Address by Minister Roche to the EP on Annual Report on Human Rights in the world and EU policy on the matter - Part II
As for Terrorism, Ms. De Keyser is quite right to emphasise the danger that emotional reactions such as fear, anger and a desire for vengeance can lead to calls for repressive measures in the fight against this phenomenon.
In the period since September 2001, the fight against terrorism has become a global priority. At the same time, that fight has posed new challenges for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Acts of terrorism can never be justified by any cause or ideology, and must be unreservedly condemned. The indiscriminate slaughter of unsuspecting human beings, which is the hallmark of terrorism, constitutes first and foremost a flagrant denial of the fundamental right to life of its victims.
All States have a duty to protect their citizens from terrorist attack and to combat terrorism in all its forms.
Yet - in order to receive the widest possible support and to be successful in the long term - the fight against terrorism must be conducted in full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Fostering human rights should indeed become an integral part of the fight against terrorism.
We need also to address the causes of terrorism. To seek to understand the causes of terrorism should not be misunderstood as being soft on terrorism. On the contrary, this is an essential step in its elimination.
As the President of the European Council, Mr. Ahern, stated here in Parliament last month – any good physician will tell us that in treating a disease it is necessary to tackle its causes as well as its symptoms.
In the context of combating terrorism, Ms. De Keyser also, rightly notes the need not to use this objective as an excuse to suppress the freedom of the press and specifically not as a justification for attacks on individual journalists.
The EU has traditionally attached great importance to the work preformed by all human rights defenders, including journalists. Human rights defenders have become increasingly effective in ensuring greater protection to victims of human rights violations. However, this progress has frequently been achieved at a high price – the defenders themselves have increasingly become targets of attacks and their rights have been violated in many countries. While the EU has attached importance to the protection of human rights defenders this has been largely done on an ad hoc basis. As Presidency, Ireland is working to produce specific policy guidelines in order to strengthen the EU’s support for human rights defenders. These guidelines will shortly be brought before the Council of Ministers.
Let me again congratulate Ms De Keyser on her report. The Presidency on behalf of the Council welcomes the collaboration with Parliament in further advancing our common cause of democracy and human rights. The European Union is founded on respect for human rights, and this is true both of internal affairs policy within Europe and of Europe's policy in foreign affairs.
Concluding remarks Just summing up briefly, I think this debate underlines the value of our focus on enhancing the dialogue between the Parliament and Council in the area of Human Rights. The contributions covered a wide range of topics and this is obviously an area where Members have, not only a particular interest, but also considerable expertise. I know the Presidency and the Council benefit greatly from exchanges such as these.
The work of the Commission on Human Rights is continuing in Geneva. I mentioned earlier some of the resolutions we have adopted on the human rights situations in Belarus, Turkmenistan, North Korea and the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Arab Territories. Work on other resolutions goes on but I think we can be proud of the role the EU has played at the Commission so far.
Members are obviously very concerned at the human rights aspects of the progress of the war on terror. Ms. De Keyser’s report reflects these concerns and I want you assure you that these are also noted at Council. I think Mr. Crowley recently said at the Interparliamentary meeting with US Congress that, in our actions against terrorists, we must be bound by rules that the terrorists flout. This is a view that is shared by Council; that respect for human rights must underpin our whole approach to the war on terror and that we must address the root causes as well as the symptoms of international terrorism. As, I believe, President Chirac has said, in this way we uncover and analyse the roots in order to server them.
Just in closing then I want to thank Members for the opportunity to engage with them in this debate and congratulate Ms. De Keyser on her report. Human rights are and must remain the cornerstone of EU internal and foreign policy, on this we are as one.
ENDS+++ 23 April 2004 Press SectionTop