Posts Tagged ‘European Parliament’

EU Parliament ‘improves’ proposed Terrorist Content Regulation

April 18, 2019

After my earlier piece about the risks in the draft EU regulation on terrorism content [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/ngos-express-fear-that-new-eu-terrorist-content-draft-will-make-things-worse-for-human-rights-defenders/], I am happy to report that some NGOs have welcomed the changes now made in the latest version.

On 17 April 2019 eub2 reports that “EU Parliament deletes the worst threats to freedom of expression proposed in the Terrorist Content Regulation”: Read the rest of this entry »

Fake news targeted Sakharov award nominee Zefzafi in Moroccan media

April 5, 2019

In September 2018, Nasser Zefzafi, imprisoned leader of Morocco’s Hirak protest movement in the Rif region, was nominated for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought. The annual award was established in 1988 to honor ‘’individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe.’’ [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/]

Zefazfi is currently serving a 20-year prison term for his role as a leader in the Hirak protests. … Zefzafi made it to the list of three finalists for the Sakharov Prize, but did not win. It was instead awarded to Ukrainian film director and writer Oleg Sentsov. Following the announcement of the winner on 25 October, Moroccan news site Cawalisse published a fabricated story alleging that the European Parliament “withdrew Zefzafi’s name from the list of winners’’ because he is a “criminal who has no link to human rights.”

Screenshot of the fabricated Cawalisse story alleging that the European Parliament deemed Zefzafi  a ”criminal’.

The article (which does not list an author!) states that “a group of lobbies from within the European Parliament, including those that support Polisario separatists and those hired by drug gangs, pressured the prize’s committee to award it to Zefzafi and give his crimes the label of protecting rights.” The story is completely false. It is based on fabricated facts and conspiracy theories. The European Parliament never maintained that Zefzafi was a criminal, nor did they withdraw his name “from the list of winners.” He was simply not chosen to win the prize. In fact, there was no “list of winners” in the first place, but only one winner, Oleg Sentsov…

https://advox.globalvoices.org/2019/04/04/how-pro-government-media-in-morocco-use-fake-news-to-target-and-silence-rif-activists/

European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri: “it makes no sense to continue talks on EU membership”

February 20, 2019

Today the foreign affairs committee voted its annual report on Turkey, drafted by Socialists & Democrats MEP Kati Piri, in which European Parliamentarians called on the member states to formally suspend the accession negotiation with Ankara, due to a stark regression in the area of the rule of law and human rights in the country during the last few years. Kati Piri is also the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey.

The latest European Parliament report on Turkey set a clear red line: if the constitutional reform package, including the expansion of the president’s powers were to be implemented unchanged, then Turkey’s EU accession talks should be suspended without delay.  The procedure for suspending EU accession negotiations, sets out in Article 5 of the Negotiating Framework for Turkey stipulates that “in the case of a serious and persistent breach in Turkey of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded, the Commission will, on its own initiative or on the request of one third of the Member States, recommend the suspension of negotiations and propose the conditions for eventual resumption.

The rapid decline of the rule of law in Turkey, is also reflected in the European Parliament’s position on the accession process. With all the flagrant human rights violations, the lack of judicial independence and the implementation of a new constitution missing crucial checks and balances, it makes no sense to continue talks on EU membership with the current government. When a candidate country crosses key red lines, there should also be political consequences,” said Kati Piri.

(note that the report also expresses the will to keep bridges with the citizens of Turkey and continue to provide support to civil society)

https://www.europeaninterest.eu/article/sds-turkey-crossed-red-lines/

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See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/

European Parliament wants more funding for NGOs and civil society to defend human rights and democracy

January 18, 2019

The EU should do more to promote democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights across the EU, including through support to civil society organisations, says an article in the European Sting of 18 January 2019.

MEPs endorsed on Thursday the position of the Civil Liberties Committee to triple the funds allocated in the long-term EU budget (2021-2027) for the Rights and Values Programme, up to 1.834 billion euros (the European Commission had proposed €642 million). Parliament’s mandate to start negotiations with EU ministers was approved with 426 votes to 152 and 45 abstentions. With a general objective to protect and promote the rights and values enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty through support to civil society organisations at local, regional, national and transnational level, the Programme seeks to promote equality and non-discrimination, encourage citizens’ engagement and participation in the democratic process, and fight violence.

MEPs decided to specifically mention the protection and promotion of democracy and the rule of law as the main aim, as these are a prerequisite for protecting fundamental rights and for ensuring mutual trust among member states and of citizens’ trust in the European Union, says the text.

Regarding the activities to be funded with EU money, Parliament suggests awareness-raising campaigns on European core values and the rights and obligations derived from EU citizenship. Initiatives to reflect on the factors that lead to totalitarian regimes occurring and to commemorate their victims were also suggested. MEPs also want to support town-twinning projects, human rights defenders and whistle-blowers, measures countering hate-speech and misinformation, and protection of victims of violence, among others.

MEPs agreed that, in exceptional cases, when there is a serious and rapid deterioration of the situation in a member state and the founding values are at risk, the European Commission may open a call for proposals, under a fast-track procedure, to fund civil society organisations to facilitate and support the democratic dialogue in the country.

Promoting rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU

NEW: Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement

December 15, 2018

On 11 December 2018 the European Parliament published “Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement”, done by external authors Par ENGSTROM and Giulia BONACQUISTI. 

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for human rights defenders and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/27/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-awarded-to-venezuela-opposition/]. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI). Dr. Par Engstrom (University College London) presented the first draft of an independent study analysing the main human rights developments in Cuba and Venezuela since 2014 and the EU’s response. The paper, which focused specifically on the Sakharov laureates, was discussed with Members and other experts, including from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European External Action Service and the European Commission. During the lively discussion, there was broad agreement with the description of major trends in the human rights situation in the two countries. Critical comments and controversial issues related to the impact of the government’s repression of the Venezuelan opposition, the need to consider not only civil and political but also economic and social rights, the effectiveness of sanctions against Venezuela and the potential role of the Sakharov Prize. Observations and comments made during the workshop fed into the final version of the study, which is also included in this report.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/search.html?word=Venezuela

Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov wins EU’s Sakharov prize for human rights

October 27, 2018

Video by Claire PRYDE

The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, jailed in Russia for opposing its annexation of Crimea and described as a “symbol of the struggle” to free political prisoners. {https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/}

“Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said.

Sentsov, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle. The 42-year-old was convicted of an alleged arson plot in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and triggered sanctions from the European Union.

Sentsov’s cousin Natalya Kaplan, who lives in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said she hopes the prize will raise his morale when he finally hears about it. “I hope (this) will help Oleg to further stay strong and of course I am happy for him. He deserved this,” Kaplan told AFP in written remarks.

Sentsov started a hunger strike on May 14 demanding the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, and his deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community. Sentsov called off the protest after 145 days to avoid being force-fed.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181025-jailed-ukrainian-filmmaker-oleg-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-human-rights

Will Pakistan pass again the human rights progress test in the EU parliament?

February 6, 2018

, in a piece in The News on Sunday (TNS) refers to the upcoming debate in the European Parliament about whether or not Pakistan will get a prolongation of its ‘Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status‘ by the EU (giving easy access to the EU market for textile). The second periodic review has been done and the report will be discussed in the EU Parliament shortly. The continuation or discontinuation of the status for Pakistan is crucial:

Some of the important observations made by the EU team:

It points out the government of Pakistan has established a system of Treaty Implementation Cells (TICs) at federal and provincial levels, tasked with coordinating the implementation of treaty obligations between different line ministries and departments and between the federal and provincial levels. The National Commission of Human Right (NCHR) has been established though its functional and budgetary autonomy is yet to be fully materialised. Besides, it says, the federal and provincial Commissions on the Status of Women have also played an important role in promoting human rights in Pakistan. It also praises the government’s intention “to improve data collection by establishing a Human Rights Management Information System, which will be anchored in a National Human Rights Institute.”

On the other hand, it identifies outstanding issues and points out that the right to a fair trial remains a major concern, stemming from weaknesses of the judicial system. “A large backlog of cases resulting in defendants spending years in jail before their case is heard continues to be a problem. The registration process of international NGOs (INGOs) continues to be slow and nontransparent.” The issues of forced marriages, forced conversions, forced disappearances, custodial deaths, death penalty etc have been taken up in the report as well. The concerns about freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, the situation of human rights defenders and civil society activists, and the overall ‘shrinking civil society space’ are also there.

Regarding the eight conventions on labour rights, the review report talks about the formation of a national labour protection framework by the federal and provincial authorities, the ongoing labour force and child labour surveys, improvements in the area of tripartite dialogue, formation of trade unions in the informal sector etc but calls upon the government to address the persistent obstacles for the registration and functioning of trade unions. The issues of child labour and bonded labour have also been discussed along with the efforts to curb these…

Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director Homenet Pakistan, says it is a mix picture and the report seems to have categorically analysed the present situation of Pakistan’s executive and legislature. She finds the review report an eye-opener and urges the government functionaries to do the needful. For example, she says, “The number of labour inspectors has been stagnating countrywide and the whole labour inspection system is in need of reform, which is essential to improve the enforcement of labour rights and working conditions. Without an effective labour inspection system it is impossible to ensure labour rights.”

Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director Pakistan Institute for Labour Education & Research (PILER), hopes the GSP Plus status will continue as the report seems to be appreciative of the pro-rights legislation done by the government. “Though it highlights human rights violation in Pakistan, it appreciates the measures taken for improvement as well.” However, he says, the review appears to be biased in favour of the government in terms of labour rights in a scenario where only one per cent of the workforce is unionised.

Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), shares it with TNS that the second review is different from the first because this time the third party evaluation has also been done on the behest of EU. Due to this, she says, the findings cannot be termed biased as happens when the civil society of the country gives its input. The government shall seek guidelines from the report and its recommendations for the sake of its citizens as well as the continuation of GSP Plus status. Khaliq appreciates the fact that the government has recently submitted its reports to the UN regarding compliance with its certain conventions, terming it a positive trend. Earlier, there would be reluctance and delays in this regard. Lastly, she thinks even the EU Parliament is answerable to the highly vigilant civil society in Europe and cannot ignore it while deciding on the continuation of this preferential status. “So, it is equally important to convince the civil society that we are taking these issues seriously.”

European Parliament votes to restrict exports of surveillance equipment

January 22, 2018

Members of the European Parliament have voted to curb export of surveillance equipment to states with poor human rights records, following mounting evidence that equipment supplied by companies in Europe has been used by oppressive regimes to suppress political opponents, journalists and campaigners. MEPs in Strasbourg agreed on 17 January to extend EU export controls to include new restrictions on the export of surveillance equipment, including devices for intercepting mobile phones, hacking computers, circumventing passwords and identifying internet users. The proposals also seek to remove encryption technologies from the list of technologies covered by EU export controls, in a move which aims to make it easier for people living in oppressive regimes to gain access to secure communications which can circumvent state surveillance.

Dictators spy on their citizens using EU cyber-surveillance. This must stop. The EU cannot contribute to the suffering of courageous activists, who often risk their lives for freedom and democracy,” said MEP Klaus Buchner, European Parliament rapporteur. “We are determined to close dangerous gaps in the export of dual-use goods and call on member states to follow suit.”

The proposed changes to the EU dual use export control regime are likely to face opposition from the defence industry and governments, as the European Parliament, and the European Commission prepare to negotiate their implantation with Europe’s 28 member states.

European technology companies, including UK firms, have supplied equipment that  has been used for arresting, torturing, and killing people in Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Morocco, according to the European Parliament. An investigation by Computer Weekly revealed that the UK government had approved export licences to Gamma International (UK) to supply mobile phone interception equipment, known as IMSI catchers, to Macedonia, when the regime was engaged in a massive illegal surveillance operation against the public and political opponents.

And the UK’s largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, has exported equipment capable of mass internet surveillance to countries that campaigners say regularly commit human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria. An overwhelming majority of MEPs supported reforms to the EU’s export control regime, which will require member states to deny export licences if the export of surveillance technology is likely to lead to a serious impact on human rights in the destination country. The proposed changes, backed by 571 votes to 29 against, with 29 abstentions, will impose tough requirements for EU governments.

Member states will be required to assess the likely impact of surveillance technology on citizens’ right to privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of association, in the destination country before they grant  export licences – a significant step up from current levels of scrutiny.

The proposed rules contain safeguards, however, that will allow legitimate cyber-security research to continue. Companies exporting products that are not specifically listed will be expected to follow the OECD’s “due diligence” guidelines, if there is a risk they could support human-rights violations.

Improved transparency measures will require member states to record and make data on approved and declined export licences publicly available, opening up the secretive global trade in surveillance technologies to greater public scrutiny.

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/252433519/European-Parliament-votes-to-restrict-exports-of-surveillance-equipment

European Parliament’s Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition

October 27, 2017

Only a week ago I mentioned the curiously collective award given to the South-Korean people [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/korean-people-win-friedrich-ebert-human-rights-award-for-candlelight-rallies/], and now the European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Venezuela‘s opposition-dominated National Assembly, as well as to political prisoners in the country.

Opposition MP Freddy Guevara in Caracas (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Cubillos)

The National Assembly in Venezuela was nominated for the award by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) parliamentary grouping along with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE group). MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca said “they are brave people who, despite being beaten or imprisoned, are not afraid and do not give up, but fight for their freedom and for their dignity.” Fellow MEP Guy Verhofstadt said the award supported “the fight of democratic forces in favor of a democratic Venezuela and against the Maduro regime.”

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought: http://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/publicpage#/awards/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought, where you can also learn more about the other two awards named after Sakharov.

Previous winners of the Sakharov Prize include Yazidi women [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/01/sakharov-prize-2016-went-ultimately-to-two-yazidi-women/] and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/].

Source: Sakharov prize awarded to Venezuela opposition | News

EU adopts Urgent Resolution on Ilham Tohti and the Tibetan Buddhist Academy

December 15, 2016

Just now, on 15 December 2016, the European Parliament adopted an urgent and substantive resolution on breaches of human rights, democracy, and rule of law in China. The resolution condemns in particular exactions committed in East Turkestan and Tibet against the Uyghur and Tibetan populations respectively and addresses the cases of the imprisonment of economics professor Ilham Tohti (MEA Laureate 2016) and the dismantling of Larung Gar, the largest Buddhist institute in the world. The EU demands Tohti’s immediate and unconditional release, recalling his scholarly work on Uyghur-Han relations. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/]

Tohti Ilham

 

 

 

 

 

The resolution below (in full) was published by the European Parliament: Read the rest of this entry »