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Annual report on human rights 2005

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This seventh annual report from the European Union (EU) on human rights covers the period between July 2004 and June 2005. It presents an overview of activities linked to human rights carried out by the EU with regard to third countries, actions undertaken at multilateral level and certain important topics. The report highlights external relations as well as the situation within the EU's borders.

ACT

Annual report from the European Union on human rights - 2005. Coreper / Council of the European Union of 3 October 2005.

SUMMARY

In contrast to previous presentations, in this report the European Parliament has for the first time drafted a section devoted to its human rights activities. Following up the decision in 2003 to extend the remit of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and convert it into a Fundamental Rights Agency, a proposal for a Regulation establishing this agency was adopted in June 2005.

At the annual session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution. This addresses recommendations to the Commission and the Council concerning the position to be adopted by the EU in negotiations with third countries.

In the Resolution of 24 February 2005, the European Parliament also tackled topics such as the protection of human rights in combating terrorism, freedom of expression, children's rights, trafficking in human beings and defenders of human rights. In 2004, it awarded its annual human rights prize, the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, to the Association of Journalists in Belarus in recognition of its commitment to free speech and the promotion of independent journalism in that country. Many individual cases were raised by Parliament concerning political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, journalists, scientists, trade unionists and defenders of human rights in prison or victims of harassment or threats.

EU instruments and initiatives in third countries

With regard to joint actions, the one in May 2004 concerning the European Union's support for the establishment of an integrated police unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo should be emphasised. In addition, in order to strengthen internal security, it launched the European Union police mission "EUPOL Kinshasa" in April 2005.

To support its initiatives, the EU has approached a number of countries and international bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the General Assembly of the United Nations on aspects of the reform of the United Nations relating to human rights and in support of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

There have been dialogues on human rights and ad hoc consultations with China (which has been called upon in particular to apply the principle of "non-refoulement" to North Korean refugees in China in accordance with international obligations), Iran and Russia. There have been consultations on human rights between the troïka and the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the candidate countries.

The European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU's principal budgetary instrument for promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, was financing more than 1 000 projects throughout the world at the end of June 2005. In 2004, its budget increased to over EUR 100 million and financed projects in 32 countries covering four priority areas: the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and good governance; abolition of the death penalty, combating torture and impunity; supporting international criminal courts and the International Criminal Court; and combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

Topical questions

The topical questions cover a broad spectrum of actions.

In 2004, five countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes: Bhutan, Greece, Samoa, Senegal and Turkey. In Kirghizstan, the president announced that the moratorium on executions in force since 1998 would be extended for a year, and in Tajikistan the existing moratorium was enshrined on 8 July 2004 by a law suspending the application of the death penalty. On the other hand, the EU regretted the ending of moratoria in Lebanon and Indonesia and of the de facto moratorium in India, the suspension of the moratorium in Afghanistan and the decision taken by the interim government in Iraq to reintroduce the death penalty in its legislation.

The EU also referred to the ill-treatment discovered at the Abu Ghraib detention centre, and called upon Algeria, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, the Russian Federation, Tunisia and the United States to issue an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Torture.

With regard to children's rights, the EU stepped up action aimed at implementing the EU guidelines adopted in December 2003 on Children and Armed Conflict. These guidelines commit the EU to address the effects of armed conflict on children, asking heads of mission, military commanders and EU special representatives to follow up and draw up reports on the subject and encourage political dialogue and cooperation. There is also the programme aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation on the internet (Safer Internet Plus) which is spread over four years (2005-2008) and will have a budget of 45 million euro.

In line with its commitment to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, throughout the year the EU has approached parties other than the States with a view to encouraging the ratification of the Rome Statute. It has also agreed with the ACP countries to mention in the new Cotonou agreement the common commitment to the ICC. Political and financial support have been given to other special courts, such as the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court for Rwanda. The EU has asked for the rapid setting up of a special court to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

With regard to EC anti-discrimination legislation, the Member States have made progress concerning the transposition of the two Community anti-discrimination Directives adopted in 2000 by the Council of Ministers. With regard to policy on combating discrimination, in May 2004 a Green Paper on "Equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged EU" was published. In June 2005, the Commission adopted a communication defining a framework strategy on non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all.

EU action in international bodies

The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly met between 4 October and 24 November 2004. The joint resolution on children's rights presented by the EU and a number of Latin American countries was adopted, as was one from the EU relating to religious intolerance.

With regard to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the EU played an active part in discussions for the establishment of a Council on Human Rights intended to replace the CHR. In addition, the EU and its Member States presented 40% of the resolutions adopted by the Commission.

The EU cooperates fruitfully with the Council of Europe within a number of joint programmes financed by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. Joint programmes relating to Georgia, the Southern Caucasus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Ukraine have begun.

Questions targeted at certain countries

There are contrasting situations in different countries: in some, such as Ukraine and Moldavia, visible progress has been noted; in others, such as the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (PDRK) and Iran, almost no improvement has been observed. The EU's influence varies considerably from one country to another, and sometimes all it can do is congratulate or condemn.

In Europe, the EU has a very strong influence and encourages change, for example in Turkey, where the prospect of accession has been a strong incentive in favour of reform. Elsewhere, such as in Africa and Asia, long-term cooperation is beginning to bear fruit. EU cooperation with the African Union is helping to strengthen the work of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and the AU's ability to maintain the peace.

 
Last updated: 01.03.2007
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