The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Brussels
On 14 and 15 of March 2016 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein carried out his first official visit to the European Union institutions and NATO. facebook sharing buttontwitter sharing buttonlinkedin sharing button The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Brussels On 14 and 15 of March 2016 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein carried out his first official visit to the European Union institutions and NATO.
On 14 and 15 of March 2016 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein carried out his first official visit to the European Union institutions and NATO. His agenda included meetings with 1st Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, and members of a wide range of civil society organizations and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions.
The High Commissioner’s visit focused on the situation of migrants and refugees in Europe, the setbacks in terms of rule of law in some EU Member States, and cooperation with the EU on global human rights challenges. Zeid’s mission took place shortly before the conclusion of the EU-Turkey agreement on returning migrants and refugees from Greece to Turkey. In his meetings as well as in his statements at a press conference held on 14 March at the UN Information Center in Brussels, Zeid raised questions over the agreement’s compatibility with international standards, including international human rights standards. He echoed the concerns voiced earlier by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on whether required individual assessments would be provided and whether all grounds for protection, including those regarding children, victims of trafficking and victims of gender-based violence, would be taken fully into account. “There should be no blanket returns,” emphasized the High Commissioner.
The High Commissioner’s meeting with civil society dealt with the rights of migrants as well as with challenges faced by other groups at risk, such as the right of persons with disabilities to independent living, and the discrimination and forced evictions faced by members of the Roma minority in numerous EU Member States. Zeid also addressed current challenges to the rule of law in Poland, which appears to follow a similar path to the one taken by Hungary some years ago. His most serious concerns were about the weakening of Poland’s independent institutions – namely the Constitutional Tribunal and the media.
During his visit, the High Commissioner also underlined that the EU is a valuable partner to the UN through the human-rights-focused elements of its external policy. In this context, he particularly welcomed the EU’s revised Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, adopted last year to mainstream human rights into the Union’s external policy. “It is a very promising document, but a lot depends on how it will be implemented,” pointed out the High Commissioner. “The Action Plan should be fully reflected in the upcoming Global Strategy.” He also reminded that the EU’s development policies need to fully adopt a human-rights-based approach, so as to ensure that development investment improves the attainment of human rights for all, including members of vulnerable or stigmatized groups.