BRUSSELS, 18 June – Ten years ago, on 14 June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders to improve support and protection given by the European Union (EU) to human rights defenders in non-EU countries.
The 10th anniversary of the Guidelines was celebrated yesterday in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU with an event organised by Protection International, Front Line Defenders, Peace Brigades International, the International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
”Human rights defenders can change the power balance” stated Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights and Democracy, who delivered an address after welcoming words by Joe Hackett, Ambassador of Ireland to the EU’s Political and Security Committee, and Joe Costello T.D., Minister of State for Trade and Development of Ireland.
The contribution of the EU guidelines to the protection of human rights defenders, implementation challenges and the way forward were discussed by two panels featuring human rights defenders from Nepal and Mexico, the EU, non-governmental organisations and government representatives. The positive role played by the EU in the protection of human rights defenders at risk was recognised here. “Support given on the ground to human rights defenders through the Guidelines has increased in the last ten years,” said Engelbert Theuermann, the Chair of EU’s Human Rights Working Group (COHOM).
On behalf of the Human Rights Democracy Network, Mauricio Angel -Policy, Research and Training Officer from Protection International – highlighted the importance of creatively implementing the guidelines and make EU support readily available for human rights defenders. He said: “We need to foster a more proactive and preventive approach when it comes to the implementation of the EU Guidelines.”