Assessing the Implementation of the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders - The Cases of Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Tunisia

Study 18-06-2013

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the formation of the European Action Service, human rights defenders have received renewed attention in EU external relations. In June 2012 the EU launched its Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy including some benchmarked actions to take on behalf of HRDs and calling on EU Delegations and EU Member States missions to prepare human rights country strategies (HRCS) and to update the strategies annually. The 2008 revised European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (the Guidelines) provide a number of important recommendations for the EU and its Member State missions which have resulted in many good practice actions toward support and protection of HRDs. This study investigates the effective implementation of the Guidelines in Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Tunisia, primarily from the viewpoints of diplomats and HRDs, with focus on the latter. Findings of this study suggest effective implementation of the Guidelines is uneven across European missions and there needs to be a joining up of the Guidelines’ recommendations with the new HRCS process. Recommendations to the EU and the European Parliament include mainstreaming knowledge of the Guidelines throughout EU sections and missions, taking a more considered approach to engagement with HRDs to create enabling human rights environments and ensuring attention to the most vulnerable HRDs.