Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 19 December 2019 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Violations of human rights including religious freedoms in Burkina Faso
 Afghanistan, notably the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the Logar Province
 The Russian "Foreign Agents" Law
 Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Romanian revolution of December 1989
 Situation of the Uyghur in China (China-cables)
 Situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua
 Violent crackdown on recent protests in Iran

Violations of human rights including religious freedoms in Burkina Faso
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on violations of human rights including religious freedoms in Burkina Faso (2019/2980(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0106RC-B9-0261/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the declaration of 10 December 2019 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on behalf of the EU on Human Rights Day,

–  having regard to the Commission press release of 13 November 2019 announcing an additional EUR 35 million in humanitarian aid for Africa’s Sahel region,

–  having regard to the statement of 7 November 2019 by the Spokesperson of the VP/HR on the attacks in Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the visit of VP/HR Federica Mogherini to the Sahel region in July 2019, and to her speech of 9 July 2019 in Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the speech on behalf of VP/HR Federica Mogherini of 17 September 2019 at its plenary debate on the security situation in Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘The Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Freedom of Expression’, published by its Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union on February 2009,

–  having regard to the public hearing of its Subcommittee on Human Rights entitled ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief: the situation of persecuted minorities, notably Christians’, held on 22 November 2017,

–  having regard to the report of the Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief of 21 November 2019 entitled ‘The mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union: activities and recommendations’,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines for the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief of 2013,

–  having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part (Cotonou Agreement),

–  having regard to the statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the High-Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations of 1 December 2019 on the attack on a church in Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council report of 11 November 2019 on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel,

–  having regard to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) country operation update of October 2019 on Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the statement of the UN Secretary-General of 13 October 2019 on the attack on a mosque in northern Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to UNICEF Humanitarian Situation Report No 8 on Burkina Faso of October 2019,

–  having regard to the Human Development Report 2019 on inequalities in human development in the 21st century, and in particular the human development report on Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, of which Burkina Faso is a signatory,

–  having regard to the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites of 12 September 2019,

–  having regard to the Constitution of the Republic of Burkina Faso,

–  having regard to the statement issued by bishops, priests and secular delegates of episcopal conferences of Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast and Ghana, following the Inter-Conferences Workshop on Security in the Sahel of 12 and 13 November 2019,

–  having regard to the statement of Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on 5 July 2019,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which was adopted on 27 June 1981 and entered into force on 21 October 1986,

–  having regard to the Paris Peace Forum of 12 and 13 November 2019,

–  having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Burkina Faso had a strong tradition of religious tolerance and secularism but has become vulnerable to instability – particularly as a result of Islamist radicalisation, which is plaguing the greater Sahel region – and is facing a combination of escalating violence, displacement, hunger, poverty and climate change;

B.  whereas the growing insecurity in Burkina Faso has led to terrible crimes by both jihadists and other armed groups; whereas according to a Human Rights Watch report, these armed groups in Burkina Faso have executed suspected government collaborators, intimidated teachers and spread fear among civilians throughout the country; whereas Burkinabè security forces conducted counterterrorism operations in 2017 and 2018 that resulted in extrajudicial killings, abuse of suspects in custody and arbitrary arrests; whereas the Burkinabè Government promised to investigate these allegations;

C.  whereas since 2015, jihadists and other armed groups that were previously active in neighbouring Mali have terrorised the Burkinabè population and committed a number of attacks against state symbols such as military targets, schools and healthcare facilities, but also in particular against churches and Christian worshippers; whereas since 2015, attacks by jihadists and other armed groups have killed at least 700 people and wounded thousands in Ouagadougou and the northern provinces, in particular Soum Province, and spread to the eastern and western provinces in 2018; whereas violence does not affect Christians exclusively; whereas on 11 October 2019, for example, a mosque in the town of Salmossi, in northern Burkina Faso, was attacked during Friday prayers;

D.  whereas 520 security incidents were reported between January and November 2019 compared to 404 registered between 2015 and 2018; whereas in October 2019 alone, 52 incidents related to non-state armed groups were recorded, of which nearly 70 % targeted civilians and security forces;

E.  whereas attacks have been committed both by transnational armed groups operating from across the Malian and Nigerien borders, including Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and by domestic groups, primarily Ansarul Islam, that operate out of Burkina Faso’s northern and eastern provinces;

F.  whereas in 2019, over 60 Christians were killed in Burkina Faso in multiple attacks, including the most recent attack of 1 December 2019 against worshippers attending a Sunday service at a Protestant church in the eastern town of Hantoukoura, which resulted in 14 deaths;

G.  whereas a number of priests, clergymen and Christian worshippers have been victims of targeted assassinations and kidnappings throughout the country; whereas as a result of the increasing violence, many people, in particular in the north, have abandoned their traditional homes, such as most recently the villages of Hitté and Rounga, and fled to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or other parts of the country, including the capital Ouagadougou;

H.  whereas Burkina Faso’s population is predominately Mālikī Sunni, with large Christian and indigenous religious minorities; whereas interreligious boundaries in Burkina Faso are fluid, as followers of all religions commonly engage in syncretic practices and religious tolerance is the norm; whereas both Sunni and Christian places of worship have recently been targets of guerrilla attacks by Salafi armed groups; whereas this has contributed to increased interreligious tensions, and whereas the persecution of religious communities, including people from a large number of Christian denominations, has resulted in the disruption of the social fabric and increased levels of emigration;

I.  whereas jihadist groups want to put pressure on interfaith coexistence in Burkina Faso, as part of their broader strategy to foster interethnic and religious conflicts and displace the population;

J.  whereas as a result of the lack of government protection, security measures have been recommended by Bishop Justin Kientega of the diocese of Ouahigouya in the northeast of Burkina Faso in order to better protect Christian worshippers;

K.  whereas, as a result of the violence in August, Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori, President of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, called on the global community to increase their support for Christians in Burkina Faso in order to prevent ‘the elimination of the Christian presence’; whereas there have been repeated calls to denounce the threats of censorship and support continued interreligious dialogue;

L.  whereas in his Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, published on 12 September 2019, the UN Secretary-General stressed that houses of worship around the world must be safe havens for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror, and people must be allowed to observe and practice their faith in peace;

M.  whereas humanitarian organisations, many of which are faith-based, play a vital role in helping victims of violence, in particular women, children and IDPs;

N.  whereas the Government of Burkina Faso seems to lack the capacity to effectively implement solutions to the enormous security, social and economic challenges in the country; whereas some regions, in particular in the northeast of the country, are effectively cut off from the central government;

O.  whereas Burkina Faso ranks among the 10 poorest countries in the world; whereas instability, climate change and conflict in the country have further diminished economic opportunities, enhanced poverty and resulted in acute food shortages; whereas these consequences are compounded by the northern region’s rapid desertification and resulting water shortages, soil degradation and resource scarcity; whereas as a result, over 1 million people are at risk of food shortages and 1.5 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance;

P.  whereas in 2014, the adult literacy rate was estimated to be 34.5 %; whereas increased insecurity and terrorism in certain regions of the country are having negative effects on the education and health sectors; whereas 85 health facilities and more than 2 000 schools have been forced to shut down, affecting respectively more than 1 million patients and 300 000 students; whereas 93 other health facilities are at their minimal operational level due to the current dire security situation;

Q.  whereas the violence in Burkina Faso has led to the displacement of nearly half a million people; whereas many of them are vulnerable and children constitute 44 % of those displaced; whereas Burkina Faso hosts an additional 31 000 Malian refugees; whereas the UNHCR faces severe challenges in accessing IDPs and refugees in Burkina Faso; whereas IDPs and refugees affected by the humanitarian crisis in the region are exposed to protection risks and their presence may lead to conflict with the local population over scarce natural resources if no adequate measures are taken to provide housing, employment and food; whereas the resulting resource conflicts threaten to further contribute to the cycle of violence in the country;

R.  whereas over the last seven years, the EU has mobilised more than EUR 1 billion for development programmes in Burkina Faso and has recently allocated EUR 15.7 million to tackle the major issue of food insecurity and malnutrition among IDPs; whereas the country is one of the main beneficiaries of financial support (EUR 628 million) from the European Development Fund (EDF) and also is also receiving substantial financial support (EUR 245.8 million) from the EDF-funded Emergency Trust Fund for the period 2016-2020;

S.  whereas Burkina Faso participates in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and the G5 Sahel; whereas its participation in these missions and initiatives has made the country a primary target for non-state armed groups seeking to disrupt and discourage Burkina Faso’s contribution to regional security; whereas a report by the UN Secretary-General has highlighted human rights violations committed by Malian troops from the G5 Sahel;

T.  whereas the EU directly contributes to stability in the Sahel region through the civilian EUCAP SAHEL missions in Mali and Niger and through the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali), as well as indirectly through the participation of Member States in MINUSMA and Operation Barkhane; whereas the EU-supported G5 Sahel, a collaborative defence effort between Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, enhances the coordination of regional development and security to neutralise armed groups and diminish their attractiveness; whereas an attack on a military base in Tahoua, Niger, on 11 December 2019 killed 71 Nigerien soldiers and injured 12 in the deadliest single incident in the region since 2016;

U.  whereas at a summit in Ouagadougou on 14 September 2019, the Economic Community Summit of West African States (ECOWAS) announced a plan worth USD 1 billion to combat rising insecurity in the Sahel region;

V.  whereas the EU’s common foreign and security policy aims to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;

1.  Strongly condemns any form of violence, intimidation and kidnapping of civilians, aimed at security services, religious sites and worshippers in Burkina Faso, in particular violence targeting specific religious communities, and the political instrumentalisation and misuse of religion to legitimise the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities;

2.  Extends its condolences to the families of the victims and the Government of Burkina Faso; expresses its solidarity with the Burkinabè people, who are now being plunged into mourning on an almost daily basis by attacks targeting civilians, security forces and members of Christian communities and other religious minorities;

3.  Calls on the national authorities to invest more in national dialogue as an important building block for cohesion; highlights the need to foster unity and dialogue between all communities in Burkina Faso, including traditional leaders and civil society organisations, in order to counter the attempt to spread hatred and create inter-community tensions;

4.  Calls on the Government of Burkina Faso to increase its support for and protection of Muslim, Christian and animist communities in order to maintain the long-lasting Burkinabè tradition of the peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity; calls for additional support for victims of violence, particularly woman and children;

5.  Recalls that the fight against terrorism can only bear fruit if security forces respect the rule of law and human rights; urges the Burkinabè Government, against this background, to immediately put an end to its abusive counter-insurgency strategy, notably the summary execution of suspects, which risks inflaming the conflict by driving more people into the hands of militant Islamist recruiters;

6.  Calls on the Burkinabè Government to deliver on its commitment to investigate alleged abuses by state forces, take concrete measures to prevent any further abuses and base its strategy for combating terrorism and violent extremism on the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights, in accordance with its obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law;

7.  Insists on a comprehensive approach towards preventing radicalisation and terrorism focused on strengthening social cohesion and crime prevention; calls on the Burkinabè authorities to step up their efforts to reduce poverty, create better employment prospects, especially for young people, and empower and respect the individual, so as to eliminate at the source grievances and frustrations that could potentially be exploited by violent extremists; reiterates that investment in education is essential for conflict prevention and the reconstruction of peaceful and inclusive societies;

8.  Recalls that linking political, security and sustainable development, also to religious awareness through the promotion of inter-religious dialogue, will be essential to finding a long-lasting solution to the various challenges faced by Burkina Faso and the Sahel region;

9.  Calls for international coordination throughout the region, notably in the framework of ECOWAS, with the political objectives of safeguarding the territorial sovereignty and integrity of its members, regional democratic institutions, the security of all citizens and their properties; recalls that the situation in Burkina Faso has a direct impact on its neighbouring states; calls on the Burkinabè Government to further intensify its cooperation with its neighbouring states, especially with regard to its northern regions and those states directly affected by the violence, such as Mali and Niger;

10.  Commends the EU and its Member States for supporting the G5 Sahel, MINUSMA and Operation Barkhane; further commends the efforts of the civilian EUCAP SAHEL missions in Mali and Niger and of the military training mission EUTM Mali; calls for the EU to further increase its support to Burkina Faso in order to tackle the enormous security challenges in the country; emphasises the need for more comprehensive and coordinated international security action in Burkina Faso; calls on the G5 Sahel countries and international donors to step up their efforts in order to turn the joint military force of the G5 Sahel into an operational force with sufficient means without further delay, while fully respecting human rights;

11.  Stresses that security is vital, but that it is not the only answer to the challenges that Burkina Faso is facing, and that, therefore, coordination between security and development and trade policies is one of the essential challenges; underscores that the security of the local population should be the guiding principle of EU security sector reform and assistance efforts in fragile countries and regions;

12.  Notes that conflict, displacement and desertification make it difficult to engage in traditional types of employment; highlights the fact that 65 % of the Burkinabè population is under 25 years of age; believes that security operations in Burkina Faso must be accompanied by local development efforts aimed at decreasing inequality and improving infrastructure, political participation, justice provision, female emancipation and economic opportunities;

13.  Notes the deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso and its international geopolitical implications; underlines the fact that the EU’s continued security and political assistance with the G5-Sahel-led efforts in the region is imperative, including for the peace process in Mali; calls for increased support for the security forces in Burkina Faso to enable them to respond to the threats of jihadist attacks and violence, and to support government control in the northern and eastern regions;

14.  Stresses that international coordination is also crucial and that the EU should be willing to engage even more with the whole region and integrate this in its new ‘EU-Africa Strategy – a partnership for sustainable and inclusive development’;

15.  Calls on the European External Action Service to include the effective practice of interreligious dialogue as a tool in its strategy for communication with third countries and to encourage mediation in conflict situations with the aim of protecting religious minorities and the freedom of religion and belief;

16.  Welcomes the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, which was developed by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and announced by the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres on 12 September 2019;

17.  Emphasises that the priority in the combat against terrorism is to end the international funding of jihadist armed groups on the one hand and to tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality on the other;

18.  Believes that the EU must work with ECOWAS and the government and all stakeholders in Burkina Faso to strengthen development, education and climate change adaptation efforts in order to tackle poverty and prevent further radicalisation; stresses that climate change is a major risk multiplier for conflict, drought, famine and displacement; urges the Government of Burkina Faso to prioritise the fight against corruption and impunity;

19.  Expresses particular concern over the impact of security threats on the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and development cooperation; urges the Member States and the international community to increase their humanitarian assistance to Burkina Faso, in particular through the provision of food, water and medical services; warns that another humanitarian crisis will arise if the basic needs of the displaced and hosting communities (such as food, water, shelter and healthcare) are not met;

20.  Calls on the Government of Burkina Faso to safeguard the delivery of humanitarian assistance and food aid, in particular in areas with limited humanitarian access, and to take specific measures to reinforce actions for the prevention and management of acute malnutrition in IDP camps, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups, including women and children;

21.  Urges the Government of Burkina Faso to secure and facilitate livestock transhumance movements to prevent community conflicts, and to increase the availability of, and access of livestock to, food, water and care in areas with significant feed deficits;

22.  Expresses its gratitude for the important work carried out by NGOs, including faith-based NGOs, and international institutions in providing support to the numerous victims of violence, in particular women and children;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission /  High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President of the Republic of Burkina Faso, the Speaker of the Burkinabè Parliament and the African Union and its institutions.


Afghanistan, notably the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the Logar Province
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on Afghanistan, notably the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the Logar Province (2019/2981(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0107RC-B9-0242/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Afghanistan, in particular of 14 December 2017(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2019 on children’s rights on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child(2),

–  having regard to the statements of 3 December 2019 by the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), of which the European Union is a member, regarding allegations of sexual abuse of boys in Logar province and subsequent actions against human rights defenders,

–  having regard to the Afghan Law on Protection of Child Rights ratified on 5 March 2019,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989,

–  having regard to the UNICEF report of November 2019 on the Convention on the Rights of the Child at a crossroads,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on conflict-related sexual violence of 23 March 2018 and 29 March 2019, and the report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan of 10 March 2019,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, on Children in Armed Conflict, and on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Afghanistan of 8 April 2019,

–  having regard to the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development signed on 18 February 2017,

–  having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas between 2015 and 2018, 14 000 violations were committed against children in Afghanistan according to the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2019 report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan; whereas at least 12 599 children were killed or maimed, representing almost a third of all civilian casualties; whereas the sexual abuse, rape and exploitation of boys, a practice known as bacha bazi that constitutes child sex slavery, is prevalent in several provinces of Afghanistan;

B.  whereas the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported that 136 Afghan boys in at least six schools in Logar province have been sexually abused by a paedophile ring; whereas so far the investigation has identified over 100 videos posted online; whereas at least seven boys who appeared in the videos have been found dead, and five have been murdered by their families;

C.  whereas the bachas, typically boys between 10 and 18 years old, are bought or kidnapped from impoverished families by influential members of the elite in rural areas, including politicians and army officers; whereas the boys dress as women and perform as dancers at private parties, after which they are often sexually abused by men;

D.  whereas head teachers, teachers and local authorities from the Logar province have been implicated; whereas impunity for sexual violence is common due to the powerful positions often held by the perpetrators, disbelief within victims’ families and communities, and a value system that places family honour above the individual interest of the child;

E.  whereas children in Afghanistan who suffer rape and sexual exploitation have very limited access to justice or support; whereas reports indicate that the opposite happens, and that children who report sexual abuse often face further abuse, stigmatisation, ostracism and even death at the hands of perpetrators, the authorities, militia leaders and their own families, resulting in further physical and psychological trauma;

F.  whereas the Logar Youth Social and Civil Institution is investigating the situation in other schools in the region; whereas thousands more boys in the province are believed to be victims of bacha bazi;

G.  whereas Afghanistan reformed its Penal Code in 2018, criminalising the sexual abuse of children; whereas in 2019 the Afghan authorities adopted a Law on the Protection of Child’s Rights; whereas the enforcement of the provisions criminalising recruitment, the use of recruited children, and sexual violence and abuse of children still remains a challenge;

H.  whereas human rights defenders Mohammad Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi from the Logar Youth Social and Civil Institution were arbitrarily detained by the National Directorate of Security when they were on their way to meet the EU Ambassador in Kabul; whereas they were both released on 27 November 2019 and their safety remains a concern; whereas the two human rights defenders have previously received threats on social media, some from public officials; whereas, furthermore, the provincial governor threatened to punish them for spreading false information;

I.  whereas human rights defenders in Afghanistan are increasingly under attack from the Afghan authorities and armed groups, and are subject to harassment, intimidation, threats and violence; whereas the Afghan Government has repeatedly failed to investigate attacks on human rights defenders;

1.  Deplores the widespread and ongoing sexual abuse and slavery of boys in Afghanistan; expresses its full support for and solidarity with the victims; expresses its serious concern about the prevalence of deeply-rooted practices of sexual abuse against boys, the impunity of the perpetrators and the vulnerable position of the victims;

2.  Acknowledges the recent reaction of the Afghan authorities and their move to investigate and prosecute those responsible; reminds the authorities that the protection of children and other vulnerable groups must be the core of any human rights protection policy, and calls on Afghan central and local authorities to continue active measures to eradicate the bacha bazi practice in the country;

3.  Expresses deep regret that cases of sexual abuse allegedly took place in schools, trusted and respected institutions, and were conducted by teachers and headmasters, who have an enormous influence on their pupils and great responsibility for their development, both intellectual and psychological;

4.  Calls on the Afghan Government to immediately suspend from their positions the persons allegedly implicated in cases of sexual abuse and violence until the investigation has been concluded, and to provide the victims and their families with the necessary medical, psychological and social support;

5.  Calls on the Attorney General’s office to launch an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and violence against boys in Logar province which guarantees the victims’ rights and their protection; recalls that given that allegations have also been levelled against individuals in the national authorities, the investigation should be conducted in cooperation with international bodies including UNAMA, and in full transparency;

6.  Urges the Afghan authorities to immediately establish a protection and reporting mechanism for organisations and advocates that report and expose children’s rights abuses; urges the Afghan authorities to set up a national victim support helpline dedicated to children’s rights abuses;

7.  Calls on the Afghan authorities to make full use of national and international law on child rights protection; urges the Afghan authorities to fully implement the new Afghan Penal Code of 2018 and the Law on Protection of Child Rights of 2019 in order to ensure full accountability for cases of sexual abuse and violence against children;

8.  Urges the Afghan Government to start a nationwide campaign to educate society about the prohibition of bacha bazi and the right of minors to be protected from such physical and sexual abuse; stresses that only through a combination of law enforcement and education on the issue will it be possible to achieve the cultural change needed in Afghan society to eliminate this practice; insists that these efforts prioritise the de-stigmatisation of victims of bacha bazi practices and prevent them from being ostracised by their communities, expelled from their families, or killed;

9.  Commends the work of Mohammad Musa Mahmudi, Ehsanullah Hamidi and all human rights defenders in Afghanistan, who operate in one of the most dangerous environments in the world, are threatened by state and non-state actors, and do not receive the protection they need to carry out their work without fear of reprisals; stresses that the Afghan authorities must in all circumstances ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their human rights work free of threats, intimidation, or impediment;

10.  Urges greater scrutiny and monitoring of EU financial assistance to Afghanistan in order to ensure that budget support provided actually promotes an environment conducive to the protection and promotion of human rights;

11.  Urges the Afghan authorities to guarantee the safety of Mohammad Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi; calls, furthermore, on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience and journalists detained and sentenced merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;

12.  Calls on the Attorney General’s Office to launch an independent and impartial investigation into the arbitrary detention of the members of civil society who were arrested after they reported cases of sexual abuse and violence, and who were released after several days;

13.  Calls on EU Member States with diplomatic missions in Afghanistan and their development agencies on the ground to assist the authorities and local civil society actors working to eradicate the bacha bazi practice from Afghan society;

14.  Calls on EU Member States with diplomatic missions on the ground to fully implement the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, and to provide all appropriate support to the human rights defenders detained, including prison visits and trial monitoring; recalls the importance for the EU Delegation and EU Member States to fully implement the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, and on Children and Armed Conflict;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of Afghanistan.

(1) OJ C 369, 11.10.2018, p. 85.
(2) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0066.


The Russian "Foreign Agents" Law
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on the Russian ‘foreign agents’ law (2019/2982(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0108RC-B9-0258/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Russia and on EU-Russia relations,

–  having regard to the statements by the Spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) of 23 November 2019 on amendments to the ‘foreign agents’ law in the Russian Federation, and of 26 November 2017 on the Russian law allowing the registration of foreign media as ‘foreign agents’,

–  having regard to the statement of 11 December 2019 by the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe on amendments to the ‘foreign agent’ law in the Russian Federation,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 19 thereof on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Article 20 thereof on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,

–  having regard to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular Article 13 thereof on the freedom of association,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in particular Article 22 thereof on the right to freedom of association,

–  having regard to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Protocols thereto, in particular Article 10 on the right to freedom of expression and Article 11 on the right to freedom of assembly and association,

–  having regard to the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, in particular Chapter 2 thereof on the rights and freedoms of citizens,

–  having regard to the statement of 20 November 2019 by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media,

–  having regard to the opinion of 15 July 2013 of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe on the ‘Legislation of the Russian Federation on Non-Commercial Organisations in light of Council of Europe Standards’, as well as to the updated opinion on ‘Legislation and Practice in the Russian Federation on Non‑Commercial Organisations in light of Council of Europe Standards: an Update’ issued on 9 July 2015,

–  having regard to the opinion of 27 June 2014 of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) on the federal law on non-commercial organisations (‘law on foreign agents’), the opinion of 13 June 2016 on Russian Federal Law No 129-FZ (on undesirable activities of foreign and international non-governmental organisations), and the report of the Venice Commission of 18 March 2019 on funding of associations,

–  having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the rights of freedom of thought and speech, association, and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the constitution of the Russian Federation;

B.  whereas the Russian Federation is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as a member of the Council of Europe, and has therefore committed itself to international standards and principles governing the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms;

C.  whereas in July 2012 the Russian Parliament adopted a law on ‘foreign agents’ requiring Russian NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation as ‘organisations performing the functions of foreign agents’ if they receive foreign funding and engage in activities vaguely described as ‘political activities’; whereas in June 2014 the law was amended to allow the Ministry of Justice to register NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ on its own initiative; whereas in November 2017 the scope of the law was extended to impose the use of the ‘foreign agents’ label on any foreign media directly or indirectly receiving foreign funding;

D.  whereas the latest amendments to the law on ‘foreign agents’, which extend the status of ‘foreign agents’ to include private persons, including bloggers and independent journalists, were approved by the Russian Parliament on 21 November 2019 and signed into law on 2 December 2019 by President Vladimir Putin; whereas the law imposes specific requirements for registration, accounting, and labelling of publications, and makes non-compliance a criminal offence, including the possibility of sanctions with heavy administrative fines or imprisonment of up to two years;

E.  whereas under this law, Russians and foreigners who work with or distribute content of news outlets labelled as ‘foreign agents’ would be declared ‘foreign agents’, potentially exposing journalists, their sources, or even those who share material on social networks to stigmatisation as ‘foreign agents’ and potentially leading to self-censorship while discouraging them not only from publishing but also from sharing publications;

F.  whereas the Russian law on ‘foreign agents’ infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe’s international agreement, which defends, inter alia, freedom of speech and media; whereas Russia is therefore not fulfilling its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe; whereas the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe has deemed this law to be incompatible with international and European human rights standards; whereas the law on ‘foreign agents’ violates Russia’s commitments as a member of the OSCE and as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; whereas the EU expects the Russian Federation, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to abide fully by the international commitments it has made;

G.  whereas a number of human rights defending organisations and NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, consider that the amended law will have a detrimental impact on the already restrictive environment for independent journalism in Russia, thus further undermining freedom of expression; whereas quality media, independent from governmental or pro-governmental structures, which work with many Russian correspondents across the country and are often the only source of reliable information and an alternative to state media in remote regions, are targeted by the law, thus impeding their work and, therefore, access to impartial media coverage;

H.  whereas legislative restrictions and targeted prosecutions under the law on foreign agents in Russia have taken on more repressive forms in recent months,with the result of limiting the media’s and civil society’s access to independent funding, tarnishing their reputation and obstructing their activities, thus restricting the exercise of fundamental freedoms and reducing the space for independent and dissident actors in Russia;

I.  whereas the law on ‘foreign agents’ is part of a broader campaign to stifle dissent, opposition, and civil society across Russia; whereas the shrinking space for Russia’s independent civil society allows for the enhanced presence of non-independent government-organised non-governmental organisations (GONGOs); whereas the Russian government utilises GONGOs to promote its own policies while maintaining the semblance of an independent civil society;

J.  whereas the law has so far mainly targeted NGOs; whereas a total of some 80 NGOs are considered ‘foreign agents’ under this law, including virtually all leading human rights NGOs in Russia; whereas 49 Russian NGOs have applications pending before the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the law on ‘foreign agents’ violates a number of human rights, including the rights of freedom of expression and association, and protesting against the quality of the law and their persecution for failing to register as ‘foreign agents’, as well as excessive state control;

K.  whereas dozens of organisations working on environmental issues have been forcibly put on the ‘foreign agents’ list since 2014, despite the ruling of Russia’s Constitutional Court explicitly excluding environmental groups from the scope of that law; whereas many of the affected groups have had to close down to avoid being labelled as ‘foreign agents’ or from inability to pay the fines;

L.  whereas an alarming global trend has surfaced over the last decade in which an increasing number of states are introducing and using laws to interfere with the right of freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers, as well as freedom of assembly and association, whereas such laws are also hampering the work of civil society organisations and individuals;

M.  whereas the European Court of Human Rights, in several of its judgments, has underlined that the public watchdog role exercised by NGOs is essential to a democratic society and is of similar importance to the role of the media;

N.  whereas the legitimate aim of ensuring transparency of NGOs receiving foreign funding cannot justify measures which restrict the activities of NGOs operating in the field of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;

1.  Calls on the Russian authorities to immediately repeal the law on ‘foreign agents’ and to bring the existing legislation into line with Russia’s constitution and its obligations under international law; urges the Russian Federation to stop deliberately creating an atmosphere that is hostile to civil society and therefore condemns the use of the law on ‘foreign agents’ as a means to harass and suppress civil society organisations which cooperate with international donors or express political opinions;

2.  Condemns the recently approved amendments to the law on ‘foreign agents’, which considerably widen its scope and will allow individuals to be stigmatised as ‘foreign agents’, thereby violating their human rights, in particular their freedom of expression and association, and their rights as citizens, restricting their commitment and contribution to Russian civil society and putting their personal safety at risk by bearing such a stigma;

3.  Condemns the Russian authorities’ continued efforts to restrict online and offline debate as well as independent journalism; reminds them that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right which reinforces all other human rights, allowing society to develop and progress; calls on the Russian Federation to acknowledge the positive contribution of a vibrant and active civil society to the state of democracy and society;

4.  Considers this law and the excessive use of fines and settlements against the media, human rights organisations and civil society to be deliberately aimed at forcing them to focus their resources on paying fines and judicial defence, and thus to limit freedom of expression; is deeply concerned by the targeting of human rights organisations and defenders, which adds to the deteriorating situation of human rights in Russia; condemns, among others, the dissolution of the historically important movement ‘For Human Rights’;

5.  Expresses its concern at the risk of selective applicability of the law to target concrete individuals, particularly independent journalists and political opposition activists, owing to the lack of clear criteria, as well as legal uncertainties over the grounds and consequences of its application to ordinary citizens; calls on the Russian authorities to establish a framework for activities of non-commercial organisations (NGOs) that is clear, coherent and consistent and is in line with European and international standards, in particular by using clear definitions, by avoiding the use of stigmatising language such as ‘foreign agents’ or discriminatory legal provisions related to sources of funding, and by preventing the criminal prosecution of NGOs, media and bloggers or of individual persons carrying out activities for NGOs or media; expresses its concern over the crowding‑out of independent civil society organisations by government-organised NGOs; notes with concern specifically the situation around Anastasiya Shevchenko in Rostov-on-Don;

6.  Strongly opposes the Russian authorities’ methods of using the power of the state to suppress freedom of expression and speech and thereby instil fear in society; calls on the Russian authorities to support the impartiality of media channels, including those owned by Russian state companies, and to improve the safety and working environment of journalists in Russia, including by advancing their professional skills by making use of existing international programmes; stresses the need to guarantee efficient legal recourse procedures for journalists whose freedom to work has been threatened, so as to avoid self-censorship;

7.  Commends and expresses its support for all individuals and organisations who are still carrying out their legitimate and peaceful human rights work despite being targets of repression; urges the Russian authorities to cease all harassment, intimidation and attacks directed at civil society, the media, and human rights organisations and defenders; condemns the Russian authorities’ failure to protect these actors against attacks, harassment and intimidation by third parties or to impartially investigate such attacks against them;

8.  Notes that Russia’s register of ‘foreign agent’ media has 10 entries, all of which are outlets linked to either Radio Free Europe or Voice of America; recalls that Russia’s government has criticised other foreign media for reporting on the demonstrations held in the country;

9.  Expects the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), the Council and the Commission to raise concerns about the law on ‘foreign agents’ in their contacts, meetings and communications with Russian representatives, including at the highest levels, and asks them to report back to Parliament on their exchanges with the Russian authorities;

10.  Reiterates its call on the Commission, the EEAS and the Member States to continue to closely monitor the human rights situation in the Russian Federation and calls on the EU Delegation in Russia and the embassies of the Member States to continue monitoring court cases involving civil society organisations and activists; further calls on the VP/HR and the EEAS to ensure that cases of persons prosecuted for political reasons are raised in their communications with the Russian authorities and that Russian representatives are formally requested to respond in these cases; asks the VP/HR and the EEAS to report back to Parliament on their exchanges with the Russian authorities;

11.  Calls on the VP/HR to use every possibility to support civil society that promotes democratic values, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and human rights in Russia and to strengthen people-to-people contacts with the citizens of Russia;

12.  Asks the EU Member States to raise the matter of the law on ‘foreign agents’ in the institutions of the Council of Europe, primarily in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); asks the Venice Commission to examine the amended law on ‘foreign agents’ with a view to producing a legal opinion and appropriate recommendations; calls on the Russian authorities to fully implement all recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, in compliance with Russia’s international obligations in this respect; calls on EU Member States to apply constant pressure on the Russian authorities within the OSCE fora to meet the OSCE standards concerning human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary;

13.  Encourages the EU to continuously call on Russia to repeal or amend all laws incompatible with international standards; calls on the VP/HR to draw up a new and comprehensive EU-Russia strategy aimed at strengthening peace and stability; reaffirms that any dialogue should be based on firm principles, including respect for international law and the territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbours; underlines that the sanctions against Russia can be lifted only when Russia fully complies with its obligations;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE and the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation.


Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Romanian revolution of December 1989
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Romanian revolution of December 1989 (2019/2989(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0109B9-0241/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the universal principles of human rights and the fundamental principles of the European Union as a community based on common values,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 September 2019 on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe(1),

–  having regard to the resolutions and declarations on the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes adopted by a number of national parliaments,

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2019 marks the commemoration of 30 years having elapsed since the Romanian revolution, triggered by the uprisings in Timișoara, that later continued in all parts of the country and culminated in an anti-totalitarian revolution in Bucharest, leading to the fall of the communist regime and the enactment of democracy; whereas this revolution represented the transition of the Romanian people towards freedom and the rule of law, which tragically resulted in the loss of 1 142 lives, 3 138 people being gravely injured, and over 760 individuals being illegally detained and tortured;

B.  whereas the Romanian revolution of December 1989 was the most violent of all the uprisings leading to the fall of communism in the states behind the Iron Curtain;

C.  whereas the revolution of December 1989 and the sacrifice of the Romanian citizens who courageously stood in the line of fire, opened up the country’s path towards NATO, the European Union and the democratic world, from which it had been torn away after the end of the Second World War against the will of the Romanian people;

D.  whereas the use of force against the Romanian people in December 1989 painfully shook all of Romanian society to the core, and the identification of the actual perpetrators of these crimes remains an agonising unresolved issue for the victims, their families and for all Romanian citizens;

E.  whereas no act of military aggression against one’s own people should remain unpunished;

F.  whereas the European Court of Human Rights judgements (Association ‘21 December 1989’ and Others v. Romania; Acatrinei and Others v. Romania; Șandru and Others v. Romania) recognise that massive violations of fundamental rights – such as violations of the right to life, of the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and of the right to respect for private and family life – had occurred during the revolution, and that these violations had been perpetrated by the forces of the communist dictatorial regime that opened fire on peaceful protesters and deprived a large number of demonstrators against Ceaușescu’s oppression of their liberty; whereas, even after so many years have gone by, neither the victims nor their heirs have learned the truth about the exact circumstances of these tragedies;

G.  whereas, as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights; whereas these values are common to all Member States;

H.  whereas the Romanian State has unnecessarily delayed the process of clarifying the truth and making it publicly available, which is paramount to guaranteeing the right of the victims and their heirs to equitable compensation and reparation; whereas the national authorities have failed to act with the necessary due diligence imposed by international human rights norms;

1.  Commemorates and hereby pays homage to the victims of the December 1989 revolution, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of ending the totalitarian dictatorship in Romania, and to their families;

2.  Acknowledges that the sacrifice of the peaceful protesters of December 1989 paved the way for Romania’s transition towards democracy, the rule of law and the establishment of a market economy, as well as its subsequent integration into the North-Atlantic Alliance and the European Union;

3.  Calls on the Romanian State to strengthen its efforts to clarify the truth in relation to the events of the revolution, an absolute necessity for the country, the Romanian people, Europe and the European Union, in light of the right of the Romanian people to learn the truth, 30 years on from the revolution of December 1989;

4.  Calls on the institutions of the European Union and its Member States, including Romania, to do their utmost to ensure that the crimes of communist regimes are remembered, and to guarantee that such crimes will never be committed again;

5.  Instructs its President to forward this Resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of all Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0021.


Situation of the Uyghur in China (China-cables)
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on the situation of the Uyghurs in China (China Cables) (2019/2945(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0110RC-B9-0246/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in China, in particular those of 18 April 2019 on China, notably the situation of religious and ethnic minorities(1), of 4 October 2018 on mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region(2), of 12 September 2018 on the state of EU-China relations(3), of 15 December 2016 on the cases of the Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy and Ilham Tohti(4), of 10 March 2011 on the situation and cultural heritage in Kashgar (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region)(5), and of 26 November 2009 on China: minority rights and application of the death penalty(6),

–  having regard to its decision to award the 2019 Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting peacefully for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority,

–  having regard to the joint statement of the 21st EU-China summit of 9 April 2019,

–  having regard to the 37th EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Brussels on 1 and 2 April 2019,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 12 March 2019 entitled ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’ (JOIN(2019)0005),

–  having regard to the EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 24 June 2013,

–  having regard to the statement of 26 October 2018 by the spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the situation in Xinjiang,

–  having regard to the decision of the Foreign Affairs Council of 9 December 2019 on the launch of preparatory work on a horizontal sanctions regime to address serious human rights violations,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2019 on a European human rights violations sanctions regime(7),

–  having regard to the EU’s Item 4 oral statements at the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September 2018, and to those by the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland and Canada, which expressed concern over the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in camps in Xinjiang,

–  having regard to the joint statement on human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang issued by the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN on behalf of 23 states, including 14 EU Member States, to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 29 October 2019,

–  having regard to Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of religious belief, and to Article 4 thereof, which upholds the rights of minority nationalities,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966, which China signed in 1998 but has never ratified,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011,

–  having regard to the concluding observations of the report on China by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law should remain at the centre of the EU’s policy towards China, in line with the EU’s commitment to uphold these very same values in its external action and China’s commitment to adhere to them in its own development and international cooperation;

B.  whereas since President Xi Jinping assumed power in March 2013, the human rights situation in China has continued to deteriorate; whereas the Chinese Government has increased its hostility towards peaceful dissent, the freedoms of expression and religion, and the rule of law; whereas the Chinese authorities have detained and prosecuted hundreds of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists;

C.  whereas the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where more than 10 million Muslim Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs live, has rapidly deteriorated in the last few years, not least since the launch of the ‘Strike Hard against Violent Terrorism’ campaign in 2014, as control of Xinjiang has been made a top priority of the Chinese authorities, fuelled by instability and security threats that Uyghurs are allegedly posing to Xinjiang and the strategic location of Xinjiang as a core region for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with ambitious future production targets for textiles and other labour-intensive manufacturing products; whereas the Chinese Government’s war on terror in Xinjiang is increasingly turning into a war on religion and ethnicity; whereas there is information suggesting that the Xinjiang camp system has been expanded into other parts of China;

D.  whereas the Chinese authorities are conducting an increasingly intense campaign of mass internment, intrusive digital surveillance (including facial recognition technology and data collection), political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation; whereas, moreover, there is reliable information to suggest that Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, egregious restrictions on religious practice and culture, and a digitised surveillance system so pervasive that every aspect of daily life is monitored – through facial recognition cameras, mobile phone scans, DNA collection, and an extensive and intrusive police presence;

E.  whereas numerous credible estimates put at as high as around one million the number of people that are or have been arbitrarily detained in what are being called ‘political re-education’ centres for undetermined periods of time on the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism; whereas these re-education facilities are also referred to as ‘vocational training centres’; whereas this represents the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic minority population in the world today; whereas according to some former detainees, treatment and conditions in these camps include crowded and unsanitary conditions, food deprivation, beatings and sexual abuse; whereas there are reports that young children have been sent to state-run orphanages if even one of their parents is detained in the internment camps; whereas some re-education camps reportedly contain factories producing goods for export;

F.  whereas the China Cables revelations, which were released in November 2019, are an investigation into the surveillance and mass internment without charge or trial of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province, based on leaked classified Chinese Government documents; whereas the secret documents came to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via a chain of exiled Uyghurs and their authenticity has been confirmed by several leading experts; whereas the publication of these documents has also unearthed classified Chinese Government information revealing the inner workings of the camps, the severity of conditions behind the fences, and the dehumanising regime regulating inmates’ daily routines; whereas the documents bring to light China’s systematic brainwashing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in a network of high-security prison camps and the mechanics of Xinjiang’s system of mass surveillance and predictive policing, thus confirming the findings of experts based on satellite imagery, data and eyewitness accounts that were published in recent years; whereas the Chinese Government has consistently claimed that the camps offer voluntary education and training; whereas the China Cables show unprecedented evidence that the groundwork for the repressive measures against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others was being prepared at the highest political level since as long ago as April 2014;

G.  whereas the detention and persecution of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang has compelled many to stop communicating with their family and friends based abroad, including in Europe, for fear of retribution by the authorities;

H.  whereas repression has intensified since the entry into force of the regulations on religious affairs in February 2018, which have restricted the activities of religious groups and forced them to act more closely in line with party policies; whereas under those regulations, public or even private demonstrations of religious and cultural affiliation can be considered extremist; whereas the new rules threaten persons associated with religious communities that do not have legal status in the country; whereas religious communities have been facing increasing repression in China, making the country home to one of the largest populations of religious prisoners;

I.  whereas in August 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination challenged the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over abuses in Xinjiang, including the establishment of mass arbitrary detention camps; whereas in September 2018, during her first ever speech in the role, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted the ‘deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim communities, in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang’; whereas the Chinese Government has refused numerous requests from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN Special Procedures mandates to send independent investigators to Xinjiang and give them access to the camps;

J.  whereas the internment camps in Xinjiang expanded rapidly after the appointment of Chen Quanguo as party leader for the region in August 2016; whereas the Governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, claimed in December 2019 that all 1.5 million people in re-education and internment camps had been ‘returned to society’ without providing any proof;

K.  whereas some Chinese minority communities residing in the EU have been harassed by the Chinese authorities; whereas Uyghurs overseas have been pressured to return to China; whereas the China Cables documents detail explicit directives to arrest Uyghurs with foreign citizenship and to track down Xinjiang Uyghurs living abroad, some of whom have been deported back to China by authoritarian governments; whereas the documents indicate that Chinese embassies have been instrumental in this practice;

L.  whereas on 4 December 2019 the US Congress adopted the Uyghurs Human Rights Policy Act, which urges the Secretary of State to take immediate measures to protect human rights and to consider imposing visa and economic sanctions, pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act, on PRC officials responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, while protecting Uyghurs residing in the USA from Chinese harassment and persecution;

M.  whereas the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2019 was awarded to Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on 23 September 2014 for alleged separatism, after being detained in January of the same year; whereas seven of his former students were also detained and sentenced to imprisonment of between three and eight years for alleged collaboration with Mr Tohti; whereas Ilham Tohti has always rejected separatism and violence, and has sought reconciliation based on respect for Uyghur culture;

N.  whereas in its Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, the EU pledged to step up its efforts to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law across all aspects of its external action, and to place human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries, including its strategic partners;

1.  Expresses its deepest concerns about the increasingly repressive regime that Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities are facing and demands that the authorities respect their fundamental freedoms, as recommended by credible reports; strongly condemns the sending of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs to political ‘re-education camps’ on the basis of a system of predictive policing, including for having travelled abroad or being adjudged too religiously devout; calls on the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang to provide information about the locations and medical conditions of those detained; urges the Chinese Government to put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for a criminal offence of members of the Uyghur and Kazakh minorities, to close all camps and detention centres, and to immediately and unconditionally release those detained; emphasises that any kind of detention, when applied in violation of fundamental international laws, that persecution against specific persons or groups on ethnic, cultural or religious grounds, and that other inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on any civilian population, are unacceptable in the light of the international legal framework;

2.  Calls on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti and all other human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, journalists and petitioners detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, and to end the ongoing crackdown involving detention, judicial harassment and intimidation; calls on the Chinese Government to ensure that they have regular, unrestricted access to their families and lawyers of their choice, and to ensure that they, their families and their lawyers are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment; insists that the conditions of all those in detention must meet the standards laid down in the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988, including access to medical care; calls for an immediate, effective and impartial investigation into the alleged torture of Ilham Tohti and for those responsible to be brought to justice;

3.  Reiterates its call on the Chinese authorities to allow free, meaningful and unhindered access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for independent journalists and international observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures; notes the imbalance in press access and freedom between the EU and China; calls on China to provide EU media outlets with the same rights and access that Chinese media outlets are afforded in the Member States; believes that the EU and the Member States should take the lead during the next session of the UN Human Rights Council on a resolution establishing a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang;

4.  Expresses deep concern over reports concerning the harassment of Uyghurs abroad by the Chinese authorities in order to force them to act as informants against other Uyghurs, return to Xinjiang or remain silent about the situation there, sometimes by detaining their family members; urges the Commission and all Member States to investigate these reports as a matter of urgency, to take specific measures to ensure that members of the Xinjiang diaspora are protected in their respective countries, and to expedite asylum requests from Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims; welcomes the decision taken by some Member States to suspend the return of all ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs or other Turkic Muslims to China in view of the risk of arbitrary detention, torture or other ill-treatment, and calls on all other Member States to follow suit;

5.  Notes with concern that the critical importance of ‘long-term stability’ in Xinjiang to the success of the BRI has led to the intensification of long-standing control strategies bolstered by a variety of technological innovations and a rapid increase in spending on domestic security, and the use of counter-terrorism measures to criminalise dissent and dissident individuals by applying a broad definition of ‘terrorism’; expresses deep concern at the Chinese State’s measures to ensure the ‘comprehensive supervision’ of Xinjiang through the installation of Skynet electronic surveillance in major urban areas and GPS trackers in all motor vehicles, the use of facial recognition scanners at checkpoints and train and petrol stations, and the blood collection campaign by Xinjiang police in order to further expand China’s DNA database; express further concerns that China is exporting such technologies to authoritarian regimes around the world;

6.  Expresses deep concern over reports of the possible use of forced labour drawn from internment camps in the supply chain of international companies doing business in Xinjiang and over reports of collaboration with the Chinese institutions involved in the mass surveillance or detention of members of the Uyghur population; emphasises that actors from the private sector should assess their engagement in Xinjiang in order to scrutinise their supply chains to ensure they are not involved in human rights violations, including by putting in place a robust human rights due diligence system to make sure they are not implicated in forced labour or complicit in acts of repression against the Uyghur people; stresses that if products are produced in re-education camps they should be banned from EU markets;

7.  Urges the Chinese Government to immediately publish a list of all those in detention and all those who have been released, and to release the full details of persons disappeared in Xinjiang to their families;

8.  Urges the Commission, the Council and the Member States to take all the necessary measures to persuade the Chinese Government to close the camps, to end all human rights violations in Xinjiang, and to uphold the linguistic, cultural, religious and other fundamental freedoms of the Uyghurs; Urges the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), the EEAS and the Member States to more intensively monitor the worrying human rights developments in Xinjiang, including increased government repression and surveillance, and to speak out against violations of human rights in China both privately and publicly and at the highest levels; expresses its disappointment at the fact that the 37th round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue brought no substantial results, despite the EU raising the system of political re-education camps as a worrying development; regrets the fact that the approach taken and tools used by the EU so far have not yielded tangible progress in China’s human rights record, which has only deteriorated over the last decade; calls on the VP/HR to insist on an independent investigation into the scale and nature of the internment camp system and the numerous allegations of serious and systematic human rights violations; urges the new Commission to devise and implement a holistic EU strategy with a view to securing genuine progress on human rights in China;

9.  Underlines the fact that in their joint statement issued after the 21st EU-China summit, the EU and China reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated; emphasises that the promotion of human rights and the rule of law must be at the core of the EU’s engagement with China;

10.  Calls for the EU, its Member States and the international community to consider ways of halting all exports and technology transfers of goods and services that are being used by China to extend and improve its cyber surveillance, by making effective use of appropriate export control mechanisms; calls on the co-legislators, in this regard, to conclude a common position on reform of the Dual Use Regulation on the grounds of national security and human rights considerations; stresses that Parliament has further developed and strengthened the Commission’s proposal on the inclusion of strict export controls for listed and non-listed cyber-surveillance technology;

11.  Recalls the importance of the EU continuing to raise the issue of human rights violations in China, and in particular the case of minorities in Xinjiang, at every political and human rights dialogue with the Chinese authorities, in line with the EU’s commitment to project a strong, clear and unified voice in its approach to the country; reiterates that in its ongoing reform process and increasing global engagement, China has opted into the international human rights framework by signing up to a wide range of international human rights treaties; calls, therefore, for the establishment of a dialogue with China so as to encourage it to live up to these commitments; urges the Chinese authorities to continue to implement the national reforms required to ratify the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by China in 1998, and to implement the recommendations of UN human rights bodies;

12.  Welcomes the adoption by the US Congress of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and the recent decision by the Foreign Affairs Council to start working on an EU global sanctions regime for human rights violations; calls on the Council to adopt targeted sanctions and assets freezes, should they be deemed appropriate and effective, against the Chinese officials responsible for devising and implementing the policy of mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and for orchestrating a severe repression of religious freedom, freedom of movement and other basic rights in the region;

13.  Calls for the EEAS to include the good practices of interreligious dialogue as a tool in its communication strategy towards third countries and to foster mediation in conflict situations for the protection of religious minorities and the freedom of religion and belief;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of the People’s Republic of China.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0422.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0377.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0343.
(4) OJ C 238, 6.7.2018, p. 108.
(5) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 185.
(6) OJ C 285 E, 21.10.2010, p. 80.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0215.


Situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on the situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua (2019/2978(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0111RC-B9-0251/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Nicaragua, in particular those of 18 December 2008(1), 26 November 2009(2), 16 February 2017(3), 31 May 2018(4) and 14 March 2019(5),

–  having regard to the Association Agreement between the EU and Central America of 2012,

–  having regard to the EU country strategy paper and multiannual indicative programme 2014-2020 on Nicaragua,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Nicaragua, in particular those of 14 October 2019 establishing a framework for targeted sanctions,

–  having regard to the declarations by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on behalf of the EU on the situation in Nicaragua, in particular that of 20 November 2019,

–  having regard to the statement by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR, Rupert Colville, of 19 November 2019,

–  having regard to the report from the Organization of American States (OAS) High-Level Commission on Nicaragua of 19 November 2019,

–  having regard to the newsletters published by the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders of June 2004,

–  having regard to the Nicaraguan Constitution,

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas human rights defenders and other critics of the Nicaraguan Government’s human rights record have increasingly become the targets of death threats, intimidation, online defamation campaigns, harassment, surveillance, assault and judicial persecution; whereas international human rights organisations report that more than 80 000 people have been forced to leave Nicaragua as a result of the current crisis, and that repression in the country has intensified;

B.  whereas according to the latest MESENI figures, 328 people have died and hundreds have been injured, more than 150 political prisoners remain arbitrarily detained simply for exercising their rights and 144 students have been expelled from universities for having participated in demonstrations in favour of democracy, greater freedom and respect for human rights; whereas the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has reported that more than 100 journalists and media workers have had to leave the country; whereas the Nicaraguan Government has blocked newsprint imports, forcing several newspapers to close, including the iconic ‘Nuevo Diario’;

C.  whereas respect for the independence of the judiciary, political pluralism, and freedom of assembly and expression are fundamental rights and essential pillars of democracy and the rule of law;

D.  whereas on 14 November 2019, eight relatives of jailed political opponents, among others, started a hunger strike inside the San Miguel church in Masaya, calling for the release of 130 individuals allegedly detained in the context of the protests; whereas police surrounded the church and cut off the water and electricity supply; whereas the police did not let anyone enter the church and prevented the delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance;

E.  whereas the same night, a group of at least 13 members of the opposition were detained after delivering some water to the people surrounded by the police, including Amaya Eva Coppens, a Nicaraguan and Belgian human rights defender who had been detained in the context of the protests for eight months and was released on 11 June 2019 under the Amnesty Law along with over 100 political prisoners; whereas this law is incompatible with international standards and perpetuates impunity by ruling out investigation into suspected crimes committed against protesters;

F.  whereas the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor’s Office has unfairly accused the group of several charges, including kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms and terrorism, which constitutes a clear violation of the guarantee of due process and their right to a fair trial; whereas prison conditions in Nicaragua also fail to meet international standards; whereas the use of torture and sexual violence in prison has been clearly reported by members of the Nicaraguan opposition;

G.  whereas, according to MESENI, the Nicaraguan Government is stepping up its persecution of the families of the victims of the democratic, institutional and political crisis through intimidation and surveillance, with the purpose of preventing them from engaging in private and public actions in memory of their loved ones and in their search for justice;

H.  whereas, according to the UN Human Rights Council, the Nicaraguan Government is taking reprisals against those speaking up about the human rights situation in Nicaragua and reaching out to international and UN officials and mechanisms;

I.  whereas the Nicaraguan Government has expelled from the country international organisations, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the OHCHR Regional Office for Central America, that called for human rights to be observed in the country and sought the peaceful resolution of the conflict and national reconciliation; whereas the return of such organisations would act as a guarantor for the fulfilment of pending agreements with the opposition; whereas repression against civil society organisations has been intensified by the stripping of their legal status in a country with a poor institutional framework, doubly punishing the victims of repression;

J.  whereas high-ranking officials from some EU Member States have been prevented from entering Nicaragua on a number of occasions; whereas the Nicaraguan Government prevented the entry into the country of the OAS High-Level Commission on Nicaragua, which has sought electoral reform; whereas electoral reform is a key element on the path towards the regular establishment of democratic institutions in Nicaragua;

K.  whereas the Nicaraguan Government has shown no interest in resuming any credible and inclusive dialogue with the Civic Alliance and in fully implementing the March 2019 agreements; whereas negotiations between the Government and the Civic Alliance had resumed in February 2019; whereas an agreement was reached on 27 March 2019 on the release of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the 2018 protests; whereas another agreement was reached on 29 March 2019 on strengthening citizens’ rights and guarantees; whereas, on 20 May 2019, the Civic Alliance left the negotiating table, considering that the implementation of the two agreements had been limited; whereas by 11 June 2019 the Government had released 492 people who had been detained in the context of the 2018 protests; whereas negotiations remain stalled despite attempts to resume them;

L.  whereas the OAS High-Level Commission on Nicaragua is of the view that actions taken by or permitted by the Nicaraguan Government since April 2018 are inconsistent with the rights and guarantees protected in the Nicaraguan Constitution of 1987 and that these are giving rise to an alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in Nicaragua, as outlined in Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter;

M.  whereas the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must form an integral part of the EU’s external policies, including the Association Agreement between the EU and the countries of Central America of 2012; whereas this agreement includes a democratic clause, which is an essential element of the agreement; whereas given the current circumstances, the democratic clause should be triggered by suspending Nicaragua from the agreement;

1.  Expresses its solidarity with the Nicaraguan population and condemns all the repressive actions of the Nicaraguan Government, in particular the deaths caused, the generalised restriction of freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration, the outlawing of non-governmental organisations and civil society, the expulsion of international organisations from the country, the closure of and assaults against the media, the limitations on the right to information and the expulsion of students from universities;

2.  Urges the Nicaraguan Government to end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests, torture and sexual violence, to refrain from criminalising, persecuting and attacking human rights defenders, political opponents, families of victims and any other dissenting voices, and to immediately dismantle the paramilitary forces operating in the country; calls for prompt, impartial, transparent and thorough investigations into the violence;

3.  Calls for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, including Amaya Eva Coppens, for all charges against them to be dropped and for their fundamental legal safeguards to be respected; calls for those responsible for violations of human rights and for undermining democracy and the rule of law to be held accountable; stresses that the Nicaraguan authorities must guarantee the safety and physical and psychological wellbeing of all detainees and provide them with adequate medical care;

4.  Calls for an independent review of convictions and sentences with a view to reforming the judiciary, including appointments in line with international standards, such as the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors;

5.  Asks for the Amnesty Law and the Law on Comprehensive Care for Victims to be reviewed in order to guarantee victims’ right to truth, justice and adequate reparation;

6.  Insists on the return of confiscated property and the restoration of suspended licences to news outlets, and insists that these outlets be allowed to carry out their work without any obstacles or retaliation;

7.  Welcomes the Council’s decision to adopt the framework for targeted restrictive measures for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses and for the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition in Nicaragua; calls on the Member States to quickly agree on the specific list of individuals and entities to be sanctioned, including the President and Vice-President;

8.  Condemns the lack of willingness of the Nicaraguan Government to relaunch a meaningful internal dialogue; calls on the authorities to resume the dialogue with the Civic Alliance with a view to achieving a democratic, sustainable and peaceful solution that would allow for the full implementation of the March 2019 agreements; stresses the need to guarantee political and civil freedoms for all Nicaraguans, the return of those in exile, the return of and cooperation with international organisations, the restoration of the legal personality of human rights organisations, and the establishment of a credible electoral process, with a reformed Supreme Electoral Council that would assure immediate, fair and transparent elections with the presence of international observers;

9.  Asks the VP/HR and the EU Delegation to Nicaragua to closely monitor developments in the country and to continue to address the human rights problems affecting prisoners, students, protesters, families of victims and journalists, among others, that have arisen from the situation in the country; calls on the Commission to ensure that its cooperation assistance enhances its support to civil society, notably human rights defenders, and that it does not in any way contribute to the current repressive policies of the Nicaraguan authorities;

10.  Recalls that, in light of the Association Agreement between the EU and the countries of Central America, Nicaragua must respect and consolidate the principles of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, and demands that, in light of the current circumstances, the democratic clause of the Association Agreement be triggered;

11.  Calls on the EU Delegation and the Member States with diplomatic missions on the ground to fully implement the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and to provide all appropriate support to the human rights defenders that are detained, including prison visits and trial monitoring;

12.  Calls for a Parliament delegation to be sent to Nicaragua as soon as possible in order to resume monitoring of the situation in the country, and urges the Nicaraguan authorities to allow it unhindered entry into the country and access to all interlocutors and facilities;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, the Central American Parliament, the Lima Group, and the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Nicaragua.

(1) OJ C 45 E, 23.2.2010, p. 89.
(2) OJ C 285 E, 21.10.2010, p. 74.
(3) OJ C 252, 18.7.2018, p. 189.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0238.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0219.


Violent crackdown on recent protests in Iran
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European Parliament resolution of 19 December 2019 on the violent crackdown on the recent protests in Iran (2019/2993(RSP))
P9_TA(2019)0112RC-B9-0271/2019

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Iran, including its most recent of 19 September 2019 on Iran, notably the situation of women’s rights defenders and imprisoned EU dual nationals(1),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 4 February 2019 on Iran,

–  having regard to the declaration of 8 December 2019 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Josep Borrell Fontelles, on behalf of the EU on the recent protests in Iran,

–  having regard to the statement by the Spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) of 21 November 2019 on the developments in Iran,

–  having regard to the Council decision of 12 April 2018 to extend its restrictive measures for a further 12 months in response to serious human rights violations in Iran,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the respective EU Guidelines on the death penalty and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the EU Human Rights Guidelines on freedom of expression online and offline,

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 on the EU strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement(2),

–  having regard to UN General Assembly resolution 73/181 of 17 December 2018 on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,

–  having regard to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran of 30 January 2019,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966, to which Iran is a party,

–  having regard to Rule 132(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas tens of thousands of people from all over Iran and representing all segments of society have exercised their fundamental right to freedom of assembly and expressed their economic grievances over the increase in fuel prices of at least 50 % in the largest scale unrest in 40 years;

B.  whereas despite repeated international calls for restraint, the Iranian security forces used disproportionate means and force against protesters; whereas according to civil society reports, Iranian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk, and allegedly shot to kill;

C.  whereas according to Amnesty International, at least 304 people have been killed, including children, with many more wounded, and whereas thousands of protesters, as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students, have been arrested; whereas the Iranian authorities have not announced the official death toll and have refused to release the bodies of the victims to their families;

D.  whereas on 16 November 2019 the Iranian authorities implemented a five-day-long near-total shutdown of Internet communications, cutting almost all means of online communication for people inside Iran and preventing any flow of information in relation to the brutal crackdown; whereas shutting down internet communications is a violation of the fundamental right to access information, constituting a disproportionate limitation to freedom of expression, and has become an ongoing modus operandi for the authorities;

E.  whereas its resolution of 25 October 2016 on the EU strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement(3) stresses the importance of upholding the EU human rights guidelines, including on human rights defenders, in the context of EU-Iran relations;

F.  whereas human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and online activists in Iran continue to face harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution for their work; whereas the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and other forces have initiated a severe clampdown on civil society; whereas 77 members of the reformist opposition, mostly belonging to the Participation Front Party, issued an open statement condemning the excessive use of force in quelling the protests; whereas some of them were brought before the judiciary in Iran for ‘spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic’, and two were arrested, namely Mohammad Kianoosh Rad and Mehdi Mahmoudian;

G.  whereas Iranian courts regularly fail to ensure fair trials, with the denial of access to legal counsel and denial of visits by representatives from consulates, the UN or humanitarian organisations, and permit the use of confessions obtained under torture as evidence; whereas there are no independent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within the judiciary, and serious concerns remain over the politicisation of judges, particularly those presiding over Revolutionary Courts;

H.  whereas many EU-Iranian dual nationals are detained for their human rights activism or their academic work; whereas since June 2019 two French researchers have been incarcerated in Iran, namely Ms Fariba Adelkhah and, as recently confirmed, Mr Roland Marchal;

1.  Extends its condolences to the families of the victims; wishes a speedy recovery to those injured;

2.  Deplores the widespread and disproportionate use of force by Iran against non-violent protesters who were merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; stresses that such actions are unacceptable, urges the Iranian authorities to announce the total number of deaths and detainees, conduct a prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigation into allegations of excessive use of force, including direct targeting of protestors by security forces, and hold all perpetrators of violence accountable;

3.  Demands that all protestors, human rights defenders and journalists currently held under arrest in Iran for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and assembly are freed unconditionally; moreover, demands that the authorities inform all families of the location of their detained relatives, and calls for granting unhindered access for lawyers and international observers to all those detained during the protests and for providing identity of the detainees to the international community; reiterates the Parliament’s previous calls for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and many others who have been unlawfully detained;

4.  Strongly condemns Iran’s decision to shut down internet access to global networks, which prevented communication and the free flow of information for Iranian citizens; underscores that such actions are a clear violation of the freedom of speech; urges the Iranian authorities to lift all online based communications and services blockages;

5.  Stresses that fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and assembly must always be respected and calls on the Iranian authorities to live up to their international obligations, including under the ICCPR;

6.  Calls on the United Nations, particularly its Human Rights Council, to trigger without delay a comprehensive investigation on the events that have taken place in recent weeks, led by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, with the aim of shedding light into the allegations of grave human rights violations in the country since protests begun, and calling on Iran to give full and unrestricted access to those conducting this inquiry;

7.  Recalls its resolution of 19 September 2019; deeply regrets the lack of progress made on the cases of EU-Iranian dual nationals detained in Iran; urges the Iranian authorities to immediately release Roland Marchal and Fariba Adelkhah, as well as all the human rights defenders who have been imprisoned and sentenced for simply exercising their rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly;

8.  Calls for the EU, including the VP/HR, to continue raising human rights concerns with the Iranian authorities in bilateral and multilateral forums, in particular in the context of the EU-Iran high-level political dialogue;

9.  Reiterates its full support for Sakharov Prize laureates Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi; deplores the fact that Nasrin Sotoudeh is still imprisoned, serving a sentence of 33 years and 148 lashes, and insists on her immediate and unconditional release; calls on the Iranian authorities to lift the travel ban which has been placed on Jafar Panahi since 2010;

10.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Members of the Iranian Majlis.

(1) Texts adopted P9_TA(2019)0019.
(2) OJ C 215, 19.6.2018, p. 86.
(3) OJ C 215, 19.6.2018, p. 86.

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