Specific Human Rights Issues currently being addressed by the European Union
The EU Foreign Ministers have drawn up Guidelines on a number of human rights themes to which the EU is particularly committed. They are designed as guides for specific activities by the EU in these areas.
The worldwide abolition of the death penalty is a priority for Austria and its EU partners. On the basis of the Guidelines drawn up in 1998 the EU intervenes with third countries and in multilateral forums such as the UN in favour of a moratorium and general abolition of the death penalty and to prevent the sentencing or execution of the death penalty in individual cases. This was also a focus of the Austrian EU Presidency in the first half of 2006.
In accordance with the EU Guidelines on torture drafted in 2001 the EU appeals to third countries and in multilateral forums such as the UN for measures to combat torture worldwide and intervenes in favour of individuals who have been or are in danger of being tortured. The EU supports international and regional instruments such as the UN Anti-Torture Committee and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Austria also provides financial support for the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak.
Through the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders adopted in 2004 the EU supports the work worldwide of activists who champion human rights in their countries. The EU Guidelines call for close contact between the EU and human rights defenders in the individual countries and regions as well as increased public visibility of their work. This solidarity by the EU helps to protect human rights defenders at risk in many countries in the same way as EU interventions and public statements in favour of individuals.
The protection and promotion of human rights defenders was a focus of the Austrian EU Presidency in the first half of 2006. The Guidelines were extensively analysed and measures to improve their effectiveness devised. The Austrian Presidency also ran a campaign in favour of women as human rights defenders. Interventions on behalf of acutely threatened human rights defenders resulted in the liberation of some of them in Cambodia, Nepal, Uzbekistan and elsewhere.
The EU adopted its Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflicts in December 2003 to help protect children affected by war and violence. For example, it urges states and parties to conflicts to respect international human rights standards regarding children and to take measures to protect children in conflict situations. To strengthen these EU efforts in general an implementation strategy and checklist for integration of the Guidelines in European Security and Defence Policy operations were drafted during the Austrian EU Presidency. Particular attention also needs to be paid to combating the recruitment and to the social reintegration of child soldiers. The EU finances numerous programmes in third countries through the Humanitarian Aid Office and the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, including projects for the reintegration of child soldiers and on small arms and light weapons and anti-personnel mines.