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EU guidelines on human rights dialogues with non-EU countries

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EU guidelines on human rights dialogues with non-EU countries


Human rights dialogues with non-EU countries — guidelines



They establish the EU’s approach for launching and conducting human rights dialogues with non-EU countries. Such dialogues aim to mainstream human rights issues into all areas of EU external policy.


The EU conducts human rights dialogues with more than 40 non-EU countries. Some dialogues are of a general nature based on treaties, agreements and conventions, whilst others are structured to focus exclusively on human rights. There are also ad hoc dialogues that extend to topics related to the common foreign and security policy, and dialogues in the context of special relation shared on broadly converging views.

The objectives of such dialogues are defined on a case-by-case basis. The objectives may include discussing and cooperating on human rights issues in multinational organisations, such as the United Nations, or gathering information on and registering concern for human rights issues.

The priority issues to be discussed in human rights dialogues are: the implementation of international human rights instruments; combating the death penalty, torture and other cruel treatment, and all forms of discrimination; children’s rights (particularly in armed conflict); women’s rights; freedom of expression; the role of civil society and the protection of human rights defenders; international cooperation in the field of international justice (especially with the International Criminal Court); the promotion of democratisation and good governance; and conflict prevention and the rule of law.

The decision to initiate a human rights dialogue with a non-EU country is made by the Council, where the Human Rights Working Group (COHOM) plays a central role. The decision first requires an assessment based on reports of the human rights situation in the country concerned. The assessment takes into account several factors (e.g. the concerned country’s government’s attitude towards human rights and civil society).

Where and how often a dialogue is to be held and the level of representation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Dialogues should normally take place in the country concerned (or in Brussels if the primary purpose is to discuss issues of mutual interest or to strengthen cooperation) and last for at least one full day.

During the dialogue, the EU may refer individual cases to the non-EU country together with requests for a response and for the release of persons held. At the end of the dialogue, the EU may publish a press release, either independently or jointly with the non-EU country concerned.

All human rights dialogues with non-EU countries must be assessed every other year, taking account of how well the objectives have been met. The progress made on the priority areas of the dialogue and how far the EU’s activities have contributed to that progress must also be examined. Depending on the assessment, which is made by the EU Presidency with the help of COHOM, the dialogue will either be continued or terminated.


The EU’s human rights dialogues


EU guidelines on human rights dialogues with third countries — update

last update 20.10.2015