ECRI releases country reports on Armenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has released its latest country reports on Armenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom, analysing recent developments and outstanding issues and providing recommendations to the authorities. Despite certain positive developments, ECRI notes, there are challenges ahead.

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The report on Armenia notes that, while there have been welcome legislative measures, including updates to the criminal code, made in Armenia over the past six years, there remain legislative gaps and  institutional shortcomings weakening the fight against discrimination and hate crime in the country. The report also noted a worrying rise in hate speech and violence in the country.

“We are especially concerned about the contrast between the extent of this phenomenon and the small number of criminal proceedings,” said Christian Ahlund, the ECRI Chair. “According to the official data, only three offences have been investigated since 2011 resulting in one conviction. Victims are apparently unwilling to report the crimes to the police. I call on the authorities to make sure that all cases of public incitement to violence and hatred, especially threats against LGBT persons and people promoting their rights, be investigated and prosecuted.”

As well as hostility towards LGBT people, the report notes hate speech against Jews and Azerbaijanis, as well as opposition to gender equality issues. ECRI recommends authorities to streamline the various integration strategies for all vulnerable groups, and to further amend the Armenian criminal law.

In its report on Turkey, while ECRI welcomes the creation of the Ombudsman Institution in 2013 and the Human Rights and Equality authority in 2016, the council highlights troubling deterioration of conditions of such vulnerable groups as refugees, Kurds, Roma, and LGBT people. It notes the lack of independence of the Human Rights and Equality authority, and a general rise in hate speech and divisive rhetoric in the country.

“Although the report was drafted before the coup attempt in July 2016, it contains recommendations to the Turkish authorities which are fully relevant today,” said Ahlund. “Hate speech should be properly combatted and hate crime offences adequately investigated; and the hate speech legislation should not be abused to silence vulnerable groups.”

Key recommendations made by the report include bringing the independence and mandate of the Human Rights and Equality authority up to ECRI’s standards, and introducing an independent authority to tackle alleged misconduct in the Turkish police force.

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Reporting on the United Kingdom, ECRI notes positive developments in the position of LGBT people in society, and the introduction of the Equality Act 2010. However, it also highlights increasingly hostile depictions of migrants in national media and political rhetoric, as well as the failure of the government to implement a national strategy for the integration of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers.

“It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said Ahlund. “The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.”

The report’s recommendations include those relating to equality legislation in Northern Ireland and data collection in connection with the Equality Act.

Press releases including links to the full report documents for the reports on Armenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom can be found at the relevant links. ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language; it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states.