Intolerance and corruption, coupled with peaking unemployment and poverty, feed extremism and fuel conflicts across the 47 member countries of the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog Council of Europe (CoE).
"Europe is in its biggest human rights crisis since Cold War,” warned Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of CoE, in the title of a press release stating that the lack of democratic checks and balances, free media and an independent judiciary have caused widespread corruption and misuse of power across the European continent, both inside and outside the EU.
Statistics in the report show that 39 of the CoE states face serious discrimination issues, 30 have poor detention conditions, including prison over-crowding, 26 countries' corruption is so high it's considered prevalent and 20 states have serious police abuse, among other violations.
The human rights watchdog urges more frequent monitoring visits when serious human rights violations persist, while also expressing the necessity to allow monitoring mechanisms to be able to operate in unresolved zones.
Concerning the prevention of violations of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, the CoE calls for a monitoring mechanism that should be able to react rapidly to urgent challenges, report back to the Committee of Ministers and make recommendations.
Another main concern is the growing threat of inequality driven by the economic crisis in Europe. In this regard, the European Social Charter (ESC) should get higher priority and its monitoring mechanisms should be strengthened.
Main human rights concerns (number of states where these concerns appear):
- Ethnic discrimination/national minorities (39 member states)
- Conditions of detention, including overcrowding in prisons (30 member states)
- Corruption (26 member states)
- Ill-treatment by law enforcement officers (23 member states)
- Social exclusion and discrimination of Roma (23 member states)
- Set-up and functioning of the judiciary (20 member states)
- Shortcomings in migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights (20 member states)
- Excessive length of proceedings (11 member states)
- Trafficking in human beings (11 member states)
- Lack of freedom of expression and media freedom (8 member states)
The report points to two main general concerns when it comes to guaranteeing democratic values and the rule of law: First, some CoE standards are not monitored because no specific monitoring mechanisms exist, for example in the area of freedom of expression. Second, some standards are monitored by two or more separate bodies whose competences partly overlap.
In seeking a solution to the problems, Jagland wrote, “I call on Europe’s leaders to seize the opportunity offered by this report to strengthen our unique Convention system. I consider as a very encouraging sign the constructive bilateral dialogue with member States in the context of this report." He went on to say, "In order to prevent a recurrence of new crises, all member States must fully and unequivocally re-commit themselves to the European Convention on Human Rights and other core conventions of our Organisation."
In order to protect the rule of law, democratic principles and human rights, the CoE calls for a new pan-European security system. Jagland, in preparation for this, invited leaders to a Council of Europe summit in 2015 devoted to democratic security.
Click here for the full CoE report.