Face Up to Human Rights at Home or Lose Moral Authority, Conference Warns Germany

Jan 22, 2013, 04:48 ET from Public Union for Human Rights

BRUSSELS, January 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

A research team comprising of academics, political analysts, human rights activists, journalists and representatives of minority groups presented a study in Brussels Monday that seriously questions human rights violations in Germany, concluding that the country risks eroding its moral authority if it does not do more to protect fundamental rights within its own borders.

The report, entitled "The Decline of Europe" was compiled with assistance of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders and discusses Germany's record on fundamental freedoms relating to the treatment of peaceful protesters, minority communities, and press freedoms.

Azerbaijani Journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, President of the Public Union for Human Rights, who was jailed for four years in his homeland presented the findings, which point out that the value system in many Eastern European countries and former Soviet republics is conditioned by the current crisis of liberal values and multiculturalism in Europe.

He says his first broad examination of rights throughout Europe began in Germany because of what he read in his prison cell - an account of the suppression of protesters at the Occupy Frankfurt protest and a similar police action to break up a demonstration in Stuttgart opposed to the development of a railway line.

"I was shocked that peace protesters were dealt with this way for their attempts to protect the environment," he told the event at the Brussels Press Club.

The suppression of these protests has since raised further questions about free speech and assembly in Germany, which is guaranteed under Article 8 of the country's constitution.

In order to curtail such protest activity, the event was told, police resorted to stopping buses on the way into cities on the basis that they might be involved in protests and even confiscated tents and sleeping bags. Restrictions were brought in to ensure no more than 20 people could gather in one location. Thomas Occupy, an activist of the Occupy Frankfurt Movement, said, "You looked at all these restrictions and asked yourself: is this how our democracy is supposed to work?"

Fatullayev, who was awarded the UNESCO prize for world press freedom last year, told the conference: "I came to the major conclusion that despite civilizational, technological and economic contrasts between our regions, scores of European countries, particularly Germany, are faced with numerous human rights problems as well."

The conference was shown a documentary, which catalogued not just the suppression of protest action, but also examined issues ranging from corruption to racism in Germany.

Conference guest Stephen Ellis, Programme Director of the International Press Institute, warned that Germany has special responsibilities to developing nations given that it is widely considered as a leader on fundamental rights. That he says, brings with it special concerns.

"This presentation we saw today kind of turns the mirror back inward, and to see this happening in Germany in a state that has been one of the leaders in promoting fundamental freedoms is troubling as well," he said.

"If Germany loses its credibility on these issues, other nations are not going to listen."

The conference concluded that while few people doubt Germany's well-meaning leadership in mentoring, and at times criticising other nations over their human rights records, it needs to ensure that it imposes the same high standards within its own borders it does to developing and emerging nations.

SOURCE Public Union for Human Rights