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Better support for Human Rights Defenders – I presented my draft report

How can we better protect and support Human Rights Defenders around the world? This is an area where the EU can make a difference.

I am the rapporteur for a report on this topic. Recently, I presented the draft report to the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

The text is an implementation report – that is, we are examining the implementation of the agreed EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. For example, the report analyses new challenges and threats that Human Rights Defenders are facing, but also how we can adapt our guidelines and apply them more effectively.

The main points:

  • The EU can make an important contribution to the protection of Human Rights Defenders worldwide. Human Rights Defenders repeatedly tell us, "You are the only ones who care about us." On the one hand, this gives us a great responsibility. On the other hand, it makes it very clear that our work counts. Therefore, we must consistently implement the EU guidelines, adapt them where necessary, and work with the member states on this.
  • We need to be more proactive: Human Rights Defenders should receive European support in their work even before threats or attacks occur.
  • We need to broaden the concept of Human Rights Defenders to include land, environmental and indigenous rights defenders.
  • We have to take into account specific threats, for example against women and LGBTQ+ persons. We must also address new challenges in the area of digital rights and surveillance.
  • We need to expand our support, given that frequently, not only Human Rights Defenders are under threat, but also their families and communities.

Sri Lankan Human Rights Defender Hejaaz Hizbullah, who was released from prison in February partly thanks to pressure from the EU, was present at the committee meeting. He stressed that his release is proof that EU interventions have the desired outcome.

During the discussion in the Human Rights Committee, the shadow rapporteurs also took the floor and underlined what they considered the most important contents of the report.

Watch the entire debate in this video:

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