Source: European Parliament
This week saw the annual human rights report of the European Union presented in the European Parliament.
The MEP who Chairs Parliament's Human Rights Sub Committee, Finnish Green Heidi Hautala, has led reaction to the latest report.
This week she debated some issues - such as the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan, the Gaza blockade and Russia - with over 70 people on the Parliament's Facebook page. Here is a summary of the exchanges.
Gaza: stopping the blockade
Iskander asked her: Where does EU stand on the killing of the Gaza flotilla passengers? And what about the blockade imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza?
Hautala: By now it is clear that the blockade is unsustainable and the EU has been opposed to it. I support the EU proposal to introduce a list of items which should not be imported instead of the very limited "positive" list. Of course, the investigation of the attack on the flotilla must be independent.
Russia: helping human rights defenders
Mark: How do you see the situation in Russia? Improving or getting worse?
Hautala: I follow Russia very closely. The EP was asked by last year's Sakharov prize winner and other human rights people to send observers to the "Action 31? demonstrations and I attended one of the biggest in St. Petersburg.
You can see myself in the picture with one of the opposition leaders, the former prime minister Boris Nemtsov who said in public that my presence calmed down the police a bit:Well, I think we have to thank the courageous Russians who come out and defended their self-evident right of Freedom of Assembly. I am sure that on 31 July there will be three times more people in the streets. So may I be:
Belarus: more support for civil society
Hannele: Heidi, I am very disappointed about the EU and the human rights situation in Belarus. The democratic part and human rights movement are treated horribly by the leaders of the country and the police force.
Hautala: I was on a small EP fact finding mission to Minsk this spring. There have been no improvements in the situation and thus it is impossible to start any kind of "business as usual" cooperation. The EP regularly receives people from the Belarus opposition and civil society. We must do more to support their efforts. In the end, I am sure that Belarus will be able to join the EU.
Taking a look inside
Jean-Marie: How can EP respect and promote human rights in its external relations when it does so little in internal affairs? (Example: racism against Roma and prohibition of Gay Pride)
Hautala: It is very important that the EU permanently improves its human rights record. EU is going to accede to the European convention on human rights which I am very happy about. And the EP should have the guts to condemn EU Members when they violate rights.
Finnish MEP Heidi Hautela is chair of the European Parliament's specialist body on Human Rights, a sub-committee of its Foreign Affairs Committee.