European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders: a review of policy and practice towards effective implementation

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Bennett, Karen L. (2015)

The European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (the guidelines) are an EU external relations policy tool providing European diplomats with operational recommendations to support and protect human rights defenders (HRDs) in third country missions, recognising the critical need to protect those working on the frontlines to ensure human rights obligations are enforced in their countries. Implementation of the guidelines by the EU and its member states has resulted in many good practice actions towards the support and protection of HRDs. However the guidelines’ recommendations are not systematically implemented by all European member states and implementation in EU mission countries around the world is patchy and inconsistent. This article considers EU commitments to effectively implement the guidelines policy tool in practice, including steps taken to integrate the guidelines’ operational recommendations within the relatively new process of planning EU Human Rights Country Strategies in mission countries. Drawing from a study for the European Parliament assessing implementation of the guidelines in Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Tunisia, the author identifies key areas of stakeholders’ concerns, and argues for the need to link the EU’s efforts towards coherence in human rights policy with on-the-ground approaches towards the protection of HRDs in third countries.
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