December 2022 – January 2023 Newsletter
Colombia: I visited Colombia from 5-9 December, both as EUSR for Human Rights and EU Special Envoy for Peace in Colombia. This was my first visit since the new Government took office. I met with several government actors, including Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva and Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda. I also met with UN representatives, including UNSRSG Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the COMUNES party (former FARC), representatives of the political opposition, civil society, human rights defenders, the Catholic Church, including the Nuncio, the Bishop of Buenaventura and the General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference.
In Buenaventura, I witnessed first-hand the early results of President Petro’s “Total Peace” policy – the local Bishop and the Peace Commissioner negotiated a deal with the warring criminal gangs in the city, resulting in no murders for several weeks. I spoke on behalf of the international community at a peace concert with President Petro and Vice President Francia Marquez. I also celebrated the “noche de velitas” (the night of the candles) with local communities in Buenaventura and participated in an event commemorating international Human Rights Day, hosted by the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francisco Coy.
EU-NGO Human Rights Forum: I delivered a keynote speech on 15 December at the 24th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum where 230 human rights defenders gathered from over 70 countries to discuss how to stop impunity and build the road to accountability and justice. To the civil society and institutional actors participating in person and online, I spoke about the shift from an age of impunity into the new age of accountability. Read or watch the speech here.
In the margins of the Forum, I met with a group of human rights defenders from several countries. I also held a bilateral meeting with UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif on the EU’s Strategic Dialogue with the UN and discussed plans for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Day: For the 74th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day, I contributed via video messages to celebrations and events hosted by EU delegations in Sudan and in China. Also, watch the video message from the EEAS here.
EU-Africa: On 5 December, I made the closing speech to the EU-AU Civil Society Seminar, held in preparation for the EU-AU Human Rights Dialogue. It was a great opportunity to engage with 45 civil society organisations from across two continents.
Ukraine: On 17 January, I participated in the 10th round of discussions between the EU and Ukraine in Brussels on the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. With access being denied to international organisations and persecution of residents opposing the Russian war of aggression, it is critical to continue to address the human rights situation in Crimea. On 16 December, I held an online meeting with the Ombudsman of Ukraine, Dmytro Lubinets, who updated me on his work to address the human rights and humanitarian consequences of the Russian aggression.
Belarus: The Lukashenko regime continues to persecute individuals and organisations. More than 1440 people have been imprisoned for their political views. I raised the profile of political prisoners through my social media campaign #FreeBelarus. Join me.
Bangladesh: On 16 December, I met with Adilur Rahman Khan, the Secretary of Bangladeshi non-governmental organization Odhikar. We discussed the human rights situation in Bangladesh as well as Odhikar’s de-registration and the ongoing lawsuits against Odhikar representatives.
Pakistan: On 1 December, I was pleased to meet with the new Chair of Pakistan’s National Human Rights Commission Rabiya Javeri, who updated me on the progress since my visit to the country last February.
Freedom of Religion and Belief: On 10 January, I was pleased to meet the newly appointed EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion and Belief Frans Van Daele. On 12 January, I addressed the opening of the first meeting of Religion and Diplomacy Advisors of all EU Member States.
International Humanitarian Law/Syria: On 2 December, I met with the UN OHCHR Representative/Head of Office in Syria, Dimiter Chalev, on the difficult humanitarian and human rights situation in the country. I also met with the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, to discuss genocide prevention and how to ensure accountability for atrocities.
Occupied Palestinian Territories: On 19 January, I sat down with representatives of 7amleh Arab Center for social media to discuss the protection of human rights in the digital sphere, specifically in the context of the OPT.
Freedom of the Press: On 5 December, I discussed numerous challenges faced by journalists and media workers worldwide with the President of the Committee to Protect Journalists Jodie Ginsberg.
Sweden: On 26 January, I travelled to Stockholm for discussions with the Swedish EU Presidency priorities on Human Rights, democracy and rule of law. I was delighted to meet with Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell, Secretary General of International IDEA Kevin Casas-Zamora, civil society organisations and officials from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
My Mandate: The EU Member States endorsed HRVP Borrell’s proposal to extend my mandate for an additional year, until 29 February 2024. On 24 January, I had a forward-looking discussion with the EU-27 Member States on my plans and priorities in the next 12 months.
“Worldwide, people’s human rights are being trampled. It is in this year of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we turn the tide and reclaim human rights for all. I am determined to contribute to this end.”