EU: European Parliament Resolution addresses mobility of HRDs as key protection issue

16 March 2023 |

The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the implementation of the European Union’s Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (HRD), which were initially adopted in 2004. The Guidelines define HRDs as “natural and indispensable allies in the promotion of human rights and democracy externally,” but the Resolution acknowledges that the overall application of the Guidelines by EU bodies such as the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Commission, and Member States has been uneven and inconsistent at many levels.

The Resolution also acknowledges visas and shelter for HRDs as “an important protection tool” in counteracting risks, and recommends that the European Commission sanction specific visa facilitation measures:

“…in particular, Member States should facilitate the issuance of visas 1) procedurally, by ensuring that their embassies’ and consulates’ processes are swift, comprehensible, accessible and achievable, and 2) structurally, by creating a specific category in the EU Visa Code for HRDs at risk and including dedicated instructions in the EU Visa Code Handbook on granting facilitation procedures to HRDs and their family members; underlines the need to make visa requirements and conditions less stringent for HRDs in need of emergency evacuation…”

The Resolution also makes wide-ranging recommendations to the Commission on the protection of HRDs in the context of the EU’s forthcoming corporate sustainability due diligence directive, specifically calling on the Commission to ensure that risks to HRDs working on business and labour issues “are included in the risks identification and assessment phase of companies’ due diligence processes” and that “companies systematically engage with HRDs and guarantee their safe participation.”

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European Parliament resolution of 16 March 2023 on the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (2021.2204 (INI))

EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders