Friday, May 19, 2006

EU Parliament on "Human Rights in the World 2005"

Interesting just to note that the European Parliament's recent annual report on human rights, authored by the British Labour MEP Richard Howitt, has criticised the UK government for its failure to sign up to certain basic international human rights instruments; including the Migrant Workers' Convention and, perhaps more surprisingly, the Council of Europe's anti-trafficking convention and the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in armed conflict. There is some praise to, however, for the UK's stance on the death penalty during the period of its Presidency.

The report suggests "EU activities in the UN with respect to human rights are too introverted" (para. 27), regretting in particular the Union's failure to sponsor resolutions condemning human rights violations in China, Chechnya and Zimbabwe; further, in a section (para. 23) that seems particularly loaded in the light of the Mohammed cartoon controversy, the Parliament

Specifically reminds the Council and the Commission that most human rights abuses would be impossible in countries with stronger traditions of freedom of speech and press freedom; therefore calls on the Council and the Commission to emphasise this key point as strongly as possible in all political dialogues, as in the case of development and trade policy.

On the subject of the ICC (para. 32), the Parliament has some reasonably strong words for the US: it

Calls on the US Administration and the Congress to end the delay and ratify the Rome Statute establishing the ICC; considers that no legal exception can be made for the United States on this point; condemns the fact that certain countries, including a number of EU Member States, have entered into "bilateral agreements" with the United States granting de facto impunity to US soldiers.

Another interesting element is the relatively tame level of rhetoric reserved for Iran (para. 37), despite the dismissal by the latter of the EU's latest compromise proposals as like offering "walnuts and chocolates" to a four-year-old child. The Parliament responds by condemning

... the Iranian President's call for Israel to be wiped off the map; expresses its concerns about the human rights situation in Iran and... expresses its regret at Iran's poor human rights record during the first six months of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's term of office...

Also noteworthy is their concern that current migration measures within the EU do not in practice allow for its international obligations in terms of refugee law to be met (para. 98). That's my impression of the most interesting bits, after, admittedly, a very quick skim. There's probably other stuff in there, but it is, after all, only the Parliament speaking; they do, at least, have the good grace to concede that their own interventions in terms of human rights "could be rendered more effective in a number of ways"...

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