A strong and effective EU human rights policy that guarantees greater consistency between its internal and external policies is the main message of first EP human rights report drafted following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and adopted in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
With the External Action Service in place, MEPs want to ensure that the High Representative Catherine Ashton keeps to her commitment on mainstreaming human rights throughout the EU’s external action, including defence, development and trade policy. MEPs welcome the fundamental review of all EU instruments in the field of human rights, as announced by Ms Ashton, and want the European Parliament to be fully involved in the consultation process.
Because accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is "an opportunity to prove its commitment to defending human rights inside and outside its borders", MEPs call on EU Member States to support ratification. Individuals who feel their rights have been infringed by the EU will in future be able to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Towards a global moratorium on death penalty
The Foreign Affairs Committee stresses that the EU is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and says the campaign against capital punishment must remain a priority of the EU, with adequate financial assistance provided to NGOs via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
The authorities of Belarus have announced their plan to draft proposals for a moratorium on the death penalty. MEPs welcome this development 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".
An effective system of international justice
An effective international justice system requires the largest possible number of states to sign up to the ICC Rome Statute. MEPs therefore welcome the ratification of the Rome Statute by Bangladesh, the Seychelles, Saint Lucia and Moldova, bringing the total number of States Parties to 114. They insist that ICC decisions as well as cooperation with the ICC should be raised during 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 the draft report.
MEPs strongly condemn the use of rape as an instrument of war and the recurrent mass rapes in DR Congo. They ask for full details of the inability of MONUSCO peacekeeping force to stop mass rapes.
Some 215 million children are estimated to be victims of child labour, of whom three quarters perform the worst forms of child labour (ILO figures, 2009). MEPs voice grave concern that millions of children are still victims of rape, domestic violence, physical emotional and sexual abuse, including sexual and economic exploitation. 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. This clause needs an enforcement mechanism, including a clear set of human rights benchmarks so that there is a is a clear understanding for both parties on what situations and actions may trigger such human rights clauses.
Protecting human rights defenders
Turning to abuses of human rights defenders, the assassinations of journalists in Russia and Rwanda, arbitrary detentions of campaigners in Iran and the plight of Hu Jia, the 2009 Sakharov Prize winner, are only the most prominent of such abuses deplored by MEPs in this reporting period.
MEPs point out that in several countries attacks and anonymous threats against human rights defenders are commonplace. Journalists, in particular those covering corruption and drug trafficking, face threats and attacks because of their work.
The detention of human rights defenders is a grave human rights violation. MEPs therefore 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."
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.
The draft report, by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (EPP, LT), was approved in committee by fifty votes to two. It will be put to the vote during the December plenary when the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded to Cuban political dissident Guillermo Fariñas.
The EP 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 in Strasbourg. It covers the period between July 2008 and December 2009. From 2010 onwards the report will cover the previous calendar year.
In the chair: Gabriele Albertini (EPP, IT)
In the Chair of : Gabriele ALBERTINI (EPP, IT)