EU to protect human rights defenders.
On International Human Rights Day, Alyn Smith, Scottish member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has welcomed the European Commission’s declaration to launch the first-of-its-kind comprehensive Human Rights Defenders initiative, assisting human rights defenders at high risk.
The mechanism, which is set to become one of Europe's key tools protecting those at risk of retribution or imprisonment, has been allocated €15 million of EU funds until 2018.
“Today especially we must remember all those human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience who have sacrificed their own freedom and lives in order to promote and protect the human rights of those living under brutal political regimes across the world.
“The European Commission’s decision to offer further protection and assistance to human rights defenders, ranging from urgent relocation to legal advice is a proof of our commitment not only to the articles enshrined in the Declaration but those who take unimaginable risk and stand up for our values often facing uncertain future as a consequence.
“Managed by a consortium of 12 independent international NGOs the fund will reach human rights defenders across the globe in most remote locations, offering physical protection, legal and medical support, trial monitoring, and urgent relocation among other actions.
“The sad fact is that there are thousands of political prisoners across the world who still face unfair trials, imprisonment, torture and even death penalty. And this is despite the fact that the Declaration states that no one shall be subjected to cruel or degrading punishment. Paradoxically, nations that utilise the death penalty avoid framing capital punishment as a human rights issue.
“Today should also praise the many voices in Scotland and in Europe that speak out against right-wing populism and intolerance. Faced with tough economic circumstances and the biggest refugee crisis since WWII, voices of empathy based on the principles of fundamental human rights are more important that even before.”