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Annual Report on Human Rights 2006

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The eighth EU Annual Report on Human Rights covers the period from July 2005 to June 2006. It reviews the EU's human rights activities with regard to third countries and the multilateral action taken. It also discusses a number of important subject areas. As in previous years, the report looks at both external relations and the situation within the EU.

ACT

European Union Annual Report on Human Rights: Coreper / Council of the European Union, 12 October 2006.

SUMMARY

Part of the report is devoted to the European Parliament's work on human rights. Its hearings dealt in particular with Israel and Egypt, the Euromed zone ten years after the Barcelona Declaration, southeast Asia, Nepal, the murder of women in Mexico and Guatemala, the EU guidelines on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Ethiopia one year after the elections, and the dialogue between the EU and certain third countries on human rights. In December 2005 it awarded its annual human rights prize, the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, jointly to Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), for their work on behalf of political prisoners in Cuba, Hauwa Ibrahim, for her work as a lawyer defending women and children prosecuted under Sharia law in Nigeria, and Reporters without Frontiers, in recognition of their campaign for freedom of the press throughout the world.

The report is seen as a useful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of the EU's human rights policies and as a means of promoting transparency and cooperation with civil society.

In the period under review, priority was given to the various instruments which the EU can use to promote human rights and democracy. Particular emphasis was placed on integrating the human rights dimension into all policies and actions and on the human rights aspects of certain major subject areas, such as the EU's crisis management activities.

A number of initiatives aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue were introduced as part of the fight against terrorism and extremism. The EU reaffirmed its opposition to the death penalty, examining specific cases where the minimum standards of international law have been flouted and looking at countries where the policy on the death penalty is in the process of changing. It welcomed the fact that Liberia, Mexico and the Philippines had abolished the death penalty during the period under review and that 45 of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe had now ratified Protocol No 6 to the European Human Rights Convention on the abolition of the death penalty.

In an effort to rally support for the universal abolition of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the EU contacted a number of countries to urge them to accede to the United Nations Convention against Torture and to cooperate with the existing mechanisms in this area. It particularly welcomed the entry into force on 22 June 2006 of the optional protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which will establish a complementary system of mechanisms for national and international inspections of places of detention. On 27 June 2005, the EU adopted a Regulation concerning trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment or torture: which prohibits the export and import of goods whose only practical use is to inflict capital punishment, torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Within the EU the Commission's communication of 4 July 2006, " Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child " set out a global approach aimed at defending and actively protecting the rights of the child. At international level, the EU has identified certain priority countries where greater efforts are needed to protect children caught up in armed conflicts and has stressed that its capacity to deal with this problem as part of the operations conducted under the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) needs to be reinforced. In support of human rights activists the EU has launched international campaigns on freedom of expression and on behalf of women who champion human rights.

The EU is committed to combating impunity and working towards the prevention of crimes of international concern and therefore supports universal ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Throughout the period covered by the report it made representations to third countries urging them to ratify and implement the Rome Statute. In 2005 and 2006 the European Commission negotiated the inclusion of clauses on the ICC in the action plans drawn up under the European Neighbourhood Policy with Jordan, Moldova and Ukraine. Recent landmarks include the decision in October 2005 to unseal the first arrest warrants issued by the Court, and the arrest on war crimes charges of Thomas Lubanga, who had been handed over by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Representations and statements are a way of registering the EU's concerns about human rights and can also be used to send a positive message. During this period, for example, the EU welcomed a number of positive developments, such as the elections in Afghanistan and the level of female participation (18 September 2005), the adoption of the resolution establishing the Human Rights Council (16 March 2006), the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines (26 June 2006) and the extension of the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (26 June 2006).

The EU continued its dialogue with China on human rights, expressing serious concern about the continuing use of torture and the death penalty, the violation of freedom of expression, particularly on the Internet, and the rights of minorities, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang. It also engaged in a similar dialogue with Iran and a number of ACP countries.

At international level, 2006 marked a new era for the work of the United Nations in the field of human rights, with the creation on 26 March of the Human Rights Council. During the negotiations the EU had pressed for the creation of the Council to give human rights the essential role envisaged by the United Nations Charter. The EU also achieved a few notable successes at the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly, where it tabled six resolutions on specific countries, five of which were adopted (on Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).

The EU cooperates actively with the Council of Europe on joint country-specific projects financed by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). There are also a number of joint multilateral programmes on particular subjects, for example targeting national minorities like the Roma, or the fight against organised crime and corruption. The EU has also raised questions in the Permanent Council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about human rights violations in Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the death penalty in the United States, the elections in Kirghizstan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and the adoption of the Russian law on non-profit organisations.

A number of country-specific issues attracted attention in the period 2005-2006, and the EU continued to campaign for human rights in the Mediterranean region. Romania and Bulgaria made considerable progress in this area, although concerns remained, particularly as regards their efforts to combat corruption. For the Palestinian Authority (PA), the main event in 2005 was the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank; internal clashes also claimed numerous victims and resulted in the inability of the PA to restore the rule of law in the Palestinian territories. The regular six-monthly consultations on human rights took place between the EU and Russia, where the situation remained worrying, particularly as regards Chechnya, the position of NGOs and the freedom of the press. Finally, 2005 saw agreement on a common position on conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa and the adoption of the EU Africa strategy.

 
Last updated: 21.12.2006
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