EU GUIDELINES ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

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The overall objective should be to bring about an environment where human rights defenders can operate freely. The EU will make its objectives known as an integral part of its human rights policy and will stress the importance it attaches to the protection of human rights defenders“. EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, §12.

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which came into force on January 1, 2007, is the concrete expression of the intent of the European Union (EU) to mainstream the promotion of democracy and human rights within all its external policies.

Also, in June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were reviewed at the end of 2008. These Guidelines contain practical suggestions to the attention of bodies, institutions and EU missions (embassies of EU member-States and European Commission Delegations) aiming to strengthen EU action in terms of support and protection of human rights defenders and their cause, in the framework of contacts with third countries and within multilateral arenas.

Within the EU, there is no protection mechanism for human rights defenders working on territories of EU member States.

A mechanism of the EU external policy: the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

In June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were assessed in 2006 and reviewed at the end of 2008. These Guidelines contain practical suggestions to the attention of bodies, institutions and EU missions (embassies of EU member-States and European Commission Delegations) aiming to strengthen EU action in terms of support and protection of human rights defenders and their cause.

The Guidelines provide practical suggestions for enhancing EU action in relation to this issue. The Guidelines can be used in contacts with third countries at all levels as well as in multilateral human rights fora, in order to support and strengthen ongoing efforts by the Union to promote and encourage respect for the right to defend human rights. The Guidelines also provide for interventions by the Union for human rights defenders at risk and suggest practical means to support and assist human rights defenders. An important element of the Guidelines is support for the Special Procedures of the UN Commission on Human Rights, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and appropriate regional mechanisms to protect human rights defenders. The Guidelines assist EU Missions (Embassies and Consulates of EU Member States and European Commission Delegations) in their approach to human rights defenders. While addressing specific concerns regarding human rights defenders is their primary purpose, the Guidelines also contribute to reinforcing the EU’s human rights policy in general.

The Guidelines provide particular actions such as:

  • periodic meetings of embassies personnel with human rights defenders,
  • providing visible recognition to human rights defenders and their work,
  • observing trials held against defenders,
  • visiting defenders in jail,
  • delivering emergency visas,
  • elaborating local strategies of implementation of the Guidelines,
  • promoting regional and international mechanisms of protection of defenders,
  • etc.

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