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Minister Costello highlights importance of protecting human rights defenders

European Union, Human Rights, Ireland, Minister Joe Costello, Press Releases, Europe, 2014

The Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, today highlighted the importance of protecting human rights defenders at a seminar in Brussels to mark the 10th Anniversary of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

The guidelines commit EU Member States to providing practical support to Human Rights Defenders around the world.

The Minister said:

The international community must pay particular attention to addressing the needs of Human Rights Defenders, who face extraordinary risks due to the work that they do and the contexts in which they operate.

“Persons who are at particular risk of violations include judges and lawyers; journalists and media workers; trade unionists; youth and student defenders, women human rights defenders and those working on women’s rights and gender issues including sexual orientation and gender identity. We must strive to ensure that LGBTI activists can operate and carry out their advocacy free from fear of intimidation, harassment and violence."

Minister Costello highlighted the importance of human rights, good governance, and rule of law in fostering good trade and business environments:

Human rights and business cannot be divorced. Fair trade can be a powerful weapon in promoting good human rights standards throughout the world. Human rights, good governance and rule of law are preconditions for sustainable economic development and trade. The promotion of human rights is good for business and human rights defenders have a crucial role in promoting respect for human rights by corporations.

“To achieve this it is crucial to improve the environment in which civil society actors operate. In recent years, civil society has come under increasing pressure in many parts of the world. The promotion and protection of civil society space was a key Irish priority during our successful campaign for membership of the UN Human Rights Council, and we will continue to lead on this issue.

The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders were adopted in 2004 and were one of the key priorities of the Irish Presidency of the EU in the field of Human Rights.

The seminar was also attended by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights and Democracy, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst, and Ms Mary Lawlor, the Executive Director of Front Line Defenders.

Press Office
17 June 2014

Notes to the Editor

- The event was hosted by the Irish Permanent Mission to the European Union.
- The basis of this policy was set out under Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in 2004 with the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders – “Ensuring Protection”. The Guidelines represent the political framework through which the EU supports Human Rights Defenders against repression and the arbitrary exercise of power. They aim to provide assistance and protection to the individuals and groups that struggle to promote and protect human rights and to provide swift assistance to those who put their own lives at risk to defend the rights of others.
- Ten years on, the Guidelines continue to be of central importance in the EU’s contacts with partner countries during human rights dialogues as well as in multilateral human rights fora.
- Front Line Defenders is the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an Irish charity established in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
- It is expected that the Foreign Affairs Council will adopt Conclusions at its meeting on 23 June 2014 to mark the 10th anniversary of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.
- The event was hosted by the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in co-operation with Front Line Defenders, Protection International, FIDH, Peace Brigades International, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.