Thomas Hammarberg is a Swedish diplomat and human rights defender. From April 2006 to March 2012, he held the post of Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Prior to this appointment, Hammarberg had spent several decades working on the advancement of human rights in Europe and worldwide. He has been Secretary General of the Stockholm-based Olof Palme International Center (2002–05), Ambassador of the Swedish Government on Humanitarian Affairs (1994–2002), the Secretary General of the NGO “Save the Children Sweden” (1986–92), and Secretary General of Amnesty International (1980–86). He received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Amnesty International in 1977.
Between 2001 and 2003, Hammarberg acted as Regional Adviser for Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. For several years, he was the Swedish Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for the UN Special Session on Children, as well as the Convener of the Aspen Institute Roundtables on “Human Rights in Peace Missions”. Between 1996 and 2000, he was the appointed representative of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for human rights in Cambodia. He also participated in the work of the Refugee Working Group of the multilateral Middle East Peace Process.
In 2010, Hammarberg published a comprehensive position paper on the human rights situation of Sinti and Roma, in which he stressed the need for a unified and comprehensive programme aimed at improving the situation, warning that “today’s rhetoric against the Roma is alarmingly similar to that used by the Nazis before the mass killings started”.
On 27 February 2012, he published a comprehensive report on the situation of Roma and Traveleers in Europe stressing that in many European countries they are still denied basic human rights and suffer blatant racism. In a published letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel dating back to 2009, Hammarberg calls for a halt on deportations to Kosovo in particular, saying that those deported there are exposed to political persecution and are forced to live in camps. He repeated this “urgent recommendation” one year later in a letter to the then German Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Mazière. A special committee organised by Hammarberg described a Roma camp in Kosovo as “a humanitarian catastrophe”. The EU Human Rights Commissioner also heavily criticised France’s mass deportation of Roma in 2010.