Europe and Human Rights

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  • by Anup Shah
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Europe is a small region but has many peoples, cultures and nations. Throughout history, this region has seen many wars and conflicts, as well as progress and developments. The 20th century, described as many as the "Century of War", saw two world wars (centered around Europe), amongst other terrible conflicts. Millions of people were killed. There were human rights violations throughout.

However, towards the 21st century, human rights, while considerably improved, is still an issue. Since the end of World War II, Western Europe, from almost total self-annihilation (as various empires fought each other for control of much of the rest of the world), have emerged realizing these effects of over-competition. As a result, a more cooperative framework has evolved, as leaders have realized that "never again" should such atrocities be committed.

But even though Western Europe is freer than most regions around the world, there is a marked increase in racism1 and anti-immigrant policies, as well as a rise in poverty. Eastern parts of Europe have seen a marked increase in conflicts since the break up of the former Soviet Union. Numerous conflicts have resulted in gross human rights violations and a lot of suffering and killings of civilians.

The issues listed below attempt to introduce some examples. They are far from exhaustive, and over time, more will be added, but additional links to more information are provided to other sources that cover the details in more depth.

On this page:

  1. Human Rights in the European Union
  2. Yugoslavia and Kosovo
  3. Plight of the Kurds
  4. Russia and Chechnya
  5. More Information

Human Rights in the European Union

The European Union, a free trade zone in the making, has sparked many debates in member countries about whether a central, remote, government will end up making, even overriding decisions made by an elected local national government. While the debate will continue, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that the European Union can lawfully suppress political criticism2 of its institutions and of leading figures. This is a definite step back in the area of human rights, democracy and free speech. (Or, as this news article from the UK Electronic Telegraph says, it smacks of facism3.)

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Yugoslavia and Kosovo

The Serb crackdown on Ethnic Albanians was so horrendous that the crisis was regarded as the worst Europe has seen since World War II.

The resulting NATO bombing actually made the situation worse for the Ethnic Albanians (and NATO predicted that it would become worse, yet they continued the course of action that they chose.)

For more about this crisis, go to the Kosovo section4 on this web site.

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Plight of the Kurds

Eruptions in February 1999 all over Europe about the arrest of Turkish Kurd guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan helped highlight an issue about the plight5 of the Kurds6. The Kurdish people are scattered throughout Turkey, Iran, Iraq and other areas in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They are fighting for their historic Kuridistan and in many countries, including Turkey and Iraq (even after the Gulf War, when protection was meant to be there from the US and its allies).

The crackdown on Kurds has been horrendous. Turkey is a NATO ally and a large recipient of US military aid7 and weapons. Many human rights abuses (often carried out using those very same weapons) against the Kurds8 have been overlooked by key influential countries like USA9.

The arrest of Ocalan has resulted in a "trial" where he has been sentenced to death, despite many protests and anger throughout Europe. (Note, a lot of the mainstream media reported that he was arrested for his involvement in the conflict where 30,000 people have been killed. It is phrased to make it sound like he and the PKK have been responsible for the majority of these deaths. However, the Turkish military has been responsible for the vast majority of killings10. The previous link, from the British Guardian news paper summarizes it quite well: "Every time the name of Ocalan occurs in the British press it is accompanied by the figure '30,000 dead in the last 14 years'. The implication is that Ocalan has brought about these deaths. The PKK has certainly killed, and has also committed atrocities, but the overwhelming number of these 30,000 deaths, not to mention widespread mutilation and rape, are the responsibility of the Turkish military.")

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Russia and Chechnya

As the Chechnyan crisis has continued, Russian crackdown has been horredous. However, oil interests add to the complication of this conflict. For more details, see this sites section on the crisis in Chechnya11.

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More Information

For more information, you can start at the following:

  • Amnesty International's reports12 on the Europe region.
  • From Human Rights Watch, their Europe and Central Asia Division13. It includes links to Human Rights Watch's annual world reports as well, which also discuss Europe.
  • OneWorld Europe14 as well as the main OneWorld web site15 has many resources that you can also search.

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  • by Anup Shah
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