Weakened by the crisis

EU Parliament: the poor are growing poorer

“The global economic and financial crisis has had a negative impact on economic, social and cultural rights” and “the rights of the poorest people have been most affected”: it is a passage of the stand taken by the EU Parliament on December 16 contained in “The Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2009 and the European Union’s policy on the matter”. Old and new violations. By tradition, the December parliamentary session addresses the question of human rights. The Assembly examines the Community’s commitment at domestic level and beyond EU borders, and presents the Sacharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and Human Rights (this year the Prize was awarded to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas). Laima Liucija Andrikiené, Lithuanian MEP, prepared the document drawn up by Parliament that delves into the manifold issues “related to fundamental rights and freedoms in the five continents”. The document includes an analysis of the situation of the rights in the world, addressing the question of death penalty (applied in many world countries despite the moratorium called by the U.N.), the violence against women and minors in all its forms – including the most atrocious, along with the lack of freedom of expression in various parts of the world. “The fight against terrorism must not be used as an argument to restrict human rights”. Andrikiené notes, “new forms of human rights abuses are occurring in the world, notably in the area of the new information technologies, such as internet misuse and censorship, and infringement of privacy by the use of personal data”. Fulfilling the commitments. The EU Parliament puts in writing a wide-ranging list of human rights. For example, it “recognises that economic, social and cultural rights should be given equal importance as civil and political rights, bearing in mind the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights”; the EP thus underlines that human rights include the right to food, water and sanitation, education, adequate housing land, decent work and social security. The EU Parliament calls on the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs “to keep to her commitments on mainstreaming human rights throughout the EU’s external action” and “calls for the creation of a Special Representative for Human Rights”. The document, which does present some questionable passages, delves into a wide range of human rights issues: the practice of torture, violence against women in all its forms – for example female genital mutilation and early or forced marriage, all forms of trafficking in human beings, domestic violence and femicide” and devotes a special chapter “to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People”. The EP highlights the need to protect the defenders of human rights and “welcomes the decision” to award Liu Xiaobo with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.A lengthy chapter on religion. The document states, “Freedom of religion or belief is under growing threat, notably by authoritarian governments targeting religious minorities”. It expresses “deep concern for the fact that discrimination based on religion or belief” remains widespread all over the world: mention is made of cases in Northern Korea, Iran, Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, China, Russia, Vietnam. The Parliamentary document “firmly” condemns the “criminalization or the punishments inflicted for ‘apostasy’ in relation to cases of conversion from one religion to another or from one religious denomination (subgroup) to another, as still carried out in most of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa”.EU jurisdiction. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, addressed this theme in the Euro Assembly and claims that in order to defend human rights in the world it is necessary to have a clear foreign policy, strengthen the UN, “cooperate with third countries” and “have local strategies to intervene in all countries” where human rights are violated. During the debate – that highlighted the progress made in this field all over the world – MEPs pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty stepped up EU jurisdiction as relates to foreign affairs, so as to strengthen its values and objectives. For this, the new European External Action Service (EEAS) is tasked with further consolidating the EU’s action in the field of human rights.

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