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Amnesty criticises EU states for violating human rights

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Amnesty criticises EU states for violating human rights
26.05.2004 - 17:43 CET | By Mark Beunderman EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The Human Rights organisation Amnesty International has heavily criticised the EU today (26 May) for not doing enough to protect human rights within its own borders.

In its annual report, which documents the human rights situation in 155 countries and territories in 2003, Amnesty also reports on human rights violations in 21 of 25 EU member states.

Only Cyprus, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are not mentioned in the Amnesty report.

However an Amnesty spokeswoman was quick to tell the EUobserver, "that does not mean that no violations take place in these countries. It simply means that we did not get information this year or could not accurately check it".

One of the main concerns of the organisation is the damaging effects of the fight against terrorism on European human rights.

"Under the auspices of combating "terrorism", governments continued to undermine human rights in law and practice", the report says.

The United Kingdom is singled out as a particularly bad example.

"By the end of the year (2003), 14 foreign nationals who could not be deported remained interned in the UK under legislation that allowed for indefinite detention without charge or trial, principally on the basis of secret evidence".

The Amnesty document observes a new Europe-wide rhetoric, dominated by terms such as "national security" and "counter-terrorism", which has contributed to limiting asylum provisions and immigration.

Asylum seekers in Italy, for example, had no opportunity to challenge the authorities' decision to expel them as they supposedly posed a danger to national security.

Also with regard to asylum policy in general, the report states, "The human rights perspective remained lacking from the thinking of the EU, which continued to promote a further sealing off of the EU at the expense of international protection obligations".

Torture and racism in the EU
Individual EU countries are criticised in the report for various reasons.

Germany is lambasted for an incident of torture, whereby a police chief ordered a police officer to use force against a suspect.

An Ethiopian national died during forcible deportation in France.

Spain is attacked by the human rights organisation for damaging the freedom of expression and assembly, after Basque media and political parties were declared illegal.

Complaints about racist ill-treatment by law officials came from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

People with mental disabilities were treated inhumanely in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, according to the report.

Lack of scrutiny at EU level
These different forms of human rights abuses in member states cannot be sufficiently addressed at the EU level, Amnesty complains.

The organisation calls for a human rights agency at an EU level to be funded by the EU, with sufficient powers to investigate and have access to documents in member states.

According to an Amnesty spokesman, this agency would also need to have the power to make public recommendations to member states.

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