Posts Tagged ‘EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders’

Short report by EEAS on the 17th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum, 3-4 December 2015

December 5, 2015

The 17th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum took place in Brussels on 3 and 4 December 2015, bringing together hundreds of civil society organisations from across the globe, representatives from international and regional human rights mechanisms and from the EU institutions and Member States. The Forum is a joint venture between the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission, and the Human Rights & Democracy Network [http://www.hrdn.eu/index.php?menu_selected=122&language=US&sub_menu_selected=768].

The overarching theme for this year’s Forum is Protecting and Promoting Civil society Space. In her address to the Forum, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, stated: I believe that the civil society has a crucial role to play in any policy and in our foreign policy. It is not only a key player, but a main driver for change in all societies, in terms of democracy, good governance, resilience, cohesion, promotion of fundamental human rights.   Freedom of expression is one of the most powerful weapons against radicalisation and terrorism. To better protect our citizens we need above all to build strong democratic institutions and a healthy democratic dialogue. I am very often asked whether security should not be the main focus, more than human rights. But there is no security without human rights”.

She also called for renewed efforts to fight attempts to control the work of civil society in many countries around the world: “During the last years, the space for civil society has shrunk in many countries”. “These trends demand a redoubling of our efforts in the human rights sphere. The European Union, the institutions and myself personally, will do all we can to protect civil society organisations fighting for human rights and protect human rights defender on an individual basis.”

The theme of this year’s NGO Forum – Protecting and Promoting Civil Society Space – reflects the EU’s strong commitment to put Freedom of Association and Freedom of Expression at the heart of the EU’s human rights policy as essential foundations for democracy, rule of law, peace, stability, sustainable inclusive development and participation in public affairs.

This year’s event saw contributions from the current UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association, Maina Kiai; the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst; Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, MEP Barbara Lochbihler; the Secretary General of the Community of Democracies, Amb. Maria Leissner; Sakharov Prize recipient Memorial, represented by Oleg Orlov; alongside many representatives from civil society, Human Rights Defenders, NGOs, the EU Institutions and many representatives from EU member states.

The forum looked at the recent EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression, as key tools enabling the EU to promote and protect freedom of opinion and expression and to counter the clear and disturbing trend over the last few years towards an increasingly restricted space for independent civil society as well as outright threats, intimidation and violence that civil society organisations and representatives, journalists, media actors and other individuals face in many countries across the world because of the exercise of their rights.

Given the scale of the problem and its constantly changing manifestations, urgent action is required not just to understand the scale and evolving nature of the threats, but particularly to identify ways to achieve effective and concerted policy responses and counter actions.

The EU is committed, as indicated in the EU strategy on human rights and democracy and its Action Plan (2015-2019), to address threats to civil society space, through actions that support laws and policies to protect human rights defenders; report on and counter threats to civil society space; and oppose unjustified restrictions to freedoms of assembly and association.

Engagement with civil society is essential for the ongoing work the EU is undertaking to help realise human rights, indivisible and universal for all people. The Forum discussions provided a significant opportunity for an interactive dialogue among representatives from the EU member states, the European Institutions (European Parliament, Council, European External Action Service, European Commission) and global civil society and human rights defenders from all over the world, working on the promotion and protection of human rights. The outcome of the Forum will be an important stepping stone for ensuring effective EU action and future policy developments in this field.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/international-cooperative-consortium-protect-the-defenders-launched-on-2-december/

 

Source: European Union – EEAS (European External Action Service) | PRESS RELEASE: PROTECTING & PROMOTING CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE: 17th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum, 2015

International cooperative consortium ‘Protect the Defenders’ launched on 2 December

December 4, 2015

 

On 2 December 2015 a Consortium of organizations was launched in Brussels dedicated to coordinating support for the security and protection of human rights defenders under threat. The Consortium, called “Protect the Defenders,” is comprised of 12 organizations that work collectively to implement the EU Mechanism for Human Right Defenders.

The partners include Frontline Defenders (leader of the Consortium), FIDH, OMCT, Forum-ASIA, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), ESCR-net, Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF), International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Peace Brigades International, Protection International, Reporters without Borders and the Urgent Action Fund for Women.

Source: Protecting the Defenders through enhanced international collaboration | ESCR-Net

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

‘Unsung Heroes’ – EU Tribute to Human Rights Defenders on 2 December in Geneva

November 28, 2014

Under the title “Unsung Heroes” the EU Delegation to the UN in  Geneva is organizing a Tribute to Human Rights Defenders on 2 December 2014 at 13h00 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In light of the 10th anniversary of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and ahead of the Human Rights Day, Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, will discuss interactively with NGOs, Human Rights Defenders and International Organisations the challenges of speaking up for human rights. The event will also include the Geneva launch of a study conducted by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation on Women Human Right Defenders’ exposure to threats and violence.

The debate on questions such as “What does it take to stand up for human rights?”, “What risks do human rights defenders face, in particular if they are women?” and “What can we do to provide better support?” will be followed by the screening of the film documentary “Six Days”, portraying three women in three different countries, fighting for change in the wake of war and conflict.

I should add that the choice of the title ‘Unsung Heroes’ leaves to be desired as it has been used a lot by different organisations, including the US State Department, the Carter Foundation, the Martin Ennals Foundation for its 2001 study, the OHCHR, PBI, Freedom etc.

See also my post from two days ago: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/tribute-remembering-women-human-rights-defenders/

 

NGO recommendations on torture for the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy

November 24, 2014

Five international NGOs with strong credentials in the area of the fight against torture have written to the EU with sensible recommendations to be incorporated into the next Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. The main recommendations submitted on 19 November 2014 are:   Read the rest of this entry »

Swiss Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders analyzed by civil society

November 2, 2014

In December 2013, the Swiss Government became one of the few countries to issue specific Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (http://www.humanrights.ch/en/switzerland/foreign-affairs/human-rights-foreign-policy/multilateral-policy/switzerland-guidelines-protection-human-rights-defenders). As in the case of all guidelines, the real test is in the implementation and on 12 June 2014, the Centre for Peacebuilding (KOFF) at Swisspeace organized a conference on the protection of HRDs, which brought together HRDs from Guatemala, Honduras, Serbia, Russia and Sri Lanka, Swiss government officials and representatives of Swiss civil society in order to give consideration to the different challenges that exist when it comes to HRD protection and, in particular, implementation of the Swiss guidelines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states position on Human Rights Defenders

August 29, 2014

While the statement does not contain any really new position I recommend to read it because it is a good indication of how Austria has moved to join the small group of countries that makes Human Rights Defenders a central piece in their approach: Read the rest of this entry »

Pan-African protection of Human Rights Defenders boosted with EU grant

February 5, 2013

Having just today reported on the new human rights defenders network created in the Arab world, I would be amiss not to draw attention to the developments of an already existing network in Africa. On 4 February 2013 the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD-Net) officially launched from Kampala, Uganda, a 3-year programme totalling 1.8 million Euros to promote a safe legal and working environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) across Africa.

The tireless and innovative work done at the sub-regional level to protect human rights defenders will now have a dedicated venue at the Pan-African level for mutual support and reinforcement,” said Hassan Shire Sheikh, Chairperson of PAHRD-Net and Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). Today’s launch is the result of a process started in 1998 in Johannesburg (All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference) and renewed in 2009 at the follow-up meeting in Kampala.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

PAHRD-Net brings together the five sub-regional human rights defenders networks in Africa (the Central African HRD Network, the East and Horn of Africa HRD Network, the North Africa HRD Network represented through the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Southern Africa HRD Network hosted by the International Commission for Jurists, and the West African HRD Network) to meet the protection needs of human rights defenders and especially to address the needs of the five groups of most-at-risk: journalists fighting to end impunity and corruption, women human rights defenders, defenders working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, HRDs working under oppressive regimes or in armed/post-conflict areas, and HRDs engaging with the resource extraction industries.

Human rights defenders are individuals working alone or through organizations under the goal of promoting respect for universal human rights norms. Frequently HRDs come into conflict with the entrenched local power structures of state and non-state actors through their activism. This conflict can put in jeopardy the security of the HRD and their work and family networks. HRDs are often the victims of harassment, threats, assault, injury, and death across Africa, and many are forced into exile, a move which may effectively end their advocacy for human rights. The consolidation and growth of protection mechanisms within the sub-regions will improve the responses available to mitigate these threats and develop HRDs’ ability to manage their own security effectively.

The European Commission supports the new programme under its global fund for Democracy and Human Rights, which is to underpin the implementation of the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

For further information please contact:

Hassan Shire Sheikh – Chairperson, Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network executive@defenddefenders.org

Joseph Bikanda – Coordinator, Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network: Tel +256-312-202133, +256-312-265825, or panafrica@defenddefenders.org

Rachel Nicholson – Advocacy Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project: Tel +256-312-265-824, +256-778-921274, or advocacy@defenddefenders.org

Quick reminder of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

January 13, 2012

European Union

Image by erjkprunczyk via Flickr

The European Union Guidelines on human rights defenders were created to help staff in the embassies of EU member states to protect threatened human rights defenders (HRDs). In short they tell EU diplomatic missions to:

  • Produce periodic reports outlining the broad human rights situation, noting specific cases of concern.
  • Take urgent local action when needed and make recommendations for further EU involvement.
  • Prepare local strategies in co-ordination with HRDs, with special attention given to the protection of women defenders.
  • Organise regular meetings between HRDs and missions diplomats
  • Maintain contact with HRDs through receiving them in the missions and visiting their areas of work.
  • Publicly recognise HRDs and their work through use of traditional and new-media methods of communication.
  • Visit, where appropriate, HRDs in custody or under house arrest and attend trials as observers.
  • Raise specific cases with third country governments.
  • Involve HRDs in the preparation, follow-up and assessment of human rights discussions with third country governments.
  • Provide measures for swift assistance of HRDs in danger, including the issuing of emergency visas and the offer of temporary shelter in EU member states.
  • Provide access to financial support where necessary.

Urgent local action can be organised through “local working groups”, of which HRDs should be members.Integral to the Guidelines is a duty to “proactively” support human rights defenders on the world stage through political dialogue and promotion of the UN Human Rights Council and its Special Rapporteurs.  When, for example, the EU President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs or other relevant official visits a country with human rights issues they should seek to meet with HRDs wherever possible and reflect any concerns in their discussions with third country governments.

This is not news but at the beginning of the new year it is good to have a reminder AND REMIND THE EU DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATIVES  of all this laid down in 20 short paragraphs; for full text see: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/GuidelinesDefenders.pdf