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Press release

MEPs review progress on human rights in the world in 2007

Human rights - 02-04-2008 - 12:47
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The Foreign Affairs Committee adopted on Wednesday the draft EP annual report on human rights in the world in 2007. The report looks at a range of human rights issues as well as highlighting the situation in countries of particular concern such as China, Iran and Russia. It also evaluates the EU's efforts to promote human rights through its policies.

The report, drafted by Marco Cappato (ALDE, IT), is in part a response to the annual report on human rights published by the Council and Commission last October.
Death penalty, women's rights and children's rights
The death penalty is one of the general topics examined. The adoption in 2007 of a UN resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty is seen as a huge step forward. However, MEPs still want to see "the eradication of capital punishment in Europe" and ultimately its universal abolition.
Women's rights is another key issue, which the committee says should be raised in all EU human rights dialogues, with the aim of combating "discrimination and violence against women and girls, including, most prominently, gender-selected abortion, all forms of harmful traditional or customary practices, for example female genital mutilation and early or forced marriage". 
Among other areas covered are children's rights (including the special problem of children and armed conflict), torture, the protection of human rights defenders and the rights of minorities and the disabled.
China, Iran and Russia
Several countries are singled out for special attention. The committee "expresses its disquiet at the serious human rights violations in China and stresses that, despite promises made by the regime with a view to the forthcoming Olympic Games, the situation on the ground regarding human rights has not improved". Moreover, it says that China "still carries out the greatest number of executions worldwide".  (Parliament is due to vote on a separate resolution on the situation in Tibet on 10 April.)
MEPs are "deeply concerned that respect for fundamental rights in Iran, especially freedom of expression and assembly, continued to deteriorate in 2007". Iran is condemned for its "increasing use of capital punishment" and the arrest of thousands of men and women for "immoral behaviour", and is urged to resume the human rights dialogue interrupted in 2007.
In Russia, the situation in Chechnya is highlighted, together with the persecution of journalists, human rights defenders and political prisoners (including Mikhail Khodorkovsky) and Russia's unwillingness to admit election observers. There is disappointment at the "lack of results from the European Union-Russia consultations on human rights".
Among other countries highlighted are Sudan (Darfur), Uzbekistan, Burma and Pakistan.
Human rights work of the UN, the European Union …
Turning to the work of international actors, the new UN Human Rights Council is seen as having "potential" but the committee regrets that during the last year it "has not improved the United Nations' human rights record".
The German and Portuguese EU presidencies are congratulated on their achievements in 2007, such as progress towards finalising EU guidelines on the rights of the child.  However, the committee says "the European Union is still far from conducting a coherent and hard-hitting policy to uphold and promote human rights around the world". Moreover, assessing the human rights impact of its policies is not easy, partly owing to a lack of data. The committee calls for "quantifiable indices and benchmarks" to measure their effectiveness.  More broadly, Mr Cappato's report argues that the promotion of "non-violence" as a guiding principle should be "a priority objective in EU human rights and democracy policy".
All EU states that have failed to sign certain international human rights conventions are pressed to do so, including the Czech Republic as "the only remaining EU Member State not to have ratified the Rome Statute" on the International Criminal Court.  Romania is urged to rescind its Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the USA on the ICC.
… and the European Parliament
Lastly, human rights play a prominent role in the work of the European Parliament itself. A high-profile example last year was the report of the EP temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for "rendition flights".  Another is the holding of regular "urgency" debates and resolutions on human rights. The report calls on the Council to attend these debates and for the resolutions be translated into the languages spoken in the target areas. Finally, it calls for the EP to be involved in the EU's human rights dialogues and consultations with partner countries.
Procedure: Own-initiative -- Committee vote: 60 votes in favour, 0 against with 3 abstentions -- Plenary vote: 8 May, Brussels
Committee on Foreign Affairs
In the chair : Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP-ED, PL)
REF.: 20080402IPR25550