High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights
High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Rights

News | European Parliament

On 16 July, Parliament will co-host the first-ever Global State of Human Rights conference to discuss the state of human rights internationally.

The conference will bring together MEPs, European Commissioners, Nobel Peace Prize recipients, Sakharov Prize laureates, representatives of international organisations, academia and stakeholders. They will discuss a variety of topics related to the global situation for human rights across three main panels. The conference is jointly organised by the European Parliament and the Global Campus of Human Rights. It will take place at the Monastery of San Nicolò in Venice and on Parliament’s premises in Brussels, as well as remotely.

Participants will hear interventions from, among others, European Parliament President David Sassoli, the President of the Global Campus of Human Rights Veronica Gomez, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard and Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2018 and Sakharov Prize laureate in 2014. Prominent MEPs in the human rights field, including the Chair and several Members of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and two Parliament Vice-Presidents, will also actively take part.

Due diligence, global accountability, responding to human rights violations
The panels will explore how EU legislation on due diligence can make corporations and business more responsive to human rights violations, how international justice can help ensure global accountability, and what challenges a values-based foreign policy faces when addressing human rights and global democracy issues.

The conference will be wrapped up by the performance “White torture” by Venezuelan Sakharov Prize laureate Lorent Saleh, which is based on his experience as a prisoner in ‘La Tumba’, the Venezuelan secret service prison.

Human rights breaches in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Iran
Human rights breaches in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Iran

Supporters protest outside a court in Hong Kong 

News | European Parliament

  • Chinese and Hong Kong authorities must stop arresting, harassing and intimidating journalists
  • Saudi Arabia must stop executing child offenders
  • Iran must halt the imminent execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hong Kong, notably the case of Apple Daily

Parliament condemns in the strongest terms the recent forced closure of the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong, the continued freezing of its assets and the arrests of its journalists. This is yet another step by Chinese authorities to dismantle free society in Hong Kong and abolish media freedom and freedom of expression there, MEPs say.

The resolution also calls on the Hong Kong authorities to stop harassing and intimidating journalists, release arbitrarily detained prisoners, and denounces any attempts to muzzle pro-democracy activists and their activities.

While urging the Chinese authorities to repeal the draconian national security law introduced last year, MEPs encourage EU countries to impose sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for serious violations of human rights and international law in Hong Kong under the EU human rights sanctions regime.

They also call on the Commission, the Council and EU countries to decline invitations to government representatives and diplomats to attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics unless the Chinese Government demonstrates a verifiable improvement in the human rights situation in Hong Kong, the Xinjiang Uyghur Region, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and elsewhere in China.

The text was adopted by 578 votes in favour, 29 against and 73 abstentions. For further details, the full version will be available here. (08.07.2021)

The death penalty in Saudi Arabia, notably the cases of Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish and Abdullah al-Howaiti

MEPs strongly condemn Saudi Arabia’s ongoing executions of child offenders despite its claims that it has abolished such practices. This includes the recent execution of Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish for crimes that may have occurred while he was a minor following his conviction in an unfair trial and involving a confession obtained from him under torture.

Members also call on Saudi Arabia to confirm that all other child offenders in the Kingdom, such as death-row inmate Abdullah al-Howaiti, will not be executed and that ‘confessions’ extracted under torture will be excluded from their cases.

While urging the country’s authorities to genuinely abolish the death penalty for these offenders, the resolution strongly supports EU sanctions against Saudi officials responsible for grave human rights violations. All EU exports of mass surveillance technology and other dual-use items to Saudi Arabia should be suspended, say MEPs.

The resolution also recalls that the Saudi Sakharov Prize laureate Raif Badawi has now been in prison for nine years and urges the EU and the international community to work towards his immediate release.

The text was adopted by 661 votes in favour, 3 against and 23 abstentions. It will be available in full here (08.07.2021).

The case of Dr Ahmadreza Djalali in Iran

Parliament calls on Iran, under its newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi, to halt the imminent execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Dr Ahmadreza Djalali. He must be pardoned, released immediately and unconditionally, and be allowed to return to his family in Sweden, says the text.

The resolution also calls on Iran to stop threatening Dr Djalali’s family in both Sweden and Iran. The charges of other arbitrarily detained EU nationals in the country must also be immediately dropped, MEPs demand. This includes German nationals Nahid Taghavi and Jamshid Sharmahd, French nationals Benjamin Brière and Fariba Adelkhah, Austrian nationals Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb, in addition to UK nationals Morad Tahbaz, Anoosheh Ashoori, Mehran Raoof and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The Council should consider more targeted EU sanctions against Iranian regime officials and entities involved in the arbitrary detention and sentencing to death of EU nationals, MEPs urge. The text calls on Iran to release its political prisoners, including human rights defenders, as they have been arbitrarily detained solely for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of expression, belief, association, publication, peaceful assembly and media freedom.

For more details, the resolution will be available in full here (08.07.2021). It was adopted by 666 votes in favour, 5 against with 16 abstentions.

Human rights: MEPs want corruption punished under EU sanctions regime
Human rights: MEPs want corruption punished under EU sanctions regime

News | European Parliament

Parliament has adopted a resolution welcoming the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, while calling for corruption to be included as a punishable offence.

Corruption has a devastating impact on the state of human rights, and often undermines the functioning and legitimacy of institutions and the rule of law, the resolution states. But unlike similar schemes around the world, such as the US Global Magnitsky Act, the current EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (GHRSR), adopted in December 2020, does not include corruption in connection with human rights violations as an offence punishable by restrictive measures. Parliament wants to change that and urges the European Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal that extends the scope of the GHRSR to cover these crimes.

MEPs should also be able to propose cases of serious human rights violations, in order to increase the legitimacy of the sanctions regime. In addition, Members insist on an inclusive process to facilitate input from civil society.

Qualified majority voting should also be introduced when sanctions are adopted under the scope of the GHRSR, the text urges, as this would implement the regime more effectively.

Counter-sanctions aim to deter the EU from defending human rights

In addition, MEPs condemn any counter-sanctions imposed on the EU, its institutions and Members of Parliament, bodies or citizens, solely for upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law through the GHRSR.

The EU’s response to such retaliatory measures by third countries must be swift and coordinate, they point out, adding that bilateral agreements with these countries must not undermine the EU’s sanctions framework and its credibility in foreign policy in general.

The text was adopted by 584 votes in favour, 73 against with 33 abstentions.

You can read more about the new framework here.


“The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime adds a direct and tangible way to respond to serious human rights violations and hold those responsible for abuses accountable. It needs to become an essential element of the EU’s broader strategy on human rights and a fundamental part of our external policy toolbox. I welcome the swift implementation of the new instrument and hope that it will support the objectives of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy”, said David McAllister (EPP, Germany), Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“By allowing us to target persons and entities responsible for grave human rights violations, wherever these abuses take place, the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime strengthens the EU’s leading role in human rights . The regime needs to also target economic and financial enablers of human rights abusers, and the Parliament and civil society need to be more closely involved to increase its legitimacy”, said Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium), Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Human rights breaches in Uganda, Rwanda and Kazakhstan
Human rights breaches in Uganda, Rwanda and Kazakhstan
  • The Ugandan Government must end the repression of the opposition and civil society
  • The Rwandan authorities must explain the enforced disappearance of Paul Rusesabagina
  • The authorities in Kazakhstan must comply with international standards for elections

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in Uganda, Rwanda and Kazakhstan.

The political situation in Uganda

Parliament deplores that the 14 January general elections in Uganda were neither democratic nor transparent. MEPs also condemn the excessive use of force by the police and armed forces during the election and their growing interference in political affairs.

The resolution condemns the violence, continued harassment and systematic crackdown faced by political opposition leaders in Uganda, as well as the suppression of civil society. All those arrested and detained for participating in peaceful political assemblies or for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association must be released immediately and unconditionally and have their charges dropped, says the text.

Finally, Parliament reiterates that sanctions against individuals and organisations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda must be adopted under the new EU human rights sanction mechanism, the so-called EU Magnitsky Act.

The text was approved by 632 votes in favour, 15 against and 48 abstentions. See the full resolution here. (11.02.2021)

Rwanda: the case of Paul Rusesabagina

MEPs condemn the enforced disappearance, illegal rendition and incommunicado detention of Rwandan human rights defender, government critic and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Paul Rusesabagina, whose story was recounted in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.

Mr Rusesabagina, who is a Belgian citizen and a US resident, was forcibly transferred from Dubai to Kigali under unclear circumstances on 27 August last year. He only reappeared on 31 August at the headquarters of the Rwandan Investigation Bureau. He was initially charged with 13 offences, including financing terrorism, armed robbery and attempted murder. Some charges were later dropped, with those that remained relating to events that took place in the country’s Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe regions in 2018.

Parliament calls for an international investigation into this matter and expresses its deep concern about the violation of Mr Rusesabagina’s rights. MEPs urge the Rwandan authorities to allow him to undergo a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal applying international human rights standards, and grant him legal counsel of his choosing.

Given Mr Rusesabagina’s medical condition, MEPs call on the Rwandan Government to guarantee, under all circumstances, his physical and psychological well-being and access to proper medication.

The text was approved by 659 votes in favour, 1 against and 35 abstentions. It will be available in full here. (11.02.2021)

The human rights situation in Kazakhstan

Parliament urges Kazakhstan’s Government to act in accordance with its international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as enshrined in its Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.

MEPs note that Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections on 10 January this year were described by the European External Action Service as a “missed opportunity” to demonstrate that political reforms have been implemented since the last elections. They also call on the Kazakh government to drop politically-motivated charges and end all forms of arbitrary detention, reprisals and harassment of human rights activists, religious organisations, civil society organisations, trade unions, journalists and political opposition movements.

People must be able to express their political, religious and other views freely, the text says, with Parliament calling on the Kazakh Government to amend the new law on peaceful assembly in order to guarantee this freedom. MEPs also urge the country’s authorities to immediately release and fully rehabilitate all political prisoners.

The text was approved by 598 votes in favour, 43 against and 52 abstentions. For additional information on the content, it will be available in full here. (11.02.2021)

Human rights and COVID-19: MEPs denounce measures taken by authoritarian regimes
Human rights and COVID-19: MEPs denounce measures taken by authoritarian regimes

Parliament is deeply concerned that many authoritarian regimes around the world have used the pandemic to repress civil society and critical voices.

In their annual report assessing the human rights situation in the world, adopted on Wednesday, MEPs highlight that several authoritarian regimes have used the pandemic to justify exacerbated measures aimed at weakening democratic principles and fundamental freedoms, severely undermining human rights, repressing dissent and limiting space for civil society.

Growing aspirations and mobilisation of citizens

While noting that many negative trends persist and are on the increase, they also welcome citizens’ growing aspirations. Younger generations in particular are mobilising to bring about political and societal change in support for human rights, democratic governance, equality and social justice, more ambitious climate action and better protection of the environment.

Strengthening democratic institutions

The report asks the EU and its member states to continue supporting the strengthening of democratic institutions, transparent and credible electoral processes worldwide, to fight against impunity, to ensure that civil society organisations can continue to work and to combat inequalities.

It also urges them to develop an explicit strategy to counter increasing state withdrawal and pushback against the international human rights framework.

EU human rights sanctions mechanism

MEPs finally push for the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime to be implemented urgently, as an essential part of the EU’s existing human rights and foreign policy toolbox. Such a mechanism should serve to strengthen the EU’s role as a global human rights actor, they say, allowing for targeted sanctions against individuals and state or non-state actors and other entities responsible for or complicit in serious human rights violations around the world.

The text was approved by 459 votes in favour, 62 against and 163 abstentions.


“As MEPs, it is our duty to speak out, loudly and clearly, when it comes to human rights and the need to protect and recognise all those who work tirelessly and in difficult situations to uphold them. To achieve true credibility as the European Union, it is vital that we act and speak with a strong and unified voice on human rights. We should not fail those who look towards Europe with hope”, said rapporteur Isabel Santos (S&D, PT).

Additional information

Members discussed the content of the new report with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on 19 January. The text was originally prepared by MEPs in the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Human rights breaches in Hong Kong, Turkey and Vietnam
Human rights breaches in Hong Kong, Turkey and Vietnam
  • The Hong Kong authorities must release those detained on politically motivated charges
  • Call for Turkey to release Selahattin Demirtaş and other unlawfully imprisoned opposition representatives
  • Vietnamese authorities must end their crackdown on dissent

On Thursday, Parliament adopted three resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in Hong Kong, Turkey and Vietnam.

The crackdown on the democratic opposition in Hong Kong

Parliament calls for the immediate and unconditional release of representatives of the democratic opposition and activists arrested in Hong Kong in the first two weeks of 2021, as well as all those previously detained on charges of subversion under the National Security Law for Hong Kong.

The same goes for all peaceful Hong Kong protesters, activists and members of the political opposition arrested on politically motivated charges. These include the prominent opposition figures Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow, whose charges should all be dropped, says Parliament.

MEPs regret that the recent decision to reach a political conclusion of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment did not reflect Parliament’s requests to use investment negotiations as a leverage tool to preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. By rushing to reach this agreement and not taking concrete action against the serious and ongoing human rights violations, the EU risks undermining its credibility as a global human rights actor, they say.

Parliament also urges EU countries to consider introducing targeted sanctions against individuals in Hong Kong and China, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, under the EU Human Rights Global Sanction Regime.

The text was approved by 597 votes in favour, 17 against and 61 abstentions. See the full resolution here. (21.01.2021)

The human rights situation in Turkey, notably the case of Selahattin Demirtaş and other prisoners of conscience

MEPs call for the immediate and unconditional release of Turkish opposition politician, former MP and former presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been detained for more than four years by Turkish authorities on unsubstantiated charges and in spite of two European Court of Human Rights rulings in favour of his release.

They also demand that all politically motivated charges against him and fellow members of the opposition HDP party be dropped.

Turkey’s sustained backsliding on the independence of the judiciary and the disregard shown by the Turkish judiciary and authorities for rulings by the European Court of Human Rights are of great concern, the resolution states. It calls on the Turkish authorities to put an end to its judicial harassment of human rights defenders, academics, journalists, spiritual leaders, lawyers and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.

MEPs highlight that respecting and applying the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights would go some way to confirming that the desire to turn a new page in EU-Turkey relations, expressed by President Erdoğan and other top government officials on 9 January of this year, is sincere. Improved EU-Turkey relations are fully dependent on, among other things, tangible improvements in respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and fundamental rights within Turkey, they say.

The text was approved by 590 votes in favour, 16 against and 75 abstentions. It will be available in full here. (21.01.2021)

The human rights situation in Vietnam, in particular the case of human rights journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan

Parliament calls on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders and journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan, as well as all others detained and sentenced in the country for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to drop all charges against them.

MEPs are appalled by and condemn the intensifying crackdown on dissent and the increasing violations of human rights in Vietnam.

They reiterate that respect for human rights constitutes a key foundation of the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the EU and is an essential element of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. Parliament calls on all involved parties to make use of the existing EU-Vietnam agreements to improve the human rights situation in the country. It asks the European Commission and the European External Action Service to carry out an assessment of how the current free trade agreement could affect human rights in Vietnam.

The text was approved by 592 votes in favour, 32 against and 58 abstentions. For additional information on the content, it will be available in full here. (21.01.2021)

Sakharov Prize 2020: press conference
Sakharov Prize 2020: press conference

Press conference with EP President Sassoli and laureates

Sakharov Prize laureates Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veranika Tsapkala will join EP President David Sassoli for a press conference on Wednesday at 12.40 CET.

This year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded in Octoberto the Belarusian democratic opposition, represented by, among others, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Read more on all the laureates here.

The press conference on Wednesday will take place immediately after the 2020 Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Brussels and is expected to start at around 12.40 CET.

Sakharov Prize 2020: MEPs select the finalists | News | European Parliament
Sakharov Prize 2020: MEPs select the finalists | News | European Parliament

The democratic opposition in Belarus, Guapinol activists and Berta Cáceres, and the Archbishop of Mosul were shortlisted for the 2020 Sakharov Prize on Monday.

Following a joint vote by MEPs in the Foreign Affairs and Development committees on Monday 12 October, the finalists for the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

  • The democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures;

  • Guapinol activists and Berta Cáceres in Honduras;

  • Mgr Najeeb Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq.

Next steps

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the final laureate on Thursday 22 October. The prize itself will be awarded in a ceremony in Parliament’s hemicycle on 16 December.


The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.