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Alyn slams 'devastating year for human rights defenders'

Human rights must top world’s agenda in 2016 

The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 is due to be implemented next year, further integrating human rights into all external policies of the European Union.

Alyn Smith, Scottish Member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the renewed efforts to promote human rights but called 2015 a “devastating year” for human rights defenders and those fleeing war zones in the Middle East. 

Alyn said:

“It has been a devastating year for civilians fleeing armed conflicts, and for international humanitarian law governing the conduct of armed forces. Despite clear rules, civilians bore the brunt of wars and conflicts around the world. That’s why it’s more important now than ever that we renew our efforts to promote human rights in Europe and across the world to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. 

“People fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria and other conflicts of the Middle East are not a new phenomenon. However, in 2015 the consequences of this war were impossible to miss. The Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery, with more than 3,500 people reported to have died or gone missing attempting to cross it. And without pointing fingers at anyone, a lack of support by some EU Member States for search and rescue operations has contributed to the shocking death toll.

“The main cause of the refugee crisis, the Syrian war, is nowhere near over. The country is so dangerous that a definitive tally of deaths is not possible. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people have been killed, and unfortunately many more will die before a political solution can be found. 

“Beside protection of human rights and tackling the refugee crisis, the coming months will see world leaders and local communities alike challenged by the rise of hate-speech, widespread inequality and the damaging effects of right-wing populism in Europe.

“We must counter the racism and xenophobia that undermine our cross-continent efforts to support those fleeing conflicts. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees everyone the same basic human rights, but we all know many countries are still falling short of adhering to the standards laid down in these universal documents. At the EU level, integrating human rights into all external policies, including development cooperation, is a requirement of the Lisbon Treaty and an essential tool for scrutiny, communication and debate regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the world.”

More information on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 can be found here and the European Council's page on human rights issues is here.