European rights chief says leaders too quiet on racism

26th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

Not enough political leaders in Europe are taking a principled stand against xenophobia and racial intolerance, Europe's human rights chief said Thursday.

In a speech to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg said greater political will is needed to counter racism.

"We have too many reports of xenophobia against Roma and foreigners," he said. "We have a fear about losing jobs and that foreigners are coming and taking over our cultures and society."

Hammarberg was speaking to the assembly as his six-year term wraps up. The Swede will be replaced in April by Latvian Nils Muiznieks.

"We have problems with something as simple and direct as lack of tolerance in Europe today," Hammarberg said. "We don't have enough leading politicians who stand up and try to explain the importance of tolerance."

Hammarberg also condemned the extent to which some countries detain suspects for lengthy periods before they are tried, saying about one in four inmates is in pretrial detention.

He also said disabled people often remain excluded from key sectors of life, including access to decent health care, jobs and housing.

Finally, Hammarberg expressed concern that the US Central Intelligence Agency may have run secret detention centres in Europe.

"We have not fully clarified what has really happened," he said.

© 2012 AFP

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