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Amnesty Calls On Euro-Mediterranean Partners

Amnesty International Calls On Euro-Mediterranean Partners To Launch Serious Partnership For Human Rights

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

14 November 2000 IOR 30/002/2000 209/00

On the eve of the Euro-Mediterranean meeting in Marseilles, Amnesty International calls upon the 27 EUROMED governments to acknowledge that durable peace and stability can only be achieved when the human rights of every man, woman and child living in the Euro-Mediterranean region are protected. Economic and security arrangements should be built on human rights guarantees and not formulated at their expense.

Five years after the start of the Barcelona process it is high time to move on from solemn, but as yet empty declarations to a serious and tangible partnership for the protection of human dignity and fundamental rights on all shores of the Mediterranean. Governments of the region should put as much effort in protecting human rights as they have done in making economic and security deals.

Amnesty International calls upon EU and Mediterranean governments to adopt a program of action to effectively improve the human rights situation in the region. Concrete measures in particular for the protection of human rights defenders, women and asylum-seekers and refugees, for the eradication of torture and the fight against racism must finally bring life to the commitments governments made in Barcelona 1995, Malta 1997, Palermo 1998 and Stuttgart 1999. Euro-Mediterranean partners should jointly commit to combating impunity which remains a key obstacle to prevent human rights violations in the region.

A credible partnership on human rights is reciprocal and must build on a common understanding that human rights violations are a challenge shared by all sides and of mutual concern. In particular, the EU must acknowledge and address human rights concerns in Member States, in particular torture and ill-treatment, impunity, racism and the protection of asylum-seekers, refugees and minorities.

Amnesty International recalls that the human rights clauses integrated in the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements constitute a binding contract to respect human rights. Amnesty International is concerned that no specific measures have been taken to ensure that contracting parties comply with their human rights obligations laid down in Article 2 of the Agreements.

Human rights defenders are at the forefront of efforts to build free and flourishing civil societies in the region. They must be able to work without interference, harassment or intimidation. Amnesty International calls upon the EU and its Mediterranean Partners to guarantee freedom of expression and association to encourage independent non-governmental organizations working for the defence of human rights. A true partnership for human rights should not tolerate that human rights NGOs and defenders are targeted or prosecuted for defending human rights, denouncing human rights violations or having sought access to the MEDA Democracy funds.

Freedom from torture and ill-treatment is a vital aspect of the personal security and a non-derogable human right in all circumstances, including states of war or other public emergencies. Amnesty International calls on all states in the Euro-Mediterranean region to ratify international human rights treaties providing for the prevention and the punishment of torture. The eradication and effective prevention of torture and ill-treatment should be made a priority in the political and security dialogue of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

Lack of political will by the governments or the region is the key obstacle to ending impunity, which remains a persistent feature of the Euro-Mediterranean region's landscape. It is high time the governments of the region put implementation of national laws and of commitments made under international human rights treaties before political bargaining; this alone will bring concrete results in the fight against impunity.

Amnesty International recalls the shared responsibility of the EU and the Mediterranean countries to ensure that women, men and children can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination on grounds such as race, nationality, religion or sex. All Euro-Mediterranean governments have an obligation to put in place safeguards against discrimination and racist behaviour. They should ratify without reservation international treaties which seek to eliminate racial discrimination.

While paying tribute to women's contributions to economic development, Euro-Mediterranean partners have turned a blind eye on persistent inequality and gender-based human rights violations in the region. Amnesty International calls on the EU and the Mediterranean countries to live up to their promises to protect women from discrimination and violence and fulfill their international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Optional Protocol.

Amnesty International notes with great concern that EU and southern Mediterranean countries often fail to respect the human rights and protection needs of asylum seekers and refugees. Amnesty International calls on the Euro-Mediterranean states to ensure the effective protection of refugees in compliance with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as relevant human rights treaties. Readmission agreements and other arrangements that prevent refugees from receiving durable and effective protection or that allow asylum seekers to be returned to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations should be ended immediately.

For the human rights clause in Article 2 of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements not to remain a meaningless appendix, appropriate mechanisms must be put in place to regularly and impartially monitor developments in the field of human rights and civil liberties in the territory of all the contracting parties. Such a monitoring should include, for example, the incidence of human rights violations such as torture and the death penalty; the extent to which human rights defenders are free to act and speak out in defense of the rights of others and compliance by the contracting parties with the recommendations issued by UN human rights bodies and mechanisms in relation to the human rights treaties ratified by the contracting parties. Taking into account these recommendations, concrete measures towards the improvement of the human rights situation should be formulated, together with clear benchmarks for their implementation. At the same time, concrete action must be taken in cases of sustained and serious human rights violations.

Background Since the Euro-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona in November 1995, association agreements have been signed and ratified with Tunisia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the course of the effort to establish a free trade zone between the 15 EU Member States and the 12 Mediterranean countries participating in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority). The association agreements contain a legally binding human rights clause (Article 2 of the Agreements).

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