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MEPs voice strong support for human rights organisations during visit to Geneva

A cross-party delegation of five MEPs from the Subcommittee on Human Rights has concluded a two-day visit to the UN Human Rights Council and international organisations in Geneva.

MEPs from the Subcommittee on Human Rights

The delegation assessed the implementation of EU priorities in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and discussed the main outcome of the 49th session. In all their meetings, MEPs reiterated how vital UNHRC is to the multilateral fora system. They acknowledged the key role the EU and its member states are playing with like-minded partners in upholding the universality and the indivisibility of human rights in globally challenging times. They emphasised the EU’s responsibility in continuing to support the Office of the High Commissioner and the human rights council special procedures, including the international investigative bodies.

They encouraged the EU to continue building strong partnerships with third countries to address emerging economic and social human rights issues (climate, gender, education, and housing), which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated.

During their visit, the delegation discussed several human rights crises in different countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Afghanistan, China, Libya, Venezuela) and thematic issues of great interest for the Subcommittee’s members (corporate responsibility, fight against impunity, digital rights, forced and child labour, environmental defenders, cultural rights, sports and human rights, safety of journalists and freedom of expression and opinion, Internally Displaced Peoples, migrants and refugees) with UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the International Organization for Migration’s Director General António Vitorino as well as with high-level officials from the International Labour Organization, UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Several UN mandate-holders expressed that they have high expectations of EU legislation that has an impact on human rights worldwide (Digital Services Act, draft directive on corporate sustainability due diligence,) and encouraged the EU to keep up its commitments to the highest standards of human rights. More specifically, MEPs addressed the violation of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression. They expressed strong interest in the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria and agreed that such a mechanism should serve as an inspiration in the case of Ukraine.

The delegation voiced strong support for the significant work that non-governmental organisations are doing at local level or in multilateral human rights systems, in particular during the Universal Periodic Review cycle and in different committees. Ensuring that access to the Human Rights Council for civil society organisations and human rights defenders is guaranteed without fear from reprisal measures must remain a key priority for the EU.

Additional information

The delegation was chaired by the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium), and also included MEPs Isabel Wiseler-Lima (EPP, Luxembourg), Dietmar Köster (S&D, Germany), Maria Noichl (S&D, Germany) and Samira Rafaela (Renew Europe, Netherlands).