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I talk

Presented by Isabelle Kumar

Human Rights in the spotlight with your questions
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Jan Egeland of Human Rights Watch and director of its European operation has been answering your questions on I talk.

Alex Taylor: “Who defines your rights, who defends them and what happens if our human rights are impinged? To answer your questions on I talk today we have Jan Egeland deputy executive director of Human Rights Watch and director of its European operation. Mr. Egeland is joining us from Oslo. Hello thank you for being on the programme. Let’s have the first question which gets to the heart of your activity.”

“Good morning, I’m Loic from Brussels, here in Belgium, and I’d like to know how HRW works and what exactly it does.”

Alex Taylor: “A very simple question what does Human Rights Watch do exactly and how do you function.”

Jan Egeland:“Well Human Rights Watch is a worldwide organisation that researches documents human rights abuse, violence against individuals, lawlessness against people then we publish this so everybody can find out what is the truth and finally we advocate for change, that there should be the rule of law that everybody should have their human rights defended.”

Alex Taylor: “How do you guarantee that what people tell you is the truth because a lot of people could invent stuff.”

Jan Egeland: “Well we recruit we believe the best of the best. As researchers being experts on countries, they go to the field, the go to Syria, the go to Russia, they go to South Africa they go to China they go to all of the places where there is war, repression, discrimination and human rights abuse. They undertake hundreds of interviews and there are reports then as we publish them every week new reports, new press releases is footnoted to the minutest of detail because we must be absolutely sure that what we publish is the truth and that is our strength what we say is the truth as we have seen it, smelt it, discovered it in the field.”

Alex Taylor:“Ok you can see the results of this research on the Human Rights Watch website. We have a question which has just arrived on the euronews website to Mr. Egeland it is from Bertrand in Paris. What are the human rights issues in the European Union itself that the media don’t talk about. Do we have a clean house here in Europe?”

Jan Egeland:“No we in Human Rights Watch are concerned with a worsening human rights situation in many European countries. I would say in three words this is connected to minorities being discriminated, migrants having their rights violated and that the minorities and migrants are always more vulnerable in times of austerity.”

Alex Taylor:“Ok. Now I know this is a subject which interests Mr. Egeland a lot. You have done a lot of research on this. Women’s rights – we have a lot of questions about this. Let’s have the first question about women’s issues.”

“Good morning, my name is Mentor, I come from Belgium and I’m a Kosovar native. I would like to ask a question regarding what happens with the rape case in India. What is the Indian Government intending to do and what can we do as European citizens in order to stop this problem?”

Alex Taylor: “How can European citizens help and react against what is happening to women in India with the news over the last week?”

Jan Egeland: “You can do a lot. As we speak Europe is preparing for the European Union-Indian dialogue, the annual dialogue which also includes human rights. And that one we believe that Europe must insist that not only has the laws to defend women’s rights there has to be a better practise. India has a lot of good laws. In reality corrupt police, corrupt judges, corrupt leaders do not in reality defend the rights of women and what we saw even after some of these horrific rapes was that some politicians religious leaders and others sort of faulted the women for this. This can not be tolerated. The practice, the culture has to change in India as in so many other countries in defending the rights of women.”

Alex Taylor: “Ok, let’s have another question on this same theme for Mr. Egeland.”

“Good morning, my name is Sabrine, I come from Belgium. The Arab Spring is an evolution into democracy, but there isn’t really an evolution with regard to women’s rights. How do you view this situation?”

Alex Taylor: “So another repercussion of this with the Arab Spring what about women’s rights in Arab countries?”

Jan Egeland: “ We for example are very critical of the lack of rights for women in Saudia Arabia which is the country supporting some Islamic movements in other countries….”

Alex Taylor: “But do they listen to you do they really care about what you are saying because women still can’t drive in the country. How can you impact them, how can you affect what happens in these countries?”

Jan Egeland: “By exposing what is happening in a place like Saudi Arabia or for that matter now in Egypt where there is a battle of values around all of this and help those courageous women who fight for their own rights and they fight for their won rights from Saudi Arabia to Egypt or for that matter in the horrific civil war in Syria. We have to expose the violations we have to help them fight for their rights as equal to men.”

Alex Taylor: “Ok, let’s have another question here on I talk to Olso.”

“Good morning, my name is Lola, I live in Belgium. In developing countries, do women take positive initiatives to change their conditions?”

Alex Taylor: “In the emerging countries are women taking initiatives, do you have examples of women who are trying to change things, taking things into their own hands. Can you give us a few concrete positive examples?”

Jan Egeland: “Well I think the long and good trend is that more and more countries are opening up education for women never before in history have so many girls gone to primary school, secondary school, college and getting university degrees. In many African, Asian and Latin American countries where it was unheard of to have female leaders in politics there are more than before. However we are far, far away from the equality that women deserve and in too many places they are discriminated in the labour market in academia and in political life.”

Alex Taylor: “Ok, a lot of people sent questions in Mr. Egeland what do you think will be the human rights issues in the future. You have been watching human rights for a long time what are the emerging human rights issues in this century?”

Jan Egeland: “ Oh I mean there are many, many of the old issues like even torture extra judicial executions are still with us. We are now seeing the dramas of Algeria, of Mali and especially in the war of Syria unfolding. The new generation of human rights battles to a large degree is around the freedom o information, the internet. The internet is a great tool for opening up societies opening up dictatorships but it is also a place for surveillance for spreading false accusations and hate so I think in the battle for information and the battle for our minds is one of the future battlefields where our values human rights international law has to be defended.”

Alex Taylor: “ Thanks very much indeed Jan Egeland. You can as always find out who our next guests are on I talk on the euronews website. Thanks to all the team here at the European Parliament’s audio visual services here in beautiful Brussels. See you soon.”

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