HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE - REVIEW OF 2019 - Amnesty International Österreich

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE - REVIEW OF 2019 - Amnesty International Österreich
HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE - REVIEW OF 2019 - Amnesty International Österreich
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Except where otherwise noted, content in this document is licensed            A protester speaks through a megaphone as
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First published in 2020 by Amnesty International Ltd
Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, UK

Index: EUR 01/2098/2020
Original language: English
HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE - REVIEW OF 2019 - Amnesty International Österreich
                   REGIONAL OVERVIEW            4
                   ALBANIA                      8
                   AUSTRIA                      10
                   BELGIUM                      12
                   BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA       14
                   BULGARIA                     16
                   CROATIA                      18
                   CYPRUS                       20
                   CZECH REPUBLIC               22
                   DENMARK                      24
                   ESTONIA                      26
                   FINLAND                      27
                   FRANCE                       29
                   GERMANY                      32
                   GREECE                       35
                   HUNGARY                      38
                   IRELAND                      41
                   ITALY                        43
                   LATVIA                       46
                   LITHUANIA                    48
                   MALTA                        49
                   MONTENEGRO                   51
                   THE NETHERLANDS              53
                   NORTH MACEDONIA              55
                   NORWAY                       57
                   POLAND                       59
                   PORTUGAL                     62
                   ROMANIA                      64
                   SERBIA                       66
                   SLOVAKIA                     69
                   SLOVENIA                     71
                   SPAIN                        73
                   SWEDEN                       76
                   SWITZERLAND                  78
                   TURKEY                       80
                   UK                           84

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                                                          campaigns, harassment, and even                           In 2019, founding values of the European
                                                          administrative and criminal penalties.                    Union (EU) were directly challenged
                                                          Increasing numbers of human rights                        from within. The independence of the

                                                          defenders, activists and independent                      judiciary, an essential component of the
                                                          media faced intimidation and                              rule of law, was threatened in Poland
                                                          prosecution. Expressions of dissent on                    as the ruling party took bolder steps to
                                                          the streets were often met with a range                   control judges and courts. The process
                                                          of restrictive measures and excessive                     in Poland was a clear illustration of how
In 2019 in the heart of Europe, some                                                                                values were changing across Europe, and
                                                          use of force by police. Against this
states actively sought to erode the                                                                                 concerns about the independence of the
                                                          overall backdrop of intolerance and
                                                                                                                    judiciary in Hungary, Romania and Turkey
independence of the judiciary to avoid                    discrimination, minorities and those
                                                                                                                    persisted. Symptoms surfaced all over
state accountability. The European                        seeking to defend their rights were met
                                                                                                                    Europe, from migration policies where
Union continued to outsource border                       with violence, increasing stigmatization                  protection of borders was considered
and migration control. Grave human                        of some communities. Survivors of sexual                  more important than protection of human
rights risks ensued: tens of thousands                    violence, including rape, continued                       lives, to dealing with popular dissent and
of people remained exposed to conflict,                   to face obstacles in accessing justice.                   public protest, which often led to abuses
violence, torture and an uncertain                        While two countries held their first ever                 by law enforcement agencies. Intolerance
future in destitute conditions. Those                     Pride parades, there was a roll-back in                   towards religious and ethnic minorities
opposing these border and migration                       a number of others on law and policies                    frequently took the form of violence and
control policies frequently faced smear                   related to the rights of LGBTI people.                    discrimination.

Demonstrators gather to protest against femicide and violence against women on November 25, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. November 25 is international day for the elimination
of violence against women. © Burak Kara via Getty Images

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HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE - REVIEW OF 2019 - Amnesty International Österreich
While 2019 shows that many states             Cooperation with Libya went hand in         by serious and consistent allegations of
failed to guarantee rights for all within     hand with the policy of “closed ports”      pushbacks and violence on the Greek
their borders, nonetheless there was no       established by the Italian government.      side. Those who managed to avoid
shortage of courageous people who dared       Under this policy, NGO ships were           pushbacks continued their journey
to stand up whatever the personal cost,       denied a safe port after rescuing people    through the Balkan peninsula, amid
and worked to hold states accountable.        at sea, and forced to wait for weeks        reports that more than 30,000 people
People took the streets in large numbers      while Mediterranean states argued           transited along this route after leaving
to claim their rights and campaign for a      amongst themselves about where to           Greece and Bulgaria. Over 10,000
fairer and more just society. Their clear     disembark them. The policy ended after      remain stranded in squalid camps in
call was for governments to face their        a change of government in Italy, which      Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia,
responsibilities not only at home but         created the conditions for a temporary      unable to continue their journeys due
also in light of global challenges such       agreement between France, Germany,          to persistent and systemic collective
as climate change. Their mobilization         Italy and Malta. The agreement– a small,    expulsions and violence by the Croatian
around these issues was a ray of hope for     tentative step forward –ensures minimum     police. In October, despite overwhelming
the future.                                   coordination between the four countries     evidence of human rights violations
                                              to disembark and relocate those rescued     at the Croatian border, the European
                                              at sea.                                     Commission recommended Croatia’s full
MIGRATION                                                                                 integration into the Schengen Border
                                              Despite consistent condemnation by          Area.
In 2019, approximately 120,000                human rights organizations, the 2016
                                              EU-Turkey Deal continued to shape
asylum-seekers and migrants arrived in
Europe irregularly. Arrivals decreased on
                                              the migration policy of the EU in the       HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
                                              Eastern Mediterranean. Reports of grave
the central and western Mediterranean                                                     Individuals and civil society organizations
                                              human rights violations against asylum-
routes and increased on the eastern                                                       continued to oppose these anti-migration
                                              seekers and refugees in Turkey did
Mediterranean route.                                                                      policies as human rights defenders,
                                              nothing to deter the continued use of
                                                                                          providing concrete support and solidarity
                                              Turkey as a partner on migration. Ahead
The belief prevailed that migration and                                                   to migrants and asylum-seekers. They
                                              of Turkey’s incursion into north-eastern
border control could best be managed                                                      rescued people at sea and in the
                                              Syria in October, Amnesty International
by “outsourcing” to countries with                                                        mountains, providing transport, food and
                                              conducted dozens of interviews which
questionable human rights records. It                                                     medicines to those in need all over the
                                              suggested hundreds of Syrians were likely
appeared equally acceptable for EU                                                        continent.
                                              forcibly deported from Turkey between
countries to contain migrants and
                                              May and September, under the guise of
asylum-seekers in abysmal conditions at                                                   The response of many European states to
                                              “voluntary returns”.
the periphery of the EU or just outside its                                               these acts of humanity was to criticize,
borders.                                                                                  intimidate, harass, fine and even
                                              Meanwhile in Greece, mid-2019 saw
                                              the biggest increase in sea arrivals        prosecute human rights defenders. In
Human rights abuses against asylum-           since 2016. This led to unprecedented       Greece, Italy and France, governments
seekers and migrants seeking to cross         overcrowding in the camps on the Aegean     often treated rescue activities as
the central Mediterranean Sea reached         islands. More than 38,000 people were       smuggling and the actions of human
new heights when renewed hostilities          held in facilities with a capacity of       rights defenders were considered as
broke out in Libya in April. In addition      little more than 6,000. Confronted with     threats to national security, prompting
to torture and arbitrary detention, they      the ever-growing protection needs for       the adoption of supposedly urgent, more
also faced shelling and direct attacks        asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants       restrictive laws.
by the warring factions, resulting in the     in- country, in November Greece’s newly
deaths of dozens of migrants and asylum-      installed government rushed to introduce    The lack of clarity in relevant EU
seekers. Despite the deteriorating            new legislation featuring accelerated       legislation left ample room for states to
security situation, and continuing            asylum procedures, increased detention      make draconian interpretations of this
evidence pointing at systematic human         and returns to Turkey. These followed       legislation at domestic level, resulting in
rights violations in Libya’s detention        trends in Austria, Finland, and Germany     a chilling effect on the work of human
centres, European countries continued to      which have restricted the rights of         rights defenders. Many individuals and
cooperate with Libya to contain migrants      asylum-seekers and placed greater focus     NGOs became increasingly reluctant to
and asylum-seekers there. In November,        on detention and deportations.              initiate solidarity actions.
the Italian government extended its
agreement with Libya on migration for a       Land arrivals via the Greece-Turkey         In Turkey, dozens of human rights
further three years.                          land border increased, accompanied          defenders faced criminal investigations

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and prosecutions and were held in police       right to freedom of peaceful assembly.         While EU institutions promptly escalated
custody or imprisoned for their human          States failed to hold their security forces   their response to the situation in Poland,
rights work. Amongst them, the trials          accountable for violence perpetrated          their interventions had not led to
of of Taner Kılıç and İdil Eser, Honorary      during the protests. Some states also         significant improvements by the end of
Chair and former Director of Amnesty           provided police with heightened powers,       the year.
International Turkey respectively, and         as in Germany, where measures like
nine other human rights defenders,             assigned residency or communication           Outside the European Union, the
continued throughout 2019. The trial of        surveillance can now be imposed on            judiciary was under threat in Turkey.
Osman Kavala and 15 civil society figures      “future perpetrators of crimes”. In           Following the crackdown after the 2016
also continued.                                response, some courts played a critical       coup attempt, in 2018 new legislation
                                               role in safeguarding individual freedoms      was introduced, allowing dismissal of
                                               by annulling blanket bans on protests         officials from public service for alleged
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION                          or, as in Poland, by upholding the            links to “terrorist organizations”.

Human rights defenders were not alone          rights of protesters who expressed their
                                               opposition to nationalism and racism.
in facing challenges to their work. In
                                               This however came at a price: some
                                                                                             HATE CRIMES AND DISCRIMINATION
many parts of the region, journalists
who investigated corruption, organized         judges adjudicating in these cases were       Evidence of a downward trend,
crime and war crimes continued to be           harassed or demoted by the Polish             intolerance and discrimination often
subjected to threats, smear campaigns,         authorities striving to undermine the         turned violent in 2019. The violence was
                                               independence of the judiciary.                targeted at those who spoke out in favour
intimidation and in some cases physical
                                                                                             of minorities, tolerance and inclusion.
violence as was the case in Croatia,
Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While too often the authorities failed         INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY                 At least two officials paid the highest
                                                                                             price for upholding these values. In
to condemn such attacks or undertake
                                               In Poland, Hungary, Romania and Turkey,       January, in Poland the mayor of Gdansk,
effective investigations, in Bulgaria it was
                                               legislative and administrative initiatives    Pawel Adamowicz, a supporter of LGBTI
the authorities themselves who brought
                                               threatened the independence of the            and migrant rights, was fatally stabbed
charges against investigative journalists
                                               judiciary, the rule of law and as a result    during a charity event. In June, the
who had exposed corruption scandals
                                               the right to a fair trial.                    acting administrative president of the
potentially implicating senior government
                                                                                             German town of Kassel, Walter Lübcke,
officials. In Albania, a controversial
                                                                                             was killed by a shot in the head for his
legislative package threatened the             This clash was most visible in Poland,
                                                                                             support of policies welcoming refugees.
freedom of online media.                       where the government and parliament
                                               tried to implement legal and policy
                                                                                             Two people were killed in the German
                                               changes to force the judiciary to comply
                                                                                             city of Halle/Saale in October after a
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY                            with its political direction.
                                                                                             suspected far-right gunman tried to
Major protests took place in numerous                                                        attack a synagogue during Yom Kippur
countries across Europe including              Judges and prosecutors found themselves
                                                                                             prayers and afterwards attacked a local
France, Austria, Poland, Romania, the          at risk of disciplinary proceedings for
                                                                                             food outlet. Assaults on mosques were
Czech Republic and Hungary. People             speaking out in defence of the judiciary
                                                                                             also reported in France; a man attempted
protested against austerity measures and       and risked becoming victims of human
                                                                                             to burn a mosque in Bayonne in October
about social justice, but also against         rights violations themselves. Smear           and fired shots at two men, seriously
corruption and about the independence          campaigns on state and social media also      injuring them.
of the judiciary. Protests and strikes         targeted and intimidated individual judges.
urging governments to take measures                                                          Across Europe attacks on and
against climate change became a regular        In Hungary, the erosion of checks and         discrimination against Roma
occurrence in major European cities.           balances in ordinary courts continued         communities continued. In Bulgaria,
                                               to undermine the independence of              Roma in Vojvodinovo and Gabrovo
In response many states often opted            the judiciary. In May the European            were subject to forced evictions and
for measures that breached the rights          Commission warned Romania that                demolition of their houses. Local
to freedom of peaceful assembly and            it should address issues including            authorities and mobs were responsible
expression. In France, Austria and Spain,      interference with the rule of law by the      for these incidents, and as a result
hundreds of people were injured during         executive, or face the triggering of a        hundreds of people were forcibly
protests. Police resorted to unlawful use      procedure under which certain rights can      evicted and their houses torched or
of force in France and violently disrupted     be suspended from a member state for          demolished. Authorities in Giugliano,
peaceful gatherings in Turkey, where           persistent breach of the EU’s founding        Italy, evicted a community of around
blanket bans were often used to deny the       values.                                       450 Roma, including families with

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children, and offered them no alternative    Spain and the UK, there were systemic         LGBTI RIGHTS
accommodation. Forced evictions of           failures in sexual violence prevention,
Roma also occurred in Sweden and             investigation and prosecution. Survivors      Pride week events were explicitly banned
France.                                      of sexual violence and women’s rights         in several Turkish provinces. A blanket
                                             activists challenged these failings and       and indefinite ban in place in Ankara
                                             demanded justice.                             since November 2017 was finally lifted
WOMEN’S RIGHTS                                                                             in April. However, bans subsequently
                                             In Spain, widespread protests in reaction     imposed on individual events maintained
In a long-awaited development and
                                             to judgments in the “Wolf Pack” case          the unlawful restrictions on LGBTI
following a Belfast High Court decision,
                                             led the government to announce that           rights. Those who challenged the bans
abortion in Northern Ireland was
                                             the legal definition of rape would be         faced police violence, investigations and
decriminalized and all pending criminal
                                             amended to make clear that sex without        prosecutions. In Poland, up to 64 local
proceedings were dropped. In Slovakia,
attempts in parliament to further restrict   consent is rape. Spanish courts had           councils adopted resolutions opposing
access to and criminalize abortion           previously acquitted the five men known       “LGBT ideology”.
continued, triggering protests of rights     as the “Wolf Pack” of rape, even while
organizations and prompting the Council      recognizing that the woman concerned          On a more positive note, two countries
of Europe Human Rights Commissioner          had not consented, and had instead            held their first Pride parades: North
to call on parliament to withdraw the law.   convicted them for the lesser offence of      Macedonia in June, and Bosnia and
                                             sexual abuse as violence or intimidation      Herzegovina in September. Despite
Survivors of sexual violence, including      was not found. The rulings were               alarming signs of potential violence and
rape, continued to face obstacles in         eventually overturned by the Supreme          high security measures, both events
accessing justice. Legal definitions         Court, and the men were sentenced in          enjoyed the support and endorsement of
of rape in most European countries           June to 15 years’ imprisonment.               the national authorities and took place in
remained based on force, at odds with                                                      a festive atmosphere with no violence.
human rights laws and standards, which       Survivors’ and campaigners’ efforts
recognize that sex without consent is        in Greece helped to change the legal
rape. In countries including Denmark,        definition of rape to one based on consent.

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Albanian women carry placards and shout slogans during a protest to denounce institutional failure to protect women from violence, including domestic violence, during the
International Women’s Day in Tirana, Albania on March 8, 2019. © GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images

ALBANIA                                                   peaceful and orderly, the atmosphere
                                                          of legal uncertainty and the standoff
                                                                                                                     VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND
                                                          between key institutions undermined
Republic of Albania                                                                                                  Domestic violence remained widespread
                                                          public confidence in the electoral
Head of state: Ilir Meta
                                                          process.                                                   and previously adopted measures to
Head of government: Edi Rama
                                                                                                                     address it were inadequate. One in two
                                                          Albania’s path to EU membership                            women reported having experienced
Violence against women and girls was                      continued to be hindered by slow                           violence in their lifetime, according to
widespread and protection measures                                                                                   the National Population Survey. Over
                                                          progress in tackling corruption and
were inadequately implemented.                                                                                       3,200 protection orders were issued for
                                                          organized crime.
A controversial legislative package                                                                                  women abused by partners and relatives.
threatened the freedom of online media.                                                                              Twelve women and young girls died as a
                                                                                                                     result of domestic violence.
                                                          JUSTICE SYSTEM
                                                          A vetting process for judges and                           The UN Human Rights Council, in its
BACKGROUND                                                prosecutors negatively impacted on                         examination of Albania’s human rights
The political landscape remained                          the functioning of the judiciary. While                    record under the Universal Periodic
polarized, with opposition parties                        it continued to be crucial to ensure its                   Review process, noted concerns about
boycotting local elections in June.                       independence from political interference                   the low rate of reporting of cases of
Regular opposition-led protests were                      and organized crime, the process                           gender-based violence against women,
marred by violence. The OSCE voiced                       undermined the functioning of the                          the insufficient number of shelters and
criticism around the elections noting                     judicial system owing to widespread                        the frequent failure to enforce protection
that, although voting was generally                       dismissals and a backlog of cases.                         orders.

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WOMEN’S RIGHTS                             journalists reported being physically or    barriers in their access to a range of
                                           verbally assaulted because of their work.   rights, including housing, education,
Although pervasive, gender-based           Journalist Enver Doçi was attacked by       employment and health services. A
discrimination at work, including          police officers while filming the arrest    market for used clothing was opened to
sexual harassment, remained greatly        of demonstrators in the wake of the         aid Roma and Egyptian families on the
underreported. In a survey by the Gender   June local elections. The police issued     outskirts of Tirana.
Alliance for Development Centre, most      an apology for their actions, but no
women respondents reported being           further disciplinary or other appropriate
subjected to sexual harassment and
some said they were denied maternity
                                           proceedings were taken against the          RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY,
                                           officers concerned.                         BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND
                                           Controversial anti-defamation legislation
                                                                                       INTERSEX PEOPLE (LGBTI)
The gender wealth gap persisted. Only      widening the powers of the regulator        To escape ostracism and various forms
19% of women owned property due to         of audio-visual media threatened the        of discrimination most LGBTI people
poor implementation of the property        freedom of online media. The Council of     continued to conceal their sexual
registration law and a patriarchal         Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights      identity. A transgender person who
tradition that favours male inheritance.   had urged the parliament to review          attended the annual LGBTI rally was
                                           the draft laws of the so-called “anti-      physically abused by unidentified
                                           defamation package” and bring them          perpetrators. In May, the NGO PINK
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION –                    in line with international human rights     Embassy requested that parliament issue
JOURNALISTS                                standards.                                  an apology to those convicted for their
The media remained diverse but                                                         sexual orientation under the Communist
polarized, depending on the owner’s                                                    regime.
political alignment and interests. This
led to selective coverage of issues.       Most members of Roma and Egyptian
According to a local NGO, one in three     communities continued to face

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A young man is pinned down to the ground by the police during a spontaneous assembly in the context of the climate protest ‘Streik mit Greta – No Future on a Dead Planet’
in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on 31 May 2019. © Lukas David Beck / @_lukasdbeck

AUSTRIA                                                        official statistics, 11,334 individuals
                                                               applied for asylum between January and
                                                                                                                     level of basic care provided for asylum-
                                                               November; 11.81% fewer than in the
Republic of Austria                                                                                                  In the first nine months of the year, the
                                                               same period in 2018.
Head of state: Alexander van der Bellen
                                                                                                                     Ministry of Interior deported more than
Head of government: Brigitte Bierlein (interim chancellor
appointed by Head of State, replaced Sebastian Kurz in June)   Parliament introduced several legislative             200 Afghan nationals to Afghanistan,
                                                               proposals that restricted the rights of               subjecting them to a risk of torture and
                                                               asylum-seekers.                                       ill-treatment. The authorities decided to
Several measures, which would have                                                                                   deport several Syrian nationals to Syria,
negative consequences for the rights                                                                                 also in clear contravention of international
                                                               In June, it passed the law that
of asylum-seekers and women, were                                                                                    law, although the decisions had not been
                                                               establishes the Federal Agency for the
adopted or discussed. A new law                                                                                      implemented at the end of the year.
                                                               Provision of Care and Support. This
endangered the fairness of the asylum                          new governmental agency, embedded
procedure. The authorities continued                                                                                 In June, asylum-seekers living in a return
                                                               in the Ministry of Interior, will provide
                                                                                                                     centre (Rückkehrberatungszentrum) in
to deport rejected asylum-seekers to                           legal counselling to asylum-seekers as
                                                                                                                     Fieberbrunn, Tyrol, went on a 46-day
Afghanistan. The Committee of Petitions                        of January 2021, replacing independent                hunger strike to protest against the
of the national parliament discussed two                       civil society counselling. This change                poor housing conditions and the remote
citizens’ initiatives that would restrict                      raised serious concerns regarding the                 location of the facility. The Ministry
access to abortion.                                            fairness of the asylum procedure.                     of Interior opened an inquiry into the
                                                                                                                     human rights compliance of the centre’s
                                                               In May, Parliament passed the                         living conditions. In November, findings
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS                                    Fundamental Law on Social Assistance,                 of the inquiry were presented; families
The number of asylum applications                              which reduced social benefits for people              with school-age children were no longer
continued to decline. According to                             with subsidiary protection status to the              accommodated in the centre.

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FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION                        officials. The Ministry of Interior          according to a third gender option
                                             informed Amnesty International that an       following a 2018 Constitutional Court’s
In April, the Minister for the European      internal police investigation would be       ruling.
Union, Art, Culture and Media introduced
                                             conducted once the Prosecutor’s Office
a bill in Parliament that would establish
                                             had concluded its investigation. The
an identity verification system for users
of online platforms. Companies would
                                             Vienna Administrative Court ruled that       WOMEN’S RIGHTS
                                             several police conducts, including bag
incur exorbitant fines up to €1 million                                                   In September, the Parliament passed
                                             searches and the arrest of an activist,
if they failed to comply. If adopted, the                                                 the Protection against Violence Act. The
                                             were unlawful.
law would negatively impact the right to                                                  law intended to improve the protection
freedom of expression on the internet.                                                    of survivors of sexual violence and
                                             Civil society organizations continued
                                             to report cases of police officers           strengthened cooperation between
                                             discriminating against people belonging      relevant institutions, more specifically
EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE                       to ethnic and religious minorities through   between police and the courts.
Authorities continued to fail to establish   the use of identity checks and by making
an independent mechanism to investigate      discriminatory comments.                     At the end of the year, two citizens’
cases of ill-treatment and excessive use                                                  initiatives that sought amendments to
of force by law enforcement officials                                                     abortion law were pending in Parliament.
and to legally require them to wear          RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY,                      The initiatives proposed introducing a
identification badges.                                                                    mandatory reflection period for women
                                             BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND                    seeking abortion, an obligation of
In May, police used excessive force
                                             INTERSEX PEOPLE (LGBTI)                      medical professionals to inform women
against several climate activists while      Since January, same-sex couples can          about support and counselling services
dispersing a spontaneous assembly. At        marry and heterosexual couples can           as well as repealing the decriminalization
the end of the year, an investigation by     enter registered partnerships. Intersex      of abortion after three months’ pregnancy
the Prosecutor’s Office was ongoing into     individuals who do not identify as either    in case of serious risks for the foetus’
the conduct of several law enforcement       male or female can register their gender     mental or physical health.

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A group of Amnesty International activists holding a big banner with placards and a violet hand painted in their faces, during the demonstration stop violence against women,
in Brussels on November 24th, 2019. © Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto

BELGIUM                                                    society actors welcomed the law but were
                                                           concerned about the limited mandate
                                                                                                                       Al Roj and Aïn Issa in Northern Syria.
                                                                                                                       Belgium repatriated six such children to
                                                           of the institution and about how it will                    Belgium, four orphans and two victims of
Kingdom of Belgium                                                                                                     international child abduction. Dozens of
                                                           fit into Belgium’s complex institutional
Head of state: King Philippe
Head of government: Sophie Wilmès (replaced Charles        landscape.                                                  other children, who were accompanied by
Michel in October)                                                                                                     a parent, were not repatriated due to the
                                                                                                                       state’s continued policy that it would not
                                                           COUNTER-TERROR AND SECURITY                                 facilitate the return of adults. According
Parliament adopted a law to establish a                                                                                to Child Focus at least five young Belgian
federal human rights institution. Arms                     In January and February, new laws
                                                                                                                       children died in IDP-camps in 2019.
transfers to warring parties in the conflict               entered into force aimed at improving
in Yemen continued. Civil society called                   the system for the financial assistance
for better responses to gender-based                       for victims of terrorism-related attacks.                   MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS
violence. The government continued its                     Despite recommendations from victims’
                                                           associations, the authorities did not                       In April, the Council of State suspended
policy to detain children for repatriation
                                                           sufficiently address the complexity of the                  the practice of holding families with
purposes but was thwarted by the Council
                                                           compensation system for victims of such                     children in detention for immigration
of State.
                                                           attacks.                                                    purposes. In August 2018, the
                                                                                                                       government had started detaining
                                                                                                                       families with children in “family units”
                                                                                                                       in the immigration detention centre of
INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENTS                                 CHILDREN’S RIGHTS                                           Steenokkerzeel, next to an airport landing
At the end of April, the Federal                           Dozens of children with at least one                        strip. The practice was suspended
Parliament adopted a law establishing                      Belgian parent are being held in camps                      on the basis of the possible health
a federal human rights institution. Civil                  for internally displaced people, Al Hol,                    consequences of the noise from the

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Amnesty International
airport. The government announced it         number of issues with protecting human        ARMS TRADE
would improve sound insulation in order      rights of migrants during arrest, and
to be able to resume the detention of        recommended the authorities be more           The Walloon Region continued to allow
families with children.                      proactive in investigating police violence,   arms transfers to members of the Saudi-
                                             also when no formal complaint was             led coalition in Yemen, following licences
In February, the Commission evaluating       made.                                         worth €195.8 million granted for
policies relating to the voluntary and                                                     transfers to Saudi Arabia in 2018.
forced return of foreign nationals issued                                                  In June, the Council of State cancelled
                                                                                           eight licences stating that the Walloon
a mid-term report. This Commission           DETENTION                                     Region had failed to examine the conduct
was set up in February 2018 to review
Belgium’s return policies and practices,     Prisons continued to be overcrowded,          of the buyer country. NGOs called on
following the identification and return      prisoners were detained in dilapidated        the government to stop arms transfers to
of Sudanese nationals in violation of the    facilities and had insufficient access to     countries committing serious violations
principle of non-refoulement (whereby        basic services.                               of international humanitarian law and
states are prohibited from returning                                                       human rights law. Amnesty International
individuals to a country where there is      In May, the European Court of Human           and others launched the Walloon Arms
a real risk of persecution). Civil society   Rights gave its judgement in the case         Monitor, an attempt to hold the Walloon
was disappointed at the lack of critical     of Clasens v. Belgium. It found that          Region accountable to its international
evaluation, and the lack of civil society    during a protracted staff strike in 2016,     obligations with respect to arms trade.
representatives and independent              material prison conditions amounted to a
experts among the membership of the          violation of the prohibition of inhuman or
Commission.                                  degrading treatment.                          POLICE AND SECURITY FORCES
                                                                                           In February, the UN Working Group on
In February, the Standing Police             In July, a new law entered into force
                                                                                           People of African Descent conducted a
Monitoring Committee (“Committee             aimed at introducing minimum service
                                                                                           fact-finding mission. The Working Group
P”) published a report on the police         provisions in prisons during industrial
                                                                                           called for action on racial profiling by
handling of refugees and migrants in         action.
                                                                                           police, including through documenting
transit, following a number of reports                                                     and analyzing stop-and-searches. In
from NGOs alleging ill-treatment of                                                        December, the Human Rights Committee
refugees and migrants by the police. The     VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND                    expressed concern at the persistence
Committee P concluded that migrants          GIRLS                                         of ethnic profiling and urged Belgium
were treated “correctly and humanely” in
                                             In February, the state submitted its first    to change its laws to explicitly prohibit
“large-scale operations” and made policy
                                             report to the Council of Europe’s Group       ethnic profiling.
recommendations for a more integrated,
uniform and humane approach. A review        of Experts on Action against Violence
of the Committee P report by Myria,          against Women and Domestic Violence
the Belgian Federal Migration Centre,        (GREVIO), outlining the state’s efforts       RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
concluded the report did not contradict      to implement the Istanbul Convention.         Several UN bodies, including human
NGO findings, since it did not verify        Nearly 50 civil society organizations         rights bodies and UNESCO, expressed
the cases reported by NGOs and only          urged Belgium to step up its efforts and      concern over the persistence of racism
focused on large scale operations and on     to allocate sufficient resources to tackle    and antisemitism and called upon the
formal complaints. Myria highlighted a       gender-based violence.                        state to take measures.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                           13
Amnesty International
People march with a banner and rainbow flags during the first Bosnian pride parade “Ima Izać!” in Sarajevo on 8 September 2019. © Martina Šalov

BOSNIA AND                                                   access to international protection or
                                                             adequate reception conditions.1 Tens of
                                                                                                                   by the International Organization
                                                                                                                   for Migration, housed around 4,000

HERZEGOVINA                                                  thousands of people travelled through
                                                             BiH, most intending to seek asylum in
                                                                                                                   people in overcrowded and inadequate
                                                                                                                   conditions. Reception centres remained
                                                             the European Union. By the end of 2019,               solely located in one of the country’s two
Bosnia and Herzegovina
                                                             the authorities had registered almost                 entities, the Federation BiH, primarily in
Head of state: Rotating presidency – Milorad Dodik, Željko
Komšić, Šefik Džaferović                                     29,000 irregular entries.                             Una-Sana Canton. The authorities in the
Head of government: Denis Zvizdić                                                                                  other entity, Republika Srpska, refused to
                                                             Numerous bureaucratic obstacles to                    set up any camps on their territory.
                                                             registration, lack of adequate legal
The authorities failed to provide basic                      assistance and translation, limited                   In May, local authorities forcibly
reception and support to thousands                           capacity and scarce financial support                 transferred around 800 people, mostly
of refugees, asylum-seekers and                              for potential asylum-seekers prevented                single men, to an informal camp in
migrants stranded in the country.
                                                             effective access to international                     Vučjak, a former landfill site without
Minorities continued to face widespread
                                                             protection. By the end of the year, less              access to drinking water or adequate
discrimination and social exclusion.
                                                             than 5% of the 28,000 people who                      sanitation and in close proximity to a
Threats and attacks against journalists
                                                             expressed their intention to apply for                minefield. The UN Special Rapporteur on
and media freedom persisted. Access to
                                                             asylum had managed to do so.                          the human rights of migrants warned the
justice and reparations for civilian victims
                                                                                                                   authorities that the site posed a serious
of war remained limited.
                                                             The authorities at different levels failed            health and safety risk and was completely
                                                             to cooperate to meet the needs of over                unfit for human occupation. The camp
                                                             8,000 refugees and migrants stranded                  was finally dismantled in December
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS                                  in the country, many as a result of                   and people accommodated there were
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) failed to                       pushbacks from neighbouring Croatia.                  transferred to formal reception centres
provide asylum-seekers with effective                        Temporary reception centres, operated                 elsewhere in the country.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                                            14
Amnesty International
DISCRIMINATION                                          Srpska used excessive force to break                    persistent backlog of cases, ineffective
                                                        up months-long protests demanding                       case management and a dramatic decline
Roma continued to face systemic barriers                the truth over the unexplained death                    in conviction rates, threatened to leave
to education, housing, health services                  of a youth in 2018 and banned further                   many victims without justice, truth and
and employment. The inability to register               gatherings in the entity’s capital, Banja               reparation.
a permanent residence remained an                       Luka.
insurmountable obstacle preventing many
                                                                                                                The Republika Srpska Law on the
Roma from accessing basic rights and                    Legal amendments seeking to criminalize                 protection of victims of wartime torture
services, many of which require a legal                 unauthorized filming or photographing                   entered into force in January. By the
proof of residence.                                     of public officials during protests in                  end of the year, 86 people had applied
                                                        Republika Srpska were withdrawn                         for the status of victims of wartime
LGBTI people faced widespread social                    following pressure from journalists’                    rape and monthly financial support.
exclusion and discrimination. Although                  associations and the international                      Nevertheless, applicants faced numerous
LGBTI rights organizations reported                     community.                                              obstacles in the process, including lack
improved cooperation with the police
                                                                                                                of information, difficulty in securing
and judiciary in the Federation BiH, acts
                                                                                                                adequate documentation, unclear
of violence and discrimination against
LGBTI people were not thoroughly
                                                        MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS                                        procedures and arbitrary refusals.

investigated.                                           The BiH Ministry of Security revoked
                                                                                                                Criminal courts continued to grant
                                                        the residence permits of several Turkish
                                                                                                                financial compensation to victims
Despite several counter-protests and                    nationals putting them at risk of forcible
                                                                                                                of wartime rape. However, with one
threats of violence, the country’s first                return to Turkey. The Ministry took the
                                                                                                                exception, such claims could not
Pride event was successfully organized in               decision shortly after a state visit by
                                                                                                                be enforced as perpetrators lacked
September in Sarajevo.                                  Turkey’s President during which he
                                                                                                                sufficient funds. Victims who pursued
                                                        requested the deportation of Turkish
                                                                                                                compensation claims in separate civil
The authorities failed to implement                     citizens residing in BiH because of their
                                                                                                                proceedings had to do so at their own
multiple rulings of the European Court of               alleged links with the so-called Fethullah
                                                                                                                cost and routinely faced rejection owing
Human Rights and the BiH Constitutional                 Gülen movement, which Turkey considers
                                                                                                                to the widespread application of the
Court that found the power-sharing                      to be a terrorist organization.
                                                                                                                statute of limitations to reparation claims
arrangements set out in the constitution
                                                                                                                by all courts in BiH.
to be discriminatory, preventing people
who did not belong to one of the                        CRIMES UNDER INTERNATIONAL                              In August, the UN Committee against
constituent peoples (Bosniak, Croat or                  LAW                                                     Torture ruled in the case of a victim
Serb) from running for legislative and
executive office.                                       In March, the appeals chamber of the                    of wartime rape that the statute of
                                                        International Residual Mechanism for                    limitations or the inability of perpetrators
                                                        Criminal Tribunals in The Hague upheld                  to pay compensation should not prevent
                                                        the original 2016 verdict and sentenced                 victims from receiving the redress
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND                                                                                         awarded by the courts and ordered BiH
                                                        the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan
EXPRESSION                                              Karadžić to life imprisonment.                          to provide all victims of torture with
The pattern of threats, political pressure                                                                      adequate compensation and access to
and attacks against journalists continued.              The BiH Council of Ministers failed to                  medical and psychological support.
Journalists were targeted because of                    adopt the revised War Crimes Strategy.
their ethnic origin and the content of                  Domestic prosecution of war crimes                      Lack of resources and capacity and poor
their work. BiH ranked 63rd out of                      further slowed with over 550 cases                      cooperation between the authorities
180 countries in the Reporters Without                  pending before various courts at the                    continued to hamper the search for
Borders World Press Freedom Index.                      end of the year. Systemic deficiencies                  7,200 people still missing as a result of
In January, the authorities in Republika                in the Prosecutor’s Office, including a                 the armed conflict.

1. Amnesty International, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Pushed to the edge: Violence and abuse against refugees and migrants along the Balkans Route (Index: EUR

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                                          15
Amnesty International
People gather to protest against the only nominee for Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev, in Sofia, on October 23, 2019. © NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP via Getty Images

BULGARIA                                                 migrants and asylum-seekers remained
                                                         inadequate, despite the significantly
                                                                                                                  Algeria seemed to receive automatic
                                                                                                                  rejections, while the recognition rate of
                                                         reduced number of people entering                        Afghan nationals remained significantly
Republic of Bulgaria                                     Bulgaria.                                                lower than that in many other EU
Head of state: Rumen Radev
Head of government: Boyko Borisov
                                                         Detention, including of unaccompanied
                                                         children, remained a routine practice.
Conditions in reception and detention                    Irregular migrants in detention                          VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND
centres for refugees and asylum-seekers                  centres had limited access to legal
remained inadequate. Domestic violence                   representation, interpretation or health
was widespread. A climate of xenophobia                  care, including essential psychological                  Bulgaria failed to ratify the Istanbul
and intolerance intensified in the run-up                and psychiatric care.                                    Convention following a sustained
to elections. Widespread discrimination                                                                           campaign by far-right groups, supported
against Roma, Jews and other minority                    The authorities lacked systems to                        by the nationalist parties in the coalition
communities resulted in incidents of                     correctly identify asylum-seekers in                     government, and a 2018 Constitutional
violence and harassment. Journalists                     particularly vulnerable situations and                   Court ruling declaring the Convention
were threatened and prosecuted because                   provide them with safe accommodation                     unconstitutional.
of their work.                                           and adequate support.
                                                                                                                  Domestic violence remained widespread,
                                                         Discrimination against certain groups                    with significant under-reporting masking
                                                         resulted in some asylum-seekers facing                   the true scale of the problem. Police
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS                              an increased likelihood of having their                  failed to thoroughly investigate violence
Reception and accommodation                              applications rejected: people from                       against women. Funding for shelters and
conditions, including food provision, for                countries including Pakistan, Iraq and                   support services was insufficient and

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                                            16
Amnesty International
victims in some regions had no access at     circulated footage that showed Roma           the number of homophobic incidents.
all to shelters or assistance.               men allegedly assaulting a shop owner.        In July, a court officially recognized
                                             Nearly 80% of Gabrovo’s 600 Roma fled         a marriage between two women who
In February, the National Assembly           the village as a result of the violence.      married in France. Despite the ruling,
amended the country’s criminal               Instead of providing police protection,       same-sex unions, which are explicitly
legislation to introduce tougher penalties   the authorities instructed the Roma to        prohibited by the Constitution, remained
for perpetrators of domestic violence.       flee, according to some members of the        illegal.
However, the measures were partial and       community and Roma rights activists.
insufficient. The Council of Europe asked
Bulgaria to invest more in education         The Bulgarian National Movement               FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
and prevention programmes and provide        (VMRO) party, a member of the coalition
                                             government, proposed a “Strategy for          In September, the VMRO asked the
consistent funding for shelters and
                                             Integration of Unsocialized Roma”,            country’s Prosecutor General to deregister
psychological and other support for the
                                             including measures to restrict welfare        the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, one
victims of domestic violence.
                                             payments to Roma families, provide            of the oldest and largest human rights
                                             free abortions for mothers with more          organizations in the country, accusing it
                                                                                           of “unconstitutional, unlawful, immoral
DISCRIMINATION                               than three children, dismantle informal
                                                                                           and openly anti-Bulgarian activities”.
                                             settlements and “eradicate crime in
Racist and intolerant rhetoric increased     Gypsy ghettos”. The proposed strategy
in the lead-up to European Parliament        was widely criticized by human rights         Journalists continued to face intense
and local elections. The authorities not     organizations.                                political pressure, threats and
only failed to condemn hate speech, but                                                    intimidation, as a significant portion
some actively encouraged or engaged          Political parties and government officials    of the media remained under the
in it. Minority groups continued to be       made discriminatory and xenophobic            tight control of political parties. The
at risk of persistent discrimination and     statements. Deputy Prime Minister             authorities brought criminal charges
harassment.                                  Krasimir Karakachanov regularly used          against investigative reporters who
                                             derogatory language about Roma and            exposed corruption scandals that
The UN Committee on Economic, Social         called for a “final solution to the Gypsy     potentially implicated senior government
and Cultural Rights noted limited impact     question”. The government failed to           and judicial officials, while others
of the government’s Roma integration         unequivocally condemn his statements.         routinely faced threats for their work.
strategy, with Roma remaining
disproportionally affected by poverty and    In January, the Supreme Administrative        Journalists who were publicly opposed to
social exclusion and facing systemic         Court in Bulgaria ruled that Valery           the government were particular targets.
barriers to education, housing, health       Simeonov, the former Deputy Prime             In September, a popular Bulgarian
services and employment.                     Minister, was not liable for harassment       national radio channel came off air
                                             resulting from openly anti-Roma public        for several hours and its editor was
In January, following violent anti-          statements he had made in 2017,               suspended from her job after she had
Roma protests in Voivodinovo triggered       thereby overturning a rare lower court        criticized the appointment of the new
by an incident in which two Roma             conviction for hate speech.                   Prosecutor General, which sparked public
men assaulted a Bulgarian army                                                             protests.
officer, the authorities forcibly evicted    In February, over 2,000 members of far-
and demolished the homes of local            right groups gathered in Sofia to honour      Bulgaria remained the lowest ranking
Roma leaving more than 50 people,            a Bulgarian pro-Nazi general despite the      EU member state on the World Press
including children, without alternative      opposition of Jewish groups and other         Freedom Index, lagging even behind
accommodation.                               political parties. Physical attacks against   other countries in the Balkans. The
                                             religious sites, including the desecration    NGO Reporters without Borders ranked
In April, several Roma homes in Gabrovo      of cemeteries, continued throughout 2019.     Bulgaria 111th out of 180 countries in
were burned down by a violent mob                                                          terms of press freedom.
calling for the town to be “cleansed” of     Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
its Roma community, following widely         intersex (LGBTI) groups reported a rise in

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                           17
Amnesty International
A group of migrants from the Asian continent walk on a dusty track through a wooded area in the countryside, near Bosanska Krupa, in Northern Bosnia, on July 3, 2019,
after being physically expelled by police from neighbouring Croatia for another illegal attempt to cross the border into EU. © ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP via Getty Images

CROATIA                                                   and migrants being apprehended deep
                                                          inside Croatian territory, held for hours
                                                                                                                    The authorities targeted two NGOs, Are
                                                                                                                    You Syrious and the Centre for Peace
                                                          in police custody and forcibly returned                   Studies, who criticized police activities
Republic of Croatia
                                                          to Bosnia and Herzegovina in groups                       at the border. The NGOs were accused
Head of state: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
Head of government: Andrej Plenković
                                                          without an opportunity to seek asylum.                    of “facilitating illegal migration” and
                                                          Such returns took place without due                       activists and volunteers were detained
                                                          process and away from official border                     without charge. An appeal against
Refugees and migrants faced pushbacks                     crossings. People reported being rounded                  the judgement of the Are You Syrious
and abuse by the Croatian police.                         up by police, shouted at and beaten                       volunteer convicted of “involuntary
Domestic violence continued to attract                    with batons, stripped of their clothes                    negligence” for assisting an Afghan
light penalties and protective measures                   and made to walk barefoot, sometimes                      family to cross the border was pending at
were rarely enforced. Women faced                         through deep snow and freezing rivers.1                   the end of the year.
numerous barriers in accessing abortion.
Journalists were threatened and                           The authorities continued to deny                         Fewer than 150 asylum-seekers were
prosecuted because of their work.                         the violence. However, in July the                        granted international protection in
                                                          President acknowledged that pushbacks,                    Croatia during 2019.
                                                          accompanied by “some violence”, were
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS                               necessary to prevent irregular entries.
Croatia failed to provide refugees                                                                                  VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND
with effective access to international                    In July, the Swiss Federal Administrative
                                                          Court suspended the return of an
protection and used pushbacks and
collective expulsions, frequently                         asylum-seeker to Croatia citing the risk                  Croatia had still not fully harmonized
accompanied by violence, to keep people                   of repeated pushbacks and violence that                   its legislative and policy framework on
out of its territory. NGOs and the media                  had left him with serious physical and                    gender-based violence with the Istanbul
documented numerous cases of refugees                     psychological consequences.                               Convention by the end of the year. In the

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                                             18
Amnesty International
vast majority of cases, domestic violence     RIGHT TO HEALTH                              warned that further progress depended
continued to be treated as a minor                                                         primarily on an improved cooperation
offence attracting lesser penalties, and      Women’s access to sexual and                 with the Serbian authorities, who failed
                                              reproductive rights remained seriously       to provide information about the locations
protective measures were rarely enforced.
                                              constrained. Individual doctors, and         of mass and individual graves.
The practice of dual arrests persisted,
                                              in some cases health care institutions,
with some women who reported abuse
                                              continued to refuse abortions on the
being arrested as co-perpetrators,                                                         In July, the National Assembly adopted
                                              grounds of conscience. In several regions,
questioned in the presence of the abuser                                                   the Law on Missing Persons, granting
                                              abortion services were not available at
and, in some cases, sanctioned for                                                         victims and their families special rights
                                              any authorized clinic and women were
offensive language or acting in self-                                                      to truth and justice.
                                              often forced to travel to nearby towns at
                                              their own cost. National health insurance
                                              did not cover termination of pregnancy
Despite considerable improvements,
                                              and the cost at some authorized clinics
                                                                                           FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
the Law on Protection against Domestic
                                              was prohibitively high. Combined, these      Journalists who investigated corruption,
Violence continued to exclude victims
                                              factors represented insurmountable           organized crime and war crimes
who did not share the same residence
                                              obstacles for women with lower socio-        continued to be threatened, intimidated
as a partner, who had lived with their
                                              economic status, forcing some to seek        and, in some cases, attacked. The
partner for less than three years or who
                                              unsafe clandestine abortions.                authorities failed to condemn such
did not have children with their partner,
forcing some women to undertake private
                                              The National Assembly failed to adopt
prosecutions against their abusers.
                                              a new law on termination of pregnancy        In September, journalist Gordan
Shelters for victims of domestic violence
                                              by the deadline set by a 2017                Duhaček was arbitrarily detained for
were not available in six regions and
                                              Constitutional Court ruling. An expert       24 hours on charges of “discrediting
facilities and support services in others
                                              commission set up by the Ministry of         public authorities” for posting a satirical
remained underfunded.
                                              Health was widely criticized for including   message on Twitter. His arrest was
                                              conservative healthcare professionals        criticized by the Organization for Security
The vast majority of successful rape          and no representatives of organizations      and Co-operation in Europe and the
convictions resulted in prison sentences      advocating sexual and reproductive           Council of Europe.
of one year or less. The criminal law         rights.
continued to distinguish between rape
and the lesser offence of “sexual violence
without consent”, which carried lighter
penalties. In September, the government
                                              CRIMES UNDER INTERNATIONAL
                                                                                           Discrimination against ethnic minorities,
announced legal amendments that would
                                              LAW                                          as well as refugees and migrants,
bring the definition of rape into line with   The fate and whereabouts of over 1,500       remained widespread. Roma continued
international standards and increase          of the 6,000 people who went missing         to face numerous barriers in accessing
penalties for crimes of gender-based          during the 1991-1995 armed conflict          education, health, housing and
violence.                                     remained unknown. The authorities            employment.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                           19
Amnesty International
A refugee stands in front of the UN buffer zone in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus, 15 February 2019. The divided island is currently one of the main gates to Europe for
refugees. However, the lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy and xenophobia make life difficult for those seeking protection. © Chrissi Wilkens

CYPRUS                                                      in 2018. Cyprus continued to have the
                                                            highest number of registered first-time
                                                                                                                       to Cyprus and reunite with his family.
                                                                                                                       He had been imprisoned for more than
                                                            asylum applicants per capita in the                        three years by the Hungarian authorities
Republic of Cyprus                                          European Union (EU). Between January                       and unjustly convicted of “complicity
Head of state: Nikos Anastasiades
                                                            and December, 13,259 people registered                     in an act of terrorism”. Following his
                                                            their asylum claims, in comparison                         release, he spent more than eight months
The year saw an upward trend in                             to 7,761 during the whole of 2018.                         in immigration detention waiting for the
refugee and migrant flows and asylum                        Meanwhile, despite a reported increase in                  Cypriot authorities to decide on his fate.
applications.                                               the number of staff dealing with asylum                    During that time, Ahmed H. was at risk of
                                                            claims, the backlog of applications                        being forcibly returned to Syria.
                                                            reached over 16,437 by the end of the
BACKGROUND                                                                                                             ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES
                                                            The NGO Cyprus Refugee Council
In November the UN Secretary-                                                                                          Efforts to establish the fate of the people
                                                            expressed concern that the increase in
General met the Greek-Cypriot and                                                                                      who went missing during the inter-
                                                            numbers worsened pre-existing shortfalls
Turkish-Cypriot leaders, who renewed                                                                                   communal fighting of 1963 to 1964 and
                                                            in asylum procedures and reception
their commitment to achieving a                                                                                        the events of 1974 continued. During
                                                            conditions. In particular, lack of capacity
comprehensive and durable settlement                                                                                   the year, the Committee of Missing
                                                            in the Kofinou reception centre, together
within a foreseeable horizon.                                                                                          Persons in Cyprus exhumed the remains
                                                            with insufficient material assistance,
                                                            resulted in many asylum-seekers living in                  of 28 people, bringing the total number
                                                            housing of poor quality or being homeless.                 of exhumations since 2006 to 1,217.
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS                                                                                            Between 2006 and 2019, the remains
Between January and September, 1,500                        At the end of September, Ahmed H., a                       of 969 missing individuals (700 Greek
refugees and migrants arrived by sea,                       Syrian national and a former long-term                     Cypriots and 269 Turkish Cypriots) were
compared to 400 during the same period                      resident of Cyprus, was allowed to return                  identified.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE                                                                20
Amnesty International
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