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Human Rights Defenders — EU support

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Human Rights Defenders — EU support



EU guidelines on support to human rights defenders


  • They establish the EU’s approach for supporting and protecting human rights defenders* in non-EU countries, with a view to allowing them to operate freely.
  • The operational aspect of these guidelines is within the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).


  • 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 dialogues with non-EU countries and regional organisations will include the situation of human rights defenders.
  • Head of Missions will remind 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 the with human rights mechanisms of other regional organisation, 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 providing support to human rights activists.


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 other targets of attacks and threats, which is why it is important to ensure their safety and protection.

For more information, see:


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 rights of members of indigenous peoples.

EU missions: Embassies and consulates of EU countries and EU delegations.


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


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 04.07.2016