Challenge to Britain and European Union over Defence of Human Rights Defenders

Governments in the European Union must step up their work to protect human rights defenders said groups representing journalists and others working in the field who are increasingly at risk.

In an appeal to the UK Government, currently holding the presidency of the European Union, the International Federation of Journalist (IFJ), the National Union of Journalists in Britain and Ireland (NUJ) and Peace Brigades International European Office (PBI-EU) called on EU states to report on their actions to protect human rights defenders, and particularly journalists, all around the world.

"It is time for concrete actions" said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "There have been enough well-meaning declarations of support and despite a number of promises to implement UN Declarations; the UK Presidency has still not delivered enough."

In June 2004, the European Council adopted guidelines on Human Rights Defenders which give mandate to the heads of EU delegations and Member States embassies in the protection of Human Rights Defenders and monitoring of the abuses they suffer. Former Dutch and Irish EU Presidencies have been very active and closely cooperated with the NGOs and the UK Presidencies. The EU should now report on the implementation of these guidelines.

"The number of defenders, including journalists, killed, tortured, harassed in 2005 remains of extreme concern" said Pascale Boosten from Peace Brigades International, international NGO accompanying defenders at risk in conflict areas since 25 years.

"The EU active diplomacy should be reinforced and the mandate of the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, a position currently held by Ms Hina Jilani, also ensured to be continued in order to maintain UN and governmental focus on human rights defenders".

Human Rights Defenders need more concrete actions and strategies for their protection and the EU is in a position to deliver. Members of Parliament, the Media, and citizens can support this campaign. Further information is available on the new website that PBI European office is launching today.

Some governments try to take advantage of their legislation and of the antiterrorist measures to limit the work and the independence of individuals and associations monitoring the situation of human rights in their country.

"EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders should not remain as a soft compromise when people defending universal rights get tortured and killed," said Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists in Britain and Ireland.

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The IFJ represents more than 500.000 journalists in more than 160 countries.