Heidi Hautala chaired a delegation of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights to Washington last week. [:]The delegation met with wide range of human rights representatives of the Obama administration and independent organisations that work to support human rights in the US state policy. Core focus of the discussions was how to improve the transatlantic cooperation in the human rights arena both in tackling specific challenges and in the international institutions.The members of European Parliament expressed grave concern over the delays in closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and other detention facilities in various countries that were put up by the US and its allies during the so called “war on terror”. Chairwoman Hautala noted that closing of the Guantanamo Bay is not only a matter of resettlement of prisoners, as it is often portrayed, but a matter of complete review of the US detention policy. Indeed, the members of the delegation stressed that the prospect of indefinite detention and trying the detainees in the military tribunals instead of civil federal are simply unacceptable.
As the review of UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court are nearing, much focus was given on the need of the EU and the US to join forces to achieve better results. The EU and US must make effort to defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedure mechanisms at the UN Human Rights Council and, as the US support for the International Criminal Court has increased during the recent years, see how they could better support the effective functioning of the Court.
The US congress and European Parliament have already established excellent cooperation in several fields and it was agreed that time has come to look into ways to strengthen dialogue also on the human rights field.