Europe and Central Asia

Human Rights by region

A Romani man prepares food in Valeni 2, a Roma community in Piatra Neamţ, Romania.

© Mugur Vărzariu


A rare example of the democratic transition of power for the former Soviet Union took place in the parliamentary elections in Georgia. Elsewhere, authoritarian regimes retained their grip on power. The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize but was unable to guarantee basic shelter and security for refugees in all its member states, nor equal rights for its six million Roma citizens. The European Court of Human Rights, for so long the jewel in the crown of Europe’s human rights protection system continued to be undermined by the refusal of member states to implement judgements and by attempts to reduce the scope of its authority.The European Court of Human Rights, for so long the jewel in the crown of Europe’s human rights protection system continued to be undermined by the refusal of member states to implement judgements and by attempts t o reduce the scope of its authority.

Civil and political rights were threatened across the former Soviet Union. The post-2011 clampdown continued in Belarus; in Azerbaijan several prisoners of conscience were released, new ones detained. In Russia, a new wave of repressive laws increased the ability of the state to clamp down on critical protest, demonstrations, individuals or organizations. Across the region, states also applied more insidious pressure on their critics: anonymous threats of violence, smear campaigns of drug use, promiscuity, or tax evasion.

Turkey continued to grow in influence as a regional player, without making significant progress in respecting human rights at home, with thousands of individuals still languishing in jail following convictions in unfair trials and violations of their right to freedom of expression.

In a landmark ruling in December, the European Court of Human Rights found the government of Macedonia responsible for the disappearance and torture of Khaled el-Masri following his abduction by the CIA in Skopje in 2003. In September 2012, the Italian Court of Cassation upheld the convictions of 23 former CIA officers for the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian terrorism suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr in Milan.

For the most part, however, accountability for the crimes committed in Europe as part of the US-led renditions programme remained elusive, as implicated states continued to stall on investigations or deny their involvement in human rights violations.

In the former Soviet Union, the practice of renditions continued. Russia and Ukraine collaborated in the abduction and return of wanted individuals at risk of torture in blatant defiance of European Court of Human Rights rulings blocking their extradition.

Several states, notably Russia, undermined the authority of the European Court of Human Rights by failing to implement its judgements, while amendments proposed to the European Convention on Human Rights threatened to undermine the independence of the Court and limit individuals’ access to it. In parts of the Balkans, the likelihood receded that some victims of war crimes committed in the 1990s would receive justice. Investigation and prosecution of those cases continued to be slow and obstructed by a lack of political will. In Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries, victims of rape and other war crimes of sexual violence continued to be denied access to justice and social support.

European countries sought to restrict the influx of migrants and asylum-seekers through the strengthening of border controls and co-operation agreements with North African states, such as Libya, that were largely unable to respect the rights of those returned to their shores. Asylum-seekers in Greece continued to face severe obstacles in applying for asylum and increasingly risked detention in inhuman conditions – or violence at the hands of xenophobic vigilante groups.

Hungary allowed uniformed far-right groups to march through Roma neighbourhoods, chanting racist abuse and throwing rocks at the inhabitants. Across the region, Roma continued to face harassment and discrimination.

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