While our priority countries and regions are not in the European Union, the EU plays a significant role in the human rights discourse and in supporting the implementation of human rights standards as part of its foreign relations. It also is an important actor inter-governmental fora.
EU guidelines are a strong political signal of its priorities of human rights policy vis-à-vis third countries, outlining the EU’s policy and providing an operational tool to be used in contact with third countries at all levels as well as in multilateral human rights fora. The EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty and EU Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel Treatment are of particular importance to our work.
Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN)
Our engagement with the European Union mostly takes place through our membership of the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN).
EU Human Rights Strategy
The new EU Human Rights Strategy and an Action Plan were adopted in June 2012. Huge changes had taken place in the world since the previous strategy was adopted in 2001, its review in 2011 was much anticipated, and provided a rare opportunity for the European Union to demonstrate leadership in enhancing human rights implementation through its foreign relations. Read our Comments on the draft New Direction for the EU on Human Rights and Democracy, November 2011
See also the Human Rights and Democracy Network statement on the strategy’s two-year anniversary which welcomes progress in some areas of EU external human rights policy, but expresses concern that the EU is ‘punching below its weight and losing the collective energy that existed in the run up to the adoption of the human rights and democracy package’.
A new Action Plan will be adopted before the end of 2014.
EU action against the Death Penalty
The EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty, adopted by the European Council in 1998 and reviewed in 2008, make clear that EU Member States are united in their view that the fight against the death penalty is one of the EU’s highest priorities.
One of the main objectives of the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty is to: ‘work towards universal abolition of the death penalty… [and]… where the death penalty still exists, to call for its use to be progressively restricted…’ In order to achieve these objectives, the EU acts both in its bilateral relations with third countries and in multilateral fora.
The EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty are a fundamental tool in the fight for abolition of the death penalty as they form the basis of EU action. They provide criteria for making general or individual representations and outline the minimum standards to be applied in countries retaining the death penalty.
We welcomed the Guidelines, and their review in 2012, making a submission to the responsible taskforce. We raised new issues to be reflected in the revised text, such as changes in the types of offences that warrant the death penalty, procedures used to sentence a person to death, methods used to impose a death penalty, and other legal and political issues surrounding the death penalty.
We also promote the control and restrictions of the trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. A Council Regulation has been in force since 2005 banning the trade of certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Read the joint submission to the European Commission in January 2011 on restricting the export of drugs for use in lethal injection.