Thursday 30 July 2015

Amnesty Head asks Council to act on Roma deportations

Secretary General of Amnesty International
Interview with: Salil Shetty in October 2010

You’re touring the important capitals, how important is Brussels for Amnesty?

Brussels is at the centre of global policy making because of the EU, it’s one of the top three in the world. But there are new capitals, such as Delhi, Beijing and Sao Paulo, who are gaining in importance.

You said you’re going to put more effort into these places, how are countries like Brazil doing on human rights?

I think things, from a global level, are improving. Issues like the death penalty, where we have 135 countries now that do not use the death penalty, either by taking it off the statute book or simply by not using it, so there is some cause for hope and celebration.

If you take economic, social and cultural rights, Brazil has been a leader with some very innovative things, such as the Balsa Escola program which is the largest cash transfer programme in the world. Very significant chunks of the population have been lifted out of poverty and Brazil is one of the few countries where inequality has been reduced in the last few years.

There are issues on security and present conditions are atrocious, land rights are still tenuous and there are evictions, slum conditions are dreadful, but that’s why we want to be there, because there are big challenges.

How would you characterize the EU’s response to the Roma evictions?

The response has been mixed, we were pleased that Commissioner Reding made a clear statement about it, OK, it was a little bit colourful in the way she said it, but it helped push back on what the French did, loud and clear.

But the problem is not restricted to France. It’s there in many countries and it really weakens Europe’s credibility, to talk about these issues if they don’t address the Roma question, because it’s an old question.

We have been highlighting it, but this feeble and fragmented response we are seeing right now is unacceptable. Our call is for the European Council, when they next meet, to issue a clear and powerful statement that this is in violation of several European laws and human rights standards We need them to come clean and firstly, acknowledge that there is a violation, secondly, to come up with a clear plan of action on how to deal with it. It’s very doable, it’s a question of political will.

You met with Van Rompuy, what did he have to say?

He completely acknowledges that this is a big issue and it was discussed at the last council meeting, that he chaired. Technically, they are waiting for the investigation results, but I think they can not ignore it and I expect him to take a leadership role in this.

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