Roma Communities in the EU Continue to Lack Access to Equal Education Opportunities

Roma Communities in the EU Continue to Lack Access to Equal Education Opportunities

By Claudia Kania, guest blogger from Reavis high school The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released a statement in 2000 that acknowledged “the place of the Roma communities among those most disadvantaged and most subject to discrimination in the contemporary world.” Such socially and institutionally-accepted xenophobia is perhaps most clearly epitomized by the European school system. Although academic institutions are often portrayed as “the great equalizers,” a system founded on the principles of ignorance and prejudice frequently separates Roma, one of the largest minority groups in Europe, from reaping the benefits of education. The right to education is universally established as a fundamental guiding principle within international human rights discourse. It is recognized as a human right by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Articles 28, 29, and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To further contextualize the premise of academic equity, UNESCO put...
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Turkey and the European Human Rights Regime: Is it right to derogate?

Turkey and the European Human Rights Regime: Is it right to derogate?

By Marina Kumskova, an MA student in Human Rights Several human rights treaties allow for states to derogate from their obligations to protect certain rights. These adjustments can only take place temporarily, however, and in exceptional circumstances - i.e. in times of public emergency threatening the life of a nation. Yet, despite the professedly innocuous  intent of such systems, states of emergency have a dark history of being used in controversial ways to usher in tyrannical regimes, under the facade of confronting a threat to the existence of the nation. Take the example of France. The perceived threat to the life of the nation from terrorist attacks, caused by people only loosely connected by an ideology, is  seemingly tremendous. However, France has proven that the introduction of emergency powers, which allow for the derogation of rights, also ushers in a temptation for misuse. France’s state of emergency last December was less than a month old when its emergency powers were used, not in...
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Strasbourg delivers a blow to reproductive rights, women’s rights, and Roma rights in one go

Strasbourg delivers a blow to reproductive rights, women’s rights, and Roma rights in one go

By Judit Geller, Adam Weiss, and Bernard Rorke, guest bloggers from the European Roma Rights Centre On June 9th 2015, the European Court of Human Rights declared an application submitted by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) on behalf of a victim of forced sterilization inadmissible. The injustices visited upon the applicant from the moment of being sterilized in Hungary are disturbing – the legal reasoning behind the decision is deeply troubling for anyone interested in reproductive rights, anti-Roma discrimination, women’s rights, or the emerging legal field of intersectionality. The facts (which can be found in an anonymised version of the application on the ERRC website) are as follows: On February 9th 2008, the applicant G.H. was admitted to the hospital, twenty-two weeks pregnant with twins and bleeding heavily. An urgent Caesarean section was ordered. The applicant signed a form consenting to this procedure. It was discovered that the foetuses were dead, and they were removed. During the operation, the applicant’s fallopian tubes...
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The Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights in the World

The Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights in the World

By Marina Kumskova, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ Between March 2002 and July 2004, eight individuals of Chechen origin were “arrested by groups of armed and masked men in a manner resembling a security operation”. Pointing guns at the family members, the soldiers took men away in military carriers. Similarly, on April 28, 1991, Jeremías Osorio Rivera was officially detained by a military patrol when he went to the village of Nunumia to take part in a sports event. He was accused of making a terrorist threat for carrying an officially registered gun and explosives materials. None of these men have been seen or heard from since, despite their families’ tireless efforts to find them. In both cases, the males were abducted and detained by armed men without arrest warrant, held in solitary confinement under mortifying circumstances for unidentified periods of time, and deprived of legal assistance or any other contact with the outside world. In both cases, after the abduction of...
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How the Iran Deal Affects Ordinary People’s Lives in Iran

How the Iran Deal Affects Ordinary People’s Lives in Iran

By Roya Pakzad, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ Earlier this week, President Obama gathered enough votes for the Iran Deal, by securing the support of 34 Senators and thus the ability to sustain a veto in Congress. According to the deal, Iran will significantly limit its nuclear program activities. In return, the international community will lift oil and financial sanctions that have been imposed on Iran for more than a decade. For many people around the world this news showed the victory of diplomacy over aggression. For me it was an instant journey two years into the past, when I received a call from Iran informing me that my 41 year-old cousin, Azim, was suffering from liver cancer. There was not sufficient medical access, no way to receive the necessary medications through official International postage, and the currency was falling to a record low, making dollars hard to come by and proliferating black markets for fake medications. And it is this...
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On their 40th Anniversary, the Helsinki Accords retain a powerful legacy

On their 40th Anniversary, the Helsinki Accords retain a powerful legacy

By Raymond A. Smith, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia and NYU ___________________________________________________________________________ The signing of the Helsinki Accords on August 1, 1975 has little of the resonance today of such landmark events of the Cold War as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the rise of the Solidarity Trade Union Movement in 1981, or of the uprisings in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Hungary in 1956. Yet on their fortieth anniversary, the Helsinki Accords deserve to be remembered alongside those events. And, in some ways, they have even more enduring relevance for world order and for human rights. The Helsinki Accords had their roots in the refusal of the US and its allies to accept the legality of the new borders and regimes imposed by the Soviet Red Army when it occupied the three Baltic states and six countries in Eastern Europe. American rhetoric in the early Cold War often referred to these as “captive nations” that were suffering under...
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#ThisIsACoup: Greece, a dangerous precedent for human rights in Europe

#ThisIsACoup: Greece, a dangerous precedent for human rights in Europe

By Alexis Comninos, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ This past weekend has been decisive for the future of Greece—perhaps, as some say, the most important few days in the country’s recent history. Through the Greek deal, this weekend saw the EU define its take on human rights, and the result isn’t pretty. Waking up this Monday morning is the closest I have felt to a terrible hangover (it’s not that I don’t drink, I just don’t get hangovers—call it my superpower). I do not just say this as a Greek citizen, but simply as a socially minded individual, someone who until this morning still had faith in the European project. The outcome of this weekend’s negotiations has struck a huge blow to all hopes of meaningful, sustainable recovery for Greece. It has also irreversibly damaged the idea of Europe, the possibility of the EU ever becoming more than an exploitative project driven by the ideology of a few in Brussels,...
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Voices of Defiance: A Reflection on Music in the Pursuit of Human Rights

Voices of Defiance: A Reflection on Music in the Pursuit of Human Rights

By Justin Jalea, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University ___________________________________________________________________________ An important lesson I have learned from my time at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights is that the work of advancing human rights must appeal to every available avenue in seeking justice. In addition to the traditional practices of law and policy, efforts to access the power inherent in cultural practices and traditions must be made in advancing human rights aims. A long history of social action for human rights speaks to this power, as cultural forces such as literature, art and music, have been at the forefront of many of the world’s most pervasive social movements. As an HRSMA student and professional classical musician, I had the opportunity to delve into this robust history and music in preparation for a lecture-concert I recently presented at Fordham University on what has come to be known as the Singing Revolution. On February 28, my colleague Megan Chartrand and I, along...
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Putin’s Calculus in Ukraine

Putin’s Calculus in Ukraine

By David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights _____________________________________________________________________________ Crimea is more than a flash-point for conflict between Ukraine and Russia. War between Ukraine and Russia has potential regional and global implications. While supporting Ukraine's sovereignty, the Obama administration must be careful not to escalate tensions. It may be possible, however, to change President Vladimir Putin's calculus through a combination of carrots and sticks. Events are fast-moving and volatile. On Friday, Russian Special Forces and helicopter gunships invaded Crimea. They closed the main airport and set-up check-points, seizing key buildings. On Saturday, the Russian Duma authorized the deployment of armed forces to Crimea, which has a majority ethnic Russian population. By Sunday, 6,000 Russian forces established complete control of Crimea. Russia may escalate the conflict by deploying forces in the ethnic Russian belt between Donetsk and Khirkiv. Will Putin take steps to "liberate" other ethnic Russian territories in the so-called near abroad? Pro-Western countries in Baltic...
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Universality When it Suits Us: Human Rights Priorities in The Netherlands

Universality When it Suits Us: Human Rights Priorities in The Netherlands

By Maria Hengeveld, graduate student in Human Rights at Columbia University ____________________________________________________________________________ About thirty years ago, at a point where Dutch colonialism had recently ended, the Netherlands felt it was time to rebrand itself as a true champion of human rights.  And not just any champion. Envisioning itself as a world leader in human rights, it began to strongly push for universal human rights norms and international monitoring mechanisms. Thus, when the left-wing leader of the Radical Political Party, Bas de Gaay Fortman, expressed his belief in 1973 that the Netherlands was capable of taking on this pioneering role, many shared his vision and confidence. No more than two years later, this aspirational ideal had already turned into a self-perceived truth. In 1975, the same year in which the Netherlands granted independence to its colony Suriname, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Max van der Stoel, boldly claimed that the Netherlands was the most active human rights defender worldwide. Four years later, universal...
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