ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.
Armenia has shown determination in fighting racism and intolerance, integrating refugees and supporting ethnic minorities. However, numerous legislation gaps, rise in hate speech and violence, and institutional shortcomings remain of concern, said the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its new report published today.
The report covering the period from December 2010 to March 2016 welcomed the efforts of the Armenian authorities to revise the Criminal Code and draft comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, integrate a large influx of refugees from Syria and increase the financial support for the ethnic minorities.
However, the criminal, civil and administrative legislation and procedures still suffer from numerous shortcomings which make it impossible to adequately combat racism and discrimination. The report notes a rise in hate speech leading to violence, main targets being members of the LGBT community and non-traditional religious groups, and the stigmatisation of these groups in the political and public discourse.
As priority recommendations to be followed up in two years, ECRI calls on the authorities to streamline the various integration strategies for all vulnerable groups, and to amend the Armenian criminal law. The list of “prohibited grounds” should explicitly include colour, language, nationality, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. Besides, incitement to violence and to racial discrimination, as well as the public denial, trivialisation, justification or condoning of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes should be criminalised.
Other recommendations include making homophobic/transphobic motivation an aggravating circumstance; giving more powers to the Human Rights Defender to enable him/her to deal with discrimination in the private sector; establishing an independent mechanism for dealing with complaints against the police; and encouraging the adoption of a code of ethics for media and a code of conduct for parliamentarians.
The Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has published its fifth report on Turkey in which it analyses recent developments and makes recommendations to the authorities. While noting positive institutional and legal changes, ECRI expressed concern over the deterioration of conditions of such vulnerable groups as refugees, Kurds, Roma, as well as LGBT persons.
On the positive side, ECRI welcomes the establishment of the Ombudsman Institution in 2013 and of the Human Rights and Equality Authority in 2016. Also in 2016, the authorities enacted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, launched a national strategy for Roma and an “open-door” policy for Syrian refugees, including on issuing work permits.
However, ECRI expresses concern over the lack of independence of the Human Rights and Equality Authority and the recently established Law Enforcement Oversight Commission. Hate speech is on the rise, and most of it goes unpunished. Its increasing use by the senior state representatives is particularly worrying.
“Although the report was drafted before the coup attempt in July 2016, it contains recommendations to the Turkish authorities which are fully relevant today,” said the Chair of ECRI, Christian Ahlund. “Hate speech should be properly combatted and hate crime offences adequately investigated; and the hate speech legislation should not be abused to silence vulnerable groups.”
Despite huge efforts, at least 400,000 refugee children do not have access to school, and by the end of 2015 only 7,400 refugees had received work permits. Among the Roma, the rates of school enrolment and formal employment are low. Since the renewed security operations in 2015, the situation of the Kurds has sharply deteriorated. Prejudice against LGBT persons forces them to “stay invisible”, as neither the Criminal Code nor the draft anti-discrimination law provide them with basic protection.
ECRI issued a number of recommendations to the Turkish authorities. The following two should be implemented as a matter of priority; ECRI will follow up on their implementation in two years:
bring the anti-discrimination legislation and the provisions on the independence and mandate of the new Human Rights and Equality Authority in line with ECRI’s standards;
entrust a body that is fully independent of the police, other security forces and the prosecution services with the investigation of alleged cases of police misconduct including ill-treatment.
Alongside several positive developments, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has highlighted a number of areas of concern in its latest report on the United Kingdom.
ECRI welcomed, among other things, the entry into force of the Equality Act 2010 and the generally strong legislation against racism and racial discrimination in the country, as well as the government’s new hate crime action plan and substantial efforts to promote LGBT rights in the UK which have led to a significant change in attitudes.
At the same time, the commission noted considerable intolerant political discourse in the UK, particularly focusing on immigration. It said that hate speech continues to be a serious problem in tabloid newspapers, and that online hate speech targeting Muslims in particular has soared since 2013.
ECRI also noted a particularly high number of violent racist incidents in 2013, including a sharp rise in anti-Muslim violence, as well as record levels of anti-Semitic incidents the following year.
“It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said ECRI Chair Christian Ahlund.
“The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.”
The report also underlines that there is no national strategy for the integration of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers in the UK and these communities continue to suffer severe disadvantage.
It makes a total of 23 different recommendations to the UK government, the most pressing of which – relating to equality legislation in Northern Ireland and data collection on the application of the Equality Act 2010 – will be reviewed by ECRI in two years’ time.