EU external relations

We engage with the European institutions by providing reliable information about human rights abuses around the world and urge them to take concrete action to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people everywhere.

Space for civil society and human rights work is being diminished in many countries around the world through oppressive legislation and other, less overt measures.

Human rights defenders, activists, the media and civil society are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, intimidation and even violence. They are frequently targeted by governments or violent groups acting with impunity.

At the same time, influential states are withdrawing from and even actively undermining the international human rights framework.

In this increasingly challenging environment, we believe the European institutions can and must show leadership in defence of human rights worldwide.

Priority countries

  • Egypt
  • Israel/OPT
  • Iran
  • Russia
  • Syria
  • Turkey
  • Yemen
  • China
  • India
  • Burundi
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Mexico

Thematic issues

  • Death penalty (globally)
  • Torture (globally)
  • Human rights defenders (globally in EU policy and specific to priority countries)

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The EU and its member states are key players on human rights because:

  • They have expressed their commitment to promoting human rights in all areas of their foreign policy, without exception.
  • They can make a difference through actions ranging from meeting human rights defenders who are under threat, observing trials,visiting prisons and intervening in death penalty cases, to political engagement through public statements and high-level meetings.
  • They are major donors on human rights and development.
  • They can be highly influential when they demonstrate unity on human rights and coordinate their actions with other multilateral bodies (e.g. UN, African Union).

Yet too often the EU punches below its weight in its defence of human rights. We aim to hold the European institutions to account.

EU action on human rights

The following commitments and instruments guide the EU and its member states in their actions on human rights:

Amnesty International’s report Human Rights Defenders under Threat – A shrinking space for civil society documents the dangers currently faced by human rights defenders across the world and calls on those in power to take measures to ensure that human rights defenders are recognized, protected and equipped to carry out their work without fear.

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