(23 Nov 2011) Ahead of a consultation meeting with civil society on 14 November PRI submitted comments on the draft new EU Human Rights Strategy, “New Direction for the EU on Human Rights and Democracy”. The comments were also submitted to the European External Action Service, the EU Human Rights Working Group (COHOM) and Members of the European Parliament.
The EU, through its foreign policy instruments, its enlargement process and as an actor at regional and international inter-governmental organisations plays a significant role in shaping the human rights discourse and in promoting and supporting the implementation of human rights standards within its foreign relations.
However, given the seismic changes in the world since the current EU human rights strategy has been adopted in 2001, the review of the current EU strategy on human rights has long been awaited, and provides a rare opportunity to demonstrate leadership in enhancing human rights implementation through foreign relations.
PRI therefore very much appreciates the initiative to review the EU Human Rights Strategy. At the same time, the organisation noted that the process of consultation – of other EU institutions, member states and civil society actors – appears to be very rapid, given an initial draft has only been made available in November.
As for the draft of a new EU Human Rights Strategy, amongst other comments, PRI raised that criminal justice issues, penal reform, detention and imprisonment are not given the appropriate weight, in the light of 10.2 million people incarcerated globally, a large percentage of them awaiting trial, while presumed – and often found – to be innocent.
PRI also noted that, while stressing the importance of the rule of law, to date EU foreign policy has an almost exclusive scope of police cooperation and prosecution relating to the fight against drugs and organised crime with a link to the EU. References to the “independence of the judiciary”, “access to justice and redress” or to the “functioning of the judiciary” remain rare and general. The development of a policy is envisioned only for the area of transitional justice, hence not encompassing (criminal) justice issues in third countries beyond dealing with abuses in previous armed conflicts.
PRI therefore, amongst others, recommended expanding the section on justice issues, on detention and imprisonment and consider the drafting of a policy document or guideline in order to outline the EU’s concrete objectives, benchmarks and possible measures in order to strengthen the judiciary in third countries, and to enhance the criminal justice system more specifically.
Please find PRI’s full submission on the draft new EU Human Rights Strategy here