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Fair Justice for Minorities: New OSCE Recommendations

The OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) has recently published a series of recommendations dedicated to equal access to justice. Researchers of minority rights and federalism from Eurac Research were among the experts who were tasked with revising the document.

Many women who report an act of violence expose themselves to more violence. Discussing private matters, especially for women who belong to society with conservative traditions, is a strong deterrent to reporting. The obstacle can become insurmountable if contact with officials takes place in a foreign language, without the presence of a mediator, or perhaps with the obligation to remove traditional clothes. On paper, access to justice is the same for everyone, but the OSCE emphasises that fairness is sometimes not enough in formal situations, especially in societies that are characterised by the presence of unrecognised minorities. For this reason, the High Commissioner for National Minorities has recently issued a series of recommendations (the Graz Recommendations on Access to Justice and National Minorities) designed to guide the legislators of individual states to take diversity into account when developing laws. Jurists from the OSCE shared their draft recommendations with a group of international experts, who reviewed and commented on them before they were released. This group included three researchers from Eurac Research: Roberta Medda-Windischer, Joseph Marko and Francesco Palermo.

Since the recommendations are aimed at promoting a justice system that is inclusive of both recognised and unrecognised minorities, they are also useful for non-governmental organisations that monitor respect for human rights, for example, in the countries of the Balkan peninsula. The document advises that cultural and religious diversity be taken into account not only during procedures of accusation, but also during incarceration, allowing prisoners to practice their own religion and express themselves in their own language with personnel who are trained in inclusivity. According to European experts, this approach not only respects civil society, but can also prevent conflicts between states.

For further information: roberta.medda@eurac.edu



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