[insert photo of the EU institutions in Brussels – perhaps the Justus Lipsus building]

EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders:

In June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were revised in 2006 and in late 2008. The guidelines aim at strengthening EU action in terms of support and protection of HRDs. This instrument made the protection of HRDs a priority of the EU policies in relation with human rights.
Moreover, under the guidelines, EU delegations and Member State embassies have potentially become important protection bodies for HRDs. For instance:

  • EU Heads of Mission (of embassies and consulates of EU Member States and EU Delegations) are to include information on the situation of HRDs in the human rights reporting in their countries of accreditation and issue recommendations to the Human Rights Working Party of the Council (COHOM) with a view to potential actions by the EU. The latter and all other competent working groups may decide on actions to be taken to protect HRDs.
  • EU Heads of Mission are requested to address the situation of HRDs at meetings of local working groups on human rights and they may decide to take local emergency action in order to support HRDs who face immediate or serious danger (it may include issuing emergency visas and hosting of HRDs at risk).
  • EU missions should be proactive in protection and their interaction with HRDs. Measures to be adopted should include, among others:
    – Adopting Local Implementation Strategies (LIS) of the Guidelines.-
    – Holding an annual meeting (at least) bringing together HRDs and diplomats.
    – Taking action in through close collaboration and exchange of information with HRDs.
    – Making regular contact with HRDs (including welcoming them in the missions, going to zones where HRDs work and appointing specific liaison officers).
    – Visibly and publicly recognising HRDs and their work.
    – Visiting HRDs in custody or under house arrest, and observing their trials.
  • The EU is called to underline the importance it places on the respect of human rights and the protection of HRDs in its political dialogues with third countries and international fora, including the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) at the Human Rights Council (HRC); the EU should additionally support the HRC special procedures, and particularly the Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs.
  • The EU should also support Human Rights Defenders and NGOs working towards the promotion and protection of Human Rights In the framework of its development policy,. Rapid measures to assist and protect Human Rights Defenders should also be taken (notably emergency visas and hosting of threatened Human Rights Defenders).

European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR):

Since 2007, the EU established the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). This instrument complements other policy tools and aims at mainstreaming the promotion of democracy and human rights within all its external policies. It allows for direct and more flexible cooperation with local civil society organisations that need to preserve independence from public authorities. Thus, through the EIDHR, the EU can provide financial and material support to HRDs working in extremely difficult and dangerous environments and helps them reinforce their capacities to do their human rights work.

EU human rights package:

On 25 June 2012, the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) of the European Council adopted the new EU human rights package. This new “package” includes the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and the EU Human Rights Action Plan.
The “package” is an important step forward by the 27 Member States, the European External Action Service and the European Commission, because it aims to move the promotion and protection of human rights to the centre of all EU external policies: development cooperation, trade, investment, technology and telecommunications, Internet, energy, environmental, corporate social responsibility, Common Security and Defence Policy, and counter-terrorism, among others. It equally pledges to intensify the EU political and financial support for HRDs –making funding operations more flexible and more accessible– and to step up its efforts against all forms of reprisals.

EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders – Council of the EU, 2004, reviewed in 2008

Ensuring protection – European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders


European Parliament resolution – EU policies in favour of human rights defenders

17 June 2010

EU policies in favour of human rights defenders