The Amnesty International Report 2009 documents the state of human rights during 2008, in 157 countries and territories around the world. It reveals the systemic discrimination and insecurity that prevent progress in law from becoming a reality on the ground.
Here is a summary of the human rights situation in countries in Europe:
Domestic violence was widespread. The trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution or other forms of exploitation continued. There were incidents of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in police stations and prisons. Detention conditions for remand and convicted prisoners sometimes amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. Adult orphans were denied their legal right to adequate housing.
No progress was made on implementing safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment, as requested by regional and international human rights bodies. The authorities failed to protect the rights of asylumseekers and migrants.
Incidents of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, particularly during expulsions of migrants and rejected asylum-seekers, were reported. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)severely criticized conditions in detention centres for migrants and asylum-seekers.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the prolonged detention of two asylum-seekers in an airport transit zone had constituted inhuman and degrading treatment. There were numerous hunger strikes by detained migrants in protest at their conditions of detention.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The use of nationalist rhetoric increased in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the country continued to be deeply divided along ethnic lines. Despite some progress, impunity for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 war continued.
Asylum-seekers continued to be detained for months and even years, and were denied protection. Discrimination against minorities persisted. Reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials were received throughout the year.
Despite slow progress in prosecution of war crimes committed by members of the Croatian Army and police forces against Croatian Serbs and other minorities during the 1991-1995 war, the country continued to move towards full integration with the EU. Physical attacks and intimidation of journalists increased.
A new government elected in February pledged a series of policy changes aimed at strengthening respect for human rights. Migrants' rights and antitrafficking policies were two areas highlighted for improvement.
The UN Committee on Missing Persons continued its work to exhume and identify victims of the inter-ethnic conflict who have been missing since 1963. Concerns remained in two cases regarding the authorities' failure to carry out effective, thorough and impartial investigations.
The government indicated that it would consider relying on diplomatic assurances to deport people to countries where they could be at risk of human rights violations. The system for investigating complaints against the police failed to ensure a remedy for illtreatment. Discriminatory legislation and practice led to a lack of protection for survivors of rape.
Women were not adequately protected in law or practice against violence. Asylum-seekers were sent back to EU countries where they were less likely to be offered some form of protection than if their claim had been considered in Finland. Conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned.
Allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, including at least one fatal incident, continued to be made. Procedures for investigating such incidents and bringing those responsible to justice continued to fall short of international standards. Conditions in detention centres for irregular migrants were criticized by the UN Human
Rights Committee. Individuals having their asylum claim examined under the accelerated procedure remained at risk of forcible deportation while waiting for a decision. Despite the risk of serious human rights violations, France forcibly returned one man to Algeria and attempted to return another.
New legislation authorizing indefinitely renewable “preventive detention'' and a decree authorising police to collect broad personal information on individuals believed to be a possible threat to public order, undermined the principle of the presumption of innocence.
As in previous years, Germany failed to address human rights violations committed in the context of the US-led “war on terror'', including its involvement in renditions (unlawful transfers of suspects between countries).
Germany again referred to diplomatic assurances as appropriate means in deportation cases where individuals may be at risk of serious human rights abuses, in violation of its obligations under international law. Irregular migrants continued to be deprived of their economic, social and cultural rights.
After police shot dead a 15-year-old boy in December, police reportedly used excessive force against demonstrators as protests, including violent riots, spread across the country. Despite new legislation on the asylum process and conditions of reception of migrants, the treatment of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers continued to violate international standards.
Thousands of prisoners went on hunger strike to protest against their treatment in prison. A conscientious objector was sentenced to a term in jail.
The use, production and transfer of cluster munitions were banned. Concerns were expressed about overcrowding in prisons and the inadequate provision of children's mental health services. Proposed reductions in government spending threatened to undermine the protection of human rights.
Roma were subjected to serious attacks throughout the year, and there was little available information on effective investigations into these incidents. Forced evictions against Roma drove them deeper into poverty. Several people were given deportation orders and at least two people were deported to Tunisia where they were at risk of serious human rights violations. Italy still lacked comprehensive legislation for the protection of asylum-seekers.
However, a more extensive set of rules, including some improvements in the asylum procedure, entered into force following the implementation of EU legislation. Investigations into allegations of illtreatment by law enforcement officials were inadequate.
Migrants and asylum-seekers continued to be detained on arrival, in contravention of international laws and standards. The policies of theMaltese authorities were of concern to the European Commission against Racismand Intolerance (ECRI), which linked detention procedures towardsmigrants with the rise of racismand intolerance in the country.
Proposals to process all asylum applications through accelerated procedures led to fears that wellfounded claims for protection would be rejected. Asylum-seekers were detained for excessive periods, in inappropriate conditions.
An official investigation into the involvement of Poland in the secret detention programme led by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began after more detailed allegations emerged.
Despite the re-establishment of a senior government post for gender equality and the introduction of new measures facilitating legal abortion, women's and girls' access to abortion services was restricted.
The North Caucasus remained volatile and reports of human rights violations, including killings, enforced disappearances and torture, were frequent. Russian armed forces were reported to have indiscriminately attacked civilian housing during the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia.
They also failed to protect the civilian population in territories under de facto Russian control from human rights abuses committed by South Ossetian forces and militia. The Law to Combat Extremism and legislation on libel and slander were used to stifle dissent and silence journalists and human rights activists.
There were reports that criminal suspects were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in order to extract confessions. Concerns continued about the failure to uphold fair trial standards.
Government officials spoke out against racism, but racist attacks continued to be reported on an almost daily basis. The situation for those in Chechnya displaced by conflict remained insecure, as families were threatened with eviction from temporary accommodation.
Two victims of rendition were awarded compensation, although no decision was made on their applications for residence in Sweden. The level of protection given to asylum-seekers from Iraq was reduced. Relatively few cases of rape reported to the police resulted in a criminal trial.
Inadequate legislation failed to provide effective protection against discrimination. Allegations of racial discrimination, including ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials continued. Restrictive legislation violated the economic, social and cultural rights of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants.
The authorities failed to respond adequately to rising racist attacks. Refugees and asylum-seekers were at risk of enforced return. Torture and other illtreatment in police detention continued, and perpetrators of human rights violations enjoyed impunity.
The government continued to attempt to return individuals to states where they would face a real risk of grave human rights violations on the strength of unenforceable “diplomatic assurances''.
Secrecy in the implementation of counter-terrorism measures led to unfair judicial proceedings. There were continued failures of accountability for past violations, including in relation to alleged state collusion in killings in Northern Ireland.