The Greek tragedy proves that Europe does not believe in economic and social rights as a matter of justice

Early this morning, the President of the EU Council has announced that a deal had been reached. After one referendum and a collection of ultimatums, Grexit is out of the question, for now.


The details of the agreement remain unspecified as I write these lines. The Guardian reports that, this last intense weekend, the German Government proposed measures such as Greece leaving the Euro temporarily if it refused a new bailout or, Greece setting aside €50 billion worth of assets as collateral for an eventual privatisation (hopefully, the Acropolis wasn’t in the list of assets). The paper says that the proposals “did not enjoy a consensus among eurozone leaders”, which is a slight relief.

At this point, the exact lyrics of the song have not been made public, but the stage where they have to be performed is well known. In 2013, the UN Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights warned that “the prospects of a significant number of Greeks securing an adequate standard of living in line with international human rights standards have been compromised by bailout conditions imposed by Greece’s international lenders”. After visiting the country, he denounced that more than 10% of the population lived in extreme poverty. National economy has shrunk by a quarter since the beginning of the implementation of extreme cuts in 2010, with rocketing unemployment (nearly 30%), especially among youngsters (twice that percentage). In late 2014, the FIDH and the Hellenic League for Human Rights reported a similarly bleak picture, with radical cuts in minimum wages since 2012 (22-32%) and rising inequality.

164 countries from all over the world, including all EU Member States, have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), which demands from Governments the adoption of all necessary measures to achieve progressively the full satisfaction of the rights to work, housing, health and education, among others. All EU Member States have also ratified the European Social Charter, either the original (1961) or the revised one (1996). Economic, social and cultural rights are also included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (2000), “which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties” (Article 6.1 of the Treaty of the European Union, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009).

ICESCR Continue reading

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El derecho a la vivienda en España, una de romanos

Screenshot 2015-06-24 11.35.09

Este artículo ha sido publicado en Huffington Post

¿Decimos miles, decenas de miles o centenares de miles? En Amnistía International tuvimos serias dudas sobre cómo dar comienzo al informe Derechos Desalojados: Derecho a la vivienda y desalojos hipotecarios en España, publicado ayer.

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What the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta tells us about Britain’s idea of human rights

Yesterday, 15 June, Britain celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The text proclaimed some of what we now call “human rights”, related to fair trial and the rule of law. It was meant to be a peace treaty between English barons and a particularly bully monarch, King John. Magna Carta did not really apply at the time, war resumed soon after and most of the text was repealed throughout history. However, yesterday, the birthday was greeted with royal splendour and the Prime Minister said that Magna Carta “changed the world”. Not bad for someone who not long ago didn’t know the literal translation of Magna Carta (it’s “Great Charter”, by the way).

Copyright Steve Bell 2015/All Rights Reserved e.mail: tel: 00 44 (0)1273 500664

Copyright Steve Bell 2015/All Rights Reserved e.mail: tel: 00 44 (0)1273 500664

David Cameron is not alone in his enthusiasm. Others have claimed that we still enjoy the rights “won” in 1215. BBC refers to Magna Carta as “the document that heralded modern democracy”. And the rather obsessive-looking historian David Starkey is convinced that the proclamation of property rights in Magna Carta was “the foundation of everything else”, in a way that other countries, like China and Russia, have not experienced to this day; Magna Carta was “unique in Europe” and Americans and continental Europeans learned about civil liberties from it.

I must confess my fascination. Continue reading

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Against the criminalisation of foreign fighters with the discourse of terrorism

chartoftheday_2658_Where_Syrias_Foreign_Fighters_Come_From_nLast week, interior ministers of the 15 countries sitting at the UN Security Council met to discuss foreign fighters. They did so as part of the follow-up of Resolution 2178 (2014), which defines foreign fighters as people who travel or attempt to travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality, and other individuals who travel or attempt to travel from their territories to a State other than their States of residence or nationality, for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts, or the providing or receiving of terrorist training”.

This is hardly a new phenomenon, but foreign fighters are getting more and more attention in relation to Syria and Iraq. The number of foreign fighters in both countries could exceed 20,000, and according to the Director of Europol, between 3,000 and 5,000 of them would come from EU countries.

In Resolution 2178, as well as previous ones since 2001, the Security Council urges states to adopt legislative and criminal measures to prevent terrorism and bring suspects to justice.

With the intention to operationalise the mandate of the Security Council, the Council of Europe is working on a draft protocol to the 2005 European Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. This text criminalises the action of joining a group and “participating” in its activities “for the purpose of committing or contributing to the commission” of terrorist offenses (Article 2), “receiving training for terrorism” (Article 3), “travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism” (Article 4), “funding travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism” (Article 5), or “organising or otherwise facilitating travelling” for that purpose (Article 6).

As noted by Scheinin, the formulation of these provisions relies on the intent (“purpose”) of the person to participate or contribute towards the commission of a terrorist offence.

The draft protocol, therefore, does not call for the criminalisation of travelling to conflict zones, and individual countries have not modified their criminal legislation to punish travelling per se. The subjective element of intent is required.

However, a variety of measures are already being taken in relation to foreign fighters, ranging from passport confiscation (Germany), attempts to bar foreign fighters from acquiring national citizenship (Austria), stripping known foreign fighters of access to social services (Belgium), or revoking naturalised nationality (UK and Netherlands) (see reports here, here and here).

So far, these measures are targeting Islamic foreign fighters travelling to conflict areas with a religious motivation. However, there is no reason why these measures could not be potentially applied to other conflicts. For example, Spanish authorities recently detained eight nationals that had fought in Ukraine on the pro-Russian side. Apparently their actions may have infringed Spain’s neutrality, and therefore compromise the country’s “peace or independence”. Continue reading

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Don’t execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Years ago, a local journalist offered me, as a representative of Amnesty International, to take part in a radio programme on the death penalty. He told me he wanted to talk about this punishment through three personal stories. He said he’d let me choose the cases, but suggested some options: an unfaithful wife stoned to death in Nigeria, a political dissident in North Korea or a child offender in Iran. For example.

I loved the idea. The programme had many listeners and it was going to be a great opportunity to raise awareness. I discussed it with the death penalty expert in my local group, a committed volunteer since 1981. He liked the idea too, but with a caveat. The cases had to be different. More than 600 people were executed in 22 countries in 2014 (probably many more since Chinese and North Korean numbers are not reported), hundreds more were sentenced to death, and currently about 19,000 people await their execution in 58 different countries (find detailed data from Amnesty International here). And the hard truth is that most of the people in death corridors have committed awful blood crimes. Continue reading

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Cuatro pensamientos sobre el ataque a Charlie Hebdo

Amnesty UK je suis charlieHay clases y clases, también cuando hablamos de terrorismo. Los delincuentes fueron deliberadamente contra los periodistas y humoristas de Charlie Hebdo, un medio conocido por su vocación de burlarse de todo y de todos, aunque las más conocidas sean sus viñetas sobre Mahoma. No fue un ataque contra personas inermes, sino un ataque contra personas armadas con tinta y con papel, y por alguna razón este hecho hace que nuestra repulsa sea mayor que si se hubiera tratado de doce personas irreconocibles, sin nada en común. (En la foto, minuto de silencio en la sede de Amnistía Internacional en el Reino Unido.) El valor de las vidas es el mismo, pero es como si al atacarles, nos hubieran atacado también un poco a todos. No se trata del ataque en sí mismo, sino del significado que el ataque tiene para nosotros, precisamente por el valor que le damos a lo que las víctimas tienen en común, quizás porque la libertad de la prensa es la herramienta a través de la que la sociedad ejercita su libertad de información.

Nous sommes tous Charlie? Los perfiles de Facebook de medio mundo dicen que hoy todos somos Charlie, pero yo albergo algunas dudas. Y no soy el único. En un agudo análisis en el que hace referencia al escaso apoyo que recibía la revista cuando se atrevía a ser políticamente incorrecta, Cas Mudde escribe que defender la libertad de expresión “exige no sólo que nos manifestemos en contra de los extremistas, sino también que defendamos a quienes les desafían… también antes de que sean amenazados o incluso asesinados”. En este sentido, el abogado inglés Adam Wagner observaba anoche que ningún medio británico se había atrevido a mostrar en portada ninguna viñeta publicada por Charlie Hebdo. A su juicio, se debe al miedo y a la autocensura. Hoy todos decimos ser Charlie pero ayer no todos valorábamos tanto la libertad de expresión.

Screenshot from 2015-01-08 16:18:03Dicho lo anterior, no estoy de acuerdo con lo que dices, pero defenderé con mi vida tu derecho a expresarlo”. Lo dijo Voltaire, pero aun a riesgo de equivocarme con el prejuicio, sospecho que podría haberlo dicho uno de los dos valientes policías que dieron la vida ayer. Se llamaba Ahmed Merabet. A lo mejor no es preciso tener altas cotas de tolerancia hacia lo políticamente incorrecto para mostrar solidaridad con las víctimas, compromiso con la libertad de expresión y repulsa por el crimen. Del mismo modo que no es preciso ser homosexual en Uganda, disidente político en Corea del Norte, judío en la Alemania de los años 30, o inmigrante indocumentado en la Europa de hoy para estar comprometido con la defensa de los derechos humanos.

Hay crímenes que provocan heridas colectivas. Francia lloró de dolor ayer. Hoy, mañana y pasado estará de duelo. Hubo manifestaciones espontáneas por todo el país. También las ha habido en el extranjero, muchas de ellas frente a las embajadas. Humoristas gráficos de todo el mundo también han mostrado una gran creatividad en sus muestras de apoyo (por ejemplo, aquí y aquí). Los líderes políticos franceses aseguraron que los responsables serán llevados ante la justicia y responderán por sus crímenes. Si este es el impacto que provocan doce asesinatos, ¿cómo poner en cuestión que pueda haber delitos que por su especial naturaleza y gravedad atentan contra la conciencia de la humanidad entera? ¿Y cómo negar en tal caso la competencia de los jueces de cualquier país para asegurarse de que un genocidio, un crimen contra la humanidad o un crimen de guerra no queden impunes?

Koldo Casla


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“The Interview” and the sanctity of private business in public international law… since the 16th century

the interviewBy now it is well known that Sony was cyber attacked some weeks ago allegedly as a reaction to “The Interview”, a satirical film that depicts the assassination of Kim Jong-Un. I haven’t seen the film and I don’t know anybody who has seen it, but Barbara Demick, a North Korea specialist writing in New Yorker, asserts that, considering it is meant to be a freaky parody, it does justice to the first impression the average Western visitor may get of Pyongyang.

An FBI investigation concluded that the regime was behind the attack, but the North Korean Government denies the accusations. Technology security experts have doubts about the involvement of the Asian country. Nevertheless, President Obama hasted to promise retaliation.

President Obama said that the attack “caused a lot of damage” and showed the need of “clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West”, and everybody knows that when it comes to international politics this is something Americans really dislike (my own words; not the President’s). Secretary of State John Kerry framed the US position in terms of protecting freedom of expression. Consistently, Sony chief Kazuo Hirai has recently said that they are all for civil liberties: “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association – those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business”. Continue reading

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