Human Rights Defenders
Many people speak out non-violently throughout the world for the respect and protection of the human rights of others. Because of their commitment these human rights defenders are often persecuted and suppressed and therefore require particular attention by the international community. The protection of human rights defenders is a matter of particular concern for Austria and the EU. Austria therefore supported the formulation of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which were adopted by the foreign ministers of the European Union in June 2004. These Guidelines implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1999.
The subject of human rights defenders was a particular focus during the Austrian EU Presidency in the first half of 2006. Apart from an evaluation of the Guidelines and the drafting of recommendations to better protect human rights defenders, which were published in June 2006, the Austrian Presidency intervened on a number of occasions on behalf of individual threatened human rights defenders. As women who defend human rights including women’s rights often face additional risks on account of traditional role models, a worldwide campaign was carried out to protect women as human rights defenders. Austrian embassies around the world intensified their contacts with human rights and women’s rights activists. Foreign Minister Plassnik met local activists during the EU Latin America and Caribbean Summit and State Secretary Winkler did the same during a visit by the Troika to the southern Caucasus in April 2006.
Since the Austrian EU Council Presidency ended, Austria has continued to actively promote the protection of human rights defenders in all bilateral and multilateral forums. The policy of intervention on behalf of individuals has also been continued. For example, at the initiative of Austria, the EU intervened in March 2007 with the Iranian authorities for the rights of a group of women’s rights activists in Tehran, who had been arrested because of their public commitment. Meetings with representatives of human rights and women’s rights group are regularly arranged during visits to other countries by Foreign Minister Plassnik.