POST image The European Times TV
Nicaragua: MEPs demand the repeal of punitive laws against the opposition

Photo by Fernanda LeMarie

News | European Parliament

MEPs condemn restrictive laws devised to criminalise political opponents in Nicaragua and call for all arbitrarily detained political prisoners to be immediately released.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, MEPs strongly condemn all the Nicaraguan authorities’ repressive actions, in particular the deaths caused, against democratic opposition parties and other opponents of the regime.

MEPs demand the immediate and unconditional release of all arbitrarily detained political prisoners, among them pre-presidential candidates, as well as other opposition activists, human rights defenders and journalists. The government must provide an immediate proof of life and whereabouts of those imprisoned, they urge.

The Nicaraguan regime is deepening its authoritarian drift, they underline, closing off democratic space and international mediation for a peaceful solution to the conflict, clearly impeding free and fair elections due to be held on 7 November 2021.

The resolution denounces several restrictive and punitive laws against the opposition that have been adopted over the last few years. These laws, say MEPs, institutionalise repression and legalise the brutal acts that have been committed in the country since their adoption.

They ask, therefore, for the laws to be immediately repealed and for inclusive dialogue and democracy to be restored as the only peaceful way out of the political, economic and social crisis in Nicaragua. The Parliament also urges the Nicaraguan authorities to make immediate changes to the Electoral Law in accordance with the international parameters demanded by the Organization of American States (OAS) and to allow national and international electoral observation bodies to be present during elections.

MEPs stress that those responsible for the grave human rights violations committed since 2018 must be held accountable.

The resolution also calls on the Council and the member states to swiftly extend the list of sanctioned individuals and entities to include President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo, as well as their inner circle, taking special care not to harm the Nicaraguan people.

The resolution was adopted by 629 in favour, 19 against and 40 abstentions.

Background

The human rights and democracy situation in Nicaragua has seriously deteriorated following the violent repression of public protests in April 2018. Since then, at least 130 people have been deprived of their liberty for political reasons and more than 108 000 Nicaraguans have been forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries, three-quarters of whom have sought protection in Costa Rica.

In its resolution of 8 October 2020, Parliament condemned attempts to adopt an unconstitutional law on the regulation of foreign agents, the special law on cybercrime and a law on hate crimes that provided Daniel Ortega’s government with a repressive tool to silence its critics.

POST image The European Times TV
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.

POST image The European Times TV
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.

Quotes

“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.

POST image The European Times TV
MEPs hold final debate on future EU-UK relations before signing off agreement

News | European Parliament

In a debate on Tuesday, Parliament’s political groups argued in favour of the agreement that sets the rules of the future EU-UK relationship.

Most MEPs as well as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the Portuguese Council Presidency stressed they regret the UK’s departure but argued for voting in favour of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK. It is the best option to cushion against the worst effects of Brexit and to ensure the integrity of the Single Market, they added.


Referring to unilateral UK measures in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocol on Northern Ireland, most speakers argued that the agreement will provide additional legal tools to prevent and protect against unilateral divergence from the obligations to which both parties signed up.

After four months of intense scrutiny, MEPs also underlined that Parliament will continue to play an active role in closely monitoring that the UK fully carries out its obligations.


Later today, Parliament will vote on whether to give its consent to the agreement and on a resolution setting out its evaluation of and expectations from the deal. Results are announced on Wednesday 28 April at 9am.

Watch the recording of the debate here and the press conference following the debate here.


Background

On 24 December 2020, EU and UK negotiators agreed on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement establishing the terms for future EU-UK cooperation. To minimise disruption, the agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021. Parliament’s consent is necessary for the agreement to enter into force permanently before it lapses on 30 April 2021.

POST image The European Times TV
EP committees recommend giving consent to EU-UK agreement

News | European Parliament

On Thursday, the Foreign Affairs and Trade committees voted in favour of the agreement that sets the rules of the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

The committees on Foreign Affairs and International Trade agreed to the proposal by rapporteurs Andreas Schieder (AFET, S&D, AT) and Christophe Hansen (INTA, EPP, LU) by 108 votes in favour, one against and four abstentions, and thus recommend that Parliament’s plenary approve the treaty.

Following the vote, the rapporteurs made the following statements.

“Brexit is a historic mistake, but now we need to establish a strong fundament for future relations. With today’s decision, we welcome the provisions that bind the UK to our current high labour and environmental standards. However, all progress could be lost, if the UK continues to unilaterally breach the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Northern Ireland. We look forward to a workable plan on the implementation of the protocol and to being involved in the implementation and scrutiny of the agreement”, said Andreas Schieder.

“Economic Brexit at the beginning of this year has caused real disruption. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement, however imperfect it may be, has worked to cushion the worst impact. Ratifying it in Parliament after intensive scrutiny increases legal certainty for companies now operating in a difficult environment, and solidifies and preserves the unprecedented safeguards ensuring a level playing field, so painstakingly obtained. Moreover, greenlighting the agreement also means expanding our arsenal of legal tools and leverage to continue pressing for a full and pragmatic implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocol, the importance of which was underscored by recent events in Northern Ireland,” said Christophe Hansen.

Background

EU and UK negotiators agreed on the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 24 December 2020. To minimise disruption, the agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021 and will lapse on 30 April 2021. For it to enter into force permanently, it requires Parliament’s consent. Parliament has repeatedly stated that it considers provisional application to be the result of a unique set of circumstances and an exercise not to be repeated.

Next steps

The full House is to take the final decision, as well as adopt a separate resolution, at a future plenary session. On 13 April, the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents decided not to set a plenary date in order to emphasise that the UK side needs to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement before doing so.

Parliament will also vote on an accompanying resolution, outlining its political position, prepared by the political groups in the UK Coordination Group and the Conference of Presidents.