Monday, February 27, 2012

Gigantic new CoE report on Roma Rights Tackles Statelessness

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights, has been a total rockstar when it comes to defending the rights of Roma and stateless persons in Europe. So it comes as no surprise that he is behind a massive new report coming out today called "Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe". The report is 254 pages covering 47 countries, and covers as many relevant topics as you could ask for: forced sterilization, hate speech, human trafficking, housing issues, and of course- statelessness and access to documentation. 

I haven't had a chance to read through the entire thing yet (I did just get it 10 minutes ago, after all) but from what I can tell there is serious attention paid to the issue of statelesssness among Roma. Interestingly, the report doesn't fuss around with distinctions between de facto and de jure statelessness, nor does he bother characterizing people as "at a risk for statelessness" or "legally invisible." Nope, for the purposes of this report, anyone not having access to citizenship rights is stateless, an admirably bold position for the CoE to take.

I would of course recommend reading through the entire document as it is packed with damning evidence and will be an extremely useful compilation of Roma rights violations in this decade. However I would like to just except this portion from the statelessness section, offering recommendations for tackling the problem.
-Providing free legal aid for proceedings aimed at securing
–Waiving fees for civil registration for those in destitution;
– Making it possible to establish personal status through simplified
procedures such as witnesses’ testimonials when no other
evidence can be obtained;
– Strengthening the role of Ombudsperson institutions to solve
these issues;
– Acceding to the 1997 European Convention on Nationality, the
2006 Council of Europe Convention on the avoidance of statelessness
in relation to state succession as well as to the two UN
conventions on statelessness. (Section 7)
I fully agree with these ideas, and it sounds very much like Hammarberg has been listening to the NGO world in framing solutions.

You can find the full report here.

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