Ireland’s EU presidency must strengthen human rights within Europe

Ireland’s EU presidency must strengthen human rights within Europe
(Brussels, 18 January 2013) As Ireland assumes the six-monthly rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, Amnesty International has today delivered its Recommendations to the Irish EU presidency to Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade. The organisation has tasked the Irish presidency with strengthening human rights inside the EU.
“Ireland has a strong record in supporting human rights worldwide, so we look forward to a dynamic performance by the Irish presidency”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “But the big challenge continues to be in persuading the EU to enforce its human rights standards in member states. Among the key human rights abuses are violence against women, the failure to uphold refugees’ and migrants’ rights and widespread discrimination across Europe against people from ethnic minorities and lesbian bisexual gay transgender and intersex people.”
Amnesty International’s submission includes calls on Ireland to combat violence against women, to assist Europe-wide efforts to support Roma and Traveller communities, and to fight discrimination in all its forms. 
The EU had previously promised to create a strategy on violence against women, including female genital mutilation, but has yet to deliver one. Amnesty International believes it is critical to the EU’s credibility that its support for women’s rights internationally is matched by serious efforts to combat violence against women in EU countries. An important first step for the EU would be to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women. 
Across Europe, Roma and Travellers suffer comprehensive discrimination. They lack access to proper housing and face segregation in education. Amnesty International has asked the presidency to coordinate the work of all EU countries on developing National Roma Integration Strategies, ensuring that the fight against discrimination is at the core of all EU and member state action. 
Outside the EU, Amnesty International envisages that the presidency will work with the EU’s External Action Service to deliver strong European support for a treaty to help bring the global arms trade under control. 
The recommendations also highlight the cases of several prisoners of conscience and human rights activists who are at risk around the world. Members and supporters across Europe will be campaigning to press the Irish presidency to bring the weight of the EU to bear on these cases. They include imprisoned human rights activist Ales Bialiatski in Belarus, and Azza Suleiman, an Egyptian activist brutally assaulted by soldiers during protests in Tahrir Square in December 2011.
For more information please contact:
Peter Clarke  
Media & Communications Officer
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel: +32 (0) 2 548 2773