Written by Ionel Zamfir,
Support for human rights defenders (HRDs) is a long established component, as well as one of the major priorities, of the EU’s external human rights policy. With the adoption in 2004 of EU Guidelines on HRDs, the EU has established a set of concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid. The Guidelines encourage EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach, by establishing contact with HRDs and intervening on their behalf when they are at risk. The European Commission manages a financial instrument to support HRDs working in the world’s most dangerous situations. A Human Rights Mechanism managed by NGOs with EU financial support has also been launched in order to enhance the effectiveness of EU action on behalf of HRDs. All this makes the EU a major supporter of HRDs in the world.
The European Parliament has been a long-time advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs, actively contributing to its shaping. It has drawn attention to the difficult situation of HRDs in many countries through its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches in the world, some of which have specifically dealt with individual HRDs facing particular threats. It can also organise hearings with HRDs, issue statements about cases of HRDs at risk, or raise the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned. The EP’s Sakharov Prize is the EU’s most visible action in favour of HRDs. Its impact is significant on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Standing up for human rights defenders around the world: What is the EU doing?‘.
Listen to an EPRS Policy Podcast on ‘Human Rights Defenders‘.