Russian to private universities and colleges. Accreditations granted to Russian-language programmes will remain valid until their expiration, but recruitment for these programmes was discontinued in 2019.

Attempts of certain public figures to push through the revision of the school reform have yielded no result. On 23 April 2019, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia decided on a claim against amendments to the Law on Education made by Concord political party. The Court ruled that the educational reform aimed at the de facto elimination of bilingual schools was in compliance with the Latvian Constitution.

In line with this general discriminatory policy aimed at persistently restricting the use of the Russian language in education, are measures applied by the Latvian authorities that have led to a considerable re-structuration of the pre-primary education system in the country. On 1 September 2019, Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No. 716 of 21 November 2018 on pre-school education came into force. The document provides for the use of Latvian as the main medium of communication when playing with young children. Human rights defenders report that no consultations with representatives of national minorities and human rights activists involved in minority rights' protection efforts had preceded the development of these measures. 

The authorities have announced their intention to ensure a full transition of pre-schools to instruction in Latvian. This and other agreements were reached by the main political forces in Latvia at the Coalition Cooperation Council session on 23 September 2019 (involving five ruling parties) during the discussions on amendments aimed at making it compulsory for local governments to ensure instruction in the state language in all municipal pre-primary institutions, including national minority pre-schools.

Latvianization of education has also affected private education institutions. On 4 July 2018, Latvian president Raimonds Vējonis approved amendments which rule out the possibility of studying Russian-language programmes at private universities (from 2019 study year onwards, there have been no recruitments). The amendments tend to ignore the interests of one third of private university students who used to study in Russian in Latvia and are currently contested in the Constitutional Court by Concord party parliamentarians.

On 14 November 2019, the Constitutional Court of Latvia ruled that the transition to instruction in the state language in private national minority schools was in line with the country's fundamental law.

Meanwhile, all the above-mentioned measures to transfer education to the Latvian language are being implemented by the authorities without any regard for the opinion of pupils themselves. According to the survey among Latvian schoolchildren organized by the Latvijas Avize newspaper, most of them consider Russian essential for strengthening their future competitiveness in the labor market. Many are interested in learning Russian because they regard it as a language of inter-ethnic and international communication that provides opportunities to work not only with Russia but with other countries, too.

In this regard, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities expressed the view that amendments to the Law on Education adopted in April 2018, providing for the transition of schools to instruction in Latvian by the school year 2020/2021, a fortiori put pupils from national minorities at a disadvantage in terms of academic performance, which in turn may adversely affect their abilities to successfully integrate into the socio-economic life of society.[269]

No formal restrictions for participation in the political life and state governance (except for the "non-citizens" problem) in Latvia have been registered. At the same time, instances of exerting pressure on extreme left-wing forces which position themselves as defenders of the rights of the Russian-speaking population, have been recorded. In June 2018, T.Ždanoka, European MP and Latvian Russian Union co-chair, was denied the right to participate in the Saeima elections (on 6 October 2018) pursuant to the Law on Elections, which bans persons who used to be members of certain Soviet organizations (the Communist Party and others) after 13 January 1991 from participation in elections. Furthermore, language requirements are used as a pretext for terminating powers of elected local council members. One such case concerns Ivan Baranov, Balvi City Council member, whose mandate was terminated on the grounds of insufficient command of the Latvian language. The mayor of Daugavpils, Rihard Eigim, was fined in October 2017 for insufficient command of Latvian. He was asked to improve his Latvian language proficiency within six months, after which time he was to take a new exam.[270]

Violations of civil liberties in Latvia (freedom of expression, assembly and religion) are regularly reported in light of Riga's policy of forced de‑russification of all spheres of public life.

Activists who seek to resist the official line aimed at Latvianizing public life and aggravating the legal and social status of Russian compatriots have been recently faced with enormous pressure. During 2018, a series of arrests of national minority rights defenders and leaders of the Russian-speaking community (A.Gaponenko, V.Linderman, Y.Alekseyev) occured. The persecution of compatriots who defend the preservation of Russian schools has begun: 11 persons were summoned by the Security Police for questioning on the issue of holding the All-Latvian Parent Meeting in March 2018; a criminal investigation against eight of them (including T.Ždanoka) is still underway. All of them are charged with inciting national hatred and acts against Latvia's state integrity and security.

It is in the same context that earlier measures should be regarded. In 2015 and 2016, amendments to the Law on Education were adopted, obliging school teachers and administrations to be loyal to the state; otherwise, the new version of the law provides for the dismissal of "disloyal" teachers and school masters. This legal provision obviously aims at eliminating any dissidence in national minority schools, creating a climate of suspicion and apprehension, which is not conducive to the building of trust among different segments of society.

In Autumn 2017, amendments to the Law on Societies and Foundations were also adopted, simplifying the procedure to terminate activities of organizations if they threaten national security and public order, which, according to representatives of the National Alliance, "will allow to suppress the activities of Kremlin-funded non-governmental organizations in case of violations."

Requirements to have a certain level of proficiency in Latvian are applied to virtually all professions listed in appendices to Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 733 of 7 July 2009 "On the Level of Proficiency in the State Language and the Procedure of Testing the Level of Language Proficiency for Professional Duties and Duties of Office for Receiving of Permanent Residence Permit and Obtaining the Status of Permanent Resident of the European Community, and State Fee for the State Language Proficiency Examination", i.e., to about 3,600 professions and positions, including gravediggers, shepherds, stable workers and bus drivers.

Such language practice adversely affects the possibility for Latvian citizens who are non-native speakers of the Latvian language, including persons from national minorities, to take many civil and municipal positions.

Under Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 733 of 7 July 2009, members of ruling boards of NGOs are required to be proficient in Latvian at the level of native speakers (the highest level, C1). In accordance with the applicable procedure, they may request the State Language Centre (operating under the Ministry of Justice) to apply lower requirements for their board members. However, criteria to be applied by the State Language Centre when considering exemptions remain undefined.

According to the Law on the State Language, other languages may only be used in strictly limited circumstances when appealing to public authorities, such as police, healthcare institutions, rescue services (in case of emergency, emergency calls, need for medical care, crimes or other violations of law).

Though many local authorities, including in Riga, provide interpretation services, Latvian remains the sole language authorized in the work of municipal authorities and councils and in their contacts with inhabitants, irrespective of the proportion of the population affiliated with a national minority. These legal provisions create difficulties in accessing public services for some elderly residents, particularly those who have not studied Latvian at school. According to the last census results, 40.2 per cent of Riga residents declared Russian ethnic affiliation, and the Russian language is, according to the same source, spoken at home by 55.8 per cent of inhabitants of Riga and 60.3 per cent of inhabitants of the Latgale region. The Advisory Committee has repeatedly stated that "the current approach of restricting the use of other languages is incompatible with the Framework Convention and considers moreover that it may be counterproductive."[271]

The Advisory Committee noted the absence of progress in the long-standing controversy regarding the right of persons belonging to national minorities to spell their names and surnames in their minority language in official documents. Procedure for the transcription of personal names originating in other languages into Latvian and their use in personal documents are determined by the Official Language Law, the Law on Personal Identification Documents, Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No. 114 of 2 March 2004 on "the transcription and use of personal names in the Latvian language, as well as their identification," and Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No. 134 of 21 February 2012, "on the personal identification documents." The practice of transcription in birth certificates and identity documents of personal names used by persons belonging to national minorities to Latvian under its grammar rules does not take into account minority language norms. The way of spelling of personal names is a right protected under the Framework Convention and constitutes an essential part of cultural traditions.[272]

Unfortunately, there are no arrangements to facilitate observance of Christmas celebrated by Orthodox believers according to the Julian calendar. This is particularly problematic for many Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians, many of whom are Orthodox Christians, and in particular for children of school age and working persons professing that religion. Numerous proposals tabled in the Saeima to amend legislation concerning officially recognized holidays have been rejected.

While the pluralism of opinions in Latvian society formally exists, there is considerable pressure, including of financial and legal nature, on major information outlets, which spread opinions that differ from the official viewpoint. The most illustrative examples here included the suspension of the RTR-Planeta TV channel broadcasting in 2014 and 2016, and the Russia-RTR channel in February 2019 for three months pursuant to the decision of Latvia's National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP). The formal reason behind the decision was that assessments of the events in Ukraine voiced in news and analytical programmes of the channel differed from the official interpretation of the events by Riga; the Council found that the channel's assessments contained "incitement of hatred and call to military action".

In November 2019, the broadcasting of nine Russian TV channels (on a formal pretext that a Russian entrepreneur Yu.Kovalchuk is a beneficiary thereof) was prohibited.

On 18 June 2019, the NEPLP applied to the Saeima asking to adopt amendments to the Law that would allow to restrict broadcasting of TV programmes from any countries in the territory of Latvia if they violate the set limitations, i.e. if they contain calls to violence or incitement of hatred, discrimination against any person or a group of persons, calls that jeopardize public order, including national security and defense, etc. According to the Council, this will help effectively ensure protection of Latvia's information space.

On 5 June 2003, language quotas for radio and TV broadcasts were repealed by the Latvian Constitutional Court. Article 32 of the Electronic Mass Media Law prescribes with respect to state-wide and regional electronic mass media, that at least 65 per cent of all programmes, except for the advertising, be in Latvian. In 2014, the Saeima adopted amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law stipulating that an overwhelming majority of commercial (private) radio stations, in particular those operating on the basis of licenses to switch, as of January 2016, to broadcasting all contents in Latvian. This would have affected 50 out of 67 radio broadcasters. Following protests on 17 December 2015, these provisions were amended, postponing their entry into force to 2017 and circumscribing the number of affected radio stations to 37. The 2016 amendments to the law oblige radio stations to fill at least 90 per cent of weekly airtime with their own content, apparently with the aim of restricting retransmission of foreign-produced content. To ensure the enforcement of the language quotas, amendments to the Administrative Violations Code were adopted, increasing the maximum fine for violating license terms from 2,100 EUR to 10,000 EUR.[273]

By opting for a punitive approach, the authorities send a negative message to speakers of national minority languages, in particular Russian. This indicates a lack of acceptance for its presence on the airwaves and by extension within public life in Latvia. Generally, the Advisory Committee recognized that the conditions laid down in the current legislation breach the Framework Convention by going beyond licensing requirements and unduly interfering with private broadcasters and thereby limiting access to the media of persons belonging to national minorities.[274]

No cases of torture or inhumane treatment, including in detention facilities, have been recorded. However, the Latvian authorities acknowledge that not all prisons in the country are up to standard, which is why discussions on the issues of reorganization and construction of new detention facilities are underway.

Inciting national or racial hatred is criminalized (under Article 78 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Latvia). However, there are no provisions in Latvian legislation that prohibit the mass dissemination, production or storage of written, pictorial or other material aimed at depreciating the dignity of a person or a group of persons on the grounds of race, language, religion, national or ethnic origin, and provide for responsibility for public insults, defamation or threats on the above-listed grounds.[275]

The Latvian authorities regularly report hate crime data to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). In 2015 and 2016, 11 hate crime incidents per year were reported by the Latvian authorities to ODIHR. In previous years, the number of reported incidents was higher: 13 in 2014, 22 in 2013 and 18 in 2012.

In 2016, the Latvian Centre for Human Rights (LCHR) held interviews with representatives of 11 NGOs and migrants as well as students studying in Latvia about their experiences of manifestations of intolerance and discrimination. Almost 68 per cent had been either victims (33 per cent) or witnesses of hate incidents or discrimination, or had heard about such incidents from others. 13 per cent of respondents had been victims of an attack or an attempted attack or had heard that others were victims of such attacks. According to the respondents, hate crime incidents allegedly occurred due to victim's skin colour/"race" (36 per cent), ethnic origin/xenophobia (25 per cent), language (22 per cent), and religion (6 per cent). At the same time, NGOs and representatives of minorities have pointed out to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance that victims of hate speech do not often report such incidents to the police due to lack of trust in the willingness or ability of the law enforcement agencies to investigate these cases effectively.[276]

Over 40 per cent of third-country nationals report having experienced discriminatory treatment during interaction with public authorities, police, and in health care institutions, as well as on the street and in public transportation.[277]

ECRI has noted an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and hate speech in public and political discourse in Latvia. In the context of discussions about Latvia accepting EU quota refugees, further Islamophobic comments were observed, also equating refugees to terrorist threats and targeting migrants in general. Extreme examples include the case of a Latvian entrepreneur who used the Internet for inciting racial hatred against persons of African descend and stating that he was prepared to shoot them, as well as comments of other Internet users calling for the burning of Muslims.[278]

There have been repeated instances of anti-Semitic Internet postings, threats against the Jewish community school, vandalism and desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Riga. Latvian Public Media have reported that the Jewish cemetery in Rezekne was vandalized four times in August and September 2017.[279]

International human rights organizations have more than once drawn the attention of the Latvian authorities to the dire human rights situation in the country, particularly with regards to the situation of national minorities.

Latvia is no signatory to the European Charter of Regional Languages of 5 November 1992; it only ratified the fundamental Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2005. It followed the procedure with two reservations restricting the application of the Convention provisions that allow national minorities, in areas of their compact inhabitance, to communicate with administrative authorities in their native languages and use it in topographical indications. Besides, in an additional declaration adopted by the Latvian parliament when ratifying the Framework Convention specifically stipulates that "non-citizens" are not subject of the Convention, i.e. Riga does not regard them as members of national minorities.

Over the recent years, several dozens of similar recommendations and proposals have been issued; this work has been carried out by agencies of the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and OSCE, as well as the CE and OSCE parliamentary assemblies. During 2019, relevant organizations repeatedly raised most sensitive issues for Latvia. 

On 30 August 2018, in its concluding observations on the periodic reports by Latvia on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for 2008–2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern over the education reform and the "non-citizens" issue. Experts recommended that Latvia take measures to ensure that its language policy and laws do not create direct or indirect discrimination of the population.

The Advisory Committee's report of 23 February 2018 recommends that Latvia should more actively support the integration of national minorities in public life. The Committee put to criticism a number of political initiatives, including those aimed at promoting the Latvian language in education, mass media, etc. The Advisory Committee believes that they restrict the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and increase their sense of exclusion. Restrictions against electoral rights of "non-citizens" at local elections and the 2016 amendments on the teachers' "loyalty" got a negative assessment.

Besides, in 2019 international agencies raised the issue of the "democracy deficit" observed in Latvia. In January 2019, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights made public the materials following the last Saeima elections in the Republic of Latvia. According to the organization, about 227,000 adult "non-citizens" could have taken part in the voting. Latvia was invited to enhance citizens' involvement in political processes by increasing the naturalization rate, inter alia, by facilitating the citizenship acquisition procedure and increasing the number of free Latvian language courses.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance within the framework of the Council of Europe in its report of 4 December 2018 (published on 5 March 2019) indicated that it would follow with particular attention the process of establishing a unit within the State Police tasked with reaching out to vulnerable groups, as well providing the automatic recognition of citizenship for children of "non-citizens."

ECRI further recommended that Latvia focus on the rights of Roma, refugees, and investigate allegations of racial discrimination in the health sector.

In March 2019, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Lamberto Zannier paid a visit to Latvia. He gave cautious assessments to the education reform and expressed concern about the problem of mass statelessness; he welcomed, in particular, the legislative initiative of president Raimonds Vējonis to grant automatic citizenship to children of "non-citizens."

Latvian government persistently disregards recommendations of line institutions concerning "non-citizenship" and the need to preserve the Russian-speaking educational space. They claim that the situation in Latvia is peculiar due to historical developments, in particular, Latvia's former status as a USSR republic (the 1940–1991 "Soviet occupation"). Emphasis is placed on the idea that, given the "dual occupation" circumstances, no obligation to automatically grant citizenship to persons who have never been Latvian citizens and have entered Latvia during "the occupation" derives for Latvia from international law.

Latvianization of education, according to the ruling establishment, will provide a level playing field for graduates of Latvian and bilingual schools.

By doing so Latvian officials send a clear message that due to a "specific" historical background they do not intend to take any visible action to improve the situation of national minorities. The policy of cultural and linguistic discrimination is likely to continue, which will inevitably bring about an increased outflow of population from the country.

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LITHUANIA

In Lithuania, violations of a number of fundamental human rights and freedoms continue to be registered. The most striking example is the long-standing trial of a politically fabricated criminal case on the well-known events in Vilnius in January 1991. In the course of the trial, the norms of Lithuanian law and international law were flagrantly violated, including the prohibition to give retroactive effect to the law, the principles of presumption of innocence and competitiveness. At the same time, the cause-and-effect relationship between the actions of the military that carried out their orders and the deaths of civilians was not proved.

As a result, on March 27, 2019, Vilnius District Court sentenced 67 former Soviet party and state officials, special units fighters and military personnel, most of whom are citizens of Russia, to long terms of imprisonment for committing "war crimes and crimes against humanity", including former Minister of Defense of the USSR Dmitry Yazov (for 10 years), former commander of the Vilnius garrison of the Soviet Army Vladimir Uskhopchik (for 14 years), former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov (for 12 years). Among the sentenced, two were convicted in person – a resident of Kaliningrad Yury Mel (sentenced to 7 years in prison) and a resident of the Lithuanian capital Gennady Ivanov (sentenced to 4 years).

Yury Mel had been kept in the Vilnius pre-trial detention facility for 5 years from the moment of his detention and until the verdict was announced. The Lithuanian court extended his arrest every three months, ignoring the fact that he had diabetes. These actions are contrary to generally accepted procedural practice.[280]

Another fabrication of a criminal case for political reasons in Lithuania is the campaign of persecution and intimidation against a group of Russian and Lithuanian citizens launched in late 2018 by the main intelligence service of Lithuania – the State Security Department – under the unsubstantiated accusation of spying for Russia.

The main defendant in the criminal case was a well-known Lithuanian politician Algirdas Paleckis, who had visited the Republic of Crimea in the Russian Federation and had his own point of view on the proceedings with regard to the mentioned events of January 1991 in Vilnius, different from that of the official authorities. He was arrested and has been kept in detention since October 2018. The local law enforcement agencies started investigations with regard to Russian citizens – publicist and historian Valery Ivanov and searcher and head of the Forgotten Soldiers public organization Victor Orlov. They were never presented with any specific charges or evidence of their guilt under the mentioned article. However, the Russian citizens were made aware that they were persecuted for their dissent and publicly demonstrating sympathy to Russia. At the same time, another accusation was fabricated against Valery Ivanov – illegal possession of firearms in connection with the broken starting pistol found during the search.

In May 2019, the court sentenced the deputy of Klaipeda City Council Vyacheslav Titov representing the interests of Russian-speaking voters to pay a fine of 12,000 euros for statements in 2018 against glorification of one of the leaders of Forest Brothers Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, considering them "insult to his memory", "incitement of discord" and "denial of Soviet occupation".

In October-November 2019, the pressure of the Lithuanian special services was directed against the chairman of the Union of Human Rights Observers in Lithuania Donatas Shultsas and the chairman of the Socialist People's Front of Lithuania Giedrius Grabauskas, who called for an end to the persecution of Algirdas Paleckis and Yury Mel on political grounds. A case was initiated against Donatas Shultsas for preparing a petition to the Supreme Court of Lithuania together with L.Plungene and R.Plunge, which stated that the actions of the two judges might have been illegal. The human rights defender was found guilty. In early November, he was forced to leave the country.

On October 22, 2019, a search was conducted in Giedrius Grabauskas' apartment as part of the criminal case initiated against him – also about "insulting" the Forest Brothers. On December 1, 2019, the human rights defender was detained by border guards at the Vilnius airport, where he arrived after participating in the twelfth session of the UN Human Rights Council Forum on Minority Issues. The search lasted about one hour. The Lithuanian border guards found no prohibited items and released Giedrius Grabauskas. The human rights community notes that Giedrius Grabauskas was detained after he pointed out at the Forum the practice of politically motivated criminal cases in Lithuania.[281] In fact, the human rights defender was persecuted for his participation in the UN event.

In that context, independent human rights defenders are concerned about the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of March 12, 2019 in the case of Drelingas v. Lithuania, which upheld the sentence of the Lithuanian court to a former KGB officer V.Drelingas, who participated in the 1956 operation to apprehend Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas and his wife (later, the gang leader was shot dead in accordance with the Soviet court decision). This ECtHR ruling is interpreted by official Vilnius as recognition of the suppression by the Soviet authorities of the "partisans who fought for the freedom of Lithuania" as "genocide of the Lithuanian people[282]".

In the beginning of 2019, Lithuanian writer Marius Ivaškevičius was publicly harassed as the organization of political prisoners and exiles of Lithuania publicly accused him of slandering Lithuanian Forest Brothers in his novel The Greens for mentioning their involvement in the massacres of Jews. Although the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė publicly defended the author and the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Lithuania did not find any elements of a crime in his acts, he received death threats via the Internet.

At the same time, the Government of Lithuania actually admitted its responsibility for the violation of the rights of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi national, by declaring that it would implement the ECtHR judgment in the case of Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania. The question is about payment of compensation of 130,000 euros to the plaintiff who was kept in the secret prison of the CIA in territory of the Republic of Lithuania in 2005–2006. The mentioned decision of the Court indicated that Lithuania violated articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which prohibit torture, guarantee the right to freedom, protection of private life and the right to adequate protection.

The UN human rights treaty bodies pay close attention to this case and implementation of the ECtHR judgment. In particular, with regard to this case, the Human Rights Committee pointed out in July 2018 that Lithuanian authorities had not conducted a full and comprehensive investigation into the involvement of public officials in human rights violations within the framework of counter-terrorism operations, including secret detention. While noting the intention of Vilnius to implement the said ECtHR judgment, the Committee noted with concern that public officials in Lithuania denied the binding nature of the judgment.[283]

Moreover, in February 2019 the ECtHR communicated to the Lithuanian side the complaint of another citizen of Saudi Arabia M.A.Adam al‑Khasawi in which he accused the Lithuanian authorities of torture and restriction of liberty in a special prison of the U.S. CIA within the framework of the counter-terrorism program, also in 2005–2006.

Attempts continued to limit the right to freedom of expression of the Russian and Lithuanian Russian-speaking media. The Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the annual assessment of threats to national security of the Department of State Security includes publications of names of associations, news agencies, journalists, human rights defenders and others, without any criteria for such publication or its motivation.[284] In January 2019, the Radio and Television Commission of the Republic of Lithuania (RTCL) stated that "false, slanderous and hate information about Lithuania and Lithuanian partisans" was disseminated by TV channels First Baltic Channel of Lithuania and NTV Mir Lithuania. In addition to the two above-mentioned media, REN TV Baltic and TVC are also subject to sanctions from the Lithuanian regulator, and the work of the news portal Sputnik Lithuania is blocked.

In April 2019, the Seimas of Lithuania approved amendments to the legislation that gave the RTCL the authority to stop the broadcasting of foreign TV channels without a court decision if the information they disseminate "poses a serious or major threat to public security, including national security and national defense" based on the findings of relevant agencies.

The resolution of issues related to the protection and promotion of the rights of national minorities in the country has long been characterized by a high degree of politicization.

Since the abolition of the 1989 Law on National Minorities in 2010, efforts to develop new comprehensive legislation to protect minorities (five draft laws were prepared) have unfortunately not been successful.

Problems have remained in the area of respect for the rights of Lithuania's national minorities as a result of the official authorities' policy aimed at their assimilation. That was clearly manifested in the school education reform. The Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities noted that the authorities' efforts to mitigate its negative effects on students learning minority languages were insufficient.

The 2011 Law on Education introduced Lithuanian as the only language of instruction in all schools and unified the state language examination in grades 10 and 12. That created significant difficulties for children belonging to national minorities, and the eight-year transition period started in 2012. Lithuanian language teaching was 818 hours less for students from national minorities' schools who passed the exam for the first time in 2013 than for their Lithuanian peers. At present, the gap in results is narrowing. However, there are still concerns in minority schools due to the end of the eight-year transition period.

According to the AC-FCNM, minority language schools report that they are not ready to adequately prepare their students to pass the unified state examination and make attempts to adapt the unified curriculum to the needs of children for whom Lithuanian is the second language. Consequently, the results of minority language school students in the final examinations were lower than average, which placed them at a clear disadvantage when obtaining budget places in higher education institutions.

The number of teaching hours of the Lithuanian language, as well as methodological guidelines and teaching materials, were not sufficiently adapted to the needs of children from families mainly speaking minority languages and coming to school with very little knowledge of Lithuanian. Many children entering primary school start learning Lithuanian almost as a foreign language and are overloaded by the requirements of the unified Lithuanian language curriculum.

In the current education system, students' knowledge of minority languages is not taken into account in the final examinations. Only the results of Lithuanian, mathematics and one foreign language examinations (usually English) are taken into account in this final grade, while Polish or Russian can be taken only as an optional examination.

The situation with Lithuanian language teaching and taking the state language exam remains difficult in the areas with a significant number of persons belonging to national minorities – Šalčininki, Trakai, Vilnius (Polish), Švenčionys (Russian and Polish), Klaipėda and Visaginas (Russian). Serious problems persist in rural areas, such as Šalčininki district. The number of schools with teaching in the Russian language is decreasing in the country, while the number of subjects taught in the Lithuanian language is increasing, and the requirements for taking the Lithuanian language matriculation examination for national minorities and Lithuanian school leavers are being fully equalized. Thus, Russian compatriots residing in Lithuania are deprived of the possibility to receive full higher education in their native language.[285]

The negative political and information background around the problem of education in the languages of national minorities in Lithuania has led to constant musing over the theme of ideological influence on the population of Lithuania coming from Russia, interrogations of teachers of Russian schools by employees of the State Security Department in connection with trips of students to Russian summer camps, and also proposals of certain officials of the Lithuanian Republic about closing of these educational institutions.

The need to protect the rights of Lithuanian citizens arises with regard to the authentic spelling of names in documents, as well as geographical names in minority languages in places of their compact residence. The Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania provides that names, surnames and region names in documents are written in accordance with the Lithuanian language rules. This contradicts Article 11 of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. As a result, persons with foreign names (mainly Russian) face legal problems and have to defend their rights in court.

The decision of the Constitutional Court of February 27, 2014 gives a broad interpretation of the possibility of writing personal names in identity documents in non-Lithuanian characters, using not only letters of the Lithuanian alphabet, but also other letters of the Latin alphabet. Despite a number of draft laws regulating this issue, there has been no visible progress in resolving the problem of spelling personal names of persons belonging to minorities in official documents.

As a consequence, the daily decisions of local government representatives on the use of languages in relations with administrative bodies, the spelling of names in minority languages in identity documents and the use of minority languages in topographic signs are in the legal grey zone.[286]

At present, public debate on the issue of spelling of personal names is focused on persons who have acquired Lithuanian citizenship by marriage and children born in "mixed" marriages. In accordance with the Decree of the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court of 2016, the surname and name of a child born in a Polish-Lithuanian marriage may be written in both Polish and Lithuanian transcriptions. Unfortunately, draft laws before the Parliament do not take into account the needs of third-country nationals or persons belonging to other national minorities.

According to the AC-FCNM, the right to use a personal name in the language of a national minority and its official recognition is a central language right closely linked to personal identity and dignity.

There is still absolutely no progress in the use of minority languages in topographical indications and private signs. According to Articles 17 and 18 of the National Language Act, the Lithuanian language should be used in all public signs, only except for the names of organizations of general national minorities.

In the Šalčininki district, the head of administration was fined 43,000 litas for allowing the use of street signs in the Polish language. A similar situation occurred in Vilnius, where the municipality started to install street signs in foreign languages (English and Icelandic), as well as in national minority languages (Polish and Ukrainian). The AC-FCNM indicated that the refusal to install topographic signs in areas traditionally inhabited by national minorities in the languages of national minorities violates the obligations of the States Parties to the FCNM under its Article 11 (3).[287]

The authorities of some municipalities provide opportunities to use a language of national minorities by accepting written applications in minority languages. The administration of the Šalčininki district accepts applications in Polish and Russian, Vilnius district – in English, Russian and Polish. Applications to the Visaginas district administration can be made in any language spoken by a civil servant.[288]

The situation with regard to ensuring human rights and freedoms in Lithuania remains in the focus of attention of the relevant international structures. In its concluding observations on Lithuania's fourth periodic report dated July 26, 2018[289], the Human Rights Committee pointed to Lithuania's failure to implement a number of previous recommendations. It was noted that the most serious complaints included lack of progress in implementing the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Rolandas Paksas v. Lithuania[290] and the pending investigation into the above-mentioned Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania[291] case. On December 6, 2018, calls for the implementation of these ECtHR verdicts were included in the relevant resolutions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (No. CM/ResDH(2018)469 and CMDel/dec(2018)1331 /H46-36 accordingly).

Among other human rights concerns, the HR Committee noted with concern the use of "hate speech" against vulnerable minorities, including Roma, Jews, migrants and refugees. There is still a clear lack of information on combating gender inequality, domestic violence against women and children, as well as unreasonably long detention periods for migrants (up to 18 months) and unsatisfactory conditions at the Foreigners Registration Centre and in prisons.[292]

The HR Committee is particularly concerned about the initiatives by the Lithuanian authorities aimed at restricting the freedom of expression, including with regard to persons pointing to the involvement of Lithuanians (Forest Brothers) in Nazi crimes against Jews. In particular, reference is made to the practice in the previous years of including the names of such persons in the annual reports of the State Security Department of Lithuania and the Second Department of Operational Services under the Ministry of Defence of Lithuania ("military intelligence") and the lack of information about the criteria for such publication and its justification.

The report of the Needs Assessment Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on the monitoring of the March 2019 presidential elections in Lithuania (two rounds were held on May 12 and 26 respectively) stressed that official Vilnius had not taken into account many of ODIHR's previous recommendations, including those related to human rights. In particular, in Lithuania, persons who were previously dismissed as a result of impeachment (referring to the situation with the former President of the Republic of Lithuania Rolandas Paksas) are still deprived of the right to register as presidential candidates. Concern has also been expressed about the lack of information on elections in the minority languages.

On May 10, 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued an opinion on the review of Lithuania's combined ninth-tenth periodic reports. The Committee expressed concern that the concepts of "colour" and "origin" are not included among the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Law on Equal Treatment and the Lithuanian Criminal Code. It also noted the prevalence in Lithuania of deep-rooted prejudices against vulnerable and minority groups, especially migrants, Muslims and Roma, the use of "hate speech" and insults against them, including anti-Semitic statements in the media and the Internet. Furthermore, the CERD indicated that there is no comprehensive legislation in place to protect the rights of national minorities, and that the conditions of refugees should be improved.

In turn, the AC-FCNM noted the presence of anti-Semitic statements in the media, including Internet media. In particular, an anti-Semitic statement was made by the Ombudsman for Academic Ethics and Procedures. The Speaker of the Seimas and the Prime Minister immediately issued a public condemnation of this act. In March 2018, the Parliament voted by a qualified majority to remove this person from office. Representatives of the Jewish community in Vilnius also expressed concern to the AC-FCNM about the safety of their buildings and would like to have more public support in that matter.

The Roma continue to be the most vulnerable group. The HR Committee, the CERD and the AC-FCNM noted with concern the persistence of discrimination against the Roma, particularly in the exercise of their rights to housing, health care, employment and education.[293]

Action plans aimed at integrating Roma into the Lithuanian society were adopted for the periods of 2012–2014 and 2015–2020. The current Action Plan is aimed at improving the access of Roma to education, health care, employment, housing construction, as well as at improving the status of Roma women and promoting intercultural dialogue. The implementation of the mentioned Action Plan is supervised by the Department of National Minorities.

According to the report of the Department of National Minorities of 2016, the percentage of Roma not having completed primary school decreased from 11 per cent in 2011 to 8 per cent in 2015. The percentage of Roma children having completed primary school increased slightly (to 63 per cent). As regards the access of Roma children to education, moderate results were achieved in the period from 2011 to 2015. The Ministry of Education created a network of teachers in schools attended by Roma children. However, the number of teaching assistants, social assistants or mediators hired to support Roma children in schools did not increase, despite the need clearly expressed by the Roma community.

In the opinion of the AC-FCNM, the rooted prejudicial and negative attitude towards Roma in the Lithuanian society has been reflected in a number of incidents that have occurred in recent years.

Following the murder of a girl in early 2017, the media widely reported that the suspected perpetrators belonged to the Roma community, which provoked an anti-Roma public debate. Another example is a tour of the Kirtimai settlement organized by the Vaiduokliai agency, entitled Extreme Walk in a Roma Settlement. The tour advertisement included recommendations for customers not to carry any jewellery or money because it could be stolen. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman considered the case and found a violation of the Law on Equal Treatment and instructed the agency to change the information about the tour in order to prevent negative stereotypes about the Roma community from being rooted in the public mind. In 2017, an anti-Roma advertisement was placed in a shop, which could be interpreted to mean that Roma would not be served in the shop. Once again, the intervention of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman was required. At the end of 2016, police raided the Roma settlement of Kirtimai, which was accompanied by damage to homes and violence against persons under 18 years of age. The legality of the police actions is under question.[294]

The Lithuanian authorities regularly inform the OSCE/ODIHR of the number of reported hate crimes. According to that data, in 2013 the police initiated three cases on the grounds of crimes committed due to hatred, in 2014 – 24 cases and in 2015 – 20 cases. Of the nine such cases, five were initiated on the grounds of "racism and xenophobia" in 2016.

The AC-FCNM noted with concern that the media often refer to the ethnicity of alleged perpetrators who are not Lithuanians, which often provokes a public debate leading to increased negative attitudes towards the minority group concerned. According to the AC–FCNM, the police should not disclose information to the media or the public about the ethnic origin of alleged offenders/perpetrators.

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LUXEMBOURG

The government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg places emphasis on ensuring the compliance with the international obligations undertaken by the State to promote and protect human rights and freedoms and with relevant legislative norms in law enforcement practice, as well as on eliminating the remaining gaps in the field of human rights.

Luxembourg has the Inter-ministerial Committee on Human Rights (established by the government in May 2015) that monitors the fulfilment of the human rights obligations by various relevant authorities of the Grand Duchy on the basis of consultations with national human rights agencies and civil society.

There are many human rights institutions and international NGOs operating in the country (including Amnesty International and others) that coordinate their work with Luxembourg's Consultative Commission on Human Rights. This body was established in 2000 with its competence, organizational structure and financing methods set out in the act of 21 November 2008. The Consultative Commission on Human Rights has the same status as the Ombuds Committee for Children's Rights, the Mediator of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the National Commission for Data Protection and the Centre for Equal Opportunity.

Despite Luxembourg's human rights achievements, it faces criticism from many human rights institutions of the EU and CoE, including the CoE's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, for the fact that the national Criminal Code does not consider racism an aggravating circumstance in a crime. Besides, the country's legislation lacks provisions banning and declaring illegal any organization that incites racial discrimination. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination repeatedly indicated that the Act of 28 November 2006 on equal treatment does not include the criteria of national origin, colour or descent and that racial motives for a crime are not considered to be an aggravating circumstance in Luxembourg. The Committee also noted with concern that, despite the Criminal Code of Luxembourg providing for the punishment of legal persons, including organizations that incite racial discrimination, it does not include provisions banning and declaring illegal any organization that incites racial discrimination.[295]

Opinion polls on combating discrimination, including pan-European ones (for instance, the Being Black in the EU survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2019) show that Luxembourg is ranked in the bottom three countries for a number of indicators. For instance, out of almost 6,000 respondents from 12 countries, more than 50 per cent of black Luxembourgers experienced various kinds of harassment because of their skin colour, while in other countries, the average is 39 per cent. More than half of respondents from Luxembourg faced difficulties when looking for work. Several experts still observe certain antisemitic tendencies among the Luxembourgian population. According to Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission Coordinator on combatting Antisemitism, who visited Luxembourg in May 2019, 13 manifestations of antisemitism were registered in 2019, which is quite a lot, given the small size of the Jewish community in the Grand Duchy (1,500–2,000 people).

The high level of antisemitic tendencies and Islamophobia in the Duchy, as well as the persistence of discriminatory stereotypes in the media and on the Internet that are of a nature to generate prejudice against certain groups were pointed out by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2014[296] and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2018[297].

Another sensitive matter for the authorities of the Grand Duchy pertaining to fundamental democratic rights and freedoms is the discrimination on grounds of nationality. As of now, more than 283,000 out of 591,000 permanent residents of Luxembourg are from other European countries, and in some regions of the country, especially in the capital, the ratio tends to shift towards foreigners. Luxembourgian human rights activists working with foreigners regularly emphasize the differentiated treatment on the local labour market. Besides, local human rights activists repeatedly brought to the attention of the authorities the need to implement measures to integrate foreigners who make up half of the permanent residents of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg into the country's political life, especially in light of the consideration being given to enabling non-Luxembourg nationals to vote. However, the 2015 referendum revealed that 78 per cent of Luxembourgers fiercely opposed such an initiative. On 8 March 2017, the Luxembourg nationality act was adopted to facilitate the acquisition of the Luxembourg nationality by naturalization, however, it is impeded by the requirement to pass a Luxembourgish language exam. The failure to resolve this pending issue is regularly criticized by the UN and CoE human rights mechanisms and is likely to aggravate tensions among the civil society in the country.

As for the integration of the refugees admitted to Luxembourg, the situation is quite grim. Many human rights activists state that refugees receive basic allowance that is clearly inadequate to provide a living and have limited employment opportunities. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted with concern that requirements in vernacular language represent a barrier to employment and education for refugees and immigrants.[298] The registration procedure for refugee families arriving to the country where one record to the name of the head of the family is created and spouses and children are added to it thus contributing to possible discrimination is also a matter of concern.

The government of the Grand Duchy actively promotes same-sex marriages and "LGBT values" in the country. For example, the fundamental amendments to the family law (the act of 1 January 2015, allowing for same-sex marriages, as well as a series of amendments introduced to the Civil Code in 2016 on recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions and acts of the adoption of children by same-sex parents registered before the family law reform) claimed by the government as one of its major achievements caused a stir in the Luxembourg society that mainly adheres to traditional Catholic values. In line with this policy, the government decided to replace the religion and moral education with a single course on social values, including basic human rights and freedoms.

Despite significant attention paid by the Luxembourg authorities to the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, a number of major issues have been noted in this field, such as low employment rates of persons with disabilities in public and private sectors, their assignment to specialized workshops for work (instead of creating a suitable environment for them in regular workplaces), the legislative and practical definition of "disabilit" solely based on the classic medical approach, and lack of administrative liability for employers who refuse to fulfill their responsibility to provide "reasonable accommodation" to persons with disabilities.

At the same time, local and international human rights organizations point out several pending issues in the country on a regular basis. These include domestic violence against women and children, prison overpopulation and violations of privacy. The Grand Duchy received a number of criticisms from international human rights activists and UN experts. Various reservations to certain international instruments made by Luxembourg limit their implementation in national legislation.

Most comments referred to the protection of children's rights. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights draws the attention of the authorities to the deteriorated situation in the Grand Duchy, with the percentage of children that are at high risk of falling below the poverty line or being marginalized increasing over the last decade and reaching 23 per cent. The Committee on the Rights of the Child indicated a lack of official statistics on violence against children and expressed its concern over the violence among children on the Internet and at school.[299] According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, migrant girls and adolescents are among those most affected by bullying and violence in school settings.[300]

Human rights activists are also concerned by the excessive power given to the Luxembourg juvenile justice bodies that can place a child in a special regime facility (even the one located in another country) for misbehavior or dangerous behavior. The Luxembourg law enforcement agencies are criticized for the possibility of a child being kept in solitary confinement for up to 10 days. Despite reiterated recommendations, juveniles are still placed in the State Penitentiary. This was mentioned, in particular, by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[301] Human rights activists led by former Commissioner of the Council of Europe for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks were particularly outraged at the regulation to extend the permitted period of detention of minors and members of their families (referring primarily to migrant families) in remand centers from 72 hours to 7 days adopted in September 2017.

Following the decision by the Government Council of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg of 7 July 2017, an inter-agency committee was established comprising child protection actors, relevant ministries and services. This committee will decide based on the best interests the child in each particular case whether illegal minor migrants should be returned and removed in compliance with Article 10 of Directive 2008/115/EC or granted permission to stay in the country.

In addition, the UN and CoE human rights bodies emphasize numerous legal gaps in the domestic legal system of Luxembourg with regard to the sexual exploitation of minors, notably the lack of a clear definition of child pornography and child prostitution. The methods used during refugee registration to determine whether a child has reached the age of majority (where there is doubt as to whether a refugee is telling the truth about their age, the authorities conduct a bone marrow test and take a photo of the refugee's genitalia) are strongly criticized, including by the Consultative Commission on Human rights of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. According to human rights activists, such data are highly non-indicative from a medical point of view and only cause moral damage and are demeaning to human dignity.

Luxembourg's reservations to various provisions of the fundamental international human rights instruments deserve a separate analysis. The reservations concern the declaration of a number of rights and freedoms as absolute, i.e. the ones that allegedly cannot be subject to any limits whatsoever. First and foremost, it refers to the right to the freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to the freedom of assembly and association. For instance, reservations were made to Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stating that "any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law". Basically, Luxembourg refused to adopt the necessary legislation because it would infringe the right to the freedom of expression.

The Consultative Commission on Human rights of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg appointed as National Rapporteur on trafficking in human beings acknowledges the efforts of the government in this field. However, according to the Global Slavery Index, around 100 persons living in the Grand Duchy are in modern slavery primarily due to inadequate remuneration for migrants.

An alarming situation was observed in the field of protection of personal data, where "concerns for national security and the fight against crime" resulted in increased interference by intelligence services and law enforcement agencies in the private life of citizens. This trend was also observed in the 2017 Report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Right. The package of counter-terrorism measures that was adopted in 2015 and allows for house searches around the clock, extends the permitted period of detention from 24 to 48 hours, and authorizes telephone tapping and Internet activity monitoring was noted. Luxembourg fully implements new Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal (in force since 25 May 2019). Freedom of the press in Luxembourg is also indirectly related to this issue. In recent years, the press corps has come under pressure from the authorities, including prosecution on defamation charges, for refusing to disclose their sources of information on numerous occasions.

The major shock of 2018 was the government-initiated campaign (including searches, interrogations and veiled threats made against publishing houses) against journalists from Radio 100.7 after the ChamberLeaks scandal that had revealed that the website of the Chamber of Deputies had had a vulnerability allowing third parties to access confidential documents.

Domestic violence against women has also been reported to be a pending issue in the Grand Duchy. According to local human rights activists, the government is yet to elaborate a comprehensive approach to address this problem. As of now, when the police of the Grand Duchy receives a complaint about domestic violence, it is authorized to issue an urgent restraining order against one of the spouses for up to 14 days (subject to approval by the Prosecutor for Public Affairs) pending formal judicial decision. The annual total of judicial restraining orders exceeds 300 (0.6 orders per 1000 inhabitants of the country). As for the criminal offences of a more serious nature, statistics from the 2017 annual police report confirms that major problems exist in the field of women's rights.

Besides, gender inequality in economy persists. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlighted disproportionately high rates of part-time employment among women, especially mothers, and the fact that this type of employment is mainly available in low-paid jobs. The gender gap in full-time employment is 17.8 per cent. 36.1 per cent of women are engaged in part-time employment. Childcare facilities do not improve this situation: according to the CEDAW, few children attend such facilities.[302]

Human rights activists express their concern at the overcrowded local penitentiary institutions, namely the Schrassig prison, which is the only closed prison in the country (with a capacity of 600 beds) and the penitentiary center in Givenich (with a capacity of around 100 beds). Despite the severe shortage of prison places, no new units are built. The prison conditions in the facilities in question, especially in pre-trial detention cells, are reportedly good, however, there is still a problem of overcrowded cells.

The legalization of euthanasia and palliative care in Luxembourg (which is the third EU country to do so) is believed by human rights activists and medical community to be a controversial decision (since the adoption of the relevant legislation, 71 cases of euthanasia have been officially registered, including 8 in 2018).

According to the UN experts, in order to further improve the human rights situation in the country, Luxembourg should ensure timely reporting to the UN human rights treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Human Rights Committee. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights encourages the Grand Duchy to consider ratifying the revised European Social Charter, as well as the 2011 International Labour Organization Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

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MALTA

As a constituent part of the Western community and a member of the European Union, Malta describes itself as a consistent advocate of democratic freedoms and human rights. However, the Maltese and foreign experts point to a number of human rights problems, many of which are long-term and systemic in nature.

In October 2018, following the consideration of the initial report of Malta, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed its concern that some legislation in place was not in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly the Mental Health Act which allowed the involuntary detainment and non-consensual psychiatric treatment of persons with disabilities, on the grounds of psychosocial or intellectual disabilities. It also noted the continued hospitalization of such persons without their consent.[303]

The Committee also expressed concern that persons with disabilities were deprived of their legal capacity and subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, pursuant to certain provisions of national legislation. It was concerned that persons with disabilities, in particular persons with psychosocial and/or intellectual disabilities, continued to be placed under interdiction and incapacitation orders, and that the personal autonomy bill, which was being drafted at that time, might deprive persons with disabilities of their legal capacity, by introducing concepts and mechanisms such as "safeguarder", "co‑decision-making" and "representation agreements".

In 2014, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment noted the weak legislation providing for the independent and effective functioning of national preventive mechanisms. The fact that relevant specialized entities lack clearly defined tasks and mandates prevents them from performing the full range of required functions.[304]

Excessive delays in the proceedings many of which are related to the ensuring the human rights is a subject matter of common complaints by human rights defenders against the Maltese judicial system. Thus, for example, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council noted in its report (October, 2016) that the judicial system of Malta continued to be affected by lengthy delays in the administration of justice.[305]

In January 2016, the ECtHR ruled for the first time in history that the Court of Malta had violated the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms related to the right to a fair trial. In December 2016, the ECtHR made another similar judgment.

The Maltese Government has been periodically criticized for alleged violations of the rights to privacy. In recent years, the press has repeatedly quoted the Facebook reports, according to which the Maltese authorities sent the largest number of requests in the world (in terms of per capita) to this social network in 2013-2018 asking to disclose personal data.

In recent years, the issue of freedom of expression and the media has come to the fore in Malta in the light of the killing of well-known journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017, who covered acts of corruption in local government circles and was under pressure from the authorities (at the time of her death, 42 libel suits had been filed against her and some of her property had been arrested). Despite the detention of three alleged perpetrators of the crime, the investigation into the case is delayed.

In June 2019, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution based on the report of Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt on the matter, which states that the principle of the rule of law in the island republic has been "seriously undermined" due to "extreme weakness of its system of checks and balances."

Experts point out the problems in ensuring media independence in the country. According to a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford (March 2019) on impacts of the 'Panama Papers', Malta was among the countries where the scandal led to a "backlash" with regard to freedom of expression.

The so-called SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) procedure, in which a plaintiff brings a libel suit in the U.S. courts, which threatens the defendant with significant financial costs, is often used in recent years as a way of putting pressure on the local press. As a result, many local publishers being at the risk of prosecution are forced to remove materials undesirable to applicants from their websites. However, during the development of a new Media Act (in force since May 2018), the government refused to integrate measures aimed at protecting the members of the press from SLAPP.

According to the report of the OSCE Observation Mission on the early general elections in Malta in June 2017 (published in October 2017), editorial independence is negatively impacted by the political parties' ownership of a number of media outlets, and the local Broadcasting Authority cannot be perceived as an impartial body.

The above facts are reflected in the relevant indexes compiled by various international NGOs. In particular, according to annual review made by Reporteurs Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) NGO , Malta once again lost its positions by falling down from 65th in 2018 to 77th place in 2019 (in 2017, 45th place; and in 2010, 16th place). According to Freedom House NGO, Malta maintained its free Press Freedom Status in 2019, but lost its points once again compared to 2018 (Aggregate Score declined from 92 to 91).

The human rights community points out the existing problems in Malta in the protection of the rights of the child. In November 2014 and in June 2016, the Human Rights Committee[306] and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Council[307] expressed their concern that children between 16 and 18 years of age continued to be tried as adults and that they were subject to criminal laws and tried in ordinary courts in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was recommended that Valletta should keep persons under the age of 18 separate from adults in correctional facilities and detention centers. Children of different ages shall be also held together in residential establishments. In May 2019, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern the continuing cases of sexual abuse of children committed within their family and/or by persons in their circle of trust. According to the Committee experts, there is a relatively high risk of sexual exploitation of children in the country in the context of travel and tourism.[308]

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights noted in its 2017 report an increase in the number of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion between 2005 and 2015.

In October 2016, the Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment expressed its concern about the practice of placing children demonstrating problematic behavior in closed psychiatric institutions and recommended more humane procedures to have in place to prevent such cases.

Violation of the rights of irregular migrants proceeding mainly from Africa and the Middle East continues to be a significant issue in the Maltese human rights profile. This is illustrated by the fact that Malta has lost a number of cases brought by this category of citizens before the European Court of Human Rights in recent years. The Human Rights Committee drew attention to manifestations of racism and xenophobia against migrants, including cases of violence on such grounds, as well as discrimination against them in accessing the labor market, housing and services.[309]

This issue has become particularly serious in recent years in the light of a significant increase in a number of illegal immigrants entering Malta by sea from 2018 (1,455 people; for reference, in 2017, 23 people, and in 2016, 25 people).

The Experts note that refugees remain the most vulnerable group in Malta, facing isolation and a relatively low level of interaction with local population. This is particularly indicated in the reports of the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published in May 2018 and 2019. The Commission has repeatedly noted Malta's lack of implementation of recommendations relating to the protection of the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers, including those relating to the granting of citizenship through naturalization. Many of the illegal immigrants complain about low wages and exploitation by employers who prefer to hire migrants without proper legal contracts. It has been also noted an excessively tight policy of local authorities according to which holders of temporary humanitarian protection status (as opposed to refugee status) are not entitled to reunification with their family. The Human Rights Committee has previously pointed to the long periods of detention of migrants arriving in Malta (up to 18 months for irregular migrants and up to 1 year for asylum seekers). There were cases of ill‑treatment and excessive use of force, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, by police officers at detention centers for migrants.[310]

In 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) included Malta in the list of nine States to work on the Beyond Detention 2014–2019.

Representatives of human rights NGOs note that living conditions in immigration detention centers often do not meet international standards, which periodically leads to riots (the last such major demonstrations took place in January 2018). In May 2018, it was reported on complaints of inhabitants of such center regarding the quality of the food and water, and absence of proper living conditions in the barracks.

Among the issues related to irregular migrants, the experts point out, inter alia, problems with employment (such persons can generally apply only for low paid positions; there is no established system of recognition of their work qualifications), education, family reunification, and the lack of a number of social guarantees for "people seeking a better life" with forms of international protection other than refugee status. Between 2015 and 2018, Malta witnessed numerous mass demonstrations by migrants who advocated for improving their living conditions.

Nils Muižnieks, the then Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, called on Valletta in a letter to the Maltese authorities sent in February 2018 to take appropriate measures in order to protect and integrate migrants and to address the problems of their detention, resettlement, accommodation, family reunification and labor exploitation. He also noted the shortcomings in the work of the local Refugee Appeals Board.

The press has repeatedly reported episodes of racial profiling by policemen towards black migrants

The apparent presence of racist, xeno- and Islamophobic sentiments in the Maltese society is a significant problem which is mostly connected with the phenomenon of illegal migration. The existence of these issues was yet again confirmed in the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malta held in November 2018.

In particular, there were manifestations of racism and xenophobia against migrants, including racial violence and discrimination during access to employment, housing and services.

The Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities also noted acts of discrimination on racial or ethnic grounds during access to housing, employment or medical care. According to the Committee, indirect evidence indicates offenses on racial grounds, harassment at school and treatment of persons with different skin color like culprits rather than victims or innocent casual witnesses.

There was a series of violent attacks on migrants in February and April 2019 conducted with the use of firearms, which resulted in several people being injured and one Ivorian national killed. In May 2019, police arrested two members of the Maltese armed forces who were suspected of having committed these crimes, one of whom confessed to hate people of African descent.

Researches show that more than 60 per cent of the natives of Sub-Saharan Africa situated in this country are constantly facing intolerance in everyday life and rarely communicate with local people. Furthermore, about 30 per cent of them used to be victims of crimes relating to racial hatred.

According to the surveys (May 2018 and 2019) more than 70 per cent of the Maltese admit that the country has the problem of racism. Meanwhile, about 46 per cent of the respondents feel a threat from other cultures, while 45 per cent think that there are too many migrants residing here.

The data from the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance shows that social networks in Malta abound in materials of aggressive nature and continue to serve as a means of spreading racist statements and the public opinion is mainly negatively disposed to migrants. Besides, the information indicates that Malta has no centralized system of data collection when it comes to the number of racially motivated offenses, including hate speech, reported to the police.

According to a research conducted by Eurobarometer (September 2018) Malta was assigned the highest rate of hate speech instances online in the EU, first of all against migrants.

There have also been certain incidents recorded when xeno- and Islamophobic rhetoric was used by political and public figures.

In November 2018, Hon Claudio Grech, opposition Nationalist Party Member of Parliament, in a TV interview compared the situation at one of the open centers for housing migrants with the film Planet of the Apes and for this reason was criticized by media and other politicians.

In May 2019, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated that he did not want a situation where "foreigners were comfortable and the Maltese broke their backs." He said that he would prefer that the local youths get the skilled jobs as doctors, managers or teachers, with foreigners working "in the sun." Later, under pressure of the media and the public, the Head of Government made a public apology for his words.

In April 2019, Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition, stated that Malta was "being taken over by outsiders," because the country's economy had become overly-dependant on foreigners. He also noted that the "clans of low‑quality foreigners" residing in Malta were "frightening children and making society poorer."

In May 2019, Maurice Mizzi, one of the prominent local businessmen and Icelandic Honorary Consulate in Malta, said that illegal Muslim migrants should be stopped from entering to the island republic which he wanted to see "Catholic". According to him, at the moment, there are too many Muslim multi-member families coming, which will "eventually" result in "taking over" Malta.

There are also persisting problems related to vulnerable groups.

According to the World Economic Forum Report, Malta has slightly improved its position in the Global Gender Gap Index, ranking 91st in 2018 (in 2017, 93rd) out of 149. Statistics show the persisting disparities, inter alia, in employment (women's employment rate is much lower than men's), wages (women earn on average 11 per cent less), as well as in politics, education and health.

In March 2019, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat publicly acknowledged the problem of gender equality by stating that women were most at risk of poverty.

In the 2019 Gender Equality Index of the European Commission, Malta was among the five "lagging" EU countries. In the 2017 index of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Malta was ranked 15th in the EU with 60.1 points out of 100, with a European average of 66.2 points.

Legalization of abortion continues to be another acute issue related to women's rights. Malta has introduced a total ban on this practice on pain of imprisonment for one and a half years to three years (among other European countries only Andorra has similar strict measures in place). Despite calls from local and international human rights organizations (in particular, from Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe), both the government and the main opposition party regularly confirm their intention to maintain this provision in the legislation, appealing to traditional Catholic values in the country, as well as to public opinion polls (as of February 2018, up to 97 per cent of the population were against abortion; according to the results of the survey conducted in 2019 among students of the biggest local university, it turned out that 58 per cent of respondents also had a negative attitude towards abortion).

In recent years, in the context of 'Panama Papers', a number of corruption scandals, as well as the country's passport-for-sale scheme (granting citizenship in exchange for investment), Malta has come under fire from abroad due to the poor performance of the local judicial and law enforcement systems and significant shortcomings in observing the rule of law, transparency and good governance principles. The delegations of the European Parliament visiting the country, inter alia, have repeatedly pointed out the lack of any reaction from the authorities to obvious cases of corruption at the highest government levels. In May 2018, the European Commission called upon Valletta to strengthen the fight against corruption and money laundering. In December 2018, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission of the Council of Europe) made recommendations to Malta.

The Maltese Government is regularly criticized for its inadequate policy in combating trafficking in persons.

Human rights defenders point out that the so-called trafficking incidents (in particular forced labor and sexual slavery) were occurred or are persisted in Malta. The most vulnerable groups are representatives from South-East Asia, China and Eastern Europe, as well as women from Central and Eastern Europe.

In November 2017, a Maltese and a Chinese national were detained on charges of forced prostitution and trafficking. In March 2018, eight Maltese and foreign nationals engaged in a trafficking scheme involving workers from Southeast Asia working for local cleaning services companies were arrested in Malta.

Despite the reference to Catholic traditions of the Maltese society in certain domestic political matters, including in health matters, the authorities are simultaneously making efforts to inculcate the neoliberal values. In particular, over the past five years, same-sex civil unions, marriages and adoptions have been permitted, and a law banning conversion therapy and provisions allowing citizens (including children) to choose and define for themselves their sex and to indicate their gender in documents by the letter "x" ("neutral third sex") have been adopted. In this context, the terms "mother", "father", "husband" and "wife" have been removed from local legal and regulatory practice (and replaced by terms "parent" and "spouse"). Work is under way to empower transgenders and homosexuals.

In general, despite Malta's attempts to bring its human rights profile in line with modern European democratic standards, the current human rights situation is still far from perfect.

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MOLDOVA

Official Chisinau consistently positions itself on the world stage as a modern European state.

Despite the developed legislative base and the extensive system of governmental and non-governmental human rights organizations, the situation with the promotion and protection of human rights in the Republic is not easy. To a large extent, the current situation is related to the oligarchic nature of the power of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) that ruled in Moldova in 2016‑2019. The widespread corruption turned the judicial system into a tool to seize business and influence political opponents, while the anti-Russian actions of the authorities were to appeal to the western allies of Moldova.

The provisional parliamentary majority, formed on June 8, 2019 from the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova and the pro-Western bloc ACUM, conducted some work on the "deoligarchization" of the country – the cleansing of the state system from the appointees of the former PDM leader Vlad Plahotniuc. Progress has been made in "cleansing" the judicial system. Under the pressure of the international community (in particular, in the light of the conclusions of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe) and local public opinion, all judges of the Constitutional Court of Moldova who had compromised themselves by serving the interests of the Democratic Party resigned. A new head of the Prosecutor General's Office was appointed. The reform of the justice system was continued by the new government, headed by Ion Chicu (approved on November 14, 2019).

At the same time, correcting the difficult human rights situation that developed during the rule of the PDM, which was pursuing a clearly anti‑Russian course during its period in power, may require considerable efforts and time from the government and the parliamentary majority (according to some estimates, the deoligarchization process may take all year 2020 and even more). The "legacy" for the current authorities are problems of harassment of the Russian-speaking population, corrupt justice and investigative bodies, impunity of those close to power, improper detention conditions, the practice of extraditing foreign nationals to countries where they are expected to be persecuted, restrictions on press freedom, persecution and obstruction of the activities of human rights defenders and journalists, and administrative pressure on the opposition. These and other facts of violations of fundamental rights and freedoms were reflected in the reports of the director of the Information and Analytical Human Rights Centre M.I.Sidorov, and international human rights structures, including the report of the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights defenders on the outcome of his mission to the Republic of Moldova in 2018, the Amnesty International NGO on the Republic of Moldova in 2018, the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR on the parliamentary elections in Moldova in 2019.

Special concern, including among Russian compatriots, is caused by the course on adjustment of normative acts in the field of functioning of languages conducted by official Chisinau in recent years for the purpose of restriction of functioning of the Russian language in various fields of activity of the state and society and establishment of a monopoly of the state language. The decision of the Constitutional Court of June 4, 2018 on the recognition of the law "On the functioning of languages on the territory of the Moldavian SSR" of 1989 as "outdated and useless" is a vivid confirmation. The fundamental law defined the Moldovan language as the state language in the Republic of Moldova, giving Russian the status of a means of inter-ethnic communication. The Russian-speaking population is afraid that by this means the liquidation of the complex legal base guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of national minorities was started.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted with concern in April 2017 that persons belonging to ethnic minorities such as Bulgarians, Gagauzes, Russians and Ukrainians were deprived of the possibility to receive education in their native language. In schools where some classes for minority students are provided in their mother tongue, education in the state language is of poor quality, which affects the ability of ethnic minority students to continue their studies in higher education institutions, as well as their employment opportunities due to the requirements for proficiency in the official language of the country.[311] Similar concerns were also expressed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2017 regarding the limited opportunities for education in regional languages. It is noted that, as part of the school system optimization process, 78 schools in rural areas were closed in 2017, with another 20 schools due to close by the end of the same year.[312]

The Russian-speaking population in Moldova often faces discrimination at the level of public authorities. Refusals by civil servants to speak Russian or accept applications completed in Russian are common. There are also language-based conflicts in everyday life. It is regrettable to note that the public authorities responsible for combating such trends – the Agency for Inter-Ethnic Relations and the Agency for the Prevention of Discrimination – do not perform their functions to the fullest extent, which is linked to their leaders belonging to the PDM. One example of the PDM's discriminatory actions against the Russian-speaking population is the ban on broadcasting Russian information and analytical programmes adopted in December 2017.

Not only the Russian-speaking population but also other ethnic minorities, Muslims, Roma and Jews face discrimination in Moldova. In October 2016, the Human Rights Committee pointed to discrimination against Roma and Muslims in the Moldovan society.[313]

In April 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted with concern the spread of racist stereotypes and hate speech against the mentioned ethnic minorities in the Moldovan media and political sphere, and the lack of measures to prosecute those responsible for such acts.

Given the interrelationship between religion and ethnicity, the Committee expressed concern that Muslims and Jews face obstacles in freely exercising their right to practice their religion. It noted the practice of profiling by law enforcement officials conducting random identity checks on Muslims, and that Muslim communities face difficulties in obtaining permission to build a mosque. Cases of stereotyping of Muslims in a negative light in the media and hate speech against them have been recorded. In addition, there are records of vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and looting of synagogues.

In this regard, the CERD noted that the low number of complaints does not necessarily mean that there is no racial discrimination in a State, but rather it may indicate that there are obstacles to countering manifestations of discrimination at the national level, including a lack of awareness of the population of their rights and of the existing procedures for seeking judicial protection.[314]

The Committee's experts also referred to the prevalence of discrimination and prejudice against Roma in Moldova, and the limited access to health care, housing, education and employment.

Discrimination against Roma in all areas of public life, including social welfare and health care, was also noted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2017. The Committee also noted the low enrolment of Roma children in education.[315]

The human rights situation in the Republic of Moldova came into the focus of attention of Moldova's western partners only at the end of June 2018, when, on the basis of decisions of several courts, Moldovan CEC cancelled the results of the Chisinau mayoral elections, which were won by the pro-Western candidate of the Dignity and Truth Platform opposition party Andrei Năstase. As a result, a debate on "violation of human rights, democracy and rule of law" in the Republic of Moldova was held in the European Parliament. A resolution accusing Chisinau of undermining democratic principles and the rule of law was adopted.

That was followed by extremely tough assessments of the overall human rights situation in Moldova. In particular, the report of the Amnesty International NGO on the situation in Moldova highlights the unfair trial of the former head of Our Home – Moldova party Grigory Petrenko. In June 2018, the political leader and his eight associates were found guilty of "organizing mass riots" in front of the house of the leader of the Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc and received suspended sentences. It is noted that their trial was postponed many times and was held with procedural violations, while pro-government media and authorities were campaigning to discredit Grigory Petrenko's lawyers.

During the years of its rule, the PDM ensured itself an almost complete monopoly on the Moldovan media market, taking control of the broadcasting agenda of the country's national terrestrial TV channels. Alternative viewpoints were available only through cable television. Moreover, opposition media resources (NTV Moldova, AccentTV, JurnalTV, etc.) were repeatedly subjected to administrative fines under false pretext. The Democrats also acted in the same way during the parliamentary election campaign of 2019. The report of the monitoring mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) notes that on the eve of the February 24, 2019 parliamentary elections, media resources controlled by the Democrats denigrated the country's opposition forces, while government agencies exerted unprecedented pressure on both the parties themselves and their supporters. Previously, in 2016, the Human Rights Committee pointed out that the Moldovan media were highly exposed to political and private interests that might not reflect the public interest.[316]

The Moldovan legal community, in turn, draws attention to violations in the law enforcement area. Among other things, the principle of legal certainty is regularly ignored – judges can give different interpretations of the same norms regardless of the established practice. Moreover, it is not uncommon for a citizen to receive more than one punishment for one crime in the course of criminal proceedings. The excessive powers of a prosecutor and, conversely, the reduced capacities of lawyers present a significant problem. Equally important is the financial aspect – the salaries of judges are several times lower than those of lawyers and prosecutors, which creates conditions for corruption. Concerns that the spread of corruption in Moldovan law enforcement and the judiciary had a negative impact on law implementation and the administration of justice were expressed by the Human Rights Committee in October 2016[317], the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2017[318] and the Committee against Torture in November 2017[319].

The imbalance in the judicial system is closely related to the practice of using penitentiary institutions to influence those under investigation. Detention is often used without obvious reasons. Local human rights defenders draw attention to the inhuman conditions in many prisons in the Republic of Moldova. There have been recorded cases of prisoners deprived of food and water, placed in a disciplinary cell or placed with provocateurs in order to "knock out" testimony.

The situation in the penitentiary system in Moldova has received attention from the UN human rights treaty bodies. In October 2016, the Human Rights Committee noted with concern the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by police officers during arrest and preliminary investigation, as well as the lack of response of state authorities to these cases.[320]

In November 2017, the Committee against Torture criticized the Moldovan authorities for an increase of more than 20 per cent in the number of people placed in pretrial detention. The Committee was also concerned about the practice of detention without judicial authorization of persons suspected of committing crimes in detention centres for 72 hours after arrest and in some cases for up to two months. The use of pretrial detention was also observed to be excessive, leading to overcrowding in detention centres, which often had already inadequate material conditions, including dirty and poorly ventilated cells, lack of heating and sanitation, and poor qualification of prison medical staff.

The ill-treatment by law enforcement officers during detention and preliminary investigation has been indicated as another significant problem in the Moldovan penitentiary system. The HR Committee also notes the low number of prosecutions of perpetrators, with less than 20 per cent of reported cases of prosecution in connection with information on torture and ill-treatment. One of the most high-profile incidents of that kind was the death of Andrei Bragutsa on August 26, 2017 after he was severely beaten by police officers and four cellmates, with the connivance of other police officers present at the scene. The Committee's experts also expressed concern at the 74 per cent increase in the death rate in custody between 2012 and 2016.[321]

Violations of citizens' social rights, particularly the right to work, are systematic. There is no system of correlation between employers and universities, which creates a situation where young professionals are forced to engage in low-skilled, poorly paid work. In addition, pensioners are discriminated against. For instance, after the achievement of pension age citizens cannot work under the long-term contract and are compelled every year to renegotiate a fixed-term labour contract.

Moldova is a country of origin for human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour, with both adults and minors being victims. However, the experts noted with concern the decrease in the number of investigations and prosecutions in such cases between 2015 and 2016.[322]

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THE NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands, compared to many other States, make progress in human rights.

However, the situation with illegal migrants and asylum seekers, discrimination against minorities, the use of the citizens' personal data by the government agencies are highlighted as areas of human rights concern in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The issues, such as human trafficking, bad conditions in detention facilities, etc., persist in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.[323]

These issues were indicated, in particular, in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council (2017)[324], in the Report of the Commissioner for Human Rights (the report following his visit to the Netherlands in 2014[325] and the letter of the Commissioner for Human Rights addressed to the Minister of the Interior of the Netherlands of 2016[326]), as well as in reports of universal international and regional convention bodies (including the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee against Torture, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the EU Group of Experts on Trafficking in Human Beings), national human rights agencies (the National Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children, the Institute for Human Rights), non-governmental human rights organizations and mass media.

The human rights institutions remain concerned by inhumane Dutch‑led policy towards asylum-seekers and illegal migrants, including the illegitimate detention of such persons, as well as minors, ineffective protection of the rights of foreign detainees, refusals to provide them with the necessary medical assistance, lack of transparency in the system of residence permits, poor enforcements of the rights of rejected asylum-seekers who are subject to deportation.[327]

In December 2018, in its concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Netherlands on implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment[328], the Committee against Torture pointed to the problematic aspects of treatment of illegal migrants and asylum seekers, such as careless consideration of asylum claims, prolonged detention in special centers and harsh conditions in them. According to the international human rights organization Amnesty International these special centers still look like prison despite efforts to improve detention conditions there at the legislative level (this initiative appeared at the end of 2017). Moreover, according to the recent information from the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights consideration of asylum claims is limited to 8 days for all, but it is preceded by a standstill period of four to seven months. Given the increasing number of asylum seekers, the latter are settled not only in reception centers, but also in the places intended for other use.

At the end of May 2019 the Dutch media[329], with reference to the competent authorities of the Netherlands, reported that the Netherlands had become a trans-shipment point for those seeking to reach Great Britain through continental Europe. Over the previous year, the police identified dozens of cases where between 8 to 34 people were hidden in containers. Intensification of such an activity is explained by expected withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, followed by possible tougher migration regulations.

The human rights defendants remain concerned about inhumane treatment of the Netherlands of illegal minor migrants, they strongly criticize the lack of flexibility in the system of residence permits in case of their forced long-term illegal stay in the country. The Ombudsman for Children has repeatedly noted that the practices used by migration authorities to consider children's applications for reunification with their parents who came to the Netherlands illegally, restrict children's rights and interests enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[330] Moreover, the return of the children of the combatants from the Syrian terrorist organization the Islamic State prohibited in Russia, remains a serious challenge for the Netherlands. It is reported that at least 170 orphans of Dutch origin remain in the Syrian Arab Republic (mostly in camps). The human rights defenders indicate that the Dutch authorities are overreacting by thinking that it is impossible to return the children who, in their opinion, might be further radicalized.[331]

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance functioning in the framework of the Council of Europe noted that following the results of the reform of 2013, integration of the migrants is no more considered as a bilateral process, the integration policy is now based on a uniform approach, it eliminated targeted individual integration measures aimed at ensuring specific needs of the groups, such as asylum seekers or Muslim women. The burden of integration is now shifted to the newcomers who must now pay for their tuition. Sanctions were introduced against those who failed exams. As a consequence of such policy, children with a migration background and of the Antillean origin are overrepresented in special needs schools, they have difficulties in finding an internship. Migrant workers remain exposed to discrimination and exploitation.[332]

It is also reported about the[333] increasing number of stateless persons in the Netherlands. The main reason for the lack of citizenship among children born in the Netherlands is the lack thereof among their parents. The entry in the passport "nationality unknown" was introduced as a temporary solution for those whose nationality could not be established. The authorities are still failing to find the best solutions to this problem, it is quite possible that the new measures in this area will ultimately complicate the process of obtaining the status of stateless persons.

International experts continue to register cases of discrimination against ethnic, national and religions minorities, including legitimate and naturalized immigrants, in the Netherlands. The statistical data indicate the increasing number of complaints (including those submitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe) of discriminatory treatment, particularly on the basis of race and ethnicity. At the same time, most experts admit that this can be underestimated because it is impossible to assess the real level of discrimination.

In its report on the Netherlands of April 2, 2019[334], the ECRI indicated a number of positive developments in the government policy against intolerance, as well as current challenges before the government in its fight against intolerance in the society in general (reduced funding of anti-discrimination institutions, stricter integration requirements to foreigners, impunity for discriminatory statements by politicians and journalists against Islam, Muslims, migrants from Eastern Europe, other examples, etc.).

In particular, the ECRI refers to the following: According to the joint 2017 Report on Discrimination Figures drafted by the Police, the ADVs, the Hotline for Discrimination on the Internet (MiND) and the NIHR, the police registered 3,499 discrimination cases (20 per cent less than in 2016), the ADVs 4,691 (130 per cent less), MiND 1,367 (4,930 per cent more) and the NIHR received 416 requests for an opinion (1,030 per cent less) and 4,259 questions (over 30 per cent more). Among the cases registered by MiND, ethnic origin remained the most frequent ground, 3,730 per cent of all discrimination cases concerned social media, 18 per cent blogs and opinion sites and 3,730 per cent other websites.[335]

In 2017 the Prosecutor General Office examined 144 discrimination cases, 42 per cent were registered as based national or ethnic origin, 41 per cent on antisemitism (mostly antisemitic chants of football hooligans), 7 per cent on Islamophobia. Of all the incidents, 42 per cent occurred during sports events, 19 per cent on the Internet and 13 per cent in streets or public places. In 44 per cent of the cases, an indictment was issued and in another 17 per cent a punishment order. 71 per cent of the indicted cases led to a criminal sentence. Under general criminal law, another 187 discriminatory offenses were registered.[336]

In 2017, 603 incidents involving hate-motivated violence were reported to the police; 329 were registered on the ground of ethnic origin. A significant number of hate crime attacks were committed, in particular, against Muslims and mosques. The Muslim women in hijabs frequently become victims of racial attacks.[337]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, following consideration of the combined nineteenth to twenty-first periodic reports of the Netherlands, and the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent[338], in 2015 and 2014 respectively, highlighted the tense situation with the minorities in the Netherlands and, in particular, discrimination against Jewish and Muslim communities and the Roma. As a separate issue, the CERD mentioned the Dutch Christmas character Black Pete used in a negative context and "conveying of a negative image of people of African descent".[339]

The results of the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey of the EU (MIDIS II survey) of 2017 point to a high degree of underreporting of the discrimination and intolerance cases: 39 per cent of all people with North African origin living in the Netherlands responded that they had recently experienced discrimination in the fields of public and private services, and 12 per cent of people of Turkish and 11 per cent of North African descent responded likewise with regard to education. Only 16 per cent of the victims with Turkish origin and 29 per cent of the victims of North African descent had filed a complaint to the relevant agencies. Also, 70 per cent and 69 per cent respectively of all respondents from these groups were not aware of any organization that would offer support or advice to them. Those who suffered from incitement to hatred often fail to report to the authorities due to the lack of confidence that the latter are ready and able to investigate such cases.[340]

The police stop more often those who belong to minorities to check their documents. According to recent studies 61 per cent of persons of the North African origin and 43 per cent of the Turkish origin consider such actions carried out by the police as a manifestation of ethnic profiling. The legislative and law-enforcement grounds for such controls are too vague. Authorities acknowledge that they are facing serious problems associated with the manifestation of racist attitudes towards persons of non-Dutch origin, as well as Islamophobia and antisemitism.[341]

Representatives of the Muslim communities perceive separate legislative initiatives as targeted at them, in particular the law adopted on June 27, 2018 prohibiting to wear face-veiling garments in some public places, the explanatory note to which explicitly refers to the Burqa and Niqab.[342]

In the labor market, the gap between representatives of minorities and their Dutch peers is not narrowing: access to permanent employment remains a key stumbling block in the fight against unemployment among the youth who suffer from it almost three times as high as the rest of the population, and this gap continues to grow. Though such a disparity in unemployment rate is explained by the level of education and the average age, nevertheless, discrimination also triggers it. The EU MIDIS II study shows a really high rate of alleged discrimination among people of the Turkish and North-African origin (19 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, when looking for work, and 14 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively, at work).[343]

According to the Roma inclusion monitors from 2013, 2015 and 2017, the main problems remain unchanged and only a slightly positive development can be observed. The number of Roma (Roma, Sinti, Travellers) in the Netherlands who completed their education is below the national average. Enrollment in preschool is comparatively low and Roma children often enter primary school with a language deficit. The percentage of Roma children in special needs schools at primary school level was three times the national average. In primary and secondary education absenteeism and drop-out are significant problems. Girls are often not enrolled in secondary education. These problems result in low employment rates, poverty and social exclusion Children belonging to Roma, Sinti and Travellers communities are often discriminated at schools.[344]

The housing situation, as the authorities also acknowledged during the visit of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, remains extremely difficult. Whereas many Sinti and – by definition – the Travellers – have the desire to live in a caravan on (permanent) campsites, most Roma, and in particular those who arrived more recently, live in social housing or in privately rented apartments. The labor market position of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands is characterized by a high level of unemployment and dependency on benefits. Due to lower levels of education, Roma, Sinti and Travellers do often work in occupations at the lower end of the labor market.

Around 1,000 Roma living in the Netherlands are stateless. In accordance with the Dutch legislation the statelessness of parents entails the statelessness of children. In its turn, their status of stateless persons makes them vulnerable to possible eviction and exploitation, impacts on their schooling opportunities and impedes access to health-care services and legal job.[345]

The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities regretted that the position of the Dutch authorities regarding the limitation of the scope of application of the Frisian language remains unchanged. Most rights granted to the Frisian minority, in particular those related to the use of and learning of the language, are limited in territorial scope, namely to the Province of Fryslân.[346]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also pointed out that the anti-discrimination policy led by the Netherlands is ineffective.

The Dutch media frequently publish articles about alleged support of the ideology of Nazism by the Dutch servicemen. The Folkskrant journal reported that the military intelligence and security service MIVD conducted internal investigations into 21 case over the last five years. The servicemen who used the Nazi literature, swastikas and SS emblems, depending on the situation, were subjected to disciplinary sanctions, however, no one was held criminally responsible. Among recent examples happened in 2018 is the situation when the Dutch servicemen via a messenger exchanged extremist assessments, used swastika and other Fascist symbols, showed interest in the ideas of Hitler and his associates, as well as in the relevant literature. In this regard, the Ministry of Defence and the Public Prosecution Services of the Netherlands are conducting new investigation into unacceptable behavior of the servicemen who used racist statements and unaccepted allegations against Nazi Germany.

The CERD also expressed concerns regarding racist statements in all the media and dissemination of racist statements and threats on the Internet. Experts believe that the spread of such sentiments creates grounds for an increased activity of the right-wing politicians and movements in the Netherlands. A truly xenophobic statement by the Dutch minister of foreign affairs Stef Blok that provoked a widespread reaction in 2018, that "there are no peaceful multicultural societies and it is genetically determined that man can not connect with unknown people.[347]

The Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance E.Tendayi Achiume pointed to the danger of spreading racist ideas in the Dutch society following her visit to the country in early October 2019. She highlighted the high level of polarization in the political life of the Dutch society with its widespread inflammatory language and intolerance. The expert also mentioned that the society is adhered to a stereotype that a truly citizen of the Netherlands is a man of western origin, whereas other racial and ethnic groups such as people of African and Asian descent, even when they hold full citizenship and have done so for multiple generations, are characterized as not really or not fully Dutch.[348]

The ECRI observes that the mainstream political discourse continues to be strongly influenced by a xenophobic, fear-fuelling rhetoric driven by the Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Forum for democracy (FvD), ranging from assigning collective responsibility to groups of people on the basis of their migrant background or religion to the trivializing of prejudice and the negative representation of Muslims compared to "the ordinary Dutchman". This xenophobic language is used not only by the right-wing parties, but also by some leading politicians and officials who do not hide their racist beliefs. Such statements are nourished by actions such as the opening of websites for reporting complaints over workers from Romania, Poland and Bulgaria in 2012, regarding asylum seekers in 2015 and of a Muhammad cartoon contest in August 2018.[349]

Comments on the Internet aimed at inciting hatred are not removed for long periods of time.[350]

Persons belonging to minorities believe that the Dutch media significantly contribute to their isolation in society. A research on more than 600,000 news items in 2016 and 2017 concluded that the adjectives most used to describe Muslims are "radical", "extremist" and "terrorist", "insult", "convert" and "rape". Where Dutch and Muslims are both mentioned, the reporting is mostly about tensions in society. Such repeated negative news lead to a stereotypical representation of Muslims, increase prejudice and can trigger discrimination. Minority representatives informed ECRI that they do not often have the opportunity to express themselves in the Dutch media.[351]

The problem of human trafficking persists in the country. According to the report on the situation with trafficking in persons in the Netherlands published in 2017 by the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the estimated annual number of victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands is around 6,250. Half of them are cases of sexual exploitation. The number of minors who suffered from such a coercion amounts to 1,300. There is a trend towards a further increase of victims of human trafficking.

Previous estimates based on a number of complaints received from the victims themselves did not correspond to real numbers of this phenomenon. The study shows that the majority of victims of such crimes, due to various reasons, are afraid to report to the law enforcement and social protection agencies.

The activities by the Dutch State authorities to collect and process personal information on its citizens despite the existing special mechanisms monitoring the compliance of the right to privacy, established in conformity with the EU standards the Dutch Data Protection Authority and the Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services, raise a lot of issues with regard to the protection of the right to privacy. In accordance with the regular report published by the Committee in October 2019, in the course of the exchange of information with foreign partners the Dutch general intelligence and security services violated the order established by the law by transferring large amounts of raw data that allowed them to use the confidential information for their own purposes. In 2016, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights also drew attention to the gaps in the Dutch law on the protection of personal data.

The statistics published by the government show that there are about 22,000 – 26,000 cases of wiretapping fixed annually in the Netherlands in order to ensure national security and prevent crimes. There is also an increased number of wiretapping on the Internet. The human rights defenders express concerns that these figures are higher than those of other European countries and that eavesdropping on the citizens can be carried out in violation of their rights. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights found violations of the rights of journalists bugged by the Dutch intelligence agencies.[352]

The human rights defenders note that despite the advisory referendum held in 2018 where the majority of Dutch citizens expressed opposition to the expansion of powers of the intelligence agencies to access to personal data (electronic correspondence, social networks, web-sited), the draft law introducing these amendments was adopted. At that time, the government insisted on its adoption promising to amend it in the part concerning privacy, though nothing had been done.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights noted that the Intelligence and Security Services Act 2002 expanded the surveillance powers of intelligence services, in particular it authorized total surveillance and wiretapping, as well as interception of communications of persons, who were not specified, if they are "related to the relevant case" (a rather vague criterion). These powers threaten the right to private life, the freedom of opinion and its expression, as well the principle of non-discrimination. However, there are no adequate safeguards against abuses by intelligence agencies. Many international and Dutch NGOs also expressed such fears.

The abuse of anti-terror legislation was also criticized both by the European human rights mechanisms and by international NGOs.

According to NGO Amnesty International governments are increasingly using administrative measures that do not provide for good guarantees for judicial review or appeal. Many concerns were also raised about laws on temporary administrative (counter-terrorism) measures and amendments to the law on citizenship in the part concerning the deprivation of the Dutch citizenship in the interests of national security. They allow to use administrative control measures in respect of any person recognized as posing potential threat to the national security, and deprive him of the citizenship.

The problems in the functioning of the Dutch guardianship agencies have been highlighted in the press reports lately. The Ombudsman for Children drew attention to a number of serious gaps[353]: the Dutch guardianship authorities (Bureau Jeugdzorg) make superficial judgments with regard to the situation with a child, as well as one-sided interpretations of perceptions made by individual observers, they mix up the facts and unverified information in their reports that can lead to serious mistakes, up to making ungrounded decisions to remove a child from a family.

In June 2015, the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of the Netherlands on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stressed that the Netherlands should ensure equal enjoyment of rights by all children in all four countries of the Kingdom.[354] It expressed concern about the increased child abuses, in particular abandonment and domestic violence, as well sexual abuse of children in residential schools and within the foster care system.

The situation with human rights in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands remains challenging. In 2007, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture functioning under the Council of Europe made a number of recommendations in order to improve the conditions of detention in prisons on Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the BES islands of the European Netherlands.

More and more often are becoming corruption scandals on Sint Maarten and Curaçao where some former ministers and acting parliamentarians and other public figures were accused of corruption, illegal activity, including that related to human trafficking, and other abuses. In March 2016, the former prime-minister of Curaçao Gerrit Schotte was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison.[355]

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor persists on Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees neither Curaçao nor Sint Maarten has any law or other regulations on asylum matters.[356]

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NEW ZEALAND

The legal system of New Zealand is based on English common law. The Constitution is not codified and consists of a number of acts (statutes) of Parliament, the Treaty of Waitangi[357], decisions of the Executive Council (an advisory body to the Governor-General), and judicial acts and unwritten legal constitutional customs. Nevertheless, there are no laws with supreme legal force. Among the main human rights instruments are the following: the Bill of Rights of 1990, the Human Rights Act of 1993, and the Privacy Act of 1993.

Despite certain progress in implementing related reforms to protect Māori rights made by the Government, a number of challenges remained. Thus, to date, no concrete steps have been taken to promote the status of the Treaty of Waitangi with a view to make it a constitutional law. Consequently, the decisions of the Waitangi Tribunal are not binding. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted in August 2017 the lack of progress in the implementation of the 2013 recommendations of the Constitutional Advisory Panel concerning the Treaty of Waitangi. Moreover, the Māori-led initiative, Matike Mai Aotearoa, put forward proposals for discussion on a range of constitutional models that also have not been taken up by the New Zealand authorities.[358] In March 2018, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights emphasized the need to ensure meaningful participation of Māori in decision-making concerning laws that impact their rights, including land and water rights.[359]

The human rights organizations in their reports are concerned about the persisting problems typical to New Zealand society and about some indicators that have even worsened as of 2018. These issues are discussed in the media.

Moreover, a significant number of cases of family violence, the high rate of Māori indigenous people in prison, actual inequalities in the labor market, as well as the large number of children living below the poverty line are the matters of particular concern.

According to the 2013 census, the number of indigenous peoples living in New Zealand is 598,600 people, or 14.9 per cent of the population of the country (the 2018 census results are still unpublished). Members of this group traditionally enjoy a number of State preferences provided by the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840. Although it is legally non-binding, the New Zealand Government has historically respected its implementation.

The structural discrimination against Māori, as well as growing socio-economic inequalities against the rest of the population are the main challenges in this context. So, although unemployment rate among indigenous people has declined in recent years, it is still significantly higher than the average rate of 7.7 per cent in the country compared to 3.9 per cent for nationals of New Zealand of European descent, while life expectancy, on the contrary, is significantly lower, about seven per cent, on average. There are gaps in the provision of basic education and health services.

The number of Māori inmate population (over 50 per cent) is also very large, which is becoming a "scourge" of the New Zealand penal system and a major concern for the Government. At the same time, the total number of people in detention facilities has reached about 10,000 people, which creates a problem of overcrowding in penal institutions, which are designed for 9,000 inmates. In this regard, the authorities have announced an additional initiative ("Māori Pathway") focusing, primarily, on indigenous people and costing NZD 98 million as a key measure to reduce the risk of re-imprisonment.[360]

The situation of Māori has repeatedly been the focus of international human rights monitoring bodies. Thus, the Committee against Torture remains criticized the fact that indigenous people continued to be disproportionately affected by incarceration. The Committee against Torture noticed that while making up 15 per cent of the State population, Māori comprised 45 per cent of arrested individuals and over 50 per cent of prison inmates, and, moreover, that more than 60 per cent of female inmates were Māori.[361] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women provided more accurate data indicating that 65 per cent of female prisoners were Māori women.[362] The Human Rights Committee was also concerned about the overrepresentation of Māori and Pasifika in the criminal justice system.[363] The CERD noted that Māori were overrepresented as offenders in rates of arrest, prosecution, conviction, imprisonment and re-imprisonment and as victims.[364]

The unemployment rates among Māori and Pasifika, in particular Māori and Pasifika women and young people, remain the highest.[365] In March 2018, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that the unemployment rate among Māori and Pasifika was double the general rate.[366] In July 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women highlighted the persistent discrimination against Māori and Pasifika people in the labor market, and high rate of unemployment among these people, especially among women. Moreover, the persistent gender pay gap disproportionately affects women in low-income jobs, including Māori and Pasifika women and women belonging to other ethnic and cultural minority groups.[367]

The Committee indicated that that Māori and Pasifika had poorer health outcomes than other groups, including with respect to life expectancy, mortality and disability. Indigenous populations encounter significant barriers in accessing basic health services. A negative differential compensation for Māori providers is maintained.[368] There is the persistent seclusion of persons in mental health facilities for the purposes of punishing and disciplining, while there is a significant number of victims who have been secluded for more than 48 hour. Māori are more likely to be secluded.[369] The CESCR also criticized the New Zealand authorities saying that Māori had higher rates of chronic diseases, experienced higher disability rates and were negatively overrepresented in suicide and mental health statistics.[370]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child noted the persisting structural and systematic disadvantages Māori and Pasifika children faced in New Zealand, with its negative impact on health, survival and development and education.[371] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressing its concern about the rise in child poverty in New Zealand, highlighted the disproportionate numbers of Māori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities living in households with incomes below the relative income poverty line.[372] This situation becomes the reason why Māori children are still more likely to be placed in government care: over approximately 40 years, up to 100,000 children were in State care, the majority of whom were Māori children.[373]

The United Nations human rights treaty bodies were concerned about the problems faced by the Māori in education. Thus, the CERD noted that low levels of conversational Te Reo Māori ability persisted among Māori, though the number of students receiving instruction in Māori language had steadily increased in recent years.[374] The CESCR was also concerned at the limited availability of Māori, or Māori-speaking, teachers, limiting even further access to education in Māori language. The Committee also criticized the fact that due to the persistence of education disparities in the country, Māori and Pasifika students, notably at secondary school and university levels, achieved lower outcomes than those of European background and experienced higher rates of stigma and disciplinary measures at schools.[375]

The authorities have not yet managed to find a comprehensive solution to the above problems. At the same time, some experts tend to consider the excessive focus of authorities on this group of population as the source of this problem, which is the reason for a kind of "vicious circle", when the expansion of already existing numerous forms of assistance by the State (including material) leads to the opposite effect, causing a growth of dissatisfaction of the population of European descent with "Māori-favoritism" by the government. In fact, this leads to the situation that the ensuring of rights provided for in the Treaty of Waitangi is considered as restriction of rights of other New Zealanders (business and appointment issues, including the Māori quota in the Parliament, etc.).

Moreover, the problem is mutual: Māori believe that their rights are infringed and require more attention from the authorities, with the rest of the population pointing out that domestic racism is practiced first and foremost by indigenous people who regard the rest to be "outsiders".

These problems have been recognized by the New Zealand authorities. They were also mentioned by the Minister of Justice is Andrew Little in New Zealand's Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in January 2019.

Annually, 12 per cent of New Zealanders, mainly women, or more than half a million people, suffer from domestic violence. However, the experts believe that these figures may be higher due to the fact that such cases are not always reported to the police. After the high-profile brutal murder of British tourist Grace Millane in Auckland in December 2018, 50 most influential New Zealand women signed an open letter calling the government to take decisive actions to protect women's rights.[376] The Committee against Torture (in April 2015)[377], the Human Rights Committee (in March 2016)[378] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in March 2018)[379] expressed their concern about high levels of violence against women. In July 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted persistent high level of gender-based violence against women in New Zealand. According to the Committee, one in three women is subjected to physical or psychological violence, by a partner during the course of their lifetime.[380]

The problem of child poverty is of particular concern to human rights defenders. According to recent estimates, the number of children living in families with incomes below the subsistence minimum is growing and already amounts to about 200,000 people.[381] In this regard, the Government is planning to take a number of measures, including to adopt the Child Poverty Reduction Act. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is concerned about the high rates of child poverty.[382]

There are still cases of discrimination against certain ethnic groups, first of all Māori.

Moreover, the issue of racism in the country is faced not only by Māori. New Zealand has one of the highest levels of ethnic diversity in OECD: there are more than 200 ethnic groups living in the country, speaking more than 160 languages. Annual inflow of immigrants is about 50,000 people, most of which come from China and India. Moreover, the country receives 1,000 refugees annually under the current quota.[383]

The issue of racial discrimination is especially relevant since the attacks in Christchurch that were committed on religious grounds on March 2019. Human rights activists underscore that that it highlighted a problem that has been brewing in New Zealand society for many years, since precisely after these events many cases of its manifestations began to appear in public sphere, and the very residents and authorities openly acknowledged and began to speak about it.

According to the latest official poll (2017), racism was faced by 16.5 per cent of people born in New Zealand, while the number of victims among immigrants was 25.7 per cent. Among the most common cases are harassment in society (including on the Internet), problems with employment, renting accommodation, and service provision.

United Nations human rights treaty bodies have criticized New Zealand for the lack of statistical data on prosecutions and convictions for racist hate speech and violence. In particular, this was the matter of concern of the Human Rights Committee (focusing its attention on the absence of a comprehensive national strategy to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, including racial and religious hatred)[384] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[385].

The CERD also noted with concern many race-based discrimination complaints, including over 400 complaints alleging employment or pre-employment discrimination, human trafficking or harassment, filed to the Human Rights Commission in recent years.[386]

The Human Rights Committee also mentioned the practice of racial profiling involving Māori and persons of African descent that was common among law enforcement agencies of New Zealand.[387]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted the prevalence of bullying and harassment in schools and the persistent stigma and discrimination against Māori and Pacific children.[388]

In order to combat discrimination, within the Government of New Zealand there are positions of Ministers for Ethnic Communities, Māori Development, Crown/Māori Relations, and beyond the Government, there are positions of Ministers for Pacific Peoples and for Whanau Ora, Māori Social Policy. The Human Rights Commission is functioning and a State Race Relations Commissioner is appointed. Moreover, the Government is in constant contact with the five main ethnic organizations, with which it holds consultations on its social policy: Multicultural New Zealand, Chinese Association, Indian Central Association, Federation of Islamic Associations, and African Communities Forum.

In general, despite persistent certain difficulties, the issue of domestic racism is not currently being raised at the national level. There are some of its local manifestations, but the Government takes the issue of preventing them from recurring very seriously. However, the structural discrimination against Māori is a much deeper and more complex issue that New Zealand leadership has not yet been able to address.

The human rights community drew attention to the challenges of New Zealand related to excessive powers given to law enforcement powers. In particular, it is indicated that the oversight and accountability framework of the intelligence services remains fragmented and the oversight role of the judiciary is limited in that regard. The existing legal framework provides the Government Communications Security Bureau with a very broad mandate. In New Zealand there is also a rather limited judicial authorization process for the interception of communications of New Zealanders and the total absence of such authorization for the interception of communications of non-New Zealanders.[389] In addition, the Committee against Torture noticed that the mandate of the Independent Police Conduct Authority did not allow the institution to fully investigate and initiate the prosecution of perpetrators.[390]

There are also problems in penal system. Overcrowding in places of detention is the main drawback. Moreover, in a number of prisons, the material conditions and health-care services, in particular mental health-care services, are inadequate. The rate of violence between prisoners and the rate of assaults of prisoners on guards is higher. The most striking example of this was the unrest in the privately run Mount Eden prison.[391] The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the negative impact of prison privatization policies on the effective management of prisons and on the respect and promotion of the rights of detainees.[392]

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NORWAY

Norway proclaims promotion and protection of human rights as one of the key priorities of its state policy.

Although human rights situation in Norway can be considered relatively good, the world view of this country as of a benchmark in human rights protection is not always true. Human rights defenders are concerned about the guardianship agencies' actions on the removal of children, involuntary psychiatric treatment, discrimination of migrants, prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, increase in hate speech, impunity of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Yet, thanks to the system of interaction between the state and state-funded civil society institutions, the Government is taking measures to remedy the situation.

Norway has an extensive network of human rights institutions and several national ombudspersons: the Ombudsman for Civil Rights, the Ombudsman for Children, the Ombudsman for the Military, the Ombudsman for Equality and Anti-discrimination, the Patient and Consumer Ombudsman (he is also planned to be in charge of the rights of older persons). Citizens' complaints about discrimination by authorities are examined by the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Commission. Since 2015, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (NIM) has been working under the Storting (the Parliament) as an independent national human rights institution.

According to the estimates by the Norwegian Government, international bodies and NGOs, over the past few years the human rights situation has been relatively good. Yet, the relevant national and international institutions acknowledge there are cases of human rights violation in Norway. Human rights defenders identify the following key areas of concern.

Domestic and sexual violence with children, older persons as well as indigenous representatives of the Saami people being exposed to it the most is widespread in the country.

According to the 2018 NIM report on the respect for human rights in Norway, among the Saami people, up to 49 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men suffer from violence.

In its separate report on the respect for the rights of older persons submitted in March 2019, NIM expresses its concern not only in connection with violence but also with the provision of involuntary medical treatment to this category of persons, malnutrition and improper use of drugs, limited access to information and communication services, and age discrimination in hiring.

According to estimates by NGO Amnesty International, despite increasing reporting of rape to the police, only 14.3 per cent cases result in decisions in favour of the victim while other cases are dismissed for lack of evidence. 

In February 2019, several Norwegian media, in particular the NRK state television and radio broadcasting company, Aftenposten and VG newspapers, reported that surveys of military personnel revealed a high level of violence in the Norwegian Armed Forces. For the last year, of 8,805 interviewed, 24 women and 20 men have been raped, 123 persons experienced an attempted rape, 35 persons were forced to "unwelcome conduct of sexual nature". Meanwhile, only two such incidents were reported to the law enforcement authorities over this period.

Human rights defenders remain seriously concerned about the activities by the child protection service Barnevernet due to the excessive removal of children, discrimination against children of non-Norwegian origin (with a population of 5.3 bln people, 15 thousand children in charge of Barnevernet, are of foreign origin), inadequate qualification of staff, and high level of violence against adopted children. Recently, the ECtHR has accepted nine lawsuits against Norway in connection with the child protection service's practice of removing children from "troubled families"; one of the lawsuits related to the removal of an underage daughter from a Norwegian citizen (the Roma representative) by the Barnevernet in 2012 resulted in the decision taken in favour of the claimants in 2018.

The 2018 poll conducted by NGO The Change Factory among 55 teenagers cared for by the Norwegian child protection service revealed that all of them were subjected to coercive actions by the Barnevernet's staff, which in many cases resulted in children's serious mental problems.

Having considered the combined 23rd/24th periodic reports of Norway on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in December 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that in Norway "racist and neo-Nazi organizations have become more visible on social media and through demonstrations" and that "Norway in line with its obligations has not declared illegal organizations that promote and incite racial hatred". Meanwhile, the Norwegian authorities commenting on the Committee's conclusions, in fact justified unimpeded activities of the racist organizations, referring to the Norwegian Criminal Code which prohibits not organizations but criminal actions.

Human rights defenders note that the country has seen an increase in hate speech and statements aimed at inciting enmity, in particular on the Internet. Manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are not uncommon.

At the same time, as a result of Islamization caused by the migration inflow of population and stronger anti-migrant sentiment the religious legislation and the attitude to different religions in general have tightened. For instance, in June 2018 the Parliament endorsed the amendments to the Law on Education of 1998, which introduce a ban on wearing face-covering headgear for kindergarten staff and teachers and professors at schools and universities during the lectures.

Surveys conducted by the Center for Holocaust Studies in 2017 showed that 75 per cent of the Norwegian Jews fear discrimination and hostile actions; 8.3 per cent of respondents display prejudice against the Jews, among the Norwegian Muslims this figure is 28.9 per cent.

According to the Oslo Police report, an increase in hate speech in 2015‑2018 amounted to 66 per cent. 57 per cent of it is in relation to the ethnic origin, 17 per cent – to religion, 3 per cent – to disability, and 3 per cent – to anti-Semitism.

The poll results presented in the report by the Norwegian Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research "Attitude to Discrimination, Equality and Hate Speech" (March 2019) show that 25 per cent of Norwegians consider representatives of certain races "more cultured", 39 per cent believe those coming from Somalia will never become "true Norwegians", 22 per cent say the same about the Swedes, while 16 per cent say that about the black people. 33 per cent of the respondents fear of passing by a group of Muslim-looking people, 35 per cent believe that a woman wearing a hijab cannot expect to be treated equally. 38 per cent of the respondents would not like to have the Gypsies as neighbors and 16 per cent – the Muslims.

The Police Security Service notes increasing right-wing extremism (it is largely caused by the surge of the refugee inflow several years ago) and enhanced cooperation between the neo-Nazi representatives from Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

According to the law enforcement agencies (report by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice "Right-Wing Extremism in Norway: Developments, Conspiracy Theories and Strategies for Prevention", October 22, 2018; report by the Police Security Service "Supporters of the Right-Extremism in Norway, Who are they?", March 1, 2019), in Norway there are several right-wing groups embracing the ideas of national and racial exclusiveness. However, the Norwegian far-right representatives are rather scattered and the number of the active members is less than 50.

The Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) registered in Norway in 2011 but coordinated from Sweden is believed to be the most organized nationalist group. Its ideology is based on the belief in "the global Jewish conspiracy" and its supporters consider themselves "national socialists". Activists participate in the neo-Nazi demonstrations (mostly in Sweden and Finland), put up posters, and distribute flyers. They do it publicly and do not conceal their identities, they avoid clearly violent methods of combating (although they do not fully abandon them "if needed"). Like political parties, the NMR organizes "educational" events, youth summer camps, "family" events, and celebrations. 

Other existing right-wing groups are mostly marginalized and are "branches" of the European organizations, such as PEGIDA, The Soldiers of Odin, Stop Islamisation of Norway, Norwegian Defence League, Fatherland Party, Norwegian People's Party, Stop Migration, White Electoral Alliance, Norwegian Patriots, Democrats, the Alliance parties. At the same time, international ideological movements, such as identerians ("the new right‑wingers") and "the alternative right-winger", are getting more popular in Norway (especially among the young people).

At the same time, it can be stated that due to historical reasons (Norway was occupied by the Nazi Germany in 1940-1945, there was a resistance movement, although limited, so the Nazism "vaccine" is still active in the country) the potential of the national-socialist ideology in Norway is low. The attitude of the Norwegian society to the manifestations of neo-Nazism is by and large negative. The society remains averse to fascism. The authorities prevent any form of glorification of the Nazi movement, former SS members, including Waffen-SS.

Recently, the human rights community has criticized the police, as they use and store private personal data.

The 2018 NIM report notes that in June 2018, the Communication Control Committee (Kontrollutvalget for kommunikasjons kontroll) which oversees the police, drew the attention of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice to the systematic violation of the rules for the removal of data obtained during the operational action for communication control (such data was stored longer than it should be). NIM believes that illegal data storage contradicts the Constitution of Norway and Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

On 4 March 2019, Aftenposten newspaper reported that during the exercise with the use of false base stations (devices for interception of phone calls), the police illegally collected information from the mobile phones of passers-by. In particular, they caught IMSIs which enable to identify the SIM‑card owner. The collected data was stored in the police data base for a year.

In 2018, intelligence services got into the focus of attention of human rights defenders.

For instance, the 2018 report of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Security Services notes that the PST repeatedly violated the Norwegian legislation by providing "oral" information for security clearance (according to the existing legislation, the information should be documented), including the information on political views preferences, and illegally monitored the suspects' chats.

The human right community is seriously concerned about the Law on the Military Intelligence under preparation (its main innovation is granting the intelligence services the right to collect and store information on those crossing the border of the country). Experts emphasize that the document contradicts international human rights agreements, in particular, it undermines the "protection" of the trust relationship of a number of professions, for example, lawyers communicating with clients, journalists obtaining information from the "sources", in fact, it introduces "mass surveillance" which threatens public legal security. Moreover, the document does not imply independent control (formally, it will be exercised by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Security Services, but only "selectively" and without the right to impose sanctions) which means that the Military Intelligence officers are in fact relieved of any responsibility when exercising their powers.

The NIM report also notes the excessive use of isolation in prisons as a custodial measure as well as enforcement measures, first and foremost, against mentally disabled prisoners.

In January 2019, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment under the Council of Europe after another monitoring cycle of the situation in this sphere in Norway also expressed its concern about the excessive use of prisoners isolation in the Norwegian prisons.

On 14 September 2018, referring to the report prepared by the Civic Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger in September 2018, the NRK state television and radio broadcasting company reported that the prisoners in the Arendal Prison had long been isolated which lead to their suffering from mental disorders and thoughts about suicide.

In his report of June 2019, the Civic Ombudsman notes that 20‑40 per cent of prisoners in the Oslo Prison are isolated for at least 22 hours. The prisoners also have to wait for medical assistance for an unreasonably long period of time.

Moreover, experts point to the delays in legal proceedings due to lack of personnel and underfunding of legal authorities which may affect independence of courts and undermine public legal security.

The rights of mentally disabled patients are still violated (the use of mechanical measures to restrain patients without due registration of reasons, adding drugs to food without notifying the patient, "treatment" with electrical current, no opportunity to go for a walk in the fresh air in the territory of a hospital, etc.).

Claims against the Norwegian migration authorities, related to the refugee situation, remain.

In the reception centers, refugees often face poor living conditions. In January 2019, the CPT once again criticized the accommodation conditions at Trandum Immigration Detention Centre (intended for persons to be expelled; the conditions there are similar to those in prison), calling the practice of the systematic use of handcuffs and conducting searches "unequivocally disproportionate and unacceptable". The committee called the Norwegian authorities to set the time limits for staying in Trandum of migrants released from prisons and subject to expulsion, to stop the detention of minor in the Centre and to enhance the communication of those detained with the outer world (for instance, to allow them to use mobile phones). Since January 2018, families with children have not been held in the Center.

The UNICEF report presented in March 2018 dedicated to the analysis of the actions of the European countries in relation to the refugee children notes that underage asylum-seekers in Norway (in 2017 there were 1055 of them) receive limited social and medical assistance, do not have a full opportunity to go to kindergartens or to get complete secondary education.

The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) believes the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) unlawfully refused to reconsider the cases of the 95 Afghan refugees, so-called "October children" (single teenagers from Afghanistan who came to Norway in October 2015 at the height of the migration crisis and were granted the right of temporary residence until they came of age). In November 2017, the Storting adopted an order obliging the Norwegian migration agencies to reconsider all cases related to the single asylum seekers from Afghanistan. 395 applications were accepted. 95 teenagers were refused as they submitted applications after the deadline – 2 May 2018.

Human rights defenders are also concerned about the methods used by the migration agencies to verify information on the applicants. According to the Institute for Social Research (ISF), UDI often takes its decisions on the revocation of residence permits due to the provision of false data only on the basis of the information from social media. Human rights defenders believe that such information cannot be considered fact-based and one cannot proceed from it when taking such important decisions as the revocation of a residence permit.

On 26 November 2018, the NRK state television and radio broadcasting company reported that being revoked of a residence permit, minor refugees are often deprived of the right to attend school. The proposal of the Socialist Left Party to introduce legislative amendments which would allow all minor refugees to attend schools was declined by the Parliament.

The tough migration and integration policy of the Government often results in the discrimination of migrants, including on the labour and housing markets, as well as by the police and the child protection service Barnevernet.

The Global Slavery Index 2018 published by the Walk Free Foundation human rights organization notes that in Norway about nine thousand people are slaves who are exploited on the labour market. The document reports on the migrants who get poor salary, live in inadequate housing, work 12 hours a day under threat or as a result of the fraud by an employer.

According to the research conducted in March 2018 by the University of Agder (Southern Norway), the Norwegian women with immigrant background are systematically discriminated on the labour market (in 25 per cent of cases their CVs are not even considered by employer).

According to the Norwegian Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research, the chances of the persons with foreign last names to get invited to a job interview are 25 per cent lower than of those having Norwegian ones.

Immigrants from other European countries, especially the ones from Eastern Europe, also face discrimination. The Polish diaspora, which is the largest one (150 thousand people, mostly labour migrants, work in construction industry and the service sector), emphasizes discrimination on the labour market (they note, for instance, when a native Norwegian appears at a construction site, general labour conditions change to the better), and biased attitude of the child protection services. Meanwhile, it is stated that the problems the Polish people face are caused by their poor knowledge of Norwegian, social and cultural differences, and weak integration into the Norwegian society.

At the same time, the authorities are taking steps to overcome discrimination on the labour market. In April 2019, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization announced that several state bodies would consider applicants' CVs anonymously "in a test mode". It was also reported that by the end of 2019 the Government would have presented an integration strategy aimed at ensuring the equality of migrants at work and in social life.

The country takes measures to support languages, cultures, and traditions of the Sami and national minorities. In 2018, the Storting established the Commission to Investigate the Norwegianisation Policy and Injustice against the Sami and Kven/Norwegian Finnish peoples which should submit a report by 1 September 2022. The Government is preparing a new Report to the Storting on National Minorities (the previous and the only one was presented in 2001).

The situation with the exercise of the rights of the indigenous people of the country, the Sami, who compactly live in three Northern counties – Finnmark, Troms, and Nordland – is difficult. In June 2019, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization of Norway submitted to the Storting (the Parliament) a report devoted to the state of the Sami language, culture and social life.

The document was prepared in accordance with the agreement between the Government and Sameting (the Sami Parliament) on annual informing of the Norwegian Parliament on the Sami policy instead of annual reports on the Sameting activities.

The report revealed numerous negative trends in the Sami community which have not yet been overcome by the authorities. Thus, the population in the areas of compact settlement of the Sami remains relatively stable (about 55.6 thousand people since 2011, while in the Sameting's unofficial lists there are about 17 thousand Sami). However, the proportion of older persons in these areas is higher than in the rest of Norway and the population is maintained due to the inflow of migrants of non-Sami origin (the population has doubled since 2011). The pure Sami population is expected to keep declining up to 2030.

Among the Sami, especially among men, the percentage of persons who have received higher education is lower than national average. The same trends are applied to the secondary education (not all of the Sami people complete their education).

The level of violence in the Sami community is high – surveys show that up to 45 per cent of the Sami have at some point been subjected to violence (compared to 29 per cent in the rest of Norway).

Figures showing the level of the Sami discrimination in different spheres are even worse – according to the Sami sources, it is 10 times higher in comparison with the discrimination of the Norwegian population (35 per cent vs 3.5 per cent). The Sami face negative attitude on social networks and in the media.

A separate chapter of the report is devoted to the state of and trends in the development of the Sami language (includes six dialects – Northern Sami, Southern Sami, Lule Sami, Pite Sami, Ume Sami, and Skolt Sami; all of them are included in the UNESCO list as endangered). The report states its weaker positions as the languages are gradually being eroded by the Norwegian "inclusions" (they were especially undermined during the "Norwegianisation" of the Sami). It is noted that the number of the Sami language native speakers is low. The report also shows that linguistic problem affects social sphere, for instance, health care, social care, etc. Even in the areas of compact settlement of the Sami there is lack of the correct diagnosis of diseases due to insufficient training of the medical personnel in the use of the professional terminology in the Sami language.

Sameting made comments on the most part of the report (the opportunity of publishing and posting comments to the sections and subsections of the report was foreseen initially). In most cases, the Sami Parliament emphasized the lack of measures to support the Sami people proposed in the report. First and foremost, it concern efforts to develop the Sami language, at the same time, it also relates to the measures to train students and teachers to study and teach in the Sami language, to develop social sphere in the Sami areas, to support art and culture, the Sami cultural heritage, agriculture, and the elaboration of "the Sami statistics" (nationwide statistics does not include the Sami component).

Concerning the situation on the whole, human rights defenders note that although the authorities do not make significant efforts to "redeem themselves" in the eyes of the Sami and national minorities (Kvens/Norwegian Finns, Jews, Forest Finns, Gypsies/Roma, Tater/Romani) that became "victims" of Oslo policy on their assimilation; the Sami rights are often violated , recently such violations have been taking place because of the implementation of the industrial projects in the territories of their traditional settlement.

In February 2019, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway decided to allow the mining company Nussir to mine copper in the Kvalsund municipality (Finnmark county) and dump the waste into the fjord. Meanwhile, local activists state that the planned production threatens reindeer herding and marine environment.

The Norwegian authorities also refused to suspend the construction of the wind farm conducted by the state company Statkraft on the Fosen Peninsula (Trøndelag county, the area of the traditional Sami reindeer herding) while a Norwegian reindeer husbandry directorate in the South Fosen was considering the case, even though the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed its concerns about the situation during the consideration of the combined 23rd/24th periodic reports of Norway on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in December 2018.

The NIM reports repeatedly noted that representatives of national minorities, especially women and children, are still facing the manifestations of discrimination. Gypsies feel disadvantaged on the housing and labour markets, they complain about the lack of opportunities to study their native language. For Jews, statements inciting to hatred and other manifestations of anti-Semitism are the main problem. Kvens/Norwegian Finns face difficulties with getting education in their native language and with the lack of published media in it, while Forest Finns have difficulties with the preservation of their culture on the whole.

In Norway, there is no deliberate discrimination against the Russian compatriots, however, given the constant fuelling of anti-Russian sentiment, there occur manifestations of negative attitude to the immigrants from Russia, they also experience biased attitude on the part of the Norwegian law enforcement agencies.

For instance, in 2018 the Norwegian citizens of Russian origin, Dasje Carlsen and Antone Nilsen, called up for military service were denied "security clearance".

In September 2018, due to the excessive suspiciousness of the Storting (the Parliament) administration Mikhail Bochkaryov, an employee of the Executive Office of the Federation Council, was arrested in Oslo on an unsubstantiated charge of espionage. The Russian citizen was released in October 2018. In April 2019, his case was closed "for lack of evidence", however, no apologies were made.

The Russian people often face offensive treatment at the airports, are subject to unreasonable search, seizure, and deportation.

There were cases of forced removal of children from the families of the Russian compatriots (the number of children removed reached 60), although in recent years, the problem has become less acute.

The peak of this phenomenon occurred in 2015–2016 when 19 and 24 children accordingly were forcibly removed upon the decision of the Norwegian child protection service.

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POLAND

Over the last few years, the human rights situation in Poland has tended to deteriorate due to the ongoing large-scale restructuring of the institutional and legal system initiated by the Law and Justice (PiS) national conservative party, which won the parliamentary elections in October 2015. Against this background, the Polish society is witnessing an increase in intolerance towards migrants and members of national and religious minorities.

Poland's fulfillment of its human rights obligations was thoroughly reviewed in May 2017 during the consecutive cycle of the Universal Periodic Review procedure within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council. Among the major problems mentioned were racial discrimination, xenophobia, prison overcrowding and non-compliance with the provisions of international treaties concerning refugees. Considerable attention was paid to Poland's violation of the rule of law and government interference in the editorial policy of public and private media.

In particular, human rights defenders point out that the Polish side continues to delay the investigation of the CIA secret prison case, which has been ongoing since 2008. The Krakow Appellate Prosecutor's Office says it is impossible to complete the investigation because of the lack of the necessary data from the U.S. side, which has consistently denied legal assistance. In the second half of 2014, the European Court of Human Rights found the Polish authorities guilty of violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and obliged Warsaw to pay compensation to the three victims who were in prisons of the CIA in the territory of Poland. In October 2016, in its concluding observations following the consideration of Poland's 7th periodic report, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the lack of progress in the investigation into the involvement of Polish officials in the detention in secret prisons, acts of torture and ill-treatment, as well as extraordinary rendition (including at the Stare Kiejkuty military base in the period from 2003 to 2005).[393] The lack of progress in the investigation of the possible involvement of Polish authorities in torture, ill-treatment of prisoners and extraordinary rendition in secret CIA prisons in a number of Polish cities in 2001-2008 was also pointed out by the Committee against Torture in its concluding observations following the consideration, in July 2019, of the 7th periodic report of Poland on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.[394]

The Polish Council of Youth Organizations and the Amnesty International NGO expressed concern about the significant cuts to the budget of the office of the Polish Ombudsman (RPO) and the abolition of the national Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2016. That was noted with concern by both the Human Rights Committee in October 2016 in its concluding observations following the consideration of Poland's 7th periodic report[395] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2019 in its concluding observations following the consideration of the combined 22nd–24th periodic reports[396], stressing that no institution with similar powers had been established. According to human rights defenders, the lack of resources and a separate budget of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of Poland for Equal Treatment has had a negative impact on the human rights situation.

Human rights defenders express concern about the state of the penitentiary system in Poland. Following the consideration, in October 2016, of the 7th periodic report of Warsaw on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the lack of a clearly defined period of pre-trial detention, the use of pre-trial detention solely on the basis of the severity of punishment, and about the possibility of extending pre-trial detention without specifying a period or reason for doing so.[397]

The Committee against Torture expressed concern at reports that, due to the lack of space in Polish prisons, approximately 40,000 convicts are awaiting execution of court sentences. In addition, in its concluding observations following the consideration, in July 2019, of Poland's 7th periodic report, the CAT referred to the inadequate condition of cells in pretrial detention facilities, including their lack of compliance with sanitary standards, as well as the shortage of medical personnel, especially in the field of psychiatry, in pretrial detention facilities and delays in attracting specialists from other medical institutions when necessary. As a result, incorrect diagnoses with regard to the health condition of detainees and deaths are not uncommon. In this context, the deplorable situation in that field in the Białystok Police Headquarters was mentioned. Furthermore, detainees are not allowed to meet with lawyers, including State-appointed ones. The Committee also raised the issue of the absence of time limits for pretrial detention in Polish criminal law, and the fact that current rules allowed for its extension without a court decision.

The Committee experts expressed concern about the amendments to the Criminal Code, which were hastily adopted by the Sejm in May 2019, aimed at dehumanizing Polish criminal law. For instance, these amendments provide for stricter penalties for a significant number of crimes, increase the upper limit (up to 30 years) and the lower limit of prison terms; reduce the grounds for non-custodial punishment; increase the terms of imprisonment after which convicts sentenced to life imprisonment or more than 20 years of imprisonment may apply for parole, as well as establish the penalty of life imprisonment without the right to pardon.

The Committee also noted that persons with a mental disorder are placed in long-term institutional care (up to 49 years). Moreover, for non-serious crimes, much longer periods of forced treatment are imposed than prison sentences for common offenders.[398], In its concluding observations following the consideration, in September 2016, of Poland's 6th periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights pointed to the lack of adequate funding for mental health institutions and services, as well as insufficient judicial supervision of the admission and stay of persons in psychiatric institutions.[399]

The human rights community has criticized the excessive use of force and abuse of power by Polish law enforcement authorities. In July 2018, the Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) released a report on its visit to Poland in May 2017, which contained notes of cases of excessive use of force by Polish law enforcement agencies against detainees who did not resist arrest and charges of violence during interrogations.

The Committee against Torture also noted the excessive use of force by Polish law enforcement officials, including in relation to handcuffed detainees, and subsequent refusals to provide the necessary medical care for victims. The Committee also pointed out that the police officers responsible for the abuse of power were not held accountable. One of the most resonant cases was the death of Igor Stachowiak in May 2016. Four police officers accused of abuse of authority in the treatment of a prisoner returned to work after a short period of suspension, despite the fact that their case was still ongoing.[400]

The human rights community criticized the Polish authorities for the use of torture by penitentiary staff on prisoners and detainees. It was noted that there was a marked imbalance between the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment filed by victims and the number of cases investigated. That imbalance was observed despite the fact that the Polish Prosecutor's Office had prepared recommendations for the investigation of murders and ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officials. In that regard, the Committee against Torture indicated that in 2016, out of 39,000 such complaints concerning ill‑treatment by prison staff, detention conditions and quality of medical services, only 377 were found to be justified.[401]

Criticism of human rights defenders has been raised against the extensive reform of the Polish judicial system, which has affected the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, as well as the courts of general jurisdiction. The Polish authorities have been accused of attempting to take control of judicial proceedings and to limit the independence of judges. In December 2017, the European Commission found that there was a clear threat of a serious violation of the rule of law by Poland. The Human Rights Committee in October 2016[402] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2019[403] expressed concern about the negative impact of legislative reforms in November-December 2015 and July 2016 on the functioning of the Polish Constitutional Court, which could undermine the independence of the judiciary as a whole, as well as the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Among the problematic aspects of the functioning of the Polish judicial system, the Human Rights Committee also identified unjustified delays in court proceedings, difficulties in obtaining legal assistance at the time of arrest, and insufficient confidentiality of communication between lawyers and their clients in detention.[404]

In 2016, the government undertook a number of reforms to establish control over the media with state participation. In particular, the Act on the National Media Council and the Act on Payment for Audiovisual Services were adopted. The Polish Parliament granted the government the right to appoint and dismiss heads of state television and radio. Around 140 journalists were dismissed as a result of "personnel purges".

In June 2018, the Amnesty International NGO noted in its report on Poland that participants in street rallies against the authorities' reforms were prosecuted by the state (632 cases against protesters were filed with Warsaw courts in 2017, and none in 2016). According to human rights defenders, this is facilitated by amendments to the Law on Assembly, which have been in force since April 2017 and effectively prohibit the organization of counter-demonstrations in places where pro-government events are held. The Polish authorities give preference to nationalist organizations and associations loyal to them when issuing authorizations for demonstrations, and put leaders of protest movements under surveillance. Similar assessments were made in the report on freedom of assembly in Poland in 2016-2018 published in September 2018 by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights.

Strong criticism from the Polish opposition, a large part of the public, as well as international Jewish organizations was triggered by the adoption in Poland in February 2018 of a package of amendments to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, according to which, inter alia, "attributing to the Polish people and the Polish state publicly and contrary to the facts of responsibility or a share of responsibility for Nazi crimes of the Third Reich" was punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 years. The Human Rights Committee also expressed concern about that draft law following the consideration, in October 2016, of Poland's 7th periodic report.[405] As a result, at the end of June 2018, the Polish Parliament adopted further amendments to the above-mentioned Act, abolishing the criminal penalty and its extraterritoriality.

In recent years, there have been cases of political persecution of Russian journalists, scientists and public figures in Poland. For instance, in December 2015, the correspondent of RIA Novosti Leonid Sviridov was forced to leave the country as the Polish authorities accused him of unauthorized activities (without specifying their nature or presenting evidence) and deprived him of journalistic accreditation and residence permit in Poland.

In October 2017, the Russian historian Dmitri Karnaukhov, who was accused of "activities contrary to Polish interests", was expelled from Poland, also with no explanation given as to what kind of activities those were and no evidence provided. In addition, at the initiative of the Polish authorities, two Russian political scientists Oleg Bondarenko and Alexei Martynov were banned entry into Schengen zone countries in late 2017 – early 2018.

In May 2018, Russian citizens Ekaterina Tsivilskaya and A.V. Smirnova were detained in Poland and expelled from the country on charges of participation in the "hybrid war against Poland" and the activities of alleged two "network organizations". Both Russian citizens were activists opposed to the liquidation of the Soviet/Russian military and memorial heritage. In October 2018, it became known that two more Russian citizens, I.A.Stolyarchik and O.Rotkhstein, were expelled from Poland for similar activities, allegedly because they posed a "threat to the security" of the country. In June 2018, it was reported that Polish law enforcement agencies had searched the house of the head of the Brotherhood of Poland and Russia NGO Piotr Radtke, who was in favour of normalizing bilateral relations.

From May 2016 to May 2019 Mateusz Piskorski, a public figure and the leader of the unregistered Zmiana party, was kept in a detention center on suspicion of spying for Russia and China. It was only on April 20, 2018 that he was officially charged. The incident was highlighted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council. In May 2019, Mateusz Piskorski was released on bail in the amount of 200,000 zloty (around 54,000 U.S. dollars), while his trial, which began in autumn 2018, continued. In connection with Piskorski's arrest, a number of media outlets drew attention to the fact that, on the initiative of the Internal Security Agency (counterintelligence), the Polish parliament was considering a draft law that would expand the definition of spy activities in the national criminal code to include, in particular, interaction with foreign news agencies and research institutions that was contrary to Polish state interests.

International human rights structures noted with concern the increased powers of Polish intelligence and law enforcement agencies in surveillance and eavesdropping of citizens' personal contacts, as set out in the Counter-Terrorism Act of June 2016 and amendments to the Police Act, as well as in several other regulations. In particular, it was pointed to the unrestricted and non-selective nature of message surveillance and metadata collection, the special attention paid by Polish law enforcement agencies to foreign nationals and the application of other legal criteria to them, the lack of proper judicial supervision of such activities by intelligence services, and the absence of a mechanism for appealing against such actions.

Human rights defenders emphasized that the Counter-Terrorism Act adopted in June 2016 gives Polish law enforcement agencies broad powers, including the surveillance of Polish citizens and foreigners, as well as the blocking of any Internet resources without notice or court authorization. The Human Rights Committee expressed concern about that, as well as the inaccurate definition used in the Act of the concept, the nature of "terrorist acts" and the consequences of such acts, as well as the provision that a 14-day period of pre-trial detention without charges might be used, with the possibility of its extension.[406] According to human rights organizations, some provisions of the Act are based solely on anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim prejudice. That can be illustrated by the case cited by the Amnesty International NGO of the deportation of an Iraqi student from Poland in April 2017, who, according to Polish law enforcement agencies, posed a "security threat". At the same time, repressive measures against Russians and Polish citizens with a constructive attitude towards Russia are largely ignored by Polish human rights defenders.

Also of concern to Polish human rights organizations is the law adopted by the Polish government in late 2016 within the framework of "lustration", which provides for the reduction of pensions of citizens who served in the Polish security agencies between July 22, 1944 and July 31, 1990.

Human rights organizations and the Polish media highlight the lack of effectiveness in actions by the authorities against neo-Nazism and the steady increase in racist and racially motivated crimes in the country. According to media reports, the size of the active neo-Nazi community is estimated at about 600-700 people. And according to the Polish NGO Never Again (Nigdy Więcej), there are several thousand active supporters of Nazism in Poland, with between 10,000 and 20,000 people under their influence.[407]

The National Radical Camp (ONR) movement is becoming increasingly popular. Despite its scandalous reputation, it already has several dozen regional departments, the influx of young people into its ranks is constantly growing, and representatives of the ONR have begun to appear in the central media. According to recent surveys, 38 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 share the views of ONR.[408] Brigades of national radicals participate in various "patriotic" events organized by the authorities and Catholic circles. According to media reports, the authorities finance the travel of ONR participants to marches and demonstrations and provide city facilities for their events.[409]  

In addition to the ONR, Poland has numerous marginalized ultra-right and neo-Nazi groups. The most visible of these groups is still the National Revival of Poland (NOP), the oldest nationalist association in the country. After the NOP leaders expressed their support for Ukrainian nationalists, they have largely lost popularity among their Polish supporters. However, in the past few years, members of the group have become active in the UK territory. The so-called London unit of the NOP cooperates with the neo-Nazi National Action and, according to the State of Hate annual British report, is considered to be one of the most serious foreign neo-Nazi organizations in the Kingdom practicing violence and vandalism.[410]

Although Article 13 of the Polish Constitution prohibits "political parties and other organizations… whose programmes or activities promote racial or national hatred", participation in the activities of such organizations is not prohibited by law. Accordingly, organizations propagating racial hatred, openly committed to the ideology of Nazism and fascism and publicly displaying these symbols are openly operating in the country. Concerns about the activities of such organizations were expressed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2019 following the consideration of Poland's combined 22nd–24th periodic reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.[411]

All over Poland there are organizations of this kind which are officially engaged in "educational and patriotic" work among young people. The similarity of their names (Elbląg Patriots, Ostrowiec Patriots, Małopolska Patriots (Krakow), United Patriots (Gliwice) and the nature of the activities carried out (glorification of "damned soldiers" or National Armed Forces[412]) give experts reason to speak about the establishment of a nationwide network of similar nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations with similar statutory objectives. Most of them have received the status of "socially useful organizations" and are able to participate in grant competitions for "patriotic" events (for example, marches in memory of the "damned soldiers").

The following cases should also be mentioned. In May 2017, in a forest near Włodzisław Śląskie (Silesian Voivodeship), members of the Pride and Modernity organization celebrated Adolf Hitler's birthday, using Nazi symbols extensively. On November 11, 2018 in Warsaw, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Polish independence, after the official parade with the participation of the country's President and Prime Minister, right-wing radicals marched through the capital, chanting racist slogans and displaying the relevant symbols. On February 23, 2019 on the occasion of the Day of the "Damned Soldiers"[413], nationalist radicals, despite protests by local authorities and residents, held a march in Hajnówka (Podlaskie Voivodeship), where a significant number of Orthodox Belarusians live, whose ancestors fell victim to the anti-communist underground in the post-war period. On April 19, 2019 in the town of Pruhnyk (Podkarpackie Voivodeship), as part of the Easter festivities, a group of residents beat with sticks and burned stuffed Judas represented as an Orthodox Jew. According to the media, on May 14, 2019, the District Prosecutor's Office in the town of Przemyśl, which has jurisdiction over Pruhnyk, refused to institute criminal proceedings on that incident.

As part of the unilateral campaign to present Poland as the "main victim" of the Second World War, the authorities are cultivating the memory of the tragedy of that era and the victims of the war. Every year, on a national scale, there are memorial activities dedicated to the significant historical events of 1939‑1945 (the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939, the "Soviet attack on Poland" on September 17, 1939, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the dates of liberation of Nazi concentration camps in Poland, etc.). At the same time, almost all memorable dates associated with the liberation of Poland by Soviet troops are kept silent. A part of that campaign is formed by efforts of the Polish authorities to "fight" against monuments to soldiers of the Red Army having liberated Poland.

For instance, according to the amendments made to the so-called decommunization law in 2017, within a year from the moment of their entry into force, any objects "symbolizing communism or other totalitarian system or propagandizing this system", which include monuments to the Soviet soldiers-liberators not connected with burials, should have been removed from public space. As a result, 28 monuments were dismantled in Poland in 2018 in violation of the Treaty on Friendly and Good-Neighbourly Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Poland of May 22, 1992 and the intergovernmental Agreement on Burial Sites and Places of Memory of Victims of Wars and Repressions of February 22, 1994. In particular, the local authorities demolished such significant memorial objects as the Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army Soldiers in the Skaryszewski Park in Warsaw, the monument to the Soviet-Polish Brotherhood in Arms in Legnica (Lower Silesian Voivodeship), the Monument to the Glory of the Red Army in Szczecin (West Pomeranian Voivodeship). Vandalism on the objects of the Russian military and memorial heritage does not cease: in 2018 alone five such cases were recorded with regard to burial sites and six cases with regard to monuments.

A vivid example is the situation around the obelisk in Pogorzelice, located on the burial site of Soviet and Polish soldiers who died in March 1945 in the battles for the liberation of the area. The object was listed in the catalogue of burials of Soviet soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians who perished during the Second World War and were buried on the territory of the Republic of Poland prepared by the Russian and Polish sides in 2003. In December 2018, that monument was demolished as part of the "decommunization" campaign. In early September 2019, the Institute of National Remembrance of Poland conducted a search on the site of the demolished monument and found evidence of a burial – human bones. Despite this, the Polish side denies the existence of a burial of Soviet soldiers in Pogorzelice village, indicating that in the postwar period the remains of soldiers were allegedly reburied in the cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Lębork. However, there are no documents confirming this fact, including in the Polish Red Cross Committee.

According to the estimates published in January 2019 by the Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, the number of crimes motivated by ethnic and racial hatred in 2016-2018 remained "very high". In particular, according to the National Prosecutor's Office, in 2015 law enforcement agencies investigated 1,548 cases of such crimes, 1,631 cases in 2016, and 1,449 cases in 2017. If we take into account the episodes for which the initiation of cases was denied, their total number in 2017 was 1,708. A significant proportion of crimes (328) were committed against Muslims, the number of offences against which has almost doubled since 2015. Apart from followers of Islam, among the most vulnerable ethnic groups in Poland are still Jews, Ukrainians and Roma. The number of complaints of this kind handled by the Office of the Ombudsman is also increasing: from 40 in 2015 to 100 in 2017. The growth of xenophobia in Poland is facilitated by the fact that the ruling PiS Party feeds anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic sentiments in the society and turns a blind eye to the activities of such right-wing radical organizations as the National Radical Camp, the All‑Polish Youth and the National Movement.

The UN human rights treaty bodies have repeatedly expressed concern about the growing number of cases of violence, manifestation of hatred and discrimination based on racial, national, ethnic and religious affiliation, as well as the insufficient response of the Polish authorities to such incidents. In particular, that was pointed out by the Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations on Poland in October 2016. The Committee recommended that Warsaw intensify its efforts to prevent and eradicate all acts of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, including by improving the efficiency of law enforcement authorities' response to incidents connected with hate speech, as well as hate crimes.[414]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, following the consideration of Poland's combined 22nd–24th periodic reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, expressed deep concern about the spread of racist hate speech against minority groups, in particular Muslims, Roma, Ukrainians, people of African and Asian descent, Jews and migrants, as well as refugees. Such statements, according to the Committee, are often made by leading public figures, including politicians and media representatives. Of particular concern to CERD was the use of hate speech and negative stereotypes in the media when describing minority communities, the prevalence of websites promoting racial hatred, and the use of xenophobic rhetoric in election campaigns.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that hate crimes are not always reported to law enforcement authorities. Moreover, some of such reports are not recorded by the competent authorities and are not investigated as crimes. In this regard, CERD is also concerned that Articles 119, 256 and 257 of the Criminal Code, which criminalize hate crimes and hate speech, do not mention all grounds for incitement to hatred (in particular, the concept of "colour" is not included).[415]

The fact that hate crimes are not always reported to Polish law enforcement agencies was also highlighted by the Committee against Torture in July 2019. With reference to the study by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on the nature and extent of unreported hate crimes, the low level of trust in police was cited as the main reason.[416]

In December 2018, the EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights published the report Experiences and Perceptions of Anti-Semitism based on the survey on discrimination and hatred against Jews in the European Union (conducted in May-June 2018 in 13 EU member states, including Poland, where 1,233 people were interviewed).[417] According to the final data, 89 per cent of Polish respondents of Jewish origin consider racism in the country to be "a very big problem". At the same time, 85 per cent of respondents called anti-Semitism a "very big" or "quite big" problem (39 per cent and 46 per cent respectively). Among the forms of manifestations of anti-Semitism in Poland, which have become most widespread over the last five years, 92 per cent mentioned the Internet and social networks, 77 per cent – political rhetoric, 73 per cent – media publications.

Comparative data on the situation of Jews in Poland and other EU countries is indicative. For instance, Poland is in the first place by the number of respondents who in the last 12 months have witnessed verbal or physical aggression against Jews (32 per cent) and in the third place by the number of respondents whose family members have been subjected to verbal or physical aggression (25 per cent). In general, 32 per cent of respondents in the last 12 months and 45 per cent in the last five years have been the objects of aggressive manifestations of anti-Semitism (threats by e-mail, phone calls, harassment, offensive comments or gestures, inadequately long looks, comments in social networks).

Moreover, the position of Jews in Poland is characterized by the highest degree of distrust in the EU towards the government's actions to combat anti-Semitism. 91 per cent of respondents believe that the authorities do "nothing" or "almost nothing" in this area. The feeling of complete inaction of the authorities correlates with the number of appeals to law enforcement agencies of Poland on the facts of particularly grave manifestations of anti-Semitism: 79 per cent of victims reported their refusal to seek help from the law enforcement agencies.

Despite the lack of distinct ethnic divisions in modern Poland, a number of national minorities are unable to fully exercise their rights. The insufficient measures taken by the Polish authorities to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of national and ethnic minorities were pointed out by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2016 in its concluding observations following the consideration of Poland's 6th periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[418]

Roma are in the most vulnerable situation. International universal and regional human rights monitoring organizations constantly draw attention to discrimination against Roma in all spheres of Polish public life. For example, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance operating within the Council of Europe has indicated that not all children from Roma families are fully enrolled in school – more than 50 per cent have been unable to complete primary school and about 30 per cent attend remedial education institutions due to "learning disabilities". The Roma population in Poland has the highest poverty and unemployment rates (the latter reaching 80 per cent). The majority of Roma live in poor housing conditions and more than 20 per cent do not have access to amenities such as electricity, water, sewerage, etc.

In August 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also expressed concern about the situation of the Roma in Poland. The Committee noted, in particular, the continuing structural discrimination against Roma, the low attendance of Roma children at primary and secondary school and their insufficient representation in the higher education system. CERD experts indicated that members of that national minority lived in extreme poverty in segregated neighbourhoods that lacked adequate infrastructure. The continuing high level of unemployment among the Roma population as well as the significant wage gap between the Roma and the rest of the society were also noted. Furthermore, the Roma in Poland are often targets of hate crimes, without receiving adequate protection, and are often ethnically profiled by law enforcement officials.[419] Similar concerns regarding the situation of Polish Roma had been expressed earlier, in September 2016, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[420]

International monitoring structures point to the existing problems of migrants in Poland. For instance, human rights defenders note that a significant number of migrants, including parents with children and unaccompanied migrant children, are detained in guarded prison-type centres. This traumatizes children and deprives them of the possibility of obtaining a full-time education. In addition, border guard officers prevent asylum seekers from entering the territory of Poland or deny them access to asylum procedures. Refusals by Polish authorities to accept Muslim refugees have also been noted. At the same time, experts point out the continuing occurrence of hate crimes against migrants. Those problems were mentioned in particular by the Human Rights Committee in October 2016[421], the Committee against Torture in July 2019[422] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2019[423].

Experts specifically draw attention to the widespread practice in Poland of expelling foreigners seeking asylum without considering their applications. This practice is used by the Polish authorities, including with regard to Russian citizens of Chechen nationality from whom Polish border officials refuse to accept applications for refugee status during the crossing of the Belarus-Poland border.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern at a number of socio-economic problems in the country. In particular, the Committee noted the high level of poverty and extreme poverty most often affecting families with three or more children, as well as vulnerable population groups such as the unemployed, pensioners, farmers, migrants, members of the Roma community and homeless persons, and recommended that the Polish authorities develop targeted support measures for such persons in that regard. CESCR experts also pointed out that there was a significant housing deficit in Poland, including a shortage of social housing and temporary shelters. That was, in their view, due to the lack of available municipal premises and financial resources for the construction of new houses. As a result, the housing deficit is in practical terms reflected in the fact that a significant proportion of the population lives in overcrowded apartments; there is a large list of persons claiming social housing that involves long periods of waiting. In addition, evicted persons do not receive alternative housing but are relocated to shelters for the homeless.[424]

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PORTUGAL

The government of Portugal pays great attention to human rights aspects in conducting its domestic and foreign policy.

Portugal undertakes efforts to resolve the migration crisis. For instance, Lisbon expressed its readiness to make its contribution to address this problem and accommodate additionally 5,800 migrants from Italy and Greece above the EU quota of 4,486 people. Moreover, Portugal announced its readiness to host on its territory 1010 refugees in accordance with the new program of voluntary resettlement from Turkey and other third countries to the European Union. During 2018 – first half of 2019 the Portuguese authorities relocated to the national territory several groups of migrants who tried to reach the European continent by the Mediterranean route. Besides, as the official statistics of the Ministry of Domestic Administration show not all of refugees arriving to Portugal stay in the country. Many of them (about 40 per cent) try to leave Portugal as soon as possible and move independently to other EU member states with more favorable system of distribution of social subventions (Germany, France, Great Britain).

However, the human rights monitoring agencies pointed at the existing short-comings in terms of migrants' accommodation. In particular, Portugal applies common practice of provisional detention, typical for the European countries. The fact that this practice is applied to unaccompanied migrant children and migrants with children was pointed out by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2019.[425]

The ECRI also expressed its concerned that the vast majority of children born form migrants in Portugal have no permanent residence permit, and their parents are under threat of deportation. The main reasons are the insufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language, absence of support in having access to education, problems in the home environment, and as a consequence disadvantage at the labor market, decline in income, and unfavorable conditions for the next generations.[426] As in the past the domestic violence and violence against children, human trafficking, conditions of detention, racial discrimination and tortures of detainees, police brutality, bureaucratization, and the slow pace of court proceedings, remain among the problem aspects of the Portugal human rights files.

The wide spread family violence was pointed out by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights upon the examination in November 2014 of the forth periodical report of Portugal on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[427]

In accordance with statistics contained in the Report on Domestic Security published in March 2019, in 2018 there were 22,423 cases of home violence registered by the law enforcement agencies (176 cases less in than in 2017). 24 people were killed as a result of home violence.

Only during the first four months of 2019 14 women were killed as a result of family conflicts in Portugal. In this connection the local government announced the national mourning on 7 March 2019. There were mass protests in a number of cities to attract the public attention to the growing acute problem of home violence.

Numerous cases of abuse of power by law enforcement officers still persist (Public Security Police, National Republican Guard, Immigration and Border Service) and prison guards. It is noted in particular that in 2017 in Portugal 772 relevant complaints were registered, out of which only on 102 cases disciplinary measures were taken or criminal proceeding were instituted. The human rights activists also point to the lengthy provisional detention (from six months to one year) due first of all to in effectiveness of the judicial system, the lack of staff, and lengthy administrative procedures. As other problems in the penitentiary area they single out the joint detention of minor and adult detainees as well as convicts with the persons under investigation, refusal of legal aid to these persons and contacts with relatives and problems of subsequent social rehabilitation. Moreover, the cases of power abuse with respect to refugees and migrants, home violence, violence against children and human trafficking remain alarming. The prevalence of this phenomenon, especially with respect to Gypsies, Muslims, persons of African descent and migrants was indicated by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination upon the results of examination in 2016 of joint 15th‑17th periodic reports of Portugal on the implementation of the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.[428]

In accordance with the statistics of the European Committee on the Prevention of Tortures functioning within the Council of Europe the number of detainees continues to grow, which only aggravates the problem of prison overcrowding: from 2010 to 2017 their number increased by 20.6 per cent and totaled over 14,000 people.

In 2016, six cases of suicide were registered in the penitentiary institutions. The latest ECPP report on Portugal (January 2018) notes that prison overcrowding in that country is 110 per cent. The worst numbers were recorded in the prisons of Setúbal (200 per cent), Porto (180 per cent), Caxias (160 per cent) and Lisbon (150 per cent). The situation is not improving either in the towns of Paços de Ferreira and Linho where, according to human rights NGOs, the inadequate conditions of detention still persist.

The human trafficking problem remains acute and even continues to acquire new forms. According to the statistics of Human Trafficking Monitoring Center in 2017 175 people were categorized as potential victims of human trafficking, including 150 Portuguese or foreigners subjected to slavery in the territory of Portugal and 25 – Portuguese citizens sold abroad. The 2018 data have not been published yet. It is to be noted that according to official statistics of the Immigration and Border Service in 2017 only 20 cases of trafficking in persons were registered. However, the Portuguese media note, with reference to the sources within the Service itself, this figure is not true and has been scaled down over twenty times. This, as they present it, is an evidence of total incompetence of the Portuguese migration authorities in this area. It is noted that approximately 16 per cent of cases of trafficking in persons were related to sexual slavery. The main countries of origin of the victims of human trafficking were Romania, Brazil, Angola, Nigeria, Moldova and Nepal. The practice of using Portugal as a staging post to bring in children and adolescents from Africa to the Schengen zone and their subsequent resale to the client exploiters in France and Germany is not slowing down.

The stereotype attitude and prejudice with regard to Africans and persons of African origin, Gypsy community, migrants and Muslims have been noted in the Portuguese society. The hatred statements and racist conduct against persons belonging to these minorities have been recorded in the area of sport, media and Internet.

There are no statistical data on the number of incidents related to instigation of hatred in the Internet but the report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance points to hundreds of ultraright messages in the Internet forums aimed at incitement to hostility against the Gypsies, persons of African descent and Muslims. Only few media moderate the comments before their publication on their site and filter out the messages that contain the language of hatred.[429]

Human rights activists note that there are no programs in that country directly aimed at addressing the problems of persons of African descent. Among other concerns they fear that discriminatory and stereotype illustrations concerning the Gypsy community and people of African origin may be contained in the school textbooks. This was indicated by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.[430]

According to the data of the Eurobarometer for 2015 only 64 per cent from 1005 respondents in Portugal believe that the discrimination on ethnic origins is widespread in the country, 65 per cent – on gender identity, 32 per cent – on religion and 30 per cent – is gender-based. 19 per cent answered that they would feel uneasy if the Gypsies were their colleagues at work, 12 per cent gave a similar response with regard to Muslims, 8 per cent with regard to persons of African, Jewish or Asian origin or with black, Jewish, Buddhist or Asian colleagues.[431]

The groups of national, ultraright and neo-Nazi type (including the National Renewal Party) use the language of hatred aimed at instigation of interethnic tensions, first of all in the Internet. In November 2016 the police arrested 20 people for instigation to hatred and murder attempt and armed burglary who presumably belonged to the Hammerskins group which propagates the ideology of "white race" supremacy. The members of extremist national groups disrupted the SOS demonstration against racism and the police officers present there did not interfere.

The ECRI pointed at the existing concerns that some police officers sympathize to these groups, the members of which in turn work in the law enforcement agencies.[432]

According to the report of the ECRI the level of unemployment among the persons of African origin is much higher (33 per cent in 2015), they get low qualified jobs three times more often and earn on average 103 euro less per month. Quite often they cannot find a job correspondent to their qualification and most of them work at factories, kitchens and supermarkets sometimes without signing employment contracts, fraught with the risk of exploitation. Very few of them hold public offices.[433]

Some persons of African origin were relocated in the framework of social housing construction programs started in the 90th. However, these programs led to territorial segregation since the main construction sites were located far from the city centers. The number of migrant students in school in these areas is high. The migrants who arrived after the 1990 census which constituted the basis of these relocation programs were not included in these programs and continue to live in the slum settlements and the areas with low quality housing under permanent threat of forced eviction without a prior notice and without the possibility to receive legal remedies and decent housing from the authorities.[434]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that the Gypsy community of Portugal confronts discrimination practically in all areas of life. A large number of Gypsies live in unsatisfactory conditions, in unofficial settlements in informal shantytowns or tents quite often in the remote areas practically without access to main services such as drinking water and sanitation, electricity and transport. Moreover, many Gypsies have no right to social housing in the framework of the special Resettlement Program since the applicants were determined on the basis of census of informal gypsy settlements conducted in 1993.[435] As a result, many of them continue to live in shantytowns or several families in one apartment quite often without access to electricity or sanitary and hygienic services.[436]

Such living conditions are one of the reasons why the prevailing majority of Gypsy children living in this area drop out from school after the fifth year – 10‑12 years old – and cannot obtain professional education.[437] The Committee on the Rights of the Child[438] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[439] also expressed concerns with the low indicators of Gypsy children enrolment in these schools. Many Gypsy children continue to be enrolled in the segregated schools or classes and many of them are discriminated against. Engagement in traditional activity for Gypsy families such as street trade is becoming increasingly complicated due to introduction of more strict legal regulations.[440]

The Report of the Amnesty International NGO for 2017–2018 on human rights situation in Portugal has singled out the following problems: abuse of power by the law enforcement forces, inadequate detention conditions, inequality of access to public health services, tortures and other types of brutal treatment, violence against women, reduced level of accessibility of services to persons with disabilities and continued discrimination against the Gypsy community. The Amnesty International also draws attention to the fact that the Portuguese legislation does not recognize the sexual act without the consent of one of the parties as an act of violence.

In 2019 the European Court of Human Rights passed 345 judgments against Portugal where it established that 262 cases contained violations of at least one of the articles of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Traditionally most of the procedures against Portugal in the ECtHR against Portugal are related to bureaucratization and protracted judicial proceedings.

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ROMANIA

The Constitution of Romania adopted in 1991 and amended in 2003 guarantees all the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. At the same time, according to international treaties and EU directives concerning Romania, Bucharest has undertaken several commitments to prevent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, racial or national discrimination.

The Commissioner for Human Rights established in 1997 is the key authority overseeing the respect of human rights in Romania; it consists of the central office and 15 regional offices.

In these days this agency has increased its activity, the number of inspections for the facts of human rights violations by Romanian executive bodies and the number of recommendations issued to authorities to fill identified gaps are growing.

From 9,217 registered grievances to the Commissioner most concerned issues of respecting universal suffrage (2,981 applications in 2018, one in 2017), access to justice (2,333 and 1,866 cases respectively), interaction with State authorities (1,637 and 1,727 cases), respecting the principle of equality before the law (1,280 and 143 cases) and the right to private property (907 and 1,018 cases).

As of year-end 2018, Romania was second among the Council of Europe member States by the number of grievances submitted by citizens (8,511, i.e. more than 15 per cent of the total) and fourth by the number of decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights on violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and of fundamental freedoms. Most convictions of the ECtHR are related to poor prison conditions, unsubstantiated arrests and detentions, violation of the right to a fair trial.

In May 2018, the ECtHR issued a final judgement concerning detainees of CIA secret prisons in Romania. In fact, this is the first time the Strasbourg court has acknowledged the existence of such facilities in the territory of Romania, hitherto denied by official Bucharest. The Court obliged Romania to pay to the aggrieved Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammad al-Nasiri, who had been detained in the CIA secret prison in the territory of Romania in 2004–2005, 100,000 euros due to the violation by Romanian authorities of the ECHR articles prohibiting torture and granting the right to freedom, privacy and adequate defence. Romanian authorities have been criticized in relation to this affair by the Human Rights Committee in its final observations upon examination of the 5th periodical report of Romania in October 2017[441] and by the Committee against Torture in its final observations upon examination of the 2nd periodical report of Romania in May 2015[442].

Several reports from human rights monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, as well as from the ECtHR and local human rights NGO, indicates that domestic violence against women is a serious social problem in Romania. Criticisms of Bucharest in this regard were expressed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Experts of the CEDAW expressed concern about the reported cases of ill-treatment, contemporary forms of slavery and sexual exploitation of Romanian women. The Committee stressed a high rate of complaint withdrawn by the victims of domestic violence. Another problem in this field is the fact that many Romanian women become victims of cross-border human trafficking.[443]

The situation in the field of the rights of persons with disabilities is difficult. According to official data, more than 760,000 people with disabilities are registered in Romania, and more than one third of them still have difficulties in employment.

The media and human rights NGO continue reporting cases of ill-treatment and use of force towards suspects and persons under investigation from law enforcement officials. After a mass meeting that took place in Bucharest on August 10, 2018, 770 persons submitted to the appropriate authorities complaints of excessive use of force by law enforcement structures. The Committee against Torture have expressed concern that, at the moment of arrest, during detention and interrogation, Romanian law enforcement authorities resort, including towards minors, to violence that equals ill-treatment and torture, including for obtaining confessions, and that in some cases this violence may have been the cause of death.[444]

Most often acts with excess of authority are performed towards minorities. The Committee was also concerned that wards in several police stations contain non-standard objects not provided for in regulations, which could be used for torture or ill-treatment. The Committee criticized Bucharest for the low rate of criminal cases initiated in such situations.[445]

Special attention of the CAT was paid to the death of the 26-year-old Gabriel Daniel Dumitrache on March 4, 2014, due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. The police officer accused of violence was not charged of torture resulting in death (article 282 (3) of the Romanian Penal Code), but only of involuntary manslaughter (article 195 of the Penal Code), while the racial motivation was considered an aggravating circumstance. The family members of the deceased who participated in the identification of his corpse testified to have seen traces of violent beating, one leg was broken, and there were wounds on the stomach and burns on the chest, which did not comply with the information from the police.[446]

Measures taken by the government aiming to improve detention conditions in correctional and penitentiary institutions of Romania and to settle the issue of prison overcrowding do not give satisfactory results. To date, more than 28,000 people are detained in penitentiary facilities with the capacity of 19,000 places. Thus, the CPT recommendation on occupancy rate of 4 m2 per inmate is not respected. In several prisons, detainees are held in inappropriate conditions, in particular, problems are reported with heating, adequate ventilation and light level, food and medical service.

Romanian authorities continue strengthening control over the NGO activity and regulation in this field. Thus, back in 2016 a law was adopted that obliged local authorities to ensure peaceful protests to be held only in "unfrequented" places and "in the territories nonadjacent to secured facilities". In this context, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights included the said violation in its annual report for 2017.

In recent years, there is a sharp increase in the number of court authorizations for wiretapping and interception of electronic messages. At the same time, in February 2018 the Constitutional court of Romania recognized as illegal the use of evidence obtained by the Romanian Information Service (counterintelligence) on the basis of court authorizations for wiretapping on criminal cases not related to crimes in the field of State security. Earlier such evidence was transmitted to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau where cases were initiated on economic, official and corruption crimes.

The NGO representatives apprehend that, as a result of active measures from the authorities to implement EU Directive No. 2015/849 on the measures to combat money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, they will have to submit to the authorities excessive data on all participants of public events, including children, journalists, persons with disabilities and other categories, which will lead to unjustified waste of efforts and resource by the organizers, as well as to excessive control of the law enforcement authorities over civil society.

The situation of vulnerable population groups remains problematic. The country report of the European Commission on Romania of February 28, 2019, notes that Bucharest is delaying the implementing of recommendations on most fields concerning human rights. Violations of the rights of women during their employment are regularly reported. Welfare payments do not lead to poverty alleviation.

The National Council for Combating Discrimination acting under control of the parliament notes increasing complaints concerning discrimination of the Romanian population on various grounds. There were 822 complaints in 2018 (682 in 2017, 842 in 2016, and 752 in 2015). Most complaints concerned social inequalities (302 in 2018, 258 in 2017, 314 in 2016, 318 in 2015) and the rights of persons with disabilities (81 in 2018, 74 in 2017, 83 in 2016, 56 in 2015). Upon inspections in 2018, most penalties were imposed in connection with discrimination of persons with disabilities (39). In connection with discrimination based on linguistic and ethnic differences, three and four penalties were imposed respectively.

There is an increase of nationalist sentiments in the society, including manifestations of xenophobia and intolerance towards Roma and an increasing antagonism with the Hungarian minority. The language of hate and intolerance, previously used by the far-right political movements, becomes more and more usual in mainstream political discourse. Even well-respected political parties do not hesitate to use anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian rhetoric to attract votes during election campaigns to local authorities. Earlier, the Committee against Torture also expressed concern due to racist statements of public and other socio-political actors concerning national minorities and Roma and full of negative stereotypes.[447]

Proliferation of hate speech towards religious and national minorities in Romania, unequal treatment of national minorities and obstacles for exercising their freedom of belief, e.g. to carry out funeral according to their religion and sometimes to obtain access to burial sites were also noted with concern by the Human Rights Committee in October 2017.[448]

Anti-Semitism, racism, fascism and other manifestations of xenophobia are prohibited by the law (Government Decree No. 31/2002 and Law No. 107/2006) and criminalized in Romania. The Law No. 217 on amending and supplementing the Government Decree No. 31 of 2002 on prohibition of fascist, racist and xenophobic organizations and symbols, as well as promotion of the cult of persons guilty of crimes against peace and humanity, entered into force in 2015. The movement "New Right" (Noua Dreaptǎ) openly uses the legacy of the "Iron Guard", organizing events aimed at incitement of hostility towards Roma and systematically using hate discourse against ethnic Hungarians and migrants. At the same time, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance notes positively the banning of the political party "All for the country" (Totul Pentru Tarǎ) in 2015 due to their use of fascist symbols.

Hate speech takes place in traditional and electronic media. Some TV channels (for example, В1) allowed discriminating comments in broadcasting.

In its report of April 3, 2019, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance within the Council of Europe recommended to Romanian authorities to help activate the functioning of the department on investigation of cybercrimes to counter more effectively the rhetoric aimed at inciting hatred or hostility in the Internet. Apart from this, the ECRI document expresses regret that Romanian parliamentarians are delaying the adoption of a professional code prohibiting all manifestations of racism in speeches.

Hate speech is frequent during sport events. The Romanian Football Federation has repeatedly imposed sanctions on supporters and players due to their racist conduct during football matches. So, in 2017, during the match in Bucharest between the football clubs "Sepsi" and "Dinamo Bucharest" supporters of both clubs were singing "Hungarians get out of the country".[449] Both parties were imposed a fine of 2,200 euros. In 2016, broadcasters of the "Radio Zu" passed racist "jokes" during the football match between the national teams of Romania and Congo. Such xenophobic manifestations took place during other competitions, e.g. the handball march in 2016.[450]

There have been incidents with advertisement in newspapers containing degrading and discriminating remarks towards Roma. These media ended up paying a fine.

According to the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the reaction of the Romanian authorities to the use of hate speech and incitation to hostility cannot be deemed enough. There is no comprehensive and systematic collection of data about the use of hate speech and violence motivated by hatred. Such incidents are usually not concerned by the penal law or norms defining the use of hate speech and violence motivated by hatred as an aggravating circumstance.

According to the data of the Public Ministry (Prosecutor General's office), from 2014 to 2017 only two of the 113 cases initiated under Article 369 of the Penal Code (incitation to hostility) were taken to court, as well as five of the 77 cases concerning violations provided for in a number of articles of the Government Decree No. 21/2002 "On prohibition of fascist, racist and xenophobic organizations and symbols, as well as promotion of the cult of persons guilty of crimes against peace and humanity".[451]

The number of applications to the law enforcement authorities related to incidents of hate speech and incitation to hostility is low. The lack of experience and knowledge of law enforcement officials and judges impedes due qualification of such crimes.

Despite a low number of asylum-seekers in Romania, attitude towards them has varied from sympathy to hostility. The results of a nation-wide survey of 2016 showed that almost 90 per cent of the population oppose hosting refugees in the country. Many media have also described the asylum-seekers as "invaders", using a negative and stereotyped image of Muslim refugees. The authorization from the authorities to build a mosque in Bucharest in 2015 raised the degree of islamophobia in the society. Though seldom, refugees became victims of racially motivated violence. In 2016, two Arab-speaking refugees were attacked and injured. Attacks in public places against Muslim women wearing traditional Muslim headgear are frequent.[452]

For their part, the authorities provide the right to work to persons granted refugee status and take measures to ensure access to healthcare, education and social housing at an equal basis with Romanian citizens.

The Romanian Federation of Jewish Communities, the NGO "Centre for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania" and the National Institute of Holocaust Studies named after Elie Wiesel continue to report manifestations of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism and nationalism. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 33 criminal cases were initiated from 2014 to 2016 with members of the Jewish community as aggrieved. Incidents of violence against Jews are not registered so far.[453]

The report of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) published in 2017 classified current Romanian legislation in this field as disparate, fragmented, containing many "grey zones" and creating conditions for contradictory interpretations. It is stressed that the country does not have a comprehensive policy for respect of the rights of national minorities and its implementation varies depending on condition in separate regions. The report notes persisting negative attitude towards ethnic Hungarians (1.3 million people or 6.5 per cent of the total population) and Roma (more than 620,000 people, i.e. 3.3 per cent of the total population, moreover, according to unofficial data, the size of the community is up to 2 million people).

Human rights organizations continue to note persisting problems in interethnic relations. Recently, the president of the Romanian Union of Ciscarpathian Ruthenians Mikhail Lauruk repeatedly drew attention to strengthened pressure from the Romanian authorities. This means several incidents with unfounded persecution of the activists of the organization. Separate claims to the Romanian authorities are made by the Ruthenians and concern the possibility of education (from primary to full secondary) in their mother tongue. Bucharest shows indulgence to forced Ukrainization of the Ruthenian national minority. This was compounded by blatant cases of inaction of the authorities regarding hostile takeovers of property and business assets owned by Ruthenians.

Similar problems are faced by Russians-Lipovans in Romania.

Numerous violations of the rights of the Hungarian national minority in Romania are also traditionally mentioned. Among the most pressing issues are the use of the Hungarian language in State institutions in areas with high concentrations of Magyar (Székely Land) and secondary and higher education in their mother tongue.

The Romanian authorities continue persecutions for the use of the flag of the Székelys (Romanian Hungarians) and impose fines for performing the Hungarian anthem at mass events. Pretexting optimization of budgetary spending, the government of Romania pursues its policy of withdrawing several courses in Hungarian from education plan in the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Târgu Mureș, in spite of the fact that the law "On Education" grants to the Magyar access to higher education in this university in their mother tongue.

A great resonance in the field of violation of the rights of the Romanian Hungarians was caused by the statement of former prime minister of Romania Mihai Tudose, who promised during his intervention at a TV show in January 2018 that "Hungarians who put the Székely flags out will also hang next to the flags". In this regard, the National Council for Combating Discrimination issued a warning to the politician.

Human rights defenders underline the unsatisfactory state of affairs with the rights of Roma in Romania, especially with their access to labour market, education and healthcare. There are cases of discrimination and segregation of Roma children in schools. Due to employment problems, Roma are much more at risk to fall below the poverty line compared to other national minorities in Romania. Problem faced by Roma communities in Romania were mentioned by the Human Rights Committee[454] and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[455], as well as the ECRI and the AC FCPNM.

The issue of schooling for Roma children remains pressing. According to the study of the AFR, 22 per cent of Roma children of school age do not attend school. According to other studies, the rate of Roma children giving up school is of 70 per cent and the part of Roma who did not receive school education exceeds 90 per cent. 31 per cent of Roma consider themselves as illiterate.

The problem of segregation of Roma children in schools is not solved. According to the AFR, 29 per cent of Roma children attend schools where most of their peers are Roma. Programmes and legislative projects aiming at strengthening anti-segregation measures have not been put in place to the term specified in the National Strategy for Roma Integration.[456]

The situation with Roma employment is disappointing. Only 33 per cent of employable Roma population (20 to 64 years old) have paid work (compared to 64 per cent of total population), 64 per cent of youth (16 to 24 years old) are not employed and do not have education (17 per cent of total population).[457]

The Roma suffer from poor living conditions, limited access to sanitation and electricity. The practice of discriminating Roma when obtaining social housing persists, as well as their forced expulsion, often to isolated districts. In 2010, 350 Roma were forcibly expelled from the centre of Cluj-Napoca to the industrial zone Pata Rât at the border of the municipal landfill. Though the court of Cluj‑Napoca recognized the eviction illicit and obliged the city authorities to pay compensations to the aggrieved and to provide them with adequate housing, the expelled Roma still live in Pata Rât without electricity, in wet and overcrowded habitations, and their number has grown to 300 families (at least 1,156 people).[458]

According to the census of 2011, the number of Roma is 621,573 people (according to the data from the Council of Europe, their number is much higher and accounts for 1,850,000 people, i.e. 8.6 per cent of the population). Such data gap is often explained by the fact that Roma are unwilling to indicate their ethnicity for fear of stigmatization and discrimination due to a negative image of Roma based on stereotypes and prejudice and deeply rooted within the Romanian society.[459]

The Roma remain frequent victims of racial profiling from law enforcement officials. According to the AFR, 52 per cent of Roma stopped by the police view these acts as ethnic profiling.[460]

The NGO "Roma Centre for Social Assistance and Research" reports 48 documented cases of ill-treating of Roma by the police during the period 2011‑2015, which resulted in 7 deaths and 186 bodily injuries. No one of the said incidents resulted in a case taken to court by the Prosecutor General's office.[461] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted that women from the Roma community are facing ill-treating in police stations, discrimination from social workers and segregation in medical institutions.[462]

On March 31, 2017, in the city of Gheorgheni in Harghita County the Roma living there were attacked by the crowd; they were beaten, and their houses set on fire. The Gheorgheni authorities blamed the "Roma aggression" for setting fire, stating that these attacks were a result of beggary of the local Roma, theft committed by their children and the transformation of the city shopping centre in a "place of terror".[463]

The AC FCPNM urged to include in the Constitution the guarantee of the right to the use of the language of national minorities in the relation between people from national minorities, as well as with local authorities in areas with high concentrations of minorities. The Local Public Administration Act No. 215/2001 provides for the use of the language of national minorities in administrative and territorial units where the part of national minority accounts for 20 per cent of the total population according to the last census.

But in practice the right to use the language of national minorities in contacts with local authorities in these administrative and territorial units with the said threshold of 20 per cent is not always realized. The study of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania of 2016 showed that only 130 local administrations of 325 municipalities use the Hungarian language in contacts with people from Hungarian minority. Usually, regulations of local authorities are not translated into the languages of national minorities.[464]

Incidents in hospitals of Cluj-Napoca when doctors did not announce to parents the diagnosis of their children in the languages of national minorities are also a violation of the Romanian law.[465]

The Law on education is the legal framework regulating issues of education in languages of national minorities. In schools providing education in languages of national minorities all courses are taught in languages of national minorities. In Romanian-speaking schools the education plan may include courses of national minority language, literature, history, traditions and religion (on a voluntary basis) upon the initiative of 12 parents (primary school and colleges) or 15 parents (upper secondary education).

State radio and TV channels broadcast programmes on and for national minorities. But the time provided for broadcasting in Hungarian on Romanian State TV is of 6 hours per week, for broadcasting in national minority languages – 2 hours. The part of shows in Hungarian and German is 3 per cent of total broadcasting on the channel TVR1 and 12 per cent on TVR3.[466]

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SAN MARINO

As regards the protection of human rights the Republic of San Marino relies on its Declaration of the Rights of Citizens and Main Principles of Government System (adopted in July 1974). International of human rights standards implemented in national legislation have a direct effect.

At the same time, international supervisory human rights bodies pointed out to the necessity of further developing the national legal basis. For example, the Human Rights Committee, taking note of the decision of the San Marino Court of Appeals of the 3 November 2009 according to which criticism of public activities of politicians, even if offensive, can never constitute be considered an offence against the honor, pointed out with regret that the articles 184‑185, 342 and 344 of the Criminal Code still criminalize defamation and other offences against the honor, including the honor of the Captains Regent and other public officials.

Besides, the experts of the Committee invited the authorities of the Republic to speed up the adoption of a new comprehensive code of criminal procedure, for which purpose there had been set up a relevant working group by the decision No. 20/2013 of the State Congress.[467]

According to the information of the State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs, during the last years there has not been registered any major case of human rights violation in San Marino. But a number of international human rights NGOs believe that the state should continue to take targeted measures aimed at reducing the gender inequality as well as at promoting the protection on women's rights.

In 2015, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe Muiznieks during his working visit to San Marino noted an obvious progress in the authorities' fight with violence against women. This success was largely made possible by the elaboration and adoption of the relevant legislation during the last 10‑15 years. Of primely importance here was the Law No. 97 of 20 June 2008 "On preventing and eradicating violence against women and gender-based violence" that introduced in the legal system of San Marino the qualification of the crimes of group rape, deprivation of freedom and trafficking in human beings, as well as amendments to the definition of the crime of enslavement. There was also established a centre of assistance to the victims of violence.

Women in San Marino continue to face obstacles in exercising their rights. The Council of Europe regularly makes relevant recommendations and calls the authorities of San Marino to take measures to eliminate the gender gap in employment and participation in political activities.

The Republic established the Authority for Equal Opportunities with the purpose of practical realization of human rights protection measures. The Authority works together with the Commission on Equal Opportunities that deals with awareness-raising and advancing legislative and non-legislative measures seeking to secure legal equality of citizens.

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NORTH MACEDONIA

The human rights situation in North Macedonia is still remaining under the influence of domestic political processes.

The segments of the human rights agenda related to the so-called selective justice, electoral rights, interethnic and inter-religious relations are defined by human rights advocates as the most challenging.

These shortcomings are developing alongside the overall difficult socioeconomic environment in the country. The income inequality has been rising among the population with nearly a quarter of the inhabitants still living in poverty (2016 est.). The existing taxation system has been described as ineffective. Moreover, the social welfare system does not cover the most disadvantaged and marginalized persons: their access to social benefits is restricted due to the complexity of the procedure and criteria of acquisition of rights to these allowances (while their amount is also inadequate).[468]

Numerous violations of rights of detained persons were observed. In particular, August 2018 witnessed the case of discrimination against female prisoners at Idrizovo correctional facility who were deprived of access to telephone communication with their families. In July 2015, the Human Rights Committee paid attention to the state of penal institutions in North Macedonia, including their unsatisfying living, hygiene and sanitary conditions.[469]

Serious criticism is aroused by the activities of the so-called Special Prosecution Office which was established in 2016 with the aim of an inquiry into cases of power abuse but, in fact, turned into the body of political justice conducting criminal proceedings against opposition activists undesired by the regime.

The Human Rights Committee also criticized the government of North Macedonia for excessive authorities of special services, especially when it comes to wiretapping and spying on contacts which are, among other things, used against political opposition activists and journalists.[470]

The overwhelming majority of persons involved in proceedings of the Special Prosecutor are members of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE (the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), while representatives of parties belonging to the ruling coalition, in fact, possess unofficial immunity from real criminal sanctions. In this regard, it is worth noting a number of episodes which demonstrate the selectiveness of prosecution and sentencing.

For instance, in March 2019 a court in Skopje delivered the following judgement in the case of violations in course of the parliamentary election of 2014. Sasho Mijalkov, former Head of the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence of the Ministry of Interior, was sentenced to three years of prison, Menduh Tachi, the leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians, – to three years and two months, Bedredin Ibrahimi, former member of the State Electoral Commission, – to four years and six months of prison. However, the above-mentioned persons remain free with no measures taken to ensure that they serve their sentence.

In October 2018 – January 2019, criminal proceedings were used with the aim of exerting political pressure on opposition members of parliament during the process of making amendments to the Constitution by virtue of the Prespa Agreement on changing the name of Macedonia. At the same time, criminal cases against those MPs who agreed to support these amendments were dismissed or they were acquitted.

The UN treaty bodies on human rights, including the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women drew attention to the fact of undermining of the significant principle of the independence of the judiciary. There have been incidents of political interference into legal procedures, dependence of the judiciary on the government, particularly with regards to appointment of judges, their promotion and disciplinary measures against them.[471] Access to justice is restricted with legal expenses being too high, as claimed by human rights activists, which makes it impossible for socially vulnerable groups of people to go to court.[472]

In 2016, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about the prevalence of corruption in North Macedonia, among other things manifested in widespread bribing during provision of goods or services and just a few acts of prosecution by virtue of the Law on Prevention of Corruption (adopted in 2002), especially when it comes to high-ranking officials.[473]

The Human Rights Committee took notice of limitations in terms of the freedom of the press in the country. For instance, experts of the Committee expressed their concern about the selective approach to the distribution of state funds between various mass media agencies, as well as the lack of independence of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (the state body responsible for television and radio broadcasting) presumably as a result of appointment of government representatives to the Agency. The Human Rights Committee also noted that journalists are spied on from time to time, they receive threats and become victims of assaults and arrests.[474]

The referendum of September 30, 2018 on changing the name of the country and its accession to NATO and the EU revealed a number of shortcomings of the electoral process in North Macedonia which directly affect electoral rights, as well as the right of the local people to take part in political life and governing of the country.

Experts heavily criticized the financing of the government's propaganda campaign. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe indicates that it is unacceptable to allocate state funds to conduct information campaigns (it was the government of North Macedonia who resolved to make the allocation) and a unilateral campaign in favour of only one of the possible answers.

Despite the fact that the referendum was declared void by the State Electoral Commission due to the insufficient turnout (36.84 per cent of the necessary 50 per cent) and the resolution put to the referendum was declared "unadopted", the government preferred to ignore the will of the people and continued the policy aimed at changing the name of the country and joining NATO.

Inter-religious relations in North Macedonia remain tense. In terms of everyday life this is expressed, for instance, in disregard for appearance of representatives of different confessions. Thus, in September 2018 the staff of a public catering facility in Skopje refused to serve a woman wearing a traditional Muslim head-dress (hijab). Following an inquiry into the incident the Commission for Protection against Discrimination confirmed the fact of discrimination based on religion. In March 2019, a similar episode in respect of persons of the Romany origin was registered in the city of Prilep.

Quite often religious discrimination coincides with acts of intolerance on ethnic grounds.

In 2015, the Human Rights Committee pointed out the locally widespread biased attitude towards certain ethnic groups, primarily the Romany people.[475] In August 2015, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted acts of discrimination against the Romany and Albanian communities particularly exposed to ethnic filtration by the police. Moreover, members of these communities are often not allowed to leave North Macedonia on the grounds that they will seek asylum in the EU countries.[476] There are incidents of abuse and inhumane treatment observed among law-enforcement officers, first of all, in respect of Romanies and other ethnic minorities.[477]

Every month human rights groups register up to several dozens of acts of hatred on ethnic, racial, religious and other grounds, mainly among the youth. At the same time, law-enforcement agencies continue to exhibit the tendency to qualify such actions, particularly with grave consequences, as criminal offences according to other articles of law.

July 2018 witnessed the murder of a representative of the Komiti football supporters group. In the view of human rights organizations, this incident is directly connected with the feud between fan groups of Macedonian and Albanian football clubs caused by interethnic strife. The coverage of the event was accompanied by the surge of nationalist rhetoric in social media from both sides.

Certain measures are taken to improve the status of Romanies and to ensure their maximum integration into social and political life of the country. Coordination of efforts and implementation of the national strategy in this regard is carried out by persons of the Romany origin: a minister without portfolio, two members of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, three directors of departments at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Nevertheless the level of social integration of the Romany community remains low. According to the government, only about 500 Romany children attend pre-school institutions while only 250 Romany students attend universities. As a characteristic of this community, there still are people possessing no ID documents and the access to educational, health and employment services is limited. In 2018-2019 there were 670 such people.

The UN treaty bodies on human rights noted the challenging plight of the Romany community in North Macedonia. The Human Rights Committee recorded a low level of participation of Romanies in social life which is caused, among other things, by the partial attitude of the society towards them.[478]

In August 2015, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated that Romanies are more than others affected by poverty, financial difficulties, unemployment and social rejection. They face segregation in education. It was noticed that certain schools, including those in the city of Bitola, refused to admit Romany students. Romany children comprise a considerable part of students at schools for pupils with psychological development disorders. Furthermore, experts observed that most children living on the street also belong to the Romany community.[479]

In June 2016, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women described the situation with regards to the status of Romanies in North Macedonia in a similar way. For instance, the former pointed out structural discrimination against Romany people in a number of areas of social life, their low socioeconomic status, high levels of unemployment, poverty and a low life expectancy among Romanies. Discrimination against Romanies in education was mentioned as well and it was also stressed that performance of Romanies deteriorated both at primary and secondary schools. Moreover, a disproportionately high number of Romany children are still qualified as persons with mental disabilities which is why they are overrepresented in special schools and special classes at ordinary schools.[480]

In November 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women drew attention to marginalisation and, virtually, exclusion of Romanies from education, health and employment systems which is increasing their risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and exploitation. In the view of the Committee, it is Romany women who are prone to particularly severe, multiple and combined forms of discrimination.[481]

It is worth noting that international human rights monitoring mechanisms stated a significant number of difficulties faced by women in North Macedonia.

Experts registered an inadequately low level of economic activity and employment among women, in particular from the Romany and Albanian communities, and a high level of unemployment among them, as well as the prevalence of women at unskilled/underpaid stations and posts.[482]

Besides, women in North Macedonia face certain obstacles with regards to land tenure and its inheritance. Especially this issue affects those women who live in rural areas of the country due to gender stereotypes and the traditional practice of joint land property recognized in favour of men.[483]

It has been observed that access to education by girls from ethnic minority groups has been obstructed. A high number of girls have been recorded to have ceased to attend school, including primary one. The most part of them is comprised by women and girls living in rural areas, as well as female Romanies.[484]

Multiple acts of violence against women have been witnessed, specifically against women from ethnic minorities. However, relevant authorities do not register all incidents besides underreporting as stated by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[485] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[486].

Both child and forced marriages are still the case despite the existing legislation which prohibits marriages between persons under 16 years of age and limits marriages between persons from 16 to 18 years of age. This mostly concerns Romany and Albanian women.[487] Human rights activists note that such practice does not meet an appropriate reaction from the government.[488] Moreover, the practice of "buying" infant fiancées is preserved, which mainly involves girls living in poverty and social isolation, especially in remote areas.[489]

According to experts, North Macedonia serves as a country of transit and destination in terms of trafficking of women and girls with the aim of sexual exploitation and forced labour. However, the number of revealed victims of human trafficking remains low. Persons guilty of human trafficking do not face prosecution.[490]

There have been no records of biased attitude towards or discrimination against Russian nationals in North Macedonia on grounds of citizenship or nationality. As a rule, emerging conflicts are domestic by nature and are successfully settled in accordance with local legislation.

Disputes concerning family relationships, particularly partition of property and definition of rights to rear common children, remain most heated.

It was a typical situation when in January 2019 M.Kunovskaya, a Russian national, attempted to divorce her husband I.Kunovsky, a national of North Macedonia, and he prevented her from keeping in touch with D.Kunovksaya, their underage girl.

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SLOVAKIA

In general, the situation with fundamental human rights and freedoms in Slovakia is rather stable and evolves in line with European trends.

No cases of torture in detention facilities have been recorded. However, there have been reports of excessive use of force and ill-treatment, including verbal and physical abuse, by law enforcement officers against ethnic minorities, in particular Roma.[491] The situation of the most vulnerable groups (minors, women, older persons, persons with disabilities) is generally satisfactory. The Government is giving priority to measures aimed at improving the living conditions of these population categories.

At the same time, a number of problems remain in the socio-economic sphere. Gender equality has not yet been achieved, despite all the measures taken by the authorities in this regard. Violence against women is still widespread in the country, including harassment and domestic violence. Moreover, the country's health sector demonstrates systemic weaknesses due to the poor quality of health facilities, gaps in geographical coverage of health-care services and lack of qualified medical personnel.[492]

The human rights situation of Roma people remains the most pressing issue for Slovakia. This ethnic minority is the second largest in the country. According to the latest 2011 census, the total Roma population in the country is 109,000 (2 per cent of the population). However, according to the Council of Europe's materials, their actual number is significantly higher, amounting to over 520,000 (about 9 per cent of the population). According to forecasts by the Slovak Institute for Demographic Research, in the coming years, their number may reach 640,000. This ethnic group has been and remains the most discriminated against in the labor market, education, health care and housing, for which Slovakia is criticized by the European Commission, Amnesty International and others. In June 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern that the Slovak authorities were using police raids in Roma settlements, aimed at gaining the support of the neighboring non-Roma population, resulting in police injuring children.[493] In November 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the situation of the Roma people and their continuing structural discrimination in Slovakia.[494]

The segregation of Roma children in educational institutions provokes the sharpest criticism. Slovakia is condemned for the excessively high percentage of Roma minors enrolled in separate classes or special remedial schools. According to statistics, almost 90 per cent of students in those schools are Roma children. To improve the situation, in June 2015, the National Council of Slovakia approved an amendment to the Act on Upbringing and Education, setting up legal mechanisms for the protection of children who came from a socially disadvantaged environment; and in February 2018, the Government renewed the Action Plan to implement the Strategy for 2019–2021 (the previous one was in effect in 2016–2018). However, the situation has remained largely unchanged. Most cases of Roma children segregation are found in the Eastern Slovakia Region (Stara Lubovňa, Medzilaborce, etc.). The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlighted this problem. In particular, the Committee pointed out that there were gaps in providing education in all mother tongues of national minorities. For example, courses in some languages are offered only as electives. Moreover, amendments to the Law on Schools led to the shut-down of a number of small educational institutions providing education in minority languages.[495]

International experts are concerned about the isolation and displacement of Roma communities to the outskirts of cities and towns, which leads to the formation of mono-ethnic enclaves – "sieges". Roma people are also deprived of land ownership rights and suffer discriminatory treatment in medical facilities. In October 2019, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in addition to the above-mentioned problems faced by the Roma population in Slovakia, pointed out that the Roma, especially those living in segregated settlements, did not have permanent access to clean drinking water.[496] Roma people often become victims of human trafficking, although the number of such cases is decreasing. According to the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, the National Program to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (2019–2023) currently includes 30 persons (in 2017, there were 45), mostly Roma from the Eastern Slovakia Region.

National and local authorities give priority to solving Roma issues. The Government has adopted a comprehensive Roma Integration Strategy until 2020 (updated in February 2017), appointed a commissioner for Roma issues and implemented numerous programmes aimed at involving and integrating members of this minority in public life. One of the most striking examples is the project for the "Horehronie" Multifunctional Centre in the village of Valaská-Piesok (Central Slovakia Region), where opportunities have been created for education, training, employment, participation in sports and cultural events for the Roma people and other socially disadvantaged groups. In settlements with large Roma communities, special "Roma civil patrols" have been introduced to monitor public order together with the local police. Special health centers have been established in Roma enclaves. Significant funds are allocated each year to projects in that area, including from euro funds. However, no radical change in this area has been achieved so far.

The country's judicial system is frequently criticized. Every year, the representative of Slovakia to the European Court of Human Rights reports a persistent problem of protracted trials in the country. There have been cases of prolonged detention of persons without charge.

In 2018, 439 lawsuits were filed with the European Court of Human Rights, mostly by individuals, concerning violation by Slovakia of the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, of which 420 were dismissed for various reasons and judgments were rendered only in eight cases (twelve in 2017).

At a time of migration crisis, Slovakia's harsh migration policy causes particular concern and is criticized by international human rights monitoring bodies, in particular the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and non-governmental organizations. For example, in 2018, 178 asylum applications were submitted to the country's competent authorities and to this date only five have been granted. To date, Slovakia has accepted only 21 migrants applying for temporary or permanent residence in the country, out of a mandatory quota of 902.

The media has repeatedly raised concerns about the abuse of power by law enforcement officials, violence and intolerance against detainees, particularly against members of national minorities, especially Roma, and Muslims.

Slovakia has been repeatedly criticized by the European Union bodies and international NGOs for violating the rights of journalists. The most notable case was the murder of Jan Kuciak, a Slovak journalist, editor of the popular internet news portal "www.aktuality.sk", and his girlfriend on 25 February 2018.

The increasing level of threats against Slovak journalists in a weakened rule of law environment was underlined by the European Parliament on 28 March 2019. In April 2019, the international non-governmental organization Reporteurs Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) ranked Slovakia 35th in the World Press Freedom ranking, whereas in 2016 the country had been ranked 22nd.

The issue of racial intolerance has been repeatedly raised in the Slovak media space, especially among radically-minded youth and usually as a reaction to another hate crime. Among such high-profile cases was the murder of Henry Acorda, a citizen of the Philippines, in the center of the Slovak capital in June 2018. A citizen of Slovakia, who is a right-wing extremist, was sentenced to six years in prison for committing this crime.

An increase in hate speech against vulnerable groups such as Roma and Muslims, including children, was pointed out by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2016.[497]

In December 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also put emphasis on racism-related problems faced by Slovak society.[498] The Committee's experts expressed concern about the persistence of hate speech in the media and on the Internet, as well as racist political statements against ethnic minorities, in particular Roma, Muslims and non-citizens. Judicial proceedings on cases of racial discrimination continue to be excessively protracted, which has a negative impact on victims' effective access to justice. It was also noted that, despite measures taken to combat extremism, extremist organizations continued their activities aimed at incitement to racial discrimination. However, the Slovak criminal legislation does not recognize participation in the activities of organizations that incite and promote racial discrimination as a criminal offence.[499]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted with concern that a general atmosphere of hostility towards persons considered to be alien as opposed to the majority of the population – minorities, Roma, Muslims and migrants – persisted in the country and that there were numerous instances of hate speech caused by this hostility. According to the Committee's experts, such an atmosphere contributed to the erosion of tolerance in society and led to violations of the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups. The CESCR also voiced criticism against Slovakia for its failure to provide effective judicial protection to victims of racial discrimination, especially Roma, migrants and asylum-seekers.[500]

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SLOVENIA

The situation with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Slovenia is, on the whole, in line with the universal human rights standards. The government is making efforts to fulfill its international obligations in this area.

Human rights defenders complain about the state of the penitentiary system. Slovenia is criticized for overcrowded prisons, poor sanitary conditions and understaffing. Organization and provision of work for all the prisoners who can work and want to do it, remains a weak point.

In particular, in March 2016, the Human Rights Committee recommended Slovenia to consider building new prisons and strengthening practices of alternative penalties to custodian sentences, such as electronic monitoring, community services, etc.

The public community and human rights institutions criticize the legal procedure in Slovenia, in particular, delays in courts, as well as limited access to free legal assistance in criminal matters.

Both international (the Council of Europe, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, etc.) and national human rights agencies were criticized for amendments to the Aliens Act, adopted in January 2017, which allow to restrict the admission of migrants and close national borders in case of migrant inflows critical to the security of Slovenia. The human rights defenders see the main gap of the document in the lack of individual approach to asylum seekers.

The problem with the "erased", the citizens of the former Yugoslavia who had a permanent registration in Slovenia but removed from the list of permanent residents in February 1992 under the Aliens Act, is still present on the human rights agenda. Amendments to the country's legislation, adopted in 2010 at the request of the Council of Europe and international NGOs, allowed to restore the status of 12,000 persons on the list. However, there are more than 25,600 of such persons.

While considering the application of the group of "erased" (case Kuric and others v. Slovenia), the European Court of Human Rights found that Slovenia violated article 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the ban on discrimination in the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention), as well as the rights to private and family life and to effective legal assistance. The ECtHR indicated that the Slovenian government should, within one year, set up an ad hoc domestic compensation scheme.

Pursuant to the decisions of the ECtHR and the Slovenian Constitutional Court, the relevant act was adopted and has been in force since June 18, 2014. Over EUR 15.5 million of compensations were paid for the entire period.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitoring the implementation of the ECtHR decisions stated that by adopting the aforementioned law Slovenia had fulfilled all its obligations imposed by the ECtHR. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the steps taken by Slovenia in this direction, as well as public apology by the President of the National Assembly of Slovenia in respect of the "erased" persons.

However, there were concerns about how the social and economic rights of the "erased" persons were respected. In particular, Slovenia was recommended to expand the scope of the law regulating the status of the "erased" persons to cover the children born outside the country, provide the "erased" persons with the possibility to recover their legal status without administrative restrictions, ensure full reparation, as well as access to education, professional training and employment.

International and national human rights organizations and institutions also point out that these groups in Slovenia are still facing great challenges, including housing problems, the amount of compensation, the legal status of the next of kin, etc.

According to international human rights monitoring mechanisms the situation with the Roma community remains one of the most pressing human rights challenges in Slovenia. The last census (held in 2002) showed that there have been 3,246 Roma living in Slovenia. According to various state, public and non-governmental organizations there are between 7 and 12 thousand representatives of this ethnic group currently living in the country. The absence of more relevant information was indicated, in particular, by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its concluding observations on the combined eighth and eleventh periodic reports of Slovenia on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination made in December 2015.

Experts of Slovenian and international human rights organizations welcome the existence of the legal framework in the country (status and special rights of the Roma community are defined by article 56 of the Slovenian Constitution, the Roma Community Act of the Republic of Slovenia (2007), the Local Self-Government Act (2009)) which vest the Roma with the rights to participate in the public administration process at the municipal level, as well as institutions (Council of Roma Community in Slovenia) and the National Program of Measures for Roma for the period 2017-2021 adopted by the government of Slovenia in May 2017.

However, it is stressed that Ljubljana has not made any significant progress in improving the situation with this ethnic group yet. It is indicated that the majority of the Roma still have a low social status and are subjected to various forms of discrimination. The problem with the legalization of the Roma settlements and ensuring adequate housing conditions there also remain unresolved.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination draws attention to the fact that the enrollment of the Roma children in the education system is below the national average, the Roma have restricted access to employment and healthcare services.

The Roma in Slovenia are often discriminated in the labor market. According to human rights organizations the unemployment rate among this ethnic group is an average of 95 per cent.

Domestic violence, especially against women and children, remains relevant. The human rights defenders are concerned about poor protection of victims of domestic violence. About 500 complaints of inadequate treatment and abuse of minors and more than a thousand, of domestic violence, are registered annually in the Slovenian Prosecutor's Office.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination against Women in its concluding observations on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Slovenia urged Ljubljana to take all necessary measures to ensure that all acts of violence, including domestic ones, are thoroughly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and subjected to penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the offense.

According to the annual report of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovenia, in 2018, there were filed 3,073 complaints of violations of human rights and freedoms, 86.6 per cent of which were considered and resolved (2,661 complaint).

Despite the increased attention of the State to human trafficking, the relevant non-governmental agencies believe that mechanisms of identification, protection, rehabilitation of victims and provision of legal and psychological assistance to them lack efficiency. However, the Group of Experts on Trafficking in Human Beings (GETHB) in its recent report on the situation in Slovenia, highlighted that since 2014, Slovenia has achieved some progress in terms of legislation and practical steps to fight human trafficking. It was recommended to develop legal procedures, conduct more thorough investigations and take assistance measures.

International monitoring human rights mechanisms are particularly concerned by acts of hatred. The Human Rights Committee stressed that despite the adoption by Slovenia of legislative acts prohibiting racially motivated discriminatory hate speech, the racist and xenophobic language against persons belonging to minorities, as well as migrants, refugees and the Roma was noticed in public statements of some politicians. In particular, the OSCE ODIHR expressed concerns that some candidates running for early parliamentary elections, that took place on June 3, 2018, during their election campaigns resorted to negative agitation and the language of intolerance against minorities, migrants and refugees. The Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman also indicated that public discussions in Slovenia are often characterized by low ethic.

Hate speech, particularly against migrants, Muslims and the Roma, on the Internet and online fora was also indicated. The project spletno-oko.si (Web Eye hotline), a public anonymous reporting system of hate speech cases and other illegal content spread via the Internet, has recorded for the period 2007‑2017 16,685 reports of hate speech, 541 of which were transmitted to the police for possible prosecution.[501]

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance highlighted several cases of religious intolerance in Slovenia. The construction site of the country's first Islamic cultural center and mosque was vandalized several times in Ljubljana. The government, NGOs and religious communities issued statements condemning the desecration and calling for greater tolerance and respect for cultural diversity. Some Christian shrines were also desecrated. Unknown individuals vandalized the St. Nicholas Catholic Cathedral in Ljubljana.

However, the ECRI welcomed some reactions to manifestations of hostility and the use of hate speech, in particular towards migrants and asylum seekers, in the Slovenian society. In 2017, the Municipality of Nova Gorica reacted to the distribution of stickers with an offensive slogan against refugees in town by ordering their immediate removal. In May 2018, some hundred people attended a peaceful demonstration in Ljubljana against the increasing dissemination of hate speech in the political campaign.[502]

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Despite Washington's ambition to play the role of an uncontested leader in the protection and safeguarding of human rights and freedoms, the human rights situation in the United States leaves much to be desired. In some aspects, there is an observable decline as compared to 2018. The systemic issues of the American society get only worse. These include, but not limited to: racism, discrimination against immigrants, unabated xenophobia, rise of extremism, prejudgement in the justice system, maltreatment of prison inmates, mass surveillance, control and suppression of media, as well as deficient electoral system.

Under the guise of fighting against terrorism, the United States disproportionately and indiscriminately use military force in the territory of other countries in contempt of international humanitarian law. The use of UAVs during the so-called counter-terrorist operations results in civilian casualties.

The fact that the notorious detention facility in the United States military base in Guantanamo Bay still operates is a clear indication of the American policy of double standards in the human rights domain. Unwarranted detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture and other forms of degrading treatment – all these evident violations of international human rights norms and principles are thoroughly concealed.

Although the number of death sentences imposed and executed in the United States over the recent years has gradually declined, this figure still remains high. Capital punishment is still in use in 29 states, as well as on the federal level.

A total of 1,499 convicts have been subject to the death penalty since 1976, of them approximately 55.7 per cent whites, 34.2 per cent African Americans and 10.1 per cent other races. As of July 1, 2018, the number of inmates sentenced to death was 2,738.

According to data from the Death Penalty Information Center (as of April 8, 2019), since the beginning of 2019, seven people were executed, three of them in Texas, two in Alabama, one in Georgia and one in Florida. In 2018, 25 people from eight states were executed.[503]

International human rights institutions and mechanisms indicate a huge number of individuals sentenced to death by error. There are also observations that in certain states some undisclosed and unapproved chemical agents are used in executions.[504]

The American society is becoming increasingly supportive of the abolition of death penalty nowadays. In 2018 the Washington Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Based on this decision, eight previously imposed death warrants were changed to life imprisonment without parole.

On March 13, 2019 the governor of California, Mr. Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.[505] As a result, 737 inmates have had their death sentence suspended. It is worth noting that the death penalty has not been practiced in California since 2006 due to lengthy legal actions concerning the legality of drugs used in lethal injections. The point at stake is rather a suspension of executions than a full and decisive abolition of the death penalty in California. Mr. Newsom also ordered to dismantle and close the execution chambers in San Quentin State Prison.

In March 2014, after reviewing the fourth periodic report of the United States of America on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights the Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over the continued practice of death penalty in the country. Specially mentioned was the racial bias in sentencing, as this measure disproportionally affected African Americans and was aggravated by the mandative proof of the fact of discrimination in each separate case.[506]

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) annual report on the death penalty in the OSCE area emphasizes that this measure applies to women and persons with mental illnesses in the United States. It also indicated racial prejudice at the imposition stage, as well as the use of substances inflicting sufferings equivalent to torture.

As observed by Human Rights Watch, the continued practice of death penalty in the United States is rife with prejudice, racial discrimination and faulty justice. Since 1976, 164 death warrants have been cancelled as a result of flagrant errors in the dossier and lack of adequate evidence. For example, in February 2019 two inmates in California were released having spent over 30 years in death row, as grave errors had been discovered in the judicial procedure.[507]

A public outcry was caused by the case of Domineque Ray, an American national sentenced to death in Alabama.[508] His request to have an imam with him during the execution was declined. According to Alabama rules, a death row inmate can only be accompanied by the prison chaplain, while the access is denied to any individuals who are not a prison employee. Ray's execution was postponed until this dispute could be settled in court.[509]

On February 7, 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled to deny the reprieve. On that same day, Domineque Ray was executed without an imam present. Human right activists accused the Supreme Court of violating the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion. The Supreme Court did not comment, however, on the issue of religious rights violation. The decision was based on the fact that Ray had submitted his request to the prison administration on too short a notice prior to the set execution date.

Over 40 inmates are still held in the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention facility, most of whom have been kept there by the American authorities for 17 years without any charges or fair trial.

The Human Rights Committee noted in 2014 that the cases of inmates held in Guantanamo Bay and US military facilities in Afghanistan were not tried as part of usual criminal proceedings, sometimes for 10 years.[510] Similar concerns were expressed by the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2014 following the review of the combined seventh to ninth periodic reports of the United States of America on their implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, with a special focus on the inmates having no access to the general justice system and allegedly being subjected to torture or cruel, degrading treatment.[511]

According to a Seton Hall University Law School research, only 8 per cent of all Guantanamo Bay inmates had connections to Al Qaeda, with more than half of all prisoners not having participated in actions of illegal armed groups, including those affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).[512]

In January 2019, Republican senators Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio requested the US President Donald Trump to transfer the IS militants captured in Syria to Guantanamo Bay. The open letter stated that over 700 IS militants had been detained by then by the Syrian Democratic Forces. The senators called for the terrorists to "face justice", highlighting the inadmissibility of their release under any circumstance.[513]

According to Human Rights Watch, some American law enforcers believe that investigations into the cases of terrorist militants held in Guantanamo Bay would be more efficient if led by US Federal Courts and not by military commissions.[514] Human right activists point out that the Presidential executive order dubbed "Protecting America Through Lawful Detention of Terrorists" creates prerequisites for replenishing prisons with new inmates when it becomes a "measure necessary to protect the State".

Even experts loyal to D.C. warn that sending new inmates to Guantanamo is counterproductive and may adversely affect the US efforts to combat terrorism. For example, Human Rights Watch points out that Islamist armed groups like the IS and Al Qaeda use the situation around Guantanamo Bay in their propaganda to recruit new members all around the world.

In January 2019, human rights organizations held peaceful rallies on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay facility and called for action to close it as soon as possible.[515]

In January 2018, ODIHR Director Ms. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir highlighted this issue, stating that "the ongoing operation of the detention facility raises profound human rights concerns and continues to undermine the effectiveness and credibility of necessary counter-terrorism efforts". According to Ms. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, the operation of Guantanamo Bay prison "casts doubts on the resolve of the United States authorities to comply with its human rights obligations and commitments when countering terrorism".[516]

The dire situation in US mainland American prisons remains a daunting problem. According to data from the United States Department of Justice as of 2017, the number of inmates held in federal penitentiary institutions and state prisons had decreased by 8 per cent since 2009 standing at 1.5 million. The rate variation was partly due to a decrease in number of inmates in Alaska, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.[517] Meanwhile there are approximately 750,000 inmates in local (district and municipality) prisons.

Despite some positive changes, the United States remain the country with the world's largest "prison population". Human right activists insist that the progress in the fight against "mass incarceration" and overpopulation of American prisons, invoked by the United States Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is negligible. According to Sentencing Project, it would take 75 years to reduce the number of US inmates by half.[518] According to Equal Justice Initiative, approximately 113 million adult Americans have close relatives who at some point have been imprisoned.

The HRCtte and CERD reviews of the United States reports of March and August 2014 highlighted the persisting racial differences on different stages of the criminal justice system, imposition of unequal sentences and a high representation of ethnic minorities in prison.[519] The Human Rights Watch World Report on the human rights situation in 2018 also indicates that African Americans are five times more likely to be imprisoned than the whites in the USA. As to drug crimes, despite about the same level of drug use, there are several times more African Americans serving time in custody than whites. Racial disproportionalities also feature among minors in prison. In African American minors by far outnumber other racial groups in the penitentiary facilities of 37 states.[520]

According to Sentencing Project, presently more than 200,000 inmates in the United States are imprisoned for life or for lengthy terms. Lengthy terms, however, are not causing crime levels to drop.

Human right activists consider the First Step Act signed by Donald Trump in December 2018 insufficient to settle the prison overpopulation issue. Besides, this legal instrument is unable to address the eventual adaptation and socialization of former inmates and does not prevent second offences.

The official data indicates that the load on the US penitentiary system has exceeded its capacity by a third. This leads to a spike in collateral issues, including violence towards inmates on the part of prison employees.

On February 7, 2019, Adrian Almodovar, a former correctional officer at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, Louisiana, was found guilty of afflicting bodily harm to two handcuffed inmates. The United States Department of Justice also condemned Almodovar's actions, stating that he "tarnished the reputation of penitentiary system employees".[521]

On March 13, 2019, Cristopher Loring, a Richwood Correctional Center employee, was found guilty of assaulting five inmates.[522]

On April 2, 2019, Ulysses Oliver, a former Alabama Department of Corrections sergeant, pleaded guilty to assaulting two handcuffed Elmore Correctional Facility inmates.

In June 2019, the jury found Sharalyn McClain, a Mississippi Corrections officer, guilty of assaulting a Central Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate.

In June, 2019, Roderick Douglas, a Louisiana Richwood Correctional Center employee, was found guilty of conspiring with five other correctional officers so as to assault the inmates.

Human rights organizations are concerned about an unprecedented spike in violence in Alabama penitentiary facilities. According to Equal Justice Initiative, the murder rate in state prisons exceeds the federal level by 10 times. In April 2019, the United States Department of Justice published a report on the investigation into violations of inmates' rights in Alabama prisons. The investigation revealed multiple violations of the Eighth Amendment (ban on cruel and unusual punishments), obliging the penitentiary system employees to guarantee humane conditions of confinement and take reasonable measures to ensure the security of inmates. It is stated that the out-and-out overpopulation of prisons and lack of personnel aggravate the situation. Alabama's penitentiary facilities can house 9,000-10,000 inmates, but currently there are 16,000 prisoners locked in there. Cases of violence among inmates (including sexual violence), murders and drug dealing are everyday practice.

The question of solitary confinement is acute in American prisons. Living in a confined space for 22 hours a day, banned from open space walk and socially isolated for a long time – all these factors worsen the mental state of a penitentiary facility inmate. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, around 4.5 per cent of prison population in the United States is subjected to "administrative segregation" (prisoners are kept in complete isolation up to 22 hours a day). The percentage of suicides is drastically higher among inmates in total isolation. Human right activists are particularly concerned with the situation in Florida prisons. From January 2013 to August 2018, of 80 inmates who committed suicide, 46 were in solitary confinement.

Human rights organizations focus on the situation of children sent to prison. According to Equal Justice Initiative, every eighth American's child has at some point been to a penitentiary institution.[523]

In March 2019, Dennis Fuller, Peggy Kendrick and Jason Benton, overseers in White River Regional Juvenile Detention Center were found guilty of assaulting minor inmates. Children held in this facility faced maltreatment regularly: corporal punishment, pepper spray use followed by enclosure in a cell without access to medical aid.[524]

Until recently, the United States had admitted keeping minor and adult inmates together. This practice was discontinued after Donald Trump signed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act on December 21, 2018, significantly amending the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. According to the new law, states shall also be obliged to make up reports on any restrictive measures with respect to minors, including the "administrative segregation". Moreover, limits were introduced on handcuffs use in respect of pregnant women kept in "juvenile" prisons.

As estimated by The American Civil Liberties Union, the provisions of the Act concern approximately 50,000 children currently in correctional facilities. It is perceived by the human rights community as an important step in protecting the rights of minors in penitentiary facilities.[525]

The issue of domestic violence, especially towards children, remains acute. The HRCtte and CERD expressed their concern, pointing out that ethnic minorities, migrants, Native Americans and women belonging to indigenous peoples of Alaska are particularly challenged in this regard.[526]

According to the 2019 United States Department of Health and Human Services report, 674,000 children were subjected to maltreatment in 2017, of which more than 1,700 died (more than 80 per cent of them died by their parents' hand). Especially vulnerable are babies. More than 28 per cent of domestic violence victims did not reach the age of 3. Moreover, the highest incident rate (25 per 1,000 children) is among children under 12 months of age.[527]

According to ChildUSA, every fourth girl and every sixth boy are subjected to sexual violence. In 25 per cent of cases the information on such crimes does not reach law enforcers. Victims often hide their story until adulthood.[528]

Child pornography is also common in the USA. According to official data, the number of minors depicted in pornographic images has doubled since March 2015 (up to 16,000 persons).[529]

Human rights organizations note negative trends in the US law enforcement system. Law enforcement officers often resort to brute force regardless the real necessity to prevent threat to their lives coming from offenders. Police officers use firearms even when alternative methods, like less dangerous means of restraint, oral warnings or an order to surrender, are available. The media regularly accuse the police of racism and excessive use of force. According to the Washington Post, in 2018, 992 people were killed or wounded, and as of November 2019, this number already exceeded 770 people.[530]

In most cases, it is African Americans and other ethnic minorities who are victims of violence on the part of law enforcement officers. This problem has been underscored by the UN human rights treaty bodies and international experts on human rights. In March 2014, CERD expressed concerns over racial profiling practices and surveillance of Muslims and other ethnic minorities by law enforcement officers in the absence of any suspicion of offence. The United States was recommended to conduct an impartial investigation of all such cases.[531]

The UN HRC Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent states, also with a reference to the Washington Post, that African Americans accounted 26 per cent of persons killed by the police in 2015, 24 per cent – in 2016 and 23 per cent – in 2017, while this community represents only 13 per cent of the US population. African Americans accounted for 20 per cent of all those killed by the police in the first half of 2018.[532]

Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, the UN HRC Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, in her report concerning reparations for the racial discrimination rooted in slavery and colonialism prepared for the 74th UN General Assembly session indicated that the aftershocks of colonialism are still felt in the United States. The probability of an adult African American being arrested is 5.9 times higher than that of a white adult.[533]

In February 2019, Christopher M. Roeder was found guilty of using unjustified excessive force towards a detainee. The investigation that started in April 2017 found out that Roeder attempted to obstruct the investigation into his assault of the detainee, including by a fake police report describing the incident.[534]

March 2019 saw the investigation into the case of California police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who on March 18, 2018 shot an unarmed African American Stephon Clark, closed. The preliminary investigation proved that "Mercadal and Robinet opened fire on Clark approaching them with an object in his hand", which the officers mistook for a handgun. However, already after the shooting it turned out that Clark was holding his cell phone, not a gun. The prosecution did not consider their actions unlawful. This incident caused public protests.

The American Civil Liberties Union blasted a January 2019 court ruling, according to which a Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to a relatively short prison term of six years and nine months for killing a young African American man. Moreover, police officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney previously accused of obstructing justice and false affidavit to exculpate their partner Van Dyke were acquitted on all charges.

According to the We Charge Genocide 2014 report, black Chicago residents run into police maltreatment 10 times oftener than the whites. Only 2 per cent of 1,509 claims against law enforcers on the excessive use of force resulted in some punishment imposed on the offender.

In September 2019, Human Rights Watch published a research on the situation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a focus on maltreatment by law enforcement officers.[535] Human right activists found that police officers use physical violence against ethnic minorities (Tasers, pepper sprays, police dogs and beatings) 2.7 times more often than against Americans of European descent.

A most heinous case of abuse of authority occurred in Los Angeles on June 6, 2019, when a 24-year-old Ryan Twyman was shot dead by the police. Law enforcers fired more than 30 bullets at his car when, according to human right activists, there was no threat to their lives. Los Angeles has a reputation of one of the most dangerous US cities for African Americans (on average, city's police officers kill someone every five days, although four individuals were killed on that same day).[536]

Human rights organizations point out that California laws do not duly protect the population from the unjustified use of force by the police. According to California Department of Justice, in 2017 police officers killed 172 people (with the whites accounting only for a third of this figure). Other than racial disproportionalities when it comes to the use of force by the police, California has the highest number of people killed by the police (it exceeds the federal average by 37 per cent).

American courts often impose exceedingly harsh sentences to participants in clashes with the police. In Texas, in late September 2019, a 59‑year‑old Donnie Mills was sentenced to 99 years of custody (with 24 years without parole) for kicking a police officer.

Human right activists also indicate that US law enforcers very harshly respond to mass protests against the government policy. For example, in early October 2019, after peaceful demonstrations of environmental activists (around 1,000 participants) who demanded more attention to climate issues, over 100 people were arrested on the formalist ground of "blocking the road".

United States intelligence services continue to actively use electronic surveillance of people to obtain intelligence (classified as "information necessary to protect the United States and her allies against actual or potential grave attack, sabotage or international terrorism") according to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In March 2014 the HRCtte expressed concerns over the surveillance of telecommunication contact by the National Security Agency (NSA) for the purpose of national security inside and outside the United States, as well as over the harmful effects of such activity on the enjoyment of the right to privacy.[537]

According to the 2017 statistical report on national security agencies operation, more than 129,000 foreign nationals were electronically surveyed based on FISA clause 702.

In 2017 the US government published a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinion that the competent services systematically infringe on the procedures of worldwide surveillance established by the 1978 law (inappropriate disclosure of FBI information to a third party, failure to timely notify the Court whose approval is required to be obtained no later than 72 hours after the surveillance starts, and other cases of contempt of legal requirements).

According to the opinion of The American Civil Liberties Union, such "chronic" violation testifies to the inadequate performance of the legal mechanism overseeing the work of intelligence services and also casts doubt over the actual possibility to efficiently control the surveillance software.

On January 14, 2019, the said NGO submitted another petition to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding court remedy in their action against the NSA, the CIA and the United States Department of Justice. No action was taken on the initial petition for court remedy (November 21, 2018) concerning the disclosure of information on the intelligence activities in compliance with the 2015 USA Freedom Act by the aforementioned agencies.[538]

A report by the United States Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz published on December 9, 2019 describes significant shortcomings committed by the FBI in the process of electronic surveillance over the members of Donald Trump's campaign staff during the 2016 presidential campaign. In particular, to get authorization for wiretapping Carter Page, Trump's foreign policy advisor, FBI agents repeatedly submitted incomplete or unverified information, including from the Steele dossier, to the FISC, thus, in fact, misinforming the judicial authority. On December 17, 2019, the FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a special order in this regard, demanding that the FBI report on specific measures to put the situation right and the timetable of taking such measures.

A China Society for Human Rights Studies 2018 report on the human rights situation in the United States mentions that the US intelligence services are maintaining constant surveillance over citizens' correspondence on email, social networks and messengers (Skype and Google chats were explicitly mentioned) using interceptor software (especially PRISM).[539]

The autumn 2019 Freedom House regular report on the freedom of the Internet around the world indicates that the American law enforcement and immigration services enhanced monitoring citizens' activity in social networks and unwarranted checkups of travellers' electronic devices. The checkup itself is not usually transparent. It is pointed out that this measure affects the work of journalists.

Human right activists state that the US government actively applies the USA Freedom Act, allowing for uncontrolled and unwarranted gathering of information on phone calls, chats, messages and financial documents of US citizens. The lack of official data on the extent and scope of surveillance over the US citizens' electronic messaging hampers the public discussion as to reviewing of the Act and making changes to legal regulation in this field.[540]

Besides monitoring US citizens' contact lists, the intelligence services utilise facial recognition systems. They make frequent errors leading to discrimination and violation of the basic rights and freedoms, for example, marking non-European looking people as criminals. Given the said circumstances, some US cities forbade using such surveillance systems.[541]

According to The American Civil Liberties Union, the FBI is engaged in getting access to photos of practically every American and may use special facial recognition equipment. As of April 2019, the FBI database contained more than 640,000,000 photos. Human right activists say the FBI is developing this network without relevant official permits or tracking how many times it was used and how efficient it is.[542]

Whistleblowers also mention abuse of facial recognition systems by intelligence service agents. According to The Activist Post, police officers used a facial recognition program CORI to identify individuals they had personal interest in.[543]

The human rights community actively discusses the issue of gun ownership. Over 100,000 US citizens experience gun violence-related trauma every year.[544] According to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, 100 people in the United States die every day in gun-related incidents. This organization keeps a chart of murders in each state, with the highest figure per 100,000 people registered in Alaska (24.5), Alabama (22.9), Arkansas (20.2), Mississippi (21.5), Montana (22.6) and New Mexico (18.5). They also register the smallest figures in states with stricter gun laws.

The Associated Press indicates that the number of mass shootings in the United States has reached a record high in 2019. According to data collected by the news agency jointly with the US Today and the Boston Northeastern University there were 41 mass murders with four or more victims in 2019. A lion's share of these (33) are attributed to shooting. A total of 210 persons lost their lives as a result of such assaults that year.[545]

Despite the increasingly frequent mass shootings in the United States, there is yet no prohibition on purchasing and owning of firearms by persons with a criminal record. The HRCtte and CERD have also underscored the urgency of that problem. In particular, they note the continually high death and trauma rates attributed to gun handling, disproportionate consequences of such incidents for ethnic minorities, as well as women and children. The HRCtte highlighted the discriminatory nature of a set of laws commonly called Stand Your Ground. According to the Committee experts, it is evoked to justify cases of exceeding the limits of necessary self-defense in violation of a member country's obligation to protect the right to life.[546]

The China Society for Human Rights Studies report on the situation in the United States mentions 57,107 cases of gun violence in 2018 where 14,717 persons were killed and 28,172 wounded. Among them were 3,502 children and adolescents.[547]

In February 2019, the House of Representatives approved the Bipartisan Background Check Act to increase the range of federal control regarding the sales and transfer of firearms. Experts, however, are sceptical about the bill passing the Senate. Moreover, the White House spoke against this law. A February 25, 2019, statement qualifies measures proposed by the bill as incompatible with the Second Amendment, according to which "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".[548]

At the same time, earlier restrictions in this field are being disputed in a number of states. For example, Washington sheriffs refuse to assure the compliance with new restrictive measures regarding the purchase of semi-automatic rifles before they are reaffirmed by court. Novelties include a ban on selling semi-automatic rifles to persons under 21 years of age and mandatory criminal record checks for buyers. Even before their entry into force from July 1, 2019, a gun rights NGO Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit so as to block these measures.[549]

The issue of human rights violations, including the right to life, perpetrated by the United States while the indiscriminately use of force in armed zones, is worth to be particularly mentioned. As of the late 2018, the US Armed Forces launched over 5,000 air strikes as part of their overseas "counter-terrorist" campaigns. The highest frequency was reported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Somalia. Reportedly, the strikes killed approximately 11,500 persons, including over 1,600 civilians (casualties among civilians were 40 per cent higher than in 2017).

The HRCtte and CERD have expressed concerns over the practice of targeted murders during the US extraterritorial counter-terrorist operations involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as the lack of transparency regarding the criteria for launching drone strikes, including legal basis for specific attacks and the fact that no one guilty of killing of civilians was prosecuted as a result. CERD also indicated the very lax approach the United States takes when it comes to determining the geographical area of an "armed conflict", vague interpretation of the term "target" (what exactly represents an "immediate threat", who is qualified as a combatant or a civilian directly engaged in hostilities). In addition, just a few investigations, prosecutions and indictments were registered against US servicemen and other US representatives in relation to illegal killings perpetrated during international operations, as well as cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners.[550]

Washington's relevant official data radically differs from evaluations made by independent observers and human rights organizations. According to the Pentagon's annual report 120 civilians were killed in 2018 as a result of US military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia, while the lack of exact information regarding civilian casualties in Libya and Yemen was also mentioned. The authenticity of this information was doubted by experts and human rights organizations. An NGO coalition of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, The American Civil Liberties Union and others, wrote an open letter to Congress members with a request to provide more transparency when estimating civilian casualty numbers. Human right activists call for Congress to tighten laws concerning the publication of Pentagon statistics. In particular, they recommended to enter the following aspects on annual reports: total number of military operations, relevant information (date, location, number of civilian casualties), explanation of possible discrepancies between official data and information from independent experts etc.[551]

On March 6, 2019, Donald Trump signed an executive order to abandon the required CIA annual report on the number of US airstrikes targeting terrorist groups outside of armed conflict zones, as well as on death rates among combatants and civilians during counter-terrorist operations. This measure is explained by the redundancy of the CIA report, as it duplicates the work of the US Defense Department, that prepares a separate, more substantive report on civilian casualties resulting from US military operations on the basis of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. However, experts indicate the different range of CIA and Pentagon reports. The former deals with special operations, while the latter – with military action.[552]

Human rights organizations expressed concerns over that decision. Experts believe killings of civilians in other countries continue, however, now the general public will get no official information about US overseas counter‑terrorist operations.[553] It is pointed out that all operations involving UAVs (in Yemen, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia etc.) were carried out without a preliminary Congress consent.

According to a March 2019 Amnesty International report on Somalian civilian casualties resulting from strikes by American MQ‑9 Reaper UAVs and military aircraft, there was a grand total of 100 bombardments since the beginning of 2017. It states that air strikes increased in number after Donald Trump signed an executive order to designate Somalia an "armed conflict zone".[554]

Experts believe the actions of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) violate international humanitarian law and in some cases can be classified as war crimes. Human right activists call on the United States authorities to endeavor an impartial investigation into killings of civilians and compensate the families of the deceased and afflicted.

Whistleblowers Relevant organisations express serious concerns regarding the course the US authorities have set in the migration domain. They think that migration policy restraints contradict Washington's international obligations in the field of human rights. A most important principle of international law is thus violated, namely a ban on returning asylum seekers into countries where they can become victims of torture or other forms of maltreatment. The HRCtte and CERD expressed concerns to that effect.

Human right activists believe the US authorities took unprecedentedly cruel measures to "resolve" the migrant crisis, including the deployment of a military contingent on the south border to return migrants to Mexico, where they must remain waiting for the completion of the review of their applications to enter the territory of the United States.

In some cases migrants are compulsively held in custody for a long time. Border guards on the American-Mexican frontier began to frequently use firearms against migrants, including unarmed ones.[555]

Thus, only in February 2019, more than 75,000 migrants were detained at the attempt to illegally cross the border. In March 2019, the number of arrests upsurged by 38 per cent; meanwhile, migrant reception centres are reportedly overstretched.

According to China Society for Human Rights Studies, since the onset of a "zero tolerance" policy in the United States in April 2018, the number of cases of cruel and inhumane treatment of migrants has increased. It specifies that at least 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their families during that period.[556]

The international human rights community criticized the Secure and Protect Act, submitted to the Senate in 2019, which practically refuses Central American migrants the right to apply for asylum in the United States. The bill envisages the creation of migrant resettlement centres in Mexico and other Central American states. Accordingly, the main objective of such centres is to deny access to the US territory to refugees who could apply for asylum in other countries of the region. Human right activists say the bill contains no obligation to have an agreement with a safe third country on admission of the asylum seeker which allows the US government to expel persons unilaterally. The executive retains the right to decrease the legally established custody standards for migrant children and to increase their detention terms in reception centres up to 100 days (instead of 20). At the same time, a ban is introduced on granting asylum to persons who have crossed the border illegally. The US border services are restricting migrants' entry through official ports already now.

Many human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch[557], Human Rights First[558] and Friends Committee on National Legislation[559] have opposed this bill. Representatives of more than 150 human rights organizations made public a letter calling on the US authorities to reject the project.[560]

After the US Supreme Court allowed the Administration to restrict the right to asylum, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) experts told Washington about the violations of international law, noting that such a radical change in the US migration policy would adversely affect those fleeing violence and persecution.[561]

Human rights organizations criticize the practice of refusing illegal migrants the access to asylum through "threats, intimidation, coercion, excessive use of force and blockage of entry points all along the American-Mexican border". US border guards systematically violate migrants' rights without providing decent detention conditions in reception centres. The method of racial profiling invoked by the US administration to deny entry into the country to residents of South America, is stressed.[562]

The HRCtte also expressed concerns about the compulsory deportation of foreigners regardless of such factors as the severity of a crime or act committed, duration of stay in the USA, health condition, family ties, fate of spouses and children left in the country or humanitarian situation in the country of destination. The HRCtte also notes the exclusion of millions undocumented foreigners and their children from the scope of the Affordable Care Act, as well as limited services to migrants who have been legally living in the United States for less than five years within Medicare and Children's Health Insurance Program which creates difficulties in accessing adequate medical care for such persons.[563]

Cases of media disruption are recorded in the United States, including arrests of journalists just doing their job. According to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker website that keeps track of encroachments on the freedom of press in the country, on March 4, 2019, three journalists were unlawfully apprehended at covering Sacramento protests close to the location, despite staying outside the event.[564]

In March 2019, Human Rights Watch called on the Congress to get the law enforcement to explain the reason for extreme vetting, confiscations of cell phones and other electronic devices, unjustified arrests of journalists, lawyers and activists crossing the American-Mexican border.[565] According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, about 23 persons, including 15 US journalists, were searched, detained and interrogated on the Mexican border. Several journalists reported being surveyed while working close to the border.[566]

There are also issues with the implementation of the right to vote in the United States. There still exist a remarkable number of state norms that envisage stripping voting rights from persons guilty of severe crimes. These laws disproportionately affect minorities. Moreover, human right activists highlight the protracted and strenuous procedure of restoring voting rights in states. Voter identification and other recently adopted constitutive requirements lead to a de facto deprivation of voting rights, especially of persons belonging to minority groups.[567]

As noted by the Brennan Center for Justice, the election security system in Pennsylvania is quite vulnerable. The electronic equipment used to count votes is outdated and cannot effectively counter modern cybersecurity threats. It is suggested to replace voting machines for a vote counting system based on duly filled in paper bulletins.[568]

On February 15, 2019, the United States Department of Justice signed a memorandum of understanding with Connecticut so as to ensure compliance with the Federal legislation in keeping registered voter lists. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act instructs states to keep a list of citizens entitled to vote and update it when necessary.[569]

Despite the fact that Native Americans had been officially recognized as US citizens in 1924, the affirmation of their voting rights came about not earlier than 1948. Modern legislation contains a set of requirements, which in practice discriminate against Native American community members, for example, many reserve Indians have no residential address. As a result, they are refused in registration as voters. The Brennan Center for Justice, for example, highlighted some issues in voter registration in North Dakota, the state with a sizeable native community.[570]

According to The Native Americans Voting Rights Coalition research, 32 per cent of respondents from South Dakota, 26 per cent from Nevada, 14 per cent from Arizona and 10 per cent from New Mexico claimed that the necessity to travel long distances to polls influenced their decision not to participate in elections.[571]

There are also complaints about a lack of interpreters for persons who do not speak English and scarcity of polling centres in districts with minority population. In particular, these voting rights issues were stressed by Navajo representatives (Arizona) in their lawsuit against the Arizona Secretary General, lodged soon after the 2018 midterm elections.

In a broader context, human rights organizations indicate the deficient of measures taken by the US authorities to accommodate the interests of native peoples, protracted legal procedures to stand their ground, and costly legal services. The Treaty Bodies also expressed concerns over the inadequate protection of holy sites of natives from desecration, pollution or demolition for urbanization purposes, extractive industry activities, tourism, toxic waste burial, as well as restrictions on native peoples' access to such sites necessary to preserve their religious beliefs or cultural or spiritual rites.[572]

An alarming situation is developing, through the spread of racism, xenophobia and ethnic or religious intolerance. The report on the manifestations of glorification of Nazism presented by Ms. E.Tendayi Achiume, the UN HRC Special Rapporteur on human rights and contemporary forms of racism, at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (June 2019) citing a Southern Poverty Law Center research dubbed "Intelligence Report: The Year in Hate and Extremism – Rage Against Change", gives evidence of an upsurge of hate groups in the United States; by 30 per cent, since 2014, including by 7 per cent in 2018 alone.[573]

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted Young people getting recruited by neo-Nazis in schools and colleges, as well as through music festivals and the so-called cultural events.[574] She underscored the highest since the 1990s popularity of white supremacist music which effectively contributes to the dissemination of neo-Nazi views.[575]

According to human right activists, 1,020 hate groups were discovered in the United States. The cases of white supremacy propaganda increased by 182 per cent: 1,187 cases in 2018 compared to 421 in 2017.[576] In 2018, in the United States and Canada, neo-Nazis and other white supremacist organisations were responsible for at least 40 deaths.[577] According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 71 per cent of all deaths linked to extremism from 2008 to 2017 were attributed to such groups.[578] Human rights activists link the rise of racist movements to the government immigration flops, as well as the gradual decline in the US white population.[579]

The China Society for Human Rights Studies points out that in 2018 the number of hate crimes in the United States increased by 17 per cent as compared to the previous year. Racist hate crimes constituted 60 per cent of such offences. In half the cases victims were African Americans.[580]

Human Rights Watch, citing the California State University, San Bernardino Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism May 2018 report, indicates a high racial and ethnic hate crime level in large American cities.[581]

On August 18, 2017, the CERD Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures, being concerned by the scale of racist tendencies, called on the US authorities to clearly and decisively condemn racial hate crimes and actively promote tolerance and diversity of ethnic groups. Such an appeal was triggered by the August 2017 clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is worth mentioning that already in August 2014 the CERD review of the combined seventh to ninth periodic reports of the United States of America highlighted the continuously high level of racial discrimination in the country, with the lack of a legal ban on hate speech and racial profiling practiced by law enforcement being a proof thereto. The Committee also underscored the disproportionate exposure of ethnic minorities to discrimination in different spheres of public life.[582]

In March 2019, members of "Crew 1488" racist group were charged with illegal arms trade, as well as numerous assaults, kidnappings and murders. This white supremacist gang comprised of 50-100 members. Gang members in prison also actively promoted their ideas among white inmates, in particular, by patronizing those joining the gang.[583]

Human right activists register discriminatory attitudes towards African Americans. Common are cases of using political rhetoric based on racist allusions to African slave trade, lynchings, humiliation, exploitation and violence towards African Americans.[584]

The human rights community is concerned by anti-Semitic manifestations in the United States. According to Ms. E.Tendayi Achiume, the UN HRC Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, in 2017, religious hate crimes constituted approximately 20 per cent of all hate crimes, with Jews and Jewish institutions as the most frequent targets (58 per cent of all cases). Although these crimes were mainly committed by non-extremists, the data proves a correlation between the rise of extremism in the country and a spike in anti-Semitic crime. In 2018, known extremist groups or persons inspired by extremist ideology were responsible for 249 anti-Semitic incidents accounting for 13 per cent of all cases (the highest rate of anti-Semitic crimes committed by persons linked to extremist groups since 2004).[585]

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of manifestations of anti-Semitism in the United States has been at an all-time high through the recent years. 2017 saw a 60 per cent increase (1,986 cases). In 2018, the total number remained almost the same (1,979) however, there was a spike in cases of physical violence towards Jews.

The investigation is ongoing into the case of Robert Bowers, who shot the congregation at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2018. He faced new charges of violation hate crime prevention laws. In particular, it was proven that before committing the crime, the perpetrator posted anti-Semitic comments threatening the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society on the gab.com website. Considering the new charges, Bowers may face up to 250 years with no parole or a death penalty.[586]

A kosher shop shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 11, 2019 featured among other stirring incidents. It entailed deaths of four people, including two members of the Hasidic community. In April, a gunman attacked the worshippers in a synagogue in Poway, California. In the aftermath, one woman was killed and three people, including the rabbi, were seriously wounded.

In March 2019, certain human rights organizations approached US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with a request to consider inviting Ms. E.Tendayi Achiume, UN HRC Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, to the United States for an official visit. Human right activists expressed concerns over the spike in extremist and white supremacist ideas.

The United States still has issues with the enjoyment of socio-economic rights, as well as imbalance and systemic problems in the job market. Despite the unemployment reduction (from 4.1 per cent in 2017 to 3.6 per cent in October 2019) the unemployment rates are: 7 per cent among African Americans, 4.3 per cent among Hispanic Americans, 7.9 per cent among women, 13.4 per cent among teenagers. The number of Americans working part‑time due to the absence of a permanent job is 4.3 million people.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 40 million Americans are disadvantaged, 18.5 million of them live under the poverty line. Every third disadvantaged person is a child.

The Fortune Magazine, citing the National Bureau of Economic Research, states a persistent rise in the social inequality in the United States since 1980. This figure has already reached levels comparable to those in the times of Great Depression.[587]

The China Society for Human Rights Studies 2018 report also emphasizes income gap within the American society which is the greatest of all developed countries: currently the top 1 per cent of Americans possess 38.6 per cent of all the US wealth. More than half of all households are experiencing financial trouble. 18.5 million Americans live in extreme poverty.[588]

Mr. Philip Alston, UN HRC Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in the aftermath of his December 2017 visit to the United States, undertook an analysis of US Administration policy and programs to combat extreme poverty. His report finds that the United States has the highest youth poverty rate of all industrially developed countries.

It is also highlighted that the US policy aimed at a gradual cancellation of primary subsidies for the most disadvantaged, as well as sanctions against the unemployed. Simultaneously the basic medical care turned from a right to a privilege, which needs to be earned. The poor are also disadvantaged with in the penitentiary system. In some states, homeless Americans get imprisoned for begging, living in the street or in public places, etc. Every year over 11 million Americans get imprisoned for minor offences, 730,000 of them being financially incapable to pay the bail.[589]

According to the Special Rapporteur, the situation is aggravated by the fact that the United States remains a "chronically segregated" society. The African American income per family is 2/3 lower than that of white families. The Special Rapporteur underscores that such "shameful" practice may be explained by a "long-standing structural discrimination on the basis of race", reflecting the enduring legacy of slavery.

According to a Pew Research Center research, the major pact of Americans believe the US economic development would be slowing down up till 2050, the national debt would continue to rise, healthcare would become even less affordable, the ecological situation would worsen and the disparity in income between the rich and the poor would increase. A sizeable number of American citizens are sceptical about their well-being after retiring. 83 per cent of respondents are convinced that to maintain decent living conditions they will have to continue working into their 70s, as they are worried about the future of the social security system. Half of the respondents predict a deterioration in the quality of life of their children.[590]

Racial prejudice and stereotypes are clearly influencing the rights to education, housing and access to work and healthcare. The UN HRC Working Group on People of African Descent pointed out that African Americans often do not have access to preventive medicine; they receive less adequate medical services. In particular, they do not receive sufficient treatment of painful conditions, in part because the widely spread racial stereotypes influence medical workers' estimation of pain suffered by a patient. Maternal morbidity rates among women of African descent are also higher by several times exceeding those among white women.[591]

The income level of an average African American family are ten times lower than those of an average white family. African Americans are 2.5 times more susceptible to poverty than whites. Infant mortality rates in African American and Hispanic American families are 1.3 times greater than in white families. The average life expectancy for members of these communities is 3.5 years shorter than for whites.[592]

The UN human rights treaty bodies, including CERD, highlighted issues in these spheres faced by minorities, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. These organizations underscored racial and ethnic discrimination in access to education. In fact, this leads to segregated classes and even schools with same-race students. Minorities encounter problems with enrolment into universities due to rising tuition costs. Members of these communities are also widely represented among homeless people.[593]

According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 2017 about 15 million families (11.8 per cent of all households) could not provide themselves with adequate food (in 2016 this number was 12.3 per cent) Approximately 6 million (4.5 per cent) American families are experiencing regular malnutrition. Children suffer from malnourishment in 2.9 million families. Around 58 per cent of vulnerable families participate in government nutrition assistance programs.[594]

The United States resorts to an unacceptable practice of "hunting" Russian citizens all around the world. US intelligence services take to blatant kidnappings, as, for example, happened to Konstantin Yaroshenko, captured in Liberia in 2010, and Roman Seleznev, forcibly brought to the United States from the Maldives in 2014.

The total number of Russian nationals arrested on American warrants in third countries since 2008 is 53.

US investigation bodies and courts usually take a biased approach towards Russian citizens extradited to the United States, including psychological impacts. Using different methods, including direct threats, they are coerced to plead guilty and make a plea bargain, despite the contrived charges, given long prison terms in case they do not agree.

On April 26, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced a Russian national Maria Butina, arrested by the FBI in summer 2018 and charged with "conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, in violation of the U.S.C. (United States Code)". Having presented no evidence of her "criminal behaviour", the US authorities forced her to accept the plea bargain and basically to plead guilty through harsh confinement conditions and threats of a lengthy prison term. She was able to return home only on October 26, 2019, after having spent one year and three months in prison.

In violation of obligations under the Bilateral Consular Convention, the US authorities fail to notify Russian missions of arrested Russian nationals with in due term of three days.

The United States categorically refuses to review sentences imposed on Russian nationals, despite their obvious unfairness. Russia's suggestions to extradite Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout in the framework of the 1983 CE Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons are refused. Humanitarian concerns are not taken into account.

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UKRAINE

The human rights situation in Ukraine continues to degrade. Authorities adopt legislative acts contrary to the rules of national law and international obligations. Human rights activists record systemic violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Referring to the need to combat "Russian aggression" and separatism, political opponents, independent journalists and media companies as well as members of public organizations unfavorable to authorities are being prosecuted. The rights of internally displaced persons, the Russian-speaking population and representatives of national minorities are limited.

The right to liberty and security of person is not respected. According to international human rights monitoring entities, numerous facts of illegal detention, torture, intimidation, ill-treatment, sexual violence, including in order to obtain confessions or compel cooperation, take place in the country. From May 2018 to May 2019, the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMU) recorded 57 such cases.

With regard to the ongoing internal armed conflict in the south-east of the country, Kiev introduced a permit regime for crossing the "contact line" by citizens. The HRMU reports note extremely difficult conditions of its crossing due to the insufficient number of checkpoints and their poor conveniences. The lives of the elderly and persons with health issues are at greatest risk. Since the beginning of 2019 alone, 11 people have died due to these reasons. Human rights activists strongly recommend that urgent measures be taken to improve the situation.

Over 5 million conflict-affected people, including about 1.3 million people from among registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) and citizens living in conflict zones, have limited access to basic services, particularly water supply, heating and healthcare, and face shortages of adequate housing and the lack of legal protection and redress mechanisms.

International structures and mechanisms in the field of human rights, as well as human rights activists, note with concern that the conflict unleashed by the Kiev authorities in the south-east of the country negatively affects the entire population, resulting in massive impoverishment, and contributes to economic stagnation. So, between 2013 and 2015 alone, the percentage of people with incomes below the subsistence level increased from 22 per cent to 58 per cent.[595]

The anti-corruption measures declared by the Kiev authorities, including the establishment of a number of specialized entities to combat this phenomenon, prove ineffective in practice and do not contribute to the successful eradication of the Ukraine's deep-rooted corruption. The independent expert of the UN Human Rights Council on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, H.P.Bohoslavsky, raised concerns about the situation in this field following an official visit to Ukraine in May 2018.[596] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also called attention to the scope for corruption in April 2014[597] and in February 2017 respectively. According to the CEDAW experts, corruption, rising unemployment, deterioration of the population's living standard and the ongoing crisis create favorable conditions for widespread human trafficking.[598]

The CESCR also raised concerns about numerous related socio-economic issues. Thus, it noted that, despite the measures to combat poverty, the relative level of impoverishment remains relatively stable. It had a negative impact mostly on marginalized groups, including Roma, Crimean Tatars, large families (with three or more children), families with children under 3 years of age, families in which one or both parents are unemployed, disabled persons, pensioners, single-parent families and migrant families. At the same time, poverty rates are 1.7 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

Employment problems were noted. According to the CESCR, Roma and Crimean Tatars face it the most. There remains a significant pay differential (on average about 30 per cent) between men and women. The minimum wage and the minimum pension are still insufficient to ensure a decent life for workers, unemployed persons and pensioners and their family members. The problem of non-payment of wages remains.

A number of healthcare problems were recorded, primarily due to the low share of health expenditures. Such problems include high costs of health services, informal patient charges, poor infrastructure of the primary care system, outdated medical equipment, poor quality and limited availability of medical services, especially in rural areas and for vulnerable groups, shortage of some medicines and decreased vaccination of the population.[599] The CEDAW also pointed to the inadequate healthcare state in Ukraine.[600]

The state does not provide guaranteed pension payments for all citizens of the country, regardless of their place of residence and registration. IDPs and residents of the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR who experience significant difficulties in obtaining social benefits are the most vulnerable in this context. According to the Pension Fund of Ukraine, only 562 thousand people registered in the unrecognized republics (which is less than half of their total number as of August 2014) continued to receive funds through this entity in December 2018.

The HRMU noted that the lack of access to quality basic services and the discriminatory policy of the Kiev authorities continue to have a negative impact on the rights of residents affected by the conflict in the south-east, particularly on freedom of movement and access to pensions and social benefits. Internally displaced persons are most affected. Noting the implementation of a mechanism to pay compensation for housing destroyed during the conflict (which was possible only after urgent appeals by international human rights entities), the Mission expressed concern about the continued discrimination of the conflict-affected citizens on the basis of their place of residence, as well as the non‑transparent methods to calculate the amount of compensation. At the same time, the problem of using civilian property for military purposes without compensation remains. Neither the central nor local authorities provided adequate housing and paid compensation to persons forced to relocate due to the use of their property for military purposes or due to the close proximity to military positions.[601]

An independent expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, H.P.Bohoslavsky, drew attention to problems in this field in his report. In particular, the expert pointed out that the pensioners living in Donbas are forced to regularly cross the control line and register as internally displaced persons in order to continue to receive pensions. At the same time, they face risks to life and significant travel expenses – from 50 to 8 per cent of the pension. According to H.P. Bohoslavsky, over 600 thousand pensioners do not receive payments. Moreover, the payment of pensions to those who registered their place of residence in territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities was stopped in 2017.[602]

The CEDAW raised concerns about the inconsistency between legislation and practice in Ukraine. In particular, he emphasized that although the law "On Ensuring Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons" was approved in October 2014 and a number of decisions and regulations on assistance to internally displaced women were adopted, no implementation measures were taken.[603]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also drew attention to the plight of displaced persons following the consideration of the combined 22nd and 23rd periodic reports of Ukraine on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in August 2016. Thus, the Committee expressed concern that: social benefits, including pensions, are tied to the internally displaced persons' status and the residing in areas controlled by the Kiev authorities, because of which not all internally displaced persons can gain access to such social benefits; local integration of internally displaced persons is complicated by the existing legislative and regulatory frameworks; there are difficulties for such persons in gaining access to affordable housing and proper employment; existing restrictions on freedom of movement impede IDPs' access to social services, education and health services. People are exposed to physical danger while crossing the control line: they can come under fire or get hurt by anti‑personnel mines. All these factors do not allow persons belonging to ethnic minorities, such as Roma, to register as IDPs and receive social assistance. The majority of them are at risk of discrimination and stigmatization.[604]

In 2018, the Administrative Services Reform Office at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine developed a draft law "On Freedom of Movement and Free Choice of Place of Residence in Ukraine", which provides for checks to establish that citizens reside at their place of registration. The collected information will be entered into a single information system. Human rights activists assess these measures as a confirmation of Kiev's intention to restore the institution of registration.

The human activists are seriously concerned about the penitentiary situation in Ukraine. The Committee against Torture pointed out the existing problems in this area following the consideration of the 6th periodic report of Ukraine on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as early as November 2014. In particular, poor prison conditions and overcrowding in these institutions were noted. This results in the prevalence of violence among prisoners, as well as a high mortality rate, including a significant number of suicides.[605]

In addition, a significant number of cases of arbitrary arrest and torture are recorded, taking into account the territory controlled by the Kiev authorities. Generally, it is recorded that these crimes are committed against detainees by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), including on charges related to the conflict in the south-east. These incidents, in particular, are documented by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.[606] In this regard, the HRMU points to tendencies of using by the SSU torture and ill-treatment of detainees.[607]

The special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on Torture, N.Melzer, who visited the country from 28 May to 8 June 2018, assessed the state of places of deprivation of liberty in Ukraine in a similar way. The Special Rapporteur pointed out that the use of torture and violence against detainees by law enforcement officials and the SSU is structural and, as a rule, characterized by impunity. N.Melzer noted that in a number of places of deprivation of liberty visited by him, prisoners did not want to report the use of torture both because of fear of reprisals and because of distrust for law enforcement and judicial authorities in general. He also noted that most of the prison infrastructure is noticeably outdated and needed renovation or reconstruction; there have been cases of the heating cut in cells and a shortage of ventilation. Prisoners' food is also of inadequate quality, because of which most prisoners receive food from relatives through care packages.[608]

Numerous violations of rights of citizens to a fair trial continue to occur, including in criminal cases related to the conflict in the south-east. In particular, the concern of international human rights entities is caused by the coercion of accused persons to conclude plea agreements, proceedings in the absence of defendants, attacks on lawyers and their intimidation by right-wing radicals, as well as their pressure on representatives of the judiciary. The prolongation of proceedings continues to occur. Thus, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women drew attention to the lack of judicial independence in Ukraine.[609] The head of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, M.Bogner, noted that Kiev's judicial reforms do not address the main problems to ensure the effectiveness of investigations and the impartiality of independent courts in proceedings.[610] The HRMU also pointed out the trial delays due to the lack of a legal framework in the Ukrainian judicial system to take into account the time spent in custody in the territory of self-proclaimed republics by persons who were subsequently relocated to territories controlled by Kiev. This not only affects their access to means of legal protection after being relocated to the territory controlled by Kiev, but also leads to a situation that may amount to arbitrary detention. Illustrative is the case where Ukrainian courts refused to review the criminal case of a person who has been in detention since 2011 and was relocated to the territory controlled by the Kiev authorities in April 2019. The ground for refusal was the reluctance of the court to open the envelope containing materials of his case submitted by the judicial authorities of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic. The Ukrainian court reviewed the case only after a special commission took the decision on the validity of the case materials. As a result of the delay, the detainee had been in detention for seven months more than the period of the final sentence.[611]

Despite the appeals of many human rights entities and mechanisms, there are still no marked advances in the investigation of such resonant cases as killings of people on Maidan and the tragedy in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa. The proceedings related to the deaths of journalists O.Buzina and P.Sheremet have not been completed.

The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has repeatedly pointed out the absence of progress in investigating the tragedies on Maidan and in the Odessa House of Trade Unions. The Committee against Torture expressed concern about the course of the investigation as early as November 2014.[612]

The right to freedom of opinion and expression is severely restricted in Ukraine, and the independent work of journalists is limited.

The HRMU indicates that violence against journalists, as well as the lack of accountability for previous attacks, worsens the situation. Examples include the brutal beating of Vadim Komarov, a journalist specialized in investigations, in Cherkasy, who was in a coma for a month and a half and died on June 20, 2019, and the lack of any progress in investigating the murders of journalists Pavel Sheremet and Olesya Buzina.[613] The Mission noted, in particular, that the trial for the murder of O.Buzina that has lasted for three years was constantly pressured by right-wing radical groups. As a result, the case examined by different courts was actually stopped, and the process essentially returned to the beginning after the judge handling the case recused himself in May 2019.[614]

Human rights activists point out that the level of pressure on the media from the Ukrainian authorities has reached the highest level since independence. Kiev is trying to tighten media censorship. The response to this situation was the appeal of top managers of several popular media outlets, regional journalists and representatives of public organizations to the president, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, attorney general and prime minister regarding a critical level of threat to freedom of expression in the country.[615]

The intervention of the Ukrainian security services in the work of the media and the activities of public organizations speaking from alternative points of view is noted. A common means of pressure from the authorities is the opening of criminal cases against undesirable journalists. Thus, several criminal cases were opened against I.Guzhva, an editor-in-chief of the largest Ukrainian Internet media outlet Strana.UA which maintains an independent position. Due to such pressure, the journalist fled from Ukraine in January 2018 and sought asylum in Austria. Another Ukrainian journalist, the owner of the Open Ukraine news agency and a former soldier A.Medinsky requested from the Finnish authorities the political asylum due to pressure and harassment from the authorities and radicals in April 2018. On 31 May 2018, another opposition journalist specialized in investigations, A.Dubinsky, said about the SSU's attempt to carry out a provocation similar to the Guzhva case against him. The seventh criminal case against the Strana.UA media outlet was opened in August 2018. The reason was the "disclosure of pre-trial investigation data" in the investigation by the journalist V.Ivashkina of the incident in Odessa, where a nationalist stabbed a man. This media outlet is one of the few media outlets that monitor the progress of this case.[616]

Moreover, the editorial offices of the news agencies Vesti Ukraina and RIA Novosti Ukraina were searched, and independent journalists (Y.Lukashin, V.Skachko) were harassed. Journalists and bloggers such as D.Vasilets, V.Muravitsky and P.Volkov were held or continue to be held in pre-trial detention facilities without bail.

Human rights activists also note repeated cases where the SSU gave journalists guidance on how to relate to some high-profile news in Ukraine. There is information that Ukrainian executive authorities also prepare digests on such issues. Examples include monthly "temniki" of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine for journalists and bloggers with the "correct" reflection of the current situation and its necessary public coverage.[617]

There are numerous cases of blocking the television channels unfavorable to authorities by right-wing radical "activists".

In addition, attacks and other acts of nationalist aggression against media offices speaking from alternative points of view occur with the actual acquiescence of the authorities. On May 9, 2018, the building of the Inter television channel was blocked by the National Corps radicals. The reason was the concert broadcast in honor of Victory Day. On December 3, 2018, a group of people in camouflage uniforms blocked the building of the NASH television channel. On July 9, 2019, the NewsOne television channel was forced to cancel the "We Need to Talk" teleconference with Russia due to the pressure and physical threats against journalists. On July 13, 2019, the building of the 112 television channel was fired from a grenade launcher. The day before, the television channel received threats of an attack by nationalists in connection with the broadcast announcement of the film critical of the Kiev authorities directed by American director O.Stone.

Human rights activists point out that journalists are often harassed by Ukrainian nationalists precisely for the coverage of their violent actions. In March 2018, a Berdyansk journalist Vladimir Demina was beaten at the rally organized by the ATO veterans. On December 25, 2018, following the publication of an investigation into the activities of the C14 group by the Strana.UA media outlet, its head attacked the media outlet editor-in-chief I.Guzhva. In January 2018, C14 activists attacked the church newspaper's editorial office in Kiev. On July 18, 2018, a conflict between journalist Igor Burdygu and C14 representatives occurred near the Holosiivskyi District Court of Kiev. The journalist was in court for an editorial assignment. After the trial, the journalist was surrounded by C14 representatives, and its leader, Eugeny Karas, slapped the journalist. In September 2018, the leader of the Ukrainian radical group Bratstvo D.Korchinsky threatened the NewsOne television channel journalist with violence. She had previously been beaten by nationalists (the threats were published on his Facebook page). On September 17, 2018, radicals beat the NewsOne television channel journalist Daria Bilera who covered the clashes between nationalists and the police near the Attorney General's Office. The police present at the scene were inactive. Another NewsOne television channel journalist, Anastasia Pshenichnaya, was attacked by nationalists during her report near the Attorney General's Office in October 2018. The police first detained the attackers, but C14 activists began to resist and repelled their "colleagues".[618]

The HRMU has also repeatedly recorded right-wing radicals' attacks against journalists. The report for the period from 16 May to 15 August 2019 provides cases of beatings of journalists by far-right extremisms in Kharkov on June 7, 2019 and on Independence Square in Kiev on July 2, 2019, as well as an attack against the participants of the press conference on the last elections' vote counting on July 30, 2019, in which three journalists were beaten and one of them was hospitalized.[619]

In 2018, the Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information (IMI) recorded 235 cases of violations of freedom of expression (in 2017 – 281). Of these, 173 incidents were related to attacks against media workers, 96 – to the obstruction of their professional activity, 33 – to threats and intimidation and 31 – to beatings. The police opened 258 criminal cases, of which 176 cases under article "Obstruction of professional activity", 72 cases under article "Threat to life", 9 cases under article "Deliberate destruction or damage of property" and one case under article "Attempt on the life".

At the same time, other public organizations indicate that the IMI underestimates the data. The Strana.UA media outlet cites the opinion of the head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) Sergey Tomilenko. Due to the fact that the IMI reflects the situation with the pressure on the media in a biased manner, the NUJU even introduced their own alternative Physical Security Index – monitoring of attacks against journalists. In 2017, the NUJU recorded 90 cases of the use of force. According to the NUJU, the IMI provides 29 cases over the same period.[620]

In 2019, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report "Civic space and fundamental freedoms ahead of the presidential, parliamentary and local elections in Ukraine in 2019–2020". According to monitoring data, there is a tendency in the country for "violent attacks and acts of intimidation" against media workers, civil society activists and political leaders, as well as lawyers.

In early November 2019, there were hearings in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the security of media workers' activity. During them, in particular, it was noted that about 60 journalists were killed in the country from 1993 to 2019. In 2019, over 200 unlawful acts against journalists were recorded (including threats, insults, unlawful obstruction of professional activity, use of force, damage to equipment and means of communication). 92 per cent of such crimes remain uninvestigated or unpunished. Only 1 out of 12 cases reaches the courts; the punishment of offenders mainly limited to symbolic fines. It was also noted that journalists are afraid to publish sensitive materials that may displease persons appear in them and provoke aggression and harassment.

The authorities also do not abandon the practice of deporting foreign reporters. In 2018, a number of Russian journalists, including RT correspondent P.Slier and television presenter and member of the Russian Union of Journalists E.Primakov, who were traveling to Kiev to participate in the OSCE conference "Strengthening media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine during times of conflict in and around the country", were banned from entering Ukraine.

The number of denials of entry into the country of Russian citizens is growing. During the state of martial law in ten Ukrainian regions from 26 November to 26 December 2018, the country visits by Russian males aged 16 to 60 were forbidden (except for "humanitarian emergencies"). In total, 1,651 people were refused to cross the border during this period (including women). Since the beginning of 2019, the Ukrainian authorities have not allowed over 3.3 thousand citizens of the Russian Federation to enter the territory of the country (as of May 2019).

The attacks on the right to privacy continue. The notorious Mirotvorets website publishes illegally collected personal data of the persons whom the resource authors consider to be "separatists" or "enemies of Ukraine", including reporters, politicians and cultural figures speaking from alternative points of view, and even Russian diplomats. Currently, this Internet resource is actively used by Ukrainian security services and radical nationalist entities to exercise psychological pressure on individuals whom they accuse of "separatism and treason". A number of journalists said about the freezing of their bank accounts due to the fact that they are included in this list. The most flagrant instance was the publication of personal data, including the residential address, of journalist O.Buzina, after which he was killed. In addition, the resource information is used by Ukrainian courts at all stages of judicial proceedings as an evidence base. The Mirotvorets website has been sharply criticized by international human rights organizations, human rights activists and journalists. Thus, the Ukrainian human rights NGO Uspishna Varta noted that it found 101 judgments in criminal proceedings, where the materials of the Mirotvorets website are indicated as evidence base in the preamble.[621]

The situation with the Russian compatriots in Ukraine remains difficult. The compatriots face violations of their rights and freedoms, including the right to life and the right to the inviolability of the person and home. Activists are intimidated and pressured by law enforcement agencies and security services.

In December 2018, the SSU carried out searches in the premises of the Russian-speaking community members in Poltava. Pushkin medal was taken from the coordinator of the All-Ukrainian Coordination Council of the Organizations of Russian compatriots S.Provatorov (he also heads the Russian Commonwealth association).

Investigative measures against the historian Y.Pogoda (a well-known researcher of the Northern War period) and the poet and publicist V.Shestakov (the leader of the Russian community of the Poltava region) were also carried out. Criminal proceedings against them under Art. 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("infringement upon the territorial sovereignty") were initiated.

In May 2019, the SSU searched the leader of the Zakarpattia regional community Rus V.Saltykov. Mobile communication means and personal computer equipment were seized.

The situation with regard to ensuring religious rights and freedoms remains acute. The authorities do not cease persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). Throughout 2018, cases of forceful seizures of temples, arsons, damage to church property, physical violence and intimidation of clergy and flocks continued to be reported.

In order to redistribute church property, including to forcibly transfer the rights to its use from the UOC to the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), amendments to the current legislation were made. On December 20, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law obliging the UOC to change its name to the "ROC in Ukraine". On January 17, 2019, a law defining a simplified procedure for religious communities to change their confessional affiliations was approved.

The human rights community characterizes the situation with the transfer of churches and religious communities from the UOC to the OCU in the most negative way. In 2019, in the Kiev and Rivne regions, observers of the HRMU recorded 9 acts of violence by the OCU supporters. At the same time, non-religious actors, including local authorities and members of nationalist groups, actively participated in de facto violent transitions. According to available data, there are currently over 220 such re-registrations.

An integral part of the official Kiev policy is language-based discrimination against a considerable part of the population, including a gross violation of rights of the Russian-speaking community.

In October 2018, the law "On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine on the Language of Audiovisual (Electronic) Media" (adopted in October 2017), according to which the share of programs and films in Ukrainian on the nationwide television channels is at least 75 per cent and on the air of regional and local television companies – at least 50 per cent, came into full effect.

Human rights activists point out that this measure may turn out to be ineffective: instead of the expected Ukrainization of the media sphere, the application of the said law can lead to the restructuring of information products consumption in favor of Internet resources and the reduction in the traditional media market (press and television), which, in order to meet the requirements of the law, will have to bear high financial costs to produce content in Ukrainian and because of that will bear losses. This will reinforce the trend forwards the decline in Ukrainian-language newspapers observed in Ukraine in recent years and, more broadly, the trend forwards the decline in officially registered media outlets. Thus, from 2014 to 2018, the number of Ukrainian-language newspapers decreased by 13.5 per cent and circulation – by 23.8 per cent. In general, the total number of media outlets decreased by 20 per cent (from 2,169 to 1,736) and circulation – by 33 per cent (from 2.7 to 1.8 billion) over the same period by 2018. Given that media consumption is determined not by language, but by the media product quality, this will lead to the reduction in the quality content production and, consequently, to the audience shrinking. At the same time, according to a study conducted by the human rights platform "Uspishna Varta", Russian‑language products significantly increased the viewership ratings of television channels that have such a component in their broadcasting. For example, on May 9, 2019, the Inter television channel broadcasted a concert in honor of Victory Day became the leader of the Ukrainian television broadcast (in the category of the mass all-Ukrainian audience over 18 years of age). The channel share was 14.5 per cent. In total, 12.2 million viewers watched this program in the country.[622]

In September 2017, the Law "On Education" was adopted, which stipulates that instruction in Ukrainian educational institutions will be provided only in the state language starting from 2020. Instruction in minority languages is permitted in pre-school institutions and primary schools. This legislative act undermines the language rights of millions of Ukrainian citizens – Russians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Greeks, Poles, Romanians and speakers of other languages.

A number of international human rights entities made comments on this law. In December 2017, an expert opinion of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe was published, which confirmed the existence of discriminatory provisions in the said law. Critical assessments in this regard were also given in the PACE resolution "Protection and development of regional and minority languages in Europe" of January 23, 2018. In December 2018, the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities L.Zanier emphasized that Ukraine "should remain a space for all nationalities with different languages, which they should have the right to use". According to him, this issue was repeatedly raised by him during meetings with the Ukrainian leadership.

In April 2019, the law "On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state Language" was adopted, which establishes the use of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life, except for private communication and worship. At the same time, the document stipulates the preferential treatment of the indigenous languages, as well as the EU languages. Thus, the Russian language, which is used by the majority of the population in everyday life, is subjected to double discrimination.

Human rights activists recorded dozens of cases of intolerance and/or aggression against persons belonging to minorities or holding alternative political views. They are particularly concerned about the unlawful actions of radical nationalist organizations members (C14, Pravyi Sektor, Traditions and Order, National Corps, National Squads, STP, etc.). Their violent actions go almost unheeded by law enforcement agencies. Right-wing radicals themselves do not hide the fact that they closely coordinate their activities with the SSU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, when considering the combined 22nd and 23rd periodic reports of Ukraine in August 2016, noted with concern that there are racial incidents and hate crimes in the country, including physical attacks against individuals due to their ethnic origin (in particular, the Committee noted with concern cases of denied access of Africans and Indians to certain public places in Uzhgorod, such as a local water park, because of their color). In addition, the CERD experts expressed concern that Ukraine does not always carry out proper and effective investigations of racially motivated crimes and that perpetrators are not brought to justice. The Committee also noted the low number of hate crimes cases brought before national courts. Moreover, the CERD indicated that right-wing extremist organizations, such as the Pravyi Sektor, the Azov Civil Corps and the Social-National Assembly, encourage incitement to racial hatred and propaganda of racist ideology. It also noted that such organizations are guilty of racially motivated violence against members of minority groups, which often go unpunished. It was also pointed out that the ability of national minorities to access justice to protect against discrimination is very limited.[623] Furthermore, the concerns of the Committee experts on this issue remain. The explanations provided by Ukraine on the implementation of the CERD concluding remarks were insufficient for the Committee, and in a subsequent letter dated 18 December 2017, it urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the full and effective implementation of the legal provisions for countering organizations that promote racism and racial hatred and to provide detailed information on the progress in the investigation and prosecution of such entities in the next CERD report.[624]

This activity was the natural result of the rapid legitimization of radical nationalists identified by many experts and their integration into governmental structures, purges and forceful punitive operations against those who are labeled "anti-Ukrainian activities". International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Frontline Defenders, indicate that radical groups in the country, hiding behind patriotic rhetoric, enjoy complete impunity, and this contributes to even greater activation of their aggressive actions.

In Ukraine, the whole spectrum of manifestations of the state-adopted policy of whitening and glorifying Nazism and Nazi accomplices of the Second World War recognized as criminal by the decision of the Nuremberg Tribunal is recorded, as well as the falsification policy on the questions of its history and systematic measures by the country's authorities to delete the memorable date of May 9 – the Victory Day of the USSR over German Nazism – from the history of the Ukrainian people.

Official Kiev continues the policy of glorifying the leaders of the so‑called national liberation movement in the period 1940-1950 and the members of Ukrainian nationalist groups as "fighters against communism for the freedom of the motherland". Particular attention is paid to taking measures to support them by the state.

In April 2015, the law "On the legal status and honoring of the memory of fighters for the independence of Ukraine in the 20th century", which recognized the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) and their leaders – the leader of the OUN S. Bandera and the commander of the Nachtigall Battalion and the UIA R. Shukhevych – as the "fighters for independence", was adopted. The law also provides for criminal liability for a negative assessment of the activities of the said entities.

In line with the provisions of this law, on January 30, 2018, the Lviv Regional Council decided to use the OUN-UIA flag along with the Ukrainian national flag. Similar decisions were taken by the Volyn Regional Council and city councils in Ternopol, Kiev and several other cities.[625]

In December 2018, a law amending the law "On the status of war veterans, guarantees of their social protection" (No. 2640-VIII), which essentially equalized collaborationists as "participants in the struggle for the independence of Ukraine in the 20th century" and veterans who fought on the side of Allied forces, was passed.[626]

Ukrainian officials allow for the public statements in support of Nazi figures. In September 2018, former Verkhovna Rada speaker A.Parubiy called Hitler "the greatest person who practiced direct democracy" live on the local television channel ICTV.[627]

The activity of the Ukrainian consul in Hamburg, V.Marushchynets, who actively posted xenophobic and racist content that justified Nazism and anti-Semitism, evoked a strong media response. He also published photographs against the background of the Bandera flag and with a cake in the form of A.Hitler's book "Mein Kampf", which his colleagues gave him for his 60th anniversary. In May 2018, V.Marushchynets was dismissed from service, but in early November 2019, the media reported that the Ukrainian judicial authorities recognized his dismissal as unlawful.[628]

In July 2018, the parliamentary leadership organized a thematic exhibition on the occasion of the "77th anniversary of the act of the restoration of the Ukrainian State" proclaimed on June 30, 1941, which established the protectorate dependent on Nazis in the territory of Halychyna and determined this formation's course for the cooperation with Nazi Germany. The exhibition was dedicated to the activities of the OUN leaders S.Bandera and Ya.Stetsko and the commander of the Nachtigall Battalion and the UIA R.Shukhevych in the initial period of the Great Patriotic War.[629]

In February 2019, following the indignation of the nationalist forces over the incident during the crackdown of the nationalists' action by law enforcement agencies on Kontraktova Square in Kiev, during which the policeman shouted "Lie down, Bandera", the National Police leadership launched a flash mob "I am Banderavets" on social media. This phrase was published by the head of the National Police S.Knyazev and the head of the patrol police department E.Zhukov on their Facebook pages.

In March 2019, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine V.Muzhenko approved the new patches of the ground forces' brigades. The red-black chevron with the image of a skull and the inscription "Ukraine or death" is approved for the military personnel of the 72nd mechanized brigade named after the Black Cossacks of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These patches have visual similarities to the patches of the SS Panzer Division "Dead Head".[630]

In August 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern that racist hate speech and discriminatory statements directed mainly against minorities are heard more and more during public debates, including in speeches of public and political figures, in the media, particularly on the Internet, and during rallies in Ukraine.[631]

The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UINR) headed by the former director V. Vyatrovich massively fabricated historical fakes, including justifying members of collaborationist entities. The Institute is honoring the OUN and UIA militants on an ongoing basis.

Thus, in early 2017, the Institute announced its propaganda project "UIA: a response of the unconquered people" dedicated to the 75th anniversary of this formation's founding. The UINR leadership described it as an anti-Nazi entity, despite the fact that over 70 per cent of the UIA officers consisted of former Nazi minions – fighters of collaborationist units, and its command was part of the Nazi auxiliary police Schutzmannschaft until 1943. According to the UINR report for 2018, the events (photo exhibitions, lectures, seminars) aimed at popularizing the activities of the UIA militants were carried out in educational institutions, military units and state institutions as part of the project "UIA: a response of the unconquered people". Moreover, the UINR released a board game heroizing members of the Bandera underground for propaganda purposes.[632] In July 2019, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine recommended this game to be used in schools.[633]

The Institute recreates "rebel awards", which are given to the "Ukrainian liberation movement participants", as well as relatives of the deceased "liberators". For example, the members of the German auxiliary police (Hilfspolizei) participated in mass executions of Jews were posthumously awarded Military Crosses of OUN-UIA Knights on the initiative of the UINR in Lutsk in December 2017.[634] On February 1, 2019, the 92-year-old UIA member in the Lviv region was awarded the order for merit to the Ukrainian people.[635]

The educational literature is also "adjusted" in accordance with the official interpretation of history. The evidences of the Ukrainian nationalists' collaborationism are being twisted. For example, the Ministry of Education and Science requested to withdraw the circulation of history textbooks for grades 10-11, which contain information on the cooperation of the UIA commander R. Shukhevych, as well as the Roland and Nachtigall battalions with the army of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Moreover, the Ukrainian authorities actually engage right-wing extremist and ultranationalist groups and organizations in the "patriotic work" with young people, providing state support to certain groups. Children summer camps and festivals dedicated to Ukrainian Nazi accomplices and war criminals are organized. As a rule, this is being done with the financial support of the Ukrainian state through the Ministry of Youth and Sports together with local administrations. Thus, in 2018, the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda and the C14 organization received state grants in the amount of over one million hryvnas to implement the "patriotic education of youth" projects. In 2019, state funding was allocated for the Khorunzhiy youth military-patriotic camp named after collaborationist T.Borovets and several other similar projects. In the summer of 2019, the Bandershtat festival was held in Lutsk, the festival in honor of the Ukrainian nationalism ideologist Dontsov – in Melitopol and the Taras Borovets Trails festival – in Olevsk.

Against the background of the rehabilitation of the Nazis and their accomplices, attempts are being made to demonize the Soviet Army soldiers right up to blaming them for the crimes committed by Nazis. For example, the object of such misrepresentations is the tragedy occurred in the village of Koryukovka, Chernihiv region, in March 1943, where Nazis killed almost all inhabitants as a result of a punitive action. In the Ukrainian media publications dedicated to the 75th anniversary of this massacre, the incident was presented in such a way that civilians were killed through the fault of partisans who allegedly provoked Nazis to atrocities.

The Ukrainian authorities continue to erect monuments and establish memorial plaques in honor of the OUN-UIA militants. Thus, in August 2016, a pedestal to S.Bandera and R.Shukhevych was installed in the city of Cherkasy.[636] In June 2018, the National Corps radicals established a memorial plaque to the UIA soldiers on the territory of the Monument of Glory in Lviv.[637] In Zhitomir, local authorities decided to erect a monument to S.Bandera in the city center.[638]

Based on the resolutions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, anniversaries of Ukrainian Nazi accomplices are regularly entered into the calendar of memorable dates. Thus, in January 2019, the birthday of the leader of the nationalist organization OUN S. Bandera was celebrated at the state level based on the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine "On the celebration of memorable dates and anniversaries in 2019" of December 18, 2018. 2019 was declared the year of S. Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. "Bandera Readings" are regularly held: for the 6th time, this forum was held in the Kiev City Council building on February 1, 2019.[639] Similar events in honor of the SS Galicia Division are held regularly in Western Ukraine on April 28.[640]

On December 3, 2019, by the Verkhovna Rada resolution No. 2364, the anniversaries of such Nazi collaborationists as V.Kubiyovich (an active supporter of the cooperation with Germans, the initiator of the formation of the SS Galicia Division), I.Poltavets-Ostryanitsa (the head of the UNAKOR – the Ukrainian National Cossack Rukh, which included auxiliary police units participated in the mass killings of Jews in Volyn, Zhytomyr, Vinnitsa, Bila Tserkva), V.Levkovich (a member of the Ukrainian auxiliary police in Dubno, then – the commander of the Bug Military District as part of the UIA convicted by the Military Tribunal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kiev region in 1947), U. Samchuk (an activist of the OUN, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Nazi newspaper "Volyn" in Rivne published anti-Semitic articles calling for the extermination of Jews), V.Sidor (a member of the OUN and UIA, the hundred‑member commander as part of the Nachtigall battalion, which participated in punitive operations; after the war right up to the liquidation in 1949, he actively participated in underground activities and held the position of the UIA chief commander), A.Melnik (the head of the OUN board, the head of the Ukrainian National Rada in Kiev during the war, the organizer of the Ukrainian auxiliary police units, the organizer of mass killings of Jews), K.Osmak (a member of the OUN (S.Bandera wing), one of the leaders of the Ukrainian National Rada in Kiev under the leadership of A.Melnik), A.Vyshnivsky (one of the organizers of the SS Galicia Division), Y.Starukh (a member of the OUN board, the organizer of the Jewish pogroms), V.Galasa (one of the leaders of the OUN, who led the OUN underground network in Western Ukraine, the organizer of the Jewish pogroms in the Ternopil region and the massacres of Poles), as well as nationalists, in particular M.Zheleznyak (the leader of the Koliv region, who was involved in the massacre of Jews in Uman in the 18th century) were included in the calendar of memorable dates and anniversaries of 2020. At the same time, in a number of cases, these persons are simply referred to as public figures (such as, for example, the "historian and geographer" V.Kubiyovich, the "political and military leader" Y.Starukh, the "writer, publicist and journalist U.Samchuk) without reference to their connection with nationalists.

In connection with this resolution of the Verkhovna Rada, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine J.Lion protested on December 6, 2019, noting that "honoring those who voluntarily decided to cooperate with the Nazi regime – it does not matter for what reason – is an insult to the memory of six million Jews exterminated by Nazis".[641]

In February 2019, in the urban-type village of Varva (Chernihiv region), a memorial plaque in honor of the captain of the SS Galicia Division A.Goncharenko was installed.

On February 24, 2019, in the Volyn region, solemn events in memory of the UIA member G.Pereginyak were held with the participation of local authorities.

On March 18, 2019, in the urban-type settlement of Bogorodchany (Ivano-Frankivsk Region), local authorities unveiled a monument to the members of the SS Nachtigall battalion O.Khyments and I.Shimansky, who participated in the murders of Jews during the Great Patriotic War.

On March 25, 2019, in Chernivtsi, activists of the Plast children's scout organization paid tribute to the creator and commander of Bukovinsky Kuren (a unit in the OUN structure) P.Voinovsky, who collaborated with Nazis and participated in the Jewish pogroms in Bukovina and the massacres of Jews in Babi Yar, Vinnitsa and Zhytomyr.

On April 2, 2019, in Truskavets (Lviv region), local authorities erected a monument in honor of the OUN member R.Riznyak, who headed the Ukrainian auxiliary police in Truskavets and was personally involved in the extermination of the Jewish population of the city in 1941.

On May 5, 2019, in the village of Nizhny Berezov (Ivano-Frankivsk Region), municipal authorities erected a monument to N.Arsenich, who headed the OUN security service and organized the Jewish pogroms in Western Ukraine in the summer of 1941 and participated in them, as well as in the Volyn massacre.

On May 22, 2019, a fresco with a portrait of S.Petlyura was opened at the initiative of the Kiev City Council on Z.Kosmodemyanskaya Street; a similar fresco was installed in the city of Kamenetz-Podolsky on July 31.

On July 29, 2019, in the Zolochevsky district of the Lviv region, a solemn reburial of the remains the SS Galicia Division members, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the division's defeat in the battle for Brody, took place with the state support.

On August 28, 2019, the youth sports competition "Shukhevych Cup" dedicated to the UIA commander R.Shukhevych was organized at the initiative of local authorities in Ternopol.[642]

At the same time, monuments to the Soviet Army soldiers and the victims of the Second World War tragic events, including those related to the Holocaust, are regularly attacked by right-wing extremist and nationalist groups.[643]

The number of xenophobic manifestations and hate crimes in Ukraine has increased. Against a background of a massive campaign to glorify Ukrainian radical nationalists and participants and organizers of the extermination of the Jewish population of Ukraine during the Second World War, there has been a significant increase in anti-Semitism manifestations.

Since 2014, human rights activists have recorded over 500 cases of vandalism against monuments and memorials in honor of soldiers liberated Ukraine from the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War and killed civilians and desecration of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and memorials to the victims of the Holocaust.[644]

In March 2017, in Odessa, activists of the right-wing extremist organization Sokol placed Nazi symbols on the obelisk in memory of the participants in the fighting for Odessa and on the memorial stone in honor of Marshal G.Zhukov (the Nazi symbol Wolf's Hook, which was the emblem of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, was depicted).[645]

In June and November 2017, in Kiev, radicals poured cement on the Eternal Flame in the park of Eternal Glory.[646]

In April 2018, in the Poltava region, unidentified persons desecrated the monument of Grieving Mother and the monument to the victims of Nazism. The inscriptions "Heil Hitler" with a Nazi swastika were put on the slabs of the memorial.[647] At the same time, a monument to General N.Vatutin was desecrated in Kiev.[648]

In June and July 2018, in Lviv, members of the C14 extremist organization desecrated the grave of the Soviet intelligence officer N.Kuznetsov and the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Red Army.[649]

In January 2019, authorities demolished the Monument of Glory in Lviv.[650]

On June 2, 2019, the National Corps activists demolished the bust of Marshal G.K.Zhukov in Kharkov.

Nationalists in Ukraine carry out their mass actions with impunity. Every year on January 1 (the birthday of the OUN leader S.Bandera) and October 14 (the date of the UIA creation) radical nationalist groups the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, C14, Pravyi Sektor, the OUN, etc. hold torchlight processions in a number of cities in the country.[651] In addition, various activities dedicated to the Great Patriotic War events are held. Thus, the neo-Nazi music festival "Fortress Europe", which participants chanted Nazi slogans, was held in Kiev on the anniversary of the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union on June 22, 2019. On June 30, 2019, in Lviv, the United Nationalist Forces (as part of the National Corps, the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor) held a march dedicated to the "millennium of the Ukrainian state". The date of the march coincided with the anniversary of the adoption by Bandera's men of the "Act of the proclamation of the Ukrainian state" in this city in 1941 and with the beginning of a large-scale Jewish pogrom in the city, also organized by Bandera's men.[652]

Along with this, legislative prohibitions on the symbols of the Red Army and the USSR are introduced in Ukraine; veterans and anti-fascist activists are being prevented from holding commemorative events to celebrate Victory Day; authorities are persecuting NGOs struggling with the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and racism.

Nationalists and right-wing radicals annually disrupt Victory Day celebrations and celebrations of other memorable dates. The Ukrainian authorities, as a rule, do not stop the illegal actions of intruders.

For example, in May 2017, in Kiev, the leader of the nationalist organization OUN N. Kokhanivsky announced on his social network page an event called "Mortal Regiment", which was supposed to interfere with the campaign "Immortal Regiment" in Kiev.[653] In April 2018, nationalists attacked citizens who came to lay flowers at the monument to General N. Vatutin in Kiev.[654] In November 2018, the Lviv City Council decided to stop funding the local Council of Veterans of the Great Patriotic War.[655] In 2018 and 2019, nationalists wearing clothes with Nazi symbols attacked the organizer of commemorative events and the director of Institute of legal policy and social protection E.Berezhnaya on Victory Day in Kiev. At the same time, law enforcement officials did not respond to the radicals' actions, and instead detained the victim.[656]

In addition, nationalists conduct blasphemous actions timing them to coincide with the dates of tragic events. In particular, radicals annually hold actions on the day of the tragedy in the Trade Unions House in Odessa. In 2018, in Odessa, radicals attacked the participants of events in memory of the victims of the tragedy.[657] On May 2, 2019, on the day of the fifth anniversary of this tragedy, nationalists organized the "Ukrainian Order March" in the city center. The day after these events, flowers and commemorative tablets on the Kulikovo field, which citizens brought in memory of the victims, were burnt.

Against this background, it is not surprising that attacks on members of national minorities became frequent. According to the HRMU data, 14 cases of violence and intimidation against representatives of national minorities were recorded only for the period from 16 August to 15 November 2018. At the same time, the initiators of half of the incidents were members of right-wing extremist groups, which, as emphasized by human rights activists, act with impunity. In this regard, it is emphasized that "the climate of insecurity is created in the country".

Nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations disseminate their ideology on the Internet. This, in particular, is indicated by the report of the Human Rights Watch NGO posted on the information portal of the Kharkov Human Rights Group,[658] which notes the impunity of local radicals spreading the idea of superiority of Ukrainians over other nations.

Numerous cases of propaganda of interethnic and racial intolerance are recorded on the Internet. In addition, there are specific information resources (http://buntokratia.com, http://catars.is, http://acrains.com), on which Ukrainian right-wing radical and nationalist organizations post publications of a racist and anti-Semitic nature.[659]

According to the report of the United Jewish Community, published on the JewishNews Internet portal[660] in February 2019, official statistics on the anti-Semitism manifestations do not correspond to the real situation. It is also noteworthy that the document establishes a direct relationship between the growth of anti-Semitism cases and the government's policy of heroizing Nazi minions.

Ultranationalist groups, in particular Pravyi Sektor, National Corps and the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda operate legally in Ukraine. These associations were represented in the country's parliament by its leaders – D.Yarosh, A.Biletsky and A.Ilyenko. Moreover, there are examples of nationalists joining executive bodies. One such striking example is the appointment of the former neo-Nazi activist and Azov fighter Vadim Troyan as deputy minister of internal affairs of Ukraine on February 8, 2017.[661]

Nationalists from the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda also have an impressive number of their members in local authorities. The leader of the extremist organization C14 E.Karas is a member of the Council of Public Monitoring in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.[662]

In 2018, the Kiev City Council signed an agreement with C14, according to which this radical organization creates the "city watch" to patrol the streets. Three such patrols are registered in Kiev and another 21 in other cities of the country.

Human rights organizations of Ukraine note the increase in cases of xenophobia and aggression against foreigners in law enforcement agencies. The practice of detention, arrest and document examination based on race and ethnicity remains widespread.

Representatives of international human rights entities and mechanisms separately record the attacks by local nationalists on Roma settlements and the poor response of the Ukrainian justice. Thus, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised concerns about the continuing discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices against Roma in Ukraine, including those leading to physical attacks and killings of the community members. The Committee expressed concern about racially motivated and xenophobic incidents faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine.[663]

In western Ukraine, Kiev and other cities, attacks against Roma settlements are constantly taking place. On April 20, 2018, the C14 radicals destroyed the Roma camp on the Lysaya Gora in Kiev. Allegedly, in response to complaints from victims, law enforcement officers recommended that they leave the occupied territory. The criminal case was initiated only at the insistence of human rights organizations.

On April 23-24, 2018, radicals set fire to several houses in the Rusanovsky Gardens of the Dnipropetrovsk district of Kiev, in which Roma families lived. In May 2018, Roma camps were burned in the Ternopil (the village of Bolshaya Berezovitsa) and Lviv regions (the city of Rudnoe). In June 2018, in Kiev, nationalists destroyed Roma camps in Goloseevsky Park and in the forest near the Akademgorodok metro station; radicals also attacked Roma near the South Railway Station.

In June 2018, in the Lviv region, the juvenile neo-Nazis from the group "Sober and Evil Youth" carried out an armed attack against a Roma settlement, which had resulted in the death of one person.[664] According to media reports, its YouTube page was called Lemberg Jugend (in analogy to Hitler-Jugend) until June 24, 2018. In addition, it is alleged that this entity has its own Telegram account that hosts several dozen Hitler quotes.

UNHCR developed and sent a number of recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Ukraine to state authorities, but the Kiev leadership completely ignores them.

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FINLAND

Promotion and protection of human rights has traditionally been one of the major topics on the Finnish domestic and foreign policy agenda. Commitment to the advancement of human rights has also been declared in the program adopted by the new government formed following April 2019 parliamentary elections. On December 3, 2019, Antti Rinne resigned. On December 10, 2019, Sanna Marin was appointed prime minister of Finland. The government coalition and program have been left unchanged.

Moreover, the idea that with the U.S. losing interest in the promotion of democratic values throughout the world, as well as leading positions in the export of democratic values, the European Union needs to fill the gap, has been gaining popularity.

Notwithstanding the declared adherence to the implementation of the human rights agenda and the fact that the level of protection of key human rights and freedoms in Finland has traditionally been mostly commended by international organizations, national and international monitoring mechanisms, NGOs and mass media, the country has more than enough problems in this area.

In particular, international human rights organizations have repeatedly indicated that the changes to the country's procedure for filing an asylum request have made a significant negative impact on asylum seekers. In June 2019, Amnesty International addressed an appeal to the new Finnish minister of the interior, Maria Ohisalo, accusing the country's leadership of grave violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. In particular, it was pointed out that Finland continues to forcefully return them to countries where they face real threats to their life and security, and the corresponding decisions are made by migration services in a hurry without proper preparation. For example, Finland continues to forcefully return asylum seekers whose applications have not been approved to Afghanistan. For the majority of refugees, it is very difficult to reunite their families due to legal and practical impediments, including inflated income requirements.

Finnish authorities continue to detain unaccompanied migrant children and migrant families with children. At the same time, there are no set time limits for the detention of families with children. Besides, the Finnish authorities have introduced a new form of deprivation of freedom for asylum seekers and migrants - the so-called controlled residence: under new requirements, asylum seekers are to report to the reception center up to four times a day. At the same time, legal remedies in Finland are substantially limited.

UN Human rights treaty bodies have raised questions regarding the situation of migrants and refugees in Finland. In its concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Finland considered in November 2016, the Committee against Torture expressed concern over the reduction of legal safeguards provided to asylum seekers and the increase of the risk of their forced return to the countries they are fleeing due to the changes made to legislation and law enforcement practice, as well as the fact that foreign victims of trafficking are often swiftly removed from the State party without being offered assistance. The Committee has indicated with concern the abolishment of "humanitarian protection" as a national protection category and restrictions on legal aid for asylum seekers.[665]

Several legislative changes introduced in 2015 that weaken protection for asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants in vulnerable situations were also noted by the Committee against Racial Discrimination in Concluding observations on the twenty-third periodic report of Finland considered in April 2017. The Committee also criticized the following: several legislative changes that weaken protection for asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants in vulnerable situations; the fact that asylum seekers continue to be held in police detention; difficulties faced by undocumented individuals in accessing affordable and adequate health-care services. Besides, it indicated a selective approach by competent Finnish authorities to approval of asylum claims by persons belonging to certain groups.[666]

In reaction to the migration crisis of 2014-2015, rules for reunification of families of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were tightened in Finland. In particular, legislative amendments were adopted introducing, inter alia, new income requirements for all applicants.[667]

Special problems linked to the violation of rights of child asylum seekers include the fact that the rights and interests they have as children are often not taken into account, with the access to necessary legal assistance limited as well. For example, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has indicated that children of immigrant background and Roma children face difficulties in the education system, particularly as regards the persistence of discrimination and bullying, the high number of children in special education and the high drop-out rate.[668]

However, even legal migrants, as well as representatives of ethnic minorities, face discrimination. In 2014, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights indicated persisting discrimination in the fields of employment, education, health care and housing faced by persons with immigrant backgrounds and members of minorities, such as Russian-speakers, Roma and Somali. It was also concerned about the lack of specific measures to address the persistent discrimination.[669]

The Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU MIDIS II) has indicated that 45 per cent of persons of African descent residing in Finland have experienced discrimination based on color, ethnic origin, or religion, and 14 per cent of them have been victims of physical attacks caused by their immigrant background. Verbal abuse in public places, including public transport, is mostly aimed against these people who look different from the main population or are of another color, such as Somalis and Roma. Reports have also documented incidents of assaults against Muslim women wearing headscarves in public places.[670]

The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has also been concerned over the fact that persons speaking languages other than Finnish are increasingly targets of hate speech. At the same time, minority representatives still feel that the police's response to incidents of alleged hate crime is not sufficiently effective and prompt.[671]

As for the general situation with the manifestations of racial discrimination and combating it in Finland, in 2017 the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the insufficient amount of official data that could not give a comprehensive picture of the extent to which economic and social rights were enjoyed by various groups, including the Roma, the Russian- and Estonian-speaking peoples, Somali nationals and the Sami.

At the same time, the Committee noted with concern the increasing incidence of hate crimes motivated by racist bias and the relatively small number of hate crimes that have led to prosecutions. There have been reports of the intensification of hostile sentiments towards persons perceived to be of foreign background, including towards Roma, Muslims, Somalis and Russian and Swedish speakers. In 2015 and 2016, Finnish law enforcement authorities recorded violent attacks, including acts of arson, against asylum seekers.[672]

Incitement to hatred is a criminal offense when committed with aggravating circumstances. In addition, Finnish legislation also penalizes incitement to hatred, for example, under the prohibition of harassment (Section 14 (1) of the Non-Discrimination Act). Annual reports published by the Police University College recorded that 833 proceedings involving hate crimes were initiated in 2013, 822 in 2014, 1250 in 2015, 1079 in 2016, and 1165 in 2017. Of 1165 cases initiated in 2017, 241 were classified as incitement to violence and 231 as threats, 333 were motivated by racism and xenophobia, 81 by bias against Muslims, 13 by bias against Roma, 11 by bias against Christians, 6 by anti-Semitism, 2 by bias against members of other religions[673].

The National Police Board data indicate that a total of 160 proceedings related to online hate speech were initiated in 2015, 127 in 2016 and 282 in 2017. According to the Prosecutor's Office, 23 investigations concerning online hate speech were initiated in 2015, whereas this number was 24 in 2016 and 91 in 2017.[674]

While the number of prosecutions related to hate speech or incitement to hatred remained at 18 for both 2015 and 2016, it increased to 63 in 2017.[675]

 Although in 2015 Finnish legislation was amended to include norms prohibiting ethnic profiling by law enforcement bodies, this practice continues to be relevant. Persons belonging to ethnic minorities are stopped for ID-checks and searched by the police more often than the general population. Furthermore, inadequacies were found in registering the grounds for stops and ID-checks by the police.[676]

In its 2019 report, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights cited the findings of a study conducted in Finland which examined the prevalence and forms of ethnic profiling in the cities of Turku and Helsinki between 2015 and 2017. Out of the 185 interviewees, 145 had ethnic minority backgrounds and related their experiences of ethnic profiling. The other interviewees were 26 police officers and 14 other officials. Most of the interviewees with ethnic minority backgrounds reported that the stops and searches were unpleasant, annoying or humiliating experiences. Ethnic profiling is especially detrimental to trust in authorities and to the sense of belonging to Finland.[677]

Despite the signing in 2015 by all of the country's parliamentary parties of the Charter of European Political Parties for a Non-Racist Society, there has been a rise in anti-migrant, racist, and xenophobe rhetoric among Finnish political figures.

The influx of migrants was followed by an increase in inter-ethnic intolerance and polarization in the country. Some politicians have tried to attract voters by capitalizing on constituents' fears over the costs of immigration and perceptions that foreigners are overrepresented in criminal activities or pose a threat to national identity. In 2016, a member of Parliament stated that "all terrorists are Muslims" and asked for "the removal of all Muslims from the country". Reportedly, political candidates of immigrant origin faced racist comments and threats during the municipal election campaign in 2017. Certain extremist organizations, primarily neo-Nazi ones, also systematically use hate speech aimed at incitement to inter-ethnic strife, notably the Finnish branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL). ECRI also noted with concern that Nazi swastikas have appeared in public spaces in recent years.[678]

The Committee against Torture has criticized Finnish authorities for delays in issuing notifications that a person has been taken into custody, in particular in cases involving foreigners who are not resident in Finland and who do not speak Finnish.[679]

International monitoring organizations have also noted problems faced by children and young people in Finland. For example, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has expressed concern about the increasing number of children placed in care institutions and the relatively high proportion among them of children belonging to ethnic minorities. The Committee has also indicated with concern that consumption of alcohol and drugs remains remarkably high among young people.[680] The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed its concern over the persistence of bullying in schools of children of foreign origin despite the development and implementation by Finnish authorities of a targeted programme to fight against this phenomenon in schools.[681]

The Swedish language is an official language along with Finnish. However, according to the ACFC, negative attitudes towards Finnish-Swedish bilingualism have increased in society. Many Swedish speakers in Finland experience on a daily basis that their constitutionally guaranteed linguistic rights are not respected.[682]

Surveys conducted in 2016 found that 71 per cent of Swedish-speaking respondents think that general attitudes towards those who speak a different language have become more negative. Residents of the (unilingual Swedish) Åland islands responded to the survey in a similar way as the Swedish speakers on Finnish mainland. There have also been reports of pejorative statements about Swedish speakers, the special status of the Åland islands, or the mandatory teaching of the Swedish language by right-wing politicians. Such statements often remain unchallenged by Finnish politicians and officials. The Report of the Government on the Application of Language Legislation 2017 highlights a number of shortcomings in the practical implementation of the legal framework on Swedish speakers' rights. These concern the deterioration of the language climate experienced in public bodies, insufficient availability of Swedish-language health and social care services, in particular for elderly persons. The ACFC has drawn attention to a chronic lack of Swedish-speaking staff in health and social welfare services. The top-up paid to staff in such services who know the Swedish language is minimal (approximately €20-30).[683]

The Russian-speaking community in Finland consists of various groups of immigrants from countries of the former USSR. If in 2013 it amounted to roughly 66,000 people, according to the data collected by organizations of Russian-speaking compatriots in Finland, in recent years it has increased to about 77,000 due to the ongoing labor migration. Russian speakers continue to face negative attitudes based on their language or origin. In a survey conducted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle in 2015, one third of the respondents reported that they had faced negative treatment due to being Russian speakers. Organizations of Russian-speakers of Finland have noted that the attitude of some media and public figures towards the Russian-speaking population has become increasingly wary following Crimea's reunification with Russia and the military conflict in southeastern Ukraine. Russian speakers also mention that there is no state monitoring of Russophobic statements. In its latest report, ECRI urged the authorities to take steps to combat discrimination and prejudices faced by Russian speakers, particularly in employment.[684]

In post-war Finland, the use of Karelian was marginalised and even stigmatised and the language was treated as a dialect of Finnish. This led to a significant loss of Karelian speakers, and today the Finnish society has little knowledge about Karelians and their language. A first, albeit small-scale, revival program for the Karelian language and culture was started in 2017. Unfortunately, there are no Karelians in either the Language Council or the Consultative Council for Ethnic Relations.[685]

Human rights defenders have continued to express criticism of inadequate protection of rights of the indigenous Northern Finnish people – the Sami. According to various estimates, there are 10,000 Sami in Finland. Article 17 of the Constitution of Finland confirms the status of the Sami as an indigenous people.[686]

Although the government of the country has taken several measures which include, in particular, the establishment of the Sami Parliament (is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice of Finland and is not a separate state body), there are some disagreements between the official Helsinki and the Sami. The major reason is the unresolved issue of the right of the Sami to own land and manage freely its natural resources (90 per cent of originally Sami lands are state-owned) and, according to the Sami themselves, insufficient consideration by the authorities of the opinion of the indigenous population when making decisions that directly affect their interests. Besides, in 2016, the Act on Metsähallitus (8.4.2016/234) was adopted, but did not include the provisions on the necessity to take into account the rights and interests of the Sami for priority use of natural resources found in their territories that had been planned when the Act was drafted. At the same time, the new law provides for a more intense use of forests and water resources.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted that the rights of the Sami relating to their traditional lands and endangered traditional livelihood of fishing are not adequately protected. The Act on Metsähallitus (234/2016), adopted in 2016, does not require the Sami to be consulted prior to the issuance of permits affecting the use of their land. For example, the Sami Parliament was not consulted before the signing of the Teno River Fishery Agreement.[687] Another similar stumbling block was the project of an Arctic Railway stretching from Kirkenes to Rovaniemi which has recently been brought up again. The railway is going to cut through reindeer pastures and seriously threaten traditional livelihoods of the Sami. Despite the negative attitude of the Sami towards this project, the country's authorities do not intend to abandon it.[688]

The CERD has expressed concern over the fact that 75 per cent of Sami children under the age of 11 live outside the Sami homeland and that, despite an increase in budget, the number of qualified teachers of Sami languages remains insufficient. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has noted with concern that the variety of Sami languages is decreasing and some of them are at risk of extinction. One of the reasons for this difficult situation is that Sami language education outside the Sami homeland remains unsatisfactory due to the shortage of teachers.[689]

The ACFC has also indicated that the provision of health and social care services in the Sami languages remains insufficient, despite the efforts of Finnish authorities to strengthen knowledge of those languages and Sami culture among health and social care personnel.[690]

In reality, health care and social welfare services in Sami municipalities guaranteed by the Act on the Sami Language are provided on a rather low level.  A survey carried out in 2016 shows that only a very small proportion of respondents had received social welfare and health care services in one of the Sami languages. The availability of services in Sami is particularly meagre in the municipalities of Sodankylä and Inari, as well as for speakers of Skolt Sami. The situation is better in the municipalities of Utsjoki and Enontekiö. In the Report of the Government on the application of language legislation 2017, the authorities explain that the exceptionally sparse population, the relatively small number of speakers of the different Sami languages and the large geographical areas of municipalities in the Sami homeland, create challenges in the organization of health care and social welfare services in the region in general.[691]

Given that at least one generation of Sami speakers was "lost" through assimilation, the number of Sami speakers who could potentially choose to work in the health care and social welfare sectors is very limited. Though hundreds of people learned to speak the language anew over the past decades, this is not yet sufficient to meet the demands in all relevant sectors. Unfortunately, the Sami Language Act only covers public, and not private healthcare and social institutions, creating gaps in the use of related legislation.[692] 

The dispute about the definition of who is a Sami and the admission to the electoral roll for the Sami Parliament has not been fully resolved. The public debate on this matter has been highly polarized and marked by incidents of inciting to discord in social media. According to the ACFC, a solution will have to be found that balances the individual right of persons belonging to minorities to self-identification with the collective rights of indigenous peoples to determine the membership of their structures of self-governance.[693]

At present, roughly 60 per cent of the Sami population of Finland lives outside of the Sami homeland in the North of the country. It creates some problems for the Sami, particularly children and the elderly, when they contact local social care institutions due to insufficient knowledge of the rest of the country's population about the Sami. In some cases the Sami have to hide or deny their ethnic origin to avoid facing negative stereotypes. National Sami costume is portrayed negatively in the media.[694]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also named the Roma as another separate marginalized group; the majority of them face discrimination in terms of access to employment, housing, and education.[695]

ECRI has noted that the Finnish authorities have been making consistent efforts to increase the social involvement of the Roma; progress has been achieved in some areas. However, there are still problems related to Roma's access to education and employment. While the number of Roma children who have completed secondary education is growing, up to 20 per cent of Roma children drop out of school. Roma NGOs met by ECRI estimated that in 2016, the unemployment rate among Roma in Finland was around two-thirds or even higher.[696]

At the same time, anti-Roma sentiments in society are still not rare. In 2017, 30 cases of discrimination, 29 cases of defamation and 10 cases of assaults on Roma, motivated by bias against them, were identified. Roma who apply to public authorities, including social services, also face verbal abuse and harassment, by both the employees and other clients.[697]

Significant bottlenecks have been identified in gender equality. Surveys indicate that almost half of Finnish women older than 15 have experienced physical violence, at the same time human rights defenders have indicated the lack of support services for victims of domestic violence. Besides, there are problems in the protection of interests of victims of sexual violence. The Committee against Torture has indicated the prevalence of violence against women in Finland, including domestic and sexual violence, the underreporting of such cases and the lack of funding allocated to tackle this issue.[698] Statistics show that in 2017, 1,200 rapes were reported to the Finnish police, while only 209 relevant sentences were imposed. Furthermore, the country lacks a nationwide network for support of victims of sexual violence.

Another serious problem in terms of the exercise of human rights in Finland, noted by international human rights NGOs, is the possible limitation of the right to privacy by the package of laws on military and private intelligence adopted in Finland in June 2019: the new legislation has given Finnish special services access to personal data of Internet users, including private correspondence. What is more, according to the law, information about potentially extremist individuals may be collected regardless of criminal proceedings.

Major international human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized Finland for the lack of respect for the rights of detainees. In particular, it has been noted that some cells in Finnish prisons lack toilets, and that detainees do not always have full access to health care services. Besides, detainees and persons awaiting sentencing are often placed in cells with convicted offenders; recreational opportunities for inmates are significantly limited, as the Committee against Torture indicated in 2016.[699]

Cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel in places of detention, and against civilians have been reported. In particular, the Committee against Torture was concerned that on a number of occasions police officers used electric discharge weapons (tasers) in police stations. It has also been noted that persons deprived of their liberty who are transported from one location to another are handcuffed for the duration of the transfer, despite the fact that the law prescribes the use of physical restraints as a discretionary, not a routine, measure that correspondingly must be used in exceptional cases. CAT has also criticized Finnish law enforcement bodies about the use of the FN303 model of compressed air riot weapons during demonstrations, as such weapons can cause serious injuries.[700]

Certain bottlenecks exist in employment as well. Thus, surveys show that age discrimination in employment is rather widespread in Finland – almost 20 per cent of applicants face it during employment (the most vulnerable group is persons above 60).

There are also serious drawbacks in the exercise of rights of labor migrants. According to the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, one of the main problems that makes them seek assistance from the help service is the lack of written labor contracts and non-payment of salaries. This primarily concerns service workers. Cases of labor exploitation and human trafficking have also been identified, with victims being both migrants with work permits and refugees. The need to take additional measures to combat these phenomena had been noted by the country's leadership multiple times.

At the end of 2018, the media widely publicized inappropriate behavior within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland that declares its commitment to the rigorous adherence to the principles of gender equality and counter-discrimination. An anonymous survey covering almost 400 employees revealed that more than a third were systematically facing discrimination in the workplace, or suffered from harassment or sexual abuse.

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FRANCE

The human rights situation in France is monitored by dozens of national and international NGOs and human rights organizations that publish their annual opinions and reports. In general, they estimate the situation as relatively favourable, but characterized by enhancing negative trends.

Human rights activists note that French legislation to combat various types of discrimination does not fully comply with international standards and has certain gaps. These include protection mechanisms against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion or belief in areas such as education, access to goods and services, health care and social protection.

According to experts, French legislation prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols in public places (including the hijab) violates the right to freedom of conscience and religion.

With regard to labour market, the notion of discrimination is not clearly defined in the legislation. Different treatment of people in employment and professional activity depending on their religion or belief is not considered discrimination if it is based on "important requirements related to the nature of the work." Employers, at times abusing the principle of secularism, impose restrictions not provided for in the legislation on the wearing of religious and ethnic symbols and clothing. The fact that there exist numerous cases of discrimination in France in the world of work, including in the public service, was noted by the Human Rights Committee.[701]

The situation is aggravated by the tightening of counter-terrorism legislation. In 2016, a law was adopted according to which transport enterprises can request competent authorities to carry out administrative inspections (without the sanction of judicial authorities) with respect to their employees. Enterprises have the right to dismiss "Islamists" (even non-aggressive ones) identified based on the inspection results (that is, this legally establishes a new ground for dismissing an employee). In February 2019, an amendment to this law was adopted obliging enterprises to dismiss employees identified in such a way or transfer them to other places of work in order to reduce the risk. A dismissed or reassigned employee has the right to file an application with the court or the Council of State within five days to challenge the decision. According to human rights activists, the new law opens the door to confessional discrimination.

Human rights organizations note that French laws do not criminalize hatred against certain vulnerable categories (persons with disabilities, immigrants, the least wealthy).

The policy of the French Government for combating illegal migration is severely criticized.

The NGO Association of Assistance to Persons Having no Documents notes that up to 10,000 people are detained and placed in detention facilities each year at Paris airports (often without the possibility of timely access to lawyers and relatives). The cells are overcrowded and do not meet hygiene requirements and the conditions of detention are degrading to human dignity.

According to human rights defenders, the procedure for the repatriation of illegal migrants also remains humiliating.

Refugees are often deprived of a chance for the resettlement and integration. Under French law, a person who has submitted an application for refugee status to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons is entitled to free accommodation for three months (the usual time limit for processing applications). In practice, however, applicants for refugee status often join the army of homeless people. They are forced to settle illegally in empty buildings or in illegally established camps.

Human rights activists also point out violations by the French authorities of migrants' rights to family life due to frequent refusals to grant visas to their next of kin, thus preventing family reunification. Refugees from conflict zones are sometimes unjustifiably denied the right to asylum, being expelled from the country until all necessary procedures are completed.

In March 2014, the Minister of the Interior ordered to deport foreign nationals whose asylum applications were rejected by the Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons. An appeal against the decision of the Office is allowed before the National Court of Asylum, but this does not delay deportation. The situation is particularly difficult in the departments of Maritime Alps and
Pas-de-Calais, as well as in Paris.

The Department of Maritime Alps is situated on the border with Italy and is the main route through which the vast majority of refugees and illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa enter France. In early 2017, observers were sent to the French-Italian border by the NGO Amnesty International, and it was found that the French authorities massively violate the rights of refugees and immigrants when carrying out border control in this part of the border. In particular, refugees are denied the very possibility of exercising their right to asylum. Moreover, the authorities using false pretexts prosecute both administratively and criminally civil society activists who provide assistance to refugees and immigrants. On average, only 10 per cent of refugees and migrants are admitted to the French territory. In 2017, the abovementioned NGO estimated that the French authorities expelled back to Italy up to 95 per cent of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, who had arrived from its territory.

Until 2016, in the department of Pas-de-Calais there was the largest illegal migrant camp comprising 6,500 persons seeking to reach the UK. 1,600 migrant minors who lived in the camp without relatives or guardians did not receive proper social support from the authorities. Their conditions of life were unacceptable.

On October 24, 2016 the camp was cleared with numerous violations. According to human rights activists, a significant number of migrant minors were left without shelter, food and medical care during the evacuation.

In Calais, civil society organizations reported police violence and the excessive use of tear gas or other sprays to prevent the establishment of informal camps.[702]

UN human rights treaty bodies, in particular the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee against Torture paid considerable attention to the plight of migrants in France. They expressed their concern to the French authorities about the substandard conditions existing in the reception and accommodation facilities for migrants and asylum seekers, poor sanitation and housing conditions in accommodation centers, lack of access to food, clean water, health care, psychological support and legal counselling, and increased risks of violence or exploitation. It was also noted that administrative obstacles which impede access of such persons to social and economic rights reduce the effectiveness of the safeguards put in place as part of the reform of the asylum system.[703] The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[704], the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[705] and the Committee against Torture[706] also expressed serious concerns about the precarious living conditions of migrants in the Calais area.

Almost throughout 2016, 3,800 refugees were living on the streets in the 19th arrondissement of Paris due to lack of places in migrant reception centers. They were directed to reception centers only in November 2016. By 2018, the situation had deteriorated again. In northern Paris near the capital's ring road a large makeshift camp was created, mostly inhabited by people from the Middle East. Similar but smaller camps were set up in other places along the ring road.

Human rights NGOs note that the French authorities abuse counter-terrorism rhetoric to expand the powers and technological capabilities of special services, as well as to limit citizens' personal freedoms.

Act No. 2014-1353 On Measures to Strengthen the Fight against Terrorism of November 13, 2014 provides competent agencies with the possibility to increase control over communications, create special information traps and resort to administrative blocking (without a court decision) of websites which are considered extremist by law enforcement officials. Acts No. 2015-912 On Intelligence (Special Services) of 24 July 2015 and No. 2016‑731 of June 3, 2016 unprecedentedly expand the powers of the agencies in the field of control over ICT, methods of collecting information and personal data of users (including uncontrolled and mass collection), as well as allow them to set up any kind of surveillance pursuant to an administrative decision.

According to a joint statement issued by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights and several NGOs, in France 80 per cent of migrant children living in squats, emergency housing or temporarily with relatives do not attend school. In the case EUROCEF v. France, the European Committee of Social Rights found that France had violated the right of unaccompanied migrant children to social, legal and economic protection for several reasons (violation of Article 17(1) of the European Social Charter): shortcomings in the national shelter, assessment and allocation system with regards to unaccompanied migrant children; delays in appointing a special guardian; detention of unaccompanied migrant children in waiting areas and hotels; the use of bone testing to establish the age which is considered inappropriate and unreliable by the Committee; lack of clarity on how unaccompanied migrant children can get access to effective remedies.[707]

Following terrorist attacks in November 2015, a state of emergency was declared in the country. The Interior Ministry and special services were given exclusive powers, including the right to conduct searches and apply various control measures without judicial authorization, even if suspicions are unconfirmed.

Former Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland repeatedly expressed his concern about the extension of the state of emergency and "the conditions under which the prerogatives of the French security agencies are implemented." Former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks evoked "the risk of undermining the system of democratic control", noting that the French security agencies, in the exercise of expanded powers, allow systematic discrimination on ethnic grounds. He also pointed out the ineffectiveness of emergency measures – they resulted in initiating only a few processes for terrorism-related violations (not even crimes).

Act No. 2016-731 of 3 June 2016 simplified implementing administrative control and repression measures with respect to jihadists returning from the Middle East, further extended the powers of the law enforcement agencies to conduct administrative searches, and criminalized regular visits to Internet sites that disseminate calls for committing terrorist acts or contain an apology of terrorism.

Human rights defenders note the vague language of the law which, they believe, creates the risk of abuse by the authorities and limits freedom of expression and free access to information.

The Human Rights Committee criticized the significant expansion of the powers of special services to withdraw information from technical channels both within and outside France. The Committee criticized the law on special services adopted in June 2015, noting that this legal instrument allows for surveillance using highly intrusive methods in order to achieve broad and insufficiently defined objectives, without the prior authorization of a judge and without a proper independent oversight mechanism. [708]

On October 30, 2017 the state of emergency was cancelled. However, Act No. 2017-1510 adopted on October 30, 2017 transferred exceptional measures introduced under the state of emergency regime to the sphere of ordinary legislation (with minor changes). Law enforcement agencies on a permanent basis received almost full emergency powers. Almost all terrorism prevention activities have become the prerogative of the executive branch: repressive measures are taken administratively without sanctions by judges.

In late 2018 the NGO Amnesty International published a study on the application by the French authorities to persons who have already served a court-ordered sentence of administrative restrictions on residence and freedom of movement ("assignation residence" is a measure similar to a pledge not to leave, but implying more restrictions). These restrictions were introduced after the adoption of the above-mentioned Act No. 2017-1510 of 30 October 2017. Human rights defenders stress that this practice has recently become one of the main tools of the French counter-terrorism agencies. In fact, this is an extrajudicial additional punishment which is constantly being renewed.

On 6 May 2019, the French Government issued a decree allowing the relevant units of the Ministry of the Interior to compare, without a court decision, the files from the police database of persons placed under control in order to prevent terrorist risks due to signs of their radicalization (known by the acronym FSPRT; in 2017 it contained information about approximately 22,000 persons) and the database of patients of psychiatric clinics and private psychiatrists.

No wonder that the decree was drawn up in an administrative procedure, not a legislative one (a decree issued by the Prime Minister rather than a law passed by the Parliament). This allowed the Government to avoid media attention and public debate at the preparatory stage and simply face doctors and human rights defenders with the fact.

Human rights activists stress that overall in France the disengagement of the judiciary from the preventive aspect in the fight against terrorism is a consistent trend. Under François Hollande, this process had accelerated considerably, and under Emmanuel Macron, with the adoption of Act No. 2017‑1510, it moved to a brand new level.

The traditional target of criticism of human rights activists is the French law enforcement and penal systems.

Mistreatment by law enforcement officials of migrants in regular or irregular situations, as well as of French nationals of a non-European phenotype is quite common. They are often subjected to identity checks on spurious pretexts, while the real reason is the race or ethnicity of the person checked.

The Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about the continuing practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officials and allegations of police harassment, as well as verbal abuse and abuse of power against migrants and asylum-seekers.[709]

Repeated incidents of violence and excessive use of force by police during forced closures of camps, as well as against Roma, were also reported by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[710] and the Committee against Torture.[711]

The experts note numerous cases of ill-treatment of detainees and remandees, sometimes fatal. Investigations are slow and not impartial. Lawyers' access to the remandees and investigation materials is limited. Human rights defenders believe that France frequently violates the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment and note the impunity of French guardians of law and the bias of judges. Doubts are roused about the thoroughness of investigations into allegations of violence and abuse of authority by law enforcement officials. In particular, in April 2016 the Committee against Torture considered the seventh periodic report of France and expressed its concern about numerous cases of excessive use of force by the police and the gendarmerie during some operations under the current state of emergency regime which in some cases resulted in serious injury or death, as well as psychological sequelae for the persons in question. The Committee experts indicated that victims faced obstacles in filing complaints. In a significant number of cases, there are refusals to initiate criminal proceedings and, where criminal cases do occur, administrative sanctions imposed are often not sufficiently severe or proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, while the number of court-ordered penalties imposed upon police and gendarmerie officers is very small. In addition, there is a lack of statistical data on complaints filed that would allow for comparisons with inquires launched and cases prosecuted. Besides, there is no data on court sentences and sanctions imposed on law enforcement officers found guilty.[712]

Until 2018, there had been no official statistics on police killings in France. This topic is periodically raised by various NGOs. Aggregated information shows an uneven increase in the number of such killings since the early 1990s (although their number is still substantially lower than in the USA).

Studies show that the standard portrait of the victim is a 25–30 year-old person of African descent or an Arab from a poor suburb. Typical circumstances of the killing include attempted arrest/escape or pretrial detention. The most common cause of death is gunshot wounds. It is noted that police officers, even in the absence of a direct threat to themselves or to third parties, hit not the parts of the body in which it is recommended to shoot in order to neutralize the criminal while keeping him/her alive. Often the cause of death is a heart attack or asphyxiation due to the use of special techniques for detention and/or restraint (such as "bending" or "mechanical asphyxiation" that are prohibited in many countries) recognized by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in 2002 as cruel, including due to the high risk of death. France ignores the CPT's recommendations to prohibit these techniques.

The Human Rights Committee also noted with concern the ill-treatment, excessive use of force and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons, especially during arrests, law enforcement operations and forced evictions.[713]

In 40 per cent of cases, there is no information on the legal consequences of deaths resulting from the actions of law enforcement officers, in 20 per cent of cases – the investigation is terminated for lack of corpus delicti, in 10 per cent – the court acquits law enforcement officers; in 25 per cent of cases a conditional sentence is imposed, and only in 5 per cent of cases verdicts with real terms of imprisonment are pronounced.

In 2018, official statistics on the number of people killed by the police and the gendarmerie in 2017 were published for the first time – 14 persons. This is a rather large figure for a year in which no major terrorist attacks took place.

The NGO Basta! which keeps unofficial statistics gives a higher figure – 34 persons (18 of them were killed with firearms, 1 – with a shock rifle, 15 died as a result of other actions of law enforcement officers). The data provided by the NGO Basta! includes 9 people shot by police officers not in the line of duty.

According to the July 2018 report of the Inspectorate-General of the National Police (Internal affairs department), the use of weapons and means of restraint by French police officers in the performance of their duties has increased. In 2017, the use of service pistols rose by 54 per cent as compared to 2016, the use of Taser stun guns – by 20 per cent, and the use of shock shotguns – by 46 per cent.

The French Ministry of the Interior claims that the reason behind this is the increasing refusal of citizens to obey the demands of law enforcement officers and the increasing number of active (assault) or passive (refusal to obey) resistance to patrol officers and especially to gendarmes (+68 per cent in 2017).

Stun grenades are the only non-lethal weapon the use of which has decreased – by 8per cent. This is due to the fact that in 2017 there were significantly fewer demonstrations in which law enforcers had to use such grenades. However, taking into account the mass Yellow Vests protests in 2018 and 2019 it is expected that this figure will increase.

In 2014, a portal was opened on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to report information about police violations. In 2017, the portal received 3,361 signals – 3 per cent more than in 2016. This trend has continued since the portal was opened. The number of investigations related to these reports increased by almost 10 per cent in 2017. However, the number of court proceedings based on their results reduced by 3 per cent.

36 per cent of the total number of cases submitted to court concerned intentional violence not involving the use of weapons, 9 per cent involved theft, 7 per cent involved intentional violence with the use of a weapon, 4 per cent involved disclosure of professional secrets, 4 per cent involved racist or other discriminatory insults, 4 per cent involved falsification of official documents, 3 per cent involved corruption, 3 per cent involved sexual harassment, 2 per cent involved the use of other people's personal data for personal purposes, and 1 per cent involved possession or use of drugs.

As a result of internal investigations and court proceedings, more than 2,070 employees were brought to administrative responsibility (the overwhelming majority (1,917 persons) are officers of the patrol and inspection service). More than half of them got off with a simple warning. Real measures – from temporary suspension to dismissal – were taken against 300 persons only.

The time frame for investigations into the abuse of authority and other violations by police and gendarmes increased by an average of 22 days in 2017. The Interior Ministry attributes this to a 10 per cent reduction in the staff of the General Inspectorate.

The increase in the number of complaints from citizens about the abuse of authority by MIA officials and the concomitant reduction in the number of cases brought before the courts, as well as the application of minor measures to those who abuse authority confirm the authorities' commitment to preserving the de facto inviolability of the police and gendarmerie if they do not commit serious crimes, which is traditional practice in France.

The situation in the penitentiary system remains a serious problem. Owing to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, French prisons and detention centres had for years been considered to be almost the worst in Western Europe. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture had concluded that "conditions of detention, particularly in national police stations, do not always correspond to the notion of human dignity".

The Human Rights Committee noted with concern the overcrowding of French prisons and the inadequacy of the system of commutation of sentences, especially in overseas territories.[714]

The Committee against Torture expressed its concern at the very high rate of prison overcrowding, noting that the occupancy rate was 116 per cent in 2014, and higher still in some prisons, including those of Marseilles (147 per cent), Nîmes (219 per cent) and Polynesia (294 per cent). The Committee noted the poor physical conditions of detention, in particular the dilapidated buildings and the lack of proper hygiene and sanitation. Continuing violence among prisoners and ill-treatment of detainees by prison staff were noted. What is more, some prisoners faced obstacles in filing complaints of such violence with the administrative or judicial authorities or with the Inspector‑General of Places of Deprivation of Liberty. CAT is further concerned by the high suicide rate in French prisons despite the steps taken under the 2009 National Action Plan to Prevent Suicide in Prisons. [715]

Human rights organizations are concerned about the rise of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in France. According to the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, the level of tolerance in French society has generally been declining since 2010. However, in 2016-2018, a decline in the level of Islamophobia was recorded.

The number of hostile actions against Muslims began to decrease after the surge of Islamophobic sentiment against the background of the terrorist attacks in 2015. The dynamics of recent years: +28.02 per cent in 2011, +34 per cent in 2012, +11.3 per cent in 2013, +10.6per cent in 2014, +223 per cent in 2015; in 2016 the number of actions decreased by 35.9per cent, in 2017 – by 21.7 per cent, in 2018 – by 17.3 per cent, which marked the lowest level in the last ten years. According to the NGO The Collective Against Islamophobia, Muslim women are most often the targets of aggression, although there are also cases of desecration of cemeteries, cultural centers and mosques, abuse of the Koran, etc.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[716] and the Human Rights Committee pointed to the increase in racist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic manifestations, including violent ones, in France. The HR Committee was therefore concerned that this could lead to the rise of intolerance and a feeling of rejection in some communities.[717] Increased violence and hate crimes against Roma, Muslims, Jews and migrants were also highlighted by the Committee against Torture.[718]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted with concern the increasing dissemination in certain political circles and a number of mass media of statements based on racial hatred and xenophobia, which contributes to making racism and xenophobia against foreigners and members of minorities common among the French population. The Committee particularly emphasized that racism was widespread on the Internet despite the measures taken by the State to prevent and punish it, in particular the creation of the PHAROS platform to collect, analyse and process reports of such content.

Furthermore, CERD criticized the existence of ghettos in France, noting with concern that the concentration of certain groups of people of foreign origin or migrants in certain zones may lead to racial segregation, as these groups face discrimination when attempting to find employment, obtain housing, participate in cultural events, seek medical attention and enter schools.[719]

The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights notes in its 2018 report that there is a deliberate underreporting of racist attacks in France. Surveys indicate that approximately 1.1 million French citizens have faced threats, violence or discrimination on national or religious grounds. However, only 6,000 criminal cases were opened in 2017. [720]

NGOs specializing in monitoring anti-Semitism have noted a sinusoidal dynamic. According to the statistics gathered by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, 389 anti-Semitic manifestations were recorded in 2011, 614 – in 2012, 423 – in 2013, 851 – in 2014, and 808 – in 2015. This is quite a lot considering that Jews make up less than 1per cent of the country's population. In 2016, there was a decline in anti-Semitic sentiment – 335 anti‑Semitic actions were recorded. In 2017 the decrease continued, although at a slower pace – 311 actions. However, in 2018 there was a new surge of antisemitism: 541 anti-Semitic acts were registered – 74 per cent more than in 2017.

Thus, France holds the leading positions among the EU Member States in terms of the number of anti-Semitic actions. However, in the vast majority of cases, anti-Semitism does not originate from neo-Nazis or the extreme right, but come from the Muslim part of the population – the Palestinian diaspora and, more recently, from radical youth belonging to other ethnic groups.

As experts note, the government has not yet managed to stop the spread of Islamist ideas, and the authorities, guided by domestic political considerations, try to show these facts up not as a manifestation of Muslims' dislike of Jews, but as a more global problem of anti-Semitism, thus shifting the emphasis to the need to combat the right-wing conservative movement (far –right and nationalist forces).

Neo-Nazi manifestations of anti-Semitism in France tend to cause negative social and political reaction. Recent high-profile cases include the desecration with swastika of 96 graves in a Jewish cemetery in Lower Rhine department in February 2019; the demolition and swastika desecration of a stele on the site of a synagogue destroyed by the Nazis; and the swastika poster at the entrance to a kindergarten in Strasbourg.

These episodes, which fit into the general context of the sharp increase in anti-Semitic acts in 2019 after the relatively calm period of 2016–2018, caused a negative public reaction precisely because of their obvious neo-Nazi nature.

Discrimination and stigmatization of the Roma is widespread. Racist discourse is often used against this category of population, including by elected politicians, calling for their exclusion from society. The authorities forcibly close down informal settlements inhabited by the Roma, often with the excessive use of force by the police. The low level of school enrolment among Roma children and cases of refusal by some municipalities to enroll Roma children in schools under the pretext of the state of emergency are noted. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[721], the Committee against Torture[722], the Human Rights Committee[723] and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[724] noted with concern the many problems faced by Roma communities in France.

There are also manifestations of racism against the title ethnos in France. However, the State is trying in every way to distance itself from the European population's calls to protect it from "black racism".

Cases of violence, humiliation of human dignity on the grounds of racial, ethnic and religious hatred, and desecration of Christian places of worship are generally ignored or considered ordinary offences by the French authorities. Many human rights organizations, including the NGO SOS Racisme, do not monitor racial crimes against white people at all.

The data on the manifestations of Christianophobia vary greatly. According to the Observatory of Christianophobia, 186 actions were registered in 2014, 273 – in 2015, 377 – in 2016, and starting from 2017 there has been a significant decrease – 255 actions, and 250 in 2018.

However, according to the official data (in 2019 the Ministry of Internal Affairs provided statistics on this issue for the first time) there were 1063 acts of Christianophobia registered in 2018, including 877 cases of vandalism and 129 thefts from Christian churches.

Human rights activists criticize the policy of the Government to increase control over the Internet and various types of telecommunications. Evidence of massive interception of metadata by the French intelligence services without judicial procedure and without the approval of the National Commission on Informatics and Freedoms is constantly emerging. This was pointed out back in 2015 by the Committee on Human Rights.[725] Mobile telephone operators are forced to informally provide intelligence agencies with unhindered access to the databases and metadata of their clients.

Human rights activists are concerned about the lack of adequate mechanisms to monitor the work of the National Platform of Judicial Interception which enables to receive any information passing through all major digital communications at the national level at any time. The ability of the established six-member monitoring committee (judge, deputy, senator and experts from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Culture) to monitor the flow of 5 million requests and 40,000 taps per year (the estimated capacity of the platform) is brought into question.

The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights and numerous human rights NGOs expressed their concern about the lack of independent mechanisms to control the activities of intelligence agencies and about their legally enshrined right to install systems and software for automated data collection and processing in the offices of any communications companies and Internet providers. This means mass surveillance, violation of the right to privacy and passive restriction of freedom of expression. The NGO Reporteurs Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) claimed a violation of press and media freedom and demanded that the confidentiality of journalists' sources of information and their right to work without surveillance be protected and that judges be involved in the procedure of obtaining permissions to establish surveillance.

There is also a discriminatory attitude towards Russian journalists working in France. During the 2017 presidential election campaign reporters of the Russian media, namely Sputnik France and RT, were not accredited to Emmanuel Macron's campaign headquarters. After his election as President, the French Foreign Ministry did not extend their accreditation despite their request and their compliance with all necessary formalities. Russian journalists working in these agencies continue to feel this discriminatory attitude of the French authorities. The Elysees Palace and the French Foreign Ministry regularly refuse to allow representatives of the two agencies (including RT's Ruptly video agency) to be accredited for their events. The editorial staff of Sputnik France is disconnected from the newsletters of state authorities. In addition, cases of unduly delayed inspections of Russian journalists by police and border authorities during trips within the EU have recently become more frequent. Journalists from RIA Novosti are particularly often subjected to such checks.

Human rights defenders have issues with the French authorities regarding the protection of personal data. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation by France of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in connection with the storage of files in the STIC database regarding the cases that had no legal effect (e.g. because of the withdrawal of an application by the victim) considering such practice an invasion of the right to privacy. The STIC was abolished as early as December 2013, but the files were not deleted but moved to a more modern TAJ database, where they are still being stored together with the rest of the court records.

In August 2015, information emerged concerning undemocratic and irrelevant mechanisms to create, add to and update the list of persons "representing a threat to the national security of France". It turned out that it includes not only potential or actual terrorists and violators of public order, but also political activists, journalists having alternative positions, organizers of demonstrations. All of them may be subject to information and communications interception or physical surveillance. The procedure for updating the database is bureaucratized. As a result, files on potential terrorists regularly get lost (as in the case of the perpetrators of the January 2015 attacks), while political activists remain in the database almost for life.

Issues related to family and gender are one of the priorities in the area of human rights protection in France. Since 2012, the country's policy has been aimed at actively promoting LGBT rights in all spheres of public life. This causes rejection in part of the French society, which sometimes results in protests. In 2013, after the adoption of the law on same-sex marriage, the SOS‑Homophobia Association recorded 3,517 protest actions – 78 per cent more than in 2012. In the following years, their number started to decrease: 2,197 in 2014, 1,318 – in 2015, but then it started to increase again: 1,575 – in 2016, 1,650 in 2017, and 1,905 in 2018.

Following the adoption of the law on same-sex marriages, the French Constitutional Council denied mayors who opposed the law the right to use the freedom of conscience clause in delegating the registration of same-sex marriages to their deputies. According to several experts, this constitutes a violation of the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution and article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The situation with regard to the protection of children's rights in France is ambiguous. There are systematic violations of the rights of unaccompanied migrant children. French law does not provide for special legal status for this category of persons. Ideally, all provisions related to the protection of children's rights should apply to them. In practice, however, in the vast majority of cases they are treated by the authorities as ordinary migrants in an irregular situation, and the situation in this field deteriorates with every passing year.

According to human rights activists, there are about 10,000 migrant street children in the country (according to other sources, about 8,000 in metropolitan France and the same number in the overseas territories) having no medical care, educational opportunities and often with no roof over their heads.

There are no special procedures for minors who are still trying to get into France. They can be kept in waiting areas for a long time on an equal footing with adults and then, regardless of their age, be expelled to their country of origin or last transit.

France's Human Rights Defender Jacques Toubon regularly notes that unaccompanied migrant children in the country constantly face difficulties in exercising their rights to access justice, lawyer and interpreter. The lack of State care increases the risk that they may be (and often are) subject to human trafficking and all kinds of exploitation, including sexual.

What makes the problem worse is that minor victims of trafficking, as well as adults, are considered offenders, not victims, and are treated on the basis thereof. This was pointed out, inter alia, by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.[726]

Human rights organizations draw attention to the French authorities' lack of sensitivity to persons with disabilities, especially in the 16-18 age group. They are not sufficiently socially integrated, which is why many of them prefer to move to Belgium when they reach adulthood where the living conditions for disabled people are better. In France, more than 20,000 children with developmental disabilities are not provided with adequate educational opportunities.

There are also serious excesses and double standards in law enforcement practice in the area of juvenile justice. However, these issues have so far been ignored by human rights activists.

On the one hand, the French social control bodies that monitor children's rights in the family are known for their almost absurd severity. Given the vague wording used in the legislation, parents can be deprived of parental rights even in case of minor violations. Thus, parents are often deprived of their rights because of their "suffocating love" for their children – this notion can theoretically include almost any action of parents. In this case, the child is handed over to the guardianship authorities or a foster family.

On the other hand, the same social control authorities do not care about beggars, refugees or Roma who sit all day on the street with young children. Their children grow up in unsanitary conditions, often engage in petty theft and prostitution at the instigation of adults, and do not receive compulsory preschool and school education.

The French school and pre-school sex education deserves special attention as it has in fact become a tool to promote the interests of the LGBT community. In 2015, as an experiment allegedly aimed at preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, the teaching of 'gender theory' was introduced into the educational curriculum of several hundred schools and kindergartens. In practice, however, it appears that relevant neo-liberal attitudes and concepts are being actively promoted among children aged 3-4 years (in particular through fairy tales).

It was attempted to introduce teaching 'gender theory' in all kindergartens and schools at the national level. However, the initiative met resistance from society. Its implementation was suspended (although not completely abandoned). But some consequences remain. For example, at the interview when enrolling a child in kindergarten, the second question after "What is your name?" is "Who are you, a boy, a girl or you do not know yet?". The answers are logged so that teachers can then treat the child in accordance with the child's self-perception.

Another systematic violation of children's rights that does not appear in the reports of Western human rights NGOs is also related to lobbying for the rights and interests of LGBT individuals in family relations. Under François Hollande, same-sex marriages were legalized and such unions gained the right to adopt children.

Emmanuel Macron's Administration decided to move beyond, and in 2017 included in the draft law "On Combating Sexual and Sexist Violence" a provision fixing the minimum age of minors at which sexual intercourse with them with their consent is not considered defilement or rape, and suggested that such minimum age of consent should be set at 15. The High Council on Equality between Women and Men found it acceptable to lower it to 13 years. The draft law sparked strong public outcry. Many independent observers noted that it was actually the legalization of pedophilia. The French Parliament under the pressure of public opinion removed the minimum age provision when adopting the law.

In France, sexual intercourse with a minor is currently criminalized only if it can be proved that violence, threat, coercion or deception took place. In law enforcement practice, it is not uncommon for persons who have had sexual intercourse with minors to be acquitted. For example, in October 2017, the Jury of the Department of Saint-e-Marne acquitted a 30-year-old French citizen who had sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old girl.

The issue of freedom of peaceful assembly is becoming more and more pressing. Human rights defenders point to the clear discrepancies between the practice of the French authorities and the stated objectives of the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly at the international level, as well as its inconsistency with the key international universal and regional human rights instruments.

Under the state of emergency, since July 2016 the French authorities have been able to ban demonstrations on the pretext that they are unable to guarantee security because of the high level of terrorist threat. Dozens of actions were banned and attempts to hold such events without permission (in particular as part of the protests against labour reform) were violently suppressed by police using disproportionate force, rubber bullet guns, tear gas and stun grenades. This resulted in a large number of injured among participants, some of them severely. By an administrative procedure restrictions on the freedom of movement that had been originally introduced as part of the state of emergency regime to counter the terrorist threat were imposed on many activists.

The actions of the French authorities in relation to the Yellow Vests protest movement created in November 2018 in France, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets dissatisfied with the economic reforms of the government, are also often characterized by the abuse of power. Law enforcement officers actively used non-lethal weapons (tear gas, non-lethal shock rifles and stun grenades) to disperse demonstrations. There were numerous cases of grievous bodily harm inflicted on protesters. According to the data voiced by UN experts, since the beginning of the protest movement more than 1.7 thousand people have been wounded and injured due to the use of non-lethal weapons. A significant number of detentions, searches, arrests of protesters and confiscation of their property are also noted.

On April 10, 2019, Act No. 2009-290 On Strengthening and Ensuring Public Order during Demonstrations was adopted. Among other things, it changed the degree of severity (with a corresponding increase in the penalty) of the offence of consciously and voluntarily concealing a person's face during demonstrations. Previously, this had been considered a minor administrative violation (contravention), and in order to bring a person to responsibility the prosecution had to prove that the person who covered his/her face did so in order to avoid identification during his/her participation in the riots. With the new law, concealing a person's face became a serious criminal offence (délit). The police were given the right to detain such offenders and place them under arrest. Detainees now have to prove that they had good reasons to hide their faces.

Human rights activists claim that such concept directly contradicts the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence and actually links the fact of the alleged violation with random circumstances beyond the control of the participants of the demonstration (use of tear gas, the need to protect the head in case of disturbances provoked by other persons, etc.)

The human rights situation in France's overseas territories raises many questions. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted that the legal regime for the use of the ancestral lands held and used by indigenous peoples communities since time immemorial does not allow them to lead their traditional way of life. These groups are unable to fully enjoy their right to housing and encounter obstacles in exercising their freedom of movement. There are numerous difficulties as regards access to education, health care and public services, in particular regarding civil status and justice.[727]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern at the high level of unemployment in France's overseas territories, in particular Réunion, French Guyana and Mayotte.[728]

In New Caledonia, land ownership issues relating to the Kanak population have not been resolved. This community faces difficulties in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and is underrepresented in administrative bodies. There are difficulties in gaining access to education in local languages and to Kanak culture for the children of the community.[729]

A large proportion of the indigenous and tribal population of French Guyana and half of the population of Mayotte lack birth certificates and identity papers, which prevents them from using basic services, including education and health care. That is largely due to the fact that article 55 of the French Civil Code provides for a very short deadline for birth registration, failing which a judicial procedure must be conducted before a court, which may take up to 18 months, leaving children with no legal proof of existence. The difficulty of indigenous peoples' access to health services accounts for high maternal mortality rates in Mayotte and French Guyana.

The overseas departments of France encounter problems related to the negative impact of adverse environmental conditions on people's lives. For example, mercury poisoning of water and grounds as a result of mining and illegal mining activities in French Guyana has a negative impact on the health of the local population, especially women and girls. In French Polynesia, the authorities take no actions to address the negative impact of French nuclear tests on the health of the local population.[730]

The Human Rights Committee when considering France's periodic reports on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regularly noted the deterioration of the situation in the fight against terrorism, the abuse of power by law enforcement officials, the strengthening of the State's control over society, discrimination against various ethnic minorities, as well as problems in the areas of migration (including intra-EU Roma issues) and asylum, and the prison system. In 2016, the Committee having considered the latest periodic report of France noted that the French Government was not listening to the recommendations and was not committed to a constructive dialogue on those issues, but rather introduced reforms that only further exacerbated the human rights situation in the above-mentioned areas.[731]

Such an attitude towards the recommendations of international human rights monitoring mechanisms shows that Paris does not intend to soften its approach in the above-mentioned areas. On a number of issues (for example, abuse of power by law enforcement officials), losing cases at the ECtHR is more convenient for France than attempting to change the situation.

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GERMANY

The protection and universal development of human rights is proclaimed one of the central objectives of Germany's domestic and foreign policy and a criterion for its shaping.

Modern standards for the promotion and protection of human rights are generally incorporated into German law. Provisions on human and civil rights and freedoms are contained in the Basic Law (Constitution) as well as in key legislation governing the foundations of German public order. Yet both the legislation and the law enforcement practice in Germany are able to respond very rigorously to challenges to the foundations of German law and order, if necessary. The German intelligence services possess sufficient powers to intervene with privacy of citizens under the pretext of ensuring national security.

At the same time, human rights issues are actively used by the German authorities as a useful lever for external, often very selective pressure on foreign partners who are unwelcome for various reasons. Official Berlin itself continues to be insensitive to criticism. The real human rights situation in Germany itself is rarely and not systematically discussed on the local media scene. Criticism is broadcast mainly by specialized NGOs.

Prison overcrowding in the country remains a pressing problem. The German National Agency for the Prevention of Torture criticized in its 2018 report conditions in several German prisons calling them "degrading to human dignity". It is primarily a matter of placing persons in cramped and overcrowded cells. In addition, human rights defenders raise complaints about the practice of "fixation" of violent detainees (i.e. handcuffing to the bars and etc.) in police stations and other places of detention, which is permitted in some federal states.[732] In April 2019, this problem was pointed out by the Committee against Torture in its Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Germany on compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In particular, the Committee pointed out to the German authorities the need to regulate the use of such means.[733]

In Germany, no independent mechanisms have been established either at federal or state level to investigate citizens' complaints of ill-treatment by the police. In 8 of the 16 federal states, the law does not provide for police officers to wear identification marks.[734] Concerns about the lack of individual identification of police officers was expressed by the Committee against Torture. In the Committee's view, this may hinder the investigation and prosecution of police officers allegedly involved in ill-treatment or abuse of power. Experts of the Committee against Torture also noted that the lack of ombudspersons institutions at the federal level, as well as in a number of states, also affected the proper impartial and effective investigation of police misconduct.[735] This problem was also noted by the international NGO Amnesty International in its 2017-2018 report.[736]

The human rights community notes that recent legislative changes expand significantly the powers of German intelligence services. In August 2017, German legislation was amended to extend the powers of law enforcement agencies to use spyware ("bundestroyan") to track the communication between potential criminals on the Internet, including by circumventing data encryption used in a number of messaging programs (WhatsApp and others). This, according to human rights defenders, strengthens the preconditions for surveillance of any citizens at the discretion of intelligence agencies, and also makes it difficult for the media to work with anonymous informants.[737]

The legislative innovations adopted in Germany between 2017 and 2018, including new versions of the police laws in a number of federal states, extend the powers of law enforcement officers with regard to "security threats" and "potential intruders". This includes, inter alia, physical and electronic surveillance, the possibility of placing such persons in "preventive" detention, and tracking their movements through electronic bracelets. However, according to human rights defenders, the criteria for assigning a person to this category are not clearly defined and, in fact, allows the police to decide on the matter entirely.[738]

The Committee against Torture expressed serious concern that by adopting such legislative changes, the German authorities more and more relied on "pre-emptive justice", which circumvented regular criminal judicial procedures to grant wide-reaching powers to the police, including electronic tagging and surveillance. The Committee also noted the increased powers of the Federal Intelligence Service, which was authorized to monitor communications of foreign nationals abroad.[739]

Human rights defenders point to the worsening conditions for independent media work in Germany. The international human rights organization Reporters Sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders) indicated in its latest report that violence against journalists in Germany itself increased: 22 such cases were recorded in 2018 (16 in 2017). Such incidents were particularly frequent during public events and right-wing extremist and right-wing populist demonstrations, for example in Chemnitz in August and September 2018. Human rights activists point out in a negative way that journalists in Germany "are repeatedly come to the attention" of law enforcement agencies and special services. Since December 2017, the European Court of Human Rights has been considering the complaint of Reporters Sans Frontières against mass "strategic" tracing of electronic communications by the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany. According to the NGO, the surveillance also affected its own electronic communications with partners around the world.

Human rights defenders point out that the Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks, which entered into force in Germany on October 1, 2017, is in fact an "Internet censorship" and poses a threat to the independent work of the media, as it specifies that the operators of these networks must remove offensive comments made by users when they receive complaints against them.

The experts point to existing restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in Germany. There are a number of topics in society that can be discussed within a strictly regulated framework. According to the conclusions of the sociological survey "Limits of Freedom" by the Allensbach Institute, public discourse is largely determined by one-sided concepts of political correctness in elite circles and mainstream media rebroadcasting these notions. In fact, we are talking about imposing the right attitudes "from the top", which are more and more inconsistent with the real sentiments of the country's population.

This sociological study confirmed the skepticism of the people of Germany about the situation with freedom of expression. 78 per cent of respondents said that they were unable to openly express their opinion on a certain set of topics because of the existing rules of political correctness in society. About 60 per cent of respondents said that they allowed frank conversations only in a narrow circle. According to survey participants, the Internet cannot be regarded as a reliable platform. Only 17 per cent of respondents said they were ready to communicate on the Internet without any restrictions. 36per cent believe that discussion of the most high-profile topics on the Internet should be avoided. Such caution is a result of media-driven attitudes that clearly regulate which opinions are right and tolerant and which are inconsistent with the norms accepted in German society. The high risk of public and press censure and criticism if "wrong" opinions are voiced was also cited as a reason for caution.

The most sensitive topics on which discussion is impossible or significantly complicated were: attitudes towards migrants, Islam, Jews, the success of the party "Alternative für Deutschland"[740], the problem of a "third gender", persons with disabilities and patriotism.

East Germany is the most reluctant region to tolerate these issues. According to a sociological survey conducted in the Federal State of Saxony by request of the public television and radio channel WDR, almost 70 per cent of the participants stated that they were unable to express their opinion openly on a number of topics, including the issue of migration.

Many German politicians, public figures and journalists acknowledge the existence of systemic problems in restricting freedom of expression. For example, in July 2019, in an interview with Handelsblatt, the former head of the WDR channel, Fritz Pleitgen, noted with concern the change in the culture of public dialogue in Germany, the emergence of elements of anger, rejection of the opinion of others, bullying and dissidence.

Germany is very strict in defining the scope of citizens' right to freedom of assembly. The police often violently suppress mass actions, which, in their opinion, pose a threat to public security. For instance, the dispersal and mass arrests of anti-globalist demonstrators during the G20 Summit in Hamburg on 7‑8 July 2017. More than 100 people submitted complaints against police officers.

On January 27, 2018, in Cologne, the police quickly and violently dispersed a 15 thousandth Kurdish demonstration against the Turkish army' actions in Syria. The decision was justified by the fact that the participants displayed symbols of the Kurdistan Workers' Party banned in Germany.[741]

The right to freedom of association in Germany is subject to indirect restrictions. The German authorities are tightening up their policy of preventing unwanted NGOs from shaping the political agenda in the country. For this purpose, a legislative framework is used to deprive organizations of "socially useful status".[742]

Two German NGOs – Campact (campaigning against climate change and signing of free trade agreement between the EU and USA) and Attac (anti-globalist association) – have recently been denied this status. In January 2019, the Federal Financial Court of Germany adopted a final decision with respect to Attac.[743] Campact has not only been deprived of benefits for the future, but also obliged to reimburse to the German budget about 300 thousand euros "underpaid" taxes for the 2015‑2017 period.

Many human rights defenders were alarmed by the verdicts, fearing that other NGOs might meet the fate of Campact and Attac. There are indeed signs that the authorities are willing to use this precedent to impose further restrictions on other NGOs. For example, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel stated the need to "double-check" the socially useful status of the German Environmental Aid Association, which supported the Federal Ministry of Transport of Germany in restrictions on the operation of old diesel vehicles that did not meet environmental standards.[744]

Critics point out that the provisions of German law on the criteria of "public usefulness" and the permissible degree of participation of such NGOs in political activities are too vague. It is a normative structure, which is actually interpreted by the tax authorities. The demands to bring clarity to the relevant legislation have been voiced many times by influential international NGOs in Germany, including the branches of Amnesty International and Transparency International.

In November 2019, the Finance Department of Berlin decided to strip the German NGO Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/ Federation of Anti-Fascists of its socially useful status. The Federation of Anti-Fascists was founded in 1949 by former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. The organization is actively engaged in practical public work to prevent right-wing extremism.

The Berlin tax authorities justify their decision by the fact that the Federation of Anti-Fascists has repeatedly appeared in the annual reports by the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution as an organization "influenced by left-wing extremists". The very fact that any of the 16 states or federal constitutional protection agencies is mentioned in such a report is sufficient to recognize that it does not meet the criteria of "social usefulness".

A number of human rights NGOs (including Pro Asyl, Amnesty International etc.) believe that Germany does not promote the right of refugees to international protection to a sufficient extent.[745] More and more citizens of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are being denied full refugee status by the authorities. Of the 217,000 asylum applications for which decisions were taken by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in 2018, only 41,000 (19 per cent) were fully approved, 25,000 (11.5 per cent) were granted so-called subsidiary protection status and 9,500 (4.4 per cent) were granted stay of deportation. 75,000 or 35 per cent of the applications were rejected, the rest were dismissed on formal grounds.[746]

In 2018, 23,600 migrants were deported to their home country. The practice of deporting people to crisis regions, particularly Afghanistan, has been criticized. At present, persons considered as posing a terrorist threat, convicted of criminal offences and evading identification are being deported there (about 460 persons in 2018).[747]

In particular, the Report on the visit to Germany of the Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of August 2018, calls on the German authorities to renounce the "excessive use of force" in deportations of migrants and to improve the conditions of their detention in pre-deportation detention facilities.[748]

As a result of Germany's third round of the Universal Periodic Review procedure under the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2018, Berlin was found to have insufficient protection for migrants from manifestations of intolerance and violence, and increasing incidents of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.[749]

In a letter to the chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Internal Affairs, Andrea Lindholz, dated May 16, 2019, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, expressed concern about a package of bills intended to extend the grounds for more effective deportation of migrants who did not have the right to stay in Germany (adopted by the Bundestag on June 7, 2019, currently under consideration by the Bundesrat). In particular, the Commissioner pointed out the risk of criminalizing the activities of NGOs providing assistance to migrants, including informing them of forthcoming deportations. Concern were expressed about the planned extension of the grounds for placing migrants awaiting deportation in detention facilities. Germany is called upon to respect the human dignity of the deportees and to ensure adequate transparency of this process.[750]

Human rights organizations point to the poor detention conditions of asylum seekers in Germany, which primarily affect women and children. The Committee against Torture noted the continued practice in Germany of detaining asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in closed facilities. These persons are allowed to enter and exit these centers, but due to the isolated location of many of them and the difficulty in accessing vital medical and social services elsewhere, they are considered by CAT to be institutions in which liberty is restricted. The experts expressed concern about the use of force by law enforcement authorities in the conduct of deportations with deportations being carried out without notice, leaving no opportunity for the individuals concerned to pack their belongings. The accelerated asylum procedure was also a source of concern for the CAT because of the time frame required for this process prevented the competent authorities from carrying out a thorough assessment of the risks of torture in the event of deportation. Furthermore, under the asylum accelerated procedures, there is only one week to file an appeal if the application for asylum is rejected.[751]

It should be noted that concerns about the situation of migrants in the country, in particular their deportation and extradition, were expressed by the Human Rights Committee as early as October 2012 in its Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Germany on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[752] However, the follow-up responses sent by the German side did not address the concerns of Committee experts on this issue, and this issue was raised in subsequent HR Committee letters of April 28, 2014[753] and October 1, 2015[754].

In September 2018, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about the limited number of migrant families who received reunification permits, and also noted the increase in the number of rejections. This, according to Committee experts, discourages people from submitting such applications.[755]

A large proportion of migrant minors do not attend school. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern that the German three-tier education system in with its early selection for separate levels of education, disadvantages students who do not speak German as their mother tongue, leads to the dominance of minority students, including people of African descent, Muslims and Roma, in lower-level schools and in schools located in marginalized areas. In his view, this leads to the segregation of these groups, reduces their chances of accessing higher education and diminishes their opportunities for future employment.[756]

Migrant women are subject to incidents of domestic violence and sexual harassment.[757] This was also noted by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in its concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Germany on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in February 2017.[758]

Access to the labor market is problematic for migrants and the German Institute for Human Rights (GIHR) indicates that exploitation and degrading treatment by employers are not uncommon in employment.[759]

Discrimination against legal migrants in employment, high unemployment among this category of persons, especially Muslim women, was noted with concern by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in May 2015.[760]

The Report of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Germany in February 2017, expresses deep concern about the situation with regard to the rights of these people in Germany. Examples are given of their discrimination in access to education, the labour market and health care, and the prevalence of "structural" and "everyday" racism in the country, as well as the practice of "racial profiling" in law enforcement agencies.[761]

According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Germany (BfV), as of January 1, 2018, there were about 24 thousand right-wing extremists in the country. Of these, about 6,000 were members of officially registered extreme right parties, 4,000 were members of other right-wing extremist organizations, 6,000 were categorized as holders of neo-Nazi views, and 9,000 were influenced by "right-wing radical subcultures".[762] The highest concentration of the ultra-right observed in East Germany territories.

The potential for violence emanating from right-wing extremists is assessed by law enforcement agencies as high. At the end of 2018, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior recorded 7,700 xenophobic crimes (a 20 per cent increase compared to 2017), of which about 1,000 were violent crimes.[763] At the same time, the police registered 1,775 crimes against asylum-seekers in Germany and 173 offences against their accommodation facilities. At least 315 persons were affected.[764] More than 650 xenophobic crimes against refugees and their places of accommodation were recorded in the first half of 2019. According to experts, the real situation could be even worse given that many cases are kept silent by the authorities and many asylum-seekers do not report violence committed against them because of distrust towards the law enforcement agencies.

In addition, there have been numerous cases of right-wing extremists being identified by law enforcement and security agencies in Germany, a number of which have been widely publicized in the media. The investigations against the group of police officers in connection with threats to a lawyer of Turkish origin are still under way. The investigation of the Northern Cross group, which included former and current Special Forces police officers from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, is also still incomplete. The members of this association stored weapons and ammunition, as well as kept "lists of enemies" for subsequent liquidation. Human rights defenders cite data from the German Military Counterintelligence Service according to which more than 200 right-wing radical incidents have been recorded in the army since 2008.

Radical groups regularly hold mass actions to commemorate the anniversaries of historical events they use in their propaganda. These include, in particular, speeches made on the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by British and American aviation on February 13‑15, 1945, attracting hundreds of people.[765]

Right radicals hold large-scale anti-migrant speeches, often after local residents clash with migrants. These actions involve the use of Nazi slogans, Nazi greetings, insults against the police and the journalists that are present, and aggression against persons of non-German appearance. One of the most massive was the action in Chemnitz, organized by Pro Chemnitz movement on August 27, 2018. As a result of active mobilization through social networks, supporters of right-wing extremist parties and movements from all over the country came to take part in it. The number of participants, according to the police, was about 6,000 people.[766]

On March 18, 2019, a mourning march was held in Chemnitz in memory of the neo-Nazi Thomas Haller, a well-known figure of the right-wing radical group of fans of the football club of this city. The march gathered about 1000 people. The participants displayed symbols with right-wing extremist connotations and voiced threats against the journalists who were present at the event.[767]

The strengthening of radical unity and unobtrusive recruitment of young people is traditionally facilitated by performances of "right wing" rock bands ("white movement" or "white supremacists") promoting neo-Nazi and revengeful ideas. Dozens of such events are held every year around the country. At the same time, they tend to increase in scale and mass character. Thus, concerts held on July 15 and 29, 2017 in Temar (Thuringia) brought together over 7,000 audience, mostly young, from all over Germany, who shouted "Sieg Heil", demonstrated the Nazi salute and sang hymns in honor of Nazi criminals.[768] Another large-scale two-day festival of "right rock" under the slogan "Shield and Sword" was held on April 20‑21, 2018 in the Saxon town of Ostritz (the date was not chosen by chance: April 20 is Hitler's birthday). The event was organized by the Deputy Chairman of the NPD Thorsten Heise.[769]

Such activity of right-wing radicals is the reason for the growth of unlawful acts. According to the data published by the Ministry of Interior, 12.5 thousand right-wing extremist crimes were recorded from January to August 2019. Of these, 542 were committed with violence and at least 250 people were injured. It is forecasted that by the end of the year the statistics will approach the indicators of 2018 (20.4 thousand crimes, of which more than 1.1 thousand are of violent nature).

It should be noted that structural racism was noted with concern in May 2015 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is the key human rights treaty body for combating racism and racial discrimination. The Committee noted, in particular, that structural discrimination may be the root cause of deficiencies in the identification of racial motivation in Germany. The experts stressed that the direct consequence of the absence of a definition of racial discrimination under Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in German domestic law is the inability of the State to adequately counter racial discrimination against all population groups. It was stated that a number of political parties and movements increased the spread of racist ideas in the country. The Internet plays a significant role in the growth of racism, where an increase in the number of racist sites and materials was also recorded. Such actions and statements contribute to the spread of racially motivated hate crimes. The Committee therefore called upon German authorities make clear its political will to promote, in word and practice, understanding and tolerance between the majority population and the various ethnic groups.[770]

It should be noted that the increase in the number of hate crimes in Germany, usually committed by neo-Nazis, was also pointed out by the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, E.Tendayi Achiume[771]. The Special Rapporteur also pointed to the involvement of young people in neo-Nazi ranks, both in schools and colleges and in musical festivals and so-called cultural events. She noted the highest ever popularity of "white movement" or "white supremacist" music in Germany, as well as in the USA since the early 90s. Neo-Nazi music is highly successful in Germany: more than 150 concerts are organized per year, and around 15,000 people participate in the creation and dissemination of promotional content through this music[772].

In April 2019, the Committee against Torture expressed similar concerns in its concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Germany about continuing violence motivated by racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia[773].

Representatives of human rights organizations claim that this is just the tip of the iceberg. These statistics do not include numerous cases of aggression against members of national minorities that are not considered criminal offences (e.g. bullying in educational institutions and social networks), as well as cases of violence not reported by victims to the police.[774]

The worsening problem of anti-Semitism in the country is of particular concern to human rights defenders. Police statistics record a steady increase in anti-Semitic crimes in Germany. In 2018, 1.8 thousand of such crimes were recorded (as compared to 1.5 thousand a year earlier, an increase of 13.5 per cent), of which 69 involved the use of violence (an increase of 37 per cent as compared to last year).[775] At the same time, there is no doubt that this is a "visible problem" without taking into account undeclared cases and various "domestic" incidents that are not prosecuted. A more complete view of the situation is provided by the relevant NGOs. For example, the Center for Research on Antisemitism recorded almost 1.1 thousand various incidents involving anti-Semitism in 2018 in Berlin alone.[776] According to a survey published in December 2018 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, more than 40per cent of Jews living in Germany experienced anti-Semitism, and 80per cent reported an increase in this phenomenon in the country.[777] At the same time, in addition to "traditional" anti-Semitism with right-wing extremist motives (up to 90 per cent of the relevant crimes are attributed to this category by the police), a "new" form of anti-Semitism on the part of the Muslim population, including migrants coming in recent years from crisis regions of the Middle East and North Africa, is increasingly becoming visible.[778]

The World Jewish Congress conducted a public opinion poll aimed at establishing the attitude of German society towards anti-Semitism, which revealed a high level of hidden anti-Semitism and contradictory sentiments of respondents. According to the survey, 27 per cent of Germans express anti-Semitic views in one form or another. 12 per cent claim that "Jews are responsible for most wars in the world". 22 per cent believe that "Jews are hated for their own behavior". 41 per cent believe that "Jews talk too much about the Holocaust". At the same time, the share of persons with anti-Semitic sentiments in the group of population defined as "elite" (which means people with higher education and annual income of at least 100 thousand euros) is 18 per cent. Most of those interviewed acknowledged that there had been a marked increase in anti-Semitism in Germany. 60 per cent agree that Jews are at increased risk of being subjected to violence or abuse. 44 per cent are concerned about the level of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions (although the survey was conducted before the tragic events in Halle). At the same time, only not more than a third of poll's participants expressed their readiness to participate in public mass actions against anti-Semitism.

The UN HRC Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, E.Tendayi Achiume, noted in the report to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly A/74/253 on neo-Nazism and the fight against the glorification of Nazism that the ultra-right groups in Germany had long been associated with anti-Semitism and often advocated a review of the Second World War. Some extreme right-wing organizations openly support the use of violence motivated by racial hatred and resort to violence themselves. These structures are responsible for the majority of anti-Semitic crimes in the country: approximately 90-95 per cent of such crimes and 80 per cent of anti-Semitic incidents of a violent nature are committed by the extreme right.[779]

Another incident in Halle (the German state of Saxony-Anhalt) of October 9, 2019, which caused a wide public outcry, is a clear example of these tendencies. That day, an armed young man, an ethnic German, tried to break into the synagogue where the Jewish Yom Kippur service was held. He was unable to break through the locked door, so he shot two people who happened to be near him in the street and wounded two more. With the help of a video camera attached to his helmet, he carried out a live broadcast of his actions on the Internet, while voicing anti-Semitic and xenophobic slogans. After this tragic incident, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster criticized German law enforcement agencies, noting that the synagogue had not been protected by police on the most important Jewish holiday. In his opinion, the crime became possible only against the general broad background of the progressive strengthening of anti-Semitism in Germany and the connivance especially of the regional authorities.

With regard to other categories of hate crime, German police statistics for 2018 recorded over 1,700 such crimes, of which more than 900 were motivated by Islamophobia, 121 by Christianophobia and 63 by anti-Roma hatred. The proportion of violent crimes is about 9 per cent.[780]

Human rights organizations continue to note the high number of complaints they receive regarding the discriminatory approach (racial profiling) taken by the law enforcement agencies of Germany, which is based on external, primarily ethnic and racial characteristics of the individual. These include, in particular, spot checks in transport that can be carried out by Federal Police officers in order to detect violations of migration law (§22 para. 1a of the Federal Police Act of October 19, 1994). Practice shows that people with a non-German appearance are disproportionately subjected to such controls.[781] The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also noted the overly broad interpretation of that section of the Federal Police Act by law enforcement agencies, which in practice led to document checks and searches of personal belongings on the basis of the person's external appearance.[782] The courts ruled in the claims of the victims that this approach is inconsistent with the constitutional principle of the prohibition of discrimination on racial grounds.[783]

The German authorities have been unable to eradicate poverty in the country. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, the proportion of the population "at risk of poverty" (i.e. less than 60 per cent of the national median income) is about 16 per cent, and among minors 19 per cent (2.5 million people). The number of persons without permanent housing is estimated to be at least 860,000. Approximately 1.5 million people visit places where food is distributed free of charge to the poor.[784]

In September 2018, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights indicated that Germany had a large number of workers in various forms of precarious employment such as "mini jobs", temporary agency work, part-time employment, subcontracted employment, short-term service contracts and fixed-term employment. These workers receive low wages and have a low level of social protection. In addition, the Committee expressed concern at the rising number of workers (which currently stands at 1.2 million) relying on social benefits and that only a small proportion of workers manage to move from precarious employment to regular employment. The Committee noted that the level of basic social benefits was not sufficient to allow recipients and their families to enjoy an adequate standard of living. According to the Committee's experts, the calculation method of the subsistence level, which is based on a sample survey of the expenditure of the lowest-income households and excludes some basic costs.

A very high level of rents and rent increases were also noted. This, combined with the acute shortage of affordable housing due to a reduction in the social housing stock, low level of public spending in this area, and the very low threshold for housing reimbursement in the basic social benefits leads to a steady increase in the number of persons without adequate housing, reaching 1.2 million. The Committee pointed out, in this regard, the lack of official data on the prevalence of homelessness and the lack of shelters to accommodate homeless persons.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also noted the high rate of unemployment among persons with disabilities and the increasing number of persons with disabilities working in sheltered workshops, who were provided with limited labor and social protection and did not benefit from legislation on the minimum wage.

The Committee emphasized its concern about the chronic shortage of qualified caregivers for older persons. It expressed concern at the situation of older persons living in degrading conditions, including in some nursing homes, and who received inadequate care owing to a shortage of qualified caregivers.[785]

According to police criminal statistics, in 2018, 14,600 minors in Germany were victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. The experts point out that in reality this figure can be much higher, which is primarily due to the victims' fear of seeking help. In the past year, law enforcers also identified 7,400 cases in which pornographic materials involving minors were produced, distributed, purchased and stored.[786]

The shortcomings of the German system for combating child sexual abuse have been exposed by a heinous series of such crimes against at least 34 minors in Lugde (North Rhine-Westphalia). According to the investigation, these acts had been committed by the same persons for over 10 years. From the very beginning, both the local youth welfare office (the juvenile welfare office) and the police received information about possible abuses, but no checks were carried out. A criminal case at the request of the mother of one of the victims was initiated only in October 2018. However, the investigation revealed the disappearance of some evidence from the facilities of the district police station, namely 155 electronic media seized from suspects.[787]

According to the German Government Drug Commissioner Marlene Mortler, up to 3 million German children live in families where at least one of the parents suffers from some form of addiction (alcohol, drugs, pharmacomania, gambling).[788]

Domestic violence against women is quite widespread in the country. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, in 2018 over 110,000 women in Germany were victims of violence by their partners or former partners, 147 of whom were killed.[789] At the same time, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany recognizes that the real number of those subjected to "domestic violence" can be much higher: studies conducted on this topic show that at least a quarter of women in the country have been in this situation at least once in their lifetime.[790] Human rights defenders criticize the lack of access to specialized assistance for women in such cases, including the possibility of temporary accommodation for victims of violence to isolate them from their abusers.[791]

Women's rights organizations are also concerned about the high prevalence of forced marriages in Germany. In 2018, the police recorded 75 such cases, but human rights defenders believe that the number of victims is much higher: more than 3,400 appeals were received by counselling institutions in 2018.[792] Girls from families with migration backgrounds, mainly of Muslim origin, including minors, are the first to suffer. The problem becomes more acute during the summer school holidays, when many of them leave for their homeland and some no longer return because they were given in marriage by their relatives.[793]

There are still unequal working conditions for men and women. According to the EU, the difference in their average wages in Germany is 21.5 per cent in favor of males. In this respect, Germany ranks 26th in the European Union, leaving behind only the Czech Republic and Estonia.[794] The existing gender wage gap was highlighted by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in February 2017[795], and by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2018[796]. Continuing de facto vertical and horizontal segregation and concentration of women in low-paid jobs in the service sector, in temporary and part-time employment, as well as among persons without stable employment were mentioned as reasons. This results in a significant pension gap between men and women (currently 53 per cent), as well as a disproportionate poverty rate among older women.

According to the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency of Germany, the number of citizens' applications to this institution due to infringement of their rights in 2018 was 3,455 (15 per cent more than in 2017 and 70 per cent more than in 2015). In 31 per cent of the cases, the applicants complained about discrimination on ethnic/racial grounds, in 29 per cent on gender grounds, in 26 per cent on disability grounds. This was followed by grounds such as age (14 per cent), religion (7 per cent), sexual identity (5 per cent) and worldview (2 per cent). Discrimination is most often felt when looking for work and during the work process (36 per cent of applications), followed by "everyday" discrimination: in shops, catering establishments, in transport, etc. (27 per cent). According to a survey initiated by the Agency, 16 per cent of respondents have experienced discrimination in the last two years. Among persons of foreign origin, the figure was 23 per cent and among persons with disabilities – 26 per cent.[797]

GIHR criticizes the conditions in a number of German psychiatric institutions, in particular the practice of strapping patients to beds and forcing them to take sedatives. The Institute regards this as excessive interference with patients' right to physical and mental integrity.[798]

Under the conditions of the Russophobic rhetoric imposed in the German media, representatives of organizations of Russian compatriots point to an increase in the number of incidents of oppression against them in the home, schools, work communities, discrimination in hiring or promotion. The facts of seizure of children from Russian and Russian-speaking families by the guardianship and trusteeship bodies of the Federal Republic of Germany are cause for concern.

Human rights defenders draw attention to the fact that the Government of Germany is avoiding considering material compensation in connection with Berlin's official recognition in 2016 of the genocide of the African Guerrero and Nama tribes during Namibia's colonial period in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, a number of streets in Germany still bear the names of German colonizers of Africa.[799]

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CROATIA

According to the opinion of most of international experts the Croatian legislation and law-enforcement practice are generally consistent with the international legal obligations of that country in the area of promotion and protection of the human rights.

The implementation by the state bodies of the provisions of the national legislation and international obligations in that area is coordinated by the government Department on Human Rights and National Minorities.

In 2018, 5,082 cases of violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms in Croatia were under consideration by the Ombudsman on the Human Rights. During 2018 the number of complaints by citizens increased by 8.6 per cent. Most of cases were related to discrimination (12 per cent), labor and work relations (11 per cent), legal justice and protection of health (10 per cent respectively). It is noted that the number of complaints related to the cases in the area of protection of the rights of the war veterans and members of their families is increasing.

On the whole, it is noted that the situation with the protection of human rights in Croatia has slightly deteriorated as compared to the previous years. Of greater concern is the increased intolerance on national basis, the growing family violence and insufficient efforts by the official authorities to implement their duties in the area of promotion and protection of human rights.

Over the recent years, the international human rights community repeatedly pointed out that the state of affairs in ensuring the rights of national minorities is unsatisfactory. Similar assessments are contained in the fifth periodic report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance under the Council of Europe on Croatia dated 15 May 2018. The same concerns were expressed by the Amnesty International human rights protection NGO.

The statistics for 2018 also indicate the growing number of nationally motivated crimes (against Serbs and Bosniaks, Jews and Gypsies). In 2017, in Croatia an attempt was made to put on referendum the question of reducing the number of the representatives of the national minorities in the Croatian Sabor (national parliament) and limitation of their powers on issues of no‑confidence vote to the Government and adoption of the national budget.

According to the Ministry of Justice from January 2014 to April 2017 24 cases were filed on the basis of article 325 of the Penal Code out of which 13 – for the instigation of violence and incitement to hostility on the basis of sexual orientation, seven – on national motives, one – on ethnic origins, one – on religious convictions and two – on other different grounds. 21 guilty verdicts were passed. As to administrative offences on the basis of hatred, according to the Ministry of Justice data, in 2012 there were 37 cases, in 2013 – 23, in 2014 – 20, in 2015 – 12, in 2016 – 5. In 38 cases the suspects were found guilty out of the total number.[800]

The Committee on Human Rights after consideration in March 2015 of the third periodic report of Croatia on Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressed its concern with statistics which implied the low level of enjoyment by the Gypsies and Serbs of their rights, in particular concerning their access to housing, health protection, employment and involvement in the state affairs. The Committee pointed out the racist assaults against ethnic minorities, especially Gypsies and Serbs, and noted that appropriate investigations have not been conducted and the perpetrators have not been prosecuted.[801]

The fact that main nationally motivated crimes are committed against the Serb minorities and Gypsies was also noted by the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Croatia.

The international human rights community also notes the problems confronted by the representatives of the Serb national minority, which is among other reasons the result of the armed conflict of 1991–1995. The cases of violence are widespread in the areas where most of the Serb returnees are settled at present. The official statistics of assaults against the persons of Serb nationality are not maintained and the latest data of the Serb National House of Peoples are dated by 2017. Nevertheless, the ECRI noted in its report the communications about sixteen cases of violence, including assaults of journalists and human rights activists and in several cases damages to property mainly against bilingual signs with Cyrillic, religious buildings and cemeteries. The Serb Orthodox Church calculated that in 2016 it was vandalized 20 times.[802] The Human Rights Ombudsman on Croatia L.Vidović in her annual report for 2018 notes the growth of anti-Serbs demonstrations and crimes against the Serb minority. The tattoo in the Serbian language became the reason of beating of a young Croat in Split in July 2018. In September 2018, the leader of Croat Serbs M.Pupovac was assaulted in the center of Zagreb.

According to the report of ECRI published in May 2018 upon the results of the fifth monitoring cycle of the situation in Croatia the number of public racially motivated statements is growing which are aimed against the representatives of Serb and Gypsy nationalities.[803] According to the Consultative Committee of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities certain politicians continue to use rhetoric aimed at fomenting and instigating interethnic discord, for example, by calling certain groups of minorities as aggressors.[804]

The growth of historic revisionism in the form of glorification of the Nazi regime of Ustaše only exacerbated this trend. In December 2013, for example, the leader of the ultrarightist Croatian Party of Justice (HSP) sent a communication to the director of the Jasenovac memorial with open expression of hatred. This communication was ended by the Ustaše greetings "Za doм spremni". Racist or inflammatory graffiti with the image of Nazi Ustaše or other symbols which are often aimed against the Serb minorities are another widespread form of instigation to hatred in the society. Typical signs are "Kill a Serb" and "Serbs should be hanged". In 2015 the Serb National Council (SNC) announced that the graffiti that call for violence against Serbs "continue to be a common day phenomenon in the streets of almost all Croatian cities".[805]

The ECRI noted that the rhetoric aimed at instigation of discord is used not only by the extremist groups but some politicians, especially during the electoral campaigns. The statements of discriminatory nature were made daily for example on the eve of the parliamentary elections in November 2015. Some candidates tried to discredit the opponents questioning their legitimacy on the national basis.

According to ECRI the role of the media in propagation of the language of hatred and instigation of interethnic discord is growing. The regional printing media portray the national minorities mainly Serbs and Gypsies in negative stereotype perceptions. The media also contributed to the increasing of Islamophobic senses in the society describing the arrival of refugees as invasion.[806]

The ECRI notes that anonymous comments aimed against Serbs and refugees, offensive language against the Gypsies are a common phenomenon in the social networks and Internet and comments in the news portals. For example, the Internet portal dnevno.hr which has a rapidly growing audience repeatedly published the materials of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic character which caused the warnings by the Agency of electronic mass communication media. The ECRI expressed its regret with a growing number of the revisionist materials in the social networks. For example, in 2015 it recorded dozens of cases when the photographs of people dressed in the uniform of the Ustaše were placed in the Facebook.

The sport events continue to be a place for periodic incidents of expression of hatred. The FIFA fined the Croat Football Association several times and prohibited the racist conduct of fans and players, which again was mainly related to the nostalgia of the Ustaše regime during the football matches. In February 2018 the members of the Serbian water polo team were assaulted in the city of Split.

The representatives of the Serb national minority and Jewish communities in Croatia repeatedly expressed the dissatisfaction with the position of the state authorities on the issue of growing revenge sentiments in the Croat society and use of pro-Nazi and Ustaše symbols. Since 2016 as a sign of protest the Serb and Gypsy national minorities and Jewish communities do not participate in the commemorative events dedicated to the liberation of the Yasenovac concentration camp organized by the state authorities and conduct separate independent events.[807]

In its report the ECRI recommends to politicians to take a firm and public position against the expression of racist opinions.[808]

The Human Rights Ombudsman is especially concerned with the situation of the Serb resettlers. According to the data of the authorities and the UNHCR by January 2017 134,000 Serbs returned to Croatia (more than half of Serbs who left the country before 1995). Although the general conditions that contribute to repatriation are positive the ECRI notes that the returnees continue to confront the problems in the fulfilling their rights especially in the sphere of housing and public health and in clarifying their legal status and getting access to legal remedies. In Slavonia the access of returnees to the state services such as electricity, gas and water are unstable and the investments in the rehabilitation of seriously damaged infrastructure have long been awaited. The returnees had to take upon themselves the financial burden to obtain citizenship or regularize the status of resident.[809]

The plan of the government to include national minorities in the work of executive and Judicial authorities with a goal to increase the number of representatives of national minorities to 5.5 per cent by 2015 (in 2018 – 3.24 per cent) remains unfulfilled. The new document was not adopted. Separately, the problem of implementation of the law of the national minorities language should be mentioned under which the language of national minorities is introduced as the second language in the administrative territorial units where national minorities constitute at least 1/3 of population. In particular, in the town of Vukovar in spite of the existing required legal framework the decisions to install signs, indicators and addresses in the Serb language have not been implemented. In July 2019 the Constitutional Court of Croatia satisfied the claim sued in 2015 on illegitimate acts by the local authorities which took a decision to prohibit the use of the Serb language. However, the Vukovar administration is avoiding the implementation of the aforementioned court verdict and continues to apply restrictions with regard to the Serb language. The problems in exercising the right to use the native language, especially the languages based on the Cyrillic, which is confronted by the minorities was also mentioned by the Committee on Human Rights in 2015.[810]

Discrimination against the Gypsy minority is especially obvious in terms of employment and access to education. According to the data of Human Rights Ombudsman 69 per cent of Gypsy children 3 to 6 year old do not attend kinder gardens and pre-school institutions. Only 31 per cent of Gypsies at 15 to 18 year old obtain secondary education. One of the problems in the Croatian society remains a separate education of the Gypsy children. For example, the Gypsies' situation in the Medjimura jupania is specific, where 1,622 students of Gypsy nationality are registered, 75 per cent of them study in general education schools, where the share of Gypsy children is more than 80 per cent.

The issue of Gypsies' unemployment also remains unsatisfactory. According to official data, about 41 per cent of this minority have no job. In total, during 2017, officially 890 representatives of Gypsy minority had full time job (out of 12,000 Gypsies living in the country).

The Gypsies are also subject to violence on ethnic grounds. Most of such cases are not reported due to distrust and limited understanding between the Gypsy community and the police and the widespread practice of ethnic profiling among the law enforcement officers.[811]

The growth of intolerance on religious grounds and violation of the rights of the non-catholic population of the country has been recorded in Croatia. It should be added that in 2018 the main cases of discrimination on the basis of faith and violation of the freedom of religion took place in the area of education. In his report for 2018 the Human Rights Ombudsmen emphasized that it is unacceptable to introduce compulsory education of a subject of theology (basically catholic) in the preschool and secondary school institutions and include of catholic theology in the list of compulsory subjects of the compulsory state attestation upon the results of education at school.

In 2018 according to the data of the international NGO "Reporteurs Sans Frontieres" (the position of Croatia in the Index of the freedom of mass-media slightly improved as compared to the previous years – ranking 69 out of 180 countries (in 2017 – 74 place). According to the data of the safejounalists portal in 2018 one physical assault against journalists was recorded, five cases of the death threat, and one case of violation of the right of private property. Moreover, in the opinion of a number of human rights organizations, the existing law enforcement practice in the country threatens the journalist activity in Croatia.

According to the Human Rights House NGO in 2018 1,163 judicial cases were brought to action against 90 Croatian media. In 2018 the Ministry of culture did not announce a contest for the right to use of financial assistance from media fund that operated in the framework of the European social fund. A number of experts regarded this as an attempt of pressure on the media by the government.

According to the 2018 Eurostat data 19.6 per cent of the Croatian population are people above 65 years (adolescents under 14 years are 14 per cent of the population). 28.6 per cent of aged citizens (over 65) live in the area of the poverty risk, only 64 per cent of citizens above 65 years receive pension. For 180,000 citizens the pension installments are below the survival minimum.

According to the data of Human Rights Ombudsman during 2018 the number of complains about physical violence among the convicts has increased. The number of special measures to ensure order in prisons has also increased (1,931 cases in 2018, 1,656 cases in 2017) and coercive measures (2018 –56, 2017 – 46).

The history of riots against the installation of the monument to the first president of the country F.Tudjman raised wide public outrage – one of participants was arrested for 10 days and got a large fine (December 2018).

Despite the fact that the law guarantees the right to strikes in 2018 the Zagreb court prohibited the strike of Croatia Airlines Company.

There is certain concern with the situation of women in Croatia, especially with respect to labor activities.

The number of women in Croatia is 51.7 per cent and the level of employment is 40.2 per cent. Besides the biggest problem is the unemployment among women in the age group above 40 years. The inequality of remuneration and wage received by women and men employed in similar conditions is also noted (the men with all other equal conditions receive 13.1 per cent more than women).

According to the information of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Croatia in 2018 522 cases violations of the rights of women were recorded. Basically, the complaints related to social security, pensions and public health (24.9 per cent), and labor relations (19 per cent). The complaints about discrimination on gender basis constituted over 83 per cent.

In 2018 due to the crimes related to violence in family 10,272 suspects were brought to administrative responsibility (10.7 per cent less that in 2017), 77.7 per cent of whom were men. Out of identified 2,537 victims of family violence 75 per cent were women.

By late 2018 the number of persons listed missing during the crisis of early 1990 was 1,922 people. Upon the initiative of the Croatian side in 2017 the framework agreements were signed on mutual help and search with the Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. There is also a working group working with Serbia.

In its report for 2019 the EU Agency on the basic human rights pointed at the complaints of the persons who crossed the external EU border due to the brutal treatment in Croatia and their displacement over the border. The "Save Children" NGO announced that during the period from January to November 2018 over 1,350 children were expelled over the EU border accompanied with the use of violence almost in the one third of cases. When the Croatian Ombudsman investigated these complaints she was refused to have an access to the records of migrants complaints to the police despite the fact that Article 5 of the Law on National Preventive Mechanisms gives an access to all information on the treatment of persons deprived of freedom. In September 2018 the Commissioner of the Council of Europe on human rights sent a letter to Croatian authorities with the request to investigate the alleged cases of violence and thefts by the law enforcement officers regarding the migrants.[812]

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MONTENEGRO

According to estimates of the Montenegro Human Rights and Freedoms Defender (hereinafter – the Defender, the Ombudsman) the human rights violations recorded in the country in 2018 lied mainly in the non-compliance by certain state bodies of statutory terms of administrative procedures in working with Montenegrin and foreign nationals. We should point out such negative aspects as prolonged examination of a large number of cases left without response of state bodies, as well as insufficient number of officials involved in their consideration.

The work of state bodies and administrative services should be criticized. Thus, the majority of complaints to the Ombudsman in 2018 concerned such violations as failure of state bodies to take decisions within the statutory period, repeated cancellation of administrative acts and return of cases to the first instance institution for re-examination, as well as failure to comply with court decisions. There are problems in the judiciary concerning mainly the terms of execution and review of judicial decisions.

There are still problems inside the penitentiary system of Montenegro. The Ombudsman recorded in 2018 complaints from inmates about the failure to obtain adequate medical care, abuse, discrimination and unlawful judicial decisions handed down against them. At the same time 62 per cent of complaints addressed to the Defender by this group of persons were rejected at the stage of formation on grounds of non-substantiation.

The situation with the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights in Montenegro in 2018 remained below the level of the world standards. A significant number of people still live below the poverty line. There is no significant progress in the area of employment, salary increases, housing conditions improvement. All these facts, according to the Ombudsman's report, had a negative impact on the overall economic and social situation in the country. The situation of the unemployed, elderly, disabled, Roma people remains particularly difficult.

The environment protection is still unsatisfactory. The environmentally conscious people are rare in the country. Thus, the report of the Ombudsman for 2018 highlights the opinion that the violation of the rights of people to a healthy environment is the result of improper execution of regulations in the field of urbanization, construction and spatial planning as well as recycling and disposal of industrial and domestic waste.

A slight improvement of situation in the area of children rights was recorded in 2018. However, there is still a lot of problems in this field: the guardianship authorities do not always use their powers to solve the children rights-related situations involving their abuse by the parents. The child and minors abuse continues in the Montenegrin society, but the reaction of the guardianship authorities to these challenges is often insufficient. The problem of overcrowding of some educational institutions remains unsolved. There is a high number of children living in specialized childcare institutions; furthermore, children from families of marginalized groups of population continue to face a significant risk of family separation and institutionalization. It was pointed out, in particular, by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[813]

The incidence of violence against women, including gender-motivated killings, continue to be prevalent in the country. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted with concern, in July 2017, that this phenomenon is socially acceptable, in particular in the Roma community. The legal minimum age of marriage is only 16 years, and among Roma children child and/or forced marriages are widespread. There is a disproportionately high rate of unemployment among women, especially among women belonging to minority groups. All these factors lead to the fact that Roma women and girls as well as refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked. At the same time there is an evidence of collusion of law enforcement officials in cases of trafficking in human beings.[814]

There is a number of health care problems. Thus, the selective gender-based abortions, especially among the Roma, are still practiced. The tradition of child marriage is widespread in these communities. Authorities take only limited efforts to identify such cases and do not prosecute and punish the perpetrators of such crimes.[815] The health care providers take informal payments that limit access to health care services for children living in poverty. At the same time there is a decrease of immunization against childhood diseases.[816]

None of ethnic groups makes a majority of the population in Montenegro. Montenegro recognized the Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Roma minorities, each of which is represented by the Council of national minorities promoting the interests of the relevant minorities. A sound legal framework for combating discrimination was established, including the newly revised regulations to ensure the linguistic rights of minorities, and the Ombudsman institution.[817]

The right to education in public institutions in the mother tongue is guaranteed by article 79 of the Constitution. The General Education Law granted the right to include studies of minority history and culture in the general curriculum. For these purposes, 20 per cent of the curriculum are provided for "an open content". However, the Ministry of Education does not practically track filling of these 20 per cent. As far as the teaching in minority languages is concerned, the teaching in Albanian is provided in areas where Albanians make up the majority of the local population, and in Podgorica. Despite the availability of bilingual schools providing teaching in the Albanian and Montenegrin languages, students do not get the same number of hours of instruction in each language. Depending on their ethnic origin some students choose the Albanian language as the language of instruction, while the others – the Montenegrin language (the local dialect of the Serbian language). This practice creates two separate flows of monolingual education, although the students following the Montenegrin language education course may choose the Albanian language as an optional subject, while the students following the Albanian language education course have the Montenegrin language learning as a compulsory subject.[818]

Discrepancies on the restitution of church property have a negative impact on interreligious relations and lead to major differences between some religious communities. For example, in Svacha the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) tried to hold a liturgy at the ruins of a state-owned medieval church. The Serbian Orthodox Church claims to be the owner of the land, but the local Albanian protesters prevented the Metropolitan to hold service. The Ulcinj authorities argue that the specified location was closed since 2015 for reconstruction works.[819]

There are other examples where clergymen of "the Montenegrin Orthodox Church" (the unrecognized secessionist organization) and the Serbian Orthodox Church tried to carry out the service in religious buildings in Cetinje and Podgorica, claimed by both churches, on 1 and 8 October 2017. As a result, the police intervened, and in both cases, "the Montenegrin Orthodox Church" held its service outside of the mentioned buildings, and the Serbian Orthodox Church inside[820].

The issues of the relationship between confessions should be clarified by a draft law on religious freedom[821]. Introduced in December 2019 in the Parliament of Montenegro the updated draft "Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the legal status of religious communities" contains a number of new, controversial from the standpoint of the Serbian Orthodox Church, refinements (including those which concern the property disputes).

The manifestations of racism and cases of hate speech were recorded. Thus, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed out in August 2018 that politicians and public figures in Montenegro practice the hate speech against individual ethnic or ethno-religious groups, especially during election campaigns. The hate speech is spread by the media, including the Internet, in the form of insults and derogatory remarks, especially among Serbs and Montenegrins. The hate speech is a criminal offence, but the authorities do not do the social network monitoring since no agency has that power.[822] The cases of racist violence at sports events had been recorded. The Roma people are targeted by the racism-based violence.

In collaboration with international organizations and partners the Montenegrin authorities collect data on the so-called "ethnic distance" and the public opinion about certain minority groups. These data reveal manifestations of intolerance towards the Roma, as well as towards the representatives of the small Jewish community. In 2010-2017 the social distance between almost all national groups increased. In Montenegro, the chronic negative attitudes and prejudices towards Roma are widespread, because of them they are regularly faced with numerous challenges in the areas of employment, housing, health care, education and birth registration.[823]

The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities pointed out that in some parts of the country (Ulcinj, Herceg Novi, Tivat, Bijelo Polje, Roshazh and Plava) remain the problems associated with poor living conditions and the provision of adequate housing to displaced Roma which often settle in the illegal settlements and do not have the basic sanitation.[824]

At the same time the ССFCNM noted a significant improvement in the situation of Roma, especially displaced persons. The Konik refugee camp has been officially closed and permanent housing is under construction at its location, although several families have not yet been resettled. Health care problems persist in Konik as the medical centre there was closed. Despite the efforts of the authorities the social situation in the Konik area, particularly in the field of reproductive health and drug abuse, is a matter of concern.

Regarding access to education, 104 Roma children attended pre-school establishments in 2016-2017 in Montenegro representing 0.55 per cent of the total number of children enrolled in pre-school institutions. Their number reached 190 in 2017-2018. The initiatives providing for further increase of this indicator, including those by community mediators, are being implemented.[825]

The Roma communities show the low attendance of pre-school, elementary and secondary education establishments compared to the rest of the population, as well as chronic drop-outs and absenteeism. Many children, especially Roma, are begging and survive in the streets, become victims of various forms of exploitation, including trafficking in human beings, economic and sexual exploitation.[826]

However, according to the ССFCNM, the number of Roma children dropping out of school is gradually decreasing, while the number of children graduating from school is increasing. Free textbooks and scholarships for secondary and higher education were provided to Roma children. However, the Roma and Egyptian children living in Biela Gora and Ulcin are not enrolled in the existing education system. The number of Roma children dropping out of school is higher than the national average.[827]

The employment situation of the Roma community members is discouraging. According to the Social Integration Strategy of Roma and Egyptians for 2016-2020, in 2015 (the last available data) 95 per cent of Roma were considered "persons without profession and qualifications" and 83 per cent were unemployed.[828]

There are stateless persons in Montenegro. This problem concerns the most the Roma representatives, especially those who came from Kosovo as refugees. According to the Government information for 2017, there were seven people registered in Montenegro who requested travel documents for stateless persons. Later the field checks led by UNHCR and the Government in November 2017 identified some 145 people at risk of receiving such status.[829] Among them were 20 Serbs, as the Serbian travel document law has limited scope. Serbs who fled to Montenegro during the 1990s conflict were not provided passports unless they had a Serbian identity card. Thus, not only they can not obtain their Serbian passports, but also do not have access to the status of a foreigner having a permanent residence permit in Montenegro, because a person may be granted a permanent residence permit in Montenegro in case of presentation of the State of Origin passport. Thus, this group of persons must be registered as having the permanent residence in Serbia in order to apply for a Serbian identity card and then may obtain a Serbian passport in order to be able to claim the right to reside in Montenegro, which is not always possible for practical and legal reasons.[830]

Anyway according to human rights activists, small positive changes in the fight against racism have been recorded. Compared to 2017, there was a decrease in discrimination cases based on sex, national origin, political views and membership in various social groups in 2018. About 70 per cent of citizens still believe that this problem is relevant to the Montenegrin society. As in previous years, persons with disabilities, ethnic Roma, women were subjected to a high level of risk and faced various violations of their rights. As a rule the most common was the discrimination of these groups of people in employment.

The situation concerning the right to freedom of opinion and expression remains ambiguous. Thus, in 2018 four cases of reporting to the police by the media representatives in connection with the life-threatening danger and inflicting grievous bodily harm were recorded. The most serious of them was an attack early in May last year on a woman journalist of a leading opposition newspaper "Vnesti" O.Lakich, which had a major impact on public opinion. The investigation of this crime is closely watched by international human rights organizations. In addition, the EU was concerned by political interference into work of a major media company of the country "Radio and Television of Montenegro" (RTM), which led in June 2018 to a replacement of the RTM Director and appointment to this post of the ruling party candidate.

Some progress in improving the legal framework of Montenegro should also be noted. This led, among all, to the putting into operation of the new data system on the protection of human rights, to the reduction of deadlines (up to 60 days) for complaint handling, as well as to the enha