In many countries around the world, governments and violent groups are attacking, harassing and using restrictive legislation to intimidate human right activists, the media and civil society, and reduce their ability to defend human rights. 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 their defense of human rights worldwide.

The EU and its member states can make a difference through actions ranging from meeting human rights defenders who are under threat, observing trials, visiting prisons and intervening when the death penalty is being used, to political engagement through public statements and high-level meetings. They are major donors on human rights and development and can be highly influential when they demonstrate unity on human rights and coordinate their actions with other multilateral bodies (e.g. UN, African Union).

WHAT WE DO AT A GLANCE

We engage with the European institutions by providing timely analysis about human rights abuses around the world, by urging them to take action to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people everywhere, and by offering concrete, timely and EU-tailored recommendations.

We coordinate joint action with Amnesty International national groups in EU countries, in areas where EU competence and added value is clear, in order to influence member state positions at EU level. This is organised around key EU gatherings and policy discussions such as:

  • Meetings of Foreign Affairs ministers where EU policy positions and human rights strategy are determined;
  • High level EU dialogues with third countries where the future development of EU relations with these countries is decided;
  • Actions and interventions in support of human rights and its defenders, including at embassy level in third countries.

Based on the input and analysis of Amnesty International regional teams, we present evidence of human rights abuses in different EU fora and represent Amnesty International in meetings with officials, up to the highest level.

PRIORITY COUNTRIES

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

THEMATIC PRIORITIES

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

Defending defenders?

An assessment of EU action on human rights defenders

Human rights defenders face mounting deadly threats and attacks for defending the rights of all of us. Is the European Union (EU) defending the defenders?
READ THE REPORT
©Ema Anis for Amnesty International

Find out more

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 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.