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Council of Europe expresses concern as Spain cancels human rights education

Cambridge, 30 October 2013 -- HREA echoes the concerns of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, who released a report earlier this month about the Spanish government's move to abolish human rights and citizenship education. The report comes several months after a petition signed by 60 Spanish and European NGOs called upon the Council of Europe to take action against the Spanish government for their breach of commitment to deliver Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education within all levels of the Spanish education system.

Human Rights in EuropeEducation for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education has been a controversial issue in Spain since it was incorporated in the education system in 2006 by the Education Act 2/2006 (LOE), following recommendations from the Council of Europe. Strong objections came from certain political and religious groups and resulted in the opponents of citizenship and human rights education presenting legal challenges against the programme. On 11 February 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that the Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education course was legal and legitimate.

Despite the legitimacy, constitutionality and legality of the Education Act of 2006 there have been moves within the Spanish government to eliminate Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education from primary, secondary and higher curricula. The conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, which took power following the November 2011 elections, presented a draft law in September 2012 to make changes to the content of the education programmes. The bill foresees the abolition of the teaching on topics including awareness-raising on children’s rights, gender equality, non-discrimination, combating racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights distinguished the difference between austerity measures and political opposition as the reasons for removing citizenship and human rights education in his recent report. The Commissioner's report notes that the amendments to human rights education "are not directly connected to austerity measures... [but] the Commissioner found it important to discuss it with the Spanish authorities as he firmly believes that civic and human rights education is key to combating all forms of discrimination and intolerance and for developing generations of active and responsible citizens necessary in a democratic society."

Spanish NGOs accuse the government of masking their attack on human rights education as part of the austerity measures and failing to respond to citizen protests and demonstrations.

 

 

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