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Human rights - a silver thread through all external policies

Plenary Session Press release - Human rights16-12-2010 - 13:18

The need for a strong and effective EU human rights policy, which ensures greater consistency among all EU external policies, is the key message of Parliament's first human rights report since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, approved by a show of hands on Thursday. MEPs criticize the human rights records of, inter alia, China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.

With the EU External Action Service now in place, Parliament's rapporteur Laima Liucija Andrikienė (EPP, LT) called on the EU foreign policy High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton to ensure that human rights and democracy-building become "the silver thread running through all external policy areas" and that "human rights do not disappear from the structure".

A special human rights directorate should be put in place to ensure that human rights are at the heart of the EU's external actions, and a Special Representative for human rights should be appointed and given a clear mandate, MEPs add.

Towards a global moratorium on the death penalty

The EU opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and the campaign against capital punishment must remain an EU priority, with adequate financial assistance provided to NGOs via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), MEPs say.

MEPs welcome the Belarus authorities' plan to draft proposals for a moratorium on the death penalty, but are "concerned that executions are still carried out in Belarus, which is the only country in Europe that continues to use the death penalty."

Iran's leaders are urged to pass a law unequivocally banning stoning as a legal punishment, which MEPs describe as "the most barbaric form of the death penalty".

MEPs call on the Commission to consider imposing sanctions such as asset freezes or travel bans on a list of people in Iran responsible for human rights violations such as torture, censorship, rape, executions and extrajudicial killings.

MEPs are concerned that China still carries out the greatest number of executions worldwide and call upon it to make its national execution figures public, so that there can be transparent analysis and debate on the death penalty. They also urge Beijing to release human rights campaigner and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally from detention and to lift the restrictions on his wife Liu Xia.

An effective international justice system

The effectiveness of the international justice system depends upon as many states as possible signing up to the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute. MEPs  welcome the Statute's ratification by Bangladesh, the Seychelles, Saint Lucia and Moldova, bringing the total number of States Parties to 114. They insist that the court's decisions, and co-operation with it, should be raised during EU enlargement negotiations.

Violence against women and children's rights

The EU and its Member States should use every political means to induce the United Nations to adopt swiftly a resolution for a worldwide moratorium on female genital mutilation, says Parliament's resolution.

MEPs strongly condemn the use of rape as an instrument of war and the recurrent mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They ask for full details of the reasons for the MONUSCO UN peacekeeping force's inability to stop mass rapes.

An estimated 215 million children are victims of child labour, of whom three quarters perform the worst forms of child labour (ILO figures, 2009), notes the report. MEPs point out that there are states which still do not implement their UN obligations regarding the rights of children.

Human rights clauses in international agreements

"Human rights and democracy clauses and effective dispute mechanisms in trade agreements, including fisheries agreements", between the EU and third countries, are indispensable, emphasises the report. These clauses need an enforcement mechanism, including a clear set of human rights benchmarks, so that both parties to agreements clearly understand what situations and actions may trigger enforcement measures, it adds.

Protecting human rights defenders

MEPs deplore abuses of human rights defenders, the assassination of journalists in Russia and Rwanda, the arbitrary detention of campaigners in Iran and the plight of 2009 Sakharov Prize winner Hu Jia, during the 2009 reporting period.

Detaining human rights defenders is a grave human rights violation, say MEPs, who call on the government of Cuba "not to exile political prisoners but to give them the freedom to leave and to travel back to Cuba without being arrested." Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the 2010 European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, had to be represented by an empty chair at the award ceremony on Wednesday.

Magnitsky case in Russia

MEPs urge Russian judicial authorities to press ahead with the investigation of the death on 16 November 2009 of Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, a case which is "an outstanding example of the serious shortcomings within the country's judicial system (...) those guilty of aggressions against and even murder of human rights defenders, independent journalists and lawyers still too often enjoy impunity" says Parliament's resolution.

Parliament calls on the Council, in the absence of positive moves from the Russian authorities, to cooperate and investigate the case of Sergey Magnitsky, to insist that the Russian authorities bring those responsible to justice and to consider imposing an EU entry ban for Russian officials involved in this case. It also encourages EU law enforcement agencies to cooperate in freezing bank accounts and other assets of these Russian officials in all EU Member States.

Guantánamo prisoners

Although the US President decided to close the Guantánamo detention camp, this decision has not been fully implemented. MEPs call on Member States to assist the USA by granting refugee status to former detainees who are not charged with crimes and cannot be repatriated or resettled in the USA. To date, only 11 EU Member States (Germany, Ireland, Slovakia, Denmark and the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, Hungary and Italy), have agreed to take detainees.


Parliament's report is a response to the EU Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World presented by the High Representative Catherine Ashton at the June plenary session in Strasbourg. It covers the period between July 2008 and December 2009. From 2010 onwards, the report will cover the previous calendar year.

For the first time, Parliament's report includes also two annexes with a list of individual cases raised as well as the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament during the reporting period.

REF. : 20101215IPR10432