Europe has been known for its central role in promoting human rights in the international political area. Despite this seemingly pioneering position, some implementations on the ground have proven the existence of hypocrisy. The recent rise of ultra-nationalist groups along with increasing cases of xenophobia suggest worrying signs of an increase in human rights violations.
When the European Court of Human Rights was established in 1959, it was greeted as a clear indication of Europe spearheading the protection of human rights. Its aims were to ensure the enforcement and implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, some rulings over human rights violations have opened the court’s objectivity in debate.
Lastly, the Court has controversially rejected a complaint regarding the United Nations immunity from national jurisdiction in a civil cases, namely the Srebrenica massacre. A civil society organization representing relatives of the victims, Mothers of Srebrenica, accused the Netherlands and the United Nations of being partly responsible for the massacre. However, the Court declared that the UN enjoys immunity from jurisdiction in a national court. Many experts criticized the decision as a clear hypocrisy and double-standard.
Some 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed by Serb nationalists in July 1995 in an area protected by Dutch UN peacekeepers that the UN had declared a ‘safe heaven’.
Europe’s human rights insensitivity for migrants
The accusations of hypocrisy against Europe are not only in the institutional level. The tragic situation of immigrants and asylum seekers are another example how Europe has failed to provide ‘western standards of human rights’ to new-comers.
The inappropriate life standards do not seem to disturb any European politician or human rights activists while this tragedy takes place in continental Europe. During the Arab Spring, some European states including France and Italy, shut their borders to immigrants who escaped from instable countries where internal clashes threatened their lives. Furthermore, required legal steps have not been taken so far. Most European politician neglect the problems of immigrants who live in refugee camps and are indifferent in taking any measures to upgrade their daily-life standards.
The financial crisis in Europe resulted in loss of thousands of jobs and sparked nationalist sentiments in European society, which in turn provoked anti-immigration policies. Social pressure against foreigners is pushing politicians to implement discriminative legal changes without any hesitation.
Freedom of belief and freedom of expression are violated in many cases as the criticisms towards politicians’ indifference fall on deaf ears. Since the governments have not taken the necessary measures for the protection of human rights, illegal groups have found convenient ground to attack foreigners.
A recent example is Greece. The government’s inaction and negligence in mobilizing against racist political circles, members of Golden Dawn, an ultra-nationalist political party which swept the polls in last national elections, have resulted in increased attacks against immigrants living in Athens. Assaults targeting immigrant families have become usual reports in the Greek media, whereas international media organizations continue to pay considerable attention to violence against refugees. Three foremen fired immigrant workers when they demanded their unpaid salaries. Most of the 200 workers who worked in a strawberry field for 6 months without any payment had injuries.
In England, another European country where social discrimination against foreigners has been escalating, the government remains determined in its efforts to limit immigration to the country. Britons holding banners saying “if you don't go back home, you’ll be arrested” took to the streets last week in London and staged a demonstration against immigrants. The protesters urged immigrants to make contact with offices that provide immigrants intending to go home with free consultancy. They also held banners showing the number of arrested foreigners in the country.
No hope for human rights in Egypt
Along with the intolerance for foreigners and hypocrisy in politics, double standards could be considered another characteristic of the western application of human rights protection. Recent human rights reports issued by international institutions have once again disappointed human rights activists. This unbalanced and impartial tendency of Europe regarding human rights reflects in its covering up of human rights violations in Egypt following the coup which ousted country’s first ever elected President Muhammed Morsi. Pro-Morsi demonstrators rushed to fill the squares in Cairo and expressed their criticism against the coup. Security forces reacted harshly and many protestors were killed and hundreds of them were wounded. Human Rights Watch, a prominent human rights organization, pointed at the police’s excessive use of force and blatant human rights violations. They also expressed worry over the current situation in their recently published report. However, instead of condemning the harsh reaction of the Egyptian police, the report can only ‘remind the police officers that their mission is to guard people’s lives”.
In other reports, Morsi’s fall from power after the military coup was defined as a clear human rights violation and attacks against Morsi supporters who gathered in Adawiya square were severely condemned. Arrest campaigns against Muslim Brotherhood members and the disappearance of detainees were also criticized. Another point that attracted criticism regarding Egypt was the pressure and censorship of the media. Just after the coup, media organizations that supported the ousted president were shut down and many of them working in them were fired.
The World’s largest open-air prison: Gaza
Life in the Gaza Strip, which is currently under an Israeli siege, has worsened due to pressure from the Egyptian army. After the coup, the Egyptian military reversed Morsi’s supportive policy towards Gaza and took assertive measures against Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The economy of Gaza was paralyzed when the Egyptian army collapsed the tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt. The tunnels were known as the life lines of Gaza. The total damage is said to be $ 230 million with 20 thousand more who used to depend on the tunnels to earn their living from underground trade now jobless. Moreover, without the tunnels it is almost impossible to obtain staple food and crucial medicines.
According to Amnesty International’s Human Rights report in 2012, the Israeli blockade is the main reason for high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that 70 percent of the population is obliged to get foreign aid to survive.
The blockade was eased first after the Mavi Marmara incident, and second after the war in November. But still, patients are not allowed to be treated outside of the Gaza Strip, students cannot get permission to enroll in university classes even in the West Bank and businessmen encounter several limitations when they conduct business outside of the blocked Palestinian territory.
The future of Gaza does not give much hope. A UN report predicts that unless the basic infrastructure isn't built within the next decade, the Gaza Strip would not be defined as a place appropriate for human life. In accordance with the UN forecast, the region’s only potable water source would become unusable in 2016. The infrastructure is far away from fulfilling the people’s basic needs.
Whatever the future brings, the Palestinians living under the Israeli blockade have to overcome today’s sufferings. Many international organizations including the Human Rights Watch described Israel's latest attack which left 103 dead as a war crime.
But Israel has not abandoned its pursuit of illegal policies.
Kuzey News AgencyGüncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ağustos 2013, 14:30