Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Today: the people of Ukraine win this year’s European Union Prize

October 19, 2022

The European Parliament on Wednesday 19 October awarded “the people of Ukraine” its annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought amid the ongoing war with Russia. For more on this award and its previous laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449

This award is for those Ukrainians fighting on the ground. For those who have been forced to flee. For those who have lost relatives and friends. For all those who stand up and fight for what they believe in. I know that the brave people of Ukraine will not give up and neither will we,” said Roberta Metsola, the European Parliament’s head.

EU Commission chief Ursula von Der Leyen congratulated the people of Ukraine and said: “Their spirit and determination to fight for the values we hold dear is an inspiration to us all.”

At (the EU Council) we’ll focus on continuing our assistance; we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter.

Last year: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/21/alexei-navalny-wins-eus-sakharov-prize/

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20221017IPR43706/the-ukrainian-people-awarded-the-european-parliament-s-2022-sakharov-prize

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/ukrainian-people-awarded-eus-sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought/2715666

Call for an EU Visa framework for At-Risk Human Rights Defenders

September 24, 2022

ProtectDefenders.eu and the great many undersigned NGOs are convinced that with political will and clear guidelines, the EU can and should return to its political mandate in favour of human rights and human rights defenders, and lead on the implementation of concrete initiatives, good practises, and policy changes to ensure that at-risk human rights defenders can access European Union visas with guarantees, security, and predictability.

More specifically, they call on the EU stakeholders to:
i) propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, setting common criteria and defining the elements of a facilitated procedure;
ii) include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members,
iii) work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and
iv) introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.


Furthermore, they call on the EU Member States to implement consistent policies and guidelines to recognise the right of human rights defenders to access visas; as well as to promote the exhaustive use of their current prerogatives to urgently guarantee access to visas for those facing severe threats and risks.


ProtectDefenders.eu is the European
Union Human Rights Defenders
mechanism, led by a Consortium of 12
NGOs active in the field of Human Rights:
• Asian Forum for Human Rights and
Development (FORUM-ASIA)
• DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa
Human Rights Defenders Project
• Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Of
Support To Human Rights Defenders
(EMHRF)
• ESCR-Net
• Front Line Defenders
• ILGA World
• Peace Brigades International
• Protection International
• Reporters Without Borders
• The International Federation for Human
Rights (FIDH)
• The World Organisation Against Torture
(OMCT)
• Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human
Rights (UAF)
This initiative is supported by:
• AfricanDefenders
• Amnesty International
• Araminta
• Artist Protection Fund
• Artists at Risk (AR)
• Asociación Zehar-Errefuxiatuekin
• Brot für die Welt
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Center for Applied Human Rights (CAHR),
University of York
• Civil Rights Defenders
• Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat
(CCAR)
• Defenders in Dordrecht (DiD)
• Docip (Indigenous Peoples’ Center for
Documentation, Research and Information)
• European Center for Press and Media
Freedom (ECPMF)
• Fédération internationale des ACAT /
International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT)
• Freedom House
• Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
• Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
• Hamburg Foundation for politically
persecuted persons
• Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung (hbs)
• Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
• Human Rights House Tbilisi
• Humanists International
• Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres
Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
• International Arts Rights Advisors (IARA)
• International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)
• International Partnership for Human
Rights (IPHR)
• International Service for Human Rights
(ISHR)
• Justice & Peace
• Mundubat
• Open Society Foundations (OSF)
• PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
• Pen International
• Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains
de l’Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
• Scholars at Risk
• Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders
Network
• Tbilisi Shelter City
• Un Ponte Per
• Unit for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders of Guatemala

Call for applications for the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

May 10, 2022

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism was launched on 16 October 2020 as a tribute to the Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger who was assassinated in a car bomb attack in 2017. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ea7f958d-a957-4495-9ab4-9550741a8a58]

The Prize, with the support of the European Parliament, will be awarded annually to in-depth journalism pieces undertaken by EU-based professional journalists. The Prize is open to individual professional journalists or teams of professional journalists of any nationality. Applications may be submitted by authors themselves or by professional media organisations and associations on their behalf.

Applications must be submitted via the online platform by  31 July 2022, 12 AM (CEST).

The Prize aims to recognise outstanding in-depth journalism work on topics that are relevant for the European Union (EU) as a whole or some of its Member States, and contribute to the promotion of principles and values of the EU, as enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pt/press-room/20220502IPR28408/premio-de-jornalismo-d-caruana-galizia-convite-a-apresentacao-de-candidaturas

EU finally moves on law to protect media from legal abuse (SLAPPs)

April 28, 2022

I have devoted posts to this important issue before [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapps/]. Let us not forget that Daphne Caruana Galizia was facing 40 lawsuits when she was murdered. See: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/70b0bee4-9af2-40c6-a11e-5b9ad159b96f

Andrew Rettman writing in the EUObserver of 27 April 2022

Independent media should have less to fear in future from malicious lawsuits, after the EU Commission put forward a new law to shield them.

Billionaires, big corporations, and autocrats have, in recent years, resorted ever more frequently to so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in order to try to gag adversaries.

But if EU states and MEPs back the commission’s proposed anti-SLAPP directive, then judges will soon get a fresh mandate to throw out bogus cases — and compensate their victims.

With these measures we are helping to protect those who take risks and speak up when the public interest is at stake,” EU values commissioner Věra Jourová said in Brussels.

We promised to defend better journalists and human rights defenders,” she said. “The new law does that,” Jourová said.

The directive lists criteria which individual judges can, using their discretion on a case-by-case basis, use to decide whether litigation is genuine or abusive.

These include seeking disproportionately huge financial damages or launching multiple cases at the same time, for instance.

The anti-SLAPP law applies to non-EU or “third” countries, giving European judges leeway to annul vexatious judgments against EU nationals if they are doled out in London, for example.

It is delimited to civil cases “with cross-border implication”. This is because EU competences do not cover national and criminal media laws in member states under the terms of Europe’s treaties. It means a Polish journalist or LGBTI rights activist, for example, who is sued by a Polish entity would normally not be covered.

But the “cross-border” element has been drafted by Jourová’s lawyers in a canny way so that if their case arguably had relevance beyond their national borders then the EU law would kick in.

EUobserver has faced three lawsuits in the past three years that were designated as SLAPPs by leading pro-free media NGOs.

The first saw a Luxembourg-based firm sue us in Belgium about an article on disinformation in Malta — an archetypal example of a “cross-border” lawsuit falling under the directive.

The second saw a Belgian firm sue EUobserver in Belgium, but as the story covered VIP-jet leasing security for EU and Nato heads of state from all over Europe this would also be covered under the cross-border clause.

The final one, which is ongoing, involves a Belarusian firm suing EUobserver in Belgium over an article about alleged money-laundering in Cyprus, but this would also likely fall under both the “third-country” and “cross-border” provisions, NGO experts told this website Wednesday in a flash analysis.

The commission “did the best it could do”, given its jurisdiction, Julie Majerczak, from the Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders, said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step forward — two years ago we were nowhere on this,” she added…

There were at least 438 SLAPP cases in 24 member states in 2021 targeting 978 people or entities, the commission noted. Journalists in Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Slovenia were being routinely targeted, Reporters Without Borders said. Journalists in Italy and environmental activists in France and Spain were also notable victims, it added.

https://euobserver.com/rule-of-law/154815

https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/europe/116496/brussels_unveils_groundbreaking_proposal_to_prevent_and_penalise_slapp_lawsuits_#.Ymqx_5LP1TZ

https://eutoday.net/news/human-rights/2022/slapps-european-commission-seeks-to-tackle-abusive-lawsuits-against-journalists-and-human-rights-defenders

EU’s Report on Human rights 2021

April 20, 2022

On 19 April 2022 the EU published its 2021 report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World.l

INTRODUCTION: In 2021, in a context characterised by a prevailing global pandemic and a sustained trend of rising authoritarianism, the EU stepped up its work to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the world and strengthened its tools.

On the eve of the Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021, the EU launched the Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/17/eu-launches-a-e1-5-billion-6-year-plan-to-promote-human-rights-and-its-defenders/].

This annual report on human rights and democracy monitors the implementation of the EU Action Plan by presenting the progress achieved to date.

One landmark achievement is the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (EUGHRSR). In 2021, the EU adopted restrictive measures targeting persons and entities from China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Russia, involved in serious human rights violations and abuses. The EU imposed sanctions in the case of Alexei Navalny’s arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as sanctions against the Wagner group and its members. In December, the Council adopted a decision prolonging for one year the existing sanctions.

Throughout the year, the EU took the lead in UN human rights fora on initiatives aimed at addressing human rights violations and abuses in Afghanistan, Belarus, Burundi, DPRK, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Myanmar. The first EU strategic dialogue with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in October 2021 was an opportunity to share updates on global human rights issues, to discuss priorities and to build a stronger partnership for more effective multilateralism and rules-based international cooperation. As a staunch advocate of multilateralism, the EU also remains vigilant in the defence and advancement of universal human rights and the integrity and functionality of the global human rights system.

Pursuing its political priority towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, the EU reinforced its ambition through the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the EU External Action 2021-2025 (GAP III). The EU remained committed to preventing and combatting all forms of gender-based violence and engaged as an Action Coalition leader in the Generation Equality Forum, as well as in the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.

In 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child5 was also adopted. It was developed with contributions from over 10,000 children and proposed new actions to support children and contribute to the protection and promotion of their rights.

In 2021, the EU further expanded its concrete support to civil society organisations and human rights defenders, especially environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights defenders, women human rights defenders and labour rights defenders, who remained under severe pressure around the world. The 23rd EU-NGO Human Rights Forum organised on 7-8 December 2021 focused on ‘Rebuilding better: a human-rights based recovery from the pandemic’. The EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism ProtectDefenders.eu (EUR 35 million for 2015-2022) has supported nearly 53,000 human rights defenders at risk and their families since its launch in 2015. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/28/eu-by-far-biggest-funder-of-human-rights-defenders/]

In a global context of democratic backsliding, supporting democratic electoral processes remained a cornerstone of EU engagement worldwide. Despite the restrictions linked to the pandemic and political and security circumstances, in the second half of 2021 the EU successfully deployed Election Observation Missions to Zambia, Kosovo, Iraq, Venezuela, Honduras, and The Gambia.

Download document (PDF | 3.31 MB | Report of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy)Download document (PDF | 3 MB | Country Updates)

EU – China Summit on 1 April should not be a joke

March 30, 2022

European Union leaders should announce specific policy responses to the Chinese government’s atrocity crimes, Human Rights Watch said today, 30 March 2022. A virtual summit between the EU and China is scheduled for April 1, 2022.

The summit takes place at a time of heightened tensions between the EU and the Chinese government, which retaliated against Lithuania for its relations with Taiwan, baselessly sanctioned EU bodies and European research institutions, and has not condemned Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The Chinese government’s disregard for international human rights norms mirrors its domestic track record of grave abuses without accountability.

The EU’s foreign policy chief has pointed with alarm to the Chinese government’s ‘revisionist campaign’ against universal human rights and institutions,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Brussels should revise its approach to match the magnitude of that threat.”

In a March 18 joint letter from 10 nongovernmental organizations to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, Human Rights Watch cited Chinese authorities’ deepening assault on human rights, including crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in Xinjiang, and heightened repression in Tibet and Hong Kong. Human rights defenders across the country – including the citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, the Uyghur intellectual and Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, the Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, and many others – remain arbitrarily detained. {see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/25/gui-minhai-10-years-jail-sentence-in-china/

While the EU has taken important steps in reaction to these developments, including some targeted sanctions and strong condemnations of Beijing’s abuses at the United Nations, these efforts lack the consequences to bring significant change. The rights groups urged Michel and von der Leyen to use their time with the Chinese leaders to announce further steps to counter Beijing’s abuses, and cautioned them against calling for yet another round of the bilateral human rights dialogue, which after 37 rounds has proven unable to secure concrete progress.

Stronger, better coordinated action is also supported by the European Parliament, which has remained a staunch critic of the Chinese government’s crackdown and has repeatedly denounced its abuses. Beijing responded by sanctioning several members of the European Parliament. In response, the European Parliament froze consideration of a bilateral trade deal and called for a new, and more assertive, EU strategy on China, including further targeted sanctions and closer coordination with like-minded partners. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/21/china-eu-investment-deal-off-the-rail/]

Presidents Michel and von der Leyen should go beyond words of condemnation at the summit if they want to deter Chinese government violations now and in the future,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Bolder steps are needed to counter Beijing’s crimes against humanity and anti-rights agenda, and EU leaders should announce their determination to pursue them.”

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/18/joint-ngo-letter-ahead-eu-china-summit

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/30/eu-no-business-usual-china-summit

Russia refuses to further participate in the Council of Europe

March 11, 2022

In a short statement that was issued on 10 March 2022, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that they will no longer participate in the Council of Europe in response to ‘the EU’s and NATO’s continued efforts to destroy the Council of Europe and the common humanitarian and legal space in Europe’. It could mean that Russia may leave Europe’s main organisation on human rights, rin response to its recent suspension related to the war in Ukraine.

Russia will not participate in the transformation by NATO and the EU obediently following them of the oldest European organization into another platform for incantations about Western superiority and narcissism,” the ministry said, according to Russian media outlet RIA News. “Let them enjoy communicating with each other without Russia.

Russia joined the Council of Europe in the winter of 1996, and since then the country has had a moratorium on the death penalty. Two years later, Moscow ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (ECHR).

Several times Russia was deprived of the right to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, despite the fact that it is one of the five largest sponsors of the organization. After the start of the special operation in Ukraine, the Council of Europe suspended Moscow’s membership.

On 17 March 2022 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has formally decided that the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the organisation. This happens after just over a quarter century of membership, since Russia joined on 28 February 1996. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/09/ruxit-a-real-possibility-and-bad-for-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.dailysabah.com/world/europe/russia-refuses-to-participate-in-council-of-europe

https://www.echrblog.com/2022/03/russia-will-no-longer-participate-in.html

https://www.echrblog.com/2022/03/what-would-russias-departure-from.html

https://www.echrblog.com/2022/03/formal-end-of-russias-council-of-europe.html

but…https://www.echrblog.com/2022/03/echr-continues-to-apply-for-russia.html

EU by far biggest funder of human rights defenders

February 28, 2022

The European Union (EU) provided roughly €10 billion to support non-government organisations (NGOs) in its partner countries over the past seven years (2014-2021) EU High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell said in a statement in celebration of World NGO day, 26 February.

Josep Borrell

File Photo: EU s High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell. Photo courtesy of European parliament website.

With these allocations, the EU represents the world’s largest provider of support to local NGOs in partner countries, Borrell noted. He also stated that it has been a leading donor for the protection and support of human rights defenders, with 53,000 defenders and their families taken care of through the website ProtectDefenders.eu since 2015. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/17/eu-launches-a-e1-5-billion-6-year-plan-to-promote-human-rights-and-its-defenders/

On World NGO Day, we honour all civil society actors who, every day, are at the forefront of the fight for human rights, the respect of democratic values and the rule of law. The EU commends their role in supporting and giving a voice to the most vulnerable as well as their essential contribution to building peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

Today, with the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, international peace and the rule of law are under attack. The EU stands firmly by the Ukrainian and Russian people along with their civil society and youths, whose future and voices are threatened by President Putin’s disregard of democracy, human rights, and international rules,” Borrell stated.

Borrell added that countries that curtail NGOs’ activity through legal and administrative measures hamper universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. See e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/foreign-agents/

Nicaragua: death in detention and sham trial

February 21, 2022

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s 49th session, which begins on February 28 in Geneva, presents an opportunity to send a powerful message to the Ortega-Murillo government that these human rights violations will not be tolerated. Governments should support a strong resolution on Nicaragua, demanding the release of all detainees subjected to arbitrary detention and prosecutions and establishing an independent mechanism to investigate rights violations.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Acting Director, Americas Division of HRW, describes the latest in the Nicaraguan Government’s Attempts to Tighten its Authoritarian Grip:

Nicaragua’s courts are scheduled to hold a sham trial of seven government critics and opposition leaders, all arbitrarily imprisoned since June 2021. It’s the latest in a slew of trials of people detained on absurd charges months on end.

This week’s trial epitomizes Nicaragua’s mockery of justice: A joint trial, with no due process, on charges of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity,” in most cases based solely on the defendants’ exercise of their right to free expression, that will most likely result in swift convictions for all.

Since February 1, at least 14 detainees have been found guilty of “undermining national integrity” during closed-door trials at “El Chipote” prison, rather than at public courthouses, as Nicaraguan law requires. Each trial has lasted just a few hours and has resulted in swift convictions and sentences of several years in prison.

Announcing the trials on January 31, the Attorney General’s Office called the detainees “criminals and thieves.” Authorities had suspended the trials in October 2021 without offering a clear reason.

Between May and November 2021, the government unleashed a wave of arbitrary arrests to pave the way for President Daniel Ortega’s reelection to a fourth consecutive term. Nicaraguan authorities arrested at least 40 critics, including student and business leaders, campesino representatives, defense lawyers, journalists, activists, and seven presidential candidates. More than 130 others were detained earlier and remain in detention.

Criminal proceedings have lacked basic due process. In many cases, detainees were held incommunicado for weeks or months at El Chipote, some in prolonged solitary confinement. When allowed visits, families described abusive conditions, including repeated interrogations and insufficient food.

On February 12, Hugo Torres died in detention. Torres a 73-year-old former companion of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, had been arbitrarily arrested in early June and accused of “treason.”

Prosecutors have based serious accusations solely on claims that the accused had given interviews to media outlets, shared WhatsApp messages, participated in meetings, or signed letters calling for free elections, demanding international condemnation of government abuses, or expressing support for sanctions against Nicaraguan officials.   

These trials contribute to President Ortega’s mounting record of abuse. Given the lack of judicial independence of Nicaraguan courts, this would provide victims the possibility of being heard by an independent body with a chance to holding perpetrators accountable.

Other inmates also are in dire straits, according to family members and rights defenders, who say the prisoners are malnourished, losing weight, teeth and memory, and getting weaker by the day.

Many are facing a serious risk to health and life,” the former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola, said on Twitter.

Ortega, who secured a fourth consecutive term in November elections, has faced widespread criticism from rights groups, opposition figures and international observers who decried the vote as “a sham”.

On Monday, the European Union’s external affairs spokesman, Peter Stano, sent “deep condolences” to Torres’s family and called for an independent investigation into his death. “We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners … subjected to inhumane detention conditions” in Nicaragua, Stano tweeted.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/24/vilma-nunez-human-rights-defender-who-stays-in-nicaragua/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/14/nicaraguas-ultimate-sham-trial

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/14/calls-grow-for-nicaragua-to-release-jailed-opposition-figures

Human Rights Defenders and the EU’s mandatory due diligence initiative

February 21, 2022

Since Mary Lawlor took up her mandate of Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, she has been paying close attention to the EU’s legislative initiative on sustainable corporate governance, and in particular to the proposed creation of binding obligations for companies to carry out due diligence to identify and address human rights and environmental risks linked to their activities. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/un-experts-urge-eu-to-take-the-lead-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-in-context-of-business/

The reason is that defenders who draw attention to the human rights and environmental risks associated with business projects, including of EU companies, and who seek accountability where violations and harms actually occur, are often at high risk of retaliation for their actions, in particular where they themselves are from the communities directly affected.

With this in mind, in September 2021, she issued the public statement referred to above calling on the EU Commission to seize the moment and craft a powerful, progressive proposal which would include safeguards for Human Rights Defenders highlighting corporate harms. She followed this up in November with a series of meetings with key EU Commissioners and their teams in Brussels, during which she outlined what she believes to be the key provisions to include in their proposal on due diligence for it to empower human rights defenders. This position has now become public through the paper below: