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FIDH: “Austerity measures constitute an unprecedented assault on human rights”

Austerity measures adopted in response to the economic crisis have adversely impacted human rights. The austerity measures traumatized the labor market and the healthcare system,  fuelled a sharp increase in unemployment,  triggered disastrous social effects, curtailed fundamental freedoms in Greece, denounce the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) in a report released on December 18th 2014.

The report shows that “what started as an economic and financial crisis has turned into an unprecedented assault on human rights and democratic standards not only in Greece but in all countries sharing a similar fate,” the FIDH said in a statement.

Some highlights from the Press Release

              “The draconian targets for deficit and debt reduction set by the Troika were achieved mainly through cuts to public expenditure, including in essential services such as work and healthcare, without any consideration for the need to preserve minimum levels and meet minimum core obligations with respect to those rights.

Austerity measures proved to be harmful to an already traumatised labour market and healthcare system. Massive cuts in public sector’s employment and a failure to tackle the fundamental social needs arising from the crisis have fuelled a sharp rise in unemployment, which touched unprecedented levels at 28% (September 2013) and 60,8% for the young (February 2013), before setting at 25,7% and 49,3% respectively.

Access to basic healthcare has also been severely impaired by the cuts to the public health budget and essential public health services and programmes.

The government has also adopted an increasingly authoritarian stance towards public criticism.”

The report has gathered findings from a mission of investigation carried out by the FIDH in January 2014. It depicts a country where economic hardship and austerity combined have threatened human rights and democratic standards across different sectors, from social and economic rights, to civil and political ones.

As a further extension to the Greek bailout has been negotiated within the Eurogroup and Greece is undergoing presidential elections, the report signals that what has been shrinking alongside public budgets, in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, is the space for individual rights and freedoms.

“The measures taken by Greece to meet its lenders’ demands proves a readiness, at the national as much as at the international level, to sacrifice nearly everything to economic recovery” declared FIDH President Karim Lahidji, in Athens for the release of the report. “While we accept that exceptional circumstances can require exceptional responses, the way policies were adopted and implemented in this context clearly failed to respect international standards”, he added.

“Unlike finances, human rights and fundamental freedoms cannot benefit from international bailouts” said Konstantinos Tsitselikis, HLHR President. “Economic and fiscal policies have blatantly disregarded their devastating social impacts and authorities have failed to provide the needed social support.”

“I seriously doubt whether any human rights concerns were ever raised in designing and implementing the country’s “rescue” plans. On the contrary, human rights violations appear as having simply been regarded as an acceptable collateral damage in a broader crisis management, or as a well deserved answer to the ’Greek problem’. This is simply unacceptable” concluded Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH Vice President.

Full Press Release here

Full report “Downgrading rights: The cost of austerity in Greece” here in pdf

PS Can a state impose such unprecedented austerity measures without oppression? Impossible…

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