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20 Anniversary of the Berlin Wall
The Chair announced the various events that will take place in the EP on November 11.
US Assistant Secretary of State
The Chair mentioned the lunch she had with senior members of the US mission to the EU and the possibility of receiving Mr Michael Posner at a meeting of DROI next year.
Council of Europe
Following up on the meeting with Commissioner Hammarberg in Strasbourg last time the Chair announced that she had been announced to meet the 27 EU Ambassadors to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg during the November plenary. She hoped that the Chair of LIBE would join her for this meeting especially in view of the possible accession of the EU to the ECHR.
The Chairman mentioned her meetings with President and Deputy Chief Prosecutor in the Hague last week. The President of the Court will be invited to DROI next spring prior to the Rome statute review conference in Kampala. In this context the Chair expressed surprise that the Turkish government had appeared ready to receive president Bashir of Sudan in Turkey this week in spite of his war crimes indictment.
Mr Kazak reported briefly on the EU-Turkey JPC meeting at which it had not proved impossible to agree on a joint declaration concerning human rights issues.
New Commission Vice President/High Representative
The Chair informed members of the planned hearing on Friday December 4.
The Chair regretted once again the lifting of the arms embargo by the EU and expressed the hope that the Council and individual Member States would however continue to pressure Uzbekistan to respect its international obligations.
The Chair informed members of her recent meeting with defectors from North Korea. She proposed organising a hearing on this country next year in the presence of the UN Special Rapporteur.
The Chair informed members that she had met the Foreign Minister of the country during morning and had made clear Parliament’s strong views on the human rights violations taking place.
Human Rights Council
The discussion was opened by the Belgian President of the UNHRC. The official of the OHCHR who acts as Secretary of the HRC also took the floor as did the representative of Amnesty International. All agreed that the HRC was still a work in progress. The President of the HRC considered that the overall balance of the recent session was rather positive. It was better to avoid unrealistic expectations. It was broadly agreed that the Council is and will remain a politicised body, however efforts must be redoubled to ensure that the mandate of the body is respected and efficient use is made of the Council mechanisms: namely the Special Procedures and the UPR, which should be include a thorough follow-up. In this respect the EP was encouraged to remind UN members of their commitments undertaken in the UPR process or as part of campaigns to get elected to the HRC. Mention was made of the review of the Council’s work with AI expressing the view that this should not lead to too much introversion within the Council the hope that it should not impede the Council from continuing its substantial work on human rights violations. All the speakers encouraged the EU to avoid a bloc mentality and to adopt a pragmatic approach making full use of the range of working methods offered by the HRC. The Swedish presidency also agreed that an innovative approach should be taken up, but insisted that where possible the EU would still try to speak with one voice. She considered that the EU had achieved its aims at the recent HRC session.
The Goldstone report was of course frequently mentioned but did not overshadow what was in fact a very balanced and consensual discussion. Mr Howitt considered that the Palestinian issue continued to “infect” the work of the HRC and Mr Tannock pointed out that they were 25 times more resolutions adopted by the HRC on Israel as compared with any other country. All members agreed that criteria of membership of the Council should be looked at again bearing in mind Mrs Gomes’ observation that the HR violators were now investing a lot in the HRC. In view of the refusal of Zimbabwe to allow the Special Rapporteur on torture to visit, an open invitation to all SRs should be offered by all members of the HRC. The Chair concluded that DROI would look very closely at the review process next year and appreciated the suggestion that Parliament monitor more closely the commitments made by countries in the UPR process.
The discussion was introduced by Mr Kukan with expert speakers plus representatives of the UNHCR, AI and the Commission. The fact that the reconciliation process in the minds of the different peoples of the region was not very far advanced was made clear. Similarly there was a lack of international attention concerning the internally displaced people. The Commission made clear the difference between the Stabilisation and the HR aspects of the EU policies. The Commission’s Director, Mr Pierre Mirel, mentioned specifically how slow Croatia has been in dealing with IDPs.In view of difficulties faced by HR defenders and in particular gay rights activists the Commission was directly assisting NGOs including those trying to come to grips with the truth about enormous human rights violations of the 1990s. In this context it was pointed out that no country in the region had in fact established a truth commission, but the NGOs were campaigning for a regional truth commission as an alternative. Reference was made by Mr Kukan at the end of the hearing to the resolution being drafted in AFET concerning EU’s enlargement strategy which will include specific recommendation on HR issues.
At the end of the meeting the floor was given to two Buddhist monks concerning the repression faced by their community in Vietnam. The Chair announced that she would write to the Ambassador on this subject.