SPECIAL DELIVERY: Diene's reports were submitted at the UN Human Rights Council
NEW YORK 's The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has delivered a shopping list of recommendations to the
On 19 March during the 7th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the snappily-titled UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou DiÃ¨ne, submitted reports on all three countries.
The Senegalese bureaucrat visited the
However, Diene does also identify things individual to each country, particularly concerned with language, citizenship issues among ethnic Russians and serious job and educational discrimination against Roma people.
Some of his recommendations will be controversial 's particularly in
The Baltic Times has read all three reports and summarises the main points below:
Russian groups Diene spoke with told him that "statelessness remains a central problem that mostly affects the Russian-speaking community. They highlighted that although the overall citizenship application procedures have been facilitated, they still pose problems to a number of vulnerable groups. The cost of language courses in Estonian was seen as a major obstacle for the economically marginalized segments of the population. The reimbursement of the expenses with language courses was not seen as helpful, since it only applies after the exam and covers exclusively candidates that are successful in the language examinations. The Special Rapporteur was informed that many candidates need to take the exam more than once, which entails an even higher cost. The situation of Russian-speaking elders was also considered as vulnerable, since the majority of people within this group have difficulties in terms of language instruction."
Diene said he was "particularly impressed" by a roundtable meeting he had with community groups in the Russian-majority Ida Virumaa region.
"The members of the Roundtable demonstrate a profound understanding of intercommunity relations, making a deliberate 's and appropriate 's choice for a process of multicultural integrationâ€¦ The fact that this experience takes place in a region largely inhabited by the Russian-speaking community shows the potential of inter-community relations as a means to foster tolerance and understanding." the report says.
His recommendations for Estonia include a demand that "The Government should establish a broad process of consultation with a view to reducing the gap in historical perceptions between the Estonian and Russian-speaking communities," and a belief that "The language policy in Estonia should be subject to an open and inclusive debate, in close consultation with ethnic minorities, aimed at finding strategies that better reflect the multilingual character of Estonian society."
Latvia gets an even more serious examination from Diene, who expresses concern that "A grave indicator of the increase in racism and discrimination mentioned by civil society interlocutors was the mounting number of racially motivated crimes committed in the past years. This included a surge in incitement to racial, ethnic and religious hatred, often fuelled by politicians from extremist parties."
Latvian legislation is described as "severely deficient in terms of responding to hate speech and racially motivated crimes," and an amendment approved by the Saeima in 2006 to include racism as an aggravating factor in criminal acts is considered "incomplete and overly general."
The report continues to say that: "Members of the Russian-speaking communities expressed the view that the most important form of discrimination in
"Apart from the problem of citizenship, the Russian-speaking communities highlighted concerns over language policy in
Diene wades even further into the controversial question of the use of the Russian language and ends up backing changes in Latvian law that would see Russian used in an official capacity and grant passports to ethnic Russians automatically.
"Insofar as citizenship regulations are concerned, the Government should revisit the existing requirements for naturalization with the objective of facilitating the granting of citizenship to non-citizens and implementing the commitments established by the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In particular, the Government should consider appropriate measures to tackle the problem of the low level of registration as citizens of children born in
However, he also notes that "Latvian society has a history of tolerance, muticulturalism and openness to distinct cultures," that should be a major element in tackling modern-day discrimination.
Though he includes many common concerns in his coverage of
During his visit, he reports that "he noted with concern the profound discrimination faced by the Roma community, particularly in the fields of employment, education and housing." Non-European minorities have also faced growing problems in terms of racist violence as well as hate speech.
"The Special Rapporteur visited the largest Roma settlement in
But it wasn't all gloom and doom, as "The Special Rapporteur noted with interest that one of the most popular singers in
In non-UN speak, the fact that people like gypsy music suggests that they can also like gypsies.
However, Diene believes that "The Roma community in
His Lithuanian recommendations include strengthening the Criminal Code to include making "committing an offence with a racist motivation or aim an aggravating circumstance" and the strengthening of the Office of the Ombudsperson on Equal Opportunities.
In a somewhat unexpected sudden jump he also recommends that "As an integral part of the focus on new minorities, the Government should engage in efforts to prevent the emergence of Islamophobia as well as discrimination and prejudice against other religions, particularly those that were not historically present in