My February 2023 – March 2023 Newsletter
Burundi: I visited Burundi on 2 – 4 February, where I engaged with the President, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister for Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender. In addition, I met with the ruling party (CNDD-FDD), the opposition (CNL), the National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNDIH), the Ombudsman, and the international community.
I met with civil society both prior to my visit as well as in Burundi.
During the visit, I exchanged views on some progress made by Burundi on human rights in the last years and on the serious ongoing challenges that the country still faces, to ensure Rule of Law through judiciary reforms and the serious conditions in prisons. Protecting civil society space is particularly important in view of the legislative elections in 2025.
Ethiopia: On 7 February, I met with Ethiopian Ambassador Hirut Kassa and discussed the recent developments in Ethiopia. I welcomed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the commitment of the Ethiopian government to implement it. The situation in northern Ethiopia is evolving positively but many challenges are still ahead.
On March 1st, I met with the Ethiopian Justice Minister, in the margins of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Israel/ Palestine: In February I had an informative and insightful discussion with former Israeli Ambassador Ilan Baruch and former Palestinian Minister Ashraf Ajrami about the need to strengthen human rights and international humanitarian law in the deteriorating situation in Israel and Palestine.
I met the Jerusalem Human Rights Consortium of the West Bank on the situation of the Christian communities in the Holy Land in general and in Jerusalem in particular. The importance of ensuring respect human rights and IHL was stressed.
On 15 March, I discussed the deteriorating situation in Israel and Palestine with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, when he visited Brussels.
Egypt: In follow-up to my visit to Cairo last April I met online with the Assistant Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Bakly who updated me about the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy. I encouraged its prompt and effective implementation, especially in relation to the legislative track. We also exchanged on the situation in Europe.
During the Human Rights Council in Geneva, I met with the Chairperson and Members of the Egypt Human Rights Commission about the necessity to implement the National Human Rights Society.
Belarus: With the ever accelerating machinery of repression of the Lukashenko regime I continued to highlight on Twitter the cases of political prisoners. Those featured in February-March included Yuri Kuzmich, Maryna Zolatava, Liudmila Chekina, Volha Tsybulskaya and Kiryl Zhohaleu.
Colombia: On 16 March, I co-chaired with Vice-Minister Francisco Coy Granados, the 14th Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Colombia. We discussed greater protection for human rights defenders, the recruitment of minors, gender equality, migration, business and human rights, multilateral cooperation and much more. A joint statement was issued at the conclusion of the Dialogue.
On 17 March I met with Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva Duran during his visit to Brussels for the International Solidarity Conference. This was a follow up to discussions between we had during my visit to Colombia in December, strongly focusing on how the EU can better support peace building in the country.
I spoke at an event in Dublin aimed at sharing the lessons learned on transitional justice in the Colombia peace process with Ireland, entitled “Victims, Reparation and Reconciliation. Reflections on Transitional Justice in Colombia”
Central America: On 16 March, I was delighted to welcome in Brussels Christian Guillermet, Vice Foreign Minister of Costa Rica at the beginning of their 3 year term on the UN Human Rights Council. We discussed the human rights environment in Central America and migration issues
On 17 March, I met with Human Rights Watch’s Acting Americas Director and we discussed the human rights situation in Venezuela, Colombia and other countries in region, especially with a view to the upcoming EU-CELAC summit in July this year.
Bahrain: I met with Ambassador Abdulla Al Doseri on 7 March to discuss the bilateral cooperation on human rights between the EU and Bahrain. I took this opportunity to raise several individual cases, including the situation of Mr Al Khawaja, his well-being, treatment in prison and access to health care.
Kazakhstan: On 8 March, I welcomed to Brussels the recently appointed Ombudsperson Artur Lastayev. We exchanged on the reforms under way in Kazakhstan, the investigation into the January 2022 events and individual cases.
Myanmar: On 21 March, I had a good discussion with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews. We addressed the continuing human rights and humanitarian crises in Myanmar, including the plight of the Rohingya people, and exchanged on further measures to step up the pressure on the military junta. I also discussed the Myanmar situation during my visit to the Philippines.
The Philippines: I made a three-day visit to Manila to bolster the EU’s human rights re-engagement with the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. I met with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and engaged on impunity with the Philippine National Police. I made a prison visit to former Senator Leila de Lima and assured her of the EU’s continued support for her release.
I also met with families of victims of extrajudicial killings and exchanged with local civil society, UN agencies and the business community.
I underlined the need for the Philippine government to make tangible progress on issues of concern, including extrajudicial killings, ahead of deliberations on the renewal of the trade preferences under the GSP+ scheme.
Geneva: I attended the UN Human Rights Council High Level Segment at the start of the Human Rights Council from 27 February to 1 March. This is the ministerial level segment of the Council and it was an important networking opportunity which allowed for follow up discussions to some of my previous country visits (Egypt, Ethiopia), as well as on upcoming visits (the Philippines). I also took the opportunity to strongly push for support for EU led resolutions, robust action on Ukraine and for the fulfilment of the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE).
Human Rights Due Diligence: On 17 March, I participated in the jointly organised EU-OHCHR High-Level Panel on Human Rights Due Diligence in Security and Defence. The expert Panel is an important outcome of the Strategic Dialogue on Human Rights between the EU and OHCHR. I stressed the need for ensuring that EU security sector support provided to third party security forces and actors is consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law. An EU Human Rights due diligence policy is therefore essential is a commitment in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.
European Humanitarian Forum: on 20 March, at the 2nd European Humanitarian Forum, I participated in the panel: “Putting IHL at the heart of EU external action: improving monitoring of violations and ensuring accountability” together with UN Assistant Secretary General Ilze Brands Kehris and representatives of the ICC, the ICRC and Belgium. I spoke about the need to step up our commitment to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and the need for accountability. “We need to end impunity and bring on the Age of Accountability”.
ICRC: In the margins of the European Humanitarian Forum, on 20 March I met with ICRC President Spoljaric, we discussed humanitarian crises in the world and the challenges posed to uphold the respect for international humanitarian law. I also conveyed the EU continued support and respect for the work of the ICRC.
Children in Armed Conflict: on 22 March, I had a very productive meeting with UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba. We discussed the importance to enhance the protection of children, stepping up prevention efforts and strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law.
7 March: I chaired the consultations with civil society on the mid-term review of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. This was a very useful and constructive exchange, where the Action Plan was broadly welcomed as a unique and comprehensive document, which is playing a key role to guide and underpin actions to support human rights and democracy in EU’s external relations.
8 March: In Bruges, I gave a lecture to diplomats from the European Diplomatic Academy at the College of Europe about the place of human rights in EU foreign policy and diplomacy.
13 March: I addressed over 300 delegates at the Forum of EU Delegation Focal points for human rights and democracy, civil society, youth and gender equality in Brussels. I also addressed the Deputy Heads of Delegation and Heads of Political Sections Seminar on 23 March. The work the people in our Delegations do is invaluable, inspirational and much appreciated.
Council of Europe: On 9 March, I met online with the Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic. We compared notes on the human rights and humanitarian consequences of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the situation in the South Caucasus.
Upcoming in April (subject to changes)
Mission to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
Human Rights Dialogue with the African Union
Consultation with United States
EU Special Representative for Human Rights
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