Amnesty International calls on the German government to show more commitment to human rights. Monika Luke, secretary general of the German branch of the human rights organization, cites Iran, Guantanamo and the foreign deployments of the German armed forces, but also sees major deficits in the EU.
epd: Ms. Luke, what is your human rights assessment of the year 2010?
Luke: This year, two topics were particularly important for Amnesty with regard to German politics: the foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr and the compulsory identification of the police. We demand that Defense Minister Guttenberg initiate a law that regulates the rights and duties of soldiers on foreign missions and clarifies exactly how the human rights of civilians, including insurgents, must be protected.
Berlin police to introduce mandatory identification in first months of 2011. Police officers may choose name or number. This is a great success. Now the other federal states and the federal police must follow suit. Labeling is important because in cases of disproportionate force, those responsible can be identified and prosecuted. On the other hand, colleagues are protected from unjustified accusations.
epd: Where are regressions to be lamented?
Luke: In terms of human rights, there is a black spot in Europe, and that is discrimination against Roma people. Germany and all EU member states must end legal discrimination and exclusion of Roma from society. Thus, in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Roma children are sent to special schools. The Strasbourg Court of Human Rights has condemned this action against the right to education and inadmissible discrimination. Unfortunately, the reform efforts of the Czech and Slovak governments have not been sufficient so far.
epd: What is the general state of human rights in the European Union??
Luke: There are further shortcomings in the EU: the Spanish authorities continue to detain people suspected of terrorist activities without contact with the outside world, although international human rights institutions had repeatedly called for the abolition of this practice. The European Court of Human Rights has criticized the lack of independence of the public prosecutor's office in France.
New laws in Lithuania criminalizing information about homosexuality are not compatible with the EU's common values and human rights standards. At the same time, there is little willingness within the EU to address human rights deficits with EU partners. This damages the country's own credibility.
epd: Let's look at the USA: How do you assess the state of affairs at Guantanamo??
Luke: Development is disappointing. In 2010, the closure of the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba, announced by President Obama, was postponed indefinitely. That means even under Obama, about 100 prisoners remain locked up there indefinitely without sentencing. About 30 to be tried by military commissions. The U.S. government's plan to bring at least some of the prisoners before civil courts in the U.S. failed in the U.S. Congress in December and, with the new majority there, has little chance of success in the coming years as well.
By accepting two prisoners from Guantanamo in September, Germany took an important step toward ending illegal detention, at least in two cases. German government should consider accepting more prisoners while pushing for closure of detention center.
epd: How do you rate the human rights policy of the black-yellow coalition??
Luke: The German government is increasingly willing to put human rights ies on its agenda and address them publicly. This also applies to ies that were considered almost taboo for a long time, such as human rights violations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Due to its seat on the World Security Council from 2011, Germany has an international responsibility to actively stand up for human rights. This is how the German government must fight for the recognition of the International Criminal Court.
On the other hand, the coalition showed little to no understanding in the run-up to the UN summit in September that human rights play a central role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and fighting poverty. In development cooperation, too, we unfortunately observe critical tendencies when economic promotion is declared to be a main concern of the cooperation.
epd: Iran continues to be one of the countries with a very poor human rights record. What can the West do?
Luke: Amnesty International expects the German government and German politicians to continue to speak out publicly and to those responsible in Tehran on behalf of imprisoned activists, human rights defenders, journalists and students.
The ongoing repression of dissent must be the subject of dialogue in all contacts with the Iranian government – including talks on the nuclear program. It is crucial for the credibility of the German government's human rights policy, and that of the West in general, that double standards are not applied. In concrete terms, this means that the human rights situation in friendly states such as Israel, Egypt or Saudi Arabia is also openly and clearly addressed.
The interview was conducted by Elvira Treffinger.