Leading human rights campaigner backs right to protest

Leading human rights campaigner backs right to protest
By Euronews
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Alex Taylor says, “Even if the economic model is perhaps not widely held up as an example around the world at the moment Europe has always prided itself on its values especially concerning human rights.

‘As a continent we have never been shy of pointing out breaches of these elsewhere in the world. But what about our won human rights here on our own continent?

‘We have one of the leading campaigners on human rights issues to answer your questions on I talk today. From the studio in London, Peter Tatchell hello and welcome. Peter Tatchell who in Brussels famously in 2001 did a citizens arrest of Robert Mugabe. We have lots of questions for you so lets look at the first one from a Euronews viewer.”

Leila from Belgium, “Europe is without borders but there are still many barriers in people’s heads and I would like to know from you as you are an activist what can we do about this, to influence people to stop thinking about barriers and borders? “

Alex Taylor: “Are we right to tell China about human rights issues, to tell the rest of the world to set ourselves up as a model on human rights issues generally?”

Peter Tatchell: “I think from my stand point it is not about the west telling other countries what to do, its about us recognising that every country on earth has a commitment to the universal declaration of human rights. That goes with being a member of the United Nations.

‘Nearly every country assigned a whole range of other human rights conventions, it is simply about asking other countries around the world, including our own to honour their pledges and commitments to adhere and protect human rights.”

Alex Taylor: “Ok lets have another question for Peter Tatchell.”

Malo from Brussels: “I recently faced police violence when, with friends I was spending a night in a squat and we were confronted with batons and tear gas. And so I wondered how far the police state can go in fighting us like this ever day?”

Alex Taylor: “It is a question which is being asked more and more. What about people’ rights, citizen’s rights when they are confronted with the police, there are more and more demonstrations around Europe at the moment.”

Peter Tatchell: “I think at this particular period of great social economic unrest and turmoil it is very important that we stand firm, committed to the principles of free speech and the right to protest. It is not about whether you agree or disagree with protest but it is a human right for people to express their point of view and I think these protests have been incredibly effective in drawing government and public attention to the huge economic inequalities and the failings of the existing economic model.

‘Europe does have to change course, free market capitalism is not working it is failing the people of Europe and the people of the world nearly one thousand million people woke up this morning with no safe clean drinking water. That doesn’t have to be that way. We can find the money to give everyone safe clean drinking water.”

Alex Taylor: “Ok let’s have another question for Peter Tatchell in London.”

Nicolas from Brussels: “Seen from Europe it seems that homosexuals have no problems. I want to know what steps Europe is taking it to try to erradicate discrimination within the gay community?”

Alex Taylor: “You are obviously a campaigner for gay rights. Where are we now in 2011 have all the problems gone away?”

Peter Tatchell: “Well its is particularly shocking that in countries like Cameroon there are widespread witch-hunts and jailings of men who have been accused of homosexuality often not even proven and this goes against the African charter on human and people’s rights which guarantees equality and non discrimination. It also goes against the constitution of so many countries around the world.”

Alex Taylor: “What can we do though, Peter, what can the European Union do apart from complain and nobody listen?”

Peter Tatchell: “Well I think we need to support human rights defenders and lesbian gay organisations in the countries concerned they are the ones who are best placed to help change things from within, so we need an alliance and a support network for those people inside the countries who are seeking change.”

Alex Taylor: “Still on this issue I have a question here form Sergei from Russia who obviously doesn’t want to be seen on camera saying this but there is new legislation being brought in in Russia at the moment which is a bit like clause 28 in the 1980’s in Britain which forbids promotion of homosexuality and he says what can Europe do protest about this?”

Peter Tatchell:” Well these new laws which are being introduced into a number of cities and regions go against Russia’s own constitution and its pledge to uphold various international human rights conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘It is quite clear that any attempt to stop gay people from organising, from expressing their point of view is contrary to human rights and it is very, very important that European Governments and particularly the Council of Europe puts pressure on Europe to adhere to its own constitution and again we need to support activists, gay and straight in Russia who are fighting against these new laws, they are the ones who are best placed to fight and win these battles, they need our support, we need to empower them to win a victory.”

Alex Taylor: “And now a question concerning what is going on in the UK more specifically.”

Yasmina from Brussels: “I want to know what you think is the best way to raise awareness of the situation in England of sub-Saharan migrants and in particular how to increase the number of places that are available for the resettlement of migrants given their situation ?”

Alex Taylor: “With the economic crisis at the moment, there is less and less attention being paid to migrants’ rights.”

Peter Tatchell: “Well there are two issues here. One is migrants rights and the other is refugees. You know both are very pressing issues for all European countries and we have to find a way where we can embrace those who come to our country, and give them the opportunities that they need and particularly if they are fleeing persecution then we need to absolutely insure that they have a place of refuge.

‘I think the idea of putting up barriers and borders is a retrograde step, it is not going to help the people of Europe it is not going to be morally right for us to say that, you know, non-white people are not welcome in Europe. You know we have had a long history and relationship with Africa and other developing countries as a continent and we need to I think maintain good relations with those countries and recognise that many of their citizens have come to our countries and are performing very important, valuable tasks in the economy. In Britain for example the National Health Service could not function without people from developing countries, doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. They are a valuable asset who help us provide health care service.”

Alex Taylor: “One final question which is a written question, don’t you think that in the future more and more it is going to be elderly people’s human rights, more and more people suffering from dementia and alzheimers which is going to become an over riding issue and is Europe any better than any other country in this concern?”

Peter Tatchell: “ Well I have always argued the European Convention on Human Rights should be amended, the clauses on protection against discrimination be amended to include protection against age-related discrimination and it is absolutely correct that increasingly elderly people are going to face a whole series of problems to do with alzheimers and other long term degenerative diseases plus huge cost of care in their homes or in hospices or elderly people’s homes. This is an issue that we as nations have to face up to, we have to address it, we have to make sure that elderly people have respect and rights in their later years.”

Alex Taylor: “ Thank you very much indeed Peter Tatchell from London and we will see you again next time on Euronews for another I talk. All the details on our website. See you soon.

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