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Structural human rights issues

Structural
human rights issues

ENNHRI members point at a number of systemic human rights issues which negatively impact on the rule of law environment in their countries.

ENNHRI members point at a number of systemic human rights issues which negatively impact on the rule of law environment in their countries.

Several ENNHRI members, namely from Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Finland, Great Britain, Greece, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Poland mention delays on and non-implementation of judgments of the ECtHR. Worrying attempts to weaken obligations stemming from the ECHR have also been noted in connection to the ongoing Human Rights Act reform in the United Kingdom by ENNHRI members in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

ENNHRI members also point to cases of systemic discrimination such as insufficient access to healthcare for Roma and Egyptian minorities in Albania. Efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities are regarded as inadequate by ENNHRI members in Albania and Slovenia. Whereas, ENNHRI Member from Hungary reports cases of discrimination such as instances of school segregation of Roma children and discrimination in the use of national minority languages in Hungary. The NHRI from Liechtenstein points to a systemic problem with lack of data and access to information on vulnerable and smarginalised groups, while ENNHRI members in Belgium draw attention to the lack of data in particular on police stop-and-searches and on the prevalence of discriminatory profiling.

In some countries, and in particular Poland and Slovakia, ENNHRI members denounce a worrying regression on the respect and realisation of sexual and reproductive rights as well as rights of LGBTI+ persons. The NHRI from Albania reports on a lack of adequate budget to support the implementation of National Action Plan for LGBTI Persons for 2021-2027.

A number of NHRIs also highlighted systemic problems in ensuring the effective enjoyment of socio-economic rights. The NHRI from Albania raises concerns about identified shortcomings in the provision of public and economic services, the protection of the right to healthy environment and the right to housing, which affect most vulnerable groups. The NHRI from Ukraine also flags a systemic lack of realisation of social rights, notably in the area of access to education and cultural services. The NHRI in Austria stressed that social rights are not protected on the constitutional level, while the NHRI in Spain pointed with concern to the increase of poverty among Spanish citizens.

Some ENNHRI members also acknowledge systemic human rights violation related to conditions of detention and the rights of persons deprived of liberty and persons in closed institutions, including in Belgium, Georgia and Poland. ENNHRI member from Belgium also points to the problem of non-execution on the ECtHR judgments on this matter.

NHRIs in Denmark and Georgia signal problematic practices impacting on privacy and data protection, namely persisting issues of compliance of data retention rules with EU law standards, despite state’s attempt to introduce legislative reforms, in Denmark; and alleged uncontrolled and large-scale eavesdropping by the State Security Service in Georgia, which also led to the public disclosure of a large amount of sensitive data.

Key recommendations

Reports by ENNHRI members alert that the national rule of law environment in a significant number of countries across the region continue to be affected by structural human rights issues. Common concerns relate to widespread violations, or the systemic failure to ensure protection, of the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to liberty as well as social rights. This impairs the equal enjoyment of rights by individuals in society and risks perpetuating and even exacerbating societal divisions, inequality and marginalisation. In a number of countries, challenges are coupled with the pervasive neglect of the duty to ensure timely and effective implementation of relevant recommendations by monitoring bodies, including international and regional human rights mechanisms and independent authorities such as NHRIs themselves; and, likewise, compliance with relevant judgments by regional courts, and in particular the ECtHR and the CJEU, which contributes to a culture of impunity and lack of accountability of state authorities.

In view of the persisting and systemic nature of the identified human rights issues, and their impact on national rule of law environments, ENNHRI and its members recommend to national authorities and regional and international actors to work together, in close cooperation with ENNHRI and NHRIs, to:

1. Ensure compliance of laws and practices with international and regional human rights standards, including the ECHR and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU;

2. Ensure timely and effective implementation of recommendations by international and regional monitoring bodies, as well as independent authorities including NHRIs;

3. Ensure timely and effective implementation of judgments by regional courts, namely the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU;

4. Ensure meaningful cooperation with and consultation of NHRIs and civil society organisations, in particular when drafting or revising relevant laws and policies, also as a means to ensure that the needs and interests of rightsholders, including vulnerable groups and marginalised communities, are properly assessed and taken into account;

5. Strengthen authorities’ awareness, knowledge and capacity to identify and tackle potential human rights violations, in particular in the context of law and policy making, as well as law enforcement, in order to enhance compliance with human rights standards and accountability for violations at all levels;

6. Conduct, promote and support awareness raising and civic education initiatives on human rights, democracy and rule of law, including by NHRIs.

As a European network of institutions whose legal mandate is to protect and promote human rights at the national level, a core component of ENNHRI’s work is to raise awareness of, support and further build NHRIs’ expertise and ability to strengthen the application of international and regional human rights standards and instruments. ENNHRI will continue to invest in coordinating capacity building and the sharing of practices, including by building on its recently launched Action Plan on strengthening the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Union (2021-2024), as well as by further investing in NHRIs’ and ENNHRI’s capacity to engage with regional courts and foster implementation of judgments of regional courts.