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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Human Rights Defenders — EU support

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Human Rights Defenders — EU support

 

SUMMARY OF:

Article 2 Treaty on European Union

EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

WHAT IS THE AIM OF ARTICLE 2 OF THE TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION AND THE GUIDELINES ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS?

  • Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union states that the EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
  • The guidelines establish the EU’s approach to supporting and protecting human rights defenders* in non-EU countries, with a view to enabling them to operate freely.
  • In operational terms, these guidelines apply within the context of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

KEY POINTS

The following are the most important aspects of the guidelines:

  • Diplomats at EU missions* will meet regularly with human rights defenders, visit detained activists, monitor their trials and advocate for their protection.
  • The Council Working Party on Human Rights (COHOM) is to identify the situations in which the EU is called upon to intervene on the basis of reports from EU heads of missions (HoMs), the United Nations, the Council of Europe and non-governmental organisations.
  • High-ranking EU officials (e.g. the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) will include meetings with human rights defenders as part of their visits to non-EU countries.
  • Political dialogue with non-EU countries and regional organisations will include the situation of human rights defenders.
  • Heads of missions will remind the authorities of non-EU countries of their responsibility to protect human rights defenders in danger.
  • The EU will cooperate closely with non-EU countries that also have policies to protect human rights defenders, and will work with the human rights mechanisms of other regional organisations, such as the African Union, the Organisation of American States and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  • The EU will promote the strengthening of existing, and creation of new, regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.
  • The EU’s commitment to supporting human rights defenders is complemented by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which provides financial assistance to organisations supporting human rights activists.

BACKGROUND

Human rights defenders play a key role in:

  • documenting violence;
  • providing victims of human rights violations with legal, psychological, medical or other support;
  • combating the impunity of those responsible for human rights violations; and
  • raising awareness of human rights and their defenders at national, regional and international levels.

However, human rights defenders are often targets of attacks and threats, which is why it is important to ensure their safety and protection.

For more information, see:

KEY TERMS

Human rights defenders: individuals, groups or organisations that promote and protect in a peaceful manner the universally recognised human rights, namely civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights of individuals belonging to indigenous peoples.
EU missions: embassies and consulates of EU countries and EU delegations.

MAIN DOCUMENTS

Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union — Title I — Common provisions — Article 2 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 17)

Ensuring protection – European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, Council of the EU (Foreign Affairs), 2008

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Regulation (EU) No 235/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a financing instrument for democracy and human rights worldwide (OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, pp. 85-94)

last update 07.08.2017

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