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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Federica Mogherini...................................................................... 3
THEMATIC PART
1. Introduction ............................................................................................... 5
2.  The EU Human Rights Approach to Conflicts and Crises .........................11
3.  Addressing the Main Human Rights and Democracy Challenges ............18
4.  Human Rights throughout EU External Policies ..................................... 36
GEOGRAPHICAL PART
I.  Candidate countries and potential candidates ........................................ 39
II.  EEA/EFTA Countries ................................................................................ 46
III.  European Neighbourhood Pocy .............................................................. 49
IV.  Russia and Central Asia ........................................................................... 84
V. Africa ....................................................................................................... 97
VI.  Arabian Peninsula.......................... ........................................................ 172
VII. Asia .........................................................................................................182
VIII. Oceania .................................................................................................. 227
IX.  The Americas ........................................................................................ 247 
List of Acronyms and Initialisms ................................................................ 292
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EU Annual Report on
Human Rights and Democracy in the World
in 2016
Annual Report on
Human Rights and Democracy in the World 
2016
Foreword by Federica Mogherini, 
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and 
Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission
The promotion and the protection of human  Progress is possible, and is happening. But 
rights and democracy require a constant  the good trends will not prevail without our 
engagement, day by day. Our world is facing  constant commitment. For this reason, the 
opposing trends, some of them worrisome.  European Union has put human rights at the 
On the one hand, we witness a return of  core of our external action. In June 2016, 
authoritarian tendencies and a widespread  I launched a Global Strategy for the European 
attack against civil society. Conflicts, political  Union’s Foreign and Security Policy – Shared 
instability, but also global phenomena such  Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe 
as migration, pose new challenges to human  – which sets out the EU’s core interests and 
rights worldwide. The multilateral institutions  principles for engaging in the wider world. 
established to protect rights and freedom  With the Strategy, all of the European 
 – such as the International Criminal Court –  Union – the institutions in Brussels together 
are put into question more than ever before.
with Member States – have recommitted 
to working together for progress. We have 
And yet, the picture is not all bleak. The number  made the Sustainable Development Goals our 
of girls with access to quality education is still  guiding light, and we have confirmed that only 
too low, but it is the highest in human history.  through multilateralism and international 
Last year, Colombia turned the page after a  cooperation we can strengthen the cause of 
50-year long conflict: it showed to the entire  human rights worldwide.
world that peace is always possible, although 
it may require time, courage and political  This report is a testimony of what has been 
leadership. In Nigeria, over one hundred girls  done in practice to implement the Global 
kidnapped by Boko Harm were freed and went  Strategy.  It maps out a wide range of activities 
back to their homes: it was a glimmer of hope  implemented by the EU in 2016, from informal 
that all the kidnapped girls will eventually  bilateral meetings to large-scale financial aid. 
return to their families and finally take their  It shows that throughout the year the EU 
lives back into their hands. 
worked relentlessly – in Brussels, New York, 
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EU Annual Report on
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Geneva and thanks to our embassies across  go back to their lives. My hope is that in the 
the world – to expand rights, protect human  next year’s report we can start talking about 
rights defenders, and make sure that all  good stories born out of the end of this 
our global activities always include a strong  tragedy. 
human rights component. In this regards 
the role of the EU Special Representative  Civil society organisations and human rights 
for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, who  defenders in general, are a pillar of every 
travels the world for high level human rights  well-functioning state, and key players to 
dialogues and for keeping human rights high  improve the situation of human rights across 
on the global agenda, has been essential. 
the globe. But civil society organisations are 
having hard times in many parts of the world. 
This report shows that human rights are a  Unfortunately, there are not so many global 
living issue: our engagement can transform  powers who are ready stand on the side of 
individual lives and give hope to entire  civil society.
communities. But for every positive story, 
there is one that still needs to be told. If you  We, Europeans, will not follow a certain spirit 
look at Syria, the European Union is working  of the times. We will continue to listen and 
not only to bring humanitarian aid and relief  to empower. We will continue to stand by 
to those affected by the war: we are also  human rights defenders, providing them with 
engaged to re-create and protect the space  legal support or helping them escape a threat 
for civil society, and with Syrian women who  against their life. We will keep working with 
are trying to make a difference in public life  civil society, whether to support migrants or 
and to contribute to peace-building in their  to rebuild a country. We believe civil society 
country.
is an indispensable partner for our foreign 
policy. 
In Spring 2018 we will gather a new 
international conference in Brussels on the  And the European Union will continue to be an 
future of Syria and the region: it will be yet  indispensable partner for strong, resilient and 
another contribution to help the Syrians and  free societies – all around the world.
Federica Mogherini
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EU Annual Report on
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1. Introduction
2016 was a challenging year for human rights and democracy, with a shrinking space for 
civil society and complex humanitarian and political crises emerging. A number of countries 
also announced their intention to leave the International Criminal Court. In this context, the 
European Union showed leadership and remained strongly committed to promote and protect 
human rights and democracy across the world. 
In June 2016, the EU adopted the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, Shared Vision, 
Common Action: A Stronger Europe, which sets out the EU’s core interests and principles for 
engaging in the wider world1, and seeks to make Europe an even more united and influential 
actor on the global arena. The Global Strategy reaffirms an agenda for EU external action 
with human rights and democracy at its core; States and societies can only be resilient when 
democracy is strong and human rights are respected. The Strategy also calls for systematic 
mainstreaming of human rights and gender equality issues – a founding principle of the EU 
Action Plan Human Rights and Democracy (2015 – 2019)2.  
20 July 2016 marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the EU Action Plan, which 
establishes the EU’s main policy on human rights in external action. The Action Plan addresses 
the protection of human rights and support to democracy in all aspects of the EU’s external 
action, and is the EU’s key implementing tool of the 2012 EU Strategic Framework for Human 
Rights and Democracy3. 
 
2016 was also the start of the second cycle of the Human Rights and Democracy Country 
Strategies. The strategies are of key importance in the implementation of human rights at 
country level. In 2016, all the strategies were updated to meet current challenges and take 
into account developments since the introduction of the Country Strategies in 2011.
This report gives a broad picture of the EU’s human rights efforts towards third countries in 
2016, and encompasses two parts: The first part is thematic, and pays particular attention to 
the human rights approach to conflicts and crises, main human rights challenges and human 
rights throughout EU external policies. The second part is geographical and covers EU actions 
in third countries, thus mapping in detail the human rights situation across the globe.
1.  Council conclusions on the Global Strategy on the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, 13202/16, 17  
 
October 2016
2.  Council conclusions on the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015 – 2019, 10897/15,  20 July 2015
3.  EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, 11855/12, 25 June 2012
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EU SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
The EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, appointed in 
2012, continued to work, under the authority of the HR/VP, to increase the effectiveness and 
visibility of human rights in EU foreign policy. His key emphasis in 2016 was on strengthening 
the EU’s human rights engagement with strategic partners who have an important regional 
and multilateral presence. This included the EUSR chairing the EU Human Rights Dialogues 
with Mexico and South Africa and undertaking a second high level official visit to the U.S. There 
was also increased focus on the EU’s neighbourhood, including the first visit by the EUSR to 
Belarus and active engagement and consistent follow-up to his previous visits to Azerbaijan 
and Egypt. 2016 saw continued strong engagement with selected countries in transition, 
including his fifth visit to Myanmar/Burma, a first ever EUSR high level human rights visit to 
Cuba, the launch of exploratory talks on human rights with Iran, meetings at high political level 
with Bahrain and first-time visits to Guatemala and Honduras. The EUSR continued to work 
towards increasing the profile of the EU’s engagement with the UN and with regional human 
rights mechanisms to foster regional ownership and to address increasing challenges to the 
acceptance of the universality of human rights and to civil society space, including through 
strong and well-established engagement and cooperation with UN human rights bodies and 
mechanisms. The EUSR continued his long standing high level cooperation with the Council 
of Europe including a visit to address the CoE Committee of Ministers and he also continued 
efforts to deepen cooperation with OSCE/ODIHR, the Organization of American States and 
UNESCO.
 
Thematically, the EUSR continued to place strong emphasis on promoting civil society space 
and protecting human rights defenders, focused on reversing crack-downs and new restrictive 
laws on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in certain countries as well as working for the 
release of those human rights defenders and political prisoners who have been imprisoned. 
A major focus of the EUSR was also to foster dialogue between civil society and government 
and highlight the importance of this to build stable societies. 
In 2016, in the spirit of the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy for the EU, the EUSR 
actively promoted the idea of “sustainable security” with all stakeholders. This concept, which 
underpins the efforts of the EUSR, underlines that security can only be sustainable in the long 
term if compliant with fundamental freedoms and rights and rule of law requirements. 
Through numerous visits in 2016, speaking engagements at high level multilateral meetings, and 
meetings with hundreds of key stakeholders from governments, international organizations 
and civil society, the EUSR also sought to raise the EU’s consistency, effectiveness and visibility 
as a preeminent world actor on human rights and to advocate for key EU priorities. These 
included the fight against torture, the abolition of the death penalty, economic, social and 
cultural rights, business and human rights, freedom of expression and association, freedom 
of religion or belief, women’s and children’s rights and promoting accountability for human 
rights violations.
To increase awareness, within the EU and internationally, of the EU’s pivotal role in promoting 
and protecting human rights in the world, the EUSR, together with the HRVP, launched in June 
the #EU4HumanRights campaign, with the participation of all EU member states.
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EU Annual Report on
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EU INSTRUMENTS
The EU has a broad range of policies, tools and external financing instruments at its disposal 
to promote and defend human rights. These include public diplo¬macy, such as EU statements 
and declarations, more discreet diplomacy tools including demarches4  and political dialogues, 
but also human rights guidelines and human rights country strategies, regular human rights 
dialogues, and finan¬cial cooperation projects, including support for civil society. The EU 
strives to ensure the best interplay of these instruments, i.e. to use them most effectively and 
in conjunction with each other in order to achieve the best results. Human rights issues should 
not be confined to human rights dialogues, for instance, but are included in the agenda of other 
meetings, including political or other dialogues, for example visa liberalisation, and summits.
Human rights guidelines: The EU has adopted 11 sets of guidelines which set out priority 
areas for external action5.  The guidelines are not legally binding, but because they have been 
adopted at ministerial level, they represent a strong political signal that they are priorities 
for the Union. The guidelines are updated regularly, and serve as a practical tool to guide EU 
actors around the world when implementing EU human rights priorities at local level. 
Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategies: These strategies are prepared to a large 
extent at local level by EU Delegations and are based on an analysis of the human rights 
situation in a given country. They identify the top priorities for EU action on human rights 
and democracy, define long- and short-term key objectives, and set out concrete actions to 
achieve these objectives in a specific country. The strategies have been fully updated for 2016-
2020, and now incorporate a focused democracy analysis. These strategies are an essential 
tool in ensuring policy consistency and in preparing high level visits and political dialogues.
Human rights dialogues: Over the years, human rights dialogues have been established with 
an increasing number of countries. Their objectives include: discussing questions of mutual 
interest and enhancing cooperation on human rights in multilateral fora such as the United 
Nations (UN); enabling the EU to share its concerns on human rights violations with partner 
countries; information-gathering; and endeavouring to improve the human rights situation in 
the partner country concerned. These dialogues are key instruments for the EU to engage 
bilaterally on human rights, including on specific themes such as torture and ill treatment, 
the death penalty, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression online and offline, 
disabilities, women’s and children’s rights, gender equality, fundamental rights and principles 
at work, and cooperation in multilateral fora.
4.  A demarche is a type of diplomatic representation. It is a formal approach made to the representative of a  
 
third country or international organisation to persuade, inform or gather the  formal views of a government on  
 
a specific issue. It can take written or oral form.
5. Guidelines to EU Policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading 
  treatment or punishment - An up-date of the Guidelines (2012), EU Guidelines on the promotion 
 
 
and protection of freedom of religion or belief (2013), Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all 
  human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) (2013), EU Guidelines on Death 
  Penalty: revised and updated version (2013), EU guidelines on human rights dialogues with third countries  
 
– Update (2008), EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict (2008), Ensuring protection – European Union  
  Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (2008), EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and 
  combating all forms of discrimination against them (2008), EU Guidelines on promoting compliance with 
 
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (2009), EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and  
 
Offline (2014), EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2007)
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EU Annual Report on
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Prior to human rights dialogues, consultations are carried out with civil society in Brussels 
and in the country hosting the dialogue. Debriefings on the outcomes of the dialogues are 
also held. Policy forums and dialogues are complemented by technical meetings with civil 
society organisations throughout the year, in which the EU shares information on activities 
and policies. Dedicated civil society seminars were also held back to back with a number of 
human rights dialogues. 
 
In 2016, the EU held human rights dialogues and consultations with 42 partner countries and 
regional groupings. The human rights dialogue with Azerbaijan was resumed in 2016, with 
the previous one having taken place in 2014, and for the first time the EU held a human rights 
dialogue with Sri Lanka and an informal dialogue Bahrain. The EU and Mongolia agreed to 
hold their first human rights dialogue in 2017 in the context of their bilateral Partnership and 
Cooperation Agreement. The EU and Iran agreed to hold a dialogue on human rights, with 
the last meeting having been held in 2004. This was to start with an exchange of visits, and 
the first exploratory talks on human rights took place in 2016 as part of the bilateral high-
level political dialogue. Discussions on human rights also continued with Cuba, with a view 
to establishing a human rights dialogue under the recently signed Political Dialogue and 
Cooperation Agreement.
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights: The European Instrument for 
Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is one of the key external financing instruments used 
to promote and support democracy and human rights worldwide. Building on its key strength, 
which is the ability to operate without the need for host government consent, the EIDHR is able 
to focus on sensitive issues and innovative approaches, and to cooperate directly with isolated 
or marginalised civil society organisations. Compared with the 2007-2013 EIDHR, the 2014-
2020 EIDHR has been adjusted to address new realities and is more strategic in its focus and 
procedurally easy to use.
The EIDHR budget has been increased, thereby enabling the EU to provide more support 
for the development of thriving civil societies and their specific role as key actors for 
positive change in support of human rights and democracy. This includes increasing the 
EU’s capacity to react promptly to human rights emergencies, to undertake electoral 
observation missions, follow up their recommendations and improve democratic and 
electoral processes as well as more support for international and regional human rights 
protection mechanisms.
 
In 2016, financial agreements for a total amount of 82,01 M EUR were concluded through the 
Country Based Support Scheme in 101 countries over the world by the EU Delegations for the 
development of thriving civil societies in supporting to human rights and democratic reform, 
including to address trends of shrinking space for civil society; civil society actions ensuring 
the effective functioning of the ICC; gender equality; Indigenous Peoples; rights of persons 
belonging to minorities, people affected by caste based discrimination, LGBTI and other 
vulnerable groups; freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief; death penalty 
and torture; CSOs preparing the ground for elections and to follow up EOM recommendations; 
protection of ESCR especially for groups particularly vulnerable to discrimination, such as the 
poor, women, children, Indigenous Peoples, migrants and the rights of persons belonging to 
minorities; trade unions. 
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EU Annual Report on
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A total of 27,94 M EUR was contracted as a result of the global call for proposals in 
support of EU priorities along the following: 5,11 M EUR for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) 
local organisations working at grass roots level; 4,46 M EUR for monitoring and effective 
implementation of the relevant international core conventions in the EU Generalised 
Scheme of Preferences+ (GSP+) context; 6,55 M EUR for support to the fight against the 
death penalty; 6,61 M EUR to support migrants, including asylum seekers in third countries, 
internally displaced persons and stateless persons and 5,21 M EUR to support children 
associated with armed forces, groups and gangs and impacted by armed violence. EIDHR 
continued to provide swift assistance to human rights defenders at risk and also to reinforce 
their capacities to do their human rights work in the medium and longer term, under 2015 
agreements setting up Protectdefenders (15 M EUR) and a small grants facility (3 M EUR), 
as well as activities aimed at addressing the shrinking space for civil society through the 
crisis facility (3,5 M EUR). 
 
An amount of 19,20 M EUR was dedicated to activities in support of key actors of international 
and regional human rights protection mechanisms, such as the United Nations Office of the 
High Commissioner for Human Rights, activities of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation 
of human rights defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful 
assembly and of association, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection 
of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and their joint activities, the International 
Criminal Court, two projects targeting indigenous peoples rights (support to the Technical 
Secretariat of Indigenous representatives at UN Fora through the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre 
for Documentation, Research and Information (DoCIP) and the improvement of indigenous 
peoples’ access to justice and development through community-based monitoring with ILO), 
the respect of culture and freedoms using press cartoons as a media of universal expression, 
implemented by Cartooning for Peace and for technical assistance and capacity building 
programme to prevent detention of children and to protect children and other asylum-seekers 
in detention with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Furthermore, an EIDHR-financed dedicated support programme combining training and 
technical assistance on the rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights, to EU 
development cooperation was launched in 2016 amounting 1,43 M EUR.
EU WORK AT MULTILATERAL LEVEL
In 2016, the EU remained a vocal advocate of the universal promotion and protection of 
human rights at multilateral level, working in particular through the Third Committee of 
the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Human Rights Council 
(HRC), but also specialised UN agencies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 
In these contexts, the EU promoted its thematic and country priorities and collaborated 
with countries from all regions in the pursuit of its objectives. The EU also supported the 
mainstreaming of human rights across the work of the UN more broadly. The EU continued 
to use an annual strategic work plan, burden-sharing arrangements with the EU Member 
States and targeted outreach to make its participation in these fora more effective. The 
EU also cooperated closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Human Rights (OHCHR), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organisation for Security and 
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
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EU Annual Report on
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THE EU AT UN HUMAN RIGHTS FORA
EU-UN Partnership on Human Rights: 
The EU is strongly committed to the UN human rights bodies and promotes a responsive, 
effective, and impactful UN human rights system. The EU supports the UN High Commissioner 
for Human Rights and his staff in their worldwide human rights work. It promotes full 
cooperation with the HRC Special Procedures, including by ensuring unhindered access to and 
contact with individuals and civil society for mandate holders. The EU is unwavering in its 
commitment to the UN treaty bodies and draws on their findings and recommendations in its 
country work. Similarly, the EU supports the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and ILO standard 
supervisory mechanisms, and calls upon all countries to fully engage with these processes, 
including by ensuring follow-up to recommendations. 
71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Third Committee: 
At the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs) of the 71st session of 
the UNGA in October/November 2016, the EU achieved most of its priorities. The EU-led 
resolutions on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Rights of the Child (jointly with the group of 
Latin America and Caribbean countries – GRULAC), and on the Democratic People’s Republic 
of Korea (DPRK) (jointly with Japan) were adopted without a vote. Meanwhile, initiatives 
supported by the EU, such as the resolutions on violations of human rights in Syria, Iran, and 
Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, sent strong signals from the international community 
to those guilty of human rights violations. Furthermore, the resolution on a moratorium 
on the death penalty garnered one additional vote of support as compared with the 69th 
Session of the UN General Assembly. The EU participated in most of the interactive dialogues 
with UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders, and EU Member States worked closely with 
the EU Delegation to the UN to support EU positions, including through burden-sharing on 
resolutions and statements. However, this session also witnessed attempts to undermine 
the human rights system per se, such as the tabling of a no-action motion on country 
resolutions, introducing sovereignty clause in the resolution on death penalty, questioning 
the ICC references and an initiative to challenge the mandate of a UN Special Procedure. 
Therefore, the EU needs to remain vigilant and to continue engage to actively support the 
work of the Third Committee.
 
United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in 2016: 
The EU confirmed its strong commitment to human rights during the three regular sessions 
of the Human Rights Council (March, June, September 2016), as well as during two special 
sessions devoted to Syria and the situation in Aleppo (October 2016) and to South Sudan 
(December 2016). The EU’s most important achievements last year included the adoption of 
an EU-led resolution on Burundi, which establishes a Commission of Inquiry to examine human 
rights violations committed in the country, as well as the successful adoption of resolutions 
on Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen. In a similar vein, several 
important thematic resolutions were adopted by the HRC, including on indigenous peoples, 
maternal mortality, the safety of journalists, and terrorism. At the same time, however, the 
sessions were characterised by increasing confrontation and polarisation within the Human 
Rights Council.
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EU Annual Report on
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The EU Human Rights Approach to 
2. Conflicts and Crises
INTEGRATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN CONFLICT PREVENTION, CRISIS 
MANAGEMENT AND TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE
Human rights abuses are part of the conflict and crisis dynamics in all the different contexts 
in which Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations are currently 
active. It is therefore of key importance that human rights and gender policies are mainstreamed 
in the planning, implementation, conduct and evaluation of CSDP missions and operations. 
In May 2015, the Council of the European Union welcomed the idea of a baseline study on 
the integration of human rights and gender equality into CSDP. The study was concluded in 
November 2016 and identifies 21 baselines that will allow measuring progress and delivery 
over time6. 
In 2016 the Council also adopted a new Code of Conduct and Discipline for EU civilian crisis 
management missions7.  This aims at ensuring that the highest standards of professionalism 
and conduct are effectively implemented, including a zero tolerance policy on sexual 
exploitation and abuse. 
 
During 2016 the EU continued to engage in transitional justice processes around the world 
in countries as diverse as Colombia, Sri Lanka, the Central African Republic and Kosovo*8 in 
order to support victims, ensure perpetrators are held accountable, and promote peace and 
reconciliation.
Throughout the year, the EU focused on the implementation of its Policy Framework on 
Support to Transitional Justice9.  This involved raising the issue in many political dialogues 
with partner countries, organising training sessions for EU and Member States’ staff, and 
strengthening engagement on the topic through an EU institutions staff network and Member 
States’ task force. The new Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategies (HRDCS) now 
contain a section dedicated to transitional justice.
In order to promote inter-regional dialogue on transitional justice with a view to improving 
cooperation between regional organisations, in September 2016 Belgium and the EU jointly 
organised a roundtable in Brussels on fostering collaboration between the EU and the African 
Union (AU) in the area of transitional justice.
6.  Report on the Baseline Study on Integrating Human Rights and Gender into the European Union’s Common 
 
Security and Defence Policy, Working document of the European External Action Service of 10/11/2016
7.  Code of Conduct and Discipline for EU Civilian CSDP Missions, 12076/16, 9 September 2016*
*  This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion  
 
on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
9.  EU’s support to transitional justice - Council conclusions, 13576/15, 16 November 2015
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EU Annual Report on
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The event was particularly timely as the African Union is working to finalise its own transitional 
justice strategy. In December 2016, the Netherlands organised the first international donor 
meeting on transitional justice, which brought together the EU, Member States, the UN and 
other third-country donors.
 
The EU remained one of the largest financial contributors to transitional justice initiatives 
worldwide, providing financing to justice, truth-seeking initiatives, institutional reform and 
reparations programmes, including through support for civil society and victims’ groups. The 
2016 European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) global call contains 
a specific EUR 5 million lot dedicated to impunity and transitional justice. Beyond this, the 
EU funded a number of transitional justice initiatives in 2016 through a variety of financial 
instruments. To name a few examples, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP)10 
continued its financial support for Sri Lanka’s Peacebuilding Priority Plan (EUR 8.1 million) and 
for the Commission for International Justice and Accountability’s work on conducting criminal 
investigations and preservation of evidence of potential war crimes in Syria (EUR 1.5 million). 
An EU-funded programme under the European Development Fund (EDF)11  on justice sector 
reform in Guinea Conakry (EUR 20 million) includes a component which aims to support 
victims’ organisations in their efforts to combat impunity and to participate in the process 
of national reconciliation. Finally, the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI)12 funded a 
justice sector reform programme in Tunisia (EUR 15 million), which offers support to actors 
in the penal chain, as well as the establishment of a protection mechanism for victims and 
witnesses.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)
The EU continued to work to ensure that perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes 
against humanity are held accountable for their actions, and to achieve justice for the victims 
of those crimes. The Rome Statute is an essential and unique achievement in international 
criminal justice. The existence and functioning of the ICC remains an important guarantor of 
respect for international humanitarian and human rights law in all countries. In this context, 
the EU continued to support the ICC, by providing political support to the court in multilateral 
fora such as the UN Security Council and the HRC. The EU has provided financial assistance to 
the court and to civil society actors in support of the court. 
The notifications of withdrawal from the Rome Statute by South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia 
raised serious concerns. On 21 October 2016 the High Representative issued a statement on 
behalf of the EU expressing regret at the withdrawals and reiterating support for the ICC. In 
the 15th Assembly of States Parties (ASP), the EU and its Member States issued a statement 
of concern at the decisions by South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia, inviting them to engage 
in a constructive and open dialogue. It is also regrettable that Russia decided to withdraw its 
signature from the ICC statute earlier this year.
10. Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing an  
 
instrument contributing to stability and peace
11.  Agreement amending for the second time the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African,  
 
Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of  
 
the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000, as first amended in Luxembourg on 25 June 2005
12. Regulation (EU) No 232/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a  
 
European Neighbourhood Instrument
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The EU’s policy in support of the ICC and of the universality of the Rome Statute is based on 
a 2011 Council Decision13 and a 2011 Action Plan14 on its implementation, and they provide the  
framework within which the EU has addressed recent developments. In the Global Strategy for 
the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy the High Representative explicitly reiterated 
the commitments of the EU to maintain this support. Through its Delegations, in Brussels 
and in the 15th ASP, the EU has reached out to authorities and stakeholders in the relevant 
countries and in the African Union to encourage African mobilisation in favour of the ICC and 
prevent withdrawals.
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW (IHL)
Crises and armed conflicts continued to multiply in 2016, with dire humanitarian consequences. 
During the year, the number of forcibly displaced persons was unprecedented since World 
War Two, and the protection of civilians in conflicts remained a significant concern. 
The EU held firm on the need to protect humanitarian workers and the lives and dignity of those 
they assist, which includes safe access for aid delivery in conflict situations. For example, 
the High Representative and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management 
released a statement in October 2016 on increasing violence in West Aleppo15. This statement 
stressed that respect for humanitarian principles was vital to minimise risks and ensure 
protection of humanitarian workers.
 
The EU and its Member States remained major advocates for international humanitarian 
law (IHL), in particular the Geneva conventions, and as well as the principles of humanity, 
impartiality, neutrality and independence of humanitarian action. The EU continued to 
encourage the implementation of the EU Guidelines on IHL, which are an innovative tool to 
promote compliance with IHL by third states and non-state actors.
The World Humanitarian Summit, which took place in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016, was an 
important opportunity for the international community to re-commit to IHL and fundamental 
humanitarian principles. The EU made strong commitments and is working on their systematic 
implementation. 
The EU has also been actively supporting the process leading to UN Security Council (SC) 
Resolution 2286 (2016) and the subsequent follow-up, including the recommendations by 
the UN Secretary General. Measures to enhance the protection of medical and humanitarian 
personnel and hospitals are urgently needed. 
13.  Council Decision on the International Criminal Court and repealing Common Position 2003/444/CFSP, 2011/168/ 
 
CFSP, 21 March 2011
14. Action Plan to follow-up on the decision on the International Criminal Court 12080/11 of 11 July 2011
15. Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid  
 
and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides on increasing violence in West Aleppo, Brussels, 31 October 2016
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However, a more systematic and regular dialogue is needed at international level to enhance 
compliance with IHL. The EU has remained a strong supporter of the Swiss/ International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Initiative to establish a regular, voluntary meeting of 
states, which could cover national IHL implementation reports. The discussions facilitated by 
Switzerland and the ICRC continued to illustrate that existing compliance mechanisms are not 
sufficient. 
MIGRATION
In 2016, protecting the rights of migrants and refugees was a key element of all EU external 
migration policy. As migration rates remained high, with 387,000 migrants entering Europe 
in the course of 201616,  the EU aimed to build a strong migration management system – one 
which fully respects fundamental and human rights, both internally and externally, and which 
can function at times of normal and high migration rates. 
 
Building on the commitments made in the European Agenda on Migration17 and at the Valletta 
Summit in 2015, the EU took the landmark step in June 2016 of establishing a Partnership 
Framework18,  endorsed by the European Council. The Partnership Framework approach 
allows for deeper EU engagement with key third countries of origin and transit to better 
manage migration, with full respect for humanitarian and human rights obligations. Within 
the Partnership Framework approach, the EU has developed reinforced partnerships with five 
countries – Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal and Ethiopia. The results so far have shown positive 
outcomes in terms of the human rights of migrants: in Niger, for example, EU support has 
promoted access to status determination procedures, reception conditions and assistance for 
asylum seekers and refugees through the Regional Development and Protection Programme 
(RDPP) for North Africa. In addition, the EU has supported Niger’s national agency to fight 
against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings (Agence nationale de lutte contre la 
traite), through the European Development Fund and training provided by EUCAP Sahel Niger. 
In Nigeria, for instance, a project is ongoing, targeting vulnerable and displaced children and 
adolescents impacted by the conflict in Borno State. Moreover, an EU cooperation platform on 
migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings to enhance coordination among all actors 
was launched in October 2016.
The EU and the Member States have dedicated significant efforts to protect the rights of 
migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the European borders, and to break the business 
model of smugglers and traffickers, whilst also protecting the external borders. In 2015 and 
2016, Operation Sophia and Frontex Operations Triton and Poseidon rescued over 400,000 
people at sea. The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED) Operation 
Sophia is being conducted in full compliance with international law, including the principle 
of non-refoulement. Advisers on human rights, refugee law and gender equality have been 
appointed to the operational headquarters and personnel received training on human rights 
and humanitarian law. 
16. IOM, Migration flows Europe, http://migration.iom.int/europe/
17.  Communication on a European Agenda on Migration, COM(2015) 240 final, 13 May 2015
18. Communication on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda  
 
on Migration, COM(2016) 385 final, 20 June 2016
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The training of the Libyan coast guard and navy includes essential modules, delivered 
together with international organisations, aiming to improve the capacity of Libyan navy and 
coastguard personnel in providing assistance to individuals rescued at sea, in full respect of 
human rights. The Operational Head Quarters of the EUNAVFORMED Operation Sophia has 
developed a training manual focussing specifically on treatment of migrants, stressing a 
gender-sensitive approach and identification of vulnerable migrants. There are also advisers 
on refugee law and gender equality in the Operation Sophia. In complementarity to the training 
provided under EUNAVFORMED Operation Sophia, training has also been provided under the 
Seahorse Mediterranean network programme to officers of the Libyan coast guard, including 
training on human rights and the principle of non-refoulement.
Human rights and fundamental freedoms are core elements in the capacity building and 
training programmes provided through CSDP missions and operations. The EEAS also built 
staff capacity in November 2016 by holding Human Rights Training for EU Delegations, Member 
State officials and others on the rights of refugees and migrants. 
Issues relating to the rights of refugees and migrants were frequently raised by the EU in 
human rights dialogues and other bilateral discussions with third countries in 2016. The 
New York Declaration was also adopted at the High-Level Summit on 19 September 2016 to 
address large movements of refugees and migrants. The EU actively supported the inclusion 
of commitments for refugees and migrants and will now work towards the adoption of the 
UN Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants. It also actively supported the ILO establishing 
general principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment and guiding principles on the 
access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market and prepared 
for the 2017 International Labour Conference addressing these matters.
 
In 2016, the EU continued to consistently address trafficking and smuggling in human beings 
in dialogues and relations, with countries of origin and transit and destination for victims of 
trafficking, including under the Partnership Framework and in the context of the Khartoum 
and Rabat processes; and made significant steps forward in the implementation the EU Action 
Plan against migrant smuggling19 adopted in May 2015. As set out in the Plan, the Commission 
has also evaluated its legal framework against smuggling in human beings, and concluded 
that a reinforced exchange of knowledge and good practice between prosecutors, law 
enforcement and civil society could contribute to improving the current situation and avoid 
risks of criminalisation of genuine humanitarian assistance. To this aim, the Commission will 
continue to engage with relevant stakeholders and EU agencies, like the Fundamental Rights 
Agency (FRA) and Eurojust, to provide useful information on existing rules, their applicability 
and interplay with other legal frameworks at international and national level, as well as on 
tools that can support the activity of the judicial authorities.
In terms of detention of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, the EU has cooperated 
closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ‘Beyond Detention’ 
campaign, and funded a EUR 1.2 million project in 2016 to support UNHCR in protecting child 
migrants in detention centres. 
 
19. Communication on the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2015 - 2020), COM(2015) 285 final, 25 May  
 2015
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The EU provided significant financial assistance in 2016 to promote the rights of refugees and 
migrants. An additional EUR 500 million was added to the EU Trust Fund for Africa20, now 
worth EUR 2.9 billion, which aims to foster stability and address the root causes of irregular 
migration and forced displacement in Africa. The Regional Development and Protection 
Programmes (RDPPs) in North Africa and the Horn of Africa assist third countries who are 
impacted by mixed migration flows and/or hosting large numbers of refugees to address 
protection and developmental needs of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, the needs of  
the migrant and refugee hosting communities, and to support the development of functioning 
national protection systems. In addition, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian 
Crisis (Madad Fund)21 addresses the longer-term resilience needs of Syrian refugees and 
internally displaced persons in neighbouring countries, as well as supporting host communities 
and administrations. This follows on from the new EU policy approach to forced displacement 
announced in April 2016, aiming to prevent forced displacement from becoming protracted 
and to end dependence on humanitarian assistance in existing displacement situations.
The EU is also supporting civil society organisation projects to protect migrants outside the 
European Union through the EIDHR. In 2016 the EU continued to implement projects which 
were selected under the 2015 global call for proposals in support of the human rights of 
migrants (EUR 6 million). Projects in this area were also selected under the call for proposals 
launched in 2016 under the ‘Global Public Goods and Challenges’ Thematic Programme on 
Migration and Asylum for the implementation of the Rome Programme (Rabat Process). As an 
example of a productive EU-civil society partnership, the EU is cooperating with the Red Cross 
to provide support to migrant domestic workers and victims of trafficking in human beings in 
15 countries around the world under the Civil Society Action for Promoting Human Rights of 
Migrants (EUR 12.8 million).
 
COUNTER-TERRORISM
International terrorism continues to pose an extreme threat to European security and global 
peace. In 2016, Europe suffered major terrorist attacks resulting in the loss of many human lives 
and disruption to the daily life of European citizens and there were also several failed attempts.
Based on its 2005 counterterrorism (CT) strategy22,  the EU focuses on three main strands 
of action: a) ensuring the security of citizens, b) preventing radicalisation and safeguarding 
values, and c) cooperating with international partners. 
The Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy is very clear 
on security. But terrorism cannot be defeated with security measures alone. Preventive 
measures worldwide are needed to respond to radicalisation and recruitment in a holistic 
manner. In all circumstances, measures must uphold the rule of law and respect for human 
rights, international humanitarian law and international refugee law. 
20. Commission decision on the establishment of a European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and ad 
  dressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa, C(2015) 7293 final, 20 October  
 2015
21.  Agreement establishing the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, 13 March 2016
22. Council of the European Union, 30 November 2005: The European Union Counter-Terrorism Strategy
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The EU is working on new ways to tackle both the internal and the international dimension of 
the threat. New legislation has been passed at home to improve police and judicial cooperation. 
Work is also ongoing inside our communities, where radicalisation and recruitment are 
occurring. Abroad, the EU is focusing on capacity-building in the Middle East and North Africa, 
in Turkey and the Western Balkans, and in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. 
In 2016, the EU also continued to increase the funds allocated to partners working on new 
strategies to prevent violent extremism. It has invested more than EUR 150 million so far  
with several aims: these include understanding this complex phenomenon, working with local 
communities, and building capacity. On the latter, the Malta Institute (International Institute for 
Justice and the Rule of Law) continued to train judges from Benin, Chad, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, 
Senegal and Burkina Faso on terrorism cases. A further aim is to stem the flow of foreign 
terrorist fighters and tackle their return. 
 
Finally, the misuse of the internet and social media by terrorists is another problem which must 
be tackled, while upholding the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of 
information. In 2016 the EU continued to do so through the EU Internet Forum, launched in 
late 2015, which aims to reduce the accessibility of terrorist content online, and empower civil 
society partners to promote effective narratives to counteract terrorist content.
Moreover, the EU continued to hold CT dialogues with key countries across the globe. In 2016, 
11 such dialogues took place (with Algeria, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, 
Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey and United Arab Emirates), during which the need to respect human 
rights was always raised. Cooperation with the USA is another fundamental component of the 
EU’s CT strategy. The EU is also working closely with the UN and other organisations to build 
international consensus and promote international standards for fighting terrorism, in line 
with human rights standards. 
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Addressing the Main Human Rights and 
3. Democracy Challenges
PROMOTING A FREE SPACE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY AND SUPPORTING 
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (HRDS)
Over the last decade, human rights organisations, pro-democracy actors and wider civil 
society movements have faced increased restrictions when trying to carry out their work. 
In 2016, while an increasing number of non-governmental organisations, social movements 
and individual activists have been detected, the shrinking space phenomenon has spread to 
around one hundred countries. Restrictions on civil society and repression of human rights 
defenders have taken multiple forms, ranging from administrative and judicial harassment to 
smear campaigns, travel bans, criminalisation, stigmatisation, arbitrary arrest and detention, 
extrajudicial executions, and blocking of access to funding, especially from external sources. 
Both state and non-state actors, including armed and fundamentalist groups, pose offline and 
online threats to freedoms for civil society. The fight against terrorism and anti-terrorism 
legislation in several instances has provided a pretext to manipulate, monitor and restrict 
online information and to implement censorship and surveillance.
 
In the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy the HR reaffirmed 
the conviction that societal resilience will be strengthened by deepening relations with civil 
society, and expressed strong commitment to speak out against the shrinking space for 
civil society. In 2016, the EU continued to firmly express concern at multiple levels, including 
during bilateral human rights dialogues and in multilateral fora, at unjustified restrictions on 
fundamental freedoms in partner countries. 
As regards freedom of expression online and offline, in 2016 the EU expressed strong 
concerns about the continued increase in acts of intimidation, pressure and violence 
against journalists that took place across the world. In this context, the implementation 
of the 2014 EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression online and offline remains a key 
priority. 
The EU has raised freedom of expression at different levels of political dialogue, including 
in its human rights dialogues and consultations with partner countries. Numerous public 
statements and demarches have also been made to promote freedom of expression and to 
call for greater protection of journalists’ rights and media freedom.
The EU continued to work to ensure that freedom of expression remains a prominent issue 
on the UN agenda, participating actively in all relevant multilateral fora and supporting 
the work of the Special Rapporteurs with related mandates from the UN and regional 
organisations.
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 In 2016 the EU supported the UN Human Rights Council in adopting a resolution on the safety of 
journalists23, as well as the resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human 
rights on the internet24, condemning ‘measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access or 
dissemination of information online’. 
 
The EU has been actively engaged in debates on freedom of expression online within the 
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Governance 
Forum (IGF), the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, Freedom Online 
Coalition and in the framework of EU cyber dialogues with third countries, including South 
Korea, India, China, the USA and Japan. 
The EU continued to promote its Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline in all 
EU Delegations so that these can inform all future programming. A new Delegation support 
programme aims at assisting both the Delegations and media actors in third countries in 
applying the Guidelines effectively.
New projects in support of freedom of expression and the media have received overall funding 
of EUR 27 million. Freedom of expression and media components are also increasingly 
integrated into larger programmes in the field of democratic governance, notably in projects 
which have recently been designed on the topics of anti-corruption in Honduras, election 
support in Rwanda or the Central African Republic, and security in Somalia.
In addition, in 2016 some 200 journalists, bloggers, writers and artists were granted 
emergency support from the EIDHR Emergency Fund dedicated to human rights defenders 
under threat. 
Throughout 2016 the EU continued to raise concerns over an increased number of unjustified 
restrictions on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including through its 
political dialogues with third countries and in international fora. Several public statements 
were issued in 2016 calling for respect for the right to demonstrate peacefully, for the right 
for any association, registered or unregistered, to seek and access funding and resources 
and for the effective implementation of core labour standards on freedom of association and 
the right to collective bargaining. The EU believes that partnership with civil society plays 
an indispensable role in empowering people to understand and claim their rights, and in 
scrutinising the actions of public authorities. The EIDHR has remained an extremely valuable 
instrument in this respect.
 
The European Union acknowledges the important role of National Human Rights Institutions 
(NHRIs) as human rights actors and development enablers, and is enhancing its support for 
NHRIs both in political and financial terms. When acting independently and with sufficient 
financial and human resources, NHRIs can build bridges between civil society, the population 
and the government on the one hand, and between the national authorities and regional/
international human rights bodies on the other. They are key stakeholders and constitute a 
fundamental element of the international, regional and national human rights framework.
23. The resolution(A/HRC/33/L.6) is an initiative of Austria together with Brazil, France, Greece, Morocco, Qatar  
 
and Tunisia.
24. The resolution was presented by Sweden, Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey, USA and was supported by all EU MS.
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EU political commitment is also coupled with financial support for NHRIs under the EIDHR. In 
2015, a three-year targeted programme focusing on building the capacity of National Human 
Rights Institutions began, with an EU contribution of EUR 5 million. The aim of the programme 
is not only to support the capacity of NHRIs, but also to support their cooperation with regional 
and international networks. The programme focuses on four thematic areas: economic, social 
and cultural rights, business and human rights, human rights education, and strengthening of 
core NHRI mandates. 
Additionally, the EU supported the NHRI resolution at the 33rd session of the Human Rights 
Council. This welcomed the valuable participation of independent NHRIs and their contributions 
to all relevant UN mechanisms and processes, in accordance with their respective mandates. It 
also encouraged NHRIs to continue to participate in the work of the HRC, including its universal 
periodic review mechanism, as well as engaging with the special procedures and treaty bodies.
During 2016, human rights defenders (HRDs) continued to face reprisals because of their 
legitimate work in every region of the world. The EU Delegations in third countries continued 
their efforts to further strengthen EU actions in support of HRDs. In line with the 2004 EU 
Guidelines on HRDs, EU officials took action in 2016 through, for example, condemnation of 
threats and attacks against HRDs, demarches and public statements, trial monitoring and 
prison visits. Moreover, the EU has systematically raised the cases of individual HRDs in human 
rights dialogues, subcommittee meetings and consultations with the authorities from third 
countries, with HRDs being on the agenda of 80% of EU human rights dialogues held in 2016. 
 
On 10 December 2016, the EU and its Member States joined the United Nations in calling upon 
people to ‘stand up for someone’s rights’ on the occasion of Human Rights Day. EU Delegations 
around the world marked the occasion with a variety of events, and a Declaration by HRVP 
Federica Mogherini drew attention to the importance of protecting HRDs.
During 2016, over 250 HRDs and their families received EU support through the EIDHR Emergency 
Fund for HRDs at risk. The direct grants have been used mainly to pay for legal fees, medical care, 
the installation of security equipment, emergency relocation, and a range of other practical actions. 
In late 2016, implementation began on six global projects, with a total budget of EUR 5.5 
million, which were selected under the 2015 EIDHR global call for proposals. These projects 
aim to provide support to HRD organisations working at grassroots level, and focus on the 
most difficult situations and remote areas.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF 
The fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief remains under threat in many parts of 
the world. The implementation of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) 
remained a key priority for EU action in protecting and promoting FoRB during 2016.
The EU raised FoRB in its human rights dialogues and consultations with partner countries. 
Public statements and private demarches were made to promote FoRB, condemn violence 
against persons belonging to religious minorities, and call for non-discrimination on grounds 
of religion or belief. 
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The EU continues to work to ensure that FoRB retains a prominent place on the UN agenda, 
featuring a strong human rights approach. At HRC 31 (March 2016), the EU presented a 
resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief 
for three years. The resolution was adopted by consensus. As in previous years, the EU 
Delegation in Geneva also hosted a side event with the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB in 
the margins of HRC 31 in March 2016. In addition, the EU co-hosted a public lecture on the 
occasion of the 30th anniversary of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom 
of Religion or Belief. The UNGA 71 (December 2016) resolution on FoRB, as well as maintaining 
the updates of previous years, explicitly highlights the importance of a comprehensive and 
inclusive community-based preventive approach – involving a wide set of actors, including 
civil society and religious communities – to fight against acts of terrorism.
The EU has increased its efforts to raise awareness of the EU Guidelines and FoRB-related 
issues among EU staff and Member State representatives by organising training sessions and 
workshops. 
In 2016 implementation continued on projects across the world aiming to combat discrimination 
on grounds of religion and belief, selected under the EIDHR 2013 global call for proposals and 
its reserve list. This brings total EIDHR support for the promotion of FoRB in the 2007- 16 
period to more than EUR 15 million. In 2016, the global EIDHR call also addressed the rights of 
persons belonging to religious minorities. 
In May 2016, the President of the European Commission created the new function of EU Special 
Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU. The current mandate-
holder, Ján Figeľ, focused particular attention in the second half of 2016 on interreligious 
dialogue, with the Middle East as a priority region.
The EU supports initiatives in the field of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in a spirit 
of openness, engagement and mutual understanding, including within the framework of the 
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Alliance of 
Civilisations, the Anna Lindh Foundation, and the Istanbul process.
 
SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY AND ELECTIONS
While democracy comes in many forms, its basic aim is to allow citizens to exercise all human 
rights, be they political and civil, or cultural, economic and social. In addition to electoral 
observation, the EU has been providing democracy support programs all over the world to 
strengthen democratic institutions as well as citizens’ participation in policy formulation.
During 2016, the EU continued to support electoral processes across the world by 
deploying Election Observation Missions (EOMs) and Election Expert Missions (EEMs), as 
well as by providing technical and financial assistance to election management bodies and 
domestic observers, or to civil society organisations engaged in election observation. EOMs 
systematically and rigorously apply high standards of integrity and independence, in line with 
the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation (DoP). The EU cooperates 
closely with all international observer groups committed to the faithful implementation of the 
DoP. EU EOMs are independent missions, led by a Chief Observer who is usually a Member of 
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the European Parliament. These EOMs require strong coordination between EU institutions, as 
well as with EU Member States, international partners and civil society organisations (CSOs). 
The EU also works to ensure full complementarity between election observation, election 
assistance and political interactions with beneficiary countries.
In 2016, EOMs were conducted in Peru, Gabon, Jordan, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda and Haiti25, in 
accordance with international standards. In addition, EEMs were conducted in Niger, Benin, 
Comoros, Chad, Somalia, Central African Republic, Morocco, Haiti and Burkina Faso. Finally, 
electoral follow-up missions were deployed to Kenya, Madagascar and Pakistan. 
 
In 2016, the EU focused on the follow-up to EOM recommendations, in line with the guiding 
principle of increasing coherence between EU policies and in the use of EU instruments. A series 
of informal consultations was launched with experts from EU Member States, international 
partners, European CSOs, EU Chief Observers and other interested Members of the European 
Parliament. Discussions centred on initiatives which have supported the implementation of 
recommendations from EU EOMs/EEMs and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in 
Europe (OSCE) / OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)26 electoral 
missions. The aim was to map out and consolidate ‘best practices’ in line with the EU Action Plan 
on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019. These consultations were also an opportunity to 
explore how EU institutions and Member States can coordinate more effectively on EOM/EEM 
follow-up, including in multilateral and international fora such as the UN system, the OSCE, 
the Council of Europe, Organization of American States (OAS) and African Union (AU). At EU 
level, EOM recommendations are now raised consistently in political dialogues with partner 
countries, and contribute to shaping EU election assistance. 
In 2016, the EU also continued its pilot work in 12 countries to help improve the consistency 
of its democracy support policy. EU Delegations in pilot countries identified democracy-
related priorities, and have since begun to develop Democracy Action Plans, reinforcing 
the link between the analysis of the political context in which the EU provides its assistance 
and the design of programmes in support of democratic transition. A major output of the 
pilot exercise is that democracy now features more prominently in the Human Rights and 
Democracy Country Strategies. 
 
This pilot exercise has also demonstrated the need for the EU to increase its focus on 
interactions between state institutions and citizens, supporting legislatures, strengthening 
the link between political parties and citizens, and enhancing decentralisation reforms and 
local democracy. In 2016 the EU continued to support parliaments as key components 
of democratic political systems. The European Parliament offered assistance to the 
parliaments of a number of partner countries, in the form of study visits and peer-to-peer 
exchanges between parliamentarians on topics such as relations between the legislature and 
the executive, the budget cycle, the work of the committees, or relations between political 
groups. 
25. The EOM in Haiti was closed down before completion of the election process because of concerns about the  
 
annulment of the first round of the Presidential election.
26. OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
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The Ukrainian week in the European Parliament in March 2016, which was attended by over 60 
Ukrainian parliamentarians, strengthened the partnership between the European Parliament 
and the Verkhovna Rada. 
The EU has also worked to reinforce the accountability of public institutions towards  
citizens and to fight corruption. Important rule of law programmes were approved in 2016, 
particularly in support of security sector reforms and good governance. The EU has financed 
anti-corruption organisations and institutions in order to strengthen their mandates. Anti-
corruption is also one of the areas identified in the EU priorities for cooperation with the Council 
of Europe in 2015-2017, with projects ongoing in Eastern Partnership countries and Central 
Asia on legal independence and professionalism, and accountability in the justice system27. 
Empowering civil society has also remained a priority for the EU. Civil society has been an 
indispensable partner in the EU pilot exercise on democracy support, and an increased role 
for civil society is a crucial part of the implementation of the revised European Neighbourhood 
Policy (ENP)28.  At the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in November 2016, a fellowship 
programme was announced to promote leadership and professionalism amongst civil society 
activists.
 
The EU continued to cooperate with the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), which 
operates independently from the EU, but complements EU instruments. It focuses on transition 
processes and supports actors who cannot be reached through other means, in the European 
neighbourhood and beyond. The EU has granted EUR 12 million for 2015-2018 under the ENI 
to fund EED operational costs. 
Good governance and the rule of law are among the universal values that guide the EU’s 
internal and external action, and these values are also at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for 
Sustainable Development. In 2016 the EU began work on the new European Consensus for 
Development29, which will further strengthen the link between good governance, accountable 
democratic institutions and sustainable development.
THE DEATH PENALTY 
Working for global abolition of the death penalty remains at the very heart of EU’s human 
rights priorities. Throughout 2016, the EU continued to voice its strong opposition to the 
death penalty and used all diplomatic tools at its disposal to advance the cause of worldwide 
abolition. The issue of capital punishment was consistently raised with retentionist countries 
and featured on the agendas of political dialogues or dedicated human rights dialogues. 
27. European Union and the Council of Europe’s Partnership Co-operation Framework in the Eastern Partnership  
 
Countries for 2015-2017
28. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and  
 
Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, JOIN(2015)  
 
50 final, 18 November 2015
29. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and  
 
Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development  
 
Our World, our Dignity, our Future, COM(2016) 740 final, 22 November 2016
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More than 140 countries have now abolished the death penalty by law or by practice, which 
represents more than two thirds of all countries worldwide. 2016 saw some further positive  
developments: three countries abolished the death penalty completely (Nauru, Guinea and 
Mongolia), whilst the US saw its lowest number of executions since 1991, with 20 people 
executed compared with 28 in 2015. The triennial World Congress for the Abolition of the 
Death Penalty took place in Oslo, with more than a thousand participants from around the 
world. The EU demonstrated support for this important event both through its financial 
assistance and its active participation. The EU Special Representative (SR) for Human Rights, 
Stavros Lambrinidis, made strong arguments for universal abolition alongside other high-
level representatives from EU Member States at the event.
 
However, 2016 was also marked by calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty from some 
national leaders, notably with reference to the fight against terrorism, organised crime, or drugs. 
Some countries also broke their longstanding moratoria. The EU voiced its opposition to such 
statements, seeking a dialogue to highlight alternative and more efficient measures to control crime.
Based on the minimum standards defined by international law and the EU guidelines on the 
death penalty, the EU issued a number of public statements deploring the use of the death 
penalty, and called on countries to consider a moratorium. This was notably the case for 
Belarus, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the USA, with 
additional statements being issued and demarches carried out in many other countries. The 
EU has put considerable emphasis on the violation of these minimum standards, stressing the 
inadmissibility of the use of death penalty for minors, for persons with intellectual disabilities, 
and for crimes which are not among the ‘most serious’, such as drug offences. In relation 
to the Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS 2016), the EU stressed its strong 
opposition to the death penalty on several occasions.
The EU continued to raise its opposition to the death penalty in all relevant multilateral fora, 
in particular at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The EU actively promoted the 
adoption of the UNGA 71 Resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which 
was passed with the same high number of countries in support as in 2014. New elements 
in the resolution include, for example, the recognition of the role of national human rights 
institutions, an emphasis on the need to treat persons facing the death penalty with humanity 
and dignity, clemency and pardon procedures, and the need for transparency. The EU SR for 
Human Rights further raised the profile of the EU’s work against the death penalty when 
speaking at the UNGA high-level event organised in New York in September focusing on the 
Death Penalty and the Victims.
To mark the European Day against the Death Penalty and the World Day against the Death 
Penalty on 10 October 2016, the EU and the Council of Europe issued a joint statement 
reaffirming their opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances, and their 
commitment to the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. Numerous EU Delegations 
marked this significant date by organising debates, theatre productions and film screenings, 
publishing op-eds, and conducting other public awareness activities.
 
The EU actively engaged with the Belarusian authorities on this issue and acted to raise public 
awareness. Belarus is the only country in Europe that still applies the death penalty. During 
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the year, the authorities agreed to open up a public debate on the death penalty, and in March 
and December 2016, conferences were organised jointly by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs and international partners in Minsk. The EU participated actively in both conferences, 
with the EU SR on Human Rights speaking at the March conference and discussing the death 
penalty thoroughly in bilateral discussions with authorities. 
Under the 2015 EIDHR Global Call for proposals, six projects were selected and contracted to 
support CSOs active in the fight against death penalty worldwide for a total amount of EUR 
6.5 million (EU contribution only). These projects are now being implemented in a variety of 
countries, including Indonesia, the USA, Cameroon, DRC, Malaysia, Egypt, Somalia and Tunisia, 
and will contribute to training for the judiciary, public awareness-raising, improved monitoring, 
advocacy efforts, and stimulating a broader dialogue on the death penalty, including in relation 
to counterterrorism and the fight against drugs.
TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT 
In line with the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (Action 13) and the Guidelines 
on EU Policy towards Third Countries on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading 
Treatment or Punishment, the EU further intensified its work against torture and ill-treatment 
around the world in 2016.
The 2016 annual EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights was dedicated to the theme: ‘United against 
all forms of torture – applying a cross-cutting perspective to prevent, prohibit, and redress 
torture globally’. The Forum was well attended by key experts from around the globe, and 
provided an opportunity for thorough and engaged discussions and experience-sharing. The 
Forum specifically highlighted the importance of providing redress for victims; the role of 
torture as a push factor for migration; the specific needs of vulnerable groups, including 
children and indigenous people; and particular considerations relating to women. Overall, the 
Forum stressed the importance of speaking up and raising awareness about torture and ill-
treatment wherever it occurs, and the costs of torture for society as a whole. The need to 
fight torture in the context of counter-terrorism and security policy was also recognised.
 
The High Representative also participated in the EU-NGO Forum to emphasise the importance 
of this topic for the EU, and issued a statement on the International Day in Support of 
Victims of Torture, 26 June. Here, she highlighted the important role civil society is playing 
in fighting torture, as well as the responsibility of states to abide by their legal obligations 
and commitments. Through political will and joint global work, she expressed the belief that 
torture can be prevented and eventually eradicated. Several EU Delegations also organised 
specific events on this occasion to raise awareness of the importance of combatting torture. 
The Special Representative for Human Rights contributed to the fight against torture during 
his visits around the world, raising the issue publicly as well as in bilateral conversations with 
other leaders. He participated in two high-level events in Geneva in connection with the Human 
Rights Council, addressing the prevention of torture in police custody and redress for victims 
of torture respectively. The latter was organised together with South Africa as a concrete 
deliverable of the 2015 Human Rights Dialogue with the country, in cooperation with Denmark 
and the UN Special Fund for Victims of Torture. 
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In its Human Rights Dialogues, the EU continued to systematically raise torture and ill-
treatment, in particular urging countries to ratify and fully implement the Convention against 
Torture and its Optional Protocol; fully align their legislation with the Convention; comply 
with recommendations from national and international monitoring mechanisms; and ensure 
that all reports of torture or ill-treatment are properly and impartially investigated and 
prosecuted, and victims afforded redress. When relevant, the EU also addressed issues of 
enforced disappearances and secret detention. During these dialogues the EU offered concrete 
assistance to countries in their efforts to eradicate torture and ill-treatment depending on 
their needs, including financial support. One example was a visit to Brussels, Strasbourg and 
Berlin organised for the National Preventive Mechanism of Brazil. The visit was an opportunity 
to strengthen relations and build capacity through exchanges of experience on how best to 
prevent torture. 
 
The EU continued to promote judiciary reform in several countries, aiming to secure an 
independent justice sector, access to justice and improved prison conditions both through 
political dialogue and financial support. Assistance was provided for the training of police and 
all other staff involved in the penal system, which covered human rights as well as detection 
and reporting of alleged torture, including proper use of the Istanbul Protocol. 
Projects financed under the EIDHR are also promoting capacity building and the exchange of 
best practices in torture prevention. For instance, the project ‘Global Holistic Approach to 
the Fight Against Impunity for Torture’ has designed a useful database for the registration 
and recording of torture cases in rehabilitation centres in countries all over the world. A 
further project encourages states which have never previously submitted reports to the UN 
Committee Against Torture to do so, by publishing studies on impunity, submitting alternative 
reports, discussing and advocating. Through its Programmatic Cooperation Framework with 
the Council of Europe30, the EU is providing support and capacity building to penal systems 
in enlargement and neighbourhood countries in particular. The EIDHR 2016 call for proposals 
included a lot of EUR 13.5 million to support the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman 
or degrading treatment or punishment. This lot also addresses the inclusion of considerations 
relevant to torture prevention and victim rehabilitation in anti-terrorist actions and international 
crises, as well as gender-based violence and sexual torture. This EIDHR call takes into account 
the recommendations from the Court of Auditors’ 2015 Special Report on ‘EU support for the 
fight against torture and the abolition of the death penalty’31, which was generally positive.
 
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION
Gender equality 
In 2016, the EU pursued its gender equality and women, peace and security agenda in its human 
rights dialogues with most third countries, while EU Delegations across the world carried out 
specific activities to promote and protect women’s and girls’ rights. These included awareness-
raising campaigns and advocacy events organised by EU Delegations, policy dialogues with 
partner countries, public advocacy activities, and funding projects and programmes.
30. European Union and the Council of Europe’s Partnership Co-operation Framework in the Eastern Partnership  
 
Countries for 2015-2017
31. The European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 09/2015 on “EU support for the fight against torture and  
 
the abolition of the death penalty”
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The latter helped prevent gender-based violence, increase women’s participation in social 
and political life, and promote women’s economic empowerment. The EU has been a fully 
committed partner in global action to end violence against women and girls, and the EU 
institutions and EU Delegations once again joined the UN-led 16 Days of Activism against 
Gender-Based Violence campaign from 25 November to 10 December 2016. The EU and its 
Member States welcomed that the tripartite experts meeting on violence against women and 
men in the world of work succeeded to agree on a set of conclusions to provide guidance to 
the standard-setting process that will start at the 2018 International Labour Conference.
The EU has also been working in the UN context, including with the HRC and the Commission on 
the Status of Women (CSW), and with other multilateral partners, such as ILO, OSCE, CoE, AU, 
OAS, North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations 
(ASEAN), to ensure that gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the human rights of all 
women and girls remain at the heart of the global agenda. The EU has provided active support 
to the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board of the UN Special Envoy for Syria to help integrate a 
strong gender perspective into the peace talks. Work has also been ongoing to implement the 
2015 UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which contains a section dedicated to 
empowering women as a pre-condition for effective prevention of violent extremism. The EU 
has been engaged in tackling the root causes of violence and extremism through a range of 
small-scale, tailor-made projects with civil society and local communities, with EU-financed 
initiatives across the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and the Middle East and North-Africa (MENA) 
region including specific gender-oriented actions. 
 
The EU has actively followed up on the commitments it made during the 2015 High-level 
Review of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The EEAS, 
including EU Delegations, CSDP missions and operations, and EU Special Representatives, has 
continued to implement concrete actions to promote women’s participation and leadership in 
peace and security processes; to end sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post-
conflict situations; to further integrate the gender dimension into countering emerging threats, 
including terrorism and violent extremism; and to strengthen cooperative frameworks, both 
internally and externally. The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016 was a 
significant milestone, and included a high-level side event entitled ‘Empowered Women, 
Prosperous Afghanistan’. This followed close cooperation between the EU and Afghan partners 
on the development of their National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, with the EU 
being among the first donors to support its implementation across the country. 
The EU also stepped up its accountability on Women, Peace and Security, with the finalisation 
in October 2016 of a process of adapting and broadening the way in which the implementation 
of EU commitments is measured. Work is underway on an EU implementation report against 
a renewed set of comprehensive progress indicators. 
The EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender/UNSCR 1325 (PAG) has promoted better internal/
external coordination across work on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and women, 
peace and security. In light of the EU’s envisaged accession to the Council of Europe Istanbul 
Convention, the EEAS Principal Advisor has been advocating in various fora for states to benefit 
from this framework on combatting violence against women and girls and domestic violence. 
 
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The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and 
the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme 
of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 
outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive 
health and rights (SRHR), in this context32. Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment 
to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control 
over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and 
reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU further stresses 
the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive 
health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care 
services.
In 2016, the EU continued to implement the 2013 policy “Gender in Humanitarian Assistance: 
Different Needs, Adapted Assistance”33, which recognises gender as a quality criterion that 
helps to ensure that EU’s humanitarian assistance reaches the most vulnerable and responds 
effectively to the specific needs of women, girls, boys, men and elderly women and men. In 
2016, the EU continued the implementation of its commitments on policy dissemination and 
funding under the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, a 
global humanitarian initiative of which the EU has been part since 2013. In 2016, it is estimated 
that the EU allocated over EUR 27 million in humanitarian aid to prevent and respond to 
gender-based violence, reaching 3.4 million women, men, boys and girls.
Children
The EU seeks to promote and protect children’s rights throughout the world, and to ensure 
respect for the principle of the best interests of the child in all policies affecting children. In 
light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development34 and the commitment 
to ‘leave no one behind’, the EU is strengthening efforts to ensure that the most marginalised 
children are reached. 
 
The Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child35  provide 
comprehensive guidance to officials of EU institutions and EU Member States on means of 
working effectively towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in partner 
countries, and on the steps that the EU will take to achieve its objectives. The EU promotes a 
systems-strengthening approach to ensure that all the measures, structures and actors are 
in place to guarantee that no child is left behind.
32. All references to sexual and reproductive health and rights should be read in conjunction  with the new 
 
European Consensus on Development (para 34).
33. Commission Staff Working Document, Gender in Humanitarian Aid: Different Needs,  Adapted Assistance,  
 
SWD(2013) 290 final, 22 July 2013
34. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Resolution  adopted by the General 
 
Assembly on 25 September 2015 (UNGA A/RES/70/1).
35. EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2007)
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It takes into account further developments in EU human rights policy, such as the implementation 
of a rights-based approach to development cooperation36 (2014), and the emphasis on further 
mainstreaming human rights, as underlined in the European Commission proposal for a new 
European Consensus on Development37.
Currently, 1 in 4 asylum applicants in Europe is a child. The EU welcomed commitments made 
in the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants38, including ensuring that all refugee 
and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival, preventing and 
responding to sexual and gender-based violence, and working towards ending the practice of 
detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status.
The specific needs and vulnerabilities of children on the move, particularly related to their right 
to education and protection, were also highlighted in the Communication ‘Lives in Dignity: from 
Aid–dependence to Self-reliance, Forced Displacement and Development’ of April 201639. In 
addition, the Staff Working Document entitled “Humanitarian Protection: Improving protection 
outcomes to reduce risks for people in humanitarian crises” of May 2016, outlines the definition 
and objectives of the EU’s humanitarian protection work, including child protection40. 
 
Between 2012 and 2016, the EU’s humanitarian funding for Education in Emergencies has 
helped nearly 4 million crisis-affected children around the world to access education and 
training. In 2016, 4% of the EU’s humanitarian budget, EUR 64 million, was dedicated to 
education in emergencies. The EU has also strongly advocated for children’s right to education 
at international fora and organised an international Education in Emergencies Forum in 
November 2016.
At multilateral level, the EU tables two resolutions on the rights of the child every year at the 
UN with the Group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC). The EU led on both the March 2016 
UN Human Rights Council resolution on Information and Communications Technology and Child 
Sexual Exploitation, and on the UN General Assembly 3rd Committee resolution on Migrant 
Children.
The EU remained fully committed to the protection of children from all forms of violence. In 
October 2016, the EU Council Working Party on Human Rights (COHOM) discussed in a special 
session the rights of the child in EU external policies. This focused on strengthening child 
protection systems, child participation, preventing the institutionalisation of children and 
developing alternative care solutions, and protecting children from harmful practices. 
36. The Commission developed a tool-box to guide staff in implementing a rights-based approach, Commission  
  Staff Working Document Tool-Box A Rights-Based Approach, Encom passing all Human Rights for EU 
 
Development Cooperation (SWD(2014) 152 final) (9489/14, 5 May 2014).
37. Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development: Our World, our Dignity, our  Future, COM(2016) 740  
 
final, 22 November 2016.
38. New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, A/71/L.1*, 13 September 2016
39. Communication ‘Lives in Dignity: from Aid–dependence to Self-reliance, Forced Displacement and Development’, 
 
COM(2016) 234 final, April 2016
40. Staff Working Document, Humanitarian Protection: Improving protection outcomes to reduce risks for people  
 
in humanitarian crises, SWD(2016) 183 final, 23 May 2016
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In 2016, the Council adopted conclusions on Child Labour41, recalling the EU’s strong 
commitment to ending child labour and encouraging participation in the IV Global Conference 
on Child Labour to be held in Argentina in November 2017.
The EU continued its support for the ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ campaign, jointly initiated in 2014 
by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict 
and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which aimed at ending the recruitment and use of 
children by government armed forces in conflict by 2016. Despite the escalation in conflict and 
increased security challenges in some of the eight campaign countries in 2015, the campaign 
has so far resulted in the release of thousands of former child soldiers. All eight countries 
have now successfully signed Action Plans with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment 
and use of children. Under the EIDHR, the Commission supported six projects worth EUR 5 
million in 2016 for children associated with armed forces, groups and gangs, and impacted by 
armed violence. Projects are taking place in Colombia, DRC, Palestinian Territories, Sudan and 
Lebanon.
 
Elderly
The EU is keenly aware of the difficulties faced by older persons, and of the need to do more 
to ensure that their human rights are fully respected. In early 2016, the EU contributed 
to the report of the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older 
persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, and also supported the extension of her mandate in a Human 
Rights Council resolution in September. In the 7th session of the Open-Ended Working Group 
on Ageing in held in New York in December 2016, the EU contributed actively to the open 
discussion and exchange of best practices, opposing discrimination against older persons. The 
EU also supported the decision to allow National Human Rights Institutions to participate in 
the work of the Open-Ended Working Group. This decision was taken by consensus, with the 
result that National Human Rights Institutions with an A-status can now participate fully, albeit 
without the right to vote.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI)
2016 saw continued steady progress towards decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, 
with Nauru and the Seychelles repealing laws that criminalise homosexuality, and the Supreme 
Court of Belize overturning the country’s anti-sodomy law. Historic gender identity laws were 
also approved in many parts of the world. For the first time, LGBT issues were included on the 
official agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in recognition of the important links 
between LGBTI inclusion and economic development.
However, violence and discrimination remained a daily reality for many LGBTI persons, and 
the terrible attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, shocked the world. Meanwhile, 73 
countries still criminalise same-sex relationships, and there are 13 states where homosexual 
acts are punishable by death. Unequal access to healthcare, education and other sectors is 
still widespread. The EU has continued to work proactively with third countries to eliminate 
violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons, and carried out discreet diplomacy in 
response to specific cases of violence or discrimination.
 
 
41. Council conclusions on Child Labour, 10244/16, 20 June 2016
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On 17 May 2016, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, 
issued a statement to mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and 
Biphobia, paying homage to the courageous efforts of advocates to promote the enjoyment of 
all hu¬man rights by LGBTI persons. Several EU Delegations around the world commemorated 
the day by flying the rainbow flag, issuing press releases or organising events to raise 
awareness about the human rights of LGBTI persons, while many others supported local Pride 
celebrations and engaged with civil society to end discrimination based on sexual orientation 
and gender identity (SOGI). The EU also developed guidance and face-to-face training on 
ensuring the human rights of LGBTI persons for its staff to enhance communication and 
proactive handling of LGBTI issues with third countries.
In 2016, the EU supported 19 EIDHR projects aimed at improving the visibility and acceptance of 
LGBTI organisations, and enhancing their dialogue with authorities to change laws; combatting 
homophobia; protecting LGBTI persons from violence; and providing training, information 
and legal support to LGBTI persons and non-governmental organisations. There was a focus 
on regional projects dedicated to building the capacity of local civil society and community-
based organisations, and to creating networks. The 2013-2014 Global Resources Report 
for Philanthropic and Government Support to LGBTI Communities (published in June 2016) 
mentioned the EU as the third largest government and multilateral funder of LGBTI issues by 
total amount.
The EU continued to be active in multilateral efforts to tackle violence and discrimination 
against LGBTI persons by engagement with the relevant special procedures, including the 
new Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual 
orientation and gender identity. As a member of the UN LGBT Core Group, the EU was involved 
in organising the high-level #Path2Equality ministerial meeting held during the 71st UN General 
Assembly. EU SR for Human Rights attended the event, which brought together global leaders 
to discuss progress towards advancing the human rights of LGBTI persons. In January 2016, 
LGBTI issues were also identified as one of the EU priorities for cooperation with the Council 
of Europe in 2015-2017. 
 
Persons with disabilities 
2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
(CRPD), to which the EU is a party. 168 countries have now ratified the Convention. The EU held 
a number of public events and conferences to celebrate the anniversary, and also participated 
in events organised by other partners, such as a side event at the 31st session of the Human 
Rights Council on aligning the 2030 Agenda with the rights of persons with disabilities in 
February 2016.
 At the same session of the Human Rights Council, the annual debate on the rights of persons 
with disabilities focused on the rights of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and 
humanitarian emergencies. During the annual conference of parties to the CRPD in June, 
the EU argued for the need to reduce barriers to social inclusion and equality by addressing 
accessibility issues in the labour market. The EU also made interventions concerning poverty 
and accessibility, and organised several side events with civil society organisations including 
disabled people’s organisations.
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In line with Council Conclusions on the World Humanitarian Summit of 12 May 201642, the 
EU also signed up to the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian 
Action. The Charter affirms a collective will to place persons with disabilities at the centre of 
humanitarian responses.
The EU took part in the 16th Informal ASEM Seminar on the Human Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities, held in Beijing on 8-11 November 2016. This was an opportunity to discuss 
mainstreaming in relation to the human rights of persons with disabilities with a wide range of 
stakeholders, including persons with disabilities themselves. 
 
In 2016, the EU and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched the 
implementation of a joint four-year project entitled ‘Bridging the Gap I: Human Rights indicators 
for the CRPD in support of a disability-inclusive 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. 
The project will provide crucial tools and guidance for framing the implementation, monitoring 
and reporting of the CRPD in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 
December 2016, the EU signed a new grant contract entitled ‘Bridging the Gap II: Inclusive 
policies and services for equal rights of persons with disabilities’, which will be implemented 
by EU Member State agencies from Austria, Italy and Spain, in partnership with the European 
Disability Forum and the International Disability and Development Consortium. This project will 
increase the technical capacity of development partners to include persons with disabilities 
in mainstream development cooperation, ensuring that work towards achieving the SDGs is 
consistent with the CRPD. It will also enhance the capacity of five partner governments in 
low and middle income countries to develop and implement disability-inclusive policies and 
services. 
In addition, in 2015-2016, the EU funded over 80 projects focusing on the promotion of rights 
and social inclusion of persons with disabilities in partner countries, with a budget of over EUR 
56 million.
Rights of indigenous peoples and of persons belonging to minorities 
Regrettably, the events of 2016 provided ample proof of the continuing need for the EU to 
promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of environment, climate and land 
tenure. During 2016, the EU issued statements and demarches calling for justice following 
the killings of indigenous human rights defenders, as well as providing urgent assistance to 
indigenous human rights defenders whose safety was threatened. 
The EU also continued to receive reports of violations of indigenous peoples’ rights, owing to 
land grabbing in the context of extractive industries and other business- and development-
related activities. EU Delegations help verify such reports and develop appropriate responses. 
 
Through the EIDHR, the EU renewed its support the Indigenous Peoples’ Center for 
Documentation, Research and Information (DoCip), a foundation acting as the Technical 
Secretariat of the Indigenous Peoples representatives for the UN organs, bodies and sessions 
in relation with Human Rights.
42. Conclusions of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within  
 
the Council on the World Humanitarian Summit, 8850/16, 12 May 2016
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The project aims at facilitating the full and effective representation of Indigenous Peoples 
to the UN Human Rights system, and stronger synergies with and amongst Indigenous 
Peoples’ organisations. Moreover, for the very first time, a European component was added 
to the activities, in response to the European Parliament’s request for supporting interaction 
between Indigenous Peoples representatives and the European institutions.
On 17 October 2016, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union 
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a joint staff working document entitled 
‘Implementing EU External Policy on Indigenous Peoples’43. The document gives a state of 
play of the implementation of the commitments in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights 
and Democracy 2015-2019 which relates directly to indigenous issues, in line with the UN 
Declara¬tion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Outcome Document of the World 
Conference on Indigenous Peoples held in New York in 2014 (SWD (2016) 340 final). It 
concludes that an adequate EU policy framework on indigenous peoples’ rights is in place and 
is being successfully applied. However, the paper also presents a number of considerations 
for enhancing the EU’s impact and effectiveness, and applying the policy framework more 
consistently in EU relations with partner countries.
At the UN, the EU contributes actively to the mechanisms specific to indigenous issues and 
to resolutions on the rights of indigenous peoples at the Human Rights Council and Third 
Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Most importantly, in 2016 the EU contributed 
to the successful review of the mandate of the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism 
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The EU is also involved in the consultations conducted 
under the auspices of the UNGA President on enabling indigenous peoples’ representatives 
and institutions to participate in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them. 
 
Persons belonging to minorities are affected disproportionately by the increased levels of 
insecurity, intolerance and forced displacement in many parts of the world. As many countries 
do not have mechanisms in place to protect the rights of persons belonging to minorities, they 
are very often left without a voice and frequently find themselves criminalised for legitimate 
social protests. In light of this precarious situation, the EU increased its focus on the rights of 
persons belonging to minorities in its human rights dialogues with partner countries and regional 
organisations in 2016. These dialogues also covered issues related to persons affected by 
caste-based discrimination, and paid particular attention to the most vulnerable people within 
minority groups, such as women, children and persons with disabilities. An important lesson 
learned from the 2016 dialogues is that the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development 
Goals offer a strong platform for addressing inequalities, and thereby complement discussions 
on upholding the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.
Throughout 2016 the EU has continued to engage with international mandate holders on 
minority issues, such as the Special Representative on Roma Issues of the Secretary General 
of the Council of Europe, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, and the OSCE High 
Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). The EU has consistently advocated unhindered 
access for the HCNM to geographical areas of high tension.
43. Joint Staff Working Document, Implementing EU External Policy on Indigenous Peoples, SWD(2016) 340 final,  
 
17 October 2016
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The 9th session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues took place in November 2016, focusing 
on minorities in situations of humanitarian crises. Based on its commitments to the World 
Humanitarian Summit in 2015, the EU was well placed to contribute to the discussions held at 
the Forum.
 
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 
The EU engages with partner countries, in multilateral fora and with civil society on strategies 
to combat racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia and related intolerance. In its 
human rights dialogues, the EU emphasises the importance of the universal ratification and 
implementation of the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 
At the UN, the EU is dedicated to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of 
Action, as well as to the Programme of Activities for the UN Decade for People of African 
Descent. In its participation in the UN mechanisms dedicated to the elimination of racial 
discrimination, the EU promotes a consensual approach, focusing on the obligations of 
states to ensure the protection of human rights for all without discrimination. Moreover, 
the EU takes every opportunity, including in interactive dialogues with the relevant HRC 
mandate holders, to speak out against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related 
intolerance worldwide.
BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
In light of continued reports of violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights 
resulting from corporate behaviour, the EU supported the activities of human rights defenders 
and promoted respect for human rights by businesses. This issue was raised during human 
rights dialogues with a number of third countries, particularly in Latin America and Asia. The 
EUSR for Human Rights raised business and human rights in his discussions with strategic 
partners, including South Africa and Brazil, and with the African Union. 
The EU continued to promote the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), 
endorsed unanimously in 2011 at UN level, as the best policy tool to address these issues 
comprehensively. By the end of 2016, eight EU Member States had adopted National Action 
Plans on Business and Human Rights, and most others had completed or advanced significantly 
with National Action Plans on Corporate Social Responsibility or on Business and Human 
Rights. Further on, Council Conclusions on Business and Human Rights and on Responsible 
Global Value Chains were adopted in 2016. The EU and its Member States played an important 
role in the adoption by the International Labour Organisation of Conclusions and of an Action 
Plan on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains.
 
In its November 2016 Communication on a Sustainable European Future44, the Commission 
committed to intensifying its work on Responsible Business Conduct, focusing on concrete 
actions based on the principles and policy approach identified in the Commission’s 2011 EU 
Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy45.
 
44. Communication, Next steps for a sustainable European future European action for sustainability, COM(2016)  
 
739 final, 22 November 2016
45. Communication, A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility, COM/2011/0681 final, 25  
 
October 2011
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As regards technical support, in 2016 the Commission published an EIDHR call for proposals 
on the implementation of the UNGPs. Technical support to develop National Action Plans was 
provided under the Partnership Instrument (PI)46 to countries in Latin America such as Brazil, 
Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru. There were also preparations for a broader follow-up 
PI action on Responsible Business Conduct in Latin America and the Caribbean. Furthermore, 
the EU funded technical support for the African Union (AU) for the development of an AU 
framework on promoting responsible business conduct in Africa.
 
Within the multilateral framework, the Inter-Governmental Working Group (IGWG) for the 
preparation of an international legally binding instrument on Business and Human Rights 
met for the second time at the Human Rights Council in October 2016. The EU was an active 
participant and welcomed the fact that the IGWG would not only focus on transnational 
corporations, but on all kinds of enterprises.
46 Regulation (EU) No 234/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a 
Partnership Instrument for cooperation with third countries
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Human Rights throughout EU 
4. External Policies
TRADE
Trade policy can support the advancement of and respect for human rights in third countries 
in conjunction with other EU external policies, in particular development cooperation. The 
2015 Communication ‘Trade for all – Towards a more responsible trade and investment 
policy’ offers EU assistance to allow developing countries, particularly vulnerable and Least 
Developed Countries, to integrate into the global trading system and to maximise the benefits 
from international trade47. This involves various policy instruments, including the EU’s Aid 
for Trade48, the unilateral trade preferences scheme and provisions in bilateral and regional 
trade agreements. Human rights considerations, including fundamental principles and rights 
at work, are integrated into unilateral preferences, EU export controls policy and EU bilateral 
free trade agreements.
The current Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Regulation has been in force since 1 
January 2014 and continues to provide the world’s most generous unilateral trade preferences 
to support economic development in developing countries. Fourteen countries have been 
granted particularly advantageous trade preferences (GSP+) under the new scheme, on 
condition that they ratify and effectively implement 27 international conventions, including 
core human and labour rights conventions. In 2016, five countries concluded Free Trade 
Agreements with the EU and therefore left the GSP+ scheme, and one new country, Sri Lanka, 
applied for GSP+ status. In 2016 the Commission published the first biennial report on the 
GSP+ monitoring cycle49, with the second to follow in 2018. 
The EIDHR instrument includes dedicated support of EUR 5 million to empower civil society 
actors to contribute to the monitoring and effective im¬plementation of the 27 relevant 
conventions ratified by GSP+ beneficiary countries. 
 
In 2016, the EU also continued work on the Bangladesh Compact together with the Bangladeshi 
government, ILO, USA and Canada to improve core labour standards and safety in the textile 
industry. 
The European Commission conducts Impact Assessments (IAs) before the launch of trade 
negotiations or the introduction of new or revised regulations governing EU trade policy.
47. Communication, ‘Trade for all — towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’, COM(2015) 497  
 
final, 14 October 2015
48. EU Strategy on Aid for Trade: Enhancing EU support for trade-related needs in developing countries, 14470/07,  
 
29 October 2007
49. Joint Staff Working Document, ‘The EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good  
 
Governance (‘GSP+’) covering the period 2014 – 2015, SWD(2016)8, 28 January 2016
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It also carries out Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs) in parallel with trade negotiations. 
The EU is committed to assessing human rights in both IAs and SIAs. A special guidance tool50 
was developed in 2015 for assessing human rights in trade actions, and this guidance was put to 
use in all assessments carried out in 2016. This includes SIAs for the EU-China and EU-Burma/
Myanmar Investment Agreements, and the EU-Turkey IA for modernisation of the Customs 
Union, as well as ongoing IAs for negotiations of FTAs with New Zealand, Australia and Chile.
Free trade agreements entered into after 2009 are linked to the human rights provisions 
set out in the respective political framework agreements between the parties. If there is no 
political framework agreement in force between the parties, an essential elements clause 
and suspension possibilities in case of human rights abuse are entered into the free trade 
agreement. 
As regards EU export controls, Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 on trade in goods which 
could be used for capital punishment or torture has been revised, and the new amendments 
entered into force on 16 December 201651. The Commission also adopted an update of Council 
Regulation 428/2009 in 2016 set¬ting out a Community regime for the control of exports, 
transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. This regime now includes examining controls 
on surveillance technology to mitigate the potential risks associated with the uncontrolled 
export of information and com¬munications technology (ICT) products that could be used for 
human rights violations. 
 
The European Commission promotes private fair and ethical trade schemes, and considers that 
they can be beneficial to strengthen sustainable development principles, including respect for 
human rights. While there is no intention to rank or regulate such schemes, the Commission 
carried out work in 2016 to on improve the flow of information to ensure that consumers 
understand the criteria underlying each scheme, are able to make informed decisions, and 
quickly identify false claims.
At multilateral level, the EU supports the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which aims at enhancing 
responsibility and transparency in the arms trade and which entered into force at the end of 
2014. The Treaty requires inter alia that the risk of arms being used to commit or facilitate 
serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, including acts of gender-
based violence, be assessed in arms export decisions. Arms exports are also prohibited if they 
could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva 
Convention, attacks directed against civilians, or other war crimes as defined by relevant 
international conventions.
In this context, the EU continued to promote the Treaty’s ratification by all UN Member 
States in 2016. In addition to these diplomatic efforts, the EU-funded ATT implementation 
support programme has so far provided technical assistance to 17 countries, assisting them 
in strengthening their national systems in line with the requirements of the Treaty.
 
50. Guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments for trade-related policy initiatives  
 (2015)
51. Regulation (EU) 2016/2134 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 November 2016 amending  
  Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 concerning trade in certain goods which could be used for capital 
 
punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
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DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION
The EU is committed to integrating human rights, whether civil and political, or economic, 
social and cultural, into development cooperation. The objective is not only to ‘do no harm’ by 
avoiding unintended negative impacts of development activities for the final beneficiaries, but 
also to ‘do maximum good’ by contributing in a concrete and direct way to the realisation of 
their human rights, considered both as a means and a goal of development cooperation. In 2014 
a Commission Staff Working Document52 was published and subsequently the Council adopted 
conclusions on ‘a rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights for EU development 
cooperation’53. This provided tools and concrete guidance on the rights-based approach (RBA) 
to development, which the EU is now implementing across all development programmes. 
January 2016 saw the launch of a dedicated support programme for the RBA, which combined 
training and technical assistance to build in-house capacity on the RBA. This programme is 
mainly for staff in EU Delegations, but Member States, partner countries implementing the 
European Development Fund, and local CSOs are also able to benefit from this training. In 
addition, sectorial guidance was developed for EU external cooperation actions addressing 
Terrorism, Organised Crime and Cybersecurity. In late 2016, the EU hosted a meeting with 
Member States and UN agencies to share experience and best practices on a rights-based 
approach to implementing the SDGs, which led to an agreement to develop a more regular and 
substantive exchange on RBA methodology between the EU, Member States and the OHCHR.
52. Commission Staff Working Document Tool-box A rights-based approach encompassing all human rights for  
 
development cooperation, SWD (2014) 152 final, 30 April 2014..
53. Council conclusions on a rights-based approach to development cooperation, encompassing all human rights,  
 
19 May 2014
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EU Annual Report on
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I. Candidate countries and potential candidates
The values on which the EU is founded as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European 
Union are reflected in the accession criteria. These essential conditions which all candidate 
countries must satisfy to become a member state notably include: the stability of institutions 
guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of 
minorities. The current enlargement agenda covers the countries of the Western Balkans and 
Turkey54. The progress made by those countries towards meeting those criteria is covered in 
depth in the European Commission’s 2016 enlargement package. The Commission applied its 
recalibrated reporting methodology, introduced in 2015, to new areas in the annual reports on 
enlargement countries. The assessments reflect the progress made over the past year and 
the state of play with regard to countries’ level of preparedness to take on the obligations of 
membership. The reports also took stock of measures taken to address recommendations 
issued in 2015 and provided further guidance on priorities for reform in each country.
The EU continued to implement its enlargement policy according to the ‘fundamentals 
first’ principle. The Commission continued to focus its efforts on the rule of law, including 
security, fundamental rights, democratic institutions and public administration reform, as 
well as on economic development and competitiveness. These remain crucial for meeting 
the Copenhagen membership criteria and are essential cross-cutting issues that, if properly 
addressed, allow candidate countries to take on the obligations of membership. This approach 
has delivered results on the ground and the reform processes are moving forward overall, 
albeit at different speeds. Given the complex nature of the necessary reforms, it is a long-
term process and shortcomings persist in a number of key areas.
 
The 2016 Communication on EU enlargement policy notes that fundamental rights continue 
to be largely enshrined in the legislation of the enlargement countries. In the Western Balkans, 
shortcomings remain in practice, but the situation is broadly stable. In Turkey, there has been 
backsliding in this area and practical implementation often shows significant shortcomings. 
Following the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 in Turkey, selective and arbitrary application 
of the law, especially of the provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism, is 
having a negative effect on freedom of expression. Criminal cases against journalists, human 
rights defenders and members of parliament are of serious concern. Freedom of expression 
and the media remains a particular concern in most enlargement countries, albeit to different 
degrees.
Discrimination and hostility towards vulnerable groups, including on grounds of sexual 
orientation or gender identity, remains a serious concern. 
54. 2016 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy, COM(2016) 715 final, 9 November 2016
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Further work is required to ensure equality between women and men, including tackling 
domestic and gender-based violence, and ensuring equal opportunities for women, notably 
on the labour market. The rights of the child, including the development of child protection 
systems and effective policies to support persons with disabilities, need to be strengthened. 
The difficult situation of the Roma remains broadly unchanged and Roma, particularly in the 
Western Balkans, continue to be the victims of discrimination and social exclusion. Effective 
protection of personal data, as well as robust systems to ensure procedural rights, are still 
not fully established in many enlargement countries. 
The proper functioning of democratic institutions remains a key challenge in a number of 
countries. The central role played by national parliaments in terms of safeguarding democracy 
needs to be embedded in the political culture. Parliamentary scrutiny is often undermined 
by insufficient government reporting, weak parliamentary committee structures and the 
excessive use of urgent parliamentary procedures. While the conduct of elections as such 
is broadly without major incidents, important deficiencies, including with respect to election 
management and political interference in media reporting, have an impact on the integrity 
of the overall pre-electoral and electoral process. Elections often continue to be seen as 
an opportunity to gain political control of the broader administration, including independent 
institutions.
 
The Commission continues to support reform efforts in the fundamental fields of democracy 
and fundamental rights, including through its financial assistance and capacity-building 
measures. Candidate countries also take part in relevant working groups of the Commission 
such as the education (ET 2020 WG) on Promoting citizenship and the common values of 
freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, which promotes exchanges of 
good practices on non-discrimination, gender equality and human rights education.
 
More information available here.
 
Republic of Albania
There are four key ongoing projects under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA)55 
that focus on enhancing the effectiveness of the Albanian system of human rights protection 
and anti-discrimination (IPA 2013, EUR 1.5 million), on economic and social empowerment for 
Roma and Egyptians (IPA 2014, EUR 4 million), on alternative dispute resolution, aiming at 
providing citizens with alternative ways of resolving disputes (IPA 2012, EUR 750 000), and on 
the penitentiary system (IPA 2013, EUR 1 million). 
Under IPA’s Civil Society Facility, seven projects (totalling approximately EUR 1.2 million) 
relate to the protection of human rights and aim at fostering social inclusion for persons 
belonging to minorities, particularly Roma and Egyptians, monitoring respect for fundamental 
rights in detention centres, supporting access to justice for vulnerable groups, and promoting 
restorative justice and victim offender mediation for juveniles.
55. Regulation (EU) No 231/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing an  
 
Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II)
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There are two ongoing projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and 
Human Rights (EIDHR) (EUR 1.2 million in total) targeting child protection in Albania and the 
empowerment of women in the mountainous regions in the north of the country. These 
projects provide for a large number of sub-grantees in order to increase the outreach of 
actions. 
More information available here.
 
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In 2016, financial assistance under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) focused 
on children and adults with disabilities by supporting the transformation of institutions for social 
protection and strengthening models of community-based social care for children without 
parental care (EUR 1.3 million) as well as the empowerment of civil society organisations to 
monitor and advocate for child rights and to promote inclusive and innovative services (EUR 
5.8 million Western Balkans and Turkey regional project). The implementation of a EUR 2.5 
million project targeting the socio-economic inclusion of the Roma population is ongoing with 
the provision of 140 housing units and integrated socio-economic measures, together with 
significant engagement in the process of the revision of the Roma action plan 2017-2020 for 
employment, housing and health. Support for the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees was 
also provided in connection with the preparation of amendments to the Bosnia and Herzegovina 
anti-discrimination law and related strategy.
Twelve ongoing projects funded under the EIDHR were implemented in 2016 (EUR 2.7 million). 
These projects focus in particular on the protection of minorities including Roma, in general, 
and Roma children, in particular, the protection of LGBTI persons, the rights of persons 
with disabilities and the promotion of students’ participation in democratic reforms, the 
empowerment and participation of young people and the socio-economic empowerment of 
marginalised groups. Five additional grants were awarded at the end of 2016 for an overall 
amount of EUR 1.7 million, addressing gender-based violence, mapping human rights in 
the media, the right to education for all, Roma integration measures and the prevention of 
domestic violence against women in rural areas.
More information available here.
 
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
In 2016, the EU continued to focus political dialogue and assistance through the Instrument for 
Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) on improving respect for fundamental rights in the country. 
67 projects with civil society organisations, amounting to over EUR 10.3 million, support 
inter alia freedom of expression and of the media and investigative journalism, as well as 
participatory democracy. Some projects also aim to counteract discrimination in all its forms, 
improve the protection of the rights of Roma, persons with disabilities and children and youth 
in vulnerable positions, decrease the gender gap and improve equality. Under the EU/CoE 
Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey and the JUFREX regional programmes, 
projects worth EUR 7 million have been launched to address discrimination and improve the 
protection of vulnerable groups and freedom of expression and strengthen judicial capacities 
to safeguard human rights and combat ill-treatment and impunity. Key institutions, such as 
the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecution Office, the Directorate for 
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Personal Data Protection, the Judicial Council, the Council of Public Prosecutors, the Directorate 
for Execution of Sanctions, the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors and the Ministry 
of Labour and Social Policy, have also benefited from significant IPA support (over EUR 18 
million) which, along with building up their operational capacities, also aims at safeguarding 
human rights and enforcing international conventions and related legislation in the country. 
Under the EIDHR scheme, the EU Delegation in Skopje implemented 19 projects worth EUR 2 
million in total in 2016. The projects addressed issues ranging from freedom of expression 
to improved access to justice, the promotion of the rights of women, youth and children, 
protection of and respect for diversity, non-discrimination, the social inclusion of Roma, 
enhancing interreligious dialogue and religious pluralism, and initiatives for promoting the 
EU’s role in the democratisation processes and development.
More information available here.
 
Kosovo*56 
In 2016, the EU Community Stabilisation Programme phase III, part of IPA 2014 implemented by 
IOM, has so far implemented 124 projects (98 individual family businesses and 26 community 
development projects) creating and/or securing over 280 jobs and indirectly affecting around 
30 000 inhabitants in the disadvantaged minority areas. The twinning project on fighting 
homophobia and transphobia completed its operations in 2016. The Civil Society Facility 
supported two coalitions: ERAC (Equal Rights for All Coalition) for the promotion and protection 
of the fundamental rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups (EUR 900 000) and KEEN 
(Kosovo Education and Employment Network) to promote the employability of vulnerable 
groups in Kosovo* and their inclusiveness in both the education sector and the labour market 
(EUR 900 000). Under the same instrument, three operating grants focus on the protection 
and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons and the Roma, Ashkali 
and Egyptian communities. The regional EU/CoE Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans 
and Turkey started operating with components on prison reform, the introduction of CEPEJ 
tools for the judiciary and education (anti-discrimination and anti-corruption).
During the year, eight EIDHR projects amounting to a total of EUR 1.7 million were successfully 
contracted. One project will be supporting the Ombudsman, two focuses on political 
participation among women; two support the rights of the child and three actions focus on 
anti-discrimination. In addition, three EIDHR projects (worth approximately EUR 600 000) 
continued to be implemented in the areas of court monitoring, social housing and personal 
data protection.
 
More information available here. 
*  This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ  
 
Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
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Montenegro
In 2016, three IPA projects (worth approximately EUR 2.5 million) were implemented in 
the area of human rights, including sustainable solutions for the internally displaced Roma 
population, gender equality, support for the Ombudsman’s office, the Ministry of Human and 
Minority Rights and the Ministry of Justice (Prison Administration) on the application of human 
rights standards. As regards new commitments, EUR 1 million was allocated to the promotion 
and protection of the human rights of Roma, Egyptians and other vulnerable groups in 2016. In 
the framework of the IPA Human Resources Development Operational Programme nine grant 
projects totalling EUR 0.75 million were selected for providing trainings and employment 
opportunities to people with disabilities and to the Roma and Egyptian Population. In addition, 
within the IPA Civil Society Facility, seven projects relating to anti-discrimination policies and 
human rights (social inclusion of children and youth with disabilities, consumer and patient 
rights, rights of mental health patients, social entrepreneurship) were implemented in 2016 to 
a value of around EUR 1 million.
The implementation of six projects under the EIDHR (Country-Based Support Scheme) with 
a total value of EUR 700 000 continued in 2016. These covered the human rights of LGBTI 
persons, the political participation of Roma (establishment of the first trade union composed 
of Roma workers), consumer protection and patients’ rights, increasing trust in elections, 
combating gender-based violence, and the regional EIDHR project of EUR 570 000 on the 
prevention of ill-treatment in prisons and fighting impunity.
More information is available here.
 
Republic of Serbia 
In 2016, the EU continued to implement a number of projects under the IPA programme to 
support anti-discrimination policies and to improve the situation of vulnerable people, including 
Roma, refugees and internally displaced persons. In 2016, in the field of Roma inclusion, 
there were four projects ongoing, with a total value of EUR 11.4 million. In October 2015, 
the twinning project ‘Support for the advancement of human rights and zero tolerance for 
discrimination’ was launched. It will last 20 months with a total value of EUR 1.2 million. In the 
context of the Civil Society Facility, 10 grants were awarded to civil society organisations with 
an overall value of EUR 3.5 million. Support in the form of long-term grants, which include 
capacity building for grassroots organisations, will increase the effectiveness of the Serbian 
civil society organisations (CSOs) in undertaking initiatives focused on the rule of law, regional 
cooperation and civil society participation in the process of negotiations in Serbia and policy 
monitoring.
19 projects funded under the EIDHR for an overall amount of EUR 2 million were implemented 
in 2016. These projects focus notably on the protection of minorities, the human rights of 
LGBTI persons, gender equality, children’s rights, the rights of asylum seekers and the rights 
of persons with disabilities. In addition a new call for proposals was published under the EIDHR 
budget for 2016 and 2017, with a total value of EUR 1.75 million.
More information is available here.
 
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Republic of Turkey
Reform and capacity-building needs under the rule of law and fundamental rights were 
identified as major priorities in the country strategy paper 2014-2020 (IPA II assistance) for 
Turkey. They remained a high priority in 2016, in a particularly sensitive context, not least in 
the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt. From the perspective of implementation, very 
large budgets have already been mobilised for Turkey in 2015 and 2016 for migration, asylum 
and border management as a consequence of the migration crisis and the implementation 
of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap57, while assistance relating to the refugee crisis will 
continue to be mobilised through the facility for refugees in Turkey. Political and institutional 
uncertainties experienced by some key beneficiaries after the coup attempt are also being 
taken into consideration.
Under the IPA, several projects in the implementation phase can be highlighted for their human 
rights orientation, such as capacity-building projects with relevant human rights institutions 
(such as the National Human Rights Institute, the Ombudsman and the parliament), projects 
relating to freedom of expression, and projects focusing on women’s rights, anti-discrimination 
and social inclusion. In the context of the overall deterioration of human rights in the past year, 
in particular following the coup attempt, the IPA 2016 national programme includes a EUR 5 
million action designed to strengthen respect for fundamental rights and freedoms for all 
individuals without discrimination in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 
in the areas of gender equality and Roma in Turkey. The 2016 home affairs action will provide 
support for Turkey in implementing related requirements and contribute to the efforts to host 
refugees from the conflict in Syria (EUR 92.05 million EU contribution). In addition, through 
the facility for refugees, EUR 2.2 billion has been allocated in 2016 to projects supporting 
refugees and host communities, with full respect for international human rights standards. 
 
EIDHR projects in Turkey focus on the most critical human rights issues for the country, 
including freedom of expression and an independent media, improved access to justice, 
combating torture and impunity, protection of and respect for cultural diversity, vulnerable 
groups and the rights of persons belonging to minorities, human rights education and training 
programmes, and enhancing political representation and participation in society, particularly 
for under-represented groups (including women, LGBTI persons, Roma and youth). In 
December 2016 22 projects were implemented under the Turkey Programme and 23 new 
grants were signed for a value of EUR 5 million. The new projects cover several critical human 
rights areas: human rights defenders, the human rights of LGBTI persons, women’s rights 
and countering violence against women, minorities. The EIDHR is also expected to play a role 
in the response to the Syrian crisis, working with civil society organisations on the rights of 
refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants in general. To this end, 
the financial envelope included a sum of EUR 2 million to support the rights of refugees, 
asylum seekers and migrants. Priorities in this area are consistent with, and complementary 
to, the work conducted under the IPA, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), 
and other important instruments such as the EU Trust Fund.
More information is available here
 
57. European Commission, Roadmap towards the visa-free regime with Turkey, 16 December 2013
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Multi-beneficiary assistance
Under the IPA multi-beneficiary assistance, areas such as the promotion of human rights, the 
protection of minorities, anti-discrimination and protection-sensitive migration management 
are funded through a total envelope of EUR 32.1 million.
 
Democracy and the promotion of human rights are addressed in particular through the EU/CoE 
Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey for a total amount of EUR 25 million 
(EUR 20 million EU contribution). Moreover, the Council of Europe implemented an EU-funded 
programme for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons belonging to minorities 
for a total value of EUR 3.6 million. A contribution of EUR 8 million was also dedicated to 
enhancing the human rights focus of migration management in the Western Balkans, under 
the ongoing contracts implemented by IOM and Frontex in partnership with the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
 
In addition, the EU continued its support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former 
Yugoslavia (ICTY) via various contracts amounting to a total of EUR 500 000). The aim of this 
work is to communicate to those affected by the conflict not only the findings of the ICTY 
trials, but also the important concepts which underpin the Tribunal’s work. These include the 
concept of individual criminal responsibility, the rule of law and respect for human rights. 
These principles are amongst the core tenets shared by all members of the European Union. 
Furthermore, within the framework of the Civil Society Facility for the Western Balkans and 
Turkey, the European Commission is channelling substantive financial assistance towards 
supporting the development of civil society. Around 3.5% of the entire IPA is tentatively 
earmarked for civil society and the media for the period 2014-2020. In 2016, around 50 
regional networks involving more than 250 CSOs from the Western Balkans and Turkey were 
supported financially via the facility (approximately EUR 25 million in total). These were in 
the vast majority watchdog and advocacy initiatives in a wide range of sectors supporting 
the policy reforms and accession process (promoting women’s rights and preventing gender-
based violence, protecting the human rights of LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities, 
ensuring good governance, monitoring public financial management and public administration 
reform). In addition, the facility is supporting a number of regional programmes implemented 
by international organisations (e.g. UNICEF, the UNESCO, and the Council of Europe on freedom 
of expression) for a total value of EUR 9.5 million.
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EEA/EFTA COUNTRIES - 
II. NON EU WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
(Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Holy See, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino)
The EU shares similar human rights standards with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, 
Liechtenstein, the Holy See, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino
. Therefore the EU’s human 
rights strategy is focused primarily on cooperating with these partners and maintaining a 
close dialogue on human rights matters in international organisations (UN, Council of Europe, 
OSCE, etc.). For Norway and Switzerland, cooperation also takes place in specific countries 
across the world, and in connection with the implementation of development aid and human 
rights programmes. In non-EU Western European countries, human rights are also included in 
the EU’s public diplomacy and information activities, with the aim of stressing the EU’s leading 
role worldwide in championing the global human rights agenda. Possible EU concerns relating 
to human rights in non-EU Western European countries are mainly addressed in the context 
of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the Human Rights Council.
Switzerland plays an active role in the UN Human Rights Council, and has been elected as a 
member for the period 2016-2018. The EU and Switzerland have very similar views. Switzerland 
has played and is continuing to play an active role as a mediator in certain conflicts around 
the world.
Norway established a National Human Rights Institution on 1 July 2015. One of its first 
recommendations was for Norway to take steps to reduce the number of prisoners held in 
solitary confinement. Norway is at the forefront of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, 
and a strong partner of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325. The 
Norwegian Child Welfare Service (‘Barnevernet’) has been subject to some criticism from 
abroad, including from certain EU Member States, for removing children from immigrant 
parents allegedly on grounds of physical punishment. The entry into force of the 1996 Hague 
Convention on 1 July 2016 should strengthen cooperation with other countries in cross-border 
parental disputes and child welfare cases.
 
Iceland has a comprehensive system for safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms. It 
has a high level of cooperation with international organisations on human rights issues. In 
September 2016 Iceland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 
Iceland furthermore adopted a new gender equality action plan for 2016-19.
EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief are relevant 
as a basis for collaboration with the Holy See, given the deep concerns about the growing 
persecution of Christians in various parts of the world.
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Swiss Confederation
The EU’s human rights strategy in Switzerland is focused primarily on cooperation and on 
maintaining a close dialogue on human rights matters in international organisations (UN, CoE, 
OSCE, etc.) and in specific countries across the world. Switzerland plays an active role in the 
UN Human Rights Council, and has been elected as a member for the period 2016-2018.
Human rights are included in the EU’s public diplomacy and information activities in Switzerland, 
to stress the leading role which the EU plays worldwide in championing the global human 
rights agenda. 
Regarding the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), despite some disagreement 
in Switzerland with individual rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, there is a 
general recognition that its rulings have positively influenced the case-law of the Swiss 
Federal Court concerning human rights and the charter of fundamental rights of the 
constitution. Nevertheless, a proposed popular initiative from the political right aims to 
establish the superiority of the Swiss constitution over international law, including the 
ECHR, in order to safeguard fundamental and human rights autonomously and, according 
to the initiators, respect the will of the Swiss people. Taking a somewhat softer approach, 
in December the upper chamber of the Swiss federal assembly discussed a motion already 
supported by the lower chamber to task the Swiss Federal Council with working at all 
relevant levels, and in particular in the Council of Europe, towards increasing compliance 
with and enforcement of the principle of subsidiarity, and ensuring that the European 
Court of Human Rights takes national legal systems into account more systematically in 
its case- law. 
 
Kingdom of Norway 
As the EU and Norway share similar human rights standards, the EU’s human rights strategy 
is focused primarily on cooperating and maintaining a close dialogue with Norway on human 
rights matters in international organisations (UN, Council of Europe, OSCE, etc.) and in specific 
countries across the world. In Norway, human rights are included in the EU’s public diplomacy 
and information activities, to stress the EU’s leading role worldwide.
More generally, Norwegian human rights support is based on the International Bill of Human 
Rights, the many conventions and other instruments to promote and protect specific human 
rights – such as with regard to racial discrimination, torture, and the rights of women, 
children and persons with disabilities – and the notion of human rights promotion as specified 
in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This support is maintained by 
various means, including development cooperation. While there is no current plan of action 
on human rights as a whole, there are plans for specific areas, including trafficking in human 
beings, children’s rights and women’s rights. Human rights remain key as the Norwegian 
government increases its focus on thematic areas where Norway is considered to have 
particular strengths. Priority areas for Norwegian development cooperation in support 
of human rights include supporting human rights defenders; the rule of law; combating 
torture and the death penalty; freedom of speech and a free media; corporate social 
responsibility; human rights dialogues with selected countries; and promotion of the rights 
of women, children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and lesbian, gay, bisexual 
and transgender (LGBT) people. 
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Iceland 
Iceland has a comprehensive system for safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms. It has 
a high level of cooperation with international organisations on human rights issues. In terms 
of specific initiatives, Iceland has actively endorsed UN and other international initiatives to 
promote the role of men in gender equality. At regional level, Iceland has contributed to the 
work of the Arctic Council on these subjects.
 
Human rights issues are included in the EU’s public diplomacy and outreach activities in Iceland, 
to emphasise the EU’s leading role worldwide.
 
Holy See 
There are quite frequent and useful contacts with the Holy See in the context of multilateral 
fora on a range of human rights issues, including in the UN General Assembly, the UN Human 
Rights Council, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The Holy See is concerned about the 
growing persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, and the EU guidelines on the 
promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief are increasingly relevant as a basis 
for collaboration. 
Principality of Andorra, Principality of Liechtenstein, Principality of Monaco, Republic of San 
Marino 
As the EU and Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino share similar human rights 
standards, the EU’s human rights strategy is focused primarily on coordinating with them 
on human rights matters in international organisations (UN, Council of Europe, OSCE, etc.). 
The EU also takes part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation in 
those countries within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council.
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III. EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY
Republic of Armenia
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country improved somewhat, but discrimination 
and limitations on fundamental freedoms remain widespread and progress is slow. The 
increased formal involvement of civil society in the electoral reform process, the fight against 
corruption, environmental issues and torture prevention is welcome, as is the important role 
of the Human Rights Defender under the new Constitution.
The EU priorities in Armenia include the updating and implementation of the national human 
rights action plan, the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and a law on 
domestic violence, a definition of torture in line with international standards, and the fight 
against corruption.
 
There are various problems especially in the fields of gender, violence against women, domestic 
abuse, violence against children and discrimination against LGBTI persons. Prevention and 
sanctioning of hate speech is not sufficiently addressed by the legal system. Accusations of 
corruption are frequent but rarely lead to sanctions.
Other human rights problems include police impunity and acceptance of evidence obtained 
via under duress. The independence of the judiciary is not guaranteed and Armenia lacks a 
labour inspectorate to address issues concerning fundamental labour rights, including issues 
surrounding child labour, and to ensure effective enforcement of related legislation. While 
some improvements have been made, the need to improve detention conditions remains, 
including in psychiatric institutions.
Armenia passed a new electoral law in 2016, based on an unprecedented political agreement 
on the new Electoral Code between the ruling coalition and three opposition parties, endorsed 
partly by civil society. The EU, Germany, UK and US are co-funding the improvements on the 
electoral framework to prevent fraud and to support the implementation of the political 
agreement ahead of the April 2017 parliamentary elections.
Laws were passed in December 2016 on the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) in line 
with the new constitution, and on public organisations (civil society) that provide for social 
entrepreneurship and the right to appeal to the courts on environmental issues.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Armenia in 
various settings, including the Cooperation Council (January) and the Cooperation Committee 
(December). The annual human rights dialogue and the Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom 
and Security, held in March in Yerevan, saw open discussions on a range of issues, including 
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but not limited to freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion or 
belief, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment and women’s rights. Human rights and 
fundamental labour rights issues are also raised in the context of the GSP+ monitoring (Report 
on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences during the period 2014-2015). The EU continued to 
mainstream human rights in its policies in Armenia and encouraged stakeholders to draft and 
adopt the new national human rights action plan.
 
There were no internationally recognised political prisoners or detainees, although various 
groups claim that certain prisoners are being held on political grounds. By the end of 2016, 
17 of the 770 people detained during the two weeks of protests surrounding the forceful 
occupation of the Erebuni police station by an armed group remain behind bars. Some 
opposition activists are held in long-term detention solely on the basis of the testimony of 
police officers. Investigations into reported violations and the excessive use of force by the 
police are yielding few results.
The EU has voiced its concerns, through statements and speeches as well as via the regular 
EU-Armenia political dialogue meetings and ad hoc official encounters, to encourage the 
government to ensure full respect for human rights. A ‘non-paper’ on the fight against 
corruption has been submitted to the Prime Minister, and the National Assembly has adopted 
legal amendments concerning criminalisation of illicit enrichment, high-ranking officials and 
CSO representation in the Anti-Corruption Council.
The EU supported preparatory expert discussions on a future anti-discrimination law. 
The EU Delegation to Armenia was closely involved in supporting public debates and the 
government-CSOs’ dialogue on the fight against domestic/gender-based violence and 
promotion of gender equality. It also helped to facilitate the drafting of the law on the fight 
against domestic violence. Due to the politicisation of the draft law, it had not been finalised 
by the end of 2016. 
In addition, the EU, in close coordination with EU Member States and like-minded partners, 
conducted several formal and informal outreach initiatives in respect of the national authorities 
in several human rights-related judiciary cases.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the EIDHR as well as through EU Member State funds. 
In cooperation with the ILO, the EU is funding a project to strengthen the capacity of public 
administrations to implement the ILO core labour conventions as part of the GSP+ obligation,
The most significant funding was the EUR 12 million contribution to the projects ‘Support 
for Human Rights Protection in Armenia’, which is to be implemented from 2016 to 2019. 
The funding also includes EU support for electoral reform. Concrete deliverables have been 
identified, e.g. on the adoption of legislation.
 
29 projects funded for an overall amount of EUR 20 million focused on reinforcing the capacity 
of civil society to defend human rights, supporting the fight against gender-based violence 
and the promotion of women’s empowerment, promoting the rights of the child (community-
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based services for children with disabilities), improving detention conditions, supporting the 
integration of refugees, and overall awareness-raising on human rights through various 
activities.
Republic of Azerbaijan
Even though 2016 saw certain improvements in the human rights situation as compared to 
the highly precarious situation in 2015, serious challenges still remain. Freedom of expression 
and assembly are a particular matter of concern. The very cumbersome NGO legislation and 
the difficulties facing foreign donors in connection with the provision of grants make civil 
society in Azerbaijan very vulnerable. A series of amendments to the constitution were 
approved by referendum on 26 September. Most of the amendments on human rights articles 
were assessed as generally positive by the Venice Commission except for the amendment 
concerning deprivation of citizenship. However, the Venice Commission expressed serious 
concerns about the institutional reform and the new powers accorded to the president.
 
Azerbaijan’s respect for its commitments as a member of the Council of Europe remains a 
challenge, including the implementation of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, 
and as a partner to most UN human rights conventions. It is also necessary to facilitate a 
positive environment for CSOs to carry out their activities (including access to foreign funding) 
and to support human rights defenders and their families when needed. Freedom of expression 
and assembly is heavily restricted and criticism of the government is severely sanctioned: 
harsh sentences have been handed out to political activists, including allegedly on the basis of 
confessions under duress. The recent constitutional reform allows deprivation of citizenship 
under certain circumstances. The media are under strict government control. The government 
has taken steps to address corruption and improve transparency, which remain matters of 
serious concern. Azerbaijan ranks 120 out of 169 in the Transparency International Corruption 
Perception Index. Other human rights problems include lengthy pre-trial detention, failure to 
provide due process of law and substandard detention conditions. 
 
Before the constitutional referendum, political opposition parties were unable to register to 
officially take part in the campaign. Many members of opposition parties and activists were 
detained in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Several were charged in relation to their 
involvement in the Gulen movement. Following arrests of protesters on 11 and 17 September, 
the organisers decided to cancel the last rally planned for 24 September The referendum on 
the constitution took place in a peaceful and orderly manner (official turnout 69.7%).
Among more positive developments, 2016 saw the pardoning of 147 prisoners on the occasion 
of Novruz (March), including 14 prominent human rights defenders. Subsequently the 
journalist Khadiya Ismaylova and the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev were also released 
on probation. The Yunus couple were allowed to travel abroad for medical reasons. On 21 
October the president signed a decree on simplification of registration as a foreign donor to 
issue grants in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani authorities also approved an exemption for the EU 
to register as a donor for programmes covered by financing agreements. 
The EU continued to engage in discussions on human rights and democracy with Azerbaijan 
in various settings, including during the meeting of the subcommittee on justice, freedom, 
security, human rights and democracy held in October in Baku. The EU Delegation closely 
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monitors the human rights situation and has frequently raised its main concerns with the 
authorities and other stakeholders. It also monitors and follows up on several individual 
cases of special interest and concern, meets with lawyers and family members of imprisoned 
activists, provides briefings on the situation for delegations visiting Azerbaijan, and meets 
with the Ombudsman. The EU has voiced its concerns, through statements, speeches, formal 
and informal steps to encourage the government to ensure full respect for human rights. 
Human rights concerns are regularly raised at all levels, for example by the HRVP during her 
visit to Baku in February 2016.
 
EU support to three human rights projects were decided in 2016: one supporting the 
development of the judicial system and improving the services provided by the agencies 
that implement Criminal Court orders in Azerbaijan – technical assistance (service contract) 
implemented by Particip, EUR 1,4 million; 2) further support for the penitentiary system – 
implemented by the Council of Europe (Delegation agreement – joint management), EUR 
500 000; 3) enhancement of national capacities to combat trafficking in human beings in 
Azerbaijan (ENCT) – implemented by International Organization for Migration (IOM) (Delegation 
agreement – joint management), EUR 700 000.
Other EU founded projects whose implementation began in 2016 include: civil society dialogue, 
implemented by the CoE, EUR 300 000; and support for strengthening the Commissioner for Human 
Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan – twinning project with Germany, EUR 1 360 000.
Since 2007 the EU has awarded 74 grants with a total value of approximately EUR 19 million 
to support civil society activities in Azerbaijan, making the EU the largest foreign donor to civil 
society in the country. This consists of funds channelled to civil society organisations (CSOs) 
through the EIDHR, the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities thematic programme, and 
other thematic programmes under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) (notably 
migration and asylum and investing in people) as well as the Civil Society Facility under the ENPI. 
Twinning projects have been very successful in Azerbaijan. Since 2007, 43 twinning projects 
have been initiated in the country (25 completed, nine ongoing and nine under preparation), 
which represents one of the highest rates in the region.
 
Azerbaijan is a party to most UN human rights conventions, and has issued a standing invitation 
to UN special monitoring mechanisms. In 2016 it received visits from the Special Rapporteur 
on human rights defenders and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In relation to 
the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan does not always respect the ECHR’s rulings. In relation to 
the case of imprisoned opposition politician Ilgar Mammedov, the Azeri authorities have not 
implemented the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of October 2014 which 
called for his immediate release. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has expressed 
its determination to ensure the implementation of the judgment by actively considering using 
all the means at the disposal of the Organisation. It has yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention on 
preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, as well as Protocol 
13 to the ECHR, abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances.
Azerbaijan remained a full member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative 
(EITI). Such membership is important for oil and gas exports from Azerbaijan. Due to the 
restrictions in legislation for grant registration, Azerbaijan’s membership of the EITI initiative 
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was downgraded in 2015 pending corrective actions linked to civil society participation in the 
process. In October 2016, the EITI Board decided to extend until March 2017 the time available 
to Azerbaijan to implement corrective actions. This includes simplifying grant registration 
procedures and abolishing the obligation for registration of donors. 
One of the main human rights challenges is the restrictive environment for CSOs to carry 
out activities. The simplification of grants registration is a priority. Challenges also remain in 
connection with freedom of expression and assembly, the rule of law and the independence 
of the judiciary.
Republic of Belarus
While there were no substantial improvements in the field of human rights in Belarus in 2016, 
for the first time the government adopted a national human rights action plan which aims 
at implementing the UPR recommendations accepted by Belarus. Restrictive laws impacting 
on fundamental freedoms have not been amended, and the death penalty is still applied. An 
independent human rights institution has not been established. 
 
The EU continues to follow a policy of critical engagement towards Belarus, which translates 
into incremental steps towards deeper cooperation with the country. In the February 2016 
Council Conclusions on Belarus, the Council reiterated its firm commitment to strengthening 
the EU’s engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society, and stated that ‘tangible 
steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and human 
rights will remain key for the shaping of the EU’s future policy towards Belarus’. 
The human rights situation remains marred by systematic violations. Freedom of association 
and freedom of expression are severely restricted and many stakeholders critical of the 
regime have to operate from abroad. Shortcomings in the implementation of fundamental ILO 
Forced Labour Convention were scrutinised in 2016 by the International Labour Conference. 
The EU called on the Government to amend the elements of its legislation which could lead to 
situations amounting to forced labour. The ILC urged Belarus to take all measures to suppress 
the use of forced labour and prosecute it and to accept technical assistance by the ILO.
The electoral process is severely criticised by the OSCE/ODIHR inter alia for a lack of 
transparency and the use of the state machinery to support the incumbent. Opposition political 
parties face administrative obstacles in terms of registration and action outside registered 
organisations is a criminal offence.
Despite the lack of concrete progress in terms of political rights and fundamental freedoms, 
the authorities showed a greater willingness in 2016 to discuss human rights issues with 
international partners and civil society. The positive trend in EU-Belarus relations was 
strengthened as of February 2016, after the Council lifted most of the restrictive measures 
against Belarus, mainly in response to the release of the remaining political prisoners in 
August 2015. The Belarusian government has been more open to engaging with the EU on 
human rights questions, as demonstrated by EUSR Lambrinidis’s March 2016 visit to Minsk. 
This was reinforced by the organisation of a conference on the death penalty, the hosting of 
the EU-Belarus human rights dialogue, parts of which allowed for the participation of civil 
society organisations, and the adoption of a national action plan on human rights. 
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The September 2016 parliamentary elections took place in a more open atmosphere with 
greater possibilities for opposition candidates to run, and resulted in the election of one 
opposition and one independent candidate.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Belarus in 
various settings, including the EU-Belarus Coordination Group (April 2016 in Brussels and 
November 2016 in Minsk) and during the annual human rights dialogue (June 2016 in Minsk). 
These occasions allowed for open discussions on a range of issues, including but not limited 
to free and fair elections, freedom of association, freedom of expression, the independence 
of the judiciary, the reinstatement of the civil and political rights of former political prisoners, 
and capital punishment.
 
The EU and the MS constantly lobby for the inclusion of civil society in consultations on human 
rights issues and regularly meet with human rights defenders during high-level visits. By 
supporting a number of projects implemented by NGOs and human rights organisations, the 
EU helps strengthen and develop the capacity of civil society. In 2016 the EU considerably 
increased its involvement with civil society by drawing on the expertise of NGOs and the 
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Platform and informing them about the EU’s policy vis-à-vis 
Belarus.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the EIDHR, the Civil Society Organisations and 
Local Authorities programme (CSO-LA) instrument and EU Member State funds. 
NGO participation is also an important feature of projects in other areas, such as economic 
development and environment. This has provided a forum for policy dialogue between the 
administration and civil society, and has contributed to establishing trust between the 
two.
Belarus is party to a number of international human rights conventions. The country has 
ratified 10 international human rights conventions, and has accepted the competence of the 
Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination 
Against Women (CEDAW) to receive and consider communications from individuals subject 
to its jurisdiction. Belarus has recognised the inquiry procedure under the Convention against 
Torture and under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination against Women. 
 
Belarus does not recognise the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of 
human rights in Belarus. 
In the February 2016 Council Conclusions on Belarus, the EU urges the Belarusian 
authorities to swiftly take forward the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR; recalls the 
importance it attaches to improvements in this area and to respect for human rights, 
democracy and the rule of law; condemns the application of the death penalty in Belarus; 
and urges Belarus to establish a moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of the 
death penalty.
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Georgia
In 2016 Georgia consolidated its considerable progress in aligning its national law into line with 
EU standards, including in the field of human rights. Georgia has continued implementing the 
human rights strategy 2014-2020 together with its respective action plan 2016-2017. The 
changes to the electoral systems aimed at ensuring equality of suffrage. The parliamentary 
elections in October 2016 respected fundamental freedoms.
At the ninth EU-Georgia human rights dialogue in April, the EU noted the substantial progress 
that had been made in addressing torture and ill-treatment, but stressed the need to continue 
efforts to prevent ill-treatment in detention and to ensure the proper investigation of all cases, 
bringing those responsible to justice. The EU welcomed the considerable progress Georgia has 
made towards improving human rights standards and urged Georgia to continue reforms and 
address the remaining challenges, notably child poverty, discrimination, domestic violence 
and gender equality.
The 2016 parliamentary elections were competitive and well administered, generally 
respecting fundamental freedoms. The overall calm and open campaign atmosphere was, 
however, marred by allegations of unlawful campaigning, cases of a lack of transparency and 
effective redress and a number of violent incidents. 
A Freedom of Information Act has not been adopted. The legal framework guarantees freedom 
of the press. The media stakeholders continued to carry out their work independently, without 
undue interference or fear of violence or persecution. Due to the political polarisation of the 
media, along with increasing ownership consolidation and low media revenues, the Georgian 
media landscape was given a ‘partly free’ rating by Freedom House in 2016.
 
Reforms have promoted judicial independence, professionalism, accountability and 
effectiveness. A ‘third package’ of judicial reforms adopted in December 2016addresses most 
of the outstanding concerns such as the lack of transparency in judicial management. Despite 
the government’s commitment, there has been no progress in establishing an effective 
independent investigative body to deal with alleged misconduct by prosecutors and law 
enforcement officials. There is also no effective oversight of the law enforcement institutions 
by the parliament. 
Progress was achieved in the penitentiary system with the improvement of prisoners’ treatment 
and the healthcare situation. However, the ratio of inmates to the overall population remains 
among the highest in Europe. With regard to the prevention of and fight against corruption, a 
revised anti-corruption strategy was adopted in March 2016; its scope was further expanded 
to local level, and a monitoring system for assets declaration in the civil service was created in 
December 2016. Georgia has previously been subject to two monitoring rounds, by the Council of 
Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and by the OECD’s anti-corruption network. 
Political party financing has yet to be addressed in the light of GRECO’s recommendations (third 
evaluation round), the asset declaration has to be enforced and more attention needs to be paid 
to the implementation of anti-corruption policies, in particular at sectoral level. 
With regard to equal treatment, the full implementation of the Law on Elimination of all 
Forms of Discrimination has been hampered by a lack of effective sanctions and preventive 
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measures. Legislative amendments to strengthen the anti-discrimination mechanism have not 
been adopted. State institutions have on some occasions failed to act promptly and efficiently 
on human rights violations and discriminations against minorities, the LGBTI community and 
religious minorities. 
With regard to gender inequalities, the human rights action plan includes provisions on 
combating violence against women, domestic violence and the protection of victims. 
The participation of women in politics has increased but remains low overall: 16% of the 
newly elected members of parliament in 2016 are women compared to 12% in the previous 
elections. There continues to be a high incidence of violence against women. The ratification of 
the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic 
violence did not take place in 2016.
 
With regard to children’s rights, child poverty remains widespread despite attempts to reform 
the social assistance system and identify the most vulnerable children. The entry into force 
of the Juvenile Justice Code in January 2016 provided a comprehensive legal framework for 
children facing judicial proceedings, child victims and child witnesses. The Civil Code was 
amended and the provision allowing marriage with parental consent for children under the age 
of 18 will be fully abolished as of January 2017. Georgia has ratified the Third Optional Protocol 
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child providing vulnerable children with opportunities 
to seek redress if their rights are being violated. Georgia faces high levels of poverty and 
inequality, although poverty decreased for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Poverty is 
also one of the main causes of child labour.
The existing legal framework allows for the free establishment and operation of political 
parties and civil society organisations. Legislative processes and policy decision-making have 
become increasingly inclusive but civic participation in them remains sporadic.
The EU continued to closely monitor and support the reform processes through budget 
support, grants (especially to the Public Defender and EIDHR projects) and joint actions with 
international organisations, in particular in the areas of justice, public administration reform 
and the penitentiary system. It also monitored the pre-electoral and electoral environment, 
including through supporting the electoral reforms, monitoring the media during the election 
process and contributing to the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission by deploying 
EUDEL staff. The ninth EU-Georgia human rights dialogue was held in Brussels in April 2016. 
Human rights and fundamental labour rights issues are also raised in the context of the GSP+ 
monitoring (Report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences during the period 2014-2015).
The democracy action plan was adopted by Heads of Missions in October 2016 and is reflected 
in the joint programming exercise with EU Member States. 
 
The Head of Delegation (HoD) and numerous EU Member States ambassadors regularly 
engage in public events on human rights and stress the importance of the promotion and 
protection of human rights. The Public Defender is prominently supported through regular 
attendance at his events by the HoD. The civil society roadmap is followed through various 
actions and civil society is regularly informed and consulted on policy matters. Human Rights 
Day was marked by a series of events, drawing attention to the country’s human rights 
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achievements and challenges. More than 10 events were organised by EU-supported projects, 
including a campaign against domestic violence, a presentation on the integration of persons 
with disabilities, human rights essay contests and street activities in nine cities across the 
country.
Key assistance is implemented through the ‘Human Rights for All’ programme under the ‘2014 
Special Measures for Georgia and Moldova’ programme (EUR 10 million), which complements 
the Georgia-EU policy dialogue. The overall objective is to strengthen human rights protection 
in areas prioritised by EU-Georgia agreements, including the rights of persons belonging to 
minorities and vulnerable groups, the internal and external oversight of law enforcement, 
the protection of privacy, labour rights, freedom of expression and information. The justice 
programme, with a total value of EUR 50 million, addresses the judiciary, private and 
administrative law and access to justice. Bilateral actions in cooperation with the Council of 
Europe target the implementation by courts of ECHR rulings, the civic integration of national 
minorities, prison healthcare, money laundering, free and professional media, internet 
freedom, electoral assistance and support for the bar association. In order to improve the 
efficiency, accountability and transparency of Georgia’s public administration, technical and 
budget support for the government is provided for the development of policy and legislation, 
civil service reform, e-Governance, public finance management, public service delivery to 
citizens, preventing and combating corruption and the access of citizens to administrative 
information. The EU also supports the parliament, the Ombudsman and CSOs in the same 
areas (EUR 45 million over the period 2015-2020). In 2016, 12 EIDHR projects were being 
implemented; as of 2016 funds will be pooled with 2017 (EUR 1.6 million); the new call will not 
be launched until 2017.
 
Georgia has a good record of ratifying international human rights instruments but is not 
yet a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced 
Disappearance. The Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic 
Review (UPR) of Georgia on 17 March 2016. Since 2009 Georgia has tabled an annual resolution 
on IDPs in occupied territories with the General Assembly (the last one was adopted on 7 June 
2016). During the 33rd HR Council, Georgia decided to postpone its draft resolution concerning 
the human rights situation in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to 2017 
and instead presented a joint statement for this session.
At the OSCE, Georgia regularly aligns itself with EU statements addressing human rights 
concerns, and has co-sponsored draft EU decisions on fundamental freedoms ahead of recent 
Ministerial Councils.
In January 2016, the International Criminal Court ordered an investigation into war crimes and 
crimes against humanity committed during the August 2008 war in Georgia.
Georgia’s legal framework is being progressively aligned with the EU acquis and several 
international conventions. Overall, the correct implementation and enforcement of legislation 
is the key challenge for Georgia. In particular, there is a need to step up institutional capacities 
to implement legislation in the field of anti-discrimination and equal rights/gender issues. 
Georgia also needs to further advance the establishment of a labour inspection system 
allowing for effective supervision of the enforcement of fundamental labour rights.
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Republic of Moldova
In 2016, the Republic of Moldova (hereinafter Moldova) regained some political stability, with 
a government led by Prime Minister Filip in office since 20 January 2016. While the parliament 
was able to adopt important pieces of legislation, including in the area of the rule of law, 
implementation has yet to be addressed and the reform process needs to be continued in key 
areas, such as the judiciary and anti-corruption.
The 2016 EU Council Conclusions on Moldova58 called for addressing the politicisation of 
institutions and systemic corruption. Justice reform and the need to resolutely investigate 
major banking frauds were also key points in the EU-Moldova political dialogue. EU priorities in 
the area of human rights included the fight against torture and ill-treatment, anti-discrimination, 
media freedom and the rights of children and persons with disabilities. Effective enforcement 
of fundamental labour rights is also an issue of concern, given the planned restructuring of 
the current labour inspection system.
During 2016, a number of high-profile trials took place mainly behind closed doors. Cases 
have continued or have been opened against representatives of opposition movements, as 
well as judges and lawyers working on high-profile cases. Media outlets close to opposition 
politicians and investigative journalists warned of pressure and difficulties, also due to a 
lack of fair competition in the media sector and heavy concentration of media ownership. 
Detention conditions remain poor. Domestic violence, targeting both women and children, is 
still widespread. Human trafficking remains a significant problem which the authorities have 
yet to address.
The presidential elections, held in October/November 2016 - the first direct presidential 
polls since 1996 - were conducted largely in line with international standards, albeit with 
shortcomings regarding campaign financing, the use of administrative resources and media 
coverage. Igor Dodon was sworn in as president on 23 December 2016.
Some human rights-related reforms and decisions were undertaken during 2016, including: 
amendments to the law on combating domestic violence; the appointment of a Children’s 
Ombudsman; a strategy on interethnic relations; and a Constitutional Court decision on limiting 
pre-trial detention. Another positive point is that a national preventive mechanism against 
torture has been restored.
 
In July 2016, the EU-Moldova Association Agreement entered fully into force and approximation 
with EU legislation in various sectors continued, with the rule of law and human rights including 
labour rights, remaining prominently on the agenda of all bilateral meetings. These included 
the Association Council (March), the Subcommittee on Freedom, Security and Justice (June), 
the Association Committee (October), the Trade and Sustainable Development Subcommittee 
(November) as well as high-level bilateral visits, such as the visits of Prime Minister Filip to 
Brussels (March and October) and the visit of Commissioner Hahn to Chisinau (September). 
The annual human rights dialogue, held in Brussels on 8 June, as well as the annual Human 
Rights Expert Talks, held in Chisinau on 12 December together with the OSCE, the CoE and the 
58. Council conclusions on the Republic of Moldova, 15 February 2016
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UN, provided an opportunity for more in-depth discussions on a range of issues, including 
media freedom, measures to combat torture and ill-treatment, domestic violence, children’s 
rights, anti-discrimination, the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and freedom 
of religion and belief.
The EU Heads of Mission issued a local statement on human rights on 15 December 2016, 
focusing on the judiciary and the media. In the course of the year, the High Representative 
Spokesperson commented on the transparency of court hearings and the prosecution of 
judges in response to media enquiries. 
In early 2016, an EU-funded peer review mission evaluated the functioning of Moldova’s rule of 
law institutions. It made several recommendations to address concerns on the independence 
of the judiciary, as well as on corruption. 
The EU Delegation, together with Member States’ representatives, systematically attended 
court hearings of most high-profile cases.
Consultations with civil society continued throughout the year, particularly in view of human 
rights-related events. In addition, for International Days (International Human Rights Day, World 
Day against Trafficking in Persons, International Women’s Day), the EU Delegation published 
statements on social media and representatives of the EU Delegation systematically attended 
events organised on these occasions. 
 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the European Instrument for Democracy and 
Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities programme 
(CSO-LA). 
Ten projects were funded for an overall amount of EUR 3.6 million. Some of those projects 
focused on anti-discrimination, including: tackling discrimination and ill-treatment of children 
within the justice system, discrimination of Roma, discrimination against LGBTI people, 
providing support for the national anti-discrimination system. Other projects touched upon 
the rights of persons with disabilities, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, gender 
equality, the fight against domestic violence, the media and support for vulnerable children 
and families.
The EU Delegation also launched a local EIDHR call for proposals aimed at identifying projects 
in the areas of election preparation, trial monitoring, freedom of expression and the protection 
of the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
Member States also continued to fund projects supporting civil society and covering a wide 
range of human rights issues.
The second UN Universal Periodic Review took place on 4 November 2016, and issued 200 
recommendations, out of which Moldova announced it would follow up on 197, but not on 
three, including the call to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, 
which Moldova signed in 2002. 
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Despite some improvements to the legal framework on party financing and electoral 
campaigns, some of the recommendations made by international observers have yet to be 
addressed, including excessive restrictions on donations from diaspora voters and the lack of 
adequate sanctioning for biased media coverage.
Ukraine
The overall human rights situation in Ukraine is heavily influenced by the conflict in the 
east and the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation, which 
continue to constitute grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. 
Other concerns include discrimination on various grounds, the safety of journalists, torture 
and ill-treatment and the protection of vulnerable groups. Among positive developments are 
legislative changes relating to the judiciary.
The EU’s priorities are ensuring accountability for all crimes committed in the course of the 
ongoing armed conflict, support for the reform of rule of law institutions, protection against 
ill-treatment and torture, advocating for electoral reform, promoting freedom of the media 
and freedom of assembly, and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national 
minorities.
In the Crimean peninsula, the situation of the Crimean Tatars remains a particular concern, as 
well as that of journalists and others who openly oppose the illegal annexation. The activities 
of Mejlis, the self-governing body of Crimean Tatars, were labelled as ‘extremist’ and prohibited 
by the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea in April 2016; the decision was confirmed by the 
Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in September 2016. 
The collapse of the rule of law and public order in the east of Ukraine in the area not under 
government control continues. The most severe cases of torture, ill-treatment and impunity 
are being recorded in particular in the areas not under Ukrainian government control. At the 
same time, the Ukrainian government has also been criticised by international watchdogs for 
cases of forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. 
The EU has urged the authorities to adopt a long-term integration strategy for internally 
displaced persons (IDPs), and to resume social assistance and pension payments which were 
suspended pending verification of their places of residence. 
 
Some progress has been made with regard to the human rights violations committed during 
the Maidan demonstrations and the violent events in Odesa on 2 May 2014, but only a few 
perpetrators have been brought to justice. Physical attacks against journalists and impunity 
for such crimes have declined. The lack of safety of journalists continues to constitute 
a problem, partly because of the publication by various Ukrainian sources of the personal 
data of journalists who have worked in the separatist areas. The reform of the public service 
broadcaster has made some progress.
The necessary legislative changes encompass a ban on all forms of discrimination, including 
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the development of the new 
Labour Code and the new anti-discrimination law, and safeguarding the rights of persons 
belonging to national minorities in the new law on education.
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The adoption of the constitutional amendments on the judiciary by parliament and their entry 
into force was one of the major reform developments in 2016. Access to justice improved 
through an increase in legal aid. Ukraine also made significant legislative and institutional 
progress in the fight against corruption, by putting in place the institutional framework and 
launching a system of e-declarations for public officials.
The government has adopted an ambitious national human rights strategy and action plan, with 
clear timelines and definition of responsibilities. Adequate resources for its implementation 
need to be ensured. Reform of the civilian security sector has continued, and the EU Advisory 
Mission to Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine) has been playing a key role in supporting the Ukrainian 
authorities in their efforts to strengthen respect for the rule of law, increase efficiency and 
quality of service delivery and build up the trust of citizens in the police and judiciary.
The EU and Ukraine continued their joint active engagement on human rights issues. The annual 
Human Rights Dialogue was held in Kyiv in July 2016. Among the topics discussed were the human 
rights situation in the Crimean peninsula and in the non-government-controlled areas in eastern 
Ukraine, the rights of IDPs, investigations of the Maidan and Odessa events, the prevention of ill-
treatment and torture, media legislation and the safety of journalists, non-discrimination and the 
human rights of LGBTI persons, and the situation of Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia. 
 
Human rights have also been on the agenda in the context of the EU-Ukraine Summit, the 
Association Council and the Association Committee, as well as in the framework of numerous 
visits by Commissioners and other high officials representing EU institutions and the Member 
States. The EU Delegation in Kyiv has engaged on a regular basis with the Ukrainian authorities, 
including with the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson).
The EU has engaged in continuous dialogue with human rights organisations in both Ukraine 
and Brussels, including a series of consultations ahead of the Human Rights Dialogue. The 
Delegation has organised a number of events, for example with the parliament of Ukraine on 
gender equality and with the Ombudsperson on Human Rights Day.
The HR/VP and her spokesperson have issued several statements calling for the release of 
Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia, including Nadiya Savchenko, who was eventually 
freed. The EU Delegation in Moscow has attended several court hearings. The HR/VP 
Spokesperson also drew attention in public statements to the situation of the Crimean Tatars, 
including the ban on the activities of the Mejlis and the treatment of its leader Ilmi Umerov
.
The EU continued to support Ukrainian civil society and human rights defenders in their 
work on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights and democratisation through the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Ukraine Civil Society 
Support Programme financed by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI). At present 
the EU is using those instruments to support a total of 15 projects worth EUR 9.74 million in 
the sphere of human rights and democracy, such as the rights of the IDPs, the strengthening 
of the independent media and the role of civil society in the reform process. A new call for 
proposals was launched in November. Via the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace 
(IcSP), the EU is supporting, amongst others, the work of the UN Human Rights Monitoring 
Mission in Ukraine.
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Ukraine has ratified most of the core human rights instruments and cooperates well with 
them. The constitutional amendments on the judiciary, adopted in the summer, will also 
enable the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), albeit 
only after a three-year transition period. Ukraine has issued two declarations accepting the 
ICC’s jurisdiction in Ukraine’s territory since November 2013. Ukraine has signed the Istanbul 
Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, but 
the parliament failed to ratify it in 2016. 
The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited Ukraine in May, and 
continued its visit in September after having suspended it due to being denied access to all 
detention facilities. 
Referring to the impact of the ongoing conflict, Ukraine has given notice of derogations from 
some of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 
European Convention on Human Rights. It has committed to establishing a mechanism of 
periodic independent review of these derogations by the parliament.
In the context of the ongoing armed conflict in the east of Ukraine as well as in the illegally 
annexed Crimean peninsula, human rights and international humanitarian law must be 
respected by all parties. International human rights stakeholders must have full, free and 
unrestricted access to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol. The 
national human rights strategy and action plan are comprehensive, thoroughly prepared tools. 
Adequate resources must be ensured for their implementation.
Arab Republic of Egypt
Egypt is struggling to make headway, admittedly in a very challenging environment marked by 
terrorism, serious social and economic difficulties and regional crises, in its transition towards 
democracy initiated by the ousting of President Mubarak in 2011. However, progress on human 
rights and fundamental freedoms remains a challenge.
 
Based on the belief that freedom of assembly and expression, due process of law and 
human rights defenders (HRDs)/ human rights organisations (HROs) and non-discrimination 
are essential for good governance and long-term stability, the EU’s key focus areas in Egypt 
are respect for the rule of law, due process, the investigation of abuses, space and tolerance 
for civil society and non-discrimination on the basis of, inter alia, gender, age or religious 
belief.
Instances of arbitrary arrest and the lengthy pre-trial detentions under the controversial 2013 
protest law remain sources of concern, as well as the ongoing referral of civilians to military 
courts and the mass trials and death sentences. The sentences against demonstrators and 
activists, and the rising pressure on journalists, cultural organisations, researchers and 
HRDs/HROs not only through travel bans but also through arrests and detention are likewise 
a concern. In addition, torture, enforced disappearances and poor detention conditions, as 
well as the excessive use of force by the police, continue to be regularly reported. Harsh 
sentences for defamation of religion continue, as does the repression of the LGBTI community, 
widespread sexual and gender-based violence (with some progress through the passing of a 
new law) and the practice of child labour.
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The election of a new House of Representatives, including a Human Rights Committee, is a 
positive step. So are the cases of accountability, including the prosecution and occasional 
imprisonment, of abusive police officers. A more forceful policy regarding the protection of 
religious minorities, particularly Christians, and women’s rights, including discouraging the 
practice of female genital mutilation, is also a welcome improvement.
Salient human rights issues were raised throughout the year at senior level by the Head of 
Delegation/Charge D’Affaires, as well as in the context of high-level visits by the headquarters 
(HRVP, MEPs, PSC, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator and Commissioners). Meetings between 
the EU Delegation and the Human Rights and Social Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs took place on a regular basis, in which the Delegation raised salient human rights issues 
and made inquiries about cases of specific concern, including the detention of HRDs, the legal 
situation of human rights organisations (HROs) under pressure and the new draft NGO law, 
passed by parliament in November 2016. An EU-Egypt subcommittee meeting on migration, 
social and consular affairs was held on 21 January. The meeting on social affairs allowed the 
EU to raise aspects relating to the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities and 
other disadvantaged segments of society.
The EU has repeatedly voiced concerns through statements and formal and informal steps 
to encourage the Egyptian authorities to allow the independent functioning of civil society 
organisations and human rights defenders, free from fear of intimidation.
During high-level EU visits, the EU Delegation arranged meetings with prominent HROs/HRDs, 
discussing the human rights situation in the country and that of civil society in particular. 
The EU met with HRDs on a regular basis to discuss relevant human rights issues. Meetings 
of the EU Informal Group on Human Rights were held on a monthly basis, during which human 
rights developments and concerns were discussed. HRDs, members of the National Council 
for Human Rights, members of parliament and other relevant human rights interlocutors were 
invited as guest speakers. EUDEL and EU MS monitored salient court cases from a human 
rights perspective. 
The HRVP’s spokesperson issued a total of four statements, expressing concern over the 
human rights situation in Egypt, the imposition of travel bans, asset freezes, the summoning 
of human rights defenders and the indictment and subsequent passing of two-year prison 
sentences on the three Heads of the Press Syndicate.
 
On 8 March the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution59, recommending the 
suspension of military aid and assistance for Egypt used for internal repression in the light 
of the “abduction, savage torture and killing” of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni in Cairo, 
emphasising that it had not been an isolated incident, but had occurred in a context of torture, 
death in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt in recent years.
The EU continued to mention Egypt under its Item 4 statement at the Human Rights Council, 
expressing serious concern about the human rights situation. 
59. European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2016 on Egypt, notably the case of Giulio Regeni (2016/2608(RSP))
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In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects in support of human rights, 
under a variety of instruments (EIDHR, DCI-NSA60 and CSO-LA61, Civil Society Facility, ENPI 
Global Allocation, ENPI bilateral envelopes).
 
The EU Delegation in Cairo is currently managing 67 human rights grants (EUR 27 million). 
The projects funded by EU contribute directly to the promotion and protection of civil, 
political, social, economic and cultural rights. The activities focus on combating all forms of 
discrimination (gender-based, religious and cultural) as well as female genital mutilation and 
trafficking in human beings. They also enhance women’s rights, children’s rights, migrants’ 
rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, access to justice, access to culture, cultural 
diversity and local governance.
Through the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) the EU supports the 
UNHCR efforts to safeguard international protection needs of displaced persons in Egypt by 
enhancing registration, refugee status determination, and resettlement processing capacity 
as well as improving reception conditions, including in detention facilities. 
 
In 2016, the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) II (2016-2020) was adopted. At national level, GAP 
II was translated into an implementation and monitoring framework for Egypt, developed 
jointly between the EU and the Member States. This framework includes a focus on selected 
objectives in the fields of the empowerment of women and gender equality, to be achieved 
through political and policy dialogue, financial assistance and other means, such as research 
activities. A first report outlining the country-level approach to the implementation of GAP II 
was submitted to headquarters in November 2016, including a report and the envisaged way 
forward on an institutional culture shift towards gender equality and the empowerment of 
women.
A substantial improvement in fundamental freedoms such as freedom of assembly, 
expression and association needs to be demonstrated. This would include guaranteeing in all 
circumstances the freedom of movement and association of human rights defenders, lifting 
the asset freezes and putting a stop to all forms of harassment – including at judicial level 
- perpetrated against human rights defenders and organisations in Egypt, and adopting new 
legislation and improving the existing legislation, including a new NGO law, and a set of laws on 
freedom of assembly, that comply with the Egyptian constitution and international standards.
State of Israel
The overall situation in Israel was characterised by adherence to democratic governance and 
respect for the rule of law. The rights and fundamental freedoms of Israeli citizens were 
generally protected, although minorities and in particular Arab Israelis faced challenges in 
enjoying their full range of rights. The period under review witnessed a number of potentially 
undemocratic legislative developments, including a reduction of the public space for civil 
society. A difficult human rights situation persisted in the Palestinian territory, where Israel 
has particular obligations stemming from its role as an occupying power.
60. Development Cooperation Instrument – Non State Actors programme
61. Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities programme
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The objectives within the framework of EU relations with Israel focus on the situation 
of minorities and vulnerable groups, the preservation of democratic values and Israel’s 
responsibilities as an occupying power including as regards children and armed conflict.
 
The Arab and Bedouin minorities continued to face difficulties in exercising their fundamental 
economic and social rights. The Supreme Court upheld a decision allowing the demolition of 
the Bedouin villages of Umm al-Hiran and Atir, which the government planned to replace with 
Jewish settlements and a national forest. The Knesset adopted the so-called ‘Expulsion Law’ 
allowing for the dismissal of an elected Member of Knesset by a ¾ majority decision of his 
peers. The main targets of the bill were Arab MKs, with incitement to violence or racism and 
support for armed conflict against Israel as the possible grounds for expulsion. 
Israel continued to carry out a policy of prevention and deterrence vis-à-vis irregular migrants 
and asylum seekers. Israel continued to encourage the population of approximately 40 000 
irregular migrants currently inside the country to relocate to third states, including Rwanda 
and Uganda. New regulations, yet to be implemented, threaten indefinite detention for those 
unwilling to leave following unsuccessful asylum applications. 
The Transparency Requirements for Parties Supported by Foreign State Entities Law adopted 
in July requires NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments 
to report that fact each year to the NGO Registrar, which will publish a list of said NGOs. It also 
demands that NGOs specify that fact in their official publications, along with the names of the 
countries that contribute. The requirement that NGOs identify foreign donors does not apply 
in the case of private funding from abroad. 
 
109 Palestinians and 17 Israelis (or foreign civilians) were killed last year in the occupied 
Palestinian territory (East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). The high number of 
Palestinian casualties raised concerns of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces. In 
March an IDF soldier shot an already immobilised Palestinian assailant lying on the ground and 
subsequently went on trial in an Israeli military court. The number of administrative detainees 
rose from 584 in December 2015 to 644 in August 2016. Several Palestinians in administrative 
detention went on hunger strike with some high-profile cases ending after apparent deals with 
the Israeli authorities whereby their detention orders would not be renewed. Exceptions in the 
Israeli Youth Law applied routinely to East Jerusalem minors accused of security offences 
meant that their legal treatment was de facto similar to that under Israel’s military laws and 
practices applied in the West Bank. Israel continued its policy of punitive demolitions of homes 
of Palestinian assailants in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Gaza’s humanitarian situation 
remained dire, and while restrictions on movements to and from Gaza were considerably eased 
after the 2014 conflict they remained extremely tight. Gaza’s real gross domestic product 
(GDP) has declined by nearly one third over the past 20 years and unemployment has reached 
43%, despite measures such as the granting of permission to export Gaza products to Israel 
and the West Bank for the first time since 2007.
2016 saw the start of the government’s five-year plan to enhance the economic and social 
integration of Israel’s Arab citizens (EUR 2.4 billion of new funding and EUR 1.3 billion under 
existing projects). 
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The Knesset voted to limit the detention of asylum seekers to a maximum of 12 months. Israel 
abandoned its policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinian attackers from East Jerusalem 
(except Hamas affiliates); the last body was released in September 2016.
 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Israel in 
various settings. The annual meeting of the Subcommittee on Political Dialogue discussed 
the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The Informal Working Group on 
Human Rights addressed the human rights situation inside Israel, including the situation of 
minorities, conditions of detention including that of minors, freedom of association, and the 
accountability of security forces and law enforcement officials. The Informal Working Group 
on International Organisations discussed the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly, 
UNGA resolutions, the Commission on the Status of Women, the World Health Assembly, 
UNESCO, UNEA, UN reform, the upcoming selection of a new Secretary-General of the UN, the 
Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 
(UNFCCC) and peacekeeping operations. The Subcommittee on Migration, Health and Social 
Affairs addressed irregular migration and Israel’s asylum policies. The EU-Israel seminar on 
combating racism, xenophobia and antisemitism was an opportunity to exchange views and 
share policy ideas and practical approaches to tackling these challenges. 
The EU maintained a dialogue with civil society organisations through regular consultations 
and briefings. The EU Delegation hosted a consultation with 18 civil society organisations ahead 
of the Informal Working Group on Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Political Dialogue. 
The Delegation undertook regular public diplomacy activities focused on human rights issues, 
including speeches and participation in events. During Ramadan, the Delegation hosted 
representatives primarily from the Arab community for an Iftar dinner at the residence. On the 
occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in November 
an outreach event to highlight the EU’s renewed engagement in eliminating violence against 
women and girls was also held at the residence. Human Rights Day was marked by a special 
event on the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, organised in cooperation with 
The Minerva Centre for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. David Kaye, the 
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and 
expression, was the keynote speaker at the event.
 
Within the framework of the EIDHR programme the EU supported the production of several 
policy reports which were disseminated through political briefings or submission by 
the beneficiaries to relevant UN bodies. For instance, a shadow report to the CEDAW was 
produced by the Rackman Centre of Bar Ilan University. A shadow report was also produced 
and submitted to the United Nations Committee against Torture (UNCAT) for UNCAT’s fifth 
review of Israel. Activities under other EU-funded projects also included two briefings by Yesh 
Din, one on their new position paper which described the ‘silent adoption of the Levy report’ on 
the retroactive authorisation of illegal settlement construction in the West Bank.
Implementation of the human rights and democracy country strategy continued within the 
framework of local ‘human rights sub-clusters’ consisting of the EU Delegation and Member 
State representatives focusing on key priorities. This allowed for better cooperation and 
burden-sharing between embassies and the Delegation in human rights matters, with a view 
to reinforcing messages when addressing the Israeli authorities. 
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The EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Twenty-eight EIDHR projects were 
ongoing in 2016. No call for proposals was published in order to combine the budget allocations 
for 2016 and 2017 (EUR 2.5 million) into a single call to be launched in early 2017. Ongoing 
projects focused on reinforcing a favourable environment for civil society organisations and 
the promotion of human rights; advancing the rights of vulnerable groups or minorities within 
Israel; and enhancing respect for international humanitarian law and human rights in the 
occupied Palestinian territory, including the rights of children in armed conflict. 
Israel’s fifth Periodic UNCAT (UN Committee against Torture) Review took place on 3-4 May. 
Israel reiterated its willingness to incorporate the definition of torture in Israeli law. The NGO 
Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI) welcomed the statement while raising concerns 
about the prolonged process of drafting the law; so far the definition has not been incorporated 
nor has the government committed to a deadline to do so. 
 
The last visit by a thematic UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) was the visit by the UNSR on 
violence against women (12-22 September 2016). Israel has refused to cooperate with Special 
Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the oPt. In January former Special Rapporteur 
Wibisono resigned, complaining that Israel had never granted him access to the oPt.
There is further scope for explicitly incorporating the principle of non-discrimination and 
equality into Israel’s basic laws. The EU will continue to encourage Israel to issue a standing 
invitation to all United Nations Special Procedure mechanisms.
Palestinian Authority (occupied Palestinian territory – oPt) 
Preliminary remark: A distinction needs to be drawn between the responsibilities of the 
Palestinian Authority (PA) and those of the part of Israel as occupying power. This report 
refers to the PA’s responsibilities in the West Bank and of the de facto authorities in Gaza 
(although, formally, the government in Ramallah bears responsibility for Gaza too). 
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the oPt did not undergo any significant changes, 
nor was there any fundamental deterioration. Some progress can be noted with regard to the 
rule of law, such as the adoption of the Law on Juvenile Protection. General elections in the 
oPt are long overdue (the last elections took place in 2006). The mandates of the president 
and the parliament have expired. Local elections scheduled for 8 October were postponed. 
Respect for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media did not 
improve; they came under increased pressure due to harassment, threats and sometimes 
arbitrary arrests of journalists. 21 death sentences were handed down in Gaza, but none in the 
West Bank thanks to a moratorium. 
In general, fundamental freedoms and human rights are anchored in the Palestinian Basic Law, 
but effective implementation is often not guaranteed.
 
The EU’s priority is continued capacity building of the PA and awareness-raising amongst the 
population. This includes governance reforms in the security and justice institutions. Another 
priority is the strengthening of civil society organisations (CSOs) and more civic participation 
in political life. The new European joint strategy on (financial) support, which was developed 
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throughout 2016 in close cooperation with the PA, reflects those objectives for the next four-
year period. Advisory assistance has also come from the EU’s Common Security and Defence 
Policy mission and the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS), 
on security and justice. Their work will continue. 
There are various problems especially in the fields of gender, (domestic) violence against 
women and discrimination against LGBTI persons. Persons with disabilities continue to suffer 
from social exclusion. Arbitrary detention has remained a matter of concern. There were 
regular reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres. Freedom of expression in 
Gaza is still under severe pressure with attacks on journalists. Accusations of corruption are 
frequent. Despite some improvements with regard to the rule of law principle, the risk of 
lack of independence, accountability and transparency of the justice sector has remained an 
issue, such as by executive interference in the work of the judiciary. Furthermore, in 2016 
there was little to no progress on long-needed reforms of the legislative and institutional 
framework to ensure effective governance, interinstitutional cooperation and adherence to 
international human rights obligations. In particular, the amendment of the Judicial Authority 
Law to clarify the roles, responsibilities and mandates of the justice sector institutions is still 
pending. This clarification is especially critical for the administration of courts. The Law on 
Police has still not been adopted because of an ongoing debate on the civilian nature of the 
police and related jurisdiction. The presidential appointment of the Supreme Constitutional 
Court took place without consultations of political movements and CSOs. Clearly established 
and well-publicised legal procedures dealing with the court are missing. The draft security 
sector strategy for 2017-2022 has not yet been adopted. 
There is some progress in the wider public participation on draft laws and other legal initiatives. 
However, not all initiatives are subject to public participation and the involvement of CSOs. 
 
Some improvements were noted on the rule of law environment, such as the adoption of 
the Law on Juvenile Protection. In addition, the development and adoption of the national 
policy agenda (NPA), which has a clear structure of actions and objectives, should serve as an 
appropriate governance tool to improve the legislative work and its implementation. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the PA. Such 
work did not take place with the de facto authorities of Hamas in Gaza because of the EU’s 
‘non-contact policy’. The human rights and democracy issues were discussed at the EU- 
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Joint Committee meeting in June preceded by the 
meeting of the subcommittee on human rights, good governance and rule of law in March. 
The most critical points were also raised by the HR/VP at a meeting with President Abbas in 
June in Brussels. The Office of the EU Representative in Jerusalem (EUREP) carried out a large 
number of actions at local level, such as local statements, site visits and attendance at court 
hearings, and formal and informal steps. Issues of concern were raised at regular meetings 
with the Palestinian counterparts. EUREP engaged with CSOs to obtain information and to 
explain and promote the EU’s position. The impact of all these measures cannot easily be 
measured. They have certainly contributed to upholding human rights and democracy issues 
in the public arena and have thus helped raise awareness among Palestinians. The EU has 
supported the creation of human rights and gender units in key ministries, such as the Minister 
of Interior and the Minister of Justice. 
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Support for HRDs was granted by the EU, in particular at local level, through a long list of 
measures, in the case of arrests of Palestinians by Israeli forces, be it through full arrest or by 
way of administrative detention, including of children aged between 12 and 18 years and also 
with regard to Bedouin communities. Numerous meetings took place both in Brussels and in 
the West Bank to support human rights CSOs. EUPOL COPPS held many incidental meetings 
with a variety of human rights CSOs. 
 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), more specifically through support for all the 
relevant authorities via the PEGASE(French acronym for Mecanisme “Palestino - Européen de 
Gestion et d’Aide Socio-Economique”) Direct Financial Support (DFS) mechanism, through the 
Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and CSDP funds (for EUPOL COPPS). EU 
funds for humanitarian aid projects completed the wide range of interventions.
The PEGASE mechanism has ensured constant funding for the actions carried out by the PA 
with regard to, inter alia, human rights and democracy including the rule of law principle (Total 
allocation for PEGASE in 2016: EUR 155 million, only part of which can be attributed directly 
to human rights and democracy activities). For governance, an amount of EUR 8.1 million was 
made available, for EUPOL COPPS EUR 9.17 million and for the IcSP EUR 3 million. One of the 
positive results, from a cross-cutting point of view, is the development and adoption of the 
NPA by the government. The funding supported capacity building and grants contributed to 
the work of CSOs.
In 2014, President Abbas signed instruments of accession to 55 international human rights, 
humanitarian and diplomatic treaties without reservation. As a member of the Organisation 
of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the PLO signed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, and as a 
member of the Arab League it signed the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Several UN agencies 
cover human rights issues in the oPt. 
Despite accession to the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) in March 2014 and the 
president’s decree of May 2013 confirming the Palestinian authorities’ commitment to the 
prohibition of all forms of torture, there continued to be regular complaints of torture and 
ill-treatment in detention centres, in both Gaza and the West Bank. 
Challenges to further progress may arise if the overall political situation deteriorates and the 
relative stability of the PA is weakened. This could happen if the stalemate on the realisation 
of the two-state solution continues, and in particular if Israel’s settlement activities continue 
to increase as in 2016.
 
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
In 2016 there were a number of positive developments on issues relating to democracy and 
the rule of law. However, these positive steps cannot overshadow the further erosion of the 
space of freedom of expression and association in the country, as part of Jordan’s response 
to the increased security challenges. 
The EU’s priorities in 2016 were mostly articulated around four points: support for democracy 
in the context of the parliamentary elections; support for freedom of association, civil 
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society and freedom of expression in the context of a downgraded security environment; 
inclusiveness; and support for the rights of Syrian refugees. 
The worsening of the security situation in the region as a whole as well as in Jordan itself 
led the authorities to further strengthen the security aspects of policy-making. Jordan 
increasingly relied on media gag orders and other restrictive measures to avoid reporting 
on sensitive issues, including the role of the Jordanian armed forces and the royal family. In 
parallel, the freedom of assembly and association has been put under pressure and controls 
on civil society have been tightened. 
In September 2016 parliamentary elections were held. Domestic and international observers 
commended the elections as well administered despite some isolated and unconnected 
incidents. Despite the changes aimed at encouraging party politics, family and local 
community ties seem to remain the main factors in voting. As a consequence, the election 
result constitutes only a limited step towards the objective of a party-based parliament. 
The EU Electoral Observation Mission assessed the elections as being ‘well-administrated, 
transparent and peaceful’.
 
In the field of the judiciary, some positive steps were undertaken, such as the reduction of 
prison penalties and pre-trial detention in the draft penal/criminal procedures law, the updating 
of the anti-corruption law through the addition of crimes and improvements to the protection 
of witnesses and informants and the establishment of a Royal Council on the reform of the 
judicial system. The King also presented a royal discussion paper ‘Rule of Law and Civil State’, 
outlining a roadmap on how to achieve the desired civil state, where the law applies to all. 
Lastly, the authorities published the comprehensive national plan for human rights 2016-
2025 and a subsequent executive plan by the Ministry of Justice. 
In March 2016, the EU Delegation organised a roundtable to discuss gender equality issues 
together with CSOs and Member States. 
Five EU priorities have been identified for the years to come: freedom of opinion and 
expression; the rule of law and torture; the death penalty, women and gender; and civil society 
and freedom of assembly and of association. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Jordan in various 
settings, including the Association Committee (July 2016) and the Human Rights Subcommittee 
(October 2016). The EU emphasised that the best antidote for radicalisation was an open 
society where human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected. 
With regard to the death penalty, the EU delivered a demarche in November calling for the 
reinstatement of the moratorium. While the Minister for Justice expressed his willingness to 
bring the issue of the death penalty more in line with international standards, the Jordanian 
courts sentenced two convicted criminals to death. 
In December 2016, the EU-Jordan Association Council adopted the Partnership Priorities and an 
annexed Compact. One of the three priorities is the ‘Strengthening of democratic governance, 
the rule of law and human rights’. 
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In the same month, the EU and a number of Member States supported the Karama Human 
Rights Film Festival and the associated activities. In line with the #EU4HumanRights campaign, 
the EU Delegation produced a number of videos that touch upon some of the human rights 
priorities identified for Jordan.
 
Throughout the year, the EU provided substantial support for Syrian refugees in Jordan. 
All the EU local coordination working groups regularly discussed the situation of Syrian 
refugees and in particular those stranded in the ‘no-man’s land’ between Jordan and the 
Syrian border (the berm). Interventions also focused on the security situation at the berm 
to enable partners to resume humanitarian relief efforts. The Human Rights Working Group 
was updated on the rights of migrant workers and especially those of Syrians in view 
of the Jordan-EU Compact. The focus was on the challenges the Syrian refugees face in 
obtaining work permits and the measures that Jordan should implement in order to meet 
the obligations undertaken in the EU-Jordan Compact (creation of 100 000 jobs by the end 
of 2018) and make full use of the opportunities provided by the simplification of the rules 
of origin decided in July 2016. 
Lastly, given the importance for the EU of Jordan’s commitment to promoting religious 
diversity, Jordan was chosen for the first mission of Ján Figel, the newly appointed 
Special Envoy (SE) for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief. The SE visited 
the country in October and confirmed that the EU stands ready to support Jordan to 
counter religious extremism and enhance Jordan’s traditional role as champion of a 
peaceful Islam and harmonious cohabitation with Christians and other religious and 
ethnic communities.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR) and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). 
16 projects were contracted in 2016 (including the Electoral Observation Mission), focusing on 
reinforcing the capacity of civil society and media as well as the National Centre for Human 
Rights, supporting democratic governance, strengthening child protection and promoting the 
empowerment of women.
Jordan is party to a significant number of international human rights conventions. It is not 
party to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the 
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members 
of their Families or the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights, aiming to abolish the death penalty.
 
The use of the State Security Court for cases linked to terrorism provides grounds for concern 
with regard to the right to a fair trial. Cases of torture and ill-treatment in police and state 
security facilities continue to be reported by human rights defenders and NGOs. There has 
also been a continuous drop in recent years in Jordan’s ranking in the World Economic Forum 
Global Gender Gap Index (140 out of 145).
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Lebanese Republic
Despite the long period of institutional stalemate (which ended with the election of 
President Aoun on 31 October 2016 and the severe impact of the Syrian conflict on the 
country, Lebanon has witnessed some positive developments in the protection of human 
rights, such as the creation of a National Commission on Human Rights and the holding 
of successful municipal elections. In the newly agreed EU-Lebanon Compact, Lebanon 
undertakes to improve the living conditions of refugees. However, Lebanon’s achievements 
are mixed in this regard and the country has not always met the required international 
standards of protection; for instance, many refugees have been thrown into a state of 
illegality due to the unaffordable USD 200 residency fee. Furthermore, the pursuance of 
a number of court cases on the basis of the criminal defamation law seem to be aimed at 
undermining freedom of expression, while limited guarantees of access to a fair trial are 
of particular concern. 
The EU’s key focus areas in Lebanon have mainly been on freedom of expression, the fight 
against torture and ill-treatment, the death penalty, prosecutions before military tribunals and 
access to basic rights for refugees and migrants to ensure decent living conditions for them. 
Women’s and children’s rights as well as human rights violations in prisons and extended periods 
of pre-trial detention have also been an important focus.
Government institutions are still weak in terms of transparency and efficiency, and in particular 
corruption, as was highlighted by the 2015 refuse collection crisis. Hope now hinges on the 
newly formed Government of National Accord to tackle corruption as it committed to do in its 
first government statement.
 
Municipal elections were successfully held in May 2016. The EU actively supported this process 
through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lebanon Elections Assistance 
Project, which provided technical assistance to the Ministry of the Interior, and through EU 
support for civil society’s election monitoring efforts. EU and EU Member States diplomats 
visited election polls and directly witnessed the process during all four phases of the election. 
The EU’s support and assistance not only contributed significantly to the successful organisation 
of municipal elections but also confirmed the EU’s confidence in Lebanon’s ability to hold free 
and fair parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for May 2017. The EU has offered to 
continue to support Lebanon in further improving its electoral processes, including on the 
basis of previous election observation missions (EOM) recommendations aimed at ensuring 
more transparent, credible and inclusive elections: an independent electoral commission, pre-
printed ballots, legislation to enhance the participation of women in elections and the reduction 
of the voting age to 18 (age of legal responsibility). However, gender participation in municipal 
elections was unsatisfactory. 
A law establishing the National Human Rights Institute (one of the UPR recommendations) 
was adopted in October 2016 by the parliament and provides for the creation of a 
National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to investigate and monitor the use of torture and 
ill-treatment in places of detention. For the first time, the new Government of National 
Accord formed on 18 December 2016 includes a Ministry of State for Human Rights and a 
Ministry of Women’s Affairs, while a human rights department has been established within 
the General Security.
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 The Lebanese General Security (GS) has adopted a Code of Conduct with the support of the 
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). A positive step towards non-
discrimination was the repeal of a Penal Code article that allowed the withdrawal of legal 
charges and the issuing of fines in cases where the perpetrator of a rape married the victim. 
Throughout 2016, the EU and Lebanon negotiated and agreed on Partnership Priorities and a 
Compact. Human rights protection constituted an important component of the discussions 
and of the final texts agreed. With reference to the Compact, the protection of the rights of 
refugees constitutes an important part of Lebanon’s commitments.
During the meeting of the EU-Lebanon Subcommittee on Human Rights, Democracy and 
Governance
 (Brussels, May 2016), a list of 12 operational conclusions were agreed which are 
expected to be followed up. Annexed to them was a list of court cases of concern to the EU. 
The EU engaged with a wide variety of civil society stakeholders in the human rights field 
at headquarters level in Brussels as well as in Beirut via the EU Delegation both prior and 
subsequent to the abovementioned meeting. The meeting of the EU-Lebanon Justice and Home 
Affairs Subcommittee held earlier in Beirut in April also allowed the EU to convey important 
messages on the protection of fundamental human rights.
 
The EU maintained regular contacts with the UNHCR, and the EU Delegation attended regular 
UNHCR briefings, especially on the new attestation scheme being developed by the Lebanese 
Ministry of Social Affairs for ‘displaced persons from Syria’ aimed at replacing the existing 
UNHCR refugee status. It is unclear whether the new government will pursue this initiative.
 
The EU Delegation organised several thematic consultation meetings with CSOs, whose 
participation has become very active. 
Regular contact with Lebanese authorities also takes place in order to ensure that the 
implementation of the EU-Lebanon counter-terrorism roadmap follows a human rights-based 
approach. 
The EU Delegation and EU Member States, in cooperation with NGOs, are closely following 
a number of important ongoing cases regarding human rights defenders, especially those 
relating to freedom of expression and the misuse of the defamation law. With regard to 
the Case of Manal Assi, the EU Delegation organised a human rights focal points meeting 
with the participation of the NGOs actively advocating for an appeal against the Criminal 
Court judgment which used Article 252 of the Criminal Code, which indirectly justifies honour 
killing, to reduce the punishment of a man convicted of beating his wife to death to five years’ 
imprisonment. 
In the context of the EU’s programming mission in Beirut in November, a number of civil 
society stakeholders urged the EU to be more vocal in holding the government of Lebanon 
accountable for human rights violations. Many expressed concern that the EU’s influence in 
the area was being eroded due to its concerns for the refugee crisis. 
 
In 2016, the EU Delegation took a number of steps advocating the abolishment of the death 
penalty and conducted a demarche to present EU priorities to the United Nations General 
Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee. On the occasion of the International Day against the 
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Death Penalty, the EU ambassador issued a statement calling on the authorities to adopt the 
law confirming the existing moratorium with a view to its abolition.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects in support of human rights, 
under a variety of instruments. Under the annual action programme 2016, the EU approved 
a new programme entitled ‘Advancing Juvenile and Criminal Justice in Lebanon’ to strengthen 
juvenile justice and ensure a protective environment for children in line with international 
standards. In total, the EU Delegation in Lebanon is currently managing 31 human rights 
grants. 
Under the EIDHR, a total of eight projects were implemented by CSOs. These projects focus 
on providing support for initiatives aiming to promote observance of the right to a fair trial, 
including the end of military jurisdiction over civilians. Continued support was also provided 
for the prevention of torture and assistance to victims and improved detention conditions. 
Support in the area of human rights was also channelled through the traditional bilateral 
assistance envelope (ENI), with a number of actions relating to the implementation of the UPR 
process and the reform of the prison system, as well as freedom of speech. 
Other activities focus on the independence of the judiciary, legal aid, freedom of expression, 
electoral reform, the rights of refugees and migrant workers and access to a number of basic 
rights for refugees and vulnerable hosting communities. These projects are having an impact 
on strengthening Lebanon’s democracy as well as the living conditions of refugees. 
Despite the multiple challenges it faces, Lebanon has shown a commitment towards 
cooperating with international human rights mechanisms. However, the recommendations of 
the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) made to Lebanon in 2010 and 2016 have not yet been fully 
followed up and Lebanon still has to put in place a national committee to implement them.
Lebanon received the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion, whose recommendations 
are being considered.
 
On treaty bodies, Lebanon submitted its report on International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights (ICCPR) in June 2016. It is considering the establishment of a national body tasked with 
drafting all the reports to UN mechanisms, including UPR, and promoting cooperation between 
ministries on UN reports. 
The most important human rights challenges in Lebanon remain the prevention of torture 
and arbitrary arrests, administrative detention, aligning prison conditions with international 
standards, the abolition of the death penalty, promoting equality between women and men, 
improving the living conditions of refugees, protecting migrants and other vulnerable groups 
and combating discrimination. The use of defamation laws to curb freedom of expression 
and especially the use of judicial prosecution before military courts for those who criticise 
the government or its institutions are worrying and also increase the risk of other human 
rights violations. Lebanon has been unable to meet the requirements of the law to improve 
the conditions of detention and prisons, increasing the likelihood of human rights violations.
Increasing the representation of women in politics and adopting a civil status law are essential 
to avoid de jure and de facto gender-based discrimination. It is also essential to eliminate 
Criminal Code provisions discriminating against women and to eliminate discrimination against 
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women in terms of passing their nationality to their children. Legislation to fulfil Lebanon’s 
commitments under UNCAT and OPCAT has not yet been adopted. 
Along with Syrian refugees, other categories of the population such as Palestinian refugees 
from Lebanon and migrant workers including domestic workers face discrimination in accessing 
basic rights. Particularly important is the ‘right to have rights’, i.e. access to documents proving 
identity and legal stay and a residence status allowing the filing of complaints without the 
fear of detention or deportation (including through the abolition of sponsorship and ‘kafala’ 
systems).
Syrian Arab Republic
Six years into the conflict, the situation in Syria is abominable. The EU condemns the continued 
systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations 
of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Syria, in particular the 
Syrian regime and the UN-listed terrorist organisations, as documented by the UN-mandated 
Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.
The EU objectives on human rights and democracy are reiterated in the Council’s conclusions 
of May and of October 2016 supporting a political solution to the crisis on the basis of the 
Geneva Communique of 2012 and the relevant UNSC resolutions62. 
 
All those responsible for breaches of international law, and in particular of international 
humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes 
against humanity, must be brought to justice, including those committing crimes against 
religious, ethnic and other groups and minorities. Impunity for such crimes is unacceptable 
and therefore the EU continues to support efforts to gather evidence with a view to future 
legal action. The EU recalls its conviction that the situation in Syria should be referred to 
the International Criminal Court and renews its call to the UN Security Council to take action 
in this respect. The EU and its Member States sought to explore possibilities of concerted 
action inter alia through the UN General Assembly, which eventually adopted a resolution in 
December 2016 creating an ‘International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in 
the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under 
International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011’.
The EU has continued its dialogue with civil society organisations and human rights activists 
with the aim of supporting their efforts to help the Syrian population and to account for the 
crimes committed by state and non-state stakeholders inside the country. The European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights funds some civil society organisations working 
to promote human rights and to support human rights defenders.
 
The European Parliament adopted several resolutions during 2016 drawing attention to the 
situation in Syria63. 
62. Council conclusions on the EU Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da’esh threat, 9105/16, 23  
 
May 2016 and Council conclusions on Syria, 17 October 2016
63. Including European Parliament resolution of 24 November 2016 on the situation in Syria (2016/2933(RSP)), European 
 
Parliament resolution of 6 October 2016 on Syria (2016/2894(RSP)) and European Parliament resolution of 12 April 
 
2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration (2015/2095(INI))
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The EU has supported the Syria resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council as well as of 
the UNGA Third Committee, condemning the escalation of violence in the country, the use 
of barrel bombs and chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities and the human rights 
abuses by armed extremist groups, and asking parties to comply with their obligations under 
international humanitarian law and ensure unhindered access for aid organisations in Syria. 
The EU has continued its restrictive measures (ban on trade in oil and petroleum products, ban 
on financial transactions etc.) in relation to Syria and has regularly introduced new sanctions 
against individuals and entities – including military and security officials – responsible for 
violence and repression in Syria.
Libya
Libya is still facing a challenging political transition. The Government of National Accord has 
not yet been endorsed by the House of Representatives, as provided for by the Libyan Political 
Agreement signed in 17 December 2015 in Skhirat (Morocco). Although the Constitution 
Drafting Assembly has completed its work, it is unclear whether and when a referendum 
on the constitution could be held. Many areas of the country still face the threat of violent 
confrontation and terrorist attacks. As a consequence, the human rights situation in Libya 
continued to deteriorate in 2016. 
 
The Libyan population suffers from parallel structures of armed groups that continue to 
commit human rights violations with impunity. Armed groups on all sides commit human rights 
violations, including direct and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, 
unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment in unlawful detention facilities, arbitrary arrests, 
abductions, enforced disappearances and forced displacement. Armed groups continue 
to abduct civilians on account of their family links, identity or actual or perceived political 
affiliations. Human rights violations were particularly severe and widespread in the areas 
controlled by ISIS, where arbitrary killings, mass killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, forced 
marriages and child marriages were reported.
The judicial system remains structurally weak and subject to pressure from armed militias. 
Enforcement of judicial verdicts is not always effective, and Libya has witnessed a general 
state of lawlessness in the post-revolution period. Undue pressures and attacks on judicial 
stakeholders (prosecutors, judges and defence lawyers) have severely hampered access to 
justice following events. Fewer courts are working due to damage to court premises. The 
conditions of the judiciary have further exacerbated the levels of corruption in the country. In 
2016, Libya ranked 170th in the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International.
The power of militias has often curbed the authorities’ efforts to enforce the law. Human 
Rights Watch reported that thousands of people in prison are exposed to long-term arbitrary 
detention, torture and other ill-treatment. The condition of migrants, refugees and internally 
displaced persons (IDPs) continues to raise particular concern. 
 
In 2016, the number of IDPs in country decreased to 313,000, as mentioned in the 2016 HNO 
(p.10), approximately 140,000 of who were in the East, 151,000 in the west and 22,000 in the 
South. 241,000 of those identified IDPs were estimated to be in need. The majority of those IDPs 
were located in major cities including Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli. In 2016, displaced people 
were reported to be mostly in need of NFIs, shelter, medical support and food. In 2016, an 
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estimated 357,259 migrants and refugees were estimated to be in country, of whom 295,652 
were determined to be most in need. They remain at risk of indefinite detention in official migrant 
detention centres and in centres run by local militia groups. The conditions in these centres are 
extremely precarious and overcrowded, with very limited or no access to legal protection, food, 
sanitation or healthcare, and subject to violent attacks, rape, extortion and exploitation. In 2016, 
while limited access to some official centres was granted to international organisations, informal 
facilities run by militias remain largely inaccessible to humanitarian organisations. Libya remains 
the main transit country for victims of trafficking in human being arriving to the EU through the 
Central Mediterranean Route, in particular, IOM estimates that 80% of the 11.000 Nigeria 
women and girls arrived in Italy in 2016 are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the EU.
Libyan law inadequately prohibits domestic violence and its personal status laws continue to 
discriminate against women, particularly with respect to marriage, divorce, and inheritance. 
Same-sex relations are prohibited and punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) became the targets of attacks by many parties in the 
conflict. In 2016, the Civil Society Commission issued regulations that severely restrict the 
operations of local and international CSOs. The Board of the Commission of Civil Society 
introduced numerous restrictions and imposed controls on the work of international non-
governmental organisations in Libya. 
Reporters without Borders reported that two journalists were killed in 2016. With regard to 
the first half of 2016, the Libyan Centre for Freedom of the Press (LCFP) is examining seven 
cases of murder and attempted murder and 48 cases of enforced disappearance, kidnapping, 
arbitrary detention, physical aggression, threats and verbal aggression, arrest and temporary 
detention, unfair dismissal and censorship of journalists. In 2016, Libya ranked 164th in the 
World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.
 
In May 2016 an agreement was reached by the municipalities of Misrata and Tawergha which 
includes establishing a committee to visit prisons in the city of Misrata. However, a concrete 
plan for the return of Tawerghans who have been displaced since August 2011 has not yet 
been developed. 
Despite the challenges due to the lack of an international or EU presence on the ground, the 
EU continued to engage in human rights discussion with Libyan authorities and representatives 
of Libyan civil society. The EU Delegation stepped up coordination with EU Member States 
and international organisations on human rights issues. An EU-founded study by UNWOMEN 
on Financial Inclusion and Economic Development and Women, including a specific chapter 
(gender profile) on Libya, was launched in October 2016.
Human rights defenders (HRDs) have become a primary target of armed groups. In 2016, the EU 
continued its support for human rights defenders and launched a project financed under the 
EIDHR whose aim is to reinforce the capacity of NGOs working in the field of human rights in Libya. 
The EU’s overall cooperation strategy in Libya consisted of two strands: supporting the Libyan 
Political Agreement, the Government of National Accord (GNA) and local authorities through 
institution-building, and implementing projects to directly benefit vulnerable migrants, 
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internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, as well as host communities. For example, 
under the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) projects were launched to 
provide, direct assistance to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers present in or disembarked 
on Libyan shores, the rehabilitation of selected detention centres, and training for the Libyan 
Coast Guard for procedures after the disembarkation of migrants.
Several projects dedicated to transitional processes focus on local governance, to improve 
the ability of municipal councils to govern and deliver adequate services, and to increase the 
participation of Libyan civil society organisations in the political processes and in local affairs. 
In the media sector, the ‘Media in Libya’ project continued to offer training to professionals in 
journalism ethics and in reporting in hostile environments and crisis zones.
In order to respond to the most urgent needs of the Libyan population, several projects 
are dedicated to improving access to health, education and the fight against gender-based 
violence. Direct assistance, protection and basic health care are provided to migrants inside 
the detention centres and in the host communities. Voluntary repatriation is proposed to 
migrants stranded in Libya who are willing to return to their home country. In 2016 the EU 
funded the voluntary return of some 500 migrants. 
Kingdom of Morocco
Five years after the adoption of the 2011 Constitution, Morocco has continued its legislative 
activity with the adoption of 15 out of the 19 organic laws established in the Constitution. 
Legislative elections were held on 7 October 2016. A European Mission of Electoral Experts 
was sent to Morocco for the occasion.
In 2016, the EU pursued its cooperation efforts in support of the reforms undertaken by the 
government and continued supporting civil society stakeholders. Migrant rights, women’s 
rights, the reform of the judiciary and the penitentiary system were key fields, in which new 
policies were launched with EU support. 
Although the effective implementation of the 2011 Constitution remains a challenge in the 
medium to long term, significant progress was recorded in 2016:
– The organic laws on the Superior Council of the Judiciary and on the Statute of Magistrates 
were enacted on 24 March 2016. 
– Following a public consultation on the review of the Criminal Code, the Ministry of Justice 
presented a draft to the Parliament in June 2016 that is under examination by the Justice and 
Human Rights Committee.
– As regards the role of civil society, two organic laws relating to participatory democracy, 
i.e. the right of legislative initiative and the right of petition were adopted by Parliament on 31 
May 2016.
 
– On governance, Morocco officially launched its national anti-corruption strategy, a 
contractual framework of 10 programmes comprising 239 projects across the sectors and 
bodies concerned. In 2016 Morocco ranked 90th in the Transparency International index. 
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– Women’s rights have been addressed in 2016 with the adoption of the draft setting up of the 
Authority for Equality and Fight against Discrimination (APALD). 
– Finally, as regards the rights of migrants, the law against trafficking in human beings was 
adopted by Parliament in August 2016; nonetheless, laws on asylum and migration are still at 
a draft stage. In 2016, Morocco has also launched the second phase of regularisation of illegal 
migrants.
Meaningful challenges still remain in the field of human rights.
Two years after the submission in November 2014 of the acts to ratify the Optional Protocol 
to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading 
Treatment (OPCAT), the establishment of the national mechanism of prevention is still under 
discussion and acts of alleged ill-treatment are still reported.
Freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly remain key aspects. 
In 2016 Morocco ranked 131 in the Reporters without Borders 2016 World Press Freedom 
Index. A number of subjects continue to be regarded as particularly sensitive. On freedom of 
association and assembly, some civil society organisations have expressed their concern on 
the deadlines for the reception of their constitution accreditation. 
Homosexuality remains a crime under article 489 of the Criminal Code. Cases of homophobia 
were reported in 2016.
Finally, regarding death penalty, the draft law revising the Criminal Code still includes the 
use of capital punishment. Morocco continues to apply a de facto moratorium on death 
penalty. 
 
The EU has traditionally pursued with Morocco an open and constructive dialogue on 
democracy and human rights, namely in the framework of the Association Council and the 
Human Rights, Democracy and Governance Subcommittee. Following the judgement on the EU 
Morocco Agricultural Agreement in December 2015, no meetings of the Association Council 
and the Human Rights, Democracy and Governance Subcommittee took place in 2016. The EU 
is working to relaunch and reinforce both dialogues.
Support for democratic reforms and for a sustainable and inclusive economic development 
constitutes an important part of EU financial support to Morocco. A large proportion of 
this assistance goes in the form of budget support namely to social reforms, development 
of the economic activity, improving governance, equality, migration policies, and justice 
and penitentiary reform. Aware of the importance of the role of civil society in the 
democratisation process, the EU also provides direct support to various civil society 
organisations.
In general terms, there has been a positive momentum on the legislative framework, with 
an important number of texts adopted or in the process of being finalised. The EU remains 
committed to supporting the reform process through an effective implementation of the 
constitutional principles.
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Western Sahara
Western Sahara’s is listed by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory, whose 
status remains the object of a negotiation process conducted under the auspices of the UN. 
There therefore is an ongoing UN-led process that assists the parties in achieving a just, lasting 
and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the 
people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and 
purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. The UNSC adopted resolution 2285 (2016) on 
29 April 2016 renewing the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara 
(MINURSO)’s mandate for one year. 
The EU repeatedly expressed its concern about the long duration of the conflict and its 
implications for security, human rights and regional cooperation. 
 
The EU has also consistently expressed its support for the UN and the UNSC Resolutions, 
encouraging the parties to continue their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and 
protection of the human rights situation in Western Sahara and welcoming the strengthening 
of the National Council on Human Rights Commissions, operating in Dakhla and Laayoune.
The EU has also followed up on alleged individual cases of human rights violations through 
its contacts with civil society organisations, human rights defenders, the National Council of 
Human Rights (CNDH) and its regional offices.
People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
In a context marked by financial difficulties due to low oil and gas prices, Algeria enacted a 
constitutional reform in February 2016 which aimed to reinforce the rule of law and further 
the protection of fundamental rights. Several laws have been adopted to implement these 
provisions. Meanwhile, the exercise of some of those rights – notably the freedom of assembly 
and freedom of expression – at times - continued to be challenged in practice. 
In terms of priorities, EU support for civil society continues to be key in Algeria, in particular as 
regards participative local democracy and the resilience of civil society at community level. The 
EU is also active in offering support for human rights defenders mostly through its thematic 
lines. The observation of trials, however, continued to be subject to prior authorisation from the 
authorities. Lastly, the EU is also supportive of the promotion of women’s and children’s rights. 
The 2012 Associations Law continues to pose challenges to the functioning of both local and 
international associations in Algeria. Several EU partners have not yet received the authorities’ 
permission to officially register as associations and therefore cannot properly operate in the 
country. Restrictions on the right of assembly are still in place in Algiers, where permission 
for gatherings is systematically refused. Several human rights gatherings organised by 
associations were prohibited and their organisers arrested, then released without charge. 
 
Algeria has not fully implemented the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 
87 on freedom of association and the protection of the right to organise with regard to the 
creation of independent trade unions. In 2016, the ILO recommended that Algeria ensure there 
were no obstacles to the registration of independent unions and reinstate public officials who 
had been dismissed on the grounds of alleged anti-union discrimination. 
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Despite its dynamic media landscape, Algeria’s efforts to ensure pluralism and press 
freedom have not always met with official support in practice. Administrative issues such as 
the granting of operating licences for media outlets, the issuing of construction permits or 
financing through publicity were used to put pressure on independent media. Despite recent 
constitutional amendments, public prosecutors continued to demand severe prison sentences 
for media offences. Likewise, several bloggers were accused of defamation and condemned 
to serve prison terms. In 2016 Algeria ranked 129th in the World Press Freedom Index of 
Reporters Without Borders.
The constitutional review adopted in February 2016 included notable improvements, such as 
the limitation of presidential mandates to two, the abolition of prison sentences for media 
offences, the reinforcement of the independence of the judiciary and the exceptional character 
of provisional detention. Amazigh was also declared an official language of the Republic. 
Following the adoption of the constitutional review, Algeria adopted a new electoral law 
which incorporated some of the EU’s recommendations on the need to increase transparency 
and traceability. An independent electoral commission (Haute Instance Independent pour la 
Surveillance des Elections) was set up. A Human Rights Council was also created, and the 
National Commission on Socio-Economic Issues (CNES) was given a constitutional rank. 
It is also the case for the National Organ of prevention and fight against corruption, which 
members have been appointed in September 2016. In parallel, Algeria ranked 108th in the 
in 2016’ Transparency International index. However, some doubt about the independent 
character of the above mentioned institutions remains and their ways of operating in practice 
remains to be seen.
 
The EU and Algeria pursued their engagement on human rights issues within the framework of 
their political consultations as well as within the Subcommittee on Political Dialogue, Human 
Rights and Security. In 2016 Algerian civil society organisations benefited from EU funding in 
the fields of heritage and culture, as well as youth and employment through the PATRIMOINE 
and PAJE programmes. Over 30 projects benefited from EU financing through thematic lines 
(EIDHR and CSO-LA). In addition, the new CAPDEL programme was adopted in 2016 to support 
citizens’ participation in local governance with the Ministry of the Interior, thereby creating a 
new venue for a permanent policy dialogue with the authorities. Through its thematic lines, 
the EU also finances a wide range of projects ranging from technical assistance to local 
associations and improving migrants’ access to health. The EU remains supportive of gender-
related projects through its Gender Action Plan and continues to offer training and capacity-
building opportunities to human rights defenders, notably by supporting the Algerian League 
for the Defence of Human Rights. 
Algeria will be reviewed in the upcoming UPR in 2017, and the EU has been actively engaging 
with CSOs prior to the review. Algeria has ratified all the major international conventions 
on human rights, except for the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, 
signed in 2000, and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, signed in 2007. The UN 
Special Rapporteur on the right to health paid his first visit to Algeria in 2016. Visits by 
the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association and on torture have 
however been pending since 2011. Algeria continues to maintain its moratorium on the death 
penalty. 
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A swift effective implementation of the constitutional review will be crucial in terms of 
addressing ongoing shortcomings. In particular, further legislation will be needed to ensure 
that fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution, including the right to freedom of 
assembly, of association and of expression, are properly upheld, in the spirit of the universally 
agreed Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda. This is particularly relevant with regard 
to the Associations Law.
Republic of Tunisia
Tunisia’s democratic transition progressed in 2016 despite the difficulties the country 
continued to face. The effective implementation of the 2014 Constitution remains the guiding 
principle in the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms in Tunisia. 
The main governance challenges concerned the establishment and functioning of institutions 
and constitutional and independent bodies. While progress was made in terms of the functioning 
of the Tunisian parliament, that institution’s efficacy was nevertheless curtailed by insufficient 
resources. Decentralisation and the creation of financially and administratively autonomous 
local authorities is one of the most complex institutional challenges facing Tunisia. It is however 
needed, also in order to curtail rising regional inequalities in the country.
Important reforms were underway in 2016 with a view to the holding of municipal elections, 
in particular the reform of the electoral law and the drafting of a new draft law on local 
authorities. The delays in the adoption of this new legislation resulted in the date of municipal 
elections being postponed to 2017. Independent bodies (including the five constitutional ones) 
entrusted with the task of supporting democracy are at different stages of establishment, 
having, for the most part, faced delays. Their administrative and financial independence varies 
greatly and is in some cases threatened by a lack of means. The worsening of corruption 
since 2011 is a key concern, hampering good governance and reform efforts. In 2016 Tunisia 
ranked 75th in the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. Progress was 
made with the adoption on 9 December 2016 of the 2016-2020 national strategy for good 
governance and the fight against corruption and its 2017-2018 action plan. Furthermore, a 
new ministry to oversee these tasks was created in January 2016. On the other hand, laws on 
the protection of whistle-blowers, illicit enrichment and the declaration of assets have been 
making slow progress and cases concerning corruption were held up in the courts. 
Concerning the reform of the judiciary, in October 2016 members of the Superior Council of 
the Judiciary were elected, while no progress was made in the creation of the Constitutional 
Court. The transitional justice process, conducted through the ‘Instance Vérité et Dignité’, 
created at the end of 2014, is still facing obstacles. The first public hearings of victims took 
place on 17/18 November 2016. 
The situation in the prisons remained precarious, with overcrowding being one of the key 
problems. Nearly 6000 inmates have been accused and convicted of drug use. A draft 
law to revise the current legislation, which provides for a minimum sentence of one year’s 
imprisonment for drug use, is currently under discussion.
Allegations of ill-treatment and torture continued to surface, particularly in prison and 
detention centres. Tunisia is the first country in the region to have established in 2016 its 
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national preventive mechanism in line with its obligations under OPCAT, but - as in the case of 
other independent institutions - its functioning is threatened by a lack of means. 
Important steps have been taken in relation to the promotion and protection of human rights. 
A new draft law on discrimination is under discussion by the parliament. Respect for the 
human rights of LGBTI persons remains an issue of concern. Condemnations of homosexuals 
on the basis of the Penal Code (Article 230) and the implementation of the Penal Code (forced 
medical tests) raise the issue of conformity with the constitution. A draft law on violence 
against women was submitted to parliament in July.
A new law on access to information was adopted by parliament in March 2016. This law 
defines the right enshrined in Article 32 of the constitution (on guaranteeing freedom of 
opinion, expression, information and publication) and sets up an independent authority, whose 
establishment is behind schedule. Despite this important progress and the creation of the 
Audiovisual Communication Independent High Regulatory Authority (HAICA), journalists and 
bloggers still face harassment (in particular on the basis of Article 91 of the Military Code 
and Article 128 of the Criminal Code, which still carry heavy prison sentences for defaming 
public or military authorities). In 2016 Tunisia ranked 96th in the World Press Freedom Index 
of Reporters Without Borders.
Tunisian civil society is vibrant and diverse. The reform underway to replace the liberal 
Legislative Decree No. 88-2011 governing associations raises the concern of civil society.
In 2016 the EU reaffirmed its support for Tunisia’s democratic transition in all its dialogues 
and through its cooperation. The Joint Communication of the High Representative and the 
Commission  ‘Strengthening EU support for Tunisia’ of 29 September 2016 includes good 
governance as a specific priority for reinforced EU support. Tunisia is the only Southern 
Neighbourhood partner with which the EU organises tripartite dialogues involving civil society 
in preparation for sub-committees and other dialogues and negotiations. In 2016 this important 
practice was consistently upheld.
 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial assistance for Tunisia’s transition through several 
ongoing and new sectoral programmes, dedicated to the promotion of women’s rights, the 
reform of the judicial and penitentiary systems, decentralisation and a significant number 
of initiatives dedicated to civil society through the programme ‘Support for Civil Society’ 
and other programmes and projects. In addition, two projects aimed at supporting Tunisia’s 
migration governance and humanitarian assistance efforts to address the needs of vulnerable 
migrants were launched under the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP).
Tunisia is party to eight out of nine of the principal UN human rights treaties and all the main UN 
conventions. The III report on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading 
treatments or punishment was submitted in 2016. Tunisia was elected a member of the UN Human 
Rights Council for the 2017-2019 term and will be undergoing a Universal Periodic Review in 2017.
The EU welcomes the cooperation between Tunisia and the Council of Europe through the 
EU-financed South Programme II, and continues to encourage Tunisia’s accession to CoE 
conventions and protocols.
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IV. Russia and Central Asia
Russian Federation
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in Russia continued to be marked by sustained 
limitations on fundamental freedoms and independent civil society. The parliament adopted 
laws increasing the powers of law enforcement and security agencies. The end of 2016 brought 
to light another long-standing problem, namely the use of torture in penitentiary facilities.
The EU’s priorities in this area are focused on strengthening the capacity of Russian civil 
society organisations and human rights defenders as well as improving, through EU-funded 
projects, the living conditions of the most vulnerable sections of Russian society, namely 
children, women, persons with disabilities and indigenous communities.
 
The widening implementation of restrictive laws continued throughout 2016, a year which 
also saw the introduction of new repressive legislation. At the end of the year, the number 
of NGOs included in the Ministry of Justice’s list of ‘foreign agents’ reached 154 compared to 
111 at the end of 2015. Significant organisations targeted in this way during 2016 included not 
only the Memorial International Society, but also the Levada Centre (a polling and research 
organisation), the Ecological Watch on North Caucasus (an environmental NGO) and a growing 
number of NGOs active in the field of social issues. In June a case was opened against Valentina 
Cherevatenko, founder of the Women of Don NGO, making her the first person to be subject to 
investigations with a view to filing a criminal case under the law on foreign agents.
Furthermore, three entities were declared ‘undesirable organisations’ under the respective 
law, (which bans all operations of these organisations in or with Russia), bringing the number 
to seven organisations, all US-related. The temporary closure of Amnesty International’s 
Moscow office in November was an example of unwarranted persecution of a well-known 
NGO.
The authorities continue to limit freedom of assembly in rallies and even single-person pickets. 
Allegations of torture publicised by Ildar Dadin – who was convicted and incarcerated for 
peaceful, single-person protests - brought renewed attention to the restrictions on freedom 
of assembly in Russia, as well as the systematic use of torture in the Russian penitentiary 
system.
In July President Putin signed the so-called ‘Yarovaya package’ of counter-terrorism and 
counter-extremism legislation. The new provisions broadened the authority of law enforcement 
agencies especially in respect of metadata storage, and introduced criminal liability for failing 
to report knowledge of planned terrorist activities. The Russian authorities prosecute people 
under charges of criminal separatism and extremism, and also for materials disseminated 
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online. One of the symbols of judicial harassment under extremist laws is the former director 
of the Ukrainian Library in Moscow, Natalya Sharina, whose trial was ongoing at the end of 
2016. 
The law limiting foreign media ownership from 50% to 20% entered into force in 2016 and 
has further limited the freedom of the media in Russia. In September independent journalist 
Zhalaudi Geriev, well known for his reporting on abuses by Chechen authorities, was sentenced 
to three years’ imprisonment on dubious drug possession charges. His case is one of many 
examples of the appalling state of human rights in Chechnya and of the limitations on the 
freedom of the media.
 
Parliamentary elections took place in September 2016, which the OSCE/ODIHR Election 
Observation Mission assessed as transparently administered, while indicating however that 
challenges to democratic commitments remained and that the electoral environment was 
negatively affected by restrictions on fundamental freedoms and political rights, firmly 
controlled media and a tightening grip on civil society as well as shortcomings relating to 
candidate registration and the legal framework. The EU did not recognise the holding of the 
Duma elections in the Crimean peninsula; the Council included the deputies elected from the 
illegally annexed Crimea on the EU travel ban/asset freeze list. 
Despite the release of some of the Ukrainian citizens illegally imprisoned in Russia, including 
Nadiya Savchenko, there are still many Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia. 
Repeated efforts by the EU to hold human rights consultations in a meaningful format have 
been resisted, limiting the EU’s opportunities to raise human rights issues directly with the 
Russian authorities. 
However, the EU uses all other available options - including meetings of senior officials, 
international fora (namely the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe) and public statements - to 
voice its concerns about the state of human rights in Russia. In this regard, several statements 
were issued in 2016 by the HRVP or her spokesperson as well as in international fora. The EU 
Delegation in Moscow, in coordination with Member States, attended several human rights-
related trials and visited NGOs across the country. The Delegation also organised several 
events with human rights defenders and civil society organisations and met with them on a 
regular basis. The European Parliament held an emergency debate on the case of Ildar Dadin 
and torture in Russia in November.
The EU funded 17 projects totalling EUR 10 million, which began implementation in 2016, with 
a focus on strengthening the capacity of civil society and human rights defenders, education 
and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, support for independent media, 
support for children, women, persons with disabilities, and environmental initiatives in regions 
inhabited by indigenous populations.
 
In November 2016 Russia withdrew its signature under the Rome Statute of the International 
Criminal Court. The decision seems to have been triggered by pending ICC investigations into 
Russia’s actions in Georgia and Ukraine and calls for an ICC investigation on Russian actions in 
Syria.
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In April 2016, following the adoption in December 2015 of a new law allowing the Russian 
Constitutional Court to order the non-execution of decisions of international human rights 
bodies if deemed contradictory to the Russian constitution, the Russian Constitutional Court 
ruled for the first time that a binding decision of the European Court of Human Rights was 
‘non-executable’ in Russia. The EU expressed concern about the implementation of this law in 
the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The human rights situation in Russia remains challenging. Despite increasing threats, persecution 
and the shrinking space for activity, Russian civil society remains strong and determined to 
continue working towards respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. 
Republic of Kazakhstan
The overall human rights situation in the country has been deteriorating. Several legislative 
amendments have been adopted or are currently in the pipeline with the aim of tightening 
controls on society in order to counter radicalisation and violent extremism. The amendments 
threaten to significantly limit the scope for the functioning of civil society and violate a number 
of fundamental rights.
The EU’s priority is to strengthen the efficiency of the institutional framework that allows 
civil society to be included in the decision-making process and to support civil society capacity 
building, in particular to promote freedom of expression, and freedom of association and 
peaceful assembly.
Kazakhstan faced various human rights and democracy problems, especially in the fields of 
freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Voices critical of 
the government were often silenced under the pretext of inciting social discord. Requests 
for authorisation to hold peaceful demonstrations were often refused. NGOs were subject to 
numerous and cumbersome reporting obligations hindering their activities. 
 
The International Labour Conference examined shortcomings of Kazakhstan in the 
implementation of the ILO Fundamental Convention on Freedom of Association and Right to 
Organise for both workers’ and employers’ organisations. The ILC urged the government to 
amend the corresponding legislation. Actions against trade-unions at the end of 2016 raise 
serious concerns and the issue will be further scrutinized by the ILO supervisory bodies.
The parliamentary elections held in March 2016 were neither free nor democratic. The OSCE 
Election Observation Mission concluded that Kazakhstan still has a considerable way to go to 
meet its OSCE commitments for democratic elections. 
Good progress was made on efforts to eradicate torture and ill-treatment. Efforts were also 
made to reform the judicial system (although so far the independence of the judiciary has 
continued to be significantly undermined). Human rights defender Vladimir Kozlov, who was 
detained following the Zhanaozen events of 2011, was released from prison.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Kazakhstan in 
various settings, including at the Cooperation Council (October) and the Cooperation Committee 
(March). 
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The annual human rights dialogue was held in November. The dialogue allowed for 
constructive exchanges on a wide range of issues, including freedom of association, 
women’s rights, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, press freedom 
and freedom of religion and belief. The EU encouraged Kazakhstan to adopt as soon 
as possible the second national human rights action plan. The EU acknowledged the 
significant efforts made by Kazakhstan to prevent the mistreatment of detainees, 
including through the work of the national preventive mechanism, and encouraged 
implementation of the conclusions issued by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention 
of Torture after its visit to Kazakhstan in September 2016. The EU raised concerns in 
relation to pressure on independent media outlets and the possible negative implications 
of the new law on payments, as well as the convictions of Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan 
in relation to land demonstrations in the spring of 2016.
 
Representatives of the EU Delegation participated as observers in the meetings of the 
Consultative Advisory Body on Human Dimension (CAB), a platform for dialogue between 
the government and representatives of civil society under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
The EU also participated in a number of meetings, seminars and roundtables concerning 
human rights issues organised by the government, and maintained regular contact with 
government interlocutors.
The EU Delegation hosted various meetings with representatives of civil society and 
representatives of the EU Member States’ missions in Astana to discuss current human 
rights issues, and in particular the planned legislative modifications to the law on 
payments, the law on the media and the law on religious associations. 
The EU voiced concerns, through statements, speeches as well as other formal and 
informal steps, to encourage the Kazakhstani government to ensure respect for human 
rights. The EU Delegation, in close coordination with EU Member States and like-minded 
partners, conducted outreach initiatives in respect of the national authorities in support 
of human rights-related cases and monitored the court case of Max Bokayev and Talgat 
Ayan.
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EU Delegation is 
currently managing three projects amounting to a total of EUR 803 715. The projects 
cover areas such as freedom of expression, civil society capacity building and protection 
of human rights defenders.
Two new projects will be implemented under the EIDHR as from 2017. The objective 
of the first project is to promote the institutionalisation of cooperation between civil 
society organisations and state authorities in the area of the human dimension and the 
legislative process. The objective of the second project is to strengthen the capacity of 
civil society stakeholders, including human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, public 
councils and media representatives, to hold the authorities accountable for implementing 
the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. 
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The EU Delegation has also launched a call for a study to review the gender situation in the 
Central Asia region, including in Kazakhstan. The study will lead to a greater understanding of 
gender inequalities, identify causes for discrimination and make recommendations.
Kazakhstan is a party to the nine core UN human rights conventions except for the Convention 
on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and has 
issued a standing invitation to all UN Special Rapporteurs. 
Kazakhstan has not signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil 
and Political Rights, which aims to abolish the death penalty. The Kazakhstani constitution 
abolishes the death penalty for all crimes except terrorist acts that cause loss of human 
life and exceptionally grave crimes committed during wartime. A moratorium on the death 
penalty has however been in place since 2003. Kazakhstan played an active role during the UN 
negotiations leading to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, but has not yet 
joined the Rome Statute system. 
Substantial progress needs to be made in the implementation of the various laws adopted to 
prevent radicalisation and violent extremism to ensure that the application of those laws does 
not have a negative impact on the functioning of civil society. 
Respect for international standards needs to be demonstrated in the outcomes of the court 
cases, in particular those relating to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 
Kyrgyz Republic
In 2016 the overall human rights situation remained stable. Positive developments are to be 
noted in the legislative area, where problematic legislative initiatives were rejected or stalled 
and a new piece of legislation improving the human rights situation was adopted. Nevertheless, 
some civil society stakeholders were subject to negative public statements and intimidation. 
Amendments to the constitution impact on the perceived status of human rights.
 
The EU’s priority is the development of a judicial system that allows for the effective 
implementation of the rule of law. The EU is also active in support of democratic governance. 
The EU also supports the development of the institutional framework to ensure freedom 
from torture and ill-treatment and promotion of the rights of persons belonging to 
minorities. 
The rule of law remains fragile, with widespread corruption including in the judiciary. Legislative 
acts are systematically improved, but implementation is not always adequate. This undermines 
trust in institutions and law enforcement agencies. 
Civil society plays an active role. The rejection by the parliament of a draft law that would 
have imposed new reporting obligations on non-governmental organisations receiving foreign 
funding was well received by civil society and the international community. Some human rights 
defenders and civil society representatives have nevertheless been subject to discrediting 
public statements, intimidation or harassment. The situation of ethnic minorities remains 
sensitive. The host country proposed to change the status of the OSCE Centre, which has been 
carrying out substantial work in areas relating to human rights and the rule of law. 
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A new law criminalising the organisation or performance of religious marriage ceremonies of 
under-age spouse(s) is an important step towards ensuring greater protection for girls from 
forced and early marriages.
The authorities are endeavouring, including through cooperation with international bodies, to 
establish mechanisms to prevent torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment. 
Limited legal safeguards at detention facilities contribute to the vulnerability of detainees 
immediately after their apprehension. Reported cases rarely lead to a full investigation 
followed by prosecution of the perpetrators and compensation for victims.
The Supreme Court took into consideration the views adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee 
on the complaint lodged by Azimjan Askarov, and reopened the case for supplementary 
investigation, without however fully implementing the Committee’s recommendations. The 
retrial is attracting a considerable degree of attention both locally and internationally, due to 
its symbolic value in terms of reconciliation and justice for all in relation to the 2010 events.
 
Amendments to the constitution, adopted in a peaceful and transparent manner by a referendum, 
raised concerns about the inclusiveness of the consultative process and a downgrading of the overall 
importance of Human Rights, which were previously qualified as the most important national value. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the Kyrgyz 
Republic in various settings, including the Cooperation Council (February) and the Cooperation 
Committee (October). The annual human rights dialogue, held in June in Bishkek, saw broad 
participation by representatives of the government and the monitoring bodies to discuss a 
range of issues, including on the administration of justice and judicial reform, good governance, 
the prevention of torture, countering violent radicalisation, combating violence against women 
and the protection of vulnerable groups. The High Representative and Vice-President for 
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the EU Special Representative for Central Asia actively 
addressed human rights issues in bilateral meetings. The European Parliament held an inter-
parliamentary meeting with members of the Kyrgyz parliament (April).
The EU granted to the Kyrgyz Republic additional trade preferences under the Generalised 
Scheme of Preferences (GSP+), in recognition of its ratification of and in support of the 
effective implementation of 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, 
sustainable development and good governance. 
The EU Delegation maintained regular contacts with civil society as well as the authorities and 
made use of diplomatic tools to promote respect for human rights. The EU Delegation has 
made it a systematic practice to hold an annual civil society seminar. This year the focal topic 
was the fight against corruption. Additional roundtables and panel discussions were held in the 
capital and the regions. Specific events such as a workshop dedicated to GSP+ implementation 
or a regional conference on preventing violent extremism touched upon a range of human 
rights issues from a broader perspective. 
Following the publication of the UN Human Rights Committee’s views on the Askarov case, 
the HRVP’s spokesperson issued a public statement calling for the full implementation of the 
recommendations, supplemented later by a statement regarding the re-opening of the case. 
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In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the European Instrument for Democracy and 
Human Rights (EIDHR). 
Under development cooperation, support for promoting the rule of law figures among the 
focal sectors. The EU has supported the ongoing judicial reform and also the establishment 
of a more professional, independent, accountable and transparent court system. Another 
project under the rule of law programme focuses on the fight against corruption. Other EU-
funded projects under the same rule of law programme address the capacity of civil society 
to report on cases of corruption and to enhance democratic governance. EUR 9.5 million is 
allocated to the four-year rule of law programme. The EU further provides significant support 
for strengthening democracy through electoral assistance, with budgetary support of EUR 
13.1 million. The intended impact of this programme is that a higher degree of credibility, 
inclusiveness and transparency of electoral processes will contribute to the increased 
legitimacy of elected bodies and public confidence in democratic institutions. 
Additional projects provided support for the prevention of torture, facilitated the simplification 
of civil registration and securing the rights of all citizens in this respect, promoted the 
enforcement of the rights of persons with disabilities, promoted the role of women in building 
peace and promoted ethnic equality and civil engagement.
The Kyrgyz Republic is party to a number of international human rights conventions and has 
cooperated constructively with the UN human rights bodies. From 2016 to 2018 the country 
is a member of the UN Human Rights Council. However, the constitutional review led to the 
deletion of the article committing Kyrgyzstan to take measures to restore the rights of 
persons and/or compensate for damages if requested by international human rights bodies. 
Concurrently, a review of the mandate of the OSCE Centre has been initiated. 
 
Republic of Tajikistan
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country deteriorated, with a growing number 
of human rights violations. Tajikistan experienced increased political centralisation with 
authoritarian tendencies, and considerable restrictions were placed on freedom of assembly, 
association, the media and religion.
Nevertheless, the government did engage with the UN, collaborated with some civil society 
organisations ahead of UN reports and made efforts to improve freedom from torture. 
The EU’s priority is to protect basic political and media pluralism, to promote the personal 
safety of opposition activists and their relatives, to improve religious freedom and to foster 
the rights of women and children. The EU is also looking at the rights of the unemployed in 
terms of poverty and issues relating to radicalisation. 
There were various problems, especially in the fields of political pluralism and freedom of 
assembly. Following the ban on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) in August 
2015, its leaders were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in 2016, effectively silencing 
the most important voices of the opposition. The Tajik president was granted life-long personal 
immunity by means of a referendum in 2016. There was persistent pressure on the media, 
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and increasingly also on NGOs. Allegations of corruption were frequent. The OSCE office in 
Dushanbe reported problems relating to its human rights work. The overall space for political 
participation shrank in 2016, with President Rahmon serving as the elected president until 
2020, and close members of his family and his wider clan increasingly appointed to positions 
of high office. 
On a positive note, the government made active efforts to improve the rights of women and 
children as well as freedom from torture, especially in relation to persons in detention. To that 
end, it collaborated with civil society organisations. 
 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Tajikistan in 
various settings, including the Cooperation Council (February) and the Cooperation Committee 
(September). The annual human rights dialogue, held in June in Dushanbe, saw open discussions 
on a range of issues, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of 
religion, conditions in detention, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, statelessness and 
the rights of women and children.
The EU voiced concerns both formally and informally, including via statements, speeches and 
workshops, to encourage the Tajik government to ensure full respect for human rights, in 
line with its international commitments. The EU Delegation closely followed the trials of the 
IRPT leaders, and had numerous contacts with the Tajik government with regard to these 
trials and to the situation concerning freedom of the media. As part of its focus on freedom 
of expression, the EU Delegation has established a regular media breakfast for local and 
international journalists.
The EU Delegation has made it a systematic practice to hold civil society seminars, e.g. by 
organising the 7th Civil Society Seminar in Tajikistan in October 2016, which addressed the 
topic of radicalisation and violent extremism.
Following the sentencing of the opposition IRPT leaders to long terms of imprisonment in 
June, the HR/VP Spokesperson issued a public statement in June 2016 expressing the EU’s 
doubts about the legality of the trials, and calling on the Tajik government to guarantee the 
fundamental freedoms of all Tajik citizens even during security operations, as well as to 
uphold the rule of law. In the statement, the EU also expressed concerns about the potentially 
damaging effects the judgments could have on the overall cohesion of Tajik society. 
In June 2016 the European Parliament adopted a parliamentary resolution criticising the 
Tajik government for generally negative developments in many human rights fields. The EU 
coordinated closely with EU Member States and like-minded partners on several other human 
rights initiatives. 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). 
 
Four projects were ongoing in 2016, funded by an overall amount of just below EUR 1 million. 
The projects focused on the socio-economic and cultural rights of prisoners and ex-prisoners 
in Tajikistan (EUR 0.3 million); on empowering media and civil society activists to support 
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democratic reforms (EUR 0.22 million); on promoting the role and capacity of civil society 
to close the gap between society and democratisation processes (EUR 0.28 million); and on 
promoting political pluralism and fair elections through the creation of a platform for dialogue 
between political parties, NGOs and election authorities (EUR 0.18 million). These projects 
came to an end in 2016.
Five new projects were being called for in 2016, to be funded under the EIDHR by approximately 
EUR 2 million over several years.
Tajikistan is party to a number of international human rights conventions, and all key 
conventions have been ratified. The EU is also seeking to convince the Tajik government to 
sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Tajikistan underwent its review by the Working Group 
of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations as part of the Universal Periodic Reviews 
(UPR) process in September 2016. The review concluded that Tajikistan demonstrated a 
constructive approach and openness during the UPR cycle. Tajikistan has accepted 153 out of 
203 recommendations. 
Substantial progress in all areas would need to be achieved to firmly anchor Tajikistan on a 
positive trajectory of democratic reforms, political participation and freedom of expression.
Turkmenistan
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country remained worrying. While the 
constitution adopted in September 2016 provides for the protection and promotion of human 
rights, a major gap between the legislative framework and its practical implementation has 
led to continued human rights violations and shortcomings. Some positive steps were taken 
by the government in December by adopting an Ombudsman law. 
 
The EU’s priority is the continuation of capacity building of public services to implement 
provisions embedded in international conventions with full respect for human rights, supporting 
reforms of the judicial and prison systems as well as access to prisons, and supporting civil 
society and human rights defenders.
There was widespread disregard for civil liberties including restrictions on freedom of speech, 
the press, assembly, movement and religion. Arbitrary arrest and torture, as well as denial 
of due process and fair trial persisted, as did arbitrary interference with privacy, home, 
and correspondence. Furthermore, there were worrying signals that the authorities have 
intensified restrictions and limitations on freedom of movement, on the right to own, use and 
dispose of property and on freedom of information.
In the autumn of 2016, the president announced that the presidential elections in February 
2017 would for the first time have a multi-party character; three political parties and a total 
of nine registered candidates would compete in the elections. In the past years, no elections 
have been deemed free and fair by the OSCE/ODIHR and the upcoming elections, despite the 
participation of additional political parties, will hardly provide the voters with a genuine choice 
between political alternatives and are unlikely to secure the right of citizens to change the 
government through free and democratic elections.
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The International Labour Conference examined shortcomings of Turkmenistan in the 
implementation of the ILO Fundamental Elimination of Forced Labour Convention related to 
the widespread use of forced labour in cotton production. The EU called upon the government 
to bring its legislation in conformity and take effective measures to completely eliminate 
forced labour in cotton harvest. The ILC requested Turkmenistan to develop an action plan in 
the matter.
Some important laws and other documents providing for more efficient promotion and 
protection of human rights were adopted in 2016: an ambitious national action plan on human 
rights was adopted in January. It contains crucial reforms in the judiciary, socio-economic, 
cultural and political sectors, although the setting up of a monitoring mechanism for its 
implementation is still pending. A revised constitution was adopted in September, introducing 
for the first time in the country’s legal system the institution of a Commissioner for Human 
Rights; the Ombudsman Law was adopted in December. 
 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Turkmenistan 
in various settings, including the human rights dialogue and the joint committee. The annual 
human rights dialogue, which was held in May in Brussels, saw an open discussion of a range 
of issues, including prison conditions, reported cases of torture and enforced disappearances. 
The EU called on Turkmenistan to take further steps towards the effective implementation of 
judicial reforms to safeguard the rule of law as well as freedom of association, of expression 
and of belief. The EU also asked Turkmenistan to ease restrictions on civil society, including 
registration requirements, to establish a dialogue with civil society organisations and to provide 
information about the fate and whereabouts of disappeared prisoners. It also called for a 
number of specific prisoners whose names were not made public to be freed. The adoption 
of an Ombudsman law and the importance of the independence of this institution were also 
discussed. 
The EU and Turkmenistan constructively discussed human rights issues during the annual joint 
committee meeting in November in Brussels, and during the visits of the EUSR for Central Asia 
to Ashgabat in March and in November, accompanied by the EEAS Central Asia Division. 
The EU, together with UNDP and OHCHR, supported Turkmenistan in the drafting of its first 
national human rights action plan. The EU continued its support for the country with the 
training of Turkmen judges and lawyers on human rights conventions, and within its regional 
Rule of Law Platform, with seminars on the institution of the Ombudsman and civil society. 
The EU voiced its concerns on several human rights-related cases through verbal notes, OSCE 
statements and other steps in close coordination with EU MS and like-minded partners to 
encourage the Turkmen government to ensure full respect for human rights. 
At local level, the EU Liaison Office continued to encourage the authorities to ensure respect 
for human rights and hosted regular consultation meetings with civil society. The EU office 
also participated in a second visit to a Turkmen prison in December. 
 
In 2016, the EU continued the implementation of three human rights-related projects, at both 
bilateral and regional levels. Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human 
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Rights (EIDHR), it supported the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) with a EUR 0.7 million 
project for training seminars for Turkmen judges and lawyers on human rights conventions. 
Under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the EU Rule of Law Platform for Central 
Asia, a EUR 1.8 million regional project, organised seminars in Turkmenistan notably on the 
Ombudsman and on the role of civil society. A EUR 4.5 million bilateral project on ‘Support 
for Capacity Building in Public Administration’ started in October, aimed at increasing the 
qualifications of civil servants and institutional strengthening. 
Turkmenistan participated in the Annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meetings in 
2015 and 2016. In 2016, Turkmenistan reached out to the UNDP and OSCE for their comments 
and recommendations on the draft of the revised constitution. Turkmenistan hosts an OSCE 
Field Operation, OSCE Centre in Ashgabat, which works with the authorities on a number of 
human rights issues (rule of law, gender equality, media freedom, trafficking in human beings). 
Turkmenistan has not extended an open invitation to Special Procedures. 
Substantial progress needs to be achieved in order to bridge the major gap between the 
legislative framework and practical implementation of international human rights instruments 
and national laws on the protection and promotion of human rights. The election of the 
Ombudsman and the setting up of his office, as well as the establishment of the monitoring 
mechanism on the implementation of the national action plan on human rights, are still pending.
 
Republic of Uzbekistan
Despite recent developments and a number of positive signs, human rights challenges continued 
to exist across the board. The main areas of concern remained: respect for fundamental civil 
and political rights, the regulatory environment for civil society and prosecution on political 
grounds, the treatment of detainees/prevention of torture, and issues relating to the work of 
human rights defenders. Following the death of long-time leader Karimov and the election of 
President Mirziyoyev the overall human rights situation in the country seems to be improving, 
albeit starting from very problematic levels. Significant reforms have been launched to foster 
the independence of the judiciary and accountability of the administration, and to improve the 
business climate etc. A few prisoners of concern have been released64, but discordant moves 
also took place (e.g. placing jailed journalist M. Bekjanov in solitary confinement)
.
The EU’s priority is effectively addressing child and forced labour in the cotton harvest. 
While child labour has practically been eradicated, the eradication of forced labour needs 
to be closely monitored in cooperation with the ILO and other stakeholders, as requested by 
the European Parliament in its December resolution accompanying the final consent to the 
‘Textile Protocol’. With ILO Convention no. 87 Uzbekistan has now ratified all the major ILO 
conventions.
Many human rights concerns remained, in particular the detention of political prisoners, the 
arbitrary extension of prison sentences, allegations of torture, the overly strict regulation of 
NGOs, restrictions on freedom of expression, information, religion, assembly and association, 
and problems with corruption and impunity.
 
64. In addition, almost 40 000 ordinary prisoners are potentially eligible for a pardon as part of the annual general
 
amnesty (expected final number around 5 000).
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However, the new leadership has been making considerable efforts to address the grievances 
of the population, in particular through so-called ‘virtual offices’ in the administration where 
citizens can complain online and follow-up is promised. The creation of a ‘Business Ombudsman’, 
in addition to the existing Human Rights Ombudsman, constituted another positive example. 
Furthermore, the newly elected president raised the issue of MPs’ political accountability 
towards their constituencies and announced the implementation of the recently revamped 
anti-corruption law. The new leadership has also engaged in more open communication and 
seems to be more relaxed about criticism. 
A fully fledged OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission observed the December presidential 
elections for the first time and duly noted many systemic and technical shortcomings. While 
the electoral system did not allow for real alternatives to the incoming president, some 
improvements were recorded compared to previous elections. Moreover, the new president 
called for additional governance reforms to be implemented soon, e.g. the introduction of 
direct elections of regional governors (Khokims). He also proclaimed 2017 to be the ‘year of 
dialogue with the people and human interests’.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Uzbekistan 
in a number of settings, including the annual meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Subcommittee 
on justice, home affairs, human rights and related issues, which took place in November. 
Exchanges covered a broad range of issues and were constructive and friendly despite a 
number of difficult subjects being raised by both sides.
The EU also voiced concerns, or highlighted positive developments, through statements, 
speeches, interviews, formal and informal steps to encourage Uzbekistan’s government to 
ensure full respect for human rights. 
In 2016 the EU Delegation in Tashkent was not allowed to visit places of detention.
The European Parliament paid a visit to Uzbekistan in November. Members of the Delegation 
met with representatives of the authorities and HR defenders/civil society members.
 
In addition, the EU, in close coordination with EU Member States and like-minded partners, 
conducted several formal and informal outreach initiatives in respect of the national authorities 
in several human rights-related judiciary cases.
The EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the Development 
Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Four projects (two EIDHR, one 
IcSP and one DCI) totalling an amount of EUR 8 million supported reforms concerning child and 
forced labour in the cotton harvest, measures to reinforce the capacity of civil society in the 
fields of human rights, the promotion and protection of children’s rights, and the protection and 
promotion of the social, economic and cultural rights of vulnerable groups etc. In particular, 
the IcSP and DCI project have been supporting reforms and dialogue relating to cotton sector 
labour rights, including international monitoring of the cotton harvest and awareness-raising 
campaigns. As witnessed over the past two years of project implementation, international 
monitoring is allowed in the country, talking about the risk of forced labour is no longer a 
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taboo and child labour for picking cotton is no longer socially acceptable in Uzbekistan. The 
European Parliament recognised this progress in its 14 December vote consenting to the EU-
Uzbekistan Textile Protocol (to the Partnership & Cooperation Agreement), which had been 
suspended since 2011.
Uzbekistan is a party to most international human rights conventions. The EU continued to 
encourage Uzbekistan to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which 
would help to address persistent complaints about torture, as well as the creation of a national 
preventive mechanism (NPM).
In preparation for its third review by the Working Group of the Human Rights Council as part 
of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) process in 2018 and following up on the 2013 review, 
Uzbekistan adopted a national action plan (NAP) in 2014. For the implementation of this NAP, 
the National Human Rights Centre has now concluded a MoU with UNDP. 
 
Much will depend on the continuation and effective implementation of the reforms launched 
by the new leadership. The EU is keen to support this progress wherever possible and has 
started discussing possibilities for strengthened cooperation. In particular, any backsliding of 
labour standards in the cotton harvest should be prevented, in accordance with the Resolution 
of the European Parliament on the Textile Protocol. Egregious human rights violations should 
be an issue of the past. 
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VIII. Africa
African Union (AU) – Joint Africa-EU Strategy
Cooperation with the African Union Commission during 2016 focused on delivering on the 
joint commitments made at the November 2015 AU-EU human rights dialogue in Kigali. Good 
progress was made on a number of those commitments. In particular, the high-level dialogue 
on the promotion and protection of human rights was organised within the framework of the 
African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women (2016), held in 
Arusha in November. Joint work is ongoing on others, such as support for the development of 
an African policy framework on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business 
and Human Rights, and the promotion of the ratification of AU legal instruments on human 
rights and governance. The EU and AU made two joint statements in the field of human rights 
on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and 
the International Day of Democracy respectively. Joint statements by the EU and AU election 
observation teams deployed in Ghana and Tanzania (Zanzibar) have recently been published. 
 
The EU and AU human rights cooperation received a boost from the Pan-African Programme 
2016–2018, which provides for support for the various AU bodies and institutions and for civil 
society. It includes financial and technical assistance support for the African human rights 
system (the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Court on Human 
and Peoples’ Rights, the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the 
Pan-African Parliament). It also supports a programme for strengthening the AU’s election 
observation capacity and methodology, in particular as regards long-term observation. 
Furthermore, it includes support for the fight against female genital mutilation, managed 
by UNICEF/the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a significant component of which is 
cooperation with the African Union Commission. In addition, under the EIDHR, the EU supports 
the special mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the areas 
of freedom of association, abolition of the death penalty and women’s rights. 
Republic of Angola
In 2016 the human rights situation was characterized by shrinking political space ahead of 
parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for August 2017. 
The EU continued its support in fully implementing the Angolan constitution, in particular as 
regards the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, association and peaceful 
assembly and arbitrary detention.
The independence of the judiciary was better ensured in 2016 than in previous years. A political 
activist detained in Cabinda (on grounds of rebellion against the state) was released upon 
decision the Supreme Court. Moreover, in the case of the ‘15+2’ young activists, the 17 activists 
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who had been found guilty of preparatory acts of rebellion against the state were subject 
to a general Amnesty Law and were thus released and their cases terminated. However, 
recent deaths (including a 14-year-old boy shot in the head) during the demolition of illegally 
constructed houses in the vicinity of the new airport in the capital Luanda are an example of 
recurrent unjustified excess in the use of police/military force.
 
A new legislative media package that further restricts the freedom of the media was recently 
approved by the National Assembly. The four bills comprising the new media legislative 
package give a new supervisory body (the Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body) 
control of all mass media outlets, including social media and the internet. The media law could 
make for censorship and limit fundamental freedoms. The new package also retains the crime 
of defamation and includes references to ‘fraudulent sources’ and to the ‘illicit production of 
information’, elements which could have a negative impact on investigative journalism.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the Angolan 
authorities. The EU has encouraged Angola to ensure full respect for human rights. The EU, 
in close coordination with EU Member States and like-minded partners, conducted several 
formal and informal outreach initiatives in respect of the national authorities in several 
human rights-related judiciary cases. The EU Delegation and MS Embassies in the country 
issued a local statement on 29 March 2016 in response to the convictions of the 15+2 young 
activists, voicing reservations regarding the guarantees of due legal process and the principle 
of proportionality. Two statements were issued by the HRVP Spokesperson on the occasion 
of the Cabinda political activist’s prison sentence and his release from jail, and charges were 
dropped.
The EU Delegation also maintains a permanent dialogue with civil society representatives, 
international organisations and other donors active in the country. 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), 
the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the Civil Social Organisations and Local 
Authorities (CSO-LA) programmes. The EIDHR and CSO-LA allocations were allocated in 2016 
to support civil society organisations working to improve human rights conditions in Angola. A 
local call for proposals focusing on two relevant priorities - access to justice with a particular 
focus on paralegal support for vulnerable sections of the population, and civic education 
in view of the forthcoming elections - was launched in 2016 and three national NGOs were 
selected. 
 
In parallel, four 10th EDF projects, two of which were regional (PALOP65 -Timor-Leste), were 
launched and made for much needed improvement in various governance areas, such as 
oversight of public finance, justice for children and fight against corruption.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants concluded a country visit in May 
2016 with recommendations. 
65. Group of Portuguese-speaking African countries
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The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and the Committee on Economic, Social 
and Cultural Rights considered the fourth and fifth periodic reports on Angola and adopted 
several observations at its meeting on 24 June 2016. Angola is preparing its mid-term 
Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) for next year’s discussions.
In relation to economic rights, the fall in the price of oil is having a significant impact on the 
most vulnerable sections of the population. Also, the government’s capacity to intervene has 
also decreased considerably. 
Land governance and access to land are very important issues which should be monitored. 
The occupation of land, the development of agribusiness and the extension of building plans 
will continue to collide with traditional communities which live off the land and with illegal/
legal constructions which have sprung up around the main urban areas.
NGOs continue to face registration requirements imposed by the 2015 NGOs Law, which are 
already causing the cessation of some international financing, thus further limiting the local 
NGOs’ capacity to act. 
Republic of Benin
Benin stands out among the West African countries thanks to its good human rights condition, 
namely its positive record in terms of civil and political rights. However, in 2016 the High 
Authority of Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) decided to suspend certain private media. 
Access by the opposition and civil society to public media, in particular national television, 
deteriorated significantly in 2016. 
 
The human rights priorities identified by the EU for Benin for the period 2016-2020 are: 
protection of the rights of the child, women’s rights, economic and social rights and in 
particular access to basic services, the fight against corruption and impunity and access to 
justice.
The situation of children’s rights remains a matter of concern: serious practices limit their 
rights, in particular the phenomenon of children placed in foster families and exploited, the 
persistence of forced or early marriage (one in 10 children marries before the age of 15 and 
three in 10 before the age of 18), the marginalisation or even infanticide of so-called ‘child 
witches’, and sexual abuse in schools, sometimes leading to early pregnancy. According to 
the Global Slavery Index 2016, 32 000 people are victims of modern slavery in Benin, through 
domestic work (the practice of ‘vidomegon’, domestic children), forced labour (agriculture, 
fishing, construction) and sexual exploitation.
The widespread practices of fraud and corruption undermine the population’s social and 
economic rights. The new government has undertaken to remedy the situation but the 
results are yet to be assessed. The weakness and slowness of the judicial system, as well 
as corruption in that sector, sometimes lead to arbitrary arrests and detentions, prolonged 
pre-trial detention, denial of justice and impunity. There are reports of cases of lynching and 
the excessive use of force by the police. The situation in prisons remains precarious as the 
conditions of detention are miserable and in certain places the mere detention conditions 
violate human dignity.
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Benin completed an electoral cycle with legislative and local elections in 2015 followed by 
presidential elections in 2016. They were assessed by external observers as credible, free 
and fair. President Patrice Talon was elected in March 2016, marking another democratic and 
peaceful transition of power. He started with an ambitious pro-private sector and institutional 
reform agenda, vowing to end the corruptive vices of the previous regime. Implementation of 
this agenda, however, has been rather slow to date.
 
In 2016, the EU held a regular political dialogue with the government of Benin, in various 
formats. EU Delegations and Member States raised several issues with the government 
of Benin at different levels, including how to promote respect for children’s and women’s 
rights and their empowerment and ensure a proper follow-up to the recommendations of 
the Universal Periodical Review, through outreach initiatives, demarches and regular Heads 
of Mission meetings. The EU and its Member States are regularly involved in the sectoral 
groups of the technical financial partners (TFP) in all areas, such as justice and social sectors 
including gender and social protection.
The common civil society support roadmap for 2014-2017 continued to support civil society 
organisations in fostering the participation of citizens, the promotion of human rights and the 
facilitation of access to basic social services for the Beninese people. In addition, civil society 
support programmes were implemented with the aim of strengthening citizens’ monitoring 
and accountability mechanisms, both centrally and locally. Moreover, important work has 
been done to support youth organisations.
Action was also taken to support social promotion centres (SPCs) throughout the country, 
which continue to provide counselling services to people who have suffered violations of their 
rights. Gender issues are well integrated into the programmes of the EU and its Member States.
Through the establishment of a National Integrity System (NIS) by Transparency International 
and the monitoring of performance within this framework, in 2016 the EU identified the 
concrete steps needed to ensure more effective controls with the aim of eradicating corruption 
in Benin. In November 2016 the Council of Ministers adopted the action plan proposed by the 
consortium of NGOs.
In 2016 the EU and its MS supported the extension and operationalisation of the national 
sectoral justice policy (PNDSJ). Through the Justice Support Project (PAJ), the EU supports 
Benin’s efforts to improve the effectiveness of judicial mechanisms of the first instance and 
appeal. The Justice Sector Group maintained a constant dialogue with the authorities on all 
matters of interest to the implementation of the PNDSJ, including the strengthening of the 
judiciary and the planning of a judicial assistance mechanism.
 
Continued EU support for the implementation of the government’s programme to improve 
living conditions in prisons has led to more favourable conditions for inmates, including 
detained juveniles. 
All projects and programmes generally receive good coverage in the Beninese media. The 
speeches delivered on important occasions, the documents distributed and the press releases 
make it possible to emphasise the EU’s and MS’ involvement in human rights issues.
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Benin continued to cooperate with United Nations agencies and other agencies in the field of 
human rights. The country is an ally of the European Union on a number of issues, including 
the death penalty and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In 2016 the representatives of the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture visited the 
country.
While the balance sheet for civil and political rights is considered positive, the rights of the most 
vulnerable, children’s rights and women’s rights are still far below the accepted standard, 
even compared to the situation in some neighbouring countries. In addition, there is a strong 
acceptance among society of numerous violations, which makes effective protection difficult.
Republic of Botswana
Botswana generally has a satisfactory human rights track record, but with some serious 
shortcomings. Botswana is indeed the only southern African country that continues to 
apply the death penalty. The LGBTI situation has not been improved, although homosexual 
acts considered to be a criminal offence are rarely prosecuted, and societal acceptance of 
homosexuality is increasing in the country. Further on, the High Court confirmed the previous 
decision allowing an NGO campaigning for the human rights of LGBTI persons to register 
officially and the government has lost the appeal. 
 
The situation of the San/Basarwa minority remains difficult and is not adequately addressed. 
Threats to freedom of speech with anecdotal evidence of attempts to influence the media and 
growing tensions between the executive and the judiciary, as well as within the judiciary, are 
at stake. 
The EU continues to work on the issue of capital punishment and the rights of persons 
belonging to minorities, including the rights of the San/Basarwa minority. Strengthening the 
capacities of local human rights organisations is also among the EU’s priorities. 
Since independence in 1966, at least 48 convicted criminals have been executed. The last 
execution took place in May 2016. The case was disputed in particular because an assessment 
of mental health was not undertaken as part of the legal proceedings or taken into account in 
the clemency process. Relatives are not informed of the execution beforehand, and the body 
is not released afterwards. 
The EU is engaged with Botswana within the Botswana Article 8 Political Dialogue. However, 
no dialogue took place in 2016 due to the busy agenda of the Foreign Minister, running for the 
chairmanship of the African Union Commission. The EU Delegation repeatedly raised human 
rights issues on several occasions, including via demarches with the Ministry of International 
Affairs and Cooperation (MIAC), mostly at PS, Deputy PS and Director level. In 2016, the EU 
Missions continued their regular exchanges with local human rights organisations as well as 
with other key partners such as the US and the UN (UNICEF, UNAIDS). 
The EU Delegation concretely supports human rights CSOs via the European Development 
Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). In June 
2016, a local call for proposals was launched aimed at promoting civic education on principles 
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of democracy, participation, rights and responsibilities, at improving access to government 
services for indigenous children, women and/or men and at empowering women by 
strengthening female participation in decision-making structures at all levels. Furthermore, 
the Delegation politically supports human rights defenders and their actions through press 
statements and via the Article 8-based dialogues.
 
Botswana often shares and supports the EU position in several international fora (UNGA, HRC, 
ICC). Botswana is currently a member of the Human Rights Council. The government is not 
shy in voicing its opinion, whether it is in support of the ICC, respecting constitutional limits to 
presidential terms or denouncing human rights or international law violations (e.g. in North 
Korea, Syria or Zimbabwe). The required demarches have been conducted by the EU Missions 
vis-à-vis local authorities in the context of HRC sessions and UNGA 3rd Committee meetings, 
as well as before major international meetings (CEDAW, ICC). 
At regional level, Botswana had still not signed/ratified the SADC Gender Protocol by 2016. 
Botswana and Mauritius remain the only two countries in SADC that have not yet signed up to 
the Gender Protocol.
Botswana underwent its second review by the Working Group of the Human Rights Council 
as part of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) process in 2013. EU Member States present 
in Botswana – France, Germany and the UK – and the EU Delegation have repeatedly offered 
their support for the government in the implementation of the recommendations. To date, 
the government has not come forward to request any support and there is very little visible 
progress on the accepted recommendations. However, the fact that MIAC is talking to NGOs in 
the preparation phase of their next UPR report is a positive sign. 
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso has undergone a radical transformation following a period of turmoil in 2014 
and 2015. During a popular uprising in this period, President Compaoré was ousted. This 
was followed by a year of transition, a failed military coup in September 2015 and a major 
terrorist attack on civilians in Ouagadougou in January 2016. President Roch Kaboré was 
elected following a flawless and credible electoral process in November 2015 and took office 
in January 2016.
The EU’s priorities include security and stability, improving the judicial system and prison 
conditions, combating the economic exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings and 
forced labour and, finally, through a strategy on gender inequality, improving women’s rights.
 
Democracy has made some progress in the past two years, setting an example for the rest of 
Africa, but the country is facing important social and economic challenges due to widespread 
poverty, a high youth unemployment rate and unsustainable demographic growth. The most 
vulnerable groups are women, in particular young women, as well as children and persons 
with disabilities. 
Due to the absence of state controls across the border with Mali, the presence of terrorist 
groups in Mali and Niger as well as a very challenging rise in violent radicalisation coupled 
with relatively weak security forces, the security situation in the north of the country is 
deteriorating. This may result in a further deterioration of basic human rights in the north.
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Civil society plays a dynamic role in Burkina Faso, and was decisive in the ousting of President 
Compaoré. Freedom of association and expression is effective and guaranteed by the constitution.
An independent commission has been established to draft a new constitution. Its mandate 
included the strengthening of democracy through an improved institutional equilibrium, 
the independence of the judiciary, strengthening accountability, the rule of law and human 
rights, in particular women’s rights, and environmental rights. Abolition of the death penalty 
is included in the draft text to be adopted by referendum, but this may encounter opposition 
during ongoing consultations. The death penalty has not been implemented since 1998.
The mandate and autonomy of the National Human Rights Commission were strengthened by 
law in March 2016, in conformity with international standards. 
The EU has accompanied Burkina Faso in the transition process and mobilised all its instruments 
to support the strengthening of state capacities and economic and social development. A 
number of high-level visits took place in 2016, including a mission by Commissioner Mimica 
and EU Special Representative for the Sahel Losada. As security is a special concern, it was 
decided to strengthen cooperation through the IcSP and EU Emergency Trust Fund. In addition, 
support will be provided for basic social services in remote areas in the north of the country. 
The Article 8 Political Dialogue took place in July 2016 and addressed security, justice, 
institutional reform and human rights issues.
 
The EU and its Member States support the justice and home affairs ministries in the control 
of local self-defence militias known as ‘Koglweogos’, which are responsible for human rights 
abuses. The main axes of support include strengthening the judiciary’s territorial network, the 
professionalisation of the judiciary, access to justice, human rights training targeting different 
groups (security forces, media, magistrates) and schools. New projects will address child 
labour in gold mines and prison conditions. 
Human rights defenders, including female HRDs, are supported through the provision inter alia 
of legal aid.
Civil society organisations benefit from an EU programme aimed at improving prison conditions 
(sanitary conditions, legal advice, reinsertion). A reduction in pre-trial detention is among the 
indicators to be monitored. The EU and Member States are focusing their support on the 
protection of women, such as the promotion of action against violence and genital mutilation, 
and the protection of children, in particular vulnerable children, and the integration of youth 
delinquents. 
Burkina Faso’s progress in the area of human rights has been driven by an action plan prepared 
on the basis of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The latest UPR was conducted in 2013 and 
included 165 recommendations, in particular concerning issues relating to child protection, 
prevention and repression of torture, the fight against corruption and the independence of the 
judiciary. As an example, since the revision of the constitution by the transition government, 
instead of the President of Faso, the President of the Court of Cassation chairs the Council 
superior to the Magistrate. 
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Future EU actions include support for the consultation process on constitutional reform; 
civil society in raising awareness for human rights among different groups, in particular 
young people, and in its contribution to democratic governance; civic education and actions 
in order to prevent radicalisation; the judiciary and the improvement of prison conditions; 
birth registration and the civil registry; human rights in illegal mining; human rights and the 
consolidation of the rule of law in the reform of the security system.
 
Republic of Burundi
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in Burundi continued to be marked by systematic 
human rights violations and abuse including assassinations, forced disappearances and cases 
of torture and mistreatment, while impunity continued; moreover, fundamental freedoms are 
seriously limited. 
The EU’s priority is to continue to focus on the numerous violations that have taken place over 
the past few years, as specified in the Council Decision of 14 March 2016 under Article 96 of 
the EU-ACP66 partnership agreement (Cotonou Agreement)67. 
The main issues at stake concern gross and systematic violations of the right to life, the 
use of torture and degrading treatments by the police, sexual and other forms of gender-
based violence, a lack of independent investigation, notably in cases of forced disappearance, 
widespread impunity, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and the absence of an independent 
judiciary and fair trials.
Further shortcomings concern fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech and 
expression, of assembly, of demonstration and of the press, which are under particular 
threat. Gender inequality remains deeply entrenched in the country, where little progress is 
being made. 
No improvement was detected in 2016, while, according to the Office of the High Commissioner 
for Human Rights in Burundi, a worrying deterioration in the situation has been witnessed 
mainly in respect of forced disappearances. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Burundi in the 
context of the Council Decision of 14 March 2016 (Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement). 
Human rights issues were systematically raised in those discussions, both informally and 
formally (re-examination of the Decision), as human rights and fundamental freedoms are at 
the heart of the commitments expected to be made by the government of Burundi. However, 
the Burundian authorities denied all the allegations and expressed a willingness to investigate 
in response to the efforts made by the international community (chiefly the UN and the AU).
 
Although the EU has tried to maintain regular contacts with local civil society, the annual 
formal meeting with Burundian human rights defenders and activists was not organised in 
2016 since the most prominent defenders had to flee the country and those remaining in 
Burundi had to either be very discreet or go into hiding.
66. African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States
67. Partnership Agreement 2000/483/EC between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one 
 
part, and the EU, of the other part
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In such a difficult context, where human rights defenders have to conduct discreet activities 
and visible support is counterproductive, the EU co-financed two EIDHR projects which are 
being implemented by international NGOs in partnership with local CSOs. One project aims at 
supporting HRDs and the other one at enhancing the fight against gender-based violence. In 
addition, a regional ‘peace and security’ project, implemented by the International Conference 
of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), is designed to strengthen inter alia the prevention and 
repression of sexual violence against women and children. The EU also supported, via the EIDHR 
emergency fund, human rights defenders and journalists in danger because of their daily work.
Since 2008, Burundi has established accountable and responsive institutions and is party 
to several international and regional human rights conventions. However, these institutions 
are not independent and the relevant human rights laws and conventions are either not 
implemented or - in many cases - ignored. In 2016 Burundi vigorously challenged several 
international reports recording serious violations of human rights. In October 2016 the 
government suspended its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for HR in 
Burundi, and called upon the Office to review the seat agreement. 
In October 2016 Burundi gave notice of its withdrawal from the ICC. 
The government of Burundi still maintains a worrying attitude of denial and confirms its 
culture of impunity whenever the human rights situation in the country is addressed by the EU 
or other international stakeholders. 
Republic of Cabo Verde
Cabo Verde’s overall human rights record remained positive in 2016, owing to solid political 
institutions, an independent press, an independent judiciary and a functioning democratic 
political system that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. 
 
Despite its overall positive record on human rights and democratic governance, a number of 
human rights issues remain of concern in Cabo Verde, namely reported police violence towards 
prisoners and detainees, delayed trials, trafficking in human beings, instances of child sexual 
exploitation including in the context of sex tourism, child labour and gender-based violence.
In 2016 the EU continued to engage in regular dialogue on the consolidation of democracy and 
human rights in the context of the EU-Cabo Verde Special Partnership, which provides for a 
reinforced political dialogue on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. 
The Special Partnership’s action plan pays special attention to women’s and children’s rights, 
the situation of migrants, combating domestic violence, improving the judicial system, fighting 
corruption and promoting good governance. Furthermore, the ratification and effective 
implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environmental 
protection and climate change and good governance continue to be monitored under the EU 
GSP+ arrangements to which Cabo Verde is party. The EU also unveiled in December 2016 its 
Gender Action Plan (GAP) for Cabo Verde for 2016-2020.
Cabo Verde also remained one of the rare cases of a stable and well-functioning multi-party 
parliamentary democracy in Africa. In 2016 three peaceful and fair elections took place in the 
country, which resulted in a new government under Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva in 
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March and the re-election of President Jorge Carlos Fonseca in the presidential elections of 
October.
In 2016 the EU financed one project under the EIDHR on ‘Support for trading partners including 
GSP+ beneficiary countries to effectively implement ILS (international labour standards) and 
comply with reporting obligations’. Cabo Verde is the only African country that benefited from 
this project.
The EU conducted demarches on human rights-related issues including the ICC. 
 
Internationally, Cabo Verde has ratified most international and regional human rights 
instruments, and has remained a staunch supporter of the ICC. However, the country’s good 
record of ratification has not been matched by its corresponding reporting obligations. The 
weak capacity of the country’s small administration largely explains the persistent reporting 
delays. As an example, in December 2016 the UN Committee on Torture reviewed the situation 
in the country with regard to the Convention on Torture and made a number of observations 
in the absence of a country report.
Despite some progress having been achieved in recent years, gender-based violence and 
social and economic discrimination against women continue to be entrenched in the more 
rural parts of Cabo Verde’s society. This is an area where progress is needed. Another area for 
priority action is the independence of the existing National Commission for Human Rights and 
Citizenship established in 2004. A decision to align the status and means of the Commission 
to the Paris Principles is still pending in parliament.
Republic of Cameroon
In 2016 Cameroon confronted the security threat posed by Boko Haram in the extreme north, 
with serious human rights violations being perpetrated by the terrorist group and allegations 
of violations of human rights resulting from the response to this threat by the security forces.
Civil rights such as freedom of expression including through social media and freedom of 
assembly came under pressure, especially during civil protests and strikes in the north-
western and south-western regions, where the grievances of the English-speaking minorities 
were expressed.
2016 was also marked by continued worrying detention conditions, problematic access to 
justice and systematic violations of vulnerable minorities and the rights of human rights 
defenders.
The EU’s priorities have been the consolidation of democratic processes including the electoral 
processes, the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to vulnerable 
groups/minorities, the fight against the death penalty and the improvement of the justice 
system, as well as the protection of human rights defenders and their rights. Access to basic 
services, especially in areas affected by insecurity, has also been a key concern.
 
Besides the broad issue of access to basic services, including in relation to insecurity or 
dramatic humanitarian situations in the far north and east, the main human rights issues are 
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linked to detention conditions, access to justice, human rights violations and abuse within 
the framework of the fight against terrorism, violations of vulnerable minorities’ rights 
(e.g. children, women, LGBTI, etc.), restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association, as well as threats to freedom of expression.
However, the new Penal Code adopted in July 2016 brought about a few positive changes: it 
criminalises genital mutilation, introduces alternatives to imprisonment such as non-custodial 
sentences and prohibits expulsions from the matrimonial home outside a judicial framework. 
The Code also attempts to criminalise corruption in administrative competitions. On the other 
hand, the new Code did not abolish the death penalty and still regards homosexuality as a 
criminal offence. It remains to be seen how some of the key provisions of the new Code will 
be implemented in practice. 
The EU continued to address human rights and democratisation issues in its political dialogue 
with the authorities, both in formal sessions and informally. Several demarches were also 
carried out on a number of human rights issues, in order to advocate for, among other 
principles, the abolition of the death penalty and the ratification of the Rome Statute. Several 
issues were raised in informal bilateral contacts, including on the matter of respect for human 
rights in the fight against terrorism and on access to basic public services in areas affected 
by insecurity.
The EU attended and actively participated in workshops, conferences and other public events 
at which human rights issues were discussed, including the prevention of electoral violence, 
the launch of the LGBTI civil society observatory, gender equality, the role of youth, Human 
Rights Day events and detention conditions. The EU also attended several court hearings 
in the trial of Ahmed Abba, RFI’s (Radio France International) correspondent charged with 
‘complicity with terrorist acts’.
The EU maintained a regular dialogue and consultations with local civil society representatives 
and human rights defenders. The EU attended events organised by those stakeholders 
throughout the year.
 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
European Development Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human 
Rights (EIDHR). The objectives of the call for proposals launched in 2015 are to support 
participatory democracy including the parliament; to promote freedom of expression, 
freedom of the press, freedom of association and peaceful assembly; to promote dialogue 
and civic education towards stability and peaceful coexistence among communities; and to 
contribute to a climate of trust around electoral processes. In 2016 two projects were aimed 
at contributing to participatory democracy and promoting civil and political rights. In addition, 
other projects addressed further issues which include the improved role of the parliament, 
the gender balance in politics, youth participation in the public debate and the role of media 
and civil society in electoral processes.
Further projects tackled issues such as violence against women, the situation of women in 
various regions, the participation of indigenous peoples in forest management, improvements 
to detention conditions and justice for juveniles. Finally, a regional project also implemented 
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in Cameroon has been contributing to the promotion of the rights of environmental defenders 
in the Congo Basin. The EU also launched a call for proposals concerning a programme to 
support responsible governance of land tenure by promoting the Voluntary Guidelines on the 
Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National 
Food Security.
Cameroon has ratified a number of key international human rights instruments, such as the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, 
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. On the other hand, some instruments – 
such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment – have been signed but not yet ratified. The signing and 
ratification of other instruments such as the Second Optional Protocol to the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims to abolish the death penalty, have been 
repeatedly rejected by Cameroon within the framework of the UPR. Cameroon’s latest UPR 
was in 2013 and the next will be in May 2018.
 
Central African Republic
In 2016 the persistent impunity in Central African Republic (CAR) contributed to continued 
instability and insecurity across the country and in Bangui. The 2015-2016 electoral process 
(legislative and presidential elections) remained peaceful without any major security incidents 
reported and with a high level of participation of women voting in these elections. The 
deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the 
Central African Republic (MINUSCA) undoubtedly helped and facilitated a largely peaceful 
end to the political transition in CAR. However, the newly elected authorities are still facing 
widespread human rights violations and the presence of armed groups in most of the country. 
The justice system remains weak and inefficient, and the government is unable to give any 
reassurance to the population in the field of the rule of law and the fight against impunity.
The justice system in CAR, already weak before the conflict, was further undermined by 
fighting in and around the capital as records were destroyed and legal services forced to flee. 
Even today, there are few functioning courts or magistrates outside the capital Bangui, and 
just eight of the country’s 35 prisons are functional. Detainees are housed in crumbling and 
crowded buildings resulting in unhealthy conditions. Poor security has led to repeated prison 
breaks.
The conflict in the Central African Republic resulted in one fifth of the population fleeing their 
homes, either within the country or to neighbouring countries, especially to Cameroon and 
Chad. In the current post-conflict situation, the occupation of plots of land and the plundering 
of houses or businesses may be exploited for private purposes and may permanently hinder 
the dynamics of the return of refugees and displaced populations. In that context, marked 
by violence throughout the territory and the abuses committed by armed groups since 2013, 
the state of play concerning cases of sexual abuse and violence against the population, and in 
particular women and young people, is extremely worrying. 
 
The persistent presence of armed groups in Central African territory and the security chaos 
resulting from Seleka’s seizure of power have permanently affected the living conditions of 
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children and families. The armed groups have recruited large numbers of children - according 
to UNICEF more than 10 000 minors - to perform daily domestic tasks, or also as warriors. 
Moreover, the operationalisation of the Special Criminal Court, established by law in June 2015, 
is becoming a key priority for the reconciliation process. CAR authorities have taken steps 
toward the establishment of the court, with the support of MINUSCA. Calls for nominations 
from states for certain positions such as international judges and other staff were launched 
on November 2016, while the recruitment process for national positions has recently begun.
In 2016 the EU concentrated its interventions in the field of justice through the RESEJEP68 project 
(Rehabilitation of the Justice and Police Sectors - EDF), mainly aiming at fighting impunity, the 
restoration of state authority, the institutional reinforcement of justice administration, the 
modernisation of the law, improvements to the organisation and functioning of the courts and 
the training of judicial staff.
Furthermore, in 2016 the European Union pursued its efforts to improve the human rights 
situation in the country, focusing on a regular dialogue with the new government and strongly 
supporting President Touadera’s political will to improve the overall human rights situation. 
With the relaunching of the Article 8 Political Dialogue under the Cotonou Agreement in the 
second half of 2016, the EU and its Member States are initiating a deepened and constant 
dialogue with the Central African government. Shortcomings and challenges relating to the 
human rights situation in the country and the fight against impunity require continued follow-
up efforts. In 2016 the EU and its Member States broadened the scope of their action in CAR 
by adopting a comprehensive approach, including a CSDP mission (EU training mission for 
national forces, FACA) and the continuity of the EU Trust Fund - Fond Bekou.
 
In 2016 the EU issued several statements. For instance, an EU local statement was published 
on the ratification by the Central African Republic of the Optional Protocol to the Convention 
against Torture in October 2016. The HRVP’s spokesperson’s office also issued declarations 
condemning recent exactions and killings in civilian populations or targeting MINUSCA forces, 
which could constitute war crimes. 
The EU priorities identified for a human rights strategy in the Central African Republic focus on 
several aspects. It is essential to further encourage the ongoing actions aimed at rebuilding the 
judicial system, restoring the functioning of the criminal chain and securing and rehabilitating 
the prison system. 
In 2016 several projects were funded by the EU under the European Instrument for Democracy 
and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and the 
EU Trust Fund for CAR - Fond Bekou. Three EIDHR projects are currently ongoing to build up 
the capacities of civil society organisations. These projects mainly aim at improving access 
to justice for people in vulnerable situations, guaranteeing the effective exercise of the rights 
of the population, fighting against impunity through local and national stakeholders and 
supporting victims of international crimes.
68. French acronyme for Réhabilitation des secteurs de la justice et de la police
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In addition, the IcSP supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 
(OHCHR) through the Human Rights Division – MINUSCA, focusing on building up local civil 
society capacities. This was also in line with the OHCHR strategy for CAR for 2014-2017, which 
focuses inter alia on the fight against impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule 
of law. Through this project, the EU has helped to ensure better understanding and increase 
awareness of the human rights situation among the international community, gathering 
information relating to human rights violations throughout the country, and providing reliable 
information to decision-makers. In addition, the project allowed the OHCHR to conduct regular 
monitoring and investigations where human rights violations and abuses have been reported. 
Furthermore, training sessions were provided for civil society counterparts to enable them to 
carry out monitoring activities in the country.
The IcSP also financed a project on the promotion and protection of housing, land and property 
rights (LTP) for IDPs and refugees, including working on encouraging them to return home.
 
The Central African Republic cooperates regularly and thoroughly with the Office of the 
High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. Pending the political transition in CAR, the 
government was able to present its country report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 
November 2013. In addition, an interactive dialogue on CAR was organised by the session of 
the Human Rights Council in June 2016. Since 2014, the mandate of the OHCHR Independent 
Expert has accompanied and encouraged the authorities to take necessary and appropriate 
measures in the field of the fight against impunity and to strengthen dialogue on the human 
rights situation in the country. 
Republic of Chad
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in Chad remained adverse. Boko Haram constituted 
a threat and displaced tens of thousands of people in the region. The Chadian authorities were 
also accused of restricting freedoms and cracking down on the opposition; the security forces 
regularly used excessive force, against a background of impunity. 
In late 2016 legislative changes were introduced, in particular establishing the abolition of the 
death penalty (except for terrorism cases), but the new Penal Code has yet to be consolidated. 
The Extraordinary African Court in Dakar sentenced former Chadian president Hissene Habre 
to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. This African court initiative, supported by 
the EU, has become a landmark victory and sets an example for international justice.
The EU worked on the basis of five priorities: democratic principles (including political 
participation and civil society), the security forces, justice, the rights of vulnerable people 
(women, children, refugees/IDPs) and the protection of human rights defenders.
Serious problems derived especially from the overwhelming domination exerted by President 
Idriss Deby and his political party Mouvement Patriotique du Salut on the executive and 
legislative branches, while the judiciary also lacked independence and capacity. 
 
Nepotism and corruption are firmly entrenched and the lack of governmental transparency 
aggravated the financial and economic crisis that the country is facing. In February 2016 a 
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young girl alleged that she had been raped by a group of high-ranking officials’ children, who 
remained unpunished. The case provoked several civil society protests and remains a cause of 
public outrage and mobilisation. It also confirms that gender-based violence, including against 
children, is widespread in the country, which is ranked low in international indices mainly with 
regard to female genital mutilation and child marriage. 
Other human rights problems include the widespread repression of political and civil 
society contestation and the abusive security forces. Demonstrations and gatherings were 
systematically prohibited in 2016. The government placed the Lake Chad area under a state 
of emergency, and de facto maintained a militarised political approach in the north of the 
country.
In terms of press freedom, the local press was freely published, but social media (Facebook, 
WhatsApp, Twitter) were intermittently blocked. The authorities also disconnected the 
internet and SMS services at times, and three French journalists working for TV5 Monde saw 
their accreditations temporarily suspended. 
In April 2016 presidential elections took place in a relatively orderly manner and with the 
participation of the opposition; a biometric census was used. President Deby, who has been 
in power since the 1990 coup d’état, won the first round with 60% of the vote. However, the 
process was tainted by irregularities, detentions and trials of civil society representatives. 
There was also controversy surrounding the ‘disappearance’ of and reprisal action taken 
against dozens of individuals in the military forces who may have voted for the opposition. 
Legislative elections (due to take place in 2015) were postponed sine die. 
The National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Penal Code in December 2016, proposing 
the abolition of the death penalty (except in cases of terrorism), the criminalisation of child 
marriage and gender-based violence and the introduction of war crimes and torture in the 
Code. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Chad through 
political dialogue (Article 8) and dialogue with the National Assembly, and by means of 
statements, workshops and informal measures. 
 
For the presidential elections, the EU supported an Electoral Expert Mission and financed an 
awareness project. Support for the reform of security forces took place with several forums, 
training sessions and joint action on guidelines and on a police behaviour observatory. The EU 
worked in close coordination with EU Member States on this topic. 
Work with human rights defenders proved difficult in Chad. Five HRDs were arrested prior to 
the elections and convicted of organising peaceful protests. The HRVP Spokesperson issued a 
public statement, and at local level the EU Delegation visited the HRDs in prison and attended 
the trial. 
As part of its focus on all forms of gender-based violence, the EU financed actions (through 
several cooperation instruments) on awareness and access to justice. An assessment identified 
ways to incorporate the gender dimension in all projects financed under the 11th EDF.
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In 2016, within the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human 
Rights (EIDHR), five projects were implemented to protect and promote children’s 
and women’s rights throughout Chad. With regard to justice and police reform, two 
EU projects ended in 2014 and 2016 and the European Union started to work with the 
relevant ministries and other main stakeholders on the identification of new programmes 
which should commence in 2017.
 
The revised Penal Code (adopted by the Assembly in 2016) will allow Chad to fulfil some 
of the human rights obligations ensuing from international treaties and conventions that 
it has ratified in the past. 
Although Chad is a party to the Rome Statute, its support for the International Criminal 
Court could not be taken for granted. Sudan’s President Al-Bashir visited Chad freely in 
August 2016, despite the ICC indictment. 
The promulgation and actual implementation of the revised Penal Code deserves 
further monitoring, in particular in the case of the death penalty, which is still allowed 
for terrorism cases, and for which the law could be subject to political interpretation. 
Political rights and freedoms constitute challenging areas for further progress, as well 
as the balance of powers (the executive dominates while the judiciary is weak) and 
inclusive governance. 
 
Legislative elections and decentralisation are pending. While the Chadian security forces 
have the reputation of being effective in terms of combating international terrorism, 
they are also notorious for their abuse of civilian local populations, and benefit from 
nepotism and impunity.
Union of the Comoros
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in Comoros was marked by an increase 
in violence against women and children. Female parliamentary and governmental 
representation is extremely low. Some positive steps were taken by the government 
including the adoption of a national roadmap against gender-based violence in December. 
Problems still persist, especially in the fields of gender equality, corruption, lack of 
confidence in the judicial system and the overall culture of impunity. Comoros has not 
ratified important international conventions in the field of human rights and has not yet 
abolished capital punishment. 
The EU’s human rights priorities in the country are the effective tackling of gender-
based violence, encouraging respect for children’s rights, justice reform, the fight 
against corruption, reinforcement of the national institutions and electoral reforms. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Comoros 
in various formats, including through frequent missions, public diplomacy events (also 
with donors outside the EU) and policy dialogue. The EU continued to provide financial 
support for projects funded through the European Development Fund (EDF) and the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). 
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Comoros’ past two rounds of elections in 2015 and 2016 revealed a process of democratic 
maturation. In the statement issued on the occasion of the 2016 presidential election, the 
spokesperson of the High Representative encouraged inter-Comorian dialogue with a view to 
initiating the substantive reforms necessary to advance the rule of law in an inclusive manner 
and to consolidate the basis for sustainable development in the country. So far these efforts 
have not been developed any further and the president and Constitutional Court are at present 
discussing the fate of the (so far independent) anti-corruption agency which the president 
intends to dissolve. As Comoros’ most important development cooperation partner, the EU 
has extensively accompanied the electoral process. 
 
In the 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Comoros was assigned a large number of tasks with a 
view to improving its human rights situation, which the former government fully acknowledged. 
In 2016 no additional measures were taken; this includes Comoros’ still pending ratification of 
the anti-torture convention. 
Democratic Republic of the Congo
In 2016 the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) deteriorated 
further. In the course of the year, the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) recorded an 
increase of 30% in human rights violations and abuses compared to 2015. The majority of 
these violations were committed by state stakeholders, mainly in the eastern provinces. There 
was however an increasing number of cases recorded in the western provinces, which were 
mainly due to the fact that elections were not held as required by the Congolese constitution 
and the subsequent decreasing democratic space. 
In September and December 2016 there were violent demonstrations in Kinshasa and other 
cities with government forces using disproportionate lethal force. This constituted a step 
backwards from the authorities’ stance in July when, despite a strong show of popular 
support on the streets as a prominent opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, returned after 
several years overseas, there were no clashes. By the end of 2016, politically motivated 
demonstrations were banned and RFI transmissions blocked. On 19 December 2016, social 
media were blocked. 
 
In October 2016 the National Dialogue, facilitated by African Union-appointed Edem Kodjo and 
supported by the Groupe de Soutien with the participation of the EU, resulted in an Accord 
between some of the opposition parties, the parties belonging to the presidential majority 
and certain representatives of local civil society. Several human rights defenders were 
provisionally released from prison. A follow-up dialogue was held in December 2016 under 
the mediation of the Conférence épiscopale du Congo (CENCO). On 31 December 2016 the 
dialogue concluded with the signature of an Accord known as the Accord du Saint Sylvestre. 
This Accord specifically mentioned measures to reduce tensions such as the release of 
political prisoners, but the implementation of these measures has so far been very limited. 
The Accord concluded that presidential, legislative and provincial elections should be held by 
the end of 2017 and that President Kabila would not stand for a third term. The Accord was 
positively received, but serious concerns are mounting around the lack of implementation. 
In the eastern provinces, well-established armed groups continued to be active and new groups 
are forming. Two key rebel groups, ADF and FDLR, appear to have been weakened but still 
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constitute a threat to civilians. The increasing inter-communal violence, particularly among 
the Nande and Rwandophone communities in North Kivu and the Twa and Bantu communities 
in Tanganyika Province, remains extremely worrying. An increasing number of serious violent 
incidents have recently been detected in the Kasai provinces. 
The judicial system continues to be abused and decisions handed down by the Constitutional 
Court have shown a political bias. The authorities continued to fail to thoroughly investigate 
human rights violations committed by state authorities. 
There was a lack of engagement on the part of the Congolese authorities with the EU on holding 
Article 8 dialogue. Despite the absence of any Article 8 dialogue in 2016, the EU repeatedly 
raised human rights cases with the Minister for Justice and lobbied for greater inclusion of 
women in political dialogue. 
 
In 2016 the human rights and democracy strategy for DRC was agreed, according priority 
to promotion of freedom of expression, demonstration and association; promotion of the 
democratic system as set out in the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo and 
the participation of women in political life; promotion and entrenchment of a fair and easily 
accessible justice system including the fight against impunity, in particular for those implicated 
in sexual violence; to promotion of gender equality, particularly in public life, and respect 
for women’s rights, especially for the victims of sexual and gender-based violence; and to 
support for and promotion of human rights defenders (HRDs).
Over the year, several declarations and statements were published, including two 
declarations specifically on the DRC and three local statements on the human rights and 
democracy situation in the country. In October 2016 the FAC published conclusions which 
also covered human rights issues and in December 2016 a press release announced EU 
sanctions against seven Congolese members of the security forces for failure to respect 
human rights. The EU Delegation attended trials of human rights defenders and maintained 
regular contacts with local and international NGOs, including supporting 24 people through 
the EIDHR emergency fund for HRDs in danger. Furthermore, the EU Delegation launched 
a project on the protection of human rights defenders, Pro-DDH, completed the Gender 
Action Plan for 2016, highlighting the EU’s strong commitment to improving gender equality 
and the position of women in society and addressing the issue of gender-based violence in 
the country. 
The EU’s justice programmes, funded under the 10th FED and concluded in 2016, helped to 
improve the Congolese justice system, especially in the fight against impunity. In accordance 
with the Council Conclusions published in October 2016, the launch of new justice and police 
programmes under the 11th EDF has been delayed. However, the EU is supporting, through the 
Instrument for contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the Cellules d’appui aux poursuites 
within the military justice system. In addition, a new project on access to justice and 
compensation for victims of serious violations of human rights and violations of international 
humanitarian law in DRC was launched in 2016. This project, which was based on an initiative 
from the European Parliament, is being implemented by the UNDP and Track Impunity Always 
(TRIAL) in South Kivu and Katanga. 
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The Delegation continued to support electoral observation training and civic education 
projects as well as providing some technical support for the Electoral Commission (CENI). A 
new project under the IcSP with the CEJP/CENCO to support efforts to implement the Accord 
is ongoing. There are 11 ongoing projects on civic education aimed at educating the population 
on their democratic rights.
Republic of the Congo
In 2016 the general situation of the country stabilised after a controversial referendum and 
an electoral period in 2015 – 2016. The security situation in the Pool region and the oil price-
related economic downturn continue to raise concerns, as they are possible spill-over effects 
from the DRC’s destabilisation. 
The EU objectives focus on improving democratic governance, and in particular the protection 
of human rights defenders; on combating torture as well as degrading and inhuman treatments, 
protecting vulnerable parts of the population; and on promoting economic and social rights. 
Overall, 2016 was marked by serious human rights violations, partly linked to the post-
election crisis but also to general shortcomings in the penitentiary system and when dealing 
with minorities and vulnerable groups. Media freedom was severely curtailed and excessive 
use of force by police was witnessed, as in the case of the 23 persons killed in Brazzaville and 
Pointe-Noire during the electoral and referendum process. Several members of the opposition 
parties are either in jail or in exile. Torture very often remains a standard feature of police 
proceedings. The national human rights institution is non-functional. 
 
In 2016 the EU saw no progress in its political dialogue on human rights and democracy. A six-
month diplomatic crisis persisted (March-October 2016) in the context of the constitutional 
referendum and the presidential elections after having issued critical EU statements regarding 
the lack of progress on democratic governance. No political dialogue meeting could take place 
in this context. The diplomatic crisis also suspended most political activities on HR issues, 
including meetings scheduled with the Ministry of Justice. Several pleas with the Minister for 
Justice in October 2016 to investigate alleged cases of abuse and torture and to facilitate visits 
by human rights NGOs to detention centres remained unanswered. 
The government made some efforts to improve the HR situation, notably with the constitution 
adopted in 2015, which includes provisions on the abolition of the death penalty and on gender 
equality, and aims to ensure broad consultation via several consultative bodies. 
The EU maintained its dialogue with civil society organisations through formal and informal 
venues to share views and discuss key human rights concerns. From 18 November to 10 
December 2016, EUDEL organised the ‘Fortnight of Human Rights’ in Brazzaville and Pointe-
Noire with a strong emphasis on children’s rights, combating violence against women and HIV. 
The campaign included activities organised by EUDEL, NGOs, the French Embassy and the 
relevant international organisations and the Congolese authorities.
Combined EIDHR and EDF funding led to four projects to promote the rights of indigenous 
peoples, to defend the rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups, to 
strengthen civil society and state stakeholders, to improve women’s and girls’ rights, and to 
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protect children’s rights. A further project was signed off as a technical assistance measure 
to support the capacity-building efforts of Congolese civil society organisations.
The EU-funded PAREDA project was completed by 31 May 2016 and its main achievements 
included the revision of eight national codes and the drafting of a bill of law, whose draft texts 
were officially delivered to the Congolese government for formal approval and entry into 
force, possibly prior to the electoral recess in June 2017.
 
Apart from the death penalty issue and the ratification of the additional Protocol to the 
Convention on Torture in May 2016, the government did not make any significant moves 
towards the positions defended by the EU on the country or the thematic HR resolutions in 
the UN context.
Cooperation with the Congolese authorities on key issues such as further democratisation, 
the rule of law and overall improvements to governance remain essential, in particular when 
addressing HR violations.
Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire remained the same. The two electoral 
processes, legislative elections and a constitutional referendum, were peaceful.
The EU’s human rights priorities in Côte d’Ivoire are the rights to security, justice and the rule 
of law; the fight against impunity and support for reconciliation; support for democracy, civil 
society and the protection of human rights defenders; and children’s and women’s rights, in 
particular measures to combat sexual violence against women and child labour. 
Problems in Côte d’Ivoire include violence against women, domestic abuse and child labour, 
in particular in agriculture and illegal mining. The justice system, which is still insufficiently 
independent, credible and accessible, also constitutes a concern. Detention conditions and 
the use of detention on remand are problematic. Land rights are an issue for the country’s 
stability. Corruption affects transparency and good governance. The government has taken a 
number of steps to facilitate reconciliation, financial compensation for victims, the return of 
exiled people, the liberation of prisoners and the restitution of assets, but impunity affects 
reconciliation. The ICC provisions in the new constitution are ambiguous, with President 
Ouattara announcing that no Ivoirian national would be tried by the ICC while the country has 
ratified the Rome Statute. Other issues concern the large number of stateless persons that the 
government is committed to address on the basis of a strategy to modernise civil registration. 
Despite high economic growth, access to basic services remains a major challenge and the 
human development index is still relatively low (172 out of 188). The reform of the security 
sector has not been fully achieved in the context of the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping 
mission, United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).
 
While civil society is characterised by a certain degree of dynamism, it still needs to reinforce 
its capacity. However, the lack of a genuine institutional structural dialogue does not facilitate 
participation in policy decisions.
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While the two electoral processes have been considered respectful of democratic standards, 
observers have considered that freedom of the press and of demonstration have sometimes 
been unjustifiably restricted by the authorities.
The government is committed to promoting human rights and has adopted policies to address 
compulsory education, child labour and trafficking in human beings. The Special Inquiry 
and Investigative Unit (CSEI) in charge of the investigation of crimes committed during the 
post-electoral crisis achieved some progress in 2016, laying charges against the persons 
responsible. The constitutional and legal frameworks comply with respect for democratic 
principles, human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the new constitution confirms a 
number of principles, including non-discriminatory principles. 
Through its permanent political contacts and its official political dialogue, the EU has a 
channel for dialogue and political exchange with the government on issues relating to human 
rights. The latest official political dialogue session was held between EU ambassadors and 
the Minister for Foreign Affairs in March 2016. In particular, the issues of radicalisation and 
irregular migration were addressed.
The EU is supporting human rights defenders through grants to human rights organisations 
under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). 
Indicators included in the good governance and development contract between the EU and Côte 
d’Ivoire (11th EDF) include improvements in birth registration, access to justice and limitation 
of the length of pre-trial detention. In addition, the EU supports the reform of the land use 
regime with a view to consolidating land rights. Specific dialogue and cooperation addressed 
the reinforcement of and access to justice and the security sector reform through the 10th 
and 11th EDF and through the Instrument for Stability.
 
The EU also continues its permanent dialogue with political parties of all affiliations, as well 
as human rights CSOs and NGOs in Côte d’Ivoire. In 2016 the EU Delegation continued to 
implement substantial and varied cooperation in the field of human rights. Through the EIDHR, 
the EU supported reconciliation, transitional justice, women’s rights and conflict prevention. 
The EU is also supporting the reinforcement of autonomy and the capacities of civil society 
and local authorities through specific support for local NGOs (the LIANE 1 and 2 programmes) 
and grants under CSO-LA programmes. 
The National Human Rights Commission has drawn up a comprehensive national action plan 
2017-2020 with the support of UNOCI, the UN peacekeeping mission, which is due to leave 
the country in 2017. The Independent Expert on Human rights has welcomed the progress 
made by Côte d’Ivoire in terms of elections, while highlighting his concerns about a number of 
human rights issues (in particular women’s rights and impunity issues). In 2016 UNOCI played 
an important role with regard to the gender dimension in the security sector.
Republic of Djibouti
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country did not improve and remained 
marked by certain acts of harassment against human rights activists (mostly those operating 
outside the officially approved or tolerated human rights groups), journalists and outspoken 
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government opponents. The political space accessible to the opposition and new internal 
political stakeholders is narrow. The dialogue between the government of Djibouti and the 
coalition of opposition parties ‘Union pour le Salut National’ on democratic reforms under 
the framework agreement initiated in December 2014 broke down prior to the presidential 
elections which took place in April 2016.
 
The EU’s priorities include support for human rights defenders and groups as well as 
institutional stakeholders and NGOs by giving them the means to carry out activities in terms 
of defending and promoting human rights; to work towards the protection of vulnerable 
groups, with a particular focus on street children, migrants and refugees; and to improve the 
protection of women’s and children’s rights. The EU will engage with the government, and in 
particular the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Women and Family Affairs, in order to 
nurture the dialogue in the field of human rights and the development of civil society projects.
 
Various problems occurred in Djibouti in 2016, especially relating to the use of the police and 
the justice system to restrict freedom of opinion and expression as well as instances of alleged 
use of excessive force by the police. Other human rights issues include arbitrary arrests and 
detentions of opposition leaders and human rights activists for several days without being 
brought before a court, as well as travel bans. 
In 2016 President Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected for a fourth term. While one international 
observer acknowledged some irregularities, these did not affect the outcome of the 
presidential election. In a statement marking the occasion, the HR/VP’s spokesperson invited 
all the political forces to continue the political dialogue with a view to improving the state of 
the rule of law, bringing to an end the tensions the country has been facing in recent years, and 
consolidating the basis for sustainable and inclusive development. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the Republic 
of Djibouti, and notably during the Article 8 political dialogue session in February 2016. The 
discussion was frank and related to a range of issues, including freedom of expression and 
freedom of association. 
As regards human rights defenders, the EU is monitoring the situation and engages in regular 
dialogue with the government and the relevant organisations. Given that the reinforcement 
of civil society is a major priority for the EU in Djibouti, the EU has begun the process of 
establishing a more structured dialogue with civil society organisations. 
Human rights-related diplomatic outreaches took place in 2016. In October 2016 a demarche 
with regard to the ICC was delivered to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International 
Cooperation. In November 2016 a demarche was delivered to the same minister on the 
resolution on a moratorium on the use of death penalty (UNGA 71). Two human rights-related 
informal demarches were also carried out with the Minister for Justice. In May 2016 the 
European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Djibouti. 
In 2016 the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR). 
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The EU runs several projects relating to civil society, in particular on women’s rights (including 
on female genital mutilation), rural resilience and the rights of persons with disabilities. In 
2016 the EU awarded two grant contracts for the protection of women’s and children’s 
rights in refugee communities. The EU also supports a project managed by the Eastern Africa 
Journalists Association (EAJA) aiming at capacity building for journalists in Djibouti. The first 
activity under the project was a seminar held in August 2016.
Republic of Equatorial Guinea
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea remained of grave concern 
because of its opaque and effectively oppressive regime. Human rights violations were 
systematic and security forces continued to abuse, harass and monitor political activists and 
civil society. The judiciary is also dominated by the presidential and executive branch. 
The EU’s priority is to continue to support greater freedom and civil society contributions, 
focusing on economic, social and cultural rights. The EU attaches great importance to the 
situation of political activists.
Presidential elections took place in April 2016. The process was flawed and boycotted by the 
opposition, and the incumbent president since 1979 was ‘re-elected’ with 93.7% of the vote.
Freedom of expression, association and assembly remained severely curtailed in Equatorial 
Guinea. Political opponents were regularly banished and confined to their home villages or 
exiled. The 2014 initiative to legalise political parties has unfortunately not yet led to any 
positive dynamics – the opening-up has been tightly controlled and opposition parties, or simple 
initiatives by party members, continued to come under attack at the slightest sign of any 
criticism. One of the legalised parties, Ciudadanos por la Innovación, denounced the arbitrary 
detention of at least two regional leaders, and the harassment of their national leader. The 
regime tightly controlled television and the press, and internet penetration remained low.
 
The space for civil society remained extremely narrow. Strict control and manipulation of 
the registration of organisations remained a concern. In March 2016 the leading civil society 
group Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo (CEID) was suspended, which affected 
Equatorial Guinea’s progress in terms of returning to the Extractive Industries Transparency 
Initiative (EITI). 
No political or human rights dialogues between the EU and Equatorial Guinea took place in 2016. 
The EU has not hesitated to voice its concerns, for example through the HRVP’s statement 
following the fraudulent election, which the EU called ‘a missed opportunity in the process of 
democratisation’.
The moratorium on the death penalty is still in place since Equatorial Guinea became a member 
of the Community of Lusophone Countries (CPLP) in 2014. 
Human rights defenders in Equatorial Guinea undergo systematic repression and harassment, 
so very few citizens ever dare raise such issues. Moreover, there is no NGO explicitly active in 
the field of human rights or registered as such, even though this is in theory allowed by the 
2006 law on NGOs.
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In 2016, the EU provided financial support for projects funded through the European Instrument 
for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). One project benefits the organisation CEID (Centro 
de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo) and is expected to run until the end of 2018. It 
seeks to strengthen civil society, to promote human rights and, importantly, to promote the 
coordination of NGOs via a national body. Another project will promote the rights of the child 
in Equatorial Guinea. It will be implemented by UNICEF in 2017 and 2018 and is expected to 
establish a birth register of children. No bilateral projects were funded from the European 
Development Fund (EDF) because Equatorial Guinea has not ratified the Cotonou Agreement 
between the EU and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP).
The next review of Equatorial Guinea by the Working Group of the Human Rights Council as 
part of the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) is scheduled for 2019. No progress was made on 
the recommendations and implementation of the 2014 UPR in 2016. 
 
Equatorial Guinea has requested technical support for the harmonisation of legislation from 
the Community of Lusophone Countries (CPLP) within the framework of the death penalty 
moratorium, and support for the reform of the judicial and penitentiary system could be 
proposed. Support for the role of civil society and non-governmental stakeholders, which are 
weak and systematically undermined, is needed. One area to watch would be their contribution 
to the government’s official strategy (‘plan nacional de desarrollo económico 2020’).
State of Eritrea
The overall human rights situation in Eritrea in 2016 remains a matter of concern, with a near- 
complete absence of political rights and freedom. The space for civil society organisations 
remains quite limited. 
The EU’s priority is to address in formal and informal meetings human rights violations in the 
country, as well as the issue of the indefinite duration of national service which, together with 
the macroeconomic situation, is among the key push factors for migration. 
There are various problems especially as regards freedom of expression and association and 
the absence of elections and free media. Other human rights problems include the absence of 
the rule of law and cases of arbitrary detention without trial. 
As regards prisoners, no update was received in 2016 regarding the fate of detained journalists 
and prisoners of conscience, despite recurrent requests from the international community.
 
However, Eritrea reinforced its engagement with the EU. On trafficking and smuggling-related 
issues the government of the State of Eritrea continues its engagement under the Khartoum 
Process, the EU- Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, launched in November 2014.
In 2016 the EU continued to highlight violations of human rights obligations by Eritrea. During 
the last Article 8 dialogue in April 2016 the key human rights issues, such as national service, 
civil and political rights, migration and trafficking in human beings and the implementation of 
the recommendations made to Eritrea under the UN-led Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were 
discussed. The dialogue provided an important opportunity to reiterate the EU’s position on 
relevant topics. 
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Space for civil society organisations, including those working on human rights-related issues, 
remains quite limited. The EU, in line with the principle of indivisibility of human rights, pursues 
and supports the promotion and protection of the range of human rights and entities working 
in those fields.
In 2016 one human rights-related diplomatic outreach took place. In November 2016, a 
demarche relating to the UNGA resolution on a moratorium on the use of death penalty was 
delivered to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. 
In addition, in December 2016 the EU organised a public event to celebrate the International Day 
of Human Rights. The event saw the widespread participation of members of the government 
of the State of Eritrea, of the international community and of civil society.
In March 2016 the European Parliament voted on a resolution on the human rights situation in 
Eritrea, expressing concerns about the human rights situation. 
In 2016 new calls for proposals for civil society organisations were launched. The EU continued 
to support activities aiming to promote human rights, in particular those relating to labour 
rights, women’s and children’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities. At present 
there are 20 ongoing projects targeting the aforementioned objectives. Other development 
cooperation projects supported by the EU in areas such as access to water and food security 
contribute towards upholding the basic rights of the population.
On 1 July 2016 the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution on the 
human rights situation in Eritrea. In the resolution, deep concerns were expressed about 
the findings of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in 
Eritrea.
As regards the death penalty, in November 2016 Eritrea co-sponsored the resolution against 
the death penalty in the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly.
 
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country remained worrying. The protest 
movement that started in 2015 intensified, with violent clashes in the regions of Oromia and 
Amhara. A state of emergency announced on 9 October 2016 led to a further deterioration 
in the human rights situation, as its provisions suspended a wide range of civil and political 
rights. The security situation has generally calmed down, but tensions in Oromia and violence 
in the Amhara region remain high. 
The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) against journalists, bloggers, human rights 
activists and members of the opposition also increased dramatically in 2016, as 30% of all 
cases since 2009 were introduced in that year.
The EU’s priority is to support the progressive opening-up of the political system, as well as 
respect for freedom of expression, the press and association. Finally, as part of its broader 
engagement with the region on migration, the EU has engaged in several initiatives relating to 
the rights of migrants and refugees in Ethiopia. 
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Following a deadly stampede at the Oromo Ireecha Festival in early October, unrest in 
several parts of the country culminated in violent attacks on public and foreign investments. 
In response, the government of Ethiopia (GoE) announced a six-month state of emergency 
(SoE) on 9 October, with measures further restricting freedom of expression, assembly and 
movement, and the right to protest or go on strike. Under the SoE provisions, security forces 
have the power to search, arrest and confiscate possessions without a court warrant and to 
monitor communications. The GoE has officially announced 24 000 detentions under the SoE – 
about half have been released so far following a period of ‘re-education’. The arrest of several 
opposition leaders, such as Merera Gudina, threatens the possibility of a meaningful political 
dialogue. Restrictions on the internet and social media affect freedom of expression, and the 
general media environment has deteriorated heavily, with increased fear and self-censorship. 
 
The EU-Ethiopia Strategic Engagement, signed in June 2016, includes human rights and 
governance as one of its priority sectoral dialogues. This should allow for the formalisation 
and intensification of ongoing discussions with the government on the human rights situation. 
The dialogue on human rights and governance will be the first to be launched in early 2017 in 
Addis Ababa.
Considering the ongoing crisis and the need for political reforms and opening-up of the 
Ethiopian political system, the EU also initiated a dialogue with the government and other 
stakeholders on the perspectives for political reforms and improved governance. The EU 
Delegation also supports the facilitation of a dialogue between members of the opposition 
parties and the government of Ethiopia. Governance has been identified as one of the priority 
areas for cooperation in the EU+ Joint programming.
Since the beginning of the ongoing crisis the EU has issued several public statements on the 
political and human rights situation, and has called for political dialogue and reform measures. 
Shortly after the declaration of the SoE, HR/VP Federica Mogherini reaffirmed, during an 
exchange with PM Hailemarian Dessalegn, that human rights must be respected at all times. 
The EU Delegation also conducted regular trial monitoring and analysis of ATP/Criminal 
Code cases, including political trials of bloggers, journalists, opposition parties, human rights 
activists and cases relating to protests. 
The EU’s Civil Society Fund is the only international funding which is allowed to support civil 
society organisations working on human rights issues in the country. A call for proposals was 
launched under this fund in 2016 to benefit Ethiopian charities and societies. In particular, the 
Human Rights Council will be urged to encourage respect for human rights and promote the 
rule of law, due process and the establishment of a democratic system. 
The EU continued to support universities and CSOs in the area of human rights education and 
legal aid, and also played an active role in the Gender Working Group. A further project relates 
to the rights of women workers, the fight against corruption, promoting the rights of people 
with disabilities and inclusive development. 
 
As regards detention rights, the EU supported the International Committee for the Red Cross 
(ICRC), which has an extensive programme in Ethiopian prisons.
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Concerning the rights of migrants and refugees, regular high-level dialogue in the context 
of the Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM) took place in the course of 2016. 
Two relevant programmes containing strong protection components for refugees and for 
vulnerable migrants were launched: The Regional Development and Protection Programme 
(RDPP) and the Better Migration Management (BMM) programme.
The GoE has been active in promoting the rights of refugees and agreed on a Jobs Compact 
that will ensure job opportunities for 30 000 refugees; it also gave pledges at the Leader’s 
Summit on Refugees regarding enhanced rights for refugees.
The government adopted a new national human rights action plan (NHRAP II) for 2016-2018. A 
small number of consultations were held; no English translation is currently available.
Gabonese Republic
The overall human rights situation deteriorated significantly in Gabon following the presidential 
election on 27 August 2016. No serious inquiry has been carried out to establish the truth 
about the alleged serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced 
disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture and long-term detentions in inhuman conditions. 
A climate of fear prevailed, with repression, intimidation and excessive restrictions on media 
freedom and freedom of expression, assembly and manifestation. 
The EU’s priority is to support an independent investigation into the post-electoral human 
rights violations and the preliminary examination at the ICC to reconcile the population and to 
ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. The lack of government transparency 
made it extremely difficult to assess the magnitude of the allegations made.
The five main areas for EU human rights intervention in Gabon are: democracy and governance; 
anti-corruption; prison and pre-trial detention conditions; action on ritual crimes; and action on 
arbitrary detention, torture and forced disappearances. 
 
Freedom of association, of peaceful assembly, and of expression and information were 
severely restricted both before and after the presidential election. The functioning of the 
justice system was severely criticised after post-electoral riots in 2016 for its lack of 
independence and the lack of due legal process. Between 31 August and 5 September 2016, 
about 800 people were arrested. Accusations of torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary 
and/or politically motivated arrests and assassinations significantly increased after the 
September 2016 riots.
In June 2016, the parliament revised the Communication Code, which will enter into force in 
January 2017 and impose legal restrictions on some aspects of press freedom. Penalties 
for journalists or media that violate the code include fines, forced temporary or permanent 
closure and a ban on exercising their profession.
The EU assisted Gabonese human rights defenders (HRDs) in liaising with European HRD 
organisations. The EU ensured their protection and allowed them to continue their human 
rights investigations through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR).
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On the invitation of the Gabonese government, the EU deployed for the first time an EU Election 
Observation Mission (EOM) to observe the presidential election. Ali Bongo Ondimba, the 
candidate of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), secured a second seven-year presidential 
term in the election with 50.66% of the votes against 47.27% for opposition leader Jean 
Ping. Violent riots broke out immediately after the proclamation of provisional results on 
31 August. The National Assembly and several public buildings were set on fire. The HQ of 
opposition leader Jean Ping was attacked on 31 August by the Republican Guard. Against the 
official figures of four deaths, civil society currently puts the numbers at 28 victims, more 
than 90 disappearances and 600 people still detained. 
The Gabonese authorities and media conducted a sustained and politically motivated campaign 
against the EU, the EOM and its members to undermine its credibility, including intimidating 
and wiretapping its personnel. The final report, presented in Libreville on 12 December, raised 
serious doubts about the integrity of the election process and on the final results, and proposed 
a number of substantial recommendations for the reform of the electoral, institutional and 
judicial framework.
 
During 2016, the EU engaged in human rights and democracy discussions with Gabon in 
various settings, including the biannual Article 8 Political Dialogue, held in June and December 
in Libreville. However, the government’s readiness for an open and frank discussion on the 
alleged human rights violations was extremely limited.
The EU voiced its serious concerns – through HRVP and EOM Statements, in responding to 
debates in the European Parliament, in high-level meetings and in informal contacts – to 
encourage the government to ensure full respect for human rights. The EU Delegation liaised 
with local civil society over the collection of evidence on human rights violations. An annual 
civil society meeting with the Delegation covers all areas of human rights concerns. 
At the Article 8 Political Dialogue in December 2016, the EU invited the Gabonese authorities 
to an intensified political dialogue under Annex VII of the Cotonou Agreement. The EU, in close 
coordination with EU Member States and international partners (AU, UNOCA, UN HQ, OHCHR 
in Geneva and Yaoundé, US and OIF), also advocated an independent investigation into the 
allegations of serious human rights violations and full respect for fundamental rights. 
In 2016, the EU provided financial support to projects funded by the EIDHR and the European 
Development Fund. One EIDHR project, implemented by the Cameroonian association 
‘Journalistes en Afrique pour le développement’ (JADE) in partnership with the Gabonese 
association ‘L’association gabonaise des journalistes agenciers de presse écrite et 
audiovisuelle’, was aimed at providing citizens with better information about the electoral 
process and training Gabonese journalists in unbiased, objective and non-partisan journalism. 
A second EIDHR project aims at providing support to civil society organisations to consolidate 
and strengthen their role in the electoral cycle through the promotion of democratic values, 
inclusive political dialogue and citizen participation. The specific objective is to train local 
electoral observers and to support their actions in the electoral process in Gabon. 
An the Non State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA-LA) programme call for proposals was 
launched in June to support the capacity, accountability and decision-making of NSAs and LAs, 
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and citizen participation in state policies, with the ultimate goal of achieving inclusive local 
development that meets citizens’ expectations.
 
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recently issued a strong Resolution 
on Gabon calling upon the government to initiate prompt and impartial investigations into the 
alleged human rights violations. Both the government and the opposition invited the ICC to 
conduct a preliminary examination of the post-electoral violence. The EU intended to support 
a quick fact-finding evaluation mission by the regional OHCHR into the human rights violations. 
Accountability was deemed essential to reconcile the Gabonese people and to contribute 
constructively to the national dialogue process. However, the UN decided to postpone the 
mission until the conclusion of the National Dialogue. 
Gabon is party to most international human rights conventions and participates in the relevant 
UN bodies on human rights. However, Gabon has not yet ratified the African Charter on 
Democracy, Elections and Governance. The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process is 
expected in November 2017. The independent functioning of the judiciary and electoral systems, 
although guaranteed in the constitution, remains restrained. Many social and economic rights 
are not consistently upheld.
Republic of The Gambia
In 2016, the situation in The Gambia concerning human rights and the rule of law under 
the former President Jammeh continued to be of serious concern, especially in the areas 
of freedom of the press, the death penalty, prison conditions, the human rights of LGBTI 
persons, arbitrary arrests, detentions beyond the constitutional limit of 72 hours, and judicial 
independence. In December 2016, Adama Barrow won the presidential elections. 
EU action focused on issues related to the rule of law, freedom of expression and non-
discrimination. The EU continued to encourage The Gambia to establish a National Human 
Rights Commission, following up on announcements by the government. However, these have 
so far not led to concrete results. 
 
Arbitrary arrests and detentions without respect for due process continued in 2016. The 
National Intelligence Agency (NIA) did not admit to any detentions, although there was strong 
evidence that detainees were often subjected to torture and degrading treatment while in NIA 
custody. The government failed to implement African Commission on Human and Peoples’ 
Rights (ACHPR) Resolution 134 (2008), calling on The Gambia to investigate all allegations of 
acts of torture in detention and extrajudicial executions, and to comply with the decision of 
the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice ordering it to pay 
damages to the family of the victim of an extrajudicial killing.
Journalists were imprisoned under repressive media laws and the discrimination of LGBTI 
persons continued. Former President Jammeh, who hails from a minority tribe, threatened 
the majority ethnic community of The Gambia. 
Two rare small-scale and peaceful public protests on 14 and 16 April 2016 triggered a harsh 
crackdown by security forces. Around 50 people were arrested, and one person died in 
police custody. Most of those arrested were members and senior executives of the strongest 
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opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP). Further small-scale protests, followed 
by arrests, took place during the trial. In July, 30 people, including the leadership of the UDP, 
were sentenced to three years in prison. A second person arrested in this context died on 20 
August, while in state custody, after having undergone an operation in a public hospital.
The lack of independence of the judiciary became obvious when the petition of Jammeh’s 
own party against the results of the presidential elections could not be heard because the 
president had sacked too many judges of the Supreme Court.
In early 2016, The Gambia made further progress on its positive record concerning women’s 
and children’s rights by adopting a law criminalising female genital mutilation (FGM). Later in 
the year, another law prohibited child marriage. The introduction of on-the-spot counting of 
votes improved transparency in the presidential elections in December, which resulted in the 
victory of opposition candidate Adama Barrow, backed by a coalition of opposition parties. 
Following his victory, all defendants sentenced for the protests in April were released on bail. 
However, incumbent President Jammeh refused to hand over power and a very tense political 
stalemate lasted throughout December.
 
Throughout 2016, under President Yahya Jammeh, the European Union regularly pushed 
for improvements in the area of human rights and good governance and raised concerns in 
diplomatic contacts, including in the Article 8 Political Dialogue and in statements and demarches 
concerning specific human rights violations. As a reaction to the April protests, the EU issued 
a spokesperson’s statement, deploring the disproportionate reaction of the security forces 
and asking for an investigation. Several statements by other international actors followed and 
the European Parliament issued a resolution69. The EU issued another statement on in August, 
urging an investigation into the two deaths in custody70. Throughout the political stalemate in 
December and January, the EU fully supported the position of ECOWAS, the UNSC and the AU 
that the will of the Gambian people expressed in the election results must be respected. The 
EU issued several statements calling for a peaceful handover of power, and drew the attention 
of Member States to the situation in The Gambia at the Foreign Affairs Council. The European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) provided support for the protection of 
individual opponents of President Jammeh. 
In 2016 the EU remained The Gambia’s main donor in the area of development cooperation. 
At the request of the European Development Fund committee, these funds continued to be 
channelled as far as possible via non-governmental actors. The National Indicative Programme 
(NIP) for the first phase (2015-2016) was signed in January 2016.
Under the governance component, the project on technical assistance for access to justice and 
legal education in The Gambia continued its five-year civic awareness campaign, sensitised 250 
Alkalolu and made major contributions to the drafting and finalisation of a revised curriculum 
for the University of The Gambia Faculty of Law (UTGFL). The project completed a judicial 
training plan and curriculum and completed a publication of The Gambia’s modern and Sharia 
case-law.
69. European Parliament resolution of 12 May 2016 on The Gambia (2016/2693(RSP))
70 EU External Action Service, Statement by the Spokesperson on the death in custody of Gambian opposition 
 
member Ebrima Solo Krummah, 25 August 2016
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Important international conventions have not been ratified by The Gambia, notably those 
on torture and enforced disappearance. Furthermore, in November 2016, former President 
Jammeh withdrew The Gambia from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 
However, this withdrawal has since been revoked by the new leadership of the country.
Republic of Ghana
According to the 2016 Freedom in the World index, in Ghana freedom of expression as well as 
freedom of religion are constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected in practice. Basic 
human rights and freedoms are entrenched in Ghana’s 1992 constitution but some key groups 
were omitted. This includes LGBT people, as traditional religious society is uncomfortable with 
homosexuality, and the LGBT community faces discrimination.
 Death penalty continues to be imposed for certain types of severe crimes but is not carried 
out as a moratorium is in place. Initiatives to abolish capital punishment seem to have lost 
momentum, however, due to an apparent lack of backing among the Ghanaian population.
Despite the existence of a Ministry for Women and Children’s Affairs which includes social 
protection, a special domestic violence unit (DOVVSU) in the Ghana Police Service, and the 
establishment of specific gender courts, all of these institutions remain underfunded. Child 
labour remains a serious issue, with many children required to assist their parents with farming 
or fishing instead of attending school. Among the main issues is the absence of a comprehensive 
policy and strategy on children. Children with disabilities are still often exposed to inhumane 
and degrading treatment, and neo-natal, infant and under-five mortality, malnutrition, child 
abuse, child poverty and disparities are serious problems. Other human rights issues include 
domestic and gender-based violence.
 
Ghana ranks 26th in the World Freedom of the Press Index prepared by Reporters Without 
Borders, down from 22nd position last year, its best position ever. According to Freedom 
House, Ghana continues to enjoy quite a positive situation in the region regarding rights and 
freedom, with a score of 37 out of 40 for political rights (as in 2015) and 46 out of 60 for civil 
liberties (one point less than the previous year).
Although the implementation process may be slower than desired, Ghana has signed and 
ratified most existing human rights instruments including International Labour Organization 
(ILO) conventions. Also, there is political will from all parts of the political spectrum to honour 
all previously signed and ratified instruments.
There is a high perception of corruption and inefficiency in the public sector, particularly 
in the judicial service, with a disturbing backlog of cases. There is also very poor access 
to legal aid resulting in many human rights violations going unpunished. The main remark 
from Transparency International is that Ghana’s authorities need to investigate thoroughly 
allegations of judicial corruption.
In 2016, Ghana did not notably change its stance in the international arena on the abovementioned 
matters, and did not distance itself from African partners. However, Ghana was the first 
African country to vote positively on the EU-sponsored draft resolution on Burundi at the 
Human Rights Council, which had a huge symbolic value.
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In 2016, the EU Delegation met Ghana’s human rights and democracy civil society organisations 
several times for the revision of the HRD strategy and to discuss issues such as corruption, 
access to justice, child labour and LGBT issues.
 
Republic of Guinea
The overall human rights situation in the country improved in 2016 because of certain advances, 
such as the reform of the penal and penal proceedings codes, which criminalised torture and 
genital mutilation and abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes71. Nevertheless, there 
are still major challenges related to the consolidation of the rule of law, access to justice, 
gender equality and the fight against impunity. Underrepresentation of women in public life 
and lack of access to socio-economic resources and services also continue to hamper the 
situation of women in Guinea.
The EU’s priorities include promoting access to justice and the fight against impunity, 
reinforcing democracy and the fight against corruption, ensuring material and personal 
security through the improvement of the performance of the security forces, reintegrating 
vulnerable populations, supporting victims of human rights violations, and promoting gender 
equality, with an emphasis on fighting female genital mutilation and violence against women.
The political climate eased in 2016, following the re-election of President Condé in 2015 and 
the signing of the inter-Guinean agreement on 12 October permitting the opening of a new 
period of democratic consolidation. Such a consolidation still has to overcome important 
challenges, such as the holding of local elections which were postponed twice following the 
agreement, a weak division of powers, the feeble capacity of the public administration and 
judiciary, and high rates of corruption. Justice and security reforms are still badly needed. 
The EU participated as an observer in the inter-Guinean dialogue resulting in the 12 October 
agreement, and continues to support the follow-up process. 
The improvements include the reform of the penal and penal proceedings codes enacted 
in October 2016, which penalised torture - both as an isolated crime and as an aggravating 
circumstance - and genital mutilation, and eliminated the death penalty. Civil society is also 
playing an increasingly important role in the defence of human rights.
 
On the occasion of the appointment of a new government in January 2016, the Minister for 
Human Rights was renamed Minister for National Unity and Citizenship, but maintains its 
core role within the institutional structure for the defence of human rights together with the 
Independent National Institution of Human Rights created in 2015. The process of preparing 
for the Etats Généraux des droits de l’homme (national consultations on human rights) has 
been ongoing since 2014, and should culminate in a national strategic plan on human rights.
I
n 2016 the EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Guinea 
in various settings, using all formal and informal occasions, including local dialogue on 
human rights. The EU Delegation in Conakry carried out a demarche on the moratorium in the 
application of the death penalty in October 2016. The EU maintained regular dialogue with civil 
society groups focused on human rights issues.
71  The Military Code of Justice still provided for capital punishment for exceptional crimes, including treason and 
 
revolt at time of war or state of emergency.
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In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), 
and the Instrument for Stability and Peace (IfSP). A grant to the International Federation on 
Human Rights (FIDH) specifically aims to support the victims of the 28 September massacre 
and engage the authorities and other actors in fighting impunity and promoting national 
reconciliation.
Within the security sector reform program and the projects focused on conflict prevention 
and the promotion of peaceful conflict resolution, the EU carried out actions that had a strong 
impact in 2016, including a pyrotechnic decontamination campaign in Kindia, and projects in the 
Forest region promoting the socio-economic reintegration of former soldiers and supporting 
conflict prevention as well as the peaceful and durable management of natural resources.
Guinea is party to a number of international human rights conventions, but it has not signed the 
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the 
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members 
of their Families, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights related to the abolition of the death penalty, and the two Optional Protocols to 
the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
 
Substantial progress needs to be demonstrated in the reform of the justice sector and access 
to justice in order to send a clear message that the country is committed to fighting impunity. 
The trial for the 28 September massacre should take place in 2017. The legal moratorium on 
the death penalty should be followed by its formal abolition. 
Republic of Guinea-Bissau
In 2016 no major human rights violations were reported, but the protracted political crisis 
ongoing since August 2015 further weakened state capacities, including law enforcement. 
Respect for democratic principles was tested, and limited capacities and financial constraints 
continued to impede the ability of state authorities to effectively discharge their functions in 
the area of human rights. Reforms in crucial areas for the defence and promotion of human 
rights, such as justice, security and defence, were postponed.
The EU’s priority is to promote the upholding of democracy and respect for the rule of law. 
This includes improving access to justice and protecting the rights of detainees, as well as 
supporting freedom of information and civil society. The EU is also working to promote women 
and children’s rights, notably as regards violence, trafficking and sexual abuse or exploitation. 
There are various problems, especially in the fields of democracy and the rule of law, access 
to justice, and women’s and children’s rights. The political instability and successive changes 
of government since August 2015 have resulted in an institutional deadlock, especially for the 
National Assembly, but also serious constraints on the current management of the country. 
The political confrontation and institutional paralysis are coupled with increasing socio-
economic deterioration and an increased risk of instability.
Moreover, corruption and impunity still remain worrying. The establishment of an international 
Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the National Conference on Impunity, Justice and 
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Human Rights in July 2013, is still pending and no progress has been made in the establishment 
of transitional justice mechanisms or in convening the proposed national conference on 
reconciliation. In November 2016, demonstrations were forbidden after public protests 
against the political situation.
 
A positive point is that press freedom has not been challenged. Although there have been 
some recent attempts by government bodies to control opposition media, they were averted 
by the efforts of civil society, politicians and human rights groups. 
The EU continued to engage in the defence of human rights and democracy in Guinea-Bissau 
through local dialogue and the efforts of the EU local human rights working group. Particular 
attention was paid to the political process in 2016. The EU promoted a consensual, peaceful 
solution to the current crisis both in its bilateral dialogue, and its regional and international 
action, especially as an active member of the P5 group of international partners of Guinea-
Bissau (the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, 
European Union and Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries). The EU voiced concerns 
about human rights issues in statements, speeches and workshops, and took various steps to 
encourage Guinea-Bissau’s government to ensure full respect for human rights. 
Due to the heated political crisis the country is going through, the situation of specific human 
rights defenders, namely bloggers whose aggressive pieces may be misconstrued as an 
attack on the president, has recently become a matter of concern. Up to now no action has 
been required.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR). 10 of these projects focused on the rights of the most vulnerable.
Three projects strengthened the rights of both children and women to be freed from all types 
of violence, in particular female genital mutilation (FGM). Action was also taken in relation to the 
social and economic empowerment of women and girls, and the protection of the rights of child 
victims of abandonment (children with disabilities, ‘bewitched’ children, etc.). A new project was 
started in 2016 to help improve the rights of persons with disabilities and to empower CSOs 
working in this area. A pilot project was also started in 2016 to carry out national awareness 
campaigns on health rights and fight impunity and corruption in the health sector.
 
The EU has been intervening in the prisons of Guinea-Bissau since 2012, supporting NGOs 
working to improve the reintegration of prisoners and the promotion of their rights, as well as 
to encourage the commitment of public institutions to protecting such rights.
The HR Observatory created in 2011 continued to be promoted in 2016, with specific action 
taken to collect data and determine indicators to provide information on the human rights 
situation. Large-scale campaigns were carried out in Bissau and across the country.
Guinea-Bissau is party to a number of international human rights conventions, but some of 
them have not been yet ratified. In particular, Guinea-Bissau should ratify the International 
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International 
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Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their 
Families, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced 
Disappearance, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, 
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The political struggle in which the country is submerged and consequent institutional paralysis 
are preventing Guinea-Bissau from conducting regular work on many issues, including human 
rights issues. Moreover, the fact that the National Assembly is blocked would make it difficult 
to carry out the internal process of ratifying international conventions, which requires approval 
by the parliament. 
United Nations Agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, UNODC) and the United Nations Integrated 
Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) carry out a variety of cooperation programs 
in the fields of democratisation and election support, child rights, the fight against organised 
crime and corruption, and justice and security.
Stabilisation of the country is required so that essential reforms of the governance, justice 
and security sectors can be tackled and international donors can re-engage. The institutional 
structure for the defence and promotion of human rights will need to be put in place.
 
Republic of Kenya
Kenya’s constitution, adopted in 2010, is progressive in terms of human rights but a number 
of constitutional requirements are yet to be enacted. Impunity, corruption, tribalism, weak 
institutions and weak respect for the rule of law continue to negatively impact citizens’ access 
to civil and political rights.
The EU’s priority in Kenya is to support the constitution, with a particular focus on five key 
priorities: women’s rights, human rights defenders, human rights and security forces, civic 
space, and impunity and accountability.
Local and international NGOs report that there continue to be cases of torture, cruel, inhuman 
and degrading treatment, rape and sexual assault, and deaths of detainees. Prison conditions 
continue to be very poor due to overcrowding, deteriorating services and infrastructure. 
The police continue to be accused of corruption, the use of excessive force and extrajudicial 
killings. There are also challenges in the fields of gender issues, violence against women, and 
discrimination against LGBTI persons. 
As Kenya prepares for the August 2017 general election, challenges to citizens’ participation 
in the electoral process continue to be seen. Whilst in principle the Bill of Rights allows for 
the right to peaceful assembly, in practice these rights are limited by laws covering unlawful 
assembly, incitement to violence and resisting arrest.
The action plan for human rights was adopted in March 2016, as part of the country’s follow-
up to the Universal Periodic Review process. Kenya’s Attorney General has indicated that 
Kenya’s de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty will be maintained. No executions 
have been carried out since 1986, and in October 2016 the president commuted most death 
sentences to life imprisonment.
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 As of 2016 Kenya and the EU now have regular political dialogue meetings between EU Heads 
of Mission and senior (minister-level) members of Kenya’s government as well as other 
leading figures such as leaders of the main opposition parties. The EU has used these inter 
alia to discuss detailed questions about human rights. Relevant Kenyan interlocutors such as 
the Attorney General and the Cabinet Secretary for Youth, Gender and Public Administration 
have been open and constructive about the state of play and prospects for strengthening 
protection of human rights in Kenya.
The Universal Periodic Review matrix includes protection of HRDs, but HRDs continue to face 
threats and harassment within their communities and from the security services. The murder 
of human rights lawyer Willy Kimani and his driver is an extreme case in point.
The EU Delegation participates in the regular meetings of the Human Rights Defenders’ Group 
chaired by the Dutch Embassy and continues to closely monitor abuses against human rights 
defenders. The EU Delegation funded the launch of the Women Human Rights Defenders 
(WHRD) Toolkit in Nairobi’s Mathare slums on 25 November. The Toolkit seeks to establish 
stronger protection networks for WHRDs.
The EU is contributing to the ‘Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya’ basket fund, which 
is managed by the UNDP with support from UN Women. Through its contribution the EU aims 
to develop stronger legal and institutional structures that will lead to transparent, credible and 
peaceful elections, as well as leading to more informed participation in the electoral process. 
The basket fund became operational in the second half of 2015, and activities will last till 
the end of 2018. Beneficiaries include the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, 
which will be the largest recipient of the programme’s assistance. Other beneficiaries include 
Kenyan institutions and organisations involved in the drafting of legislation, dispute resolution 
between political parties, media regulation, women’s empowerment and security.
The EU is also contributing to the national election conflict prevention and response initiative 
known as UWIANO, with funding from the IcSP.
 
The EU via the EIDHR is also supporting several human rights programmes implemented 
by four NGOs (ACORD, Oxfam GB, We Effect, and Media Focus on Africa Foundation) 
targeting women’s political participation and leadership in the 2017 general elections. These 
programmes identify and train women who are political aspirants, conduct awareness-raising 
campaigns to promote women’s leadership and the importance of voting for women, and 
seek to enhance the participation of women in political party processes and create an enabling 
media environment for women’s participation and women’s leadership. 
Other ongoing EIDHR actions include a programme run by the European Committee for Training 
and Agriculture (CEFA) to monitor human rights violations and improve conditions in detention 
facilities in Kenya, and a programme run by the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights 
(KNCHR) to safeguard constitutional rights, human rights defenders and security. 
A programme financed under the DCI-Human Development budget line and run by CESVI 
(Italian NGO) seeks to improve the juvenile justice system in five counties Kenya is a signatory 
of most international law conventions and treaties, including the Rome Statute, but a number 
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of protocols are yet to be ratified, including on discrimination against women, cruel, inhuman 
or degrading treatment, enforced disappearances, the rights of the child and the rights of 
persons with disabilities.
The EU is also paying close attention to freedom of the media and of expression, particularly 
in relation to the election campaign. The EU is also encouraging Kenya to be as fully engaged 
as possible in relevant multilateral actions, with the aim of strengthening Kenya’s role as a 
like-minded international partner of the EU both multilaterally and on the world stage.
 
Kingdom of Lesotho
2016 was marked by political instability, which impacted the rule of law and undermined the 
work of oversight institutions. Although basic rights are provided by the constitution, some 
customary law practices are in violation of these. The Human Rights Commission Act was 
passed, establishing a Human Rights Commission, however, the latter is not fully compliant 
with the UN Paris Principles. Progress on adopting a media policy stalled, and threats against 
journalists increased. A few positive steps were taken by the government to implement 
key the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry (CoI) 
recommendations. The three opposition leaders who had been in exile in South Africa since 
May 2015 announced their return. 
The EU’s priorities are promoting stronger partnership with CSOs, including social partners, 
and between authorities, parliament and CSOs, and promoting gender equality and women’s 
rights, empowerment and participation. The EU also prioritised lobbying against a draft 
Amnesty Bill, which proposes blanket amnesty provisions.
There are various problems, especially with regard to gender-based violence, including 
domestic abuse, rape, and discrimination against LGBTI persons. Some 16 military personnel 
remain in detention, after being arrested by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in 2015 on 
charges of mutiny or failure to supress mutiny. They have still not had a fair trial and there have 
been credible reports that the conditions in the prison are deplorable and that the detainees 
have been tortured. The ICRC has also been denied access to these detainees. Corruption and 
nepotism among officials is prevalent, while several serious cases of high-level corruption 
were dealt with by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences. 
A controversial draft Amnesty Bill, intended to grant amnesty to members of Lesotho’s 
security forces for acts committed between 2007 and December 2015, was tabled in 
parliament at the last session of the year, in November 2016. The EU has expressed strong 
concerns that the bill may foster impunity and has proactively lobbied government to drop it. 
 
Since the 2015 snap elections the country has been governed by a seven-party coalition 
government. All parties accepted the outcome of the peaceful elections. Lesotho has made 
progress on gender equality under the Millennium Development Goals and is ranked first in 
Africa and 16th in the world on bridging the gap between the sexes. Lesotho has also adopted 
several gender-sensitive laws.
The EU took a strong stance in urging the government of Lesotho to implement the SADC CoI 
recommendations. The EU is extremely concerned about the draft Amnesty Bill provisions. 
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Among other initiatives, the EU position on abolition/a moratorium on the use of the death 
penalty was stressed. 
The EU Delegation has provided moral support for human rights defenders, including the 
proactive group of spouses of the detained military personnel, through meeting with them 
and taking up their cases in discussion with government ministers.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR). The EU Country-based Support Scheme (CBSS) in Lesotho has provided substantial 
support under the EIDHR. 
Three projects that received funding focused on promoting stronger partnership with CSOs, 
including social partners, and between authorities, parliament and CSOs, and supporting 
the fight against gender-based violence and the promotion of women’s empowerment. The 
‘Participatory Initiative for Social Accountability’ (PISA) programme (EDF 11) will also contribute 
through civic education and other activities to increasing citizens’ awareness of governance 
structures and their ability to engage in democratic and developmental processes. 
 
Lesotho has signed and ratified almost all the major UN and AU instruments, including 
conventions and protocols for the protection of human rights, with the exceptions of the 
Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and the Optional 
Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Lesotho has a reservation on the CEDAW in relation 
to succession to the throne and to chieftainships. Only a few of these instruments have been 
codified into national law. All inhabitants may turn to the UN Human Rights Committee, to 
the Special Rapporteurs for violations of specific human rights and to the United Nations 
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for women’s rights violations. As the country is an AU 
member, citizens and NGOs may file complaints with the African Commission on Human and 
Peoples’ Rights. Lesotho has joined the ICC and in late 2016 confirmed its intention to remain a 
member. Since November 2015 Lesotho has issued a standing invitation for country visits by 
the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council. 
Domestication of international treaties into national law is a real challenge. Lack of expertise 
and sufficient capacity makes it difficult to translate international obligations into national 
law. The proposal for a governance action document under EDF 11 envisages support in this 
specific area. 
Republic of Liberia
In spite of all the progress since the civil war, considerable challenges and abuses still persisted 
in 2016. The abolition of the death penalty, gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment, 
the enforcement of legislation against child labour and exploitation, the reduction of poverty, 
and improved access to justice, health and education remain on the agenda. The rights of people 
affected by large-scale land leasing and extractive industries continue to need attention. The 
poor prison conditions and the high number of pre-trial detainees are concerning. Corruption 
and misuse of power is pervasive across all branches of government and at all levels. Low pay 
for the bulk of civil servants, minimal job training, and little judicial accountability exacerbate 
official corruption and contribute to a culture of impunity.
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The EU continued to engage actively on human rights in 2016, including through the formal 
EU-Liberia political dialogue. The EU also sought to inform public debate on issues such as 
the death penalty and gender-based violence, including through the media. Practical support 
to address human rights concerns was offered by both the EU and Member States, with 
specific projects in the areas of women’s rights, children’s rights and the justice sector. 
Good governance is a major item in the National Indicative Programme, which is the basis of 
cooperation agreed with the government of Liberia until 2020.
Successive presidential and legislative elections have been deemed generally free and fair. 
Both Freedom House’s Freedom Rating and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 
rank Liberia above the sub-Saharan average and better than many of its neighbours. However, 
the Democracy Index’s extremely low rating for ‘functioning of government’ (0.8 on a scale 
of zero to 10) is an indication of the problems below this positive surface. Issues of capacity, 
corruption and concentration of power mean Liberia’s government is failing to respond 
effectively to the needs and expectations of the people. The legislature is weak in terms of 
institutional capacity to exercise its oversight functions. Legislators show little understanding 
of their role, rights and responsibilities and often seem more focused on furthering narrow 
political and personal interests.
The government of Liberia has acknowledged many of these issues and is taking steps to 
address them, although it has also highlighted a need to respect domestic opinion on subjects 
such as LGBT rights and the death penalty. In many areas a lack of resources and capacity 
constraints hamper efforts to comply with international obligations, including with regard to 
economic and social rights.
 
Several projects via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) are 
currently being implemented in Liberia. ‘Strengthening civil society’s capacity to advocate 
for access to justice for women and girls and reduce female genital mutilation’ is being 
implemented by ActionAid and Bassa Women Development Association in the counties of River 
Cess and Grand Bassa, and works with local community organisations to prevent gender-
based violence and reduce harmful traditional practices, including FGM. ‘Community-based 
initiative for the promotion of human rights and gender equality in rural areas of Liberia’ is 
being implemented by the Liberian National Red Cross Society through the Danish Red Cross, 
and works to strengthen the Red Cross’s capacity to work on gender equality, as well as to 
combat gender discrimination and vulnerability in rural communities in Lofa, Bong and Nimba 
counties. 
New actions selected under the 2015 call for proposals started in 2016, including a project on 
enhancing the rule of law and good governance through increasing transparency and access 
to information in the security and justice sector, implemented by the Carter Centre.
Under AWARE – A West African Response to Ebola, the EU in Liberia has prioritised support to 
the education sector. The key objective of the EU’s support to promote access to safe water 
in schools in Liberia is to ensure access to clean water in schools and mobilise communities in 
order to maintain and properly use the facilities provided. A project funded via the European 
Instrument for Stability (IfS) with Save the Children specifically supported the participation of 
children and youth as well as vocational training.
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Republic of Madagascar
The human rights situation in Madagascar is not improving. Poverty is the main reason for 
school dropouts. Insecurity and illicit trafficking of natural resources, the precarious situation 
of women and children and persons with disabilities, and crime and corruption weigh heavily 
on the respect for human rights. Police violence as well as public lynching happens frequently.
The EU’s action mostly concerns five fields: the promotion of fundamental liberties (support 
for the consolidation of political stability and democracy); respect for human rights in justice 
administration; the promotion of children’s rights; the promotion of women’s rights and the 
elimination of violence against women; and support for human rights defenders.
 
The increase in abuses by security forces against civilians justified by the increase in armed 
bandits (‘dahalos’) also targets protesters, journalists and politicians. General corruption 
among security and justice personnel has led to a great upsurge in mob justice and lynching: 
the period between October and December saw over 60 deaths as a result of popular justice 
for theft of cattle (‘dahalo’) alone. At the same time, poverty is increasing and the National 
Development Programme remains a dead letter. Half of all children do not enjoy permanent 
food security. Corruption in public life and social sectors is omnipresent. Prison conditions 
(space, nutrition, hygiene, healthcare) remain problematic.
The situation for women is precarious: 30% are pregnant before 19 years of age, 30% of 
girls in secondary education finish school, 25% of women are victims of physical violence, 
and 40% are abandoned after marriage. Women continue to be discriminated against by 
the Nationality Code that does not give them the right to pass on their nationality to their 
spouses. Shortcomings in the implementation of fundamental ILO Worst Forms of Child 
Labour Convention was scrutinised in 2016 by the International Labour Conference (ILC). 
The EU expressed its concerns over the situation of children forced to work in mines 
and quarries, for sexual exploitation and in the streets. The ILC requested Madagascar to 
provide an immediate and effective response for the elimination of these worst forms of 
child labour.
In 2016, the independent National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) was finally created. A 
National Fight Against Human Trafficking office is contributing to the decrease in trafficking 
in human beings. Forced labour has also been prohibited. However, it is estimated that 5 000 
Malagasy, mostly in Gulf countries, are still victims of this practice. 
During Europe Week there was a stand devoted to human rights. The EU maintains numerous 
partnerships with civil society to promote human rights. A number of grant contracts are 
signed every year and enjoy significant visibility. However, an important support programme 
for democracy (INCIPALIS) was shut down in 2016.
 
The EU maintains a regular political dialogue at presidential and prime ministerial level, in 
which human rights matters are at the centre. Issues addressed in this context during 2016 
were mostly related to corruption, illicit trafficking, and the abusive exploitation of natural 
resources, as well as police violence, mob violence (on which the CNIDH has already made a 
statement), election preparations (an EU follow-up observation mission took place in October), 
a new media law, diverse institutional reforms and citizens’ access to basic services. 
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The EU does not support individuals, such as human rights defenders, but pursues a capacity-
building approach of ‘training the trainers’ for national NGOs through the DINIKA programme. 
This programme is intended on the one hand to strengthen the capacity of Malagasy CSOs in 
order to help them to be responsible, informed and economically competent partners, and 
on the other hand to strengthen advocacy capacity and provide close guidance to local and 
national Malagasy CSOs in order to raise awareness among citizens of their social, economic 
and political rights. Civil society continues to play a role in condemning human rights violations, 
as do, for example, the Rohy platform in relation to corruption, Alliance Voahary Gasy in 
terms of environmental human rights violations (illicit trafficking of resources), and SEFAFI 
(L’Observatoire de la vie publique) as regards public life and analysis of political matters.
In addition to the PASSOBA programme, which aims to improve financial access to education 
and promote the quality of education and educational services in nine out of 21 regions in the 
country, several smaller children’s rights projects were also ongoing.
In terms of the promotion of women’s rights, some of the priorities with partner CSOs include 
the fight against marital and domestic violence, support for women to access justice, the fight 
against impunity in cases of violence, support for women and children facing legal issues, 
access to land, women in rural economies, and vulnerable families from the capital. In the 
area of administration and justice the programme ‘Administration for All’ is managed directly 
by the Delegation. This programme concerns all areas of state intervention relating to human 
rights and is being carried out in dialogue with the government. UPR recommendations are 
being progressively implemented. One such example is the creation of the CNIDH (2014 UPR).
 
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment visited the country at the end 
of October 2016 and made an appeal in favour of strengthening the fight against corruption 
and illicit trafficking. He also denounced various well-known cases.
The biggest challenges to promoting human rights will be tackling poverty and corruption, 
preventing the degradation of the security situation, and in particular organising peaceful, 
transparent, fair and free elections.
Republic of Malawi
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country remained fairly stable. The main 
challenges continue to relate to gender equality, violence against women and children, high 
rates of child marriage, albinism, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, detention 
conditions in prisons, economic and social rights, and in particular access to food and health 
services. 
In 2016, the EU objectives for human rights and democracy in the framework of its relations 
with Malawi focused on persons with albinism, gender-based violence, the human rights of 
LGBTI persons, gender equality, prisons, electoral reform and maintaining a free press.
Basic freedoms such as those of association, movement, speech and assembly are protected 
by the constitution and generally considered as being respected. Malawi has adopted a number 
of laws aimed at improving the human rights situation. Malawi is making some positive strides 
towards the attainment of gender equality, gender equity and women’s empowerment. Key 
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achievements include 40% University of Malawi enrolment, 100% scholarship for female 
medical students, and the development and review of legislation with a gender perspective. 
Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of the biggest development challenges in Malawi. 
Several factors contribute to this prevalence of GBV, including early marriage, harmful cultural 
practices, religious beliefs, low literacy levels and low economic empowerment. 
The legal framework governing political parties in Malawi is weak, and requires review and 
reform. Legislation could be introduced to regulate privately raised political party funds which 
would improve transparency and accountability, as would political parties being required to 
publish annual audited accounts. 
 
The 2014 elections were marked by irregularities and vote-rigging allegations which resulted 
in widespread distrust in electoral governance. The EU EOM reaffirmed the need to address 
the electoral system’s weaknesses before the next elections in 2019. The current electoral 
reform process is advancing slowly and EU support will continue.
The EU as a whole engages the Malawi government on human rights as part of the Malawi 
Article 8 Political Dialogue. The Delegation raised human rights issues in demarches and other 
forums including with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. In 2016 the EU Missions 
also continued their regular exchanges with some of the leading human rights organisations in 
the country and with other key partners such as the US and the UN. 
The Delegation is in regular contact with local civil society organisations and human rights 
defenders. 
Malawi benefited from EU support to strengthen human rights observance in the country 
through capacity building at the Malawi Human Rights Commission. The EU continued to 
support the gender equality agenda through the gender equality and women’s empowerment 
(GEWE) projects in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as 
smaller interventions with local NGOs. The EU and Member States continued their support 
for local CSOs advocating the rights persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups, 
including LGBTI people and persons with albinism. The issue of child rights is also being 
addressed through projects supporting the strengthening of child protection systems. 
 
Republic of Mali
2016 was marked by the slow implementation of the peace agreement signed in 2015 
between the government of Mali and two armed movements, and by a stark deterioration of 
the security situation with a resurgence of terrorist attacks targeting members of the Malian 
armed forces, international forces, local government officials, humanitarian organisations and 
civilians. The overall human rights situation in Mali therefore remained marked by systematic 
human rights violations in this security context. Systematic abuses included arbitrary killings, 
torture, prolonged illegal detention, recruitment of minors by armed groups, sexual violence, 
and intimidation. The humanitarian situation of refugees and internally displaced persons due 
to the conflict remained dire. 
The EU’s priorities on human rights remained unchanged. These include advocating for 
peace, reconciliation and justice; promoting respect for women’s, children’s and other 
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vulnerable groups’ rights; supporting efforts to fight impunity by strengthening the 
chronically neglected judiciary; and supporting efforts to fight the widespread corruption 
in the country.
In addition to the impact of the security crisis on human rights, other issues in Mali include 
gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); trafficking in 
human beings; harsh prison conditions; reports of slavery and child labour and smuggling of 
migrants; and discrimination against certain groups such as persons with disabilities, persons 
with albinism, and on the grounds of ethnicity (e.g. black Tuaregs). The deeply entrenched 
official corruption and a weak and inefficient judiciary that contributes to persistent impunity 
and violation of the legal rights of arrested and accused people, as well as to overcrowded 
prisons, are additional issues to highlight. 
In November 2016 local elections were held in 92% of the country’s 703 municipalities, 
with women representing about 31% of all candidates. While the polls were conducted in 
a generally acceptable manner, obstruction by armed individuals and insecurity prevented 
voting in 43 municipalities in the northern and central regions. Four Malian soldiers charged 
with securing the transport of ballot boxes were killed in an attack.
 
2016 also saw tangible improvements on human rights. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation 
Commission continued to expand its regional presence across the country including in most 
parts of the north. In November 2016, the Council of Ministers endorsed the national policy on 
human rights, focusing on human rights promotion and protection, assistance to human rights 
actors and international human rights cooperation. A human rights department was created 
within the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to implement the policy. In November, the 
trial of General Amadou Haya Sanogo and 17 co-defendants, accused of human rights crimes 
against Malian officers in 2012, began in Mali, marking a positive step in the fight against 
impunity in the country. Finally, the reform of the National Commission for Human Rights 
according to the Paris Principles is also worth noting.
The EU, as a member of the international mediation team for the peace agreement, remained 
actively engaged in international efforts to secure peace in Mali. The EU furthermore strongly 
supported, politically and operationally, the reform of the National Commission for Human 
Rights. In 2016, the EU Delegation launched a specific human rights coordination exercise 
among Mali’s donors, and continued to spearhead the political dialogue with the authorities on 
corruption and illicit enrichment, which represent a major obstacle to Mali’s development. In 
more operational terms, the EU’s CSDP missions in Mali, EUTM Mali and EUCAP Sahel Mali, in 
collaboration with the UN mission in Mali, continued to train members of the Malian defence 
and security forces on human rights law and international humanitarian law. 
The EU Delegation supports the implementation of the national development strategy and the 
2015 peace agreement through its general budget support (State Building Contract (SBC) II – 
disbursement of EUR 69.5 million in 2016). Clearance for the disbursement of 2016 rested in 
particular on the establishment and operationalisation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation 
Commission (CVJR) as well as the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission 
(DRR). The same instrument also addressed the fight against corruption in its performance 
indicators for the variable tranche. One of these indicators centred on internal control and 
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follow-up by the audited entities on the recommendations issued by the competent body (the 
CGSP or General Controller for Public Services). This indicator was found to be fulfilled in 
2016. 
 
A rider to an EIDHR contract finalised in late 2016 enables the EU to support the participation 
of the plaintiffs in the much-publicised trial of the former junta leader, Amadou Haya Sanogo, 
accused of extrajudicial killings against a specific unit of the military, the ‘Bérets Rouges’, 
considered at the time unsupportive of the military coup. With the same instrument (EIDHR) 
the EU supports the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH), allowing it in particular in 
2016 to visit prisons and cells in police stations and report on conditions of detention in Mali. 
EU support also accrues to local civil society organisations for lobbying, monitoring and 
sensitisation on the rights of children and youths (four ongoing EIDHR contracts). 
Funding from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace benefits a local studio, Studio 
Tamani, producing with the support of Fondation Hirondelle content such as news, talk shows 
and programmes on children and women aired on a daily basis by 56 local radio stations in 
five languages across the country. The prominence and ratings of these shows are extremely 
high in remote areas of Mali such as Timbuktu and Kidal. They contribute to defusing tensions 
among communities in these conflict-prone areas, by relaying more neutral information on 
politics and security and by promoting peaceful confrontation of views. 
Under the Emergency Trust Fund (TF) for Sahel, the EU Delegation is currently mooting a 
project proposal for community outreach by the security forces in the central region (Mopti), 
the institutional capacity of which will be supported by another TF project, PARSEC, approved 
by the TF Operational Committee in 2016.
Mali has ratified most international and regional human rights treaties, all ILO fundamental 
conventions and their Protocols. In 2016, Mali continued to engage with the UN human 
rights system, including with the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights 
in Mali, who visited the country at the end 2015 and published his report in January 2016. 
Mali also participated in the discussions on its sixth and seventh reports at the Committee 
on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in July. Mali remained supportive of the 
ICC despite a sensitive regional context. The ICC trial in September 2016 of an Islamic militant 
who helped destroy the Timbuktu shrines during the 2012 conflict was widely recognised as a 
ground-breaking event for Mali and for international justice. 
 
Substantial progress is needed in areas such as the fight against impunity, in particular with 
regards to human rights abuses committed during the 2012 crisis, including by setting up an 
independent national preventive mechanism for monitoring places of detention. Progress is 
also needed on women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality in all areas, including sexual and 
reproductive health and rights. This is particularly important since the situation of women and 
girls continues to be strongly impacted by a retrograde Family Code passed in 2011, following 
pressure from religious movements to abolish a previous, more progressive law. Women also 
need to be effectively included in the implementation of the peace process. The authorities 
also need to continue establishing the necessary legal frameworks to protect human rights, 
such as the law on the social protection of persons with disabilities.
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Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Mauritania is facing crucial domestic and external challenges. Relations between the country’s 
different communities are becoming increasingly difficult due to a feeling of exclusion and 
discrimination among the black and Haratin communities, which may lead to radicalisation and 
pose a threat to national unity. 
The EU’s human rights action in Mauritania concentrates on improving the justice system; 
the fight against slavery; combating torture and ill-treatment, especially by supporting the 
relevant national preventive mechanism; ethnic and gender discrimination, especially violence 
against women; the status of civil society organisations; and the abolition of the death penalty. 
The rights of migrants have also been at the centre of EU concerns.
There is still a gap between the rather advanced legislation against slavery and its remnants 
and the implementation of that legislation. A new anti-slavery law was adopted in 2015, but 
due to the absence of robust implementation and monitoring mechanisms, the impact of these 
progressive policies is modest. A first and only sentence was issued in 2016. Shortcomings in 
the implementation of fundamental ILO Forced Labour Convention were highlighted in 2016 by 
the International Labour Conference, which urged the government to strictly enforce the 2015 
legislation. The EU issued a statement at the ILO and is providing concrete support for the 
government’s commitment to implement the road map for the eradication of contemporary 
forms of slavery, and follow up on the implementation of recent legislation against slavery.
 
The situation of women is still a source of concern. There has been no progress towards the 
approval of the draft new act preventing all types of violence against women, which is still 
blocked in the parliament. The EU has been supporting the approval of this new draft act 
as well as the implementation of the existing action plan on gender for 2015-2018 and the 
programme to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM).
In the field of justice there is still no sectoral policy with mid-term priorities approved. A three-
year action plan and a national strategy for access to justice were adopted in 2016 as a basis 
for further reforms. Results are not yet visible. There has been no progress on the status of 
NGOs and political parties either. A controversial new act on associations has been blocked in 
parliament amid criticism that it maintains the present system requiring prior authorisation 
and gives discretionary powers to the Ministry of the Interior concerning the registration of 
NGOs and political parties.
Mauritania is managing to preserve apparent internal stability under President Mohamed 
Ould Abdel Aziz, who has been in power since 2009 and is now in the middle of his second 
and last term. President Aziz has clearly stated that he will respect the constitutional two-
term limit. A national political dialogue took place in October 2016 but was boycotted by 
an important part of the opposition. It resulted in a series of proposals for constitutional 
changes, including the abolition of the Senate and changes to the country’s flag and anthem. 
The proposed amendments will need to be approved in 2017, and will possibly be followed by 
early legislative and local elections. 
 
Human rights dialogue with the authorities and human rights defenders was intensified 
throughout 2016, particularly around two main cases for which the EU issued local statements 
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and met the members of the government concerned. Those two cases are also illustrative of 
Mauritanian internal tensions. The first case concerns a young blogger sentenced to death for 
apostasy at the end of 2014, but who is still in prison awaiting another trial. Mauritania had 
never before issued a death sentence for apostasy in the country’s 56 years of history. The 
regular vocal demonstrations calling for his execution illustrate the risk of radicalisation of 
part of Mauritanian society. Another case concerns the anti-slavery movement IRA (Initiative 
de Resurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste), which involved the trial and sentencing of 13 
activists amid procedural irregularities and credible allegations of torture in detention. The 
Appeal Court reduced the sentences and freed most of them but three activists remained 
imprisoned. Despite calls by the EU and other international actors, no investigation into the 
allegations of torture and mistreatment in detention was opened.
Three projects were implemented in 2016 under the European Instrument for Democracy 
and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the DCI, covering the protection of vulnerable children, the 
economic empowerment of former slaves and support for peaceful coexistence among 
communities (resolution of land disputes). Three new projects will be implemented in 2017 
and 2018 in relation to the fight against slavery and prisons, and the new call for proposals 
will cover projects addressing violence against women. 
The Mauritanian government has tightened measures allowing migrants to regularise their stay 
and obtain work permits, with a view to improving security controls. The EU collaborates with 
the Mauritanian authorities and civil society in order to ensure respect for the rights of migrants. 
Two of the EU Trust Fund projects for Mauritania approved in 2016 are focusing respectively 
on the situation of unaccompanied children and on the conditions under which migrants are 
returned to their countries of origin. A project under the Regional Development and Protection 
(RDPP) programme was launched in Mauritania to increase local support capacity to assist 
stranded and vulnerable migrants through health, legal and reintegration support.
 
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited the 
country in May 2016. His report was rejected by the government as biased. Overall, however, 
Mauritania has always accepted the requests to visit the country by all UN Special Rapporteurs 
and has shown willingness to collaborate with international human rights institutions. 
The gap between legislation and implementation was pointed out by the UN Special Rapporteur 
on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who visited the 
country at the beginning of 2016. He particularly stressed the prevention of torture during 
detention and the almost complete lack of investigations into alleged cases of torture and 
ill-treatment.
Republic of Mauritius
By international standards, Mauritius generally has a good track record on protecting and 
respect for human rights. It remains the top-ranking country in overall governance in Africa for 
the tenth consecutive year according to the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2016.
The EU’s priorities are the advancement of women’s rights, the protection of children’s rights 
and the elimination of violence against children, the protection of the human rights of LGBTI 
persons, and the strengthening of the rule of law and of human rights institutions. 
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Domestic violence continues to remain a critical problem. 25% women say they have been 
subjected to some form of gender-based violence. Further efforts to improve human rights 
are needed in the fields of gender equality, violence against women and children, discrimination 
against LGBT persons, and detention conditions.
Positive steps were taken by the government in 2016 through several legislative changes, 
such as the Protection From Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill and the National Women’s 
Council Bill, which provides for a more modern and appropriate legislative framework in order 
to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. The child protection strategy and 
action plan was also finalised, in relation to which the EU had significantly supported the 
Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare in 2014 and 2015. 
 
The improvement of maternal health for vulnerable groups and the reduction of infant 
mortality are among key results in the current budget support programme being implemented 
in the Republic of Mauritius over the period of 2013-2016.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the Republic of 
Mauritius in various formats, including through the Article 8 Political Dialogue held in January 
2016 and development cooperation.
Gender issues featured prominently in the EU’s public diplomacy. The EU and its Member 
States continued to support the fight against gender-based violence through a campaign, 
‘Ansam kont la violans’, led by the EU Delegation. This campaign saw the participation of well-
known personalities and received widespread media coverage, including on social media.
Throughout 2016 the Head of the EU Delegation gave special prominence to gender issues in her 
public activities, and in June she participated as a panellist in the international Women’s Forum 
organised by the President of the Republic. The EU also had regular contacts with human rights 
defenders, notably on conditions of detention and the human rights of LGBTI people.
Republic of Mozambique
In 2016, the overall human rights situation deteriorated in Mozambique. This was mainly linked 
to the political and military tension between the government and the Renamo opposition party. 
Unsolved assassinations, political repression and intimidation targeting government opponents 
in particular has continued, while, in conflict-affected areas, Mozambicans continued fleeing 
to neighbouring countries to avoid violence.
The EU’s priorities reflect developments regarding political and military tension. In parallel 
to peace and democratic reconciliation, support for the strengthening of civil and political 
rights such as freedom of expression, access to information and the rule of law are also 
among the priorities. Particular attention has been also paid to women’s rights, including the 
implementation of the national strategy to end child marriage.
 
The drafting of a democracy profile/action plan was intended to make it easier to identify 
joint priorities with the Member States. In this regard, encouraging dialogue with a view to 
sustained reconciliation and a more inclusive democratic settlement has been a constant EU 
concern. The spokesperson for the HRVP made three statements in this regard. The EU has 
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been also proactive in supporting basic rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression. 
These issues, as well as the need to reinforce the rule of law, were on the agenda for the 
Article 8 Political Dialogue (two sessions held in 2016). 
The government of Mozambique announced that the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, 
summary or arbitrary executions would visit the country in 2017. Other issues related to 
human rights defenders and individual cases were also addressed with the government on 
various occasions. Protection was extended to HRDs by accompanying them when they were 
summoned by police. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) 
mechanism was activated in four or five individual cases to cover legal and medical expenses. 
Also, in two EU-funded projects, riders were accepted to allow NGOs to use contingencies to 
cover losses after robbery and other acts of intimidation.
Democratisation was supported through 11 EDF projects focusing on civic education and 
participatory planning. Three EIDHR projects promoting access to information started their 
activities (access to information in the extractive industry, local community monitoring of 
social protection programmes, and supporting civil society to promote access to information, 
rights and freedom of expression). Financial support and technical assistance and training 
was provided by the EU and Member States to a large number of CSOs, including through the 
PAANE (EU) and the AGIR programme (Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark). The EU also organised 
a training session for a group of human rights defenders.
 
The EU and Member States continued to support CSOs working on women’s rights and gender 
equality (women’s economic empowerment, women’s political participation, gender-based 
violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, access to education). The gender country 
profile carried out with EU funding was officially launched. Three EIDHR projects on women 
and children’s rights started. The EU was also active in contributing to fighting violence against 
women and children: an EU-funded project put in place a ‘short telephone number’ to report 
domestic violence in Matola. Another EU-funded project put in place a children’s helpdesk 
centre to provide assistance in cases of violence in Pemba (similar helpdesks are operational 
in Beira and Nacala). 
The AGIR program carried out specific work on children’s rights and on combating child 
abuse, child marriage and child trafficking. The programme also engaged with HRDs who fight 
discrimination against the elderly, children, women, people living with HIV/AIDS, persons with 
disabilities, and the LGBT community, among others. 
Mozambique was visited by the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by 
persons with albinism and the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. Mozambique also 
went through its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2016, accepting 180 out of 210 
recommendations. However, it did not accept important recommendations such as those 
related to the ICC or LGBTI issues. 
Peace and consolidation of democracy remains an important challenge for the future. 
Moreover, the strengthening of justice and respect for fundamental rights requires further 
progress. In this regard, despite some progress achieved, gender issues, including equal 
rights, continue to be worthy of particular attention.
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Republic of Namibia
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country was satisfactory. Namibia has an 
advanced legislative framework for the protection of human rights. It is also one of the few 
countries that have adopted a human rights action plan. However, human rights abuses are 
reported involving, in particular, the use of excessive force during arrests, lengthy pre-trial 
detention and discrimination against women and children. Despite the adoption of a national 
gender policy in 2010, traditional behaviours regarding the subordination of women contribute 
to widespread domestic violence, including rape and murder.
Throughout 2016, the EU’s priority was the promotion and protection of women’s rights 
(including curbing gender-based violence), of children’s rights and of minorities’ rights (with 
special attention paid to indigenous and marginalised people).
Implementation of social and economic rights remains unsatisfactory. Unemployment, 
poverty and inequality continue to be the key challenges that Namibia faces and also affect 
the human rights situation in the country. This socio-economic environment, coupled with 
drug and alcohol abuse and insufficient education, favours a climate in which violence against 
women and girls is widespread. Other recent incidents concern freedom of the media despite 
Namibia’s high ranking in this matter. For instance, in early 2016, state authorities ordered 
the confiscation of film material from a Japanese film crew investigating the employment of 
DPRK workers in Namibia. Even though this was one isolated incident, it fits into the overall 
picture that the government tries to rein in the media on some topics. 
An important positive development has been the adoption of the national anti-corruption 
strategy. A bill on the protection of whistle-blowers and a bill on witness protection have been 
drafted and are now under consideration at the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice is also 
in the process of amending the Extradition Act to ensure that Namibia does not become a safe 
haven for fugitives. Three important pieces of legislation which are the key to strengthening 
the protection of children’s rights were initiated in 2016 and are still under consideration: the 
draft National Population Registration Bill, the draft Electronic Transaction and Cybercrime 
Bill and the draft Child Justice Bill (which increases the age for criminal accountability to 12 
years old from 7 years old previously).
 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Namibia in 
various settings. The Article 8 Political Dialogue took place on 8 June 2016 and covered core 
human rights-related issues, namely voting patterns at the UN, the ICC, and follow-up to the 
last UPR (including minorities, LGBTI issues, women’s and children’s rights, gender-based 
violence, and judicial administration). 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR). The specific objectives of the 2016 EIDHR call for proposals are the promotion and 
protection of women’s and girls’ rights, targeting specifically gender-based violence and 
teenage pregnancy, and the protection and promotion of cultural rights, with special attention 
given to those of ethnic minorities and indigenous people. 
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PARMaCM (Programme for Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality) was 
successfully implemented and is closing in 2017. Under the programme, maternity waiting 
homes are being built next to health facilities in four regions across Namibia to replace the 
makeshift camps and provide rural women a safe place to stay while awaiting delivery. 
The Contribution Agreement with UNICEF, ‘Social Accountability and School Governance in the 
Education Sector in Namibia’, successfully came to an end in mid-2016. The project succeeded 
in enabling CSOs and regional and national-level educators to lead the development and the 
application of social accountability tools with school communities and to educate them about 
children’s rights and civic responsibility. 
MoMu (Moving on, Moving up – Ensuring the inclusion of young people living with HIV) was 
successfully implemented and ended in 2016. The project’s main objective was to empower 
vulnerable young people to overcome social exclusion and poverty by facilitating life skills 
workshops and meetings and by reaching out to youth through different media platforms.
 
The CLaSH (Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments of 
Namibia) project ‘Empowerment through Education – Hearing-impaired children, their families 
and community’ was successfully implemented and ended in 2016. It focused on increasing 
public awareness regarding hearing loss in children and the need for appropriate early 
intervention and sustained support strategies.
The LGBTI project ‘Combating discrimination & promoting the equal rights of LGBTI people in 
Namibia’ was successfully implemented in eight regions of Namibia and ended in 2016. Under 
the programme, the knowledge, skills and capacity of LGBTI organisations were developed.
Republic of Niger
The human rights situation in Niger is still marked by extreme fragility characterised by a 
vulnerable economic and critical regional security situation, mainly due to the consequences 
of the state of emergency in Diffa and the renewed attacks in the vicinity of northern Mali. 
Niger is at the crossroads of the crises in southern Libya, northern Mali, and the Lake Chad 
region, and has to dedicate a lot of resources (both human and financial) to prevent these 
trouble spots from expanding into the country. The security challenges and budgetary efforts 
to address them are worsening a difficult financial situation caused by low raw material prices, 
the financial crisis in Nigeria, and the impact of climate change on agro-pastoralism.
Against this background, EU action is focused on a set of four strategic priorities: consolidating 
democratic principles and the rule of law; enabling access to a fair, independent and equitable 
justice system for all citizens throughout the country; giving Nigerien women their place in the 
life of the country and the full enjoyment of their rights; allowing Nigeriens to live and work in 
peace, dignity, and security, benefiting from the services to which the state must give access.
No major human rights violations have been reported. However some situations deserve 
close monitoring and further follow-up, including several people kept in detention without trial 
for long periods, and some signs of religious intolerance noted on social networks and in the 
preaching of some imams. Despite two EU demarches, Niger changed its vote on a Resolution 
on a moratorium on the death penalty from positive to abstention in 2016. 
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The presidential and legislative elections absorbed most of the attention during the first 
trimester of 2016. Amidst a tense political context, President Issoufou was re-elected by a 
large majority for a second and last term, in a process boycotted by the opposition. President 
Issoufou and his government can count on a comfortable majority in the parliament, which 
should favour the implementation of the main axes of his programme, ‘Renaissance Acte II’, 
including those related to democracy and human rights. Niger needs also to face the new 
challenge of the management of increasing irregular migration flows transiting through the 
country towards Libya and Europe. 
Nigerien authorities are politically committed to implementing international and domestic 
legislation on human rights. Human rights mainstreaming in Nigerien legislation, the 
dissemination and popularisation of relevant texts, and the transcription of customs as a 
legal tool in complementarity with modern law continue to be priorities under the various 
human rights plans. There is, however, an operational gap due to a lack of human and financial 
resources and also, in some cases, a lack of ownership, in particular regarding women’s 
status, despite some progress such as the creation of a minister dedicated specifically to 
women and childhood. 
The situation of stranded migrants is a growing concern being addressed by the EU. Niger 
is also dealing with the return of its own migrant population from Libya and Algeria. The EU 
supports action to improve their situation by providing comprehensive assistance, including 
better conditions for those ready for voluntary return to their country of origin. As regards 
asylum, Niger has an open and welcoming attitude towards the applicants and the refugees on 
its territory. In addition, there are a limited number of cases falling under UNHCR’s mandate 
in the face of a poorly designed referral system, which offers only one option for seeking 
asylum in Niger. Through the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), the 
EU promotes access for migrants to status determination procedures, reception conditions 
and assistance for asylum seekers.
 
Regarding EU support, each of the priorities set out in the strategy is the subject of sectoral 
dialogue. Regular bilateral contacts and meetings with the Commission Nationale des Droits 
de l’Homme (CNDH) are maintained on specific issues which the Commission has investigated 
(e.g. the human rights situation in the Diffa region following the declaration of a state of 
emergency). The work of human rights defenders action is generally respected. However, 
cases of arrests or intimidation are occasionally reported, following statements or publications 
challenging government action.
The budget support programs also support very important human rights issues, such as 
access to justice (including through the improvement of the functioning of judicial services 
and the reduction of the pre-trial population), access to health and to education, especially for 
the least advantaged groups, including women and girls. The new Sector Reform Contract for 
the education sector signed in 2016 has, as its main objective, the reduction of discrimination 
in access to education according to sex, social class and place of residence. 
General budget support in 2016 has focused in particular on the electoral process through a 
specific envelope of EUR 4 million in order to contribute to the transparency and equity of this 
process. 
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PAJED II (Programme for Supporting Justice and the Rule of Law) continued its support for 
certain activities of the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) and the National 
Commission for the coordination of the fight against smuggling and trafficking of human 
beings, responsible for designing national strategies in the sector.
Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), one new project 
was signed in 2016 with the National Commission for Human Rights to support its strategy. 
Two other contracts will be signed in 2017. These new projects complement existing actions 
to improve prison conditions, including the living conditions of imprisoned minors, and fight 
against child marriages and all forms of slavery.
 
The EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission continues to train security forces and some justice stakeholders 
on the correct implementation of anti-terrorism and migration legislation in full respect for 
human rights and international humanitarian legislation, criminal law, and the protection of 
victims and vulnerable groups such as women, children, migrants and refugees.
Niger passed the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2016. Of the 168 recommendations made 
during the previous review, Niger accepted 164, and ‘noted’ one. The last three relating to the 
rights of nomads and farmers were deferred.
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Although Nigeria has experienced democratic change leading inter alia to a strong political 
debate and vibrant media, the overall human rights situation in 2016 remained marked by 
human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, both in their fight against and in the 
repression of crime. A weak and corrupt criminal justice system does not provide sufficient 
control. Nigeria is a signatory to the main international human rights instruments and has 
passed important laws to protect the rights of its citizens. However, enforcement and fulfilment 
of legal obligations remain a challenge, and government has proven reluctant to investigate 
and prosecute human rights violations when perceived to contradict national security 
interests. The inadequacy of social services, in combination with a highly unequal distribution 
of income, hinders Nigerian citizens from enjoying their economic, social and cultural rights. 
Sharia is in place in 12 states and contains provisions that legitimise discrimination against 
and the marginalisation of women. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill passed into law 
in 2014, continues to criminalize same-sex relationships, gay marriage and membership of 
LGBTI organisations. The vast majority of society are very conservative in the area of sexual 
rights, and support the bill.
The EU’s priorities are the protection of human rights in conflict situations, the promotion of 
credible and transparent elections, access to the justice system, the promotion of the rights 
of persons belonging to minorities, and the rights of women. 
 
There are various problems, relating especially to the brutality and lack of accountability of the 
security forces, the use of torture, which is still the basis of convictions in the great majority 
of cases, and unlawful detention. The right to peaceful assembly for religious or regional 
minorities has sometimes been violated or limited, as shown by the Zaria killing of Shias, or by 
the heavy-handed repression of illegal gatherings of Biafra activists in May 2016. Some justice 
decisions have not been implemented by the authorities on the grounds of national security. 
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In 2015, presidential and parliamentary elections provided a resounding victory for 
Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) over Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s 
Democratic Party (PDP). It marked the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent 
president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election. The most recent elections were 
generally regarded as fair and well-conducted, but continued to be marred by violence (160 
deaths compared to 1 200 in the previous poll). 
The adoption of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act could, if implemented, reduce 
impunity and delays. 
The EU continues to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Nigeria in various 
settings. The latest human rights dialogue was held in November in Abuja between EU Heads 
of Mission and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The EU has not 
hesitated to voice concerns, through statements (on the death penalty, impunity, Boko Haram, 
the Zaria incident, child labour etc.) and public events (workshops, International Human Rights 
Day, World Press Freedom Day, International Labour Conference) to call upon Nigeria to 
ensure full respect for human rights. 
Support to civil society benefits mainly human rights defenders. 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), and the rule of law, governance and democracy remains one of the 
three focal sectors under the 11th EDF (2014-2020). 
 
The EU has supported federal and local governance reforms to strengthen accountability. It 
also supports the justice sector and the criminal justice system to improve their accessibility 
and respect for human rights. The EU encourages women’s participation in the peace process 
in northern Nigeria, strengthening women’s capacity to monitor human rights. Moreover, 
the EU supports democratic governance in Nigeria through the strengthening of civil 
society organisations with one project on democratic governance and one on citizen-driven 
transformation. 
Republic of Rwanda
2016 offered a mixed picture of significant human rights violations and restrictions on the 
one hand, with some progress on the other. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly 
remained limited. Reports of arbitrary detention, notably of destitute and marginalised 
citizens in ‘transit’ centres continued. There were reports of enforced disappearances 
and disproportionate use of force by armed and security forces. At the same time, the 
government has demonstrated commitment to social and economic rights such as women’s 
rights and their empowerment, and has engaged in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 
process. 
In 2016 the EU continued to focus its activities on five main themes: creating an environment 
conducive to freedom of expression; promoting freedom of association for an open and 
inclusive society; ensuring the inclusiveness of civil society; protecting active and vocal human 
rights defenders; and strengthening measures to counter torture and illegal detention. 
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Fundamental political rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and association are 
limited. Strict regulations and occasional harassment hamper the ability of civil society 
and of the political opposition to act independently. Arbitrary and often lengthy detentions 
of Rwandans, many in transit centres, remain an issue. Reportedly most of the detainees in 
transit centres are street hawkers, addicts, and in some cases even minors that are meant 
to be rehabilitated by this experience. There are reports of ill-treatment, violence and 
disproportionate use of force by the police and the armed forces. The Rwandan authorities 
have yet to grant access to these centres to relevant NGOs and the diplomatic community.
 
The country is proud of its consensus-based approach to governance and Rwandans are 
encouraged to take part in dialogue with the representatives of authorities. Local elections 
were held in 2016, with presidential elections set for August 2017, and parliamentary elections 
due in 2018. The registration of political movements and opposition candidates still appears 
difficult. There have been reports that members of unregistered parties continue to face 
arrests and harassment. The legal electoral framework lacks clarity, with the electoral law 
still unpublished in December 2016 – seven months away from the launch of the election 
campaign. 
The Ministry of Justice has produced a roadmap for action alongside the National Human Rights 
Commission and a Civil Society Coalition, but it is yet to be implemented. Rwanda continued to 
rise up the Global Gender Gap Report, to fifth place globally in 2016. Rwanda also kept its standing 
at third place in Africa in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Authorities 
engaged closely with Never Again and Interpeace’s 2016 research and recommendations on 
‘Governing with and for Citizens’. Following a study visit to the Netherlands by the Minister 
for Justice, the government has started work on improving the regulatory framework for the 
transit centres. 
The EU and Member States continued to address human rights and democracy issues during 
its twice-yearly political dialogue with government, as per Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, 
as well as at different levels. The Delegation also organised public diplomacy events such as 
debate panels, essay competitions, radio shows and workshops. It marked occasions such as 
International Press Freedom Day and International Human Rights Day. The EU and Member 
States visited prisons and refugee camps and continued to call upon the country to get access 
to prisons and transit centres.
In late 2016, following a visit by a delegation of European Parliamentarians from the Committee 
on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 
Rwanda, criticising the regime for its deteriorating human rights record.
The EU closely follows the human rights situation in Rwanda, including the critical situation of 
human rights defenders. It raises individual cases in meetings with authorities as appropriate. 
The EU also supports civil society and its actors through the European Instrument for 
Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). 
 
Overall, 14 human rights and democratisation-related projects were funded in 2016 through 
EIDHR, CSO-LA and EDF funding. These projects focused on reinforcing the capacity of 
civil society in relation to human rights, promoting the rights of the child, enhancing citizen 
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participation, promoting effective and accountable governance and equitable justice, and 
raising general awareness of human rights. Several projects concretely contributed to the 
release of a dozen people who had been illegally detained. 
In the UN, Rwanda is one of the most influential partners within the African group and it often 
favours resolutions supported by the EU. However, in 2016 Rwanda abstained from voting on 
the resolution of the UN General Assembly for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, 
whereas it had supported this move in previous sessions. Rwanda was elected as a member 
of the UN Human Rights Council and will take up its duties in January 2017. Rwanda is not a 
member of the ICC.
The government has worked on the 50 out of 83 recommendations that it accepted for the 
UPR cycle 2015-2019. A consultative process took place to draw up a road map to support 
the implementation of the recommendations. The government is yet to complete its national 
human rights action plan.
In 2016, Rwanda announced that it was withdrawing its Article 34(6) Declaration from the 
Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meaning that individual Rwandans 
can no longer file complaints directly.
Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
In 2016, the country went through a presidential election which brought about a peaceful 
transition in the Presidency, in spite of some confusion during the electoral process and the 
regrettable withdrawal of the incumbent president from the second round of the election. The 
country now has the same party controlling the two branches of the executive and enjoys a 
comfortable majority in parliament. Despite an overall positive human rights record in terms 
of civil and political rights, some issues remain a concern: gender-based discrimination and 
violence, including domestic violence, child labour and sexual abuse against children still need 
to be addressed, as does corruption.
 
The EU’s priorities in São Tomé and Príncipe are economic, social and cultural rights (including 
access to drinkable water), the rights of the child, women’s rights and gender equality, and 
encouraging the ratification of human rights instruments and the incorporation of their 
provisions into the national legislation. This last point included outreaches concerning the 
Rome Statute.
The main human rights issues in São Tomé and Príncipe are gender-based discrimination 
and violence, children’ rights, access to justice, poor access to social services, and 
corruption.
At the end of 2016 the country took the necessary steps to ratify five key UN conventions: 
the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the Convention against Torture 
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); the Convention on the 
Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW); the 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD); and the Covenant 
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as its Second Optional Protocol, aiming at the 
abolition of the death penalty.
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The Family Law is being reviewed with the intention of linking women’s rights to the fight 
against poverty. The authorities of São Tomé are also developing the 2016/2017 action plan 
to implement the national child protection policy. The country has shown tangible progress 
concerning the fight against malaria, thus reducing the mortality index, especially for children. 
However, the rupture of diplomatic relations with the foremost development partner in the 
fight against malaria, Taiwan, and a reduction in the activities of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, 
Tuberculosis and Malaria might jeopardise this achievement. 
The EU addressed human rights and democratisation issues in its formal political dialogue with 
the authorities as well as in bilateral meetings. Several demarches were also carried out on a 
number of human rights-related issues, especially in order to advocate the ratification of the 
Rome Statute and other key international human rights instruments and their transposition 
into the domestic legal framework. The EU also maintained contacts with civil society 
organisations and human rights defenders, and their activities were supported through the 
EU’s attendance at their events and through funding.
 
The EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), focused on targeting activities to fight 
against gender-based discrimination and to improve women’s participation in social, economic 
and public life. 
The EU has financed projects to promote women’s rights and empowerment, combat gender-
based violence, defend children’s rights, and increase civil society’s capacity to make the 
authorities accountable, as well as projects to improve sanitary conditions (including safe 
drinking water) and the standard of living in vulnerable communities with local actors and civil 
society actors.
São Tomé and Príncipe underwent the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2015. 
The UPR has been an important tool to engage with the government on many essential human 
rights issues in 2016, including the ratification of human rights instruments, the rights of the 
child, gender-based and domestic violence, and the rights of persons with disabilities. São 
Tomé and Príncipe has extended a standing invitation to the UN Human Rights Council’s Special 
Procedures.
Currently, São Tomé and Príncipe is preparing a first (overdue) report on the Convention on 
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in collaboration with 
the INPG (the national institute for gender equality) and the United Nations Populations Fund 
(UNFPA).
Although the political decision has been taken, the position of the Ombudsman has not been 
created yet. Establishing a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles 
would also be an important institutional step.
Further progress in protecting the human rights of women and children should be an 
important priority, including through the implementation of the national plan on child labour 
and the creation of the National Child Rights Committee, and the enforcement of the Penal 
Code’s provisions on child sexual abuse. Finally, stepping up efforts to fight corruption, 
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improve prison conditions and broaden access to justice for the most vulnerable groups 
would be a significant step. As per its commitments in the 2015 UPR, it would be a strong 
signal in terms of the fight against impunity if São Tomé and Príncipe ratified the Rome 
Statute.
 
Republic of Seychelles
The 2016 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance placed the Seychelles fourth out of 
54 African nations on a broad range of governance-related criteria. The EU continued to 
engage in human rights and democracy discussions with the Republic of Seychelles in 
various formats, including through political dialogue, public diplomacy and development 
cooperation. Some positive steps were taken by the government through legislative 
changes regarding human rights, but more effort is still needed, especially with regard 
to violence against children, conditions of detention in prison and prolonged pre-trial 
detention, official corruption, trafficking in human beings, and the weakness of the 
watchdog institutions.
The EU’s objective is to continue to promote respect for human rights, democracy and the 
rule of law, especially with regard to strengthening electoral processes, strengthening human 
rights and governance-related institutions, and combating domestic violence.
During the political dialogue of June 2016, the government recognised the UPR as providing 
an invaluable platform for frank dialogue on issues of protection of human rights. The 
decriminalisation of sodomy and same-sex activities in Seychelles in May 2016, for instance, 
is testimony to the government’s commitment to adhering to these recommendations. 
Local civil society is present and active but finds its space progressively shrinking. Government 
restrictions limit their capacity to function and act, e.g. mandatory registration of an LGBTI 
association with the Registrar can take up to six months. 
Independent national human rights institutions, in particular the Ombudsman’s office and the 
Human Rights Commission, have yet to be reinforced. 
An Anti-Corruption Commission is also being set up to deal with current gaps and corruption 
investigations in an independent manner. The Commission will have the ability to investigate 
corruption in both the public and private sectors. While the country moved up three places on 
the corruption index, further improvement can be made.
 
Republic of Sierra Leone
Progress on human rights since the end of the civil war has been remarkable. However, 
considerable challenges and abuses largely persist. 
EU human rights objectives include abolishing the death penalty, promoting gender equality and 
women’s empowerment, enforcing legislation against child labour and exploitation, reducing 
poverty, and improving access to justice, health and education. Moreover, protecting and 
advancing the rights of people affected by large-scale land leasing and extractive industries 
is also an EU priority. The EU raised concerns about the human rights situation in the country 
with the government at the Human Rights Council. 
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The human rights legal framework is satisfactory, but the principal challenge continues to 
be implementation. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is an effective monitoring body, 
though since late 2016 it has been inquorate with only two of the five Commissioners in office. 
There is some concern regarding the government’s tendency to tighten control of civil society 
space, a more restrictive approach to freedom of peaceful assembly and dampening freedom 
of expression, including on social media, which may be leading to self-censorship. 
The Constitutional Review Committee finalised its report in November 2016. The ruling 
All People’s Congress (APC) party representatives were not satisfied with its contents. 
Ultimately it was decided that those who had divergent opinions on the report would present 
them in writing, to be added to the final report as an addendum. The original timeline, with 
the referendum planned at the end of 2017, is unlikely to be respected due to technical 
preparations.
While the government is committed to maintaining the moratorium on the death penalty, the 
Minister for the Interior released several statements in favour of the death penalty, stressing 
that the death penalty is still in the law books, as well as ordering repairs and tests for 
the gallows. The Constitutional Review Committee’s final report did not include provisions 
on abolishing the death penalty, while the government has yet to finalise the draft Criminal 
Procedures Act. 
 
The authorities in 2016 showed a negative trend against the right to peaceful assembly. They 
issued a stern warning against planned protests without prior authorisation and did not grant 
authorisation when requested. There is also a worrying trend towards tightening rules on the 
work of NGOs and CSOs, including restrictive and heavy administrative provisions that could 
limit NGOs’ implementation capacity as well as overwhelm the coordination capacities of the 
government.
After a period of reduced activity due to the prohibition of certain traditional practices 
during the Ebola outbreak, secret societies for women have been more vocal in calling for 
the unrestricted practice of FGM. One FGM-related death and one case of forced FGM were 
reported.
The EU Delegation along with Member States (Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom) 
worked tirelessly on the implementation of the EU human rights and democracy strategy 
for Sierra Leone. This is being achieved through means such as political dialogue with the 
government, including on the human rights situation and human rights challenges, but also 
through continuous support to human rights stakeholders, in particular the Human Rights 
Commission and civil society, and delivering key messages on human rights and democracy 
as part of public and private discourse as appropriate.
In April 2016, the parliament ratified the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of 
Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. 
In January 2016 Sierra Leone participated in the second cycle of the Human Rights Council’s 
Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Many of the recommendations recalled the main issues 
already identified during the first review in 2011. Of 208 total recommendations the government 
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noted 31: six on LGBTI issues, 18 on FGM/harmful traditional practices, four on the education 
of pregnant girls, and three on gender equality.
 
Federal Republic of Somalia
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country remained dire. Somalia’s long-lasting 
armed conflict continues to leave civilians dead, wounded, and displaced in large numbers. 
Al-Shabaab, the violent radical Islamist insurgence, continues to commit gross human rights 
abuses in areas it controls while targeting civilians in deadly attacks in government-controlled 
areas such as Mogadishu. Government attempts to remedy the human rights situation have 
concentrated on the establishment of good governance at federal and regional level. Despite 
some advancement, progress remains slow and erratic at this time. 
The following EU priority areas respond to the specific situation of the country and take into 
account the EU’s capacity and added value in this field: improving justice and enhancing the 
protection of civilians in Somalia, respect for women’s and girls’ rights, promoting freedom of 
expression and the media, and ensuring participation in democratic processes.
 
The general lack of the rule of law remains the biggest obstacle to protecting human rights. The 
judiciary and the police are weak, corrupt, and lacking in capacity. Much of the basic legislation 
is still missing. Impunity for crimes is widespread. The death penalty, summary detentions and 
executions, and the use of military courts in civilian cases are common. Women and children 
continue to be among the most vulnerable groups suffering as a result of the continuous 
conflict, as well as from systematic abuse and discrimination. Women are under-represented 
in politics and business, and gender-based violence is common. On a positive note, the new 
parliament sworn in on 27 December 2016 marks a notable increase in women’s representation, 
with about 24% of the seats filled by women. Children’s rights remain a concern, despite the 
ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2015. In particular, the recruitment, 
use, and detention of children in conflict across all parties continues to compromise Somalia’s 
human rights record. When it comes to freedom of expression, Somalia remains one of the 
most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and bloggers in terms of arbitrary 
detention and killings, as well as the shutting down of media providers. While the number 
of killed journalists has declined as the security situation has improved since 2012, Somalia 
topped the Global Impunity Index for the second year in a row. The constitutional review 
process made some headway during 2016, with a review of all constitutional chapters having 
taken place. Broad and concerted political dialogue beyond the constitutionally mandated 
institutions did not take place, however, and the exclusion of CSOs is of particular concern. 
The limited electoral process, in which some 14 025 Somalis participated in electing their 
representatives to the federal parliament, should have been more transparent and inclusive. 
In practice, reports note high levels of corruption and intimidation. The independent electoral 
dispute resolution mechanism failed to perform its task as addressing impunity through this 
tool proved unachievable.
 
The EU and Member States engaged throughout the year on a number of priority areas. This 
has included private diplomacy and engagement with the Puntland authorities on issues such 
as the 50 or more children detained in Garowe prison since March 2016. Far fewer public 
statements were issued throughout the year compared to 2015, with a preference for the 
more private channels representing a more effective way forward in terms of obtaining 
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results. However, on the International and European Day against the Death Penalty, EU Heads 
of Missions issued a press release on the death penalty in Somalia which also focused on due 
process, the use of military courts and the need to implement a moratorium on the death 
penalty in line with commitments in the latest UPR. 
On freedom of expression and the media, the EU along with Member States issued a statement 
expressing concern that the large majority of these cases are not being investigated and 
calling upon the state to ensure respect, protection and promotion of the rights to freedom 
of opinion and expression.
EDF actions focused on increasing access to justice by providing legal aid to over 7 800 individuals 
(with a specific focus on gender-based violence, including sexual violence) and enabling mobile 
courts to operate in more remote parts of the country so rural populations are ‘touched’ by 
state justice (close to 850 cases). Around 3 590 cases were received at Alternative Dispute 
Resolution Centres. Moreover, 174 scholarships for studying law at university have been 
supported allowing for more practitioners with an academic foundation in law to be injected 
into the system. Over 34 000 people were reached (radio and/or television) through legal 
awareness campaigns focusing on legal rights, the rights of women and children, refugee 
rights, and gender equality, as well as on raising awareness of the function and mandate of 
the formal justice system in relation to customary justice. 
Throughout 2016 increased attention was paid to adequately capturing the gender statistics 
of the rule of law actions to allow for baselines to be established. More specific actions in 
Somaliland targeted the issue of sexual and gender based violence directly and allowed 125 
survivors to receive psychosocial and/or medical assistance, and/or to be provided with 
shelter and safety.
 
In support of democratisation, the EU deployed an Election Expert Mission to Somalia that is 
expected to feed its findings into discussions in relation to key priorities for the EU during the 
new dispensation.
The second Somalia UPR review was held on 22 January 2016 during which the federal 
government of Somalia (FGS) expressed its commitment to universal human rights and 
cautioned against Somalia being taken off the international priority list as new hotspots 
emerged around the globe. Somalia announced that the FGS and human rights defenders 
had endorsed an action plan for the human rights roadmap which focused on four priority 
areas: the establishment of the independent National Human Rights Commission, building the 
capacity of the ministry for human rights, the protection of vulnerable groups and civilians, 
and compliance with international humanitarian law.
Somalia also actively participated as a core group member in the interactive dialogue with 
the Independent Expert on Somalia at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council. The 
associated resolution acknowledged the improvements in the human rights situation as a 
result of the improved security situation as well as the legislative steps taken such as the 
passing of the bill on the National Human Rights Commission. However, it expressed concerns 
about reports of violations and abuses of human rights in Somalia, mainly affecting women, 
children, IDPs and journalists, and underscored the need to end the culture of impunity.
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Overall, in the Somali context public criticism can sometimes be counterproductive if not 
calibrated in the right manner. Apart from pursuing action in line with the EU priority areas, 
the EU should pursue a structured human rights dialogue when the new government is in 
place. 
Republic of South Africa
South Africa’s impressive and progressive constitution enshrines human rights and protects 
basic political freedoms. In general, democratic institutions are functioning well and checks 
and balances are in place. The judiciary is also robust and independent in its action. 
 
The proposal in the new 2017 human rights strategy is to focus EU action on the rule of 
law, access to justice and the fight against impunity; the reinforcement of accountability 
mechanisms, including the legislature, judiciary and Chapter 9 institutions; socio-economic 
rights; gender equality, women’s empowerment and gender-based violence; inclusion, 
including issues relating to migrants, racism, LGBTI people and persons with disabilities; and 
the international dimension of human rights.
South Africa has an ambitious legal framework to promote and protect socio-economic rights 
such as to housing, health care, water, employment and education. As South Africa marks 
the 20th anniversary of the constitution, different sectors of society are increasingly voicing 
concerns and dissatisfaction about the lack of inclusive transformation. 
In spite of important progress made, including on political rights, socio-economic rights are 
still not accessible to a significant part of the population, and South Africa is the second most 
unequal country in the world. Poverty, inequality and race go hand in hand. 
In 2016, the government of South Africa hosted an African conference on LGBTI issues, and 
the Minister for Home Affairs banned the entry into South Africa of a US priest on the grounds 
of hate speech against LGBTI people. The government further renewed its commitment to 
the fight against racism, launching a public consultation on the national action plan to combat 
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The South Africa Human 
Rights Commission also focused on the fight against racism on the occasion of the 20th 
anniversary of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and conducted a large 
number of investigations into racism allegations, referring them to the Equality Courts. 
 
The fourth EU-South Africa Structured Dialogue Forum on Human Rights took place on 9 
November 2016 in Brussels. As strategic partners, both parties share a commitment to 
democracy, human rights, good governance, tolerance and respect for the rule of law. At the 
domestic level, the discussions focused on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, 
xenophobia and related intolerance as well as policing and human rights. In terms of 
multilateral issues, both sides discussed country and thematic resolutions, in particular issues 
related to discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity, 
women’s empowerment, transnational corporations and other business enterprises, business 
and human rights, human rights defenders, the right to development and the realisation of 
economic, social and cultural rights globally, the promotion and protection of children’s 
rights, private military and security companies, and defending access to justice and protecting 
victims.
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The engagement on human rights in South Africa took various forms in 2016. An integrated 
approach was meant to bring together technical and financial assistance (including human 
rights mainstreaming in all development instruments) with public outreach and political 
dialogue at different levels. Financial assistance is channelled primarily through the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), CSO-LA thematic lines and the financing 
instrument for development cooperation (DCI - Justice, Education, Health). The EU Delegation, 
along with EU Member States, also organised public diplomacy events, such as the ‘EU Inspiring 
Thinkers’ series. The 2016 events were mainly focused on gender equality and gender-based 
violence, the human rights of LGBTI persons, policing, and migration. The EU Delegation has a 
long history of supporting parliamentary institutions. In 2016 a new programme of support 
for the legislature was approved, aiming at enhancing its oversight capacities. The programme 
includes a call for proposals to support the participation of CSOs in the oversight cycle of the 
legislature. In 2016, the EU signed seven grant contracts with CSOs on projects supporting 
access to socio-economic rights. A specific project was finalised with IOM/Lawyers for Human 
Rights which contributes to the protection of migrant mine workers’ fundamental political, 
economic and social rights by strengthening the knowledge and organisational and technical 
capacities of human rights defenders working with migrant mine workers and their families.
 
South Africa’s seat at the UN Human Rights Council (renewed until 2019) has brought to light 
its complex position on human rights, particularly on multilateral issues. The third Universal 
Periodic Review (UPR) for South Africa is scheduled for May 2017.
On 19 October 2016, South Africa notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations of its 
decision to initiate its withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 
(ICC). South Africa played a significant role in the establishment of the ICC and was one of the 
first signatories of the Rome Statute. In a Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of 
the European Union on South Africa and Burundi and the ICC on 21 October, the European Union 
deeply regretted the decision. 
The EU will continue to engage with South Africa on how they can remain partners to the 
Rome Statute during the remaining period of membership. In 2016, both parties decided to 
consult with relevant stakeholders domestically, with a view to convening a dedicated meeting 
between South Africa and the EU as soon as possible and before the EU-South Africa Summit 
in 2017. 
Both sides have also agreed to explore ways they could do more together in the future to 
promote priority issues of common interest and expand cooperation, including follow-up to 
an event on torture that the EU and South Africa organised in 2016 in Geneva together with 
Denmark on ‘Why we should invest in rehabilitating victims of torture’, as well as addressing 
the issue of migrant children. Both parties have also agreed to share information on current 
developments and discuss ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Human 
Rights Council.
 
Republic of South Sudan
Violence between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the Sudan 
People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-iO) and armed groups increased in 
scope and intensity during the year. Killing and maiming of civilians, starvation, rape and other 
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forms of sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on schools, on hospitals 
and on humanitarian workers were reported. The Transitional Government of National Unity 
severely restricted human rights and applied pressure on civil society and on the media. In a 
report to the UN Security Council in November 2016, the UN Secretary-General warned that 
South Sudan stood on the edge of the abyss and that catastrophe might be imminent. 
The EU’s priority remained to encourage all parties to implement the ceasefire fully and to 
participate in an inclusive political process, based on the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution 
of the Conflict (ARC). 
Although a Transitional Government of National Unity was established in April 2016 in 
accordance with the ARC, further violence broke out in Juba in July and the first vice-president, 
Riek Machar, fled the country. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and 
the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have reported that in the July fighting, belligerents 
blatantly ignored human rights law and humanitarian law and deliberately targeted civilians, 
including on the basis of their ethnicity. The September 2016 report of the UN Panel of 
Experts on South Sudan noted that the indiscriminate use of weapons in Juba by both SPLA 
and SPLA-iO in densely populated areas, including the deployment of attack helicopters by the 
SPLA, displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians. Hundreds of people, including 
civilians, were killed. UNMISS documented at least 217 victims of rape committed by the SPLA, 
SPLA-iO and other armed groups. Many civilians were arbitrarily arrested; while some have 
subsequently been released, the whereabouts of others remains unknown. Journalists were 
harassed and intimidated through arrests and threats of violence, and some media outlets 
were shut down; John Gatluak Nhial, a journalist, was murdered, reportedly by SPLA soldiers.
 
Although calm subsequently returned to Juba, fighting has continued in many other regions, 
notably Greater Equatoria. The UN Panel of Experts has noted, for example, numerous 
reports of indiscriminate targeting of civilians in and around the city of Yei by armed forces 
affiliated with the SPLA, including extrajudicial killings, rapes, abductions, arbitrary arrests 
and detentions, torture, beatings, looting and destruction of civilian property. 
Recruitment of child soldiers continued. UNICEF reported that some 650 children had been 
recruited by armed groups since the start of 2016, in addition to the 16 000 child soldiers 
recruited since December 2013.
Following a mission to South Sudan in November, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of 
Genocide noted that there was a strong risk of escalating ethnic violence, with the potential 
for genocide. Inflammatory rhetoric had been accompanied by targeted killings and rapes 
of particular ethnic groups. The Special Adviser noted reports of targeted killings, maiming, 
mutilation, rape and the barbarous use of machetes to hack families to death. 
 
In February 2016, the National Legislative Assembly adopted a Non-Governmental 
Organisations Act and a Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Act that, together with 
implementing regulations, enable intrusive interference in civil society activities by the 
transitional government. NGOs have subsequently been required to apply for renewals of 
their registration, with a number of NGOs either rejected or threatened with rejection. The 
National Security Service (NSS) is empowered to detain suspects, monitor communications, 
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conduct searches and seize property without judicial oversight. There were reports that 
the NSS had visited NGOs, inspected telecommunications equipment and demanded ‘fees’. 
Numerous journalists and human rights defenders were attacked as a result of their daily 
work. On 30 December 2015, Joseph Afandi, editor of El Tabeer newspaper, was detained for 
writing an article critical of the SPLM and he was released on 19 February. On 4 March 2016, 
he was kidnapped by unknown men and found four days later with severe burns and evident 
marks of torture. 
South Sudan underwent a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council 
in November 2016. 233 recommendations were made. Concerns were expressed about 
a wide range of grave human rights violations, including killings of civilians by government 
forces, arrests of journalists and human rights defenders, recruitment of child soldiers and 
systematic gender-based violence, including sexual violence, perpetrated in a climate of 
complete impunity. 
Given the gravity of human rights violations in South Sudan, in March 2016 the UN Human 
Rights Council decided to establish a Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. In December 
2016, the UN Human Rights Council held a special session dedicated to South Sudan. The 
Council condemned the ongoing human rights violations in South Sudan, including targeted 
killings, ethnically targeted violence, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based 
violence, the widespread recruitment and use of children, arbitrary arrests and detention, 
torture, arbitrary denial of humanitarian access and attacks on schools, places of worship, 
hospitals and United Nations and associated peacekeeping personnel, by all parties. On 1 
December 2016, the Commission on Human Rights noted that there was a steady process of 
ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the 
burning of villages. The Commission underlined that the enormous scale of rape of women 
and girls perpetrated by all armed groups in South Sudan was ‘mind boggling’, with 70 % 
of women in UN Protection of Civilians camps having been raped. Gang rape had become so 
prevalent that it was regarded as normal.
 
The EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted Conclusions on South Sudan in May, July and December 
in which the EU inter alia expressed its grave concern over the grave human rights violations, 
called for accountability and urged the African Union to move forward with the establishment 
of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
Republic of the Sudan
State authorities continued to perpetrate serious violations of human rights and international 
humanitarian law during 2016. Human rights abuses and violations included restrictions on 
peaceful protests, media censorship, harassment and detention of human rights defenders, 
curtailment of the activities of civil society organisations and restrictions on freedom of 
religion. 
The EU’s priority remained to encourage greater respect for international humanitarian law 
and for human rights, in particular for freedom of association, expression and assembly. 
Grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law took place in armed 
conflict in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The UN Independent Expert on Sudan 
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noted allegations of indiscriminate killings, burning of villages, sexual violence against women 
and large-scale displacement of civilians in Darfur. Aerial bombardment and shelling in 
Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile led to the deaths of civilians. At least 20 incidents of aerial 
bombardment of civilian settlements in Southern Kordofan were recorded, including an 
incident in Heiban county in May 2016 where six children were killed. Amnesty International 
alleged that the Sudanese authorities had used chemical weapons in the Jebel Marra area 
of Darfur, killing up to 250 people but the Sudanese authorities denied this allegation. UN 
agencies and humanitarian organisations were repeatedly denied access to many areas in 
Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile by the authorities. In March 2016, the government 
signed a national action plan with the UN to protect children in armed conflict. In December 
2016, the government announced a ceasefire, which should last until June 2017. 
 
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continued to intimidate and detain – often 
incommunicado – political activists. In April 2016, student protests in universities across Sudan 
led to the killing of three protesters and the detention of over 100. Following the introduction 
of economic reforms in November 2016, NISS pre-emptively arrested almost 200 members 
of opposition groups and trade unions in order to prevent the emergence of a civil disobedience 
movement and some 90 still remain in detention. In December 2016, the security services 
arrested Dr Mudawi Ibrahim, a professor of engineering and prominent human rights defender 
and he is still in detention without charge.
The Sudanese authorities have confiscated copies of newspapers, suspended newspapers 
indefinitely and tried individuals for critical writing. Printed copies of the daily newspaper 
Al-Gareeda were, for example, seized by security service officers on several occasions. In 
March, NISS summoned and interrogated a journalist who had published an article concerning 
corruption. In September 2016, two opposition party members were convicted for spreading 
false accusations after having criticised the NISS on social media.
The authorities continued to restrict freedom of association. In February, NISS raided the 
offices of the civil society organisation ‘TRACKS Centre for Training and Human Development’. 
As a consequence, 10 employees and associates of the Centre are currently facing trial for 
crimes against the state and espionage, with three having been in detention for over seven 
months. In March 2016, a group of human rights defenders funded by the EU was prevented 
from travelling to briefing sessions to prepare for the Universal Periodic Review at the UN 
Human Rights Council. Many civil society organisations have experienced delays or denials 
when attempting to renew their registration.
Harassment and persecution of Christians continued, with at least eight pastors and church 
representatives arrested between December 2015 and March 2016. 
 
Concerning cooperation with the International Criminal Court, President al-Bashir remained 
subject to two arrest warrants issued by the court on charges of crimes against humanity, 
war crimes and genocide. No attempt was made by the government of Sudan during 2016 
to surrender the suspect. The government of Sudan indicated its willingness to accept a 
fact-finding mission to Kafia Kingi led by the AU Special Envoy against the LRA to investigate 
persistent rumours of the presence of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, 
who is subject to an ICC arrest warrant. 
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The European Union adopted several statements condemning human rights violations in 
Sudan. The EU monitored a number of trials in Sudan, and raised several individual cases 
with the Sudanese authorities. The EU Delegation remained in close touch with human rights 
defenders. 
The EU implemented a number of European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR) projects, including one supporting the National Human Rights Commission. 
The UN Independent Expert for Human Rights in Sudan visited Sudan in April. He concluded that 
the realisation of human rights remained an enormous challenge in Sudan, and noted growing 
concern about the pervasive actions of the NISS. The UN Human Rights Council extended the 
Independent Expert’s mandate for one year in September. 
In May 2016 Sudan underwent the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where 
it received a substantial number of recommendations. Sudan accepted 139 recommendations 
and agreed to examine 54. Sudan has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture or the UN 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, but has indicated 
willingness to consider ratification.
Kingdom of Swaziland
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in Swaziland remained marked by uneven progress 
in addressing the main country challenges. While positive steps were taken in some areas with 
a view to improving workers’ rights, including political rights, developments are still awaited 
as regards the adoption or implementation of legislative measures in this regard. Women’s 
rights are not sufficiently protected and political reforms aimed at harmonising the customary 
political organisation and the new political space are still required. 
 
The EU’s priority actions for 2016-2020 are to support advocacy and awareness to bring 
about full respect for democratic principles, rights and freedoms as enshrined in the 2005 
constitution and other international agreements, to support the country’s initiatives aimed at 
ensuring gender equality, the empowerment of women and the promotion of children’s rights, 
to support capacity strengthening of the judiciary, the rule of law and access to justice, and to 
encourage the de jure abolition of the death penalty
There are various matters that deserve attention, especially in the field of workers’ rights, 
including political rights. Despite the progress achieved in the ILO’s benchmarks, there are 
still pending issues such as the contentious Suppression of Terrorism Act which infringes 
on freedom of assembly and association. In the same context, the Public Order Bill and the 
Correctional Service Bill have been revised, but still await formal adoption. Gender equality 
and women’s empowerment also require substantial efforts. Moreover, the Human Rights 
Commission is still not fully operational due to legal and capacity constraints. Also, the rule 
of law, including the judiciary, is still weak. The political system, which aims to reconcile a 
traditional approach based on a customary monarchy and a modern open democratic system, 
still requires significant reforms, including of the electoral system, which does not rely on 
political parties’ programmes but on individuals. 
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Despite these shortcomings, the country has achieved some positive developments. In 
2016, Swaziland was removed by the ILO standard supervisory mechanisms from the cases 
deserving particular attention as some progress was acknowledged in workers’ rights, while 
the country has progressively become a de facto abolitionist state as regards the death penalty. 
In December 2016, for the first time, Swaziland voted in favour of the UNGA Resolution on a 
moratorium on executions.
In this context, the EU remains an active player, supporting reforms and promoting a dialogue 
with the government on all issues relating to human rights and democracy, including through 
regular Article 8 dialogue (Cotonou) and active public diplomacy. 
 
Through specific projects, in particular the EIDHR, the EU is supporting the capacity of 
CSOs to play an active role in promoting and defending human rights, including as regards 
participation in and follow-up to the UPR. In addition, the EU supported a number of 
initiatives aimed at improving the status of women in the country. A Gender Analysis Report 
of the EU programmes was also developed and the first report on the implementation of 
the Gender Action Plan (GAP) II was produced and submitted in November 2016. A total 
of seven grants under the EIDHR thematic budget line are currently being implemented 
focusing on issues such as cultural rights, children’s and women’s rights, and access to 
justice and information.
The Delegation released a number of statements on different occasions and, jointly with other 
stakeholders, conducted several advocacy initiatives, including lobbying for the adoption of 
the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Law. Moreover, the EU is in regular contact with 
the government of Swaziland to explore ways to support the 2018 coming electoral process.
Swaziland underwent its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2016. Both the 
government and civil society organisations submitted reports to the UN on the status of human 
rights in the country and the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations 
since the last review in October 2011. Out of the 183 recommendations received, Swaziland 
accepted 133. 
Fostering the revision, adoption and implementation of important legislation, such as the 
Suppression of Terrorism Act, the Public Service Bill and the Correctional Services Bill, is a 
step towards further progress, as is providing encouragement to further reform the political 
system in view of the 2018 elections. Gender issues and women’s empowerment are also 
identified as areas where further progress is needed.
 
United Republic of Tanzania
Tanzania complies with most international human rights conventions and formal democracy 
standards. Progress has been steady in the past few years on socio-economic rights and on 
public participation. However, during 2016, political space and freedom of expression were 
affected by negative developments, including the banning of public political meetings and 
rallies and the draconian application of the Cybercrimes Act. The unilateral re-run of elections 
in Zanzibar in March 2016 constituted a departure from Tanzania’s so far positive record on 
democracy. The EU issued local joint statements in January and March 2016, calling for a 
negotiated political solution to the electoral impasse on the Isles. 
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In the field of human rights and democracy, the EU worked according to the following priorities 
in Tanzania: defending and promoting the rights of women and children, promoting freedom of 
expression and the right to assembly, and electoral follow-up. 
The promotion of an inclusive and pluralist democracy, full protection of the rights of persons 
belonging to minorities, strict adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights 
continued to orientate the EU’s actions. Trends in the field of human rights and democracy 
since the October 2015 general elections gave rise to increasing concern, notably regarding 
the media, political space, civil society and the LGBTI community. Important structural 
constraints should be addressed to improve the situation, including weaknesses in the 
education system, limited institutional capacity and often harmful practices and traditions 
embedded in society. Even in areas where legal and institutional frameworks are in place, 
considerable implementation challenges remained. This was notable in the case of violence 
against women and children, still very common at home and in schools. The national plan 
of action for the prevention and eradication of violence against women and children and the 
awareness campaign ‘Say No to Violence’ were only partially implemented. Female genital 
mutilation is illegal, but continued to be widely practiced across the country. 
 
Throughout 2016, the EU used opportunities to convey public messages related to vulnerable 
groups such as women, children, and people with albinism. An Article 8 Political Dialogue 
was not held between Tanzania and the EU in 2016, but existing diplomatic channels were 
nevertheless used to table concerns and promote positive action. Regional consultations with 
civil society took place in 2016 in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in order to feed the EU’s 
priority-setting in the field of human rights and democracy. 
The EU Delegation made several site visits and attended court hearings regarding human 
rights defenders and pastoralists. Specific cases related to the media and the application 
of the Cybercrimes Act, as well as LGBTI-related issues, were closely followed by the EU 
Delegation together with EU Member States. Through the Emergency Facility of the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU Delegation provided support 
in response to requests from human rights defenders under prosecution and provided small 
grants for legal support and protection for HRDs working with pastoralists and the LGBTI 
community. 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF) and the EIDHR. The Democratic Empowerment Project (DEP) 
supporting elections was phased out at the end of 2016. A project supporting legal sector 
reform in Zanzibar included a specific component on juvenile justice. Nine projects focused on 
reinforcing the capacity of civil society as regards human rights, supporting the fight against 
gender-based violence, promoting women’s empowerment and children’s rights. 
Tanzania, during the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in September 2016, rejected important 
recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty, corporal punishment, the 
minimum legal age of marriage, marital rape, media freedom, the rights of indigenous people 
and LGBTI-related issues. Tanzania refused to amend marriage law in order to increase the 
minimum age for marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys. Marital rape is not criminalised. 
Tanzania has not yet acted on its commitment to ratify the UN Convention against Torture. 
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Impunity for violence by the security services remained tolerated by the judicial system. On the 
positive side, the UPR acknowledged efforts and progress in overall human rights promotion, 
tackling corruption, poverty reduction, the empowerment of women and combating the 
trafficking of human beings.
 
Togolese Republic
The human rights situation in Togo is linked to the socio-economic context of the country and 
to its recent past. Togo is a poor country (poverty affects 55% of the population), with sharp 
social inequalities, and it is struggling to overcome crisis and to consolidate its democracy. 
This implies numerous weak points concerning economic and social rights, but also in other 
areas, due to the weakness of the state’s institutions.
The EU’s action has been a mix of political dialogue and development aid cooperation, focused 
on justice, national reconciliation, civil society, the security forces and women. The year 2016 
was, in some areas, a transition period between the 10th and 11th EDF programmes, as well as 
the launch of new EIDHR programmes.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2016 confirmed certain improvements in the 
human rights situation in Togo, particularly the legal framework and living conditions 
of detainees (after the opening of a new prison). However, the main concerns, such as 
detention conditions, the impunity of the security forces and women’s rights, remain 
serious challenges. 
In 2016, two conferences were held on national reconciliation issues, respectively on political 
reforms, organised by the Haut-Commissariat à la reconciliation et au renforcement de l’Unité 
nationale (HCRRUN), and on the devolution of power to local structures, organised by the 
government. 
Regarding the legal framework, there were two improvements. On 14 September 2016, Togo 
officially submitted to the UN the instrument of ratification of the Second Optional Protocol 
to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death 
penalty. The HR/VP spokesperson issued a statement congratulating Togo. On 29 September 
2016, the National Assembly adopted a law modifying the Criminal Code, which includes two 
improvements regarding torture. Firstly, the definition of torture fully complies with the 
Convention against Torture, as it now mentions the responsibility of officials. Secondly, crimes 
of torture are now not subject to the statute of limitations, as recommended to Togo by the 
Committee against Torture in November 2012.
 
Human rights were on the agenda of the EU-Togo Article 8 Political Dialogue, including, among 
other issues, the non-prosecution of officers in the security forces who were involved in the 
violence in Dapaong in November 2015. Following the meeting with the Minister for Justice, 
two teachers involved in the events in Dapaong were released.
Public diplomacy has proved useful to raise awareness and share the EU’s willingness to 
work together with Togolese stakeholders on strengthening human rights. Public speeches 
have been a chance to convey key messages on national reconciliation. The EU Delegation also 
hosted several events organised by civil society organisations.
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Under the programme supporting the justice system (11th EDF) action has been taken to 
improve the capacity and the efficiency of the Ministry of Justice. Audits have been conducted 
to improve resource allocation. On this matter, a new organigram has been finalised and the 
building-up of required services has seen some noticeable progress. Facilitating access to 
judicial services is another area of activities currently being implemented. The programme also 
supports activities aiming at ensuring the proper follow-up to and monitoring of corruption 
cases reported by the institutional board of audit.
In 2016, 5 EIDHR actions, implemented by civil society organisations, were finalised with 
the aim of working on issues relating to persons with disabilities, youth and reconciliation, 
freedom of speech, the fight against impunity and the protection of fundamental rights in 
mining industries. 
The new PROCEMA (11th EDF), benefiting civil society organisations, was developed and 
adopted and implementation is expected to start in the third quarter of 2017. 
The launch of the new police academy, supported by a 10th EDF programme, was delayed 
due to budgetary constraints on the Togolese contributions. A solution was found and the 
first cohort is expected to start training in March 2017. Through this project the EU aims to 
reinforce the capacities and professionalism of the security forces so that they can be more 
efficient and comply with fundamental rights and freedoms. 
 
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Togo took place in October 2016 at the UN Human 
Rights Council. Togo was commended on several developments since the last UPR in 2011, 
above all improvements introduced by the new Criminal Code in 2015. Many delegates 
highlighted challenges, especially concerning freedom of assembly and expression for human 
rights defenders and journalists, the lack of birth registration, prison overcrowding, prison 
conditions and genital mutilation. Togo did not accept recommendations to accede to the 
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or on the human rights of LGBTI persons. 
Homosexuality is criminalised although, in practice, sanctions are not applied as long as LGBTI 
people keep a low public profile).
The impunity of the security forces remains a major challenge and no significant steps were 
taken in 2016. The Togolese authorities have not fully implemented several sentences by the 
ECOWAS Court of Justice. 
Poor detention conditions in prisons and the overuse of provisional detention (roughly two 
out of three inmates are awaiting their trial) remain among the main human rights concerns. 
Inmates lack proper access to basic services, such as food (only one meal a day) and healthcare. 
The inefficiency of the judicial system is the main cause of the high number of people in jail 
awaiting their trial.
Important challenges remain in the judiciary. Togo has yet to update its Criminal Procedure 
Code dating from 1983. The current code does not provide for detainees to have access to a 
lawyer immediately after being detained. Although some efforts have been made, the justice 
system remains in a poor state, with its human resources lacking in quantity, quality and 
training, and a lack of budget allocation and equipment. 
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Although Togo has legal provisions regarding women’s rights (e.g. the 2015 Criminal Code and 
the 2012 Code des personnes et de la famille), there is a gap between the legal framework and 
its implementation. Despite the legal framework providing for equal treatment between men 
and women, including as regards inheritance and access to land ownership, in practice women 
face obstacles to make these rights a reality.
 
Republic of Uganda
Notwithstanding a relatively positive standing in the region on human rights and democracy, 
Uganda continued to face challenges related mostly to civil and political rights. The 2016 EU 
Election Observation Mission highlighted among areas of concern the lack of independence of 
the Electoral Commission, the monetisation of politics, the harassment of opposition politicians 
and supporters and the restrictive interpretation of the Public Order Management Act (POMA), 
reinforcing state control and curbing the right to assembly and freedom of expression. The EU 
EOM nevertheless acknowledged Ugandans’ remarkable interest in the electoral process and 
determination to participate in it.
The EU’s action in the area of human rights and democracy focused on freedom of assembly, 
association, expression and the press, accountability and anti-corruption, transitional justice, 
the protection of human rights defenders and the abolition of the death penalty, children’s 
rights and protection, women’s rights, gender equality and anti-discrimination. 
In Uganda, the most serious human rights problems continued to include a lack of respect 
for the integrity of the person (unlawful killings and torture), restrictions on civil liberties, 
and violence and discrimination against women and children, persons with disabilities and 
the LGBTI community. Corruption, arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detention, 
incommunicado and lengthy pre-trial detention, restrictions on the right to a fair trial, harsh 
prison conditions, mob violence, trafficking in human beings and child labour also featured 
among important human rights and democracy challenges. 
During the Article 8 Political Dialogue with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in June 2016, the 
parties discussed key priorities in the area of human rights and democracy, including electoral 
reform, political space and media freedom. At the meeting with the prime minister in September 
2016, issues related to political reforms and the rule of law were raised. The EU started engaging 
with the Attorney General in view of following up on the implementation of the Supreme Court’s 
ruling on presidential elections as well as the consideration of the EU EOM recommendations. 
 
Issues relevant to human rights defenders (HRDs) were also raised in political dialogue 
meetings with the government and the EU actively participated in meetings of a donor working 
group on HRDs. The EU provided support to HRDs through the EU European Instrument for 
Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) emergency small grant facility and through other 
relevant mechanisms of EU Member States. In 2016, the EU Human Rights Defenders Award was 
granted to Robert Sempala, National Coordinator of the Human Rights Network for Journalists. 
Despite a rather conducive legislative and regulatory environment to civil society operations, 
those engaged in advocacy work are often prevented from performing their mandate in full. 
The EU continued to engage closely with the government on the implementation of the NGO 
Act and held two structured dialogue sessions with civil society organisations.
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In the area of accountability, the EU encouraged the development and implementation of anti-
corruption policies and relevant legislative enactments and supported oversight institutions and 
mechanisms. An EU project was launched to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive socio-
economic development by supporting Uganda’s anti-corruption and accountability institutions. 
Another project served to reinforce macroeconomic stability and strengthen the accountability 
and transparency of public finance management (PFM). In addition, the EU Delegation started 
work on a Sector Reform Contract for budget support in the area of governance, with an 
emphasis on the justice, law and order sector (JLOS) and the accountability sector (AS).
The EU continued to encourage constructive debate in Uganda on the International Criminal 
Court (ICC) and urged the adoption of a transitional justice policy. A visit by EU Heads of Mission 
to northern Uganda in November 2016 aimed to gather direct information of the state of play 
of reconciliation through engagement with stakeholders. In a statement in December 2016 the 
EU deplored the violence in Kasese district and encouraged full investigations. The Democratic 
Governance Facility (DGF), in particular its component on rights, justice and peace, aimed to 
enhance transitional justice mechanisms, among other objectives. 
The EU carried out advocacy for the abolition of capital punishment. This included public 
outreach and messaging through the media on the World Day against the Death Penalty when 
the Head of the EU Delegation visited inmates on death row in Kampala’s Luzira maximum 
security prison. The EU also discussed with the government the possibility of a gradual 
phasing out of the death penalty. 
 
In support of women’s and children’s rights and those of vulnerable communities, the EU had 
regular discussions with the government and continued to advocate for legislative enactments. 
More specifically, topics of the frequent exchanges were women’s empowerment, gender-
based violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The EU applied a rights-based 
approach to all its projects and programmes and devoted special attention to the rights 
of children, women and persons with disabilities. A number of development cooperation 
projects, with both a national and regional focus, had addressing violence against children as 
a main objective. The EU also provided support through the EIDHR emergency small grants 
facility to LGBTI activists. Furthermore, the EU Delegation managed projects under a thematic 
instrument, promoting anti-discrimination on cultural and ethnic grounds, and tackling gender 
discrimination and discrimination against people living with disabilities.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Uganda took place in November 2016. The country 
was commended for the draft national action plan on human rights, for the adoption of the 
Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act and for its hospitality towards refugees. Highlighted 
areas of concern were the rights of members of LGBTI communities, freedom of expression, 
association and assembly, women’s and girls’ rights, torture and the death penalty.
Republic of Zambia
In 2016, the overall situation in Zambia was dominated by the general elections held on 11 August 
which were marred by restrictions on media freedom and occasional incidents of electoral 
violence. In spite of existing legal structures and institutions, constrains remain regarding the 
implementation of legislation and policies in the area of human rights and democracy.
The EU’s priorities include tackling gender-based violence; promoting women’s rights and 
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economic, social and cultural rights; enhancing transparent governance, including the fight 
against corruption; improving access to information and freedom of expression, assembly 
and association; promoting a fair and efficient justice system; and cultivating an environment 
of non-discrimination, with a focus on marginalised groups. 
 
Access to justice continues to be limited for the majority of Zambians, restricting their right to 
a fair trial, mostly due to a lack of awareness, financial constraints and the absence of legal 
structures in rural areas. Women’s and girls’ rights continue to be of concern and women’s 
participation in the general elections was disappointing. Other human rights concerns include 
poor prison conditions, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the situation of LGBTI people – 
with one sentencing to long imprisonment of a transgender person – and persons with disabilities. 
In terms of improvements, the 2016 Constitutional Amendment Act included a number of 
provisions in the area of women’s and girls’ rights, such as the establishment of the Gender 
Equity and Equality Commission. Reports of incidents of gender-based violence slightly 
decreased in 2016 but it continues to be widespread and accepted by large parts of the society. 
Two gender-based violence ‘fast-track courts’ were launched (the first of its kind in southern 
Africa) and there are also national efforts to raise awareness regarding the fight against child 
marriage. On the latter, 2016 saw the adoption of the 2016-2020 national strategy on ending 
child marriage. 
The EU supported the internally agreed priorities and objectives both at the political level 
and through the EU’s development cooperation programmes. In the context of the Article 8 
Political Dialogue the focus was on issues such as women’s rights, freedom of expression and 
the death penalty. 
Democracy and human rights issues, such as gender and the fight against corruption, were 
also raised at the joint EU Heads of Missions meeting with President Lungu in October. 
On the death penalty, targeted outreach efforts were made in the run-up to Zambia’s UNGA 
vote on the moratorium in December. 
The EU and the Member States remain a key development partner for Zambia. The areas of 
support with the highest numbers of EU/Member State projects in 2016 were women’s and 
girls’ rights and the fight against gender based violence, economic, social and cultural rights 
(access to health and education), transparent governance and anti-corruption.
 
Ahead of the general elections, the EU deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) 
consisting of 124 observers, including a four-member European Parliament delegation, which 
stayed in the 10 provinces of Zambia from 29 June to 12 September. The EOM assessed the 
entire electoral process in accordance with international and regional commitments to genuine 
and transparent elections and the laws of Zambia. The mission found the voting peaceful and 
generally well administered, but reported that elections were marred by systematic bias in 
the state media and that there were campaign restrictions. 
The European Union has issued several statements since the beginning of the year to encourage 
peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive elections. In the post-electoral period, the EU 
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HRVP’s spokesperson issued a statement on the post-election developments, calling for the 
suspension of two radio stations and one TV station.
On human rights defenders, the EU is engaged in directly supporting LGBTI HRDs.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) 
and the DCI NSA-LA Programme. 
Zambia has ratified the principal international instruments relating to human rights. In 2016, 
it reiterated its support for and continued membership of the International Criminal Court 
despite the fact that several African countries announced their intention to withdraw from the 
ICC in 2016.
The Universal Periodic Review Process for Zambia is scheduled for 2017.
A new priority for the EU in Zambia is the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights 
with a particular focus on children’s right to good healthcare and education. While the EU is 
already actively engaged in this area on the development cooperation side, notably through 
its engagement in health, education and social protection programmes, this new priority will 
become a stronger focus of the EU’s political engagement.
 
Republic of Zimbabwe
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in Zimbabwe significantly deteriorated, in particular 
as regards social media demonstrators and members of opposition parties. Political parties’ 
rallies, even those authorised by the courts, were often broken up by the police. Demonstrators 
were intimidated, including by violent means, and hundreds of protesters were jailed without 
due process (although all were freed on bail in the end). There were more than 10 well-
documented and targeted cases of abduction and torture of leaders of social movements and 
their family members.
Throughout 2016, the EU’s priorities addressed both the institutions and civil society 
organisations engaged in the implementation of the new constitution, particularly the new 
Declaration of Rights, as well as socio-economic and cultural rights. Additional attention 
was paid to the strengthening the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights 
defenders, women’s and children’s rights, and minorities’ rights.
Other human rights issues concerned the politicisation of food aid, notably in regions where 
food aid is distributed by the government. As regards democracy and good governance, a 
proposed amendment to the constitution would give President Mugabe executive powers 
to appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court – a 
provision that was deliberately done away with under the new constitution adopted in 2013. 
This move has been heavily criticised by civil society groups.
On the positive side, Zimbabwe committed to abstaining on the resolution in the UNGA on 
the moratorium on the death penalty and to proposing to commute the death penalty of 
those presently on death row to life imprisonment. Moreover, the Zimbabwe Human 
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Rights Commission has been able to play an increasingly active role and has issued reports 
condemning the excessive use of violence during the protest movements over the summer 
and the politicisation of food aid.
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Zimbabwe 
in various settings. An Article 8 Political Dialogue was held on 25 November at Permanent 
Secretary/ambassadorial level covering all the core issues related to the situation of human 
rights and democracy in the country. 
 
The EU repeatedly voiced concerns, through local statements, speeches, and workshops, and 
took formal and informal steps to encourage Zimbabwe to ensure full respect for human 
rights. The EU Delegation issued five local statements voicing concerns over the abduction of 
missing activist Itai Dzamara, local governance, violence, the right to peaceful protest, and the 
abduction and brutalisation of social activists.
On 15 September, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning violations of 
human rights and calling upon the EU to ‘carefully analyse the appropriateness of re-imposing 
certain restrictive measures’72.  
On 5 December, EU Heads of Mission held a structured dialogue with civil society addressing 
constitutionalism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on Zimbabwe held on 2 
November, and civil society space.
72. European Parliament resolution of 15 September 2016 on Zimbabwe (2016/2882(RSP))
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VI. Arabian Peninsula
Kingdom of Bahrain
Five years after the resurgence of unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the EU continues to 
closely monitor local developments and where appropriate, via different channels, to express 
concern regarding the internal human rights situation. 
 
The EU consistently called upon all sides to engage constructively in a process of genuine 
national reconciliation and dialogue, without preconditions and in a peaceful manner. The EU 
closely followed some of the initiatives undertaken by the government of Bahrain – especially 
the full implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of 
Inquiry – and the work of human rights-related institutions such as the Police Ombudsman for 
the Ministry of the Interior, the National Institution for Human Rights, and the Commission on 
the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees. However, the necessary conditions for real and lasting 
reconciliation have not yet been achieved and the EU repeatedly called on all Bahrainis to make 
use of the new institutions to make sure they can deliver concrete improvements in the human 
rights situation in Bahrain, including on the basis of the recommendations made in the reports 
presented by the National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman, to achieve long-
term and sustainable stability and prosperity for all Bahraini citizens. 
The EU consistently engaged with the Bahraini authorities on human rights concerns in the 
Kingdom, while advising against measures that could undermine the stability of the country. 
The EEAS conducted several formal and informal outreach initiatives towards the Bahraini 
authorities concerning the intensified crackdown on freedom of expression, prominent 
individual cases of political and human rights activists, the imprisonment of leaders of the 
main opposition political society and its dissolution, the travel ban for human rights activists, 
the high number of cases of citizenship revocation, and death sentences in cases where 
complaints of alleged torture and ill-treatment were filed. 
In addition to issuing a series of public statements73, the HRVP and the EEAS had regular direct 
contacts with Bahraini political actors and activists. The EU Special Representative for Human 
Rights met with the Bahraini Minister and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs in Geneva. The 
first meeting of the informal EU-Bahrain human rights working group took place on 4 April in 
Manama.
 
73. EU External Action Service, Statement by Spokesperson on recent developments in Bahrain, 5 July 2016 and 
 
Statement by the Spokesperson on the sentencing of Ali Salman, 5 July 2016
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The EU continued to encourage all political societies to engage in a national dialogue towards 
reform and national reconciliation as the only viable path, while calling on the authorities to 
reach out to opposition and to consider confidence-building measures, including the release of 
peaceful activists. The EU strongly condemned the use of violence in any form by any side to 
achieve political goals.
The EU delivered an EU Statement agreed by all EU Member States under Item 2 on 14 
September in Geneva, in which the EU raised its concerns over the human rights situation in 
Bahrain.
The European Parliament passed an Urgency Resolution on 4 February concerning the case 
of Mohammed Ramadan, a Bahraini sentenced to death74. In the Resolution the Parliament 
expressed its concern and disappointment over Bahrain’s return to the practice of capital 
punishment, condemned the alleged use of torture against prisoners by the security forces, 
and expressed concerns about the use of anti-terrorism laws to punish political beliefs and 
convictions and prevent citizens from pursuing political activities.
The European Parliament passed an Urgency Resolution on 7 July concerning Bahrain, 
expressing its concerns regarding the intensified campaign of repression and persecution 
of human rights defenders and political opposition and noting travel bans, revocation of 
citizenship, the cases of Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja, Mohammed Ramadan, Ali Moosa 
and Sheikh Ali Salman, and the suspension of Al-Wefaq75. 
European Parliamentarians paid a visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain from 17 to 19 December.
State of Kuwait
The main issues that the EU raised with the Kuwaiti authorities were the situation of the 
Bidoons (stateless residents), the death penalty, freedom of expression and the situation of 
foreign labourers and domestic workers.
 
The EU monitored the implementation of recently adopted legislation regulating the labour 
rights of domestic workers. Under this legislation, domestic workers’ rights and obligations 
are now clearly defined, reducing the scope for possible abuse. The new laws introduce 
some positive changes and the EU will continue to monitor their implementation and their 
enforcement mechanisms.
The EU expressed in its contacts with the Kuwaiti authorities its concern about a number of 
arrests of human rights activists for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, 
association and assembly.
Following the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council, the EU is 
encouraging the Kuwaiti authorities to implement the UPR recommendations and will continue 
monitoring the process.
74. European Parliament resolution of 4 February 2016 on Bahrain: the case of Mohammed Ramadan 
 
 (2016/2557(RSP))
75. European Parliament resolution of 7 July 2016 on Bahrain (2016/2808(RSP))
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The EU is aware of the issue regarding stateless persons in Kuwait as so far no serious solution 
to this problem has been found. 
The EU raised the question of migrant workers’ rights, especially the right to education in 
public schools. 
Sultanate of Oman
The EU continued to be concerned about several court cases brought against people who 
protested or expressed views on social media, but it has also noted that pardons were granted 
in most of these cases. Another issue of concern for the EU is discrimination against expatriate 
workers, in the application of the labour laws and in practice, and their general status and 
situation. The EU liaised with the Omani authorities on the situation of foreign workers and on 
trafficking in human beings.
The EU continues to support Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom 
of peaceful assembly and of association, who presented his report on his visit to Oman in 
September 2014 at the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 17 June, stating that 
the right of Omanis to peaceful assembly is ‘virtually non-existent in practice’. 
 
The EU raised the cases of human rights defenders Ismaeel al-Meqbali, Helal al-Alawi and 
Saeed Jadad, online activists Hassan al-Basham and Abdullah Habib, writer Hammood al-
Shukaily and journalists Yousef al-Haj and Ibrahim al-Maamari with the Omani authorities 
when possible.
State of Qatar
The EU and its Member States focused particularly on freedom of expression and the 
development of independent media, efforts to strengthen civil society via more liberal 
legislation on freedom of association and civil society initiatives, support for human rights 
defenders, women’s rights, and improving the working and living conditions of migrant 
workers. 
Global attention still focuses on the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar, following reports 
of unpaid wages, shortcomings in the areas of health and safety, inadequate housing, and 
unscrupulous labour agents in the workers’ countries of origin in the run-up to the FIFA World 
Cup 2022. 
The EU welcomed the legislation passed in October 2015, which entered into force in December 
2016, as an important step in replacing the ‘kafala’ (sponsorship) system with a fully contract-
based system. The EU will continue to monitor its implementation.
Qatar is also facing a complaint under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution for violation of ILO 
Convention 81 on labour inspection and Convention 29 on forced labour, filed against the state 
in the ILO. An ILO tripartite visit took place in March, and during the March session of the ILO 
Governing Body and the International Labour Conference in June,, Qatar reiterated its openness 
to engage with international bodies. The EU welcomed positive developments and encouraged 
Qatar to address remaining issues in a constructive manner. 
 
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Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
In 2016, the overall human rights situation remained marked by many concerns, although 
some progress can be identified in several areas. The implementation of the death penalty 
is of great concern: this year there were 154 executions, the fourth highest number in the 
world. The guardianship system limits the independence of women. The scope for freedom 
of expression (including online) was reduced throughout 2016. There was some progress 
regarding women and sports, and women gained access to more professions in the labour 
market. Some positive steps were taken on the conditions of the migrant workers but the 
‘kafala’ (sponsorship) system prevailing in the region and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 
should be abolished.
The EU consistently engaged with the Saudi authorities in a dialogue on human rights and 
encouraged ongoing reform measures as well as the abolition and non-implementation of 
the death penalty. The areas of focus included women’s rights, especially the economic 
empowerment of women and women’s public representation, children’s rights, freedom of 
expression and assembly, religious tolerance and non-discrimination, and migrants’ rights.
The scope of both the Anti-Terror Law and the Anti-Cyber Crime Law of 2014 have been 
extensively interpreted, further reducing the scope for freedom of expression and assembly 
throughout 2016 by applying severe sentences to human rights defenders.
The Law on Associations and Foundations that was issued in December 2015 and entered into 
forced in March 2016 has generally speaking failed to show that it provides enough guarantees 
that associations will be registered. The amendments to the labour legislation that aim 
to improve migrant workers’ situation still need to be fully implemented, while domestic 
workers are excluded from the amended law. Women remain limited by the guardianship 
system.
 
In terms of improvements, women have been empowered economically through facilitating 
access to the labour market by opening more professions to women that were previously 
reserved for men. In a positive move, on 1 August the General Authority of Sports established 
a new women’s department and appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud as its head. 
Women have been allowed to receive a copy of their marriage certificate since May 2016, thus 
ensuring their inheritance rights.
The implementation of the amended labour legislation allows migrant workers to benefit from 
a salary payments by direct bank transfer, establishes maximum hours of work and regulates 
legal leave (sick leave, maternity leave, etc.).
In April 2016, a royal decree curtailed the powers of the Committee for the Promotion of 
Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to hold people in custody, paving the way for greater 
freedom.
The EU consistently engaged with the Saudi authorities on human rights concerns in the 
Kingdom, while encouraging reform measures. The areas of main concern include the male 
guardianship system and women’s rights, the death penalty, reform of the judiciary, freedom 
of expression, religious tolerance, discrimination and foreign labourers’ rights. 
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In addition to a series of public statements, especially one following the mass execution 
of 47 inmates on 2 January76 the EEAS conducted several formal and informal outreach 
initiatives towards the Saudi authorities in several human rights-related judicial cases in close 
coordination with EU Member States and like-minded partners.
The EU maintained regular contacts with civil society organisations and human rights 
defenders and raised cases of concern with the relevant authorities on several occasions. 
Since 2013, the EU Delegation has had permission for diplomats to attend public trials. Since 
then, together with EU Member States Embassies, it has observed several court hearings, 
including throughout 2016.
 
The EU, through the European Union Delegation in Riyadh, presented the EU’s priorities 
and initiatives to the Saudi authorities ahead of each Human Rights Council and UNGA Third 
Committee meeting. 
The EU also expressed concern about the juveniles who were on death row even though they 
had been minors at the time they were arrested, which violates the Convention on the Rights 
of the Child, signed by Saudi Arabia.
The EU welcomed the changes introduced in the labour law, which improved migrant workers’ 
situation, and the implementation of the amended legislation throughout 2016, and encouraged 
further changes towards the compete abolition of the ‘kafala’ (sponsorship) system. 
The European Parliament held a debate on 19 January concerning worsening Saudi-Iranian 
relations and the HRVP replied stressing the EU’s efforts regarding this issue. 
European Parliamentarians from the AFET Committee visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates from 7 to 12 February, and the European Parliamentarian 
Rachida Dati paid a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1 to 3 October. The European 
Parliament also paid a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 19 to 21 December within 
the framework of the inter-parliamentary meeting between the European Parliament and the 
Shura Council.
The EU shares some of the UN human rights experts’ concerns about overly broad counter-
terrorism measures which could lead to abuses against human rights defenders and online 
political activists with no links to terrorism. 
United Arab Emirates
The EU remained active in monitoring the human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates 
(UAE), in close coordination with EU Member States’ embassies. 
 
The sixth meeting of the informal EU-UAE working group on human rights was successfully 
held on 25-26 May 2016 in Abu Dhabi, gathering participants from the EEAS, the UAE Ministry 
of Foreign Affairs and UAE line ministries (Justice, Interior, Tolerance, and Youth). 
76. 2 January 2016, Statement of the HR/VP Federica Mogherini on the executions in Saudi Arabia
 
http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2016/160102_01_en.htm
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In an overall positive atmosphere, the meetings addressed the full range of EU concerns, 
including freedom of expression, children’s rights, women’s and youth empowerment, labour 
rights, access to justice and conditions of detention. 
In cooperation with the originating country, the UAE has shown commitment in trying to limit 
abuses with regard to the recruitment of migrant workers. The key is to guarantee the right of 
the workers to choose their employer. A new decree regulating labour relations was announced 
by the UAE Minister for Labour on 29 September 2015 and entered into force on 1 January 
2016. These provisions undeniably represent significant progress in the protection of migrant 
workers in the UAE. In concrete terms, they are notably intended to prevent the substitution 
of the original proposal by a different final labour contract which is less favourable for the 
worker, as well as to allow migrants to change employer in the UAE without being obliged to 
go back to their country of origin.
EU action concentrated on monitoring the follow-up to various laws and instruments 
implemented in the country to improve the human rights situation. The EU Delegation continues 
to deliver human rights demarches at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International 
Cooperation. The main discussions on human rights matters take place at meetings of the 
UAE-EU Human Rights Working Group.
The UAE authorities continued to maintain a strict limitation on freedom of both expression and 
association, especially in cases where the UAE government had been criticised and democratic 
reforms asked for. The 2012 UAE Cybercrime Law, stating that ‘any form of misuse of a computer/
smart device or an electronic network/system could lead to up to a life sentence and/or a fine of 
between AED 50 000 and AED 3 million’, was invoked several times during the year. 
 
Despite the fact that the UAE has successfully enhanced the public role of women (high-level positions 
in the cabinet, Federal National Council, ministries and private sector; approved mandatory female 
presence on the boards of trustees; establishment of the Gender Balance Council, etc.), further 
progress is necessary to improve the role of women in the family and women’s access to justice (in 
cases of domestic violence, custody, divorce, etc.). The government’s interpretation of Sharia applies 
in personal status cases and family law. The law forbids Muslim women to marry non-Muslims. 
Discrimination against children born from mixed relationships remains a crucial issue, even more so 
since the number of such marriages are increasing.
Cases of enforced disappearance were highlighted throughout the year, including that of Dr 
Nasser bin Ghaith, an Emirati economist and academic. The first hearing took place on 4 April 
2016 behind closed doors.
Republic of Yemen
2016 was characterised by continuous war, widespread insecurity and war-related atrocities. 
The civilian population, institutions and installations suffered heavily from being (deliberately) 
targeted by warring parties. The government in exile has only limited control over the country.
The EU’s priority is to improve the overall situation in Yemen, focusing on the political process, 
the humanitarian response, ways to continue cooperation, post-conflict recovery, and the 
restoration of dialogue with specific attention paid to human rights issues. 
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War-related human rights issues, including violations of IHL, child soldiers in armed conflict, 
and the situation of IDPs will be high on the agenda alongside ‘typical’ gender-related issues.
The increasing role of extremist/terrorist organisations such as AQAP and ISIL/Da’esh in filling 
the security gap, and thereby threatening democracy, will need specific attention and action.
The recruitment of children for military purposes and their use in hostilities is of growing 
concern as the conflict continues. Measures must be taken to prevent such recruitment and 
use.
 
The political process in Yemen is concentrated on UN efforts to engage parties to the conflict 
in peace negotiations preceded by a sustainable cessation of hostilities. The EU, through the 
ERMES programme, supports this process through de-escalation activities. 
The EU remains committed to an unimpeded flow of commercial items and humanitarian aid to 
Yemen, a country almost exclusively dependent on imports and where restrictions of access 
have deprived its population of essential supplies, with malnutrition at critically high levels. To 
this end the EU supported both politically and financially the United Nations Verification and 
Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) for commercial shipping to Yemen.
The EU also supported humanitarian partners in Yemen, targeting its principled, strategic, 
multi-sector humanitarian support for the civilian population most affected by the conflict 
and the food security crisis. The EU prioritized life-saving assistance in the sectors of health, 
nutrition, food security, protection, shelter/non-food items, and water and sanitation.
The EU has voiced concerns about violations and abuses of international human rights law 
and violations of international humanitarian law, and more specifically about the targeting of 
civilians. This was done though statements and in formal and informal contacts with parties 
to the conflict. 
The EU is actively supporting Yemeni human rights and civil society by three main means: the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Instrument contributing 
to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO-LA) 
programme.
During 2016, 10 projects worth a total contracted amount of EUR 4 481 784 ended, which 
resulted in a total payment of EUR 2 177 074. This included an IcSP project focusing on civilian 
peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution implemented by the Yemen Polling Centre 
and a project on child soldiers (prevention and demobilisation) implemented by the Danish 
Refugee Council, as well as projects geared towards human rights, civilian peacebuilding and 
democratic participation, and support for national NGOs.
 
In 2016, 10 projects were still active or initiated. These amounted to a total of EUR 6 637 855, 
of which EUR 3 334 089 was paid during that year. The largest of the projects is support for 
the UNVIM under the IcSP worth EUR 2 million, with additional contributions from Member 
States. Projects under the EIDHR focusing on children’s rights, youth and national dialogue, 
and the abolition of the death penalty are implemented by organisations such as Saferworld, 
the Danish Red Cross and UNICEF. 
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UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/18 on the situation of human rights in Yemen provides 
for further technical support to the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry.
Republic of Iraq
In 2016 the overall situation in the country remained marked by a critical human rights situation 
and challenges related to the war against ISIL/Da’esh and the humanitarian emergency. The 
situation of ethnic and religious minorities was critical.
The EU’s human rights policy in Iraq focuses on the protection of civilians during and after 
the conflict, the protection of ethnic/religious minorities, national and social reconciliation, 
the independence of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission and gender-based violence. The EU 
regularly renews its calls on Iraq to sign the Rome Statute and accede to the International 
Criminal Court (ICC) and to accede and implement Additional Protocol II to the Geneva 
Conventions, reinforcing the full application of IHL by the Iraqi authorities and affiliated 
forces. Throughout the year, the EU continued to support Prime Minister al-Abadi in the 
implementation of his reform programme addressing widespread corruption and deficient 
public service delivery. It called on the government to reach out to all components of Iraqi 
society and to make progress on national reconciliation. 
 
There are various human rights problems, especially in relation to forced disappearances, the 
impeded or forced return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the destruction of their 
property, forced evictions, including on sectarian basis, and denial of freedom of movement 
and forced encampment of families allegedly affiliated to ISIL/Da’esh. Furthermore, lack of 
due process and fair trial standards, conflict-related sexual violence as well as child soldier 
recruitment are common. Violations in security screening of male IDPs, including minors, 
are a particularly critical issue. Torture remains widespread in police detention centres, 
interrogation cells and prisons. Journalists have been harassed and killed, particularly in ISIL/
Da’esh controlled areas. Accusations of corruption are frequent and impunity is prevalent. The 
lack of government transparency and lack of access made it difficult to assess the magnitude 
of many reported human rights problems. 
The Iraqi government has engaged in the protection of civilians in the military campaign to 
retake areas from ISIL/Da’esh, especially in East Mosul. During this first phase of the campaign, 
artillery strikes were limited and major efforts were made to protect civilians in their homes. 
Differently from previous battles, thanks to abidance to the Mosul Humanitarian Concept of 
Operations, the overwhelming majority of civilians, 550 000 people, could safely stay in their 
homes, rather than fleeing (this would change in West Mosul campaign). The adoption of the 
Amnesty Law and the law banning the Baath party in September 2016, as well as the Law on 
the Popular Mobilisation Forces in December 2016, can be seen as steps in the right direction.
In their May 2016 Council Conclusions77, the Foreign Affairs Ministers strongly condemned the 
continued gross, systematic and widespread human rights abuses and violations carried out 
by ISIL/Da’esh and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
77. Council conclusions on the EU Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da’esh threat, 9105/16, 23 
 
May 2016 and Council conclusions on Syria, 17 October 2016
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They also insisted on the need for parties to the conflict to comply with international law, 
including humanitarian and human rights law, both during and, where applicable, after the 
conduct of hostilities; that security screening procedures must comply with national and 
international law, and camps must maintain their humanitarian and civilian character. The EU 
also insisted that returns of IDPs must be enabled in a safe, informed, voluntary and non-
discriminatory way, in line with international protection standards.
 
On 27 October 2016, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the situation in northern 
Iraq/Mosul78. The EP also held an urgency debate on mass graves in Iraq, condemning the 
atrocities committed by ISIL/Da’esh. In 2016, the Sakharov Prize was awarded to two Yezidi 
women who were survivors of ISIL/Da’esh enslavement. Several MEPs visited northern Iraq.
On 16 March 2016 the Cooperation Committee, under the umbrella of the EU-Iraq Partnership 
and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), took place in Baghdad. The discussion on human rights/
democracy touched upon mass graves, war crimes and sexual violence. 
The EU Delegation has been chairing and organising monthly meetings of the EU Human Rights 
Working Group in both Baghdad and Erbil. The annual meeting of the EU Delegation with human 
rights defenders took place in March 2016. The EU Delegation is also engaging in a variety of 
cultural activities.
The EU has not hesitated to voice concerns through statements and common outreaches. The 
HRVP spokesperson issued regular public statements on ISIL/Da’esh’s attacks on civilians. 
The EU Delegation published several statements, e.g. on media freedom, the political crisis 
and the adoption of the Amnesty Law. Demarches on the death penalty and the safety of 
journalists were undertaken by the EU Delegation in Baghdad.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the 
Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the EU Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis 
(‘Madad’), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the European Instrument 
for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities 
(CSO-LA) and European Resources for Mediation Support (ERMES). 
 
Human rights-related projects focused on:
(a) reconciliation: support for dialogue, conflict reduction between IDPs and host 
 
 
communities, concerns related to missing persons and sectarian violence, the 
 
 
protection of cultural heritage and diversity;
(b)  education: capacity building for primary and secondary education;
(c)  local governance: decentralisation;
(d)  security: criminal justice and the rule of law, developing human rights-compliant  
 
counter-terrorism legislation.
The EU supported humanitarian partners in Iraq with over EUR 159 million in 2016, targeting 
its principled, strategic, multi-sector humanitarian support for all populations most affected 
by the conflict, on the basis of needs only.
78. European Parliament resolution of 27 October 2016 on the situation in Northern Iraq/Mosul (2016/2956(RSP))
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Protection of civilians during and after the conduct of hostilities was at the core of the EU’s 
support and focus in the country and humanitarian advocacy was constantly conducted, calling 
on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law (IHL) and international 
human rights law (IHRL). In this context, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid 
and Civil Protection, Christos Stylianides, issued public statements and co-hosted a High Level 
Event on Iraq in the margins of UNGA, focusing on concrete measures for the protection of 
civilians in all military operations in Iraq and, especially, Mosul. Working Party on Humanitarian 
Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) Common Messages were also promoted on the humanitarian crisis 
in Iraq, focusing on protection of civilians and respect of IHL, agreed by COHAFA in October 
(13388/16). Consistent messages were passed during several high level missions to the 
country, including Commissioner Stylianides’ visit in July 2016. 
Iraq is party to a number of international human rights conventions and many have not yet 
been ratified. The following fundamental treaties have yet not been acceded to: the 1951 UN 
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the Convention on the Non-Applicability of 
Statutory Limitations to War Crimes. In addition, Iraq has not signed the Optional Protocols to 
the CAT and the CEDAW regarding complaint procedures, nor has it acceded to the Statute of 
the International Criminal Court (ICC).
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VII. Asia
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
In 2016 the human rights situation remained precarious in Afghanistan, especially with regard 
to women’s and children’s rights and the situation of human rights defenders and the media. 
However, positive steps were taken in several areas and the authorities have expressed a 
commitment to making progress on promoting human rights protection within the country. 
The EU’s priorities continued to be women’s rights, children’s rights, the death penalty, 
torture and ill-treatment, access to justice, freedom of expression, socially vulnerable people 
and persons with disabilities. The EU was also active in tackling continued democratisation in 
Afghanistan. 
Afghanistan continued to face various problems in 2016, especially with regard to women’s 
rights, violence against women, the violent abuse of children, human rights defenders (HRDs) 
or ensuring freedom of expression and the media. Problems still persist with regard to the 
justice system and the fight against corruption. The death penalty continued to apply: six men 
were executed in May 2016 despite protests from the EU and its Member States. Torture and 
other ill-treatment, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention, were regularly reported. An 
area of particular concern in 2016 was the high number of civilian casualties79, with almost 
one third being children. 
The Taliban is enforcing Sharia law without fair trial principles in Taliban-controlled areas and 
according to media reports the Taliban is responsible for killing at least 14 women accused of 
‘moral crimes’ in 2016. The Taliban continued to threaten the media throughout 2016, including 
through a suicide attack on a bus in Kabul carrying staff from a TV station on 20 January 2016. 
In September 2016, Afghanistan adopted the new Election Law and in November the members 
of the two main electoral bodies were appointed. The EU has actively engaged in dialogue with 
all relevant parties stressing the need to rebuild the trust of the Afghan public in electoral 
institutions and democratic processes. Electoral reform has yet to be fully implemented, to 
complete the democratic transition following the 2014 presidential elections.
 
Among the positive achievements in 2016 were the start of the implementation of the national 
action plan on women, peace and security (UNSCR 1325), the drafting of a comprehensive 
Children’s Act, and the approval of the justice sector reform plan.
79 8 397 civilian causalities related to conflicts (2 562 deaths and 5 835 injured), according to UNAMA’s 
 
thirdquarter Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, released in October 2016
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Progress was made with regard to increased women’s participation in political life: the 
government appointed a female member of the High Peace Council, four female ministers were 
appointed and approved by parliament, and two female Provincial Governors were appointed 
(one has since been removed). The government has also appointed five female ambassadors, 
and there are eight female deputy ministers. 
Adoption of the Election Law and appointments to the electoral bodies were essential steps 
to pave the way towards electoral reform, leading to credible, transparent and inclusive 
elections. In 2016 the government finalised the draft Penal Code, also incorporating the penal 
provisions of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law; its final adoption must 
be pursued. The Ministries of Defence and the Interior and the National Directorate of Security 
signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights 
Commission on the Ombudsman in May 2016.
In 2016 the EU and Afghanistan continued the local dialogue on human rights issues, with 
the second Afghanistan-EU local human rights dialogue held in June 2016 and a follow-up 
meeting held in November 2016. Human rights were also highlighted during the Brussels 
Conference on Afghanistan (BCA) in October and during the gender side event in the margins 
of the BCA entitled ‘Empowered women, prosperous Afghanistan’. The EU continued to stress 
the important role of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in reporting and 
monitoring human rights in Afghanistan.
Human rights defenders (HRDs) remained an important topic of discussion. On 15 March the 
Swedish Embassy and the EU held a conference on freedom of expression and the safety of 
journalists. As part of the HRD strategy the EU continued the bi-monthly meetings with HRDs 
and the HRD Committee. On 1 February the EU held a workshop on the revision of the EU+ local 
strategy for HRDs in Afghanistan and this strategy was revised in December. 
 
Following the Taliban attacks on Kunduz in October 2016 the EU held and chaired an emergency 
coordination meeting to support HRDs and journalists fleeing the fighting. The EU coordinated 
the assistance, which also included HRDs and journalists from Helmand, Farah and Uruzgan 
provinces, with the HRD Committee, other Afghan CSOs and the international community in 
several meetings during October and November 2016. 
In 2016 the EU continued to be a key donor in Afghanistan, championing human rights through its 
different instruments and thematic programmes. The EU Delegation implements 27 contracts 
in support of civil society, human rights, gender equality, media and social protection. The 
projects support the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform; 
create a more enabling environment for Afghan women to participate in public life; strengthen 
political participation and rights protection for marginalised urban internally displaced persons 
(IDPs); develop youth leaders’ knowledge of civic, gender and human rights issues; support 
human rights defenders; mitigate and prevent family violence against women and girls; and 
provide political support, access to vocational training and capacity building and psychosocial 
counselling. The EU continued its support for the implementation of the national action plan on 
women, peace and security, as a main donor, through the implementation of the four projects, 
currently ongoing in eight provinces. 
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The EU also provided five emergency grants under the European Instrument for Democracy 
and Human Rights (EIDHR) to support around 200 HRDs and journalists fleeing the fighting 
in Kunduz, Helmand, Farah and Uruzgan provinces. Furthermore there were two grants for 
individual HRDs in 2016. 
Afghanistan committed to cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to 
extending an official invitation to the ICC to come to Afghanistan. Afghanistan has not yet 
signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 
(ICCPR) regarding abolishing the death penalty. The death penalty remained a subject of 
discussion during the human rights dialogue, with the EU repeating its call for a moratorium. 
Afghanistan also expressed commitment to signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention 
against Torture (CAT). 
 
In the near future, the focus should be on achieving progress in all abovementioned areas. The 
EU will continue its human rights dialogue combined with comprehensive public diplomacy 
and outreach.
Islamic Republic of Iran
Despite some limited progress, including the unveiling of a Citizens’ Charter by President 
Rouhani, the situation of human rights in Iran remained a matter of concern in 2016. A recurrent 
issue is the number of executions, which, even though it was lower than in 2015, remained 
high. Restrictions on civil freedoms persisted, notably the lack of guarantees to a free and 
fair trial, and violations of freedom of expression, religion or belief and of women’s rights. A 
worrying increase in arrests of dual nationals was also noted. Shortcomings in freedom of 
association continued to be scrutinised by the ILO and were highlighted as extremely serious 
and urgent in November 2016.
The EU continued to voice concerns over human rights in Iran using a variety of formal 
and informal, bilateral and multilateral means. The EU issued statements on prisoners of 
conscience80 and carried out demarches on several individual cases in which individuals were 
facing imminent execution for drug-related crimes or for crimes committed as juveniles. It 
called on the government of Iran to refrain from using the death penalty notably for crimes 
which, according to international human rights law, do not qualify as ‘most serious crimes’. The 
EU reiterated its concerns about the high number of executions in the country on a number of 
occasions. As in previous years, the EU supported the resolution on the human rights situation 
in Iran tabled by Canada at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
 
Elections for the 10th parliament (Majlis) and the fifth Assembly of Experts were held in Iran 
in February and April (second round) with a 60% voter turnout marked by high participation 
from the young and middle-class voters. A vetting process preceded the elections in which the 
Guardian Council approved 6 333 of 12 076 registered candidates. In the end 4 844 candidates 
ran for the 290 seats in the Majlis and 159 candidates (of 161 approved) for the 88 seats in the 
Assembly of Experts. A record number of 17 women were elected to the new Majlis, which 
amounts to 6% of all members. 
80. EU External Action Service, Statement by the Spokesperson on the condemnation of Human rights defender N. 
  Mohammadi in Iran, 20 May 2016 and Statement by the Spokesperson on the confirmation of the prison 
 
sentence of Narges Mohammadi in Iran, 30 September 2016
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On 19 December 2016, President Rouhani released the Charter of Citizens’ Rights (a first draft 
was published in 2013), fulfilling a campaign pledge from 2013. The document promises the 
‘observance and advancement’ of the rights afforded to Iranians by the constitution and should 
be seen as an encouraging step.
Capital punishment was a major issue in 2016 and some Iranian authorities recognised that 
the death penalty was not an efficient deterrent factor for drug traffickers. In this context, 
the new Majlis launched a potentially significant reform aimed at reducing the number of 
executions for non-violent drug-related offences. A positive development in the course of the 
year was that some executions were postponed or suspended following diplomatic demarches 
and public outcry by international human rights NGOs.
Human rights are part of a broad and comprehensive agenda of cooperation with Iran which 
followed the Implementation Day of the JCPOA on 16 January. The Joint Statement agreed on 
16 April by HRVP Mogherini and Foreign Minister Zarif confirmed both sides’ determination to 
enhance and promote human rights and to engage in a human rights dialogue. A first dedicated 
meeting on human rights issues took place in November and allowed for an initial exchange of 
views. The EU will continue its informal talks with Iran and will progressively address concerns 
in the context of the high-level political dialogue and contacts at political level. 
On 25 October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on a new strategy towards Iran after 
the nuclear deal. It calls on the EU to ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of 
cooperation with Iran and encourages the development of an EU-Iran human rights dialogue.
 
An overall improvement of the human rights situation in Iran will depend on the result of the 
2017 presidential elections, the new government’s commitment to human rights and support from 
the Majlis and the judicial system in Iran. The EU is keen to support a reform process wherever 
possible, through an agreed framework and in close coordination with the Member States.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
At the 21st ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok on 13-14 October 2016, Foreign 
Ministers on both sides confirmed the commitment to ‘promote and protect human rights 
and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and to 
promote mutual respect amongst the states and peoples including through the exchange of 
good practices, dialogues, seminars and other initiatives’. 
These issues will remain important elements in the EU’s relations with ASEAN, including 
through the EU-ASEAN policy dialogue on human rights, and the EU looks forward to the 
convening of the second edition of the policy dialogue in South East Asia.
People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s steady high economic growth resulting in incremental poverty reduction and 
socio-economic progress (education, health) has not been accompanied by advances in the 
area of protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law. A volatile security situation, 
shrinking democratic space and continuous deterioration of civil and political rights, including 
extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance, and restrictive actions against opposition 
and human rights activists, continued to be areas of concern.
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The EU’s main priorities in the area of human rights and democracy remain judicial reform, 
the rights of persons belonging to minorities, human rights defenders, women’s and children’s 
rights, support for civil society and the implementation of labour rights. The EU also encouraged 
Bangladesh in forming an independent, impartial and non-partisan Election Commission to 
hold the next legislative elections in a free, fair and participatory way. 
 
In 2016 Bangladesh witnessed deterioration of the security situation with militant attacks on 
religious and ethnic minority communities and their places of worship, killings of bloggers, 
journalists, academics and secular citizens, and enforced disappearances. The rule of law 
and law enforcement is undermined by the failure of authorities to arrest and punish the 
perpetrators, contributing to the general culture of impunity. Despite formal separation from 
the executive, the judiciary has not met people’s expectation of a truly independent institution, 
and access to justice is seriously limited due to the chronic problems of the justice system.
 
There are persisting problems in relation to gender equality, the rights of persons belonging 
to minorities, women’s and children’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities, fundamental 
labour rights, trade union registration and fair labour practices, freedom of expression and 
of the media, freedom of assembly, and the situation of the Rohingyas. On the World Press 
Freedom Index Bangladesh ranked 144th among 180 countries in 2016. The adoption of a 
number of acts (Digital Security Act, Bangladesh Liberation War Crimes Denial Act, Citizenship 
Act) will effectively restrict freedom of expression. The Foreign Donations (Voluntary 
Activities) Regulation Bill 2016 passed by parliament will create greater limitations on the 
work of civil society. In 2016 two death sentences for crimes committed during the 1971 
independence struggle were carried out. 
In 2016 the country took on the cast of a one-party system with the opposition (Bangladesh 
Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami) out of the parliament with practically no, or very limited, 
influence on the political process. Furthermore, Jamaat was decimated by the executions of 
its leadership, sentenced for crimes during the independence struggle, and supporters have 
been subject to constant pressure. The 2016 local elections (Union Parishad), which took place 
with opposition participation, were tainted by violence and electoral irregularities, among 
other things. 
In October 2016, the Bangladeshi parliament passed the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) Land 
Dispute Resolution Commission Bill, the implementation of which will contribute significantly 
to resolving numerous land disputes in the CHTs. 
On fundamental labour rights, Bangladesh made some progress under the Sustainability 
Compact, with regard to workplace safety, but more needs to be done to address unfair 
labour practices. The June 2016 conclusions of the International Labour Conference include a 
‘special paragraph’ on Bangladesh urging it to improve implementation of the ILO Freedom of 
Association Convention. 
 
The EU closely followed the human rights situation in the country through political dialogue, 
public diplomacy, development cooperation activities, engaging with cultural and civil society 
representatives and meeting human rights organisations and defenders. The EU regularly 
called on Bangladesh to make progress on the issues of human rights and democracy at all 
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meetings with Bangladeshi partners, particularly at the biennial meeting of the Sub-group 
on Good Governance and Human Rights, held in Brussels in December 2016. The EU voiced 
concerns about extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the death penalty, freedom 
of association and freedom of expression, and in general about the shrinking space for civil 
society. The EU also raised the situation of minorities, child marriage and child labour and 
domestic violence. The EU Heads of Mission in Dhaka issued six statements in 2016 on the 
subject of human rights. 
The EU has been pressing Bangladesh for the political recognition of the positive role played 
by HRDs. The EU has been in contact with the National Human Rights Commission as well as 
with a wide range of human rights defenders, closely following the individual cases of HRDs 
targeted for their exposure of human rights violations. Continuous support was provided 
to human rights NGOs through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR). 
In 2016, EU human rights projects to the tune of EUR 22 million were being implemented 
by different organisations focusing on women’s rights and empowerment, children’s rights, 
political and civil rights, economic rights, indigenous peoples rights, rights of persons belonging 
to minorities and the rights of older people. The projects benefited from funding through 
different instruments or programmes, particularly EIDHR and support for civil society and 
local authorities (CS-LA). 
Bangladesh is currently a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2015-17. 
Strengthening participation in the political process and its inclusiveness remains one of the 
main challenges for Bangladesh. Enabling the unrestricted functioning of civil society should 
play an important role in the preparations for the third Universal Periodic Review (May 2018). 
Implementation of the Sustainability Compact and guaranteeing labour rights should be high 
on the agenda.
 
Kingdom of Bhutan
Since its first parliamentary elections in 2008, Bhutan has made considerable progress in 
its democratisation process and on human rights, by working on issues such as combating 
corruption, improving access to social services (health, education), promoting gender equality, 
safeguarding women’s and children’s rights, and poverty eradication.
In 2016, the main EU priority for human rights and democracy was supporting the Bhutanese 
government’s efforts to strengthen democracy through the empowerment of local authorities 
and the creation of a vibrant civil society, as well as assisting in efforts to protect women’s 
and children’s rights, and promote gender equality. The EU continued to engage with Bhutan to 
resolve the long-standing problem of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.
The main human rights issues include some restrictions on freedom of assembly and 
association, media self-censorship and concerns about freedom of religion or belief. 
Continued delays in the implementation of a process to identify and repatriate Bhutanese 
Nepali-speaking refugees from Nepal to Bhutan remain a major issue. Around 12 000 to 13 
000 refugees are expected to remain in Nepal after refugee resettlement to third countries 
ends in 2017.
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There was relatively low voter participation in the 2013 general elections and the 2016 local 
government elections. The number of women participating in the 2016 local elections more 
than doubled in comparison to the first local elections in 2011. In May 2016, there were 49 
registered CSOs in the country. Gender disparities in Bhutan remain. In the World Economic 
Forum’s Annual Global Gender Gap report 2016 Bhutan was ranked 121st out of 144 countries. 
The representation of women in politics is very low. Nevertheless, the number of women in 
the civil service has increased in recent years.
Bhutan’s press freedom ranking climbed 10 places in 2016 according to the World Press 
Freedom Index (April 2016) and it was ranked 94th among 180 countries. Bhutan has the best 
score among all eight South Asian countries. 
The government has launched an initiative to adopt guidelines with the aim of ratifying 
some key human rights instruments. The government recognises the problem of domestic 
violence in the country and continued efforts to address it in 2016, especially with awareness 
campaigns.
 
The EU engaged with the Bhutanese government on human rights issues in various formats, 
notably during the last (sixth) biennial consultations in Thimphu in November 2015. EU 
Ambassador Kozlowski visited Bhutan to present his credentials in February 2016, and the 
new Ambassador of Bhutan to the EU, Pema Choden, presented her credentials to President 
Tusk in August 2016.
Under the Multiannual Indicative programme (2014-2020) the EU focuses its support on the 
strengthening of civil society and local government reform with the aim of consolidating 
the decentralisation process and the devolution of power and resources. Good governance 
is supported by more than half of the funds. It focuses on empowering local authorities, 
developing the capacity of civil society and assisting with public finance management reforms. 
In the sustainable agriculture and forestry sector, a strong gender component is integrated as 
a cross-cutting issue.
Since the last Universal Periodic Review in 2014, Bhutan has addressed a series of 
recommendations, such as those on access to social services (e.g. health and education), 
poverty eradication, tackling domestic violence and gender issues, and fighting corruption. 
Bhutan has taken noteworthy steps especially in combating corruption and safeguarding 
women’s and children’s rights. 
Bhutan has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 
against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child with its Optional Protocols. The 
government has launched an initiative to adopt guidelines with the aim of ratifying other 
human rights instruments.
Bhutan must take decisive steps towards the signature of international human rights treaties. 
Looking forward, the EU’s focus will be mainly on supporting the government’s efforts to 
strengthen democracy, including through the empowerment of local authorities, protecting 
women’s and children’s rights, and promoting gender equality.
 
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Brunei Darussalam
Brunei Darussalam is an absolute monarchy, ruled under a state of emergency since 1963 which 
was implemented by the father of the present ruler Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. A blend of village 
‘councils’ and advisory bodies, including a Legislative Council (LegCo), exercises a limited role 
in recommending and approving legislation. In an otherwise tolerant society, in which Sunday 
is a public holiday as well as Christmas Day, Brunei has adopted a conservative form of Islam 
which it seeks to develop further under the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) concept.
In 2016, unlike the previous year, there were no signs of a further tightening with regard to the 
MIB concept in the daily lives of the citizens. The ‘Christmas tree controversy’ of December 
2015 did not resurface. There can be no doubt that the core policy of the government remains 
people-centred in all aspects. The monarchy continues to show deep dedication to the welfare 
of the people, who enjoy living in a peaceful harmonious environment.
A Sharia Penal Code order published in October 2013 includes provisions that impact the 
legal structure governing religious freedom. Phase 1 (with punishments limited to fines and 
imprisonment) was introduced in May 2014. Few cases have been reported before the courts. 
In 2016 there was no indication of if or when further phases of the code would be introduced. 
Concerns persist, however, that the full enactment of the Sharia Penal Code would undermine 
long-standing international human rights commitments.
The phased introduction of Sharia criminal law may be seen as an attempt to enhance social 
as well as religious discipline, and to preserve Malay culture, traditions and customs rather 
than to punish or to contain rising crime, of which there is little in Brunei. The aim is to protect 
Bruneian society in its present state and to perpetuate its ‘core values’. The Criminal Code 
complemented Brunei’s existing Sharia family law. As there are currently no signs that phases 
2 and 3 are going to be triggered any time soon, and as there is only sketchy detail as to how 
the Sharia legal concept will sit alongside existing laws, it remains difficult to assess at this 
stage how Sharia criminal law might be implemented in the future.
 
The EU consistently used bilateral meetings with Brunei’s authorities to raise human rights 
issues. EU Member States have regularly urged Brunei to accede to further core UN human 
rights instruments. In 2016, Member States represented in Brunei continued their dialogue 
with civil society and other stakeholders (e.g. the churches).
In April 2016, Brunei ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in May 
the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children 
in armed conflict. Brunei clearly needs to strengthen respect for labour rights, especially for 
migrant workers. Major human rights covenants, such as the Convention against Torture and 
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), have not yet been ratified.
Myanmar/Burma
Myanmar/Burma’s peaceful democratic transition continued in 2016 with the inauguration 
of the new parliament on 1 February, the election of the first civilian president in more than 
five decades and the arrival in office of the new government on 30 March. Aung San Suu Kyi, 
whom the 2008 military-drafted constitution bars from taking the highest office, assumed 
the post of State Counsellor, Foreign Minister and President’s Office Minister. 
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There has been regression in the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. 
Restrictions on freedom of the media, the intimidation, arrest and persecution of journalists, 
human rights defenders, activists and ordinary citizens, and the use of section 66(d) of the 
Telecommunications Act and section 505(b) of the Penal Code are worrying developments.
Lack of humanitarian access, imposed by the Government to conflict-affected populations 
remains a significant challenge in delivering life-saving assistance and protection services and 
responding to violations in Rakhine (particularly since the security clearance operation started 
in the north in October 2016), Kachin (in particular in areas beyond Government control) and 
Shan States.
 
Initiatives to create a culture of upholding the rule of law, advance human rights and undertake 
a review of the legislative framework were also launched. As a first measure, more than 300 
political prisoners, activists and human rights defenders were released. A radical Buddhist 
organisation known for inciting hatred against Muslims was delegitimised. With reference 
to the high importance which the international community, including the EU, attaches to the 
predicament of the stateless Rohingya minority, Aung San Suu Kyi decided to address the 
underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine state at an early stage of her administration. The 
setting up of an Advisory Commission for Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary-General 
Kofi Annan, the establishment of a Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, 
Stability and Development in Rakhine State, and the ongoing development of a long-term 
socio-economic development plan for Rakhine state are important steps to this end. As a 
sign of confidence in the government’s commitment to improving human rights and progress 
towards democracy and national reconciliation, the EU took the decision in September 2016 
to discontinue the human rights resolution on Myanmar/Burma in the UN General Assembly 
Third Committee, which it had been tabling since 1991. 
The heavy-handed response of security forces to three coordinated attacks on border 
guard police posts on 9 October 2016 in northern Rakhine state led to a total halt of regular 
humanitarian assistance, since then depriving more than 150 000 people of humanitarian 
assistance as well as the new caseload related to the security operation, and forced more 
than 70 000 Rohingya to seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and displaced more than 
20 000 people whose villages have been burnt to the ground. The government has denied 
reports of serious human rights violations by security forces. 
Additionally, the inability to conduct protection activities is concerning given the high number 
of serious protection incidents reported over the last few months. These reported incidents 
(most of which have not been independently verified by the UN as a result of ongoing access 
constraints), include rapes and sexual and gender0based violence, murders, abductions, and 
arbitrary arrests (including the ongoing detention of a number of children).
 
The apartheid system in place in central Rakhine includes severe movement restrictions 
preventing Muslim populations from accessing livelihood and basic services, as well as 
the segregation of 120 000 people confined in camps for 5 years. Additionally, measures 
to address the issue of statelessness (the biggest caseloads in the world) remain utterly 
inadequate.
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The new government made peace its top priority and re-invigorated the peace process with 
more than a dozen ethnic armed groups. The first round of the so-called 21st Century Panglong 
Conference, a national political dialogue, took place on 31 August–4 September 2016. On this 
occasion High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini issued a statement welcoming a more 
inclusive progress and calling on all stakeholders to work together in a constructive and 
forward-looking spirit to put an end to conflict. 
Meanwhile, according to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends study, by the end of 2016 the number 
of refugees from Myanmar was the eighth highest number among the top ten countries of 
origin for refugees with 490 300, up from 451 800 in 2015.
Despite the restart of talks, escalating fighting between the Myanmar army and ethnic armed 
groups in the Kachin and northern Shan states has undermined confidence and trust in the 
peace process. Humanitarian access to displaced populations in non-government-controlled 
areas is at its lowest since the resumption of the conflict in 2011, with reports of multiple and 
very serious human rights violations against ethnic minorities. 
As witnessed in northern Rakhine, Shan and Kachin, the Myanmar Army does not appear to 
respect the principles of proportionality as well as the distinction between combatants and 
civilians.
 
The EU Special Representative for Human Rights travelled to Myanmar/Burma for the third 
human rights dialogue on 20-24 November 2016. In meetings with the State Counsellor and 
the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces he called for the urgent resumption 
of humanitarian assistance in northern Rakhine state, increased access for media and 
independent observers and the setting up of an independent, credible investigation into the 
9 October assaults and subsequent operations. He also emphasised the continuation of 
initiatives already launched by the State Counsellor to tackle the underlying issues in Rakhine 
state. In other meetings the EU Special Representative discussed freedom of the media and 
expression and the ongoing legislative review process. 
A civil society forum preceded the human rights dialogue. Issues of concern included the four 
laws ‘on the protection of race and religion’, violence against women, new curbs on freedom 
of speech and expression, political prisoners, conditions of detention, labour law reform, the 
lack of consultation on new legislation, the peace process and transparency with regard to the 
future EU-Myanmar/Burma Investment Protection Agreement. 
On 2 December 2016 a statement by the spokesperson was issued reiterating concern 
about the situation in Rakhine state and escalating fighting in the north-eastern parts of the 
country. 
The Joint Communication entitled ‘Elements for an EU strategy vis-à-vis Myanmar/Burma: A 
Special Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity’ of 1 June 2016 outlines stepped-up 
EU engagement in support of the democratic transition, peace and national reconciliation and 
inclusive sustainable development. Democracy, the rule of law and good governance and human 
rights are key areas of engagement. On 20 June 2016 EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the Joint 
Communication laying out a plan for coherent, ambitious and forward-looking engagement 
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and intensified cooperation with Myanmar/Burma, and reiterated the commitment to fully 
supporting the country’s transition to democracy. 
 
For the consolidation of democracy, the EU has reached out to the Myanmar army, which 
remains an important political player, to expose them to the role and functioning of EU 
militaries. Following his visit to the country in June 2016, the Chairman of the EU Military 
Committee, General Kostarakos, invited the Commander-in-Chief to attend the EU28 Chiefs of 
Defence meeting on 7-8 November. In the Political and Security Committee the Commander-
in-Chief explained the role of the military in politics and the peace process. 
In September 2016, the EU participated in the Second Stakeholder Forum of the ‘Initiative to 
Promote Fundamental Labour Rights and Practices in Myanmar’. Topics of discussion included 
the priorities and challenges for the modernisation of the country’s labour laws and practices, 
and for the improvement of compliance with international labour standards, as well as how 
to foster inclusive engagement with domestic and international stakeholders in this process. 
In 2016 the European Parliament adopted two resolutions on Myanmar/Burma with particular 
focus on the situation of the Rohingya81.  
The EU continued to present a resolution on Myanmar/Burma in the UN Human Rights Council, 
renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur by another year. The resolution was 
adopted without a vote. The EU also supported renewed cooperation between the country and 
the ILO, in particular as regards the elimination of forced labour and freedom of association
Kingdom of Cambodia
In 2016, Cambodia saw rising political tensions between the ruling party, the Cambodian 
People’s Party (CPP) ,and the main opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), 
with a number of arrests and detentions of members of the opposition, civil society actors 
and human rights defenders. 
 
A local EU Statement, dated 30 May 2016, called for a halt to the judicial harassment of 
the acting leader of the opposition and representatives of civil society organisations. In a 
Resolution, dated 9 June 2016, the European Parliament expressed its deep concerns about 
the worsening climate for opposition politicians and human rights activists in Cambodia and 
deplored the use of politically motivated charges and judicial harassment of human rights 
defenders and activists82.  
The assassination of prominent political analyst and government critic Kem Ley in July 2016 
was followed by a funeral ceremony that was attended by thousands of Cambodian citizens. 
The judicial investigation into Kem Ley’s case was closed in December 2016. In 2016, new 
prosecutions were brought against exiled CNRP president, Sam Rainsy. In October 2016, the 
Cambodian government reportedly banned Sam Rainsy from returning to the country.
81. European Parliament, resolution of 7 July 2016 on Myanmar, in particular the situation of the Rohingya 
 
(2016/2809(RSP)) and resolution of 15 December 2016 on the situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar 
 2016/3027(RSP))
82. European Parliament resolution of 9 June 2016 on Cambodia (2016/2753(RSP))
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In November 2016, opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour was sentenced to seven years in prison 
for forgery and incitement to social chaos. In December, Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia 
to five years in prison in relation to the same case. In November 2016, opposition senator 
Thak Lany was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison for accusing Prime Minister Hun 
Sen of involvement in the 10 July murder of political analyst Kem Ley. 
In December 2016, CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha received a royal pardon, at the request 
of Prime Minister Hun Sen, freeing him from having to serve a five-month jail sentence. In 
December, another member of the opposition, Seang Chet, was freed on a royal pardon. The 
case against Kem Sokha resulted in the arrest of four officers of the Cambodian NGO ADHOC 
and the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC) (referred to in the 
media as the ‘ADHOC 5’). Their pre-trial detention, which started on 28 April 2016, continues 
despite a reported commitment from the government to releasing them by 31 December 
2016. Shortcomings in freedom of association continued to be scrutinised by the ILO in 
2016 and were highlighted as extremely serious and urgent in November. The EU expressed 
concerns about the persistent limitations on freedom of association and the lack of protection 
for workers’ rights.
 
At the ninth EU-Cambodia Joint Committee, held in May 2016, the EU raised a number of human 
rights issues, in particular: political developments, including the arrest of NGO personnel; 
the shrinking space for political debate and criticism; freedom of speech in general; the 
handling of land conflicts; the risks linked to the application of the Law on Associations and 
Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO); and issues relating to the laws on trade unions, 
telecommunications and cybercrime.
Land disputes continue to be a critical issue in Cambodia. The Cambodian government has 
taken some positive steps. However, progress continues to be slow on the resolution of land 
disputes. The EU has engaged with the Cambodian government to design an independent 
audit of land claims related to a number of sugar-related economic land concessions (ELCs). 
However, a formal decision by the Cambodian government on the implementation of an audit 
is still awaited.
The voter registration process for the commune elections of June 2017 has ended with more 
than 7.8 million voters registered, around 81% of those eligible. The EU has provided support 
for electoral reform, primarily through an improved voter registration process. EU support 
covers several areas: project support for the registration process; technical support for 
the National Election Committee on legal and civic education aspects; support for domestic 
observation for the 2017 and 2018 elections; and election-related violence monitoring.
The EU Delegation was very active in 2016 on the implementation of human rights initiatives 
that the EU considers crucial for Cambodia, covering environmental and land rights, freedom 
of association, the independence of the judiciary and democracy (including transparent, 
credible and inclusive elections). Major actions undertaken by the EU Delegation were the 
organisation of a Human Rights Day speakers’ corner event and the provision of financial 
support to projects related to the promotion of human rights. The EU Delegation also held 
regular meetings with key government actors on good governance and democracy issues, 
such as the fairness and independence of the judiciary and due process, a level playing 
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field for elections and land rights. These matters were also discussed with the opposition 
and civil society leaders. The EU Delegation also facilitated and participated in a visit from 
30 March to 2 April 2016 by a delegation of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on 
Human Rights. 
 
Through the EIDHR thematic budget line the EU provides support to civil society organisations 
working to train and strengthen human rights defenders. The EU also supports civil society 
organisations working on land reform with a focus on supporting poor rural communities who 
have been evicted from their land, supporting indigenous people’s land rights and forest rights, 
and supporting the urban poor in getting recognition for their right to secure land tenure.
The EU is a major financial contributor to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of 
Cambodia (ECCC). In addition to its support for the Court Chambers, the EU assists civil society 
organisations implementing non-repetition and communal reparation projects recognised by 
the court. On 23 November 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC confirmed life 
sentences for former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against 
humanity in relation to the evacuation of Phnom Penh immediately after the fall of the city on 
17 April 1975.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights visited Cambodia twice in 2016 and raised 
concerns over the ‘narrowing’ of the space for civil society in Cambodia. At the UN Human 
Rights Council in Geneva, a Joint Statement issued on 14 September 2016 (on behalf of 39 
countries, including the 28 EU Member States, the US and Japan) expressed concern about 
the current escalation of political tensions in Cambodia and the appearance that legal action is 
being disproportionately pursued against critics of the government. 
The government of Cambodia has viewed some of the activities of the UN Office of the High 
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia as interference in its domestic affairs. 
Following prolonged discussions, a new two-year MoU was signed between Cambodia and the 
OHCHR in December 2016.
People’s Republic of China
In 2016, the EU continued to pursue its commitment to promoting the universality of 
human rights and to help improve the human rights situation in China in an active and 
sustained way. 
 
The EU’s main priorities regarding the human rights situation in China remained constant in 
2016: promoting greater adherence to the rule of law; supporting freedom of expression; and 
providing support to civil society, human rights defenders and persons belonging to minorities, 
in particular Uighurs and Tibetans. Another EU priority is the ratification of the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China signed in 1998 and committed to 
ratifying during the two Universal Periodic Review exercises (in 2009 and 2013). The EU 
also continued its efforts as part of its global campaign against the death penalty, as a high 
number of death penalty executions are carried out in China. However, some reforms have 
been launched to bring down the number of executions. The EU continued to hold China to 
its obligations under the UN Charter and international law, which are also reflected in China’s 
constitution, and urged China to implement policies in line with these obligations. 
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Overall, in 2016 China continued to improve the social and economic situation, pulling millions 
of citizens out of poverty. However, the overall human rights situation in China continues 
to be of concern for the EU. Unfortunately, efforts to increase the independence and 
professionalisation of the judiciary and ensure the right to a fair trial, in line with the 2012 
reform of the Criminal Procedure Law, fell short of being effective due to lack of procedural 
guarantees for detainees. 
The situation of human rights defenders continued to deteriorate following the wave of 
detentions and arrests of human rights lawyers and human rights defenders in July 2015. 
By the end of 2016, there were still some 17 lawyers and human rights defenders, out of 
the 300 targeted in the July 2015 crackdown, who were still detained or under residential 
surveillance. The EU is concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding these detentions 
and a reported lack of procedural guarantees regarding the individuals’ access to their family 
members and to lawyers of their own choosing. There were consistent reports that those 
in detention and under so-called ‘residential surveillance’, where the detainees are kept 
incommunicado at undisclosed locations, were subjected to mistreatment. Family members 
of those detained also reported various forms of harassment by the authorities on a regular 
basis. 
 
The EU expressed its concerns about the detention and conviction of human rights lawyers 
and activists throughout the year, most notably, in August 2016, condemning the conviction of 
Zhai Yanmin, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Gou Hongguo and criticising the lack of adherence 
in the trials to China’s own Criminal Procedure Law and the infringements of the defendants’ 
rights to a proper defence. The EU also noted with concern the treatment of and unfounded 
accusations against EU diplomats who attempted to observe this trial in August 2016 in Tianjin, 
which was supposed to be conducted openly under Chinese law. 
The human rights situation of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, especially in 
Tibet and Xinjiang, remain a cause for concern. The detention of Tibetan language campaigner 
Tashi Wangchuk in January 2016 and the sentencing of Tibetan blogger Druklo in March 2016 
signalled the continued curtailing of freedom of expression in Tibet. The demolitions at the 
Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, and the expulsions and so-called ‘patriotic re-education’ of 
monastic individuals caused much distress in the Tibetan community and even prompted 
suicides. Although the pace of self-immolations in the Tibetan population slowed down, three 
new cases were reported in 2016. In Xinjiang, there were continued reports of social unrest and 
repression connected to restrictions of Uighurs’ economic, social and cultural rights, including 
on the practice of Islam. In January 2016, activist Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years in 
prison for his online writings and the Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, who promoted equality and 
understanding between different ethnic groups, continues to serve the life sentence handed 
down against him in 2014. 
Legal reform continued during 2016, with the entry into force of the Domestic Violence Law 
in March and Counter-Terrorism Law in January. China’s Cybersecurity Law was also adopted 
in November 2016. The law on administration of foreign NGOs was adopted on 28 April 2016 
and will enter into force on 1 January 2017. Amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulations, 
Police Law and administrative measures for law firms were initiated in the course of 2016. 
While the EU welcomed the entry into force of the first national domestic violence law, the 
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rest of the legislative changes created concern. The EU and its Member States participated 
in public consultations on these laws and regulations in order to encourage China to avoid 
restrictions on human rights and to adopt laws that are not in line with China’s obligations 
under international law, albeit with limited influence on the outcome. 
 
China’s household registration system (hukou) continues to be of concern for the EU as it 
disadvantages citizens with rural residency. In 2016, the Chinese authorities continued to 
reform the system removing some of the administrative obstacles to employing migrant 
workers but further reforms are needed for better access to residency permits and social 
services by migrant workers. This would benefit the welfare of a significant share of the 
Chinese population as well as Chinese economy by boosting consumption.
The rights of women are protected under the Chinese constitution. However, discrepancies 
remain and advocacy on behalf of women’s rights is often supressed. In 2016, China amended 
its Population and Family Planning Law, allowing all married couples to have two children. In 
January 2016 a prominent women’s legal aid centre was shut down by the authorities, which 
caused an outcry amongst women’s rights activists. Although China has adopted legislation to 
ensure equality in the workplace, reports published in 2016 (including an article in March 2016 
by the Xinhua News Agency - the official press agency of the PRC) stated that discrimination 
against women still pervades Chinese society. The EU supported and organised a number of 
activities on women’s rights in the framework of the Gender Action Plan 2016-2020.
A particular area of concern for Chinese citizens is the state of the environment, including 
air quality and water safety. In response, China’s government continued to place significant 
emphasis on the issue, introducing a number of new pieces of legislation which set ambitious 
targets and created new provisions for enforcement and implementation, including on the 
public’s access to information and the right of NGOs to bring public-interest cases against 
private entities responsible for environmental damage. Nevertheless, China still faces major 
implementation challenges. There is progress on curbing air pollution in cities like Beijing, 
although air pollution levels remain well above WHO standards with regular severe smog 
episodes still occurring. Water availability and pollution remain a challenge. 
 
Freedom to form trade unions continued to be restricted in China during 2016, with the All-
China Federation of Trade Unions, which is dominated by the Communist Party of China (CPC), 
being the only officially recognised trade union organisation. Grassroots organisations active 
in the field of labour rights continued to face systematic control and repression, especially in 
Guangdong province. In recent years, including in 2016, China has seen an increase in the use 
of collective bargaining, though its use in the resolution of labour disputes is still relatively low 
when compared to the increasing number of labour disputes. From an economic standpoint, 
2016 saw a continued increase in the minimum wage and other wage levels, contributing to 
reducing poverty and expanding economic prosperity; however, labour disputes caused by 
unpaid or partially paid salaries remain a problematic issue.
The EU continued to engage on human rights issues with China at various levels using different 
platforms. Most notably, President Tusk voiced the EU’s concerns both bilaterally with Chinese 
President Xi and Premier Li and publicly at his press conference during the EU-China Summit in 
Beijing on 12-13 July 2016. He underlined the importance that the EU attaches to human rights 
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as an integral part of its relations with China, especially concerning freedom of the press, and 
freedom of expression, association and assembly.
 
In 2016, the EU published five statements on the human rights situation in China. On 22 
January, a statement by the spokesperson criticised the arrest of the EU citizen and human 
rights activist Peter Dahlin83. On 29 January, through a local statement, the EU acknowledged 
Mr Dahlin’s release but expressed its concerns about the detention of many other human 
rights defenders and lawyers.84 On 24 May 2016 and 5 August 2016, the EU published a local 
statement and a spokesperson’s statement calling upon China to ensure full transparency 
and respect due process in handling the cases of detained human rights lawyers, in line with 
the recommendations it received in December 2015 from the UN Committee against Torture85.  
The EU also stressed that detained individuals should be allowed access to legal counsel and 
visits from their relatives. In a local EU Statement published in relation to International Human 
Rights Day on 10 December 201686, the EU reiterated its call for the release of Nobel Peace 
Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and other human rights lawyers and defenders, including Li Heping, 
Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang and in particular Jiang Tianyong, whose detention was announced 
by the Chinese police in December 2016, one month after his unexplained disappearance.
The 35th round of the annual EU-China human rights dialogue did not take place in 2016, 
despite the intense efforts of the EU to organise the meeting and the commitment made by 
the Chinese side, during the EU-China Summit in July 2016, to holding this meeting before the 
end of 2016. 
The EU also contributed to the improvement of human rights in China by supporting civil 
society organisations in China working specifically on human rights issues, under the EIDHR 
instrument, and by encouraging partnerships with the Chinese authorities through the non-
state actors (NSA) instruments. The projects focused on the strengthening the rule of law, 
access to justice and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups including women, children, 
minorities. 
 
The EU referred to the human rights situation in China in its Item 4 statements issued during 
the three regular sessions of the Human Rights Council in March, June and September. A 
number of EU Member States also joined a statement on China under Item 2 at the Human 
Rights Council in March. In August 2016, China accepted the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur 
on extreme poverty and human rights, which was the first visit of a UN Special Rapporteur to 
China since December 2010. One of the outcomes of this visit was the recommendation that 
China put in place ‘accountability mechanisms’ that citizens are able to use when their rights 
are violated.
83. EU External Action Service, Statement by the Spokesperson on the arrest and detention of EU citizen Peter 
 
Dahlin, 22 January 2016
84. Delegation of the EU to China, EU Concerns about the Human Rights situation in China, 29 January 2016.
85. Delegation of the EU to China, EU Concerns about the Human Rights situation in China, 24 May 2016 and EU 
 
External Action Service, Statement by the Spokesperson on the conviction of Chinese lawyers and other human 
 
rights defenders on charges of state subversion, 5 August 2016
86. European Union Statement on International Human Rights Day, 9 December 2016
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Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Within the framework of ‘one country, two systems’, enshrined in the Basic Law of Macao, the 
rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Macao continued to be respected and the 
rule of law was upheld.
Macao enjoys a high level of civil liberties and respect for human rights and fundamental 
freedoms. Nonetheless, the government remained opposed to a suggestion by the UN 
Committee against Torture (UN CAT) to establish an independent human rights body, arguing 
that this recommendation was not applicable to Macao as a Special Administrative Region 
of the People’s Republic of China. The major issues challenging human rights in Macao are 
trafficking in human beings, the lack of a framework for greater democratic participation, and 
the failure to enforce laws regarding collective bargaining.
In 2016 the EU continued to support the activities of, exchange information with and 
strengthen the capacity of local human rights defenders and NGOs through seminars and 
online campaigns. Following the joint workshop on trafficking in human beings held in January 
2016 the EU and Macao look forward to reinforcing their cooperation in this area.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Within the framework of ‘one country, two systems’, enshrined in the Basic Law of Hong 
Kong, the rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Hong Kong continued to be 
generally respected and the rule of law was upheld. Despite the absence of universal suffrage, 
Legislative Council elections have generally been seen as free from interference. However, the 
disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers was a worrying erosion of the ‘one country, two 
systems’ principle. The case raised serious concerns among the political establishment and 
civil society in general.
 
In its statements of 7 January 2016 and 25 April 2016 the EU considered the case of the 
five book publishers to be the most serious challenge to Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the 
‘one country, two systems’ principle since Hong Kong’s handover to the People’s Republic 
of China (PRC) in 199787. The case raised serious concerns about respect for human rights, 
fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The EU called for the constitutional arrangements 
for Hong Kong SAR within the PRC to be fully respected. It urged all parties to restore the 
trust of Hong Kong residents and the international community in the Basic Law and the 
‘one country, two systems’ principle. The EU also encouraged the Hong Kong SAR and 
central government authorities to enter into constructive discussions aimed at resuming 
the electoral reform and reaching an agreement on an election system that is democratic, 
fair, open and transparent. 
The EU continued to support civil society in Hong Kong through regular contacts with human 
rights defenders, NGOs and the media, and the organisation of human rights campaigns. The 
EU also supported women’s rights and the human rights of LGBTI persons through various 
campaigns and seminars.
87. European External Action Service, Statement by the Spokesperson on the disappearance of individuals 
 
associated with the Mighty Current publishing house in Hong Kong, 7 January 2016 and Press release, European 
  Commission and European External Action Service issue 2015 Annual Report on Hong Kong Special 
 
Administrative Region, 25 April 2016
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In January the EU organised a workshop on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings 
and protecting its victims, in cooperation with the Hong Kong Office of the Secretary for Security. 
Taiwan
Overall, the human rights situation in Taiwan is good. However, the EU continues to urge Taiwan 
not to resort to capital punishment. One execution took place in May, following previous 
executions in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 which breached the de facto moratorium 
observed from 2005 until 2010. In its local statement, the EU called for an immediate 
moratorium on executions, as recommended by a panel of international experts in 2013. 
The EU engaged with local authorities and civil society on working effectively towards the 
resumption of a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its formal abolition. In this 
context, the EU and its Member States engage with Taiwan through EU-Taiwan judicial exchange 
programmes. Since 2015, only one death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. 
In its regular dialogue with Taiwan – the EU-Taiwan annual consultations on non-trade issues 
– the EU raised its concerns over the death penalty and its continued application. Other than 
the death penalty, the EU also engages with Taiwan on gender equality and the human rights 
of LGBTI persons, where Taiwan is seen as a positive example for the Asia-Pacific region.
Republic of India
India is a democratic and pluralist country where the 1950 constitution, relevant legislation 
and robust institutions protect citizens’ rights, building on the core principles of secularism 
and equality. While India has made some remarkable progress, achieving respect for human 
rights in such a vast and diverse country remains a formidable task. However, India’s thriving 
civil society works for the promotion and protection of human rights, and the government has 
launched programmes to support the poorest in the country. 
In 2016, the EU’s priorities in India were supporting efforts to combat discrimination and 
inequality, promoting gender equality and children’s rights, defending the integrity of the 
person and supporting human rights defenders’ rights. The EU also promotes establishing a 
moratorium on the death penalty in India.
 
Despite legal safeguards and a developed court system, accessing justice can prove difficult, 
notably for marginalised communities, and overly long proceedings are a frequent complaint. 
Overcrowding and a high number of undertrials have resulted in poor prison conditions. Current 
human rights issues of concern relate to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression 
and the rights of human rights defenders, including journalists. In 2016, the cancellation of many 
CSOs’ licenses under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act became prominent in the discussion 
of civil society space. Moreover, acts of discrimination against Dalits and violence against women 
continue to persist in the country despite government efforts. While no execution was carried 
out in 2016, the death penalty remains on the statute book for the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, and 
public opinion appears to be in favour of the punishment. 
India is the world’s largest democracy, where the voter turnout is relatively high, but the 
political participation of women remains low. Currently only about 11.2% of the MPs both in 
the lower and upper house of the parliament are women. At the state level the number of 
female legislators is low. However, India has established quotas at the local government level, 
reserving one third of seats for women.
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In order to improve economic, social and cultural rights, the government has initiated a 
number of programmes to increase access to education, energy, health, housing and 
transportation, as well as water and sanitation. India also passed a Rights of Persons with 
Disability Bill that brings the legislation in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities. The police and administration more actively addressed cases of 
violence against women.
The EU has engaged with stakeholders in India in various formats and at various levels, 
including officials, dedicated human rights institutions, civil society representatives and the 
broader public. The EU also supports, and participates in, a range of human rights events 
and increasingly uses social media to disseminate information. While the local human 
rights dialogue did not take place in 2016, the EU and India recognised their commitment 
to such exchanges in the March 2016 Summit, agreeing to strengthen cooperation and 
coordination in international fora, including possibly developing a dialogue on gender 
equality.
 
Supporting HRDs has been one of the key priorities for the EU in India. The EU has interacted 
with the human rights defenders network, including during field trips, and has been in contact 
with the National Human Rights Commission on a case-by-case basis. The EU continues to 
actively monitor developments and provide assistance to those in need, including through the 
HRD emergency support mechanism on a case-by-case basis.
The EU continued providing financial support to India through the EIDHR programme in the 
areas of gender and children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, indigenous 
people’s rights, trafficking in human beings, the abolition of the death penalty, and freedom of 
expression online and offline. 
India has not yet ratified some of the core international human rights instruments or core 
labour standards. There are a number of bills tabled at the parliament to enable India to ratify 
the international treaties it has signed. Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has suggested 
India is ready to ratify ILO conventions (132 and 182) as the government-approved Child Labour 
Amendment Act 2016 that bans employment of children below the age of 14 years. India is a 
member of the UN Human Rights Council until the end of 2017. The CSO’s published a number 
of reports and conducted stakeholders consultations in 2016 to prepare for the Universal 
Periodic Review of May 2017.
Republic of Indonesia
Indonesia is a stable democracy with free and fair elections, a diverse and active media and 
a vibrant civil society. Basic human rights are guaranteed by law and the institutional human 
rights framework includes a National Commission on Human Rights, a National Commission 
on Violence against Women, and the Commission for Child Protection.
 
The top human rights priority for the EU in Indonesia is the promotion of the abolition of the 
death penalty, starting with the introduction of a moratorium on executions. The EU is also 
working on the issue of non-discrimination, in particular to enhance protection of minority 
groups. Other priority areas include business and human rights, access to justice and women’s 
enjoyment of human rights. 
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Indonesia executed four people in July 2016, all for drug-related offences. At least 130 
prisoners remain on death row. A lack of adequate protection for and discrimination against 
minorities (including religious groups such as Ahmadiyah and Shiites, or the LGBTI community) 
remains an issue. Several ministers, politicians and religious leaders have made anti-LGBTI 
remarks, whilst civil society organisations in this area have come under pressure. There 
continue to be concerns with regard to restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom 
of peaceful assembly in the provinces of Papua and West Papua with frequent arrests of 
peaceful protesters and the application of treason laws. Promised investigations into past 
human rights violations have progressed slowly.
Parliament passed the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which marks a major 
advancement. The province of Aceh established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look 
into human rights violations during the decade-long conflict in the province that ended with 
the Helsinki peace deal in 2005. The government sponsored an unprecedented symposium on 
the anti-communist purge and mass killings of 1965-1966, providing opportunities for victims 
and their relatives to present their perspective of the events.
The EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement provides the framework for 
bilateral cooperation. The PCA is based on shared values and includes joint commitments to 
the safeguarding and promotion of human rights. The sixth session of the EU-Indonesia human 
rights dialogue took place in Brussels in June. It provided the opportunity for exchanges on the 
rights of migrants, non-discrimination/the rights of persons belonging to minorities, access to 
justice/penal policy, business and human rights, and countering violent extremism. Both sides 
agreed on concrete follow-up activities in the area of penal policy and business and human 
rights. 
 
The EU issued a statement prior to the execution in June calling on the Indonesian government 
to halt executions and return to a de facto moratorium. The EU maintained close contact 
with high-level officials underlining its opposition to the death penalty. In conjunction with 
the World Day against the Death Penalty on 10 October the EU Delegation ran a social media 
campaign against capital punishment. 
The EU Delegation held regular meetings with minority groups and victims of intolerance, 
including with representatives of religious minority groups and LGBTI organisations. The EU 
Delegation continued its cooperation with Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim 
organisation espousing tolerance and pluralism. 
The EU closely followed developments in the provinces of Papua and West Papua and held 
several meetings with Papuan human rights defenders. 
Together with the National Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM, and the Association for 
the Prevention of Torture (APT), the EU Delegation organised a workshop on torture prevention 
which resulted in the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a task 
force on torture prevention which will conduct visits to places of detention. 
The EU Delegation, in cooperation with UN Women Indonesia, organised a Planet 50-50 comic 
and cartoon competition followed by an exhibition and a series of 26 events with various 
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partners during the 16 Days of Activism campaign, including the HeForShe pledge by the EU 
Heads of Mission. 
The EU provided financial support to various human rights projects funded through the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EIDHR supported 
11 projects in 2016, covering a broad spectrum of issues, including conflict resolution and 
mediation, freedom of religion, the rights of people with disabilities, support for human rights 
defenders, business and human rights, and accountability for human rights violations.
 
Indonesia has ratified all key UN human rights conventions. The national human rights 
action plan for 2015-2019 features ‘preparation for the ratification of international human 
rights instruments’ among its priorities, including ratification of the Optional Protocol to the 
Convention against Torture and the Rome Statute. Indonesia was a member of the UN Human 
Rights Council from 2007-2010 and has been re-elected from 2012-2017.
Indonesia accepted 144 recommendations from the 2012 Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The 
main recommendations accepted concerned ratifying international conventions, especially the 
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against 
Women (CEDAW), criminalising torture, promoting human rights, fostering partnerships with 
national human rights institutions, protecting certain rights, especially for religious minorities, 
children, women and human rights defenders, and continuing to tackle issues regarding 
trafficking in human beings. Indonesia’s next UPR session takes place in May 2017.
Japan
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country remained stable with some minor 
improvements relating to non-discrimination and criminal procedure law. Japan remains an 
established and well-functioning democracy which in general terms ensures a high level of 
respect for human rights.
The EU’s human rights priority in Japan is focused mainly on the continued use of death 
penalty and on the criminal justice system, including prisoners’ rights. The EU is also active on 
gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as non-discrimination and strengthening 
an open society.
 
In 2016, the main human rights issues reported by Japanese and international human rights 
organisations included the administration of the death penalty, as well as the state of Japan’s 
detention facilities and legal system (criminal justice system). Other human rights problems 
included: domestic violence, sexual harassment and workplace discrimination against 
women; trafficking in human beings, including the exploitation of foreign trainee workers; the 
exploitation of children; societal discrimination against minority group members (including 
LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities). An increasing tendency on the part of the media 
(especially national broadcasters) towards self-censorship was also reported, in some cases 
linked to instances of apparent political pressure.
In 2016, the main positive developments included reform of the criminal procedure law, 
enacted in May 2016, which brought some improvements, notably with regard to increased 
video recording of interrogations and disclosure of evidence. However, the reform did not 
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address some persistent problematic issues, such as the pre-trial detention system (daiyo 
kangoku), which allows the police to detain suspects for up to 23 days without formal charges. 
Other notable developments included the passage of Japan’s first anti-hate speech law in May 
2016, marking a step forward in the efforts to curb xenophobia. However, while the legislation 
adopted on 24 May 2016 condemns unjustly discriminatory language as ‘unforgivable’, it doesn’t 
legally ban hate speech and sets no penalty. It must be noted, though, that the new legislation 
has already been used as a basis by several local governments for banning public gatherings 
organised by radical right-wing groups bullying Korean permanent residents (zainichi). In 
December 2016, the Diet also enacted legislation acknowledging that discrimination against 
burakumin (former outcasts) still exists, despite the implementation of various policies, and 
requesting further governmental efforts to eliminate it. It obliges the central government and 
municipalities to establish consultation systems, beef up education and launch probes into 
buraku discrimination when needed. 
 
The EU continued to engage on human rights issues, mainly with regard to the application of 
death penalty. The EU and EU Member States, together with other like-minded countries, voiced 
their opposition to capital punishment via local statements and letters. The EU Delegation 
and EU Member States organised several workshops and conferences on the subject, thus 
reaching out to the public. The regular human rights dialogue was held in July in Tokyo and 
covered a range of issues, including gender, business and human rights, and cooperation in the 
multilateral fora.
With regard to local action on key human rights priorities, the EU Delegation, together with 
four Member States’ embassies, participated in the fourth edition of Tokyo Rainbow Pride on 8 
May under a common slogan, ‘Together for Equality and Diversity’, ahead of the International 
Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May.
With the aim of strengthening Japanese civil society, the EU Delegation organised a joint pre-
briefing session on the occasion of the EU-Japan human rights dialogue. For many NGOs, it 
was a first opportunity to meet with other civil society organisations. 
On gender equality and women’s empowerment, the EU Delegation organised a social media 
campaign around 8 March to raise awareness on gender equality and promote the UN Women 
campaign HeForShe, to which all male EU ambassadors signed up. On 12 December, the 
EU Delegation organised the EU High-Level Conference on the Economic Empowerment of 
Women (http://together4equality.eu/). It provided a forum for the exchange of experiences 
and expertise for approximately 300 participants.
Following the EU call for proposals on ‘engagement with civil society in Japan on fundamental 
rights: death penalty and the criminal justice system’, launched in April 2016, a grant contract 
was signed in December with the University of Reading, in cooperation with the Centre for 
Prisoners’ Rights, a local civil society organisation promoting the abolition of the death 
penalty. The two-year project, which officially starts in January 2017, will focus on activities 
to promote awareness and debate on the death penalty, and implement advocacy actions in 
Japan. The grant beneficiaries will closely coordinate their work with the EU Human Rights 
Task Force in Japan.
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In view of their commonality of views on a wide range of human rights issues, the EU and 
Japan cooperated closely in the multilateral context, including jointly tabling resolutions on 
the human rights situation in the DPRK at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General 
Assembly.
A more active national debate on the death penalty should be encouraged, together with 
deeper reform of the pre-trial detention system and improved understanding of prisoners’ 
rights. Bilateral cooperation on gender issues, involving business and civil society, will also 
continue. The situation of migrants in the context of a declining population and of labour 
shortages, as well as the preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, may require further 
monitoring.
Republic of Korea
In 2016 the Republic of Korea continued to protect human rights as expected in a country 
with a strong democratic infrastructure. However, the geopolitical regional context and the 
challenges resulting from long-standing social practices do impact the manner in which 
democracy is sometimes exercised, leaving some areas of concern.
EU action focused on working with Korean civil society and government stakeholders to 
promote freedom of expression and assembly, including labour rights; addressing the 
imprisonment of conscientious objectors to military service; gender equality; minority groups, 
including LGBTI persons; and maintaining the moratorium on executions. Continuing the close 
cooperation with the Republic of Korea in international human rights fora was also a priority.
The main concerns relate to negative trends in freedom of expression and assembly. Other 
issues include the imprisonment of several hundred conscientious objectors to military 
service, gender inequality, notably in regard to equitable access to the labour market, and a 
lack of proactive measures by the government to promote improved social attitudes to LGBTI 
persons. The death penalty is still in force, although a moratorium on executions has been in 
place since 1997.
The EU maintained regular contact with individuals and civil society organisations (CSOs) from 
all sides of the political spectrum working on a range of human rights issues, including the 
environment for human rights defenders.
 
The EU strengthened and expanded its cooperation with government departments responsible 
for protecting human rights. These discussions included further improving the environment 
for human rights defenders.
The EU enhanced its cooperation with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK). 
The 22 EU Heads of Mission in Seoul discussed the EU’s human rights priority concerns with 
the Chair of the NHRCK. EU experts contributed to NHRCK initiatives, including on business and 
human rights and the rights of older people.
Cooperation was enhanced with organisations working on gender equality and the eradication 
of violence against women. This included conferences on participation in the labour market 
and a seminar on countering gender-based violence.
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The EU and many EU Member States cooperated with CSOs promoting the human rights of LGBTI 
persons and participated, including at ambassadorial level, in the Seoul LGBTI Pride festival.
The Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) formed under the Sustainable Development chapter of 
the EU-Korea FTA included Korean and European human rights defenders. The DAG reported 
its discussion on environmental and labour matters to the government-level Committee on 
Trade and Sustainable Development.
The EU worked with human rights defenders involved in issues connected to human rights in 
North Korea. The Delegation maintained close contact with CSOs working on this issue and 
continued cooperation with the OHCHR Seoul Office.
The EU Partnership Instrument was used to fund a comparative study on the implementation 
of International Labour Organisation Convention 111. The project was initiated by the Domestic 
Advisory Group to the Committee on Trade and Sustainable Development. It has facilitated 
exchanges between Korean and EU stakeholders on the implementation of the convention in 
both regions and its contribution to avoiding discrimination in the workplace
The Republic of Korea was praised for its effective chairing of the UN Human Rights Council 
during 2016. At both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly the Republic of Korea 
exhibited similar values to the EU, with a voting record closer than any other non-European 
partner.
 
In Korea, the government cooperated closely with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights 
to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the UN Special Rapporteur on the 
implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of 
hazardous substances and wastes, and the UN Working Group on business and human rights.
The third annual EU-Republic of Korea Human Rights Consultations took place in Seoul for 
the first time in 2016. The bilateral dialogue reaffirmed the commonality of views regarding 
multilateral and thematic issues and the joint will to enhance cooperation on a range of human 
rights initiatives.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country remained characterised by grave and 
systematic violations, with no credible accountability mechanism for past and current abuses. 
The DPRK continued to refuse all cooperation with UN human rights Special Procedures.
The EU’s priority is securing improvements on the ground in all possible areas. The restricted 
contacts of the EU and Member States with DPRK officials have had the effect of limiting the 
areas that can be positively addressed in cooperation with the country’s government. The 
EU has insisted on accountability (including via referral of the situation in the DPRK by the UN 
Security Council to the ICC) and respect for international law (non-refoulement) regarding 
DPRK citizens seeking asylum abroad. 
There are multiple, structural problems in all areas pertaining to human rights and democracy, 
as documented by the final report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the 
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DPRK in 2014. According to the report, some of the abuses may amount to crimes against 
humanity.
Still, there were some positive steps in 2016: the DPRK submitted reports to the Committee on 
the Rights of the Child and to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 
against Women, and it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Due to unfavourable political circumstances the last (14th) round of the EU-DPRK political 
dialogue where human rights issues were raised was held in May 2015. 
 
A limited number of national organisations deal with issues of human rights in the country, 
but they are an integral part of the governmental structure. Some of them have obtained 
support from abroad for activities that benefit the most vulnerable groups within society. 
The EU maintained close contact with CSOs based in the Republic of Korea working on human 
rights in the DPRK and continued cooperation with the OHCHR Seoul Office.
The EU is funding some projects in the DPRK, mostly focused on food security, health, water 
and sanitation. Human rights are raised indirectly under this assistance (e.g. people’s right to 
food, livelihood). Some of the EU funded projects also support DPRK organisations addressing 
the social inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons. EU-funded projects are 
targeting the most vulnerable people in society (children, older persons, vulnerable farming 
communities or groups, etc.). EU-funded humanitarian aid via ECHO has also been provided in 
response to severe floods.
The situation of human rights in the DPRK was once again the object of a Human Rights Council 
Resolution (A/HRC/31/L.25; co-initiated by Japan and the EU) and a UNGA Resolution (A/
RES/71/202; co-initiated by the EU and Japan), both of which underlined the major structural 
deficiencies encountered in the DPRK. The UN Security Council addressed the issue of human 
rights in the DPRK in December 2016. 
There is no Delegation of the EU to the DPRK. EU Member States with embassies there take 
turns every six months to represent the EU at local level (CZ and SE in 2016).
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
While the overall human rights situation remained challenging in 2016 Laos’s gradual economic 
and political transition continued under a renewed leadership. In 2016 Laos continued to work 
on key legislation of relevance to human rights. Laos was the chair of ASEAN in 2016. 
The EU continued to assist Laos towards its declared objective of becoming a rule of law society 
by 2020. In 2016 Laos engaged in a substantial campaign to fight corruption at all levels. 
 
There are a number of problems, including the limited space for civil society to operate. Self-
censorship and indeed fear are palpable among civil society members since the disappearance 
of the social rights campaigner Sombath Somphone in December 2012. Substantial restrictions 
on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly remain, and criticism of government is 
risky, as illustrated by the arrest of three young people in March 2016 for ‘anti-government 
propaganda’. Other problems include the risk of impunity given weaknesses in the judicial system. 
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Challenges still remain for ethnic minorities, but the government is committed to improving 
their situation. LGBTI persons are tolerated; discrimination based on sexual orientation and 
gender identity has not been criminalised. 
Laos held elections for its National Assembly in 2016, and while the country is a one-party 
system, there was an element of competition in the elections. The National Assembly is 
gradually gaining in political importance and exercises its legislative and control functions 
with increasing vigour. The newly established provincial assemblies may also contribute to 
participation and accountability. 
Laos is continuously developing and strengthening its legal framework. After having amended 
the constitution in late 2015 a revision of the Penal Code was discussed in 2016, and it is expected 
to be adopted in early 2017. The revision process allowed for extensive consultations in Laos 
and with international partners. While the revised Penal Code has yet to be formally adopted 
the current draft includes significant positive elements. Laos has ratified seven out of the nine 
core human rights conventions and confirms it is currently preparing for the ratification of 
the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 
Importantly, a Law of Treaties is also being drafted with the objective of ensuring appropriate 
‘domestication’ of Laos’s international obligations into national legislation. 
The death penalty still applies, despite a de facto moratorium on executions since 1989. Some 
recent positive developments include the reduction of the number of crimes punishable by 
capital sentences. In November 2016, National Assembly members for the first time debated 
the death penalty, with some members taking a stand for its abolition. 
 
The EU continued to engage very actively with the authorities and also with civil society, often 
in cooperation with EU Member States. The scope of work included outreach to the authorities 
regarding persons of concern, including Bounthanh Thammavong, a Polish citizen, who in 2015 
was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for propaganda against Laos. In terms of public 
diplomacy the Delegation continued to organise social media campaigns and to celebrate 
key events, such as Human Rights Day, the International Day against Homophobia and World 
Autism Awareness Day. The annual human rights dialogue was slightly postponed, and will 
take place in February 2017. 
In December 2016 a financing agreement was signed with EU support for the National Assembly, 
civil society and the justice sector with co-financing from Germany and Switzerland, while the 
existing productive development cooperation regarding human rights and the justice sector 
continued with the Laotian authorities. 
Laos is currently working on the follow-up to its 2015 UPR exercise, and is understood to be 
drafting a national UPR action plan.
Malaysia
The human rights situation in Malaysia deteriorated in 2016 in view of increasing restrictions 
on freedom of expression, despite some progress as regards children’s and women’s rights.
The EU’s main priority has been the promotion of the abolition of the death penalty. Its other 
priorities have been supporting human rights defenders; promoting freedom of expression; 
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promoting gender equality, including the human rights of LGBTI persons; promoting the 
ratification of core human rights conventions; and promoting freedom of religion.
The internet and social media remain largely free but are heavily monitored. The authorities 
selectively investigate and charge dissenters under the Communications and Multimedia Act 
(CMA) and the Sedition Act. This in turn results in a high degree of self-censorship.
Malaysia has a very poor press freedom track record. While it climbed one place to 146th out 
of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index in 2016, the shutdown of three online news portals 
and the arrest of two Australian journalists indicate that press freedom remains endangered 
in Malaysia. 
 
2016 saw an increased use of the Penal Code’s provision on ‘activities detrimental to 
parliamentary democracy’ which is a vaguely defined offence carrying a penalty of 20 years’ 
imprisonment. Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of Bersih (a coalition of NGOs working to promote 
human rights and fair elections), was investigated under this provision and was detained in 
solitary confinement for 10 days in November 2016 in connection with the Bersih 5 rally for 
clean and fair elections. 
The authorities imposed travel bans on a number of human rights defenders for ‘placing the 
government in a bad light’. A number of CSOs which received funds from the Open Society 
Foundation and a pro-opposition news portal have been investigated by the police.
The number of people sentenced to death in Malaysia is 1 064. In 2016 nine executions are 
known to have taken place. Nine EU citizens remain on death row in Malaysia. 
There was improvement as regards children’s and women’s rights, since in November the 
government tabled the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Amendment 2016 in parliament to 
prevent unilateral religious conversion of minors by one parent. The new law, if passed, will 
provide for children to keep the religion of their parents at the time of marriage until they are 
18 years old, when they may choose their own religion. The bill will be debated again in the 
March 2017 parliamentary session.
In 2016, the main engagement touching on human rights was the strong emphasis on 
concluding the negotiations of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between 
the EU and Malaysia, which was finally initialled in April. This was a breakthrough as it had 
been being negotiated since 2011, and one of the most visible impacts of the PCA will be the 
intended cooperation on human rights issues. No human rights dialogue has taken place with 
Malaysia since 2011, but once the PCA has entered into force the dialogue is to be conducted 
on an annual basis.
The EU mechanism ProtectDefenders.eu provided one general protection grant, which was 
channelled by Front Line Defenders and allocated in February 2016 to support the legal costs 
of Khalid Ismath, who was facing detention and verbal abuse threats.
 
Two training workshops on proposal writing for Malaysian CSOs were delivered in Kuala 
Lumpur in 2016. EUDEL, EU Member States and like-minded countries continued to hold 
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regular coordination meetings on human rights defenders, attended HRD trials and shared 
information on specific cases.
Republic of Maldives
2016 was a turbulent year politically in the Maldives with a negative trajectory in almost all 
areas of fundamental rights. The government continued to reduce the democratic space for the 
opposition, civil society and the media to operate freely by introducing new laws and conducting 
trials without due process and in violation of international standards. Political interference 
in the judiciary and growing tensions between political actors remain serious concerns. The 
Maldives’ political isolation increased due to the decision to leave the Commonwealth. Efforts 
by international facilitators to start an all-party dialogue failed.
The EU’s priorities in the Maldives continue to include respect for civil and political rights; 
reinforcement of the rule of law, the independence of judiciary and the separation of powers; 
the holding of free and fair elections; political representation and economic empowerment of 
women, the advancement of women’s rights and an end to discrimination, abuse and violence 
against women.
On various occasions the EU has raised concerns about the reduction in democratic space 
and the new Defamation Act, in addition to concerns about the death penalty, freedom of 
expression, freedom of assembly, lack of due process and the independence of the judiciary. 
The EU has also encouraged a genuine political dialogue.
In 2016 journalists and social media activists continued to face harassment, restrictions on 
reporting, and death threats. Major restrictions on media freedom were established by a 
new Bill on Defamation and Freedom of Speech, which re-criminalised defamation. The law 
was widely condemned by the media, human rights groups and the international community, 
including the EU. On 31 July, the EU Delegation joined other countries in issuing a statement on 
the new Bill, and on 11 August the European Commission Spokesperson also issued a statement.
 
In August, the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act was amended, narrowing the constitutional 
right to freedom of peaceful assembly. 
The following month, Al Jazeera released a documentary entitled ‘Stealing Paradise’ alleging 
the involvement of high-level politicians in a major money-laundering scheme and an 
embezzlement scheme, related to the leasing of islands for resort development. All who were 
featured in the documentary are currently in exile due to threats and harassment. 
On the positive side, the de facto moratorium on the death penalty was maintained, despite the 
Supreme Court upholding three death sentences and the statements made by the government 
about the resumption of the death penalty. On 1 July, the European Commission Spokesperson 
issued a statement on the first death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court since 1953. It called 
on the Maldivian government ‘to continue to apply the de facto moratorium on executions as a 
first step towards its abolition.’
In February 2016, the European Parliament’s South Asia Delegation visited the Maldives, 
undertaking an assessment of the situation in the country as a follow-up to the two resolutions 
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issued by the EP in April 2015 and December 2015. The delegation expressed serious concerns 
about the state of democracy in the country, highlighted the lack of independence of the 
judiciary and the lack of respect for international legal standards, and urged the start of a 
genuine political dialogue.
In May, the EU Heads of Missions in Sri Lanka met in Malé with the Maldivian government, the 
opposition, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Human Rights Commission and the Elections 
Commission. Concerns about the lack of independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression 
and e-voting were among the issues raised.
 
In addition to the government of the Maldives, the EU and its Member States continued 
engaging with opposition politicians, and civil society. In March, the EU Delegation posted 
a video message by the Executive Director of Maldivian Democracy Network, a local NGO, 
to mark International Women’s Day, which highlighted the issue of inequality between men 
and women in the Maldives. In November, the EU co-funded an art exhibition in the Maldives 
organised by local NGO Transparency Maldives to mark the International Day of Democracy. 
To mark the Human Rights Day in December, the EU Delegation posted a video message by 
Zaheena Rasheed, a Maldivian journalist in exile, highlighting the importance of a free press for 
protecting human rights. 
The EU also financed a legal expert’s mission to examine the judicial framework in the Maldives 
and provide recommendations for reforming the legislative framework and the procedures 
and practices of the judiciary.
Mongolia
In 2016 the overall human rights situation remained positive, with competitive parliamentary 
elections and incremental progress in areas such as children’s rights, the right to a healthy 
environment, and domestic violence. However, there were also negative trends such as the 
postponement of the implementation of the new Criminal Code. Mongolia’s current economic 
and financial crisis will have an impact on the overall human rights environment and the social 
and economic situation, with particular regard to vulnerable people.
In its cooperation on human rights with Mongolia, the EU has concentrated on issues such as 
promoting the rule of law, assisting in the development of civil society, providing the means 
to empower vulnerable groups at national level and in remote areas, and providing access to 
effective mechanisms for redress and to public services that can promote economic, social 
and cultural rights.
Despite a rather positive human rights situation, there have also been negative developments 
including the postponement of the implementation of the new Criminal Code until July 2017. 
The new Criminal Code abolishes the death penalty and includes a prohibition against torture 
in line with the Convention against Torture. It also contains provisions on increased penalties 
against persons committing crimes against individuals on account of their sexual orientation 
or gender identity. 
 
Parliamentary elections took place in June 2016 with the opposition MPP (Mongolian People 
Party) winning a landslide victory (85% of votes). These results mean cohabitation (presidential 
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elections are scheduled for mid-2017). According to the OSCE report from the observation 
mission, the election day was orderly and there was a competitive campaign, despite the 
impact of late changes in the electoral legislation on Mongolia’s democratic development. The 
elections were competitive and the freedoms of assembly and association were respected.
Mongolia continues to benefit from the European Union GSP+ scheme and it submitted its 
Monitoring Scorecard in November 2016, highlighting the status of implementation of the 
various international conventions. 
The EU continues to engage on human rights and democracy with Mongolia within the context 
of the EU-Mongolia Joint Committee and a dedicated EU-Mongolia human rights dialogue is to 
be launched in 2017, following the undertaking by both sides in December 2015. 
Besides mainstreaming of human rights and equal opportunities principles into development 
assistance, some of the projects in Mongolia include a specific human rights topic or 
framework. Examples include the project ‘Give people a voice!’, aimed at strengthening public 
participation in mining investment planning with a view to ensuring the health of Mongolia’s 
people, livestock and environment, and an IOM project on protecting the rights of vulnerable 
migrants and victims of trafficking in Mongolia. Efforts are under way to establish a Gender 
Steering Group in Mongolia in 2017, which will receive support from the gender focal points 
and aims to secure progress on the implementation of the EU’s Gender Action Plan II (GAP 
II). In the area of labour rights, the EU is financing a project to support employment creation 
in Mongolia and a project on technical vocation education and training. These projects aim to 
improve respect for international labour standards and bolster youth employment, especially 
for people from rural areas. Mongolia is also one of the beneficiaries of the EU financed 
project under the EIDHR on ‘Support for trading partners including GSP+ beneficiary countries 
to effectively implement ILS and comply with reporting obligations’.
 
In April 2016, the government of Mongolia adopted a national action plan for implementation 
of the UPR Recommendations (UPR action plan 2016-2019). It highlights specific provisions 
to renew the approval of the ‘National programme to support the rights of persons with 
disabilities’, to develop, adopt and implement the ‘Second stage of the programme on equal 
access of disabled children to education’, to support ‘Employment of disabled citizens’, to 
improve the quality of technical standards for public transportation, procedures and services 
and to raise the general public’s awareness by disseminating information and TV programmes 
based on the needs of national minorities, women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTI.
 
The impact of Mongolia’s economic and financial crisis on its society and institutional capacities, 
with particular regard to law enforcement structures and corruption, remain serious issues 
of concern.
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Following the promulgation of the new Constitution of Nepal in 2015, which enshrines many 
aspects of human rights, Nepal now needs to implement it through the adoption of new 
legislation. Progress has been slow in 2016 due to disagreement over the ownership of the 
constitution by various sections of society. Ten years after the adoption of the 2006 peace 
agreement, which ended 10 years of civil war, the legacy issues are still there and the promise 
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to effectively address human rights violations committed during the civil war remains largely 
unfulfilled.
The EU’s priority is to promote implementation of the human and civil rights enshrined in the 
constitution, to secure access to justice and reparations for conflict victims, and to provide 
support to victims of the earthquake for the reconstruction of their homes. 
 
Discrimination and inequality remain a serious problem in Nepalese society. Deeply entrenched 
social values represent a big obstacle to equality and require a long-term approach that covers 
the political participation of marginalised and vulnerable groups and their access to social 
services. There are regular reports of domestic violence, dowry killings, rape, child marriages, 
traditional harmful practices and other gender-based violence. Long-standing prejudices 
hamper effective access to justice. Some groups, e.g. female Dalits, women with disabilities, 
and human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable. The rights of conflict victims remain 
unsecured. One controversial aspect is the citizenship regime, which is complicated and biased 
against women and has the potential to worsen the statelessness problem in Nepal.
The new constitution includes provisions aimed at addressing the historical lack of participation 
of women and marginalised groups in the political process. It reserves for women 33 percent 
of positions in all of Nepal’s state institutions, including the legislature, under Article 84(8) - 
the highest in South Asia. In 2016, Nepal appointed its first female Chief Justice, and women 
occupied three of the four highest state posts, including those of President and Speaker of the 
Parliament. 
On the World Press Freedom Index Nepal ranked 105 out of 180 and was assessed as having 
a flourishing pluralist media.
Further to the conclusions of the 9th EU-Nepal Joint Commission in November 2015, 
which addressed the situation of human rights in Nepal, the EU continued to engage with 
representatives of the country’s government, officials, human right institutions, in particular 
the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organisations and other stakeholders. 
The EU Delegation actively participated in the Human Rights Defenders Working Group, which 
is closely following the situation of human rights defenders and is also providing support 
through civil society projects. 
The EU has continued its work on priority areas, including gender, non-discrimination and the 
fight against impunity through its development programmes as well as specific human rights 
actions targeting the most vulnerable. The EU continued its support for the implementation of 
the national action plan on UNSCRs 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security and violence 
against women through funding via the Nepal Peace Trust Fund. 
 
Thematic projects funded under the EIDHR, Non-State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA-LA) 
programme, and the Instrument for Stability (IfS-RRM) have contributed to promoting the 
economic, social and cultural rights of the marginalised communities, ending discrimination 
against them (including their inclusion in the social and political arena), as well as fostering the 
accountability and transparency of the state institutions.
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The 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conclusions have remained an excellent entry point 
for the EU Delegation to follow up on the issues of democracy and human rights. In 2016, 
the EU Delegation funded a dialogue on follow-up action on the UPR recommendations with 
different stakeholders. 
The EU participated in the Human Rights Core Group, which continued assessing the human 
rights situation and monitored action on various pertinent issues including the transitional 
justice matters. The international community called on the government to ensure an 
internationally compliant transitional justice process, with special regard to the victims’ rights 
to transparency, truth and an effective remedy. 
The UNHCR continues to call for lasting solutions for the remaining refugees from Bhutan in 
Nepal following the conclusion of the group resettlement programme. 
The implementation of the 2015 constitution’s provisions remains the main challenge for 
Nepal, including strengthening the capacity of the new human rights institutions (National 
Human Rights Commission, National Women Commission, etc.) as well as the organisation of 
democratic local, state and national elections.
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Despite some institutional and legal measures taken by the government in 2016, wide-ranging 
and serious human rights concerns persist in Pakistan and are exacerbated by a weak criminal 
justice system and religious and militant extremism. Security challenges have continued to 
slow progress on access to justice and the rule of law. 
 
In 2016, the EU’s priorities remained freedom of expression, women’s rights and 
gender equality, freedom of religion or belief, the rule of law and access to justice, and 
the death penalty. The EU was also actively involved in the protection of human rights 
defenders. 
Self-censorship and intimidation are widespread. Pakistan is considered one of the world’s 
most dangerous places to be a journalist. Criticism of the armed forces and the security 
establishment is severely restricted. Human rights defenders, lawyers and health workers 
involved in polio vaccination also continued to be targets of violent attacks. A new restrictive 
Cybercrime Act was adopted and NGOs and INGOs are under heavy pressure, including 
with regard to registration. Discrimination and violence against women continued to be 
widespread. In Pakistan, there are persistently huge differences in the situation of upper 
and lower class citizens, and of women living in cities or the countryside. Pakistan remained 
one of the most difficult places to be a child (due to lack of education, child marriages and 
child labour). Religious minorities in Pakistan still live in fear of persecution and violence. 
Discrimination and violence against the Ahmadi community were again reported. Reports 
of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and illegal detention have also continued. 
The rule of law remains uncertain on much of the country’s territory, and access to justice 
remains limited. Pakistan continued to execute a high number of convicts during the year, 
however far fewer than in the previous year. These reportedly included juveniles and people 
suffering from mental illnesses, although three cases (involving mental illness or disability) 
were stayed.
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In February 2016 an Electoral Follow-up Mission visited Pakistan. In December a parliamentary 
committee on electoral reform finalised a draft reform package, which is to be adopted in the 
months ahead and has incorporated a significant number of the Election Observation Mission 
recommendations.
There is increased attention to women’s empowerment (at least in terms of legislation, with 
the laws on honour crimes and on violence against women), to children’s rights (on labour and 
bonded child labour) and to labour rights; whilst the power of religious extremists is being 
loosely contained. In February the government adopted a national action plan to improve the 
human rights situation in Pakistan, the first of its kind, but implementation remains a challenge. 
During the year the National Commission on Human Rights also gained some new powers.
 
The EU is in continual contact with HRDs and monitors threats against them. Critical cases are 
referred to the EU Protect Defenders programme. Intervention on their behalf is hampered by 
the fact that assistance is limited by time and resource constraints and foreign help can often 
turn against them. The EU Delegation and missions closely followed a number of individual 
cases likely to involve human rights violations. The EU raised its concerns consistently in 
its human rights dialogues with the government of Pakistan and called on Pakistan to take 
concrete action. GSP+ had some impact in terms of enhancing the reform process. Pakistan 
also became more open to UPR reporting. 
The EU used its development portfolio to support democratic institutions, the rule of law, 
women’s and children’s rights and freedom of religion or belief. The EU is a major donor 
and international stakeholder in this field. A new programme on strengthening provincial 
assemblies was launched in November 2016. Under the EIDHR grant the EU supports CSOs in 
its strategic priority areas, with a special focus on gender equality and freedom of religion and 
belief. With regard to access to justice, the EU is supporting actions to improve the criminal 
justice chain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Pakistan is also one of the beneficiaries of 
the EU financed project under the EIDHR on ‘Support for trading partners including GSP+ 
beneficiary countries to effectively implement ILS and comply with reporting obligations’.
Pakistan was a member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) from 2013 to 2015 but failed to win 
re-election to the Council in 2016. Pakistan has not issued a standing invitation to UN Special 
Procedure mandate holders. Several requests for visits from Special Rapporteurs are pending. 
Pakistan participated in the 72nd CRC (May 2016) and the 90th session of the CERD (August 2016).
Both terrorism and the fight against it are raising additional and specific human rights 
challenges that require international attention. 
 
Pakistan made serious efforts to participate in the GSP+ process through a better focus on 
trying to show effective implementation of the 27 conventions and addressing shortcomings. 
Considerable implementation challenges clearly remain, due in part to the devolution of many 
areas of competence to the provinces. More progress is needed on the ground, through the 
effective implementation across all the provinces and territory of Pakistan. The human rights 
institutions need to become autonomous and fully operational. The role played by civil society, 
including NGOs and INGOs, in development and humanitarian assistance in a democratic society 
needs to be further enhanced. 
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Republic of the Philippines
In 2016 the Philippines had two different governments; that of President Aquino who left office 
on 30 June, and that of President Duterte who succeeded him. Despite positive developments 
in some areas, the human rights situation in the second half of the year has considerably 
worsened as a consequence of the so-called ‘war on drugs’. It should, however, be noted that 
some trends and circumstances detrimental to human rights, such as extrajudicial killings 
(including killings of human rights defenders, indigenous people and journalists) and the 
climate of impunity, were already present under previous administrations. 
Following the publication of the first GSP+ country report on the Philippines in January 2016, 
the EU’s priority has been to address the abovementioned shortcomings with the Aquino 
administration. In the second half of the year, the killings in the ‘war on drugs’ as well as the 
possible reintroduction of the death penalty were the focus of the EU’s attention.
 
The number of extrajudicial killings decreased under the Aquino government and a national 
monitoring mechanism for extrajudicial killings (EJKs) was launched by the National 
Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Various problems – in particular the culture of impunity 
and torture –remain, however, and a series of key legislative measures were not passed. The 
second half of the year was marked by a serious deterioration in respect for the right to 
life, due process and the rule of law. According to data from the Philippine National Police, 
as reported in the media, the ‘war on drugs’ led to the killing of around 6 000 people in the 
period from July to mid-December, with one third of the deaths occurring in police operations. 
In addition, more than 40 000 persons were arrested in the same period. The president’s 
statements and actions have seemingly encouraged the police to take an aggressive approach 
in dealing with drug users and pushers, and have – according to human rights advocates – also 
encouraged vigilante style extrajudicial killings. The ‘war on drugs’ still enjoys considerable 
popular support. Two key legislative priorities are the reintroduction of the death penalty, and 
the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility for minors from 15 years to either 12 or 9 
years. Draft bills have been introduced in Congress with a view to adoption in 2017.
Positive developments under the government of President Duterte include the new momentum 
provided to the Mindanao Peace Process, peace negotiations with the Communist Party of 
the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front and a socio-economic agenda 
aimed at lifting people out of poverty.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in 2012 – under which an institutionalised 
human rights dialogue could be established - still requires ratification by two Member States 
as well as the Philippines. The EU and MS have consistently engaged with the government 
and other interlocutors on the human rights situation. The GSP+ monitoring is ongoing. In 
September 2016 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on developments in the 
country which triggered negative reactions from President Duterte.
 
One major problem in the Philippines is the prevailing culture of impunity since cases of grave 
human rights abuses, including killings of human rights defenders and media workers, remain 
largely unresolved. According to reports by specialised non-government organisations, 31 
human rights defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2016, one of whom was a beneficiary 
of an EU-funded project. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines as no. 
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4 in the world on the Global Impunity Index in 2016. Since his election, President Duterte has 
made statements justifying the killing of ‘corrupt’ journalists and human rights defenders. On 
the other hand, he has issued a landmark ‘Freedom of Information Order’ and has recently 
created a Presidential Task Force on Violence against Media Workers. 
The EU assisted civil society organisations and HRDs through project grants for HRDs under the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and under the Development 
Cooperation Instrument (DCI), programmes of EU Member States, and dialogue with HRDs.
Three EIDHR projects implemented by civil society organisations supported activities of human 
and land rights defenders, including through the provision of sanctuary, legal and medical 
support, and training. The EU also supported justice sector reform and efforts to combat 
impunity with regard to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
The EU launched its Governance in Justice Programme (GOJUST, succeeding EPJUST). The 
main objective of one of its four components is to strengthen national and regional human 
rights institutions and civil society capacity to promote accountability and fight impunity 
(implemented by Spain’s AECID).
A particular focus of the Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-20 is conflict-affected 
Mindanao, where the EU has been supporting peace and development.
 
The EU remained a key partner in the reform of the health sector. The Responsible Parenthood 
and Reproductive Health Act signed in 2012 was seen by civil society organisations, especially 
by women’s rights advocates, as a positive development in the decades long fight for gender 
equality in health. The law would allow Filipino men and women to have increased access 
to quality reproductive health services and information (including family planning). However, 
the Philippine Supreme Court, acting on a petition, imposed a temporary restraining order 
that hampers the government’s ability to procure 70% of contraceptives by 2019 potentially 
affecting availability of future stocks in government hospitals and clinics all over the country. 
The EU is supporting the full implementation of the measure through a bilateral cooperation 
programme on universal health care with the Philippine Department of Health and grant 
assistance to NGOs. 
EU development assistance through government channels was complemented by funding of civil 
society organisations to address social and environmental issues, and to promote indigenous 
peoples’ rights and other human rights issues, peacebuilding, and social development.
The EU provided political support to the Mindanao Peace Process, financed the civilian 
component of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), funded NGOs that call for protective 
legislation and supported respect for international laws and standards. The EU signed a grant 
contract with Save the Children on strengthening the protection of children affected by armed 
conflict (CAAC) in Mindanao.
The EU and some Member States took part in the meetings of the Manila-based Group of 
Friends of CAAC chaired by Canada. The Group is composed of UNICEF and other UN agencies, 
partner countries and organisations. 
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 In cooperation with the ILO, the EU is funding a project to strengthen the capacity of public 
administrations in the Philippines to implement the ILO core labour conventions as part of the 
GSP+ obligation, and a project to strengthen the impact of trade on employment, by improving 
sectoral, trade and employment policies and programmes and contributing to decent work 
and positive employment outcomes. This action can contribute to address the situation of 
Philippines as regards freedom of association, which was characterised twice in 2016 by the 
ILO Committee on Freedom of Association to be extremely serious and urgent. The EU also 
expressed its concerns over murders of trade unionists and compliance of legislation with 
International Labour standards when shortcomings in the implementation of fundamental 
ILO Freedom of Association Convention were scrutinised in 2016 by the International Labour 
Conference.
The Philippines government and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 
have so far been unable to agree on the terms and conditions for a visit to the Philippines by 
the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. 
The next Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in the Philippines is scheduled 
to take place in the first half of 2017. 
On 25 July 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 
(CEDAW) published its concluding observations on the 7th and 8th periodic reports regarding 
implementation of the related CEDAW Convention. The Philippines ranks very high (7th from 
the top) in a World Bank survey on gender equality rankings.
The Philippines government needs to ensure that the fight against drugs crime is conducted 
within the law, including the right to due process and safeguarding of the basic human rights 
of citizens of the Philippines, including the right to life, and that it respects the proportionality 
principle. This naturally includes the rights of human rights defenders. As a State Party to 
the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 
Philippines is obliged to respect its obligations under international law.
 
Republic of Singapore
In the 2016 World Press Freedom Index Singapore ranked 154th out of 180 countries. The 
Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill was passed in parliament in August 2016. Although 
the overall intentions of the bill - ‘to state and consolidate the law of contempt of court’ – 
were accepted, concern was expressed by CSOs regarding a perceived threat to free speech, 
in particular the charge of ‘scandalising the court’. Specialists on the subject advised that they 
would reserve judgment until a case was brought forward and the bill was tested.
Singapore continues to criminalise homosexuality through 377A of the Penal Code. Whilst 
Singapore claims not to discriminate against LGBT people, CSOs vehemently disagree and cite 
the censorship of LGBT content in the media and the inability of LGBT persons to enjoy the 
rights to family life and to protection from workplace discrimination.
The jointly agreed objectives for the period 2016-2020 are for Singapore to ratify the core 
international human rights agreements to which it is not party; to enhance freedom of 
expression, freedom of the media and political participation; to consider a moratorium on 
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the death penalty and to make available more detailed information about its use of the death 
penalty in addition to the annual total; to take better steps to protect and enforce migrant 
rights; and to decriminalise homosexuality (new objective for 2016-2020).
The EU Delegation monitors the situation on death sentences, commuted sentences and 
executions based on public sources and contact with local CSOs, however this information is 
often patchy and difficult to obtain. In 2016 there were four known executions, which is the 
same figure as in 2015.
The Elected Presidency reform was adopted by the parliament in November 2016, and PM Lee 
declared that the next president would be a Malay candidate. The reform has been criticised 
as the selection criteria are seen as discriminatory towards certain candidates.
The Singaporean government has taken some, albeit small, steps towards improving the 
rights of migrant workers in Singapore. CSOs had campaigned to include domestic workers in 
the Employment Act, and this was agreed during the UPR.
 
A disability roadmap for 2017-2020 was revealed in December 2016. A 17-member advisory 
panel chaired by the Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary was appointed in 
December 2016 to study the implementation of compulsory education for special needs 
children.
The EU’s activities in the field of human rights in 2016 consisted of monitoring and reporting, 
delivering demarches, coordinating closely with Member States, and organising meetings, 
dialogue sessions, and a number of other events. 2016 saw the continuation of long-established 
projects and some new activities, including trial monitoring and a partnership with the UN 
Women Singapore Committee. 
Civil society organisations were involved in the development of the new objectives and continue 
to be regularly consulted on the best methods for implementation.
To commemorate the European and World Death Penalty Day, the EU Delegation organised a 
panel discussion on the death penalty in Singapore. This was the third time in Singapore that such 
an event was held outside the Delegation’s premises, at the National University of Singapore. 
The Delegation held its Human Rights Day seminar this year on ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief 
in Singapore and ASEAN’. The seminar featured three panels covering ‘Freedom of Religion 
and Belief in Singapore – a multi-stakeholder approach’, ‘Promoting Freedom of Religion or 
Belief in ASEAN’, and ‘Freedom of Religion and Free Speech – Perspectives from Europe and 
Southeast Asia’.
EU Member States organised a variety of events, including on free speech and freedom of the 
press, trafficking in human beings and LGBT rights.
2016 marked Singapore’s second Universal Periodic Review at the UN. While the Singaporean 
government has persistently rejected the majority of the recommendations, CSOs continue 
to see the UPR as a valuable exercise in challenging the government and holding it to account. 
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Recommendations included an immediate moratorium on the death penalty with a view to 
abolition, an end to judicial caning, the reform of laws permitting detention without trial (such 
as the ISA) and the repeal of section 377A of the Penal Code (criminalisation of homosexuality).
 
During the UPR, many countries recommended that Singapore ratify the key conventions to 
which it is not yet party. However, Singapore asserts that it only signs up to conventions when 
it has brought its national laws into conformity with the treaties. Singapore claims already to 
be in compliance with a number of core human rights conventions to which it is not yet party, 
prompting CSOs to call on the government to proceed with ratification. 
Core conventions still to be ratified include the International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention 
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Singapore has also agreed in principle to join the International Criminal Court though this 
commitment has not yet been realised; on a more positive note, Singapore did agree to 
consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant 
Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW).
Linked to this objective is one recommendation repeatedly made during the UPR - that 
Singapore establish a national human rights institution to oversee the human rights standards 
that it has already acceded to, in accordance with the Paris Principles. Singapore did not accept 
this recommendation, only ‘noting’ it.
Lack of transparency and data remain a concern across most areas of human rights. 
Overall, progress appears to be being made on migrant workers’ rights and the possible 
agreement of one new convention, however much improvement is needed across the other 
three objectives.
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
In 2016 the overall human rights and democracy situation in the country continued to improve, 
albeit at a slower pace than in the preceding year. The full promise of governance reform, 
transitional justice and economic reform is yet to reach fruition more than a year after the 
establishment of a National Unity government in September 2015. 
 
The EU’s main priority in the country continues to be the full implementation of the 2015 
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution through support for resettlement, 
transitional justice, non-recurrence and constitutional reform, and advancement of women’s 
political, economic and civic rights. 
On the positive side, in 2016 Sri Lanka ratified the International Convention for the Protection of 
All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and is in the process of preparing comprehensive 
legislation to give effect to the convention in national law. In a landmark decision, the 
government also approved legislation to issue certificates of absence. In August, the parliament 
unanimously adopted legislation to set up an Office on Missing Persons to deal with the tens 
of thousands of people who have gone missing as a result of civil and political conflict. The 
Office has not yet been set up. 
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In May the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka issued a comprehensive list of directives 
intended to protect detainees against the security forces’ broad powers under the Prevention 
of Terrorism Act (PTA). Draft legislation to replace the PTA and amend the Code of Criminal 
Procedure Act (CCPA) to bring them into line with international human rights standards, is still 
under discussion. 
In 2016, the government achieved significant momentum in the constitutional reform process 
through the establishment of the Constitutional Assembly and the submission of reports by 
six sub-committees for debate in early 2017. Devolution of power remains an incendiary issue 
in the process. The government has taken important symbolic steps towards reconciliation but 
has shown less resolve to take action against attempts by some groups to incite communal 
tensions. Compounding the challenges to reconciliation is the slow pace of normalisation of 
life in the former conflict areas, where the economic benefits of the ‘peace dividend’ are yet 
to be fully realised. 
 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Sri Lanka in 
various settings, including the first meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law, 
and Human Rights (January), the Working Group on Economic Issues and Trade (May) and the 
Joint Commission (July). The meetings included open discussions on a range of issues, including 
governance, the rule of law, freedom of expression and of the media, torture, strengthening 
of civil society, rights of women and children, rights of persons belonging to minorities, labour 
rights, migration, combating corruption, and implementation of the United Nations Human 
Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.
The visit of the EU Commissioner for Development and International Cooperation to Sri Lanka 
in March 2016 focused attention on the human rights requirements facing Sri Lanka when 
applying for trade concessions from the EU under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences 
Plus (GSP+); the government made its application in July. Sri Lanka endorsed the proposal 
for revising the EU development strategy for the country until 2020 to include assistance on 
governance and reconciliation to support the government’s efforts in these areas. 
The visit by an EU parliamentary delegation in November 2016 focused on national 
reconciliation, the empowerment of women, and Sri Lanka’s GSP+ application. The delegation 
urged the government to uphold its international human rights commitments, replace the PTA 
and amend the CCPA. 
The EU Delegation continued to engage with civil society and other stakeholders in the 
reconciliation process. In addition, thematic discussions were also conducted on key issues, 
such as the human rights of LGBTI persons, gender equality and participation, land rights and 
fundamental rights. Activists, think tanks and civil society representatives were also invited to 
discuss the challenges to reconciliation during the visit of the EU Development Commissioner. 
The Delegation also met officials and civil society actors in the north to gather perspectives 
on issues relating to the implementation of the UNHRC resolution.
 
On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia a joint statement 
was issued by all EU Heads of Mission and a number of like-minded countries. It called for 
recognition of the historic opportunity afforded through the constitutional reform process 
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to end discrimination and repeal the laws criminalising homosexuality. During the year the 
EU Delegation made a number of other public statements in support of human rights issues, 
including on violence against women, and enforced disappearances.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded through the 
Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the Development Cooperation Instrument 
(DCI), the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the civil society 
organisations/local authorities (CSO-LA) thematic programmes. 
A contribution has been given to Sri Lanka’s peacebuilding priority plan through the IcSP to 
provide support for early confidence-building measures and a further contribution has been 
provided for reconciliation activities under the DCI. 
Through the EIDHR and CSO-LA, the EU is providing financial support to partner organisations 
to promote the economic, social and political development of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable 
communities. Some of the projects focus on issues such as combating domestic violence and 
empowering women, training of lawyers, judges and the media, and capacity building for civil 
society and local authorities. 
In 2016 the government of Sri Lanka continued to engage and cooperate with the UN and 
its human rights mechanisms. The visitors included the UN Secretary-General, the High 
Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and 
lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, 
and the Independent Expert on Minority Rights. The UN Committee against Torture’s concluding 
observations on Sri Lanka’s fifth periodic report underscore concerns regarding the rights of 
suspects and detainees. 
Substantial progress towards full implementation of the UNHRC resolution, including 
replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act with legislation which is in line with Sri Lanka’s 
international obligations, remains crucial.
 
Kingdom of Thailand
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country remained marked by the regression 
which the country experienced following the military take-over in May 2014. The developments 
in 2016 were mixed. The EU’s priorities include supporting Thailand’s rapidly evolving policy 
regarding workers’ rights and migrants’ rights. 
Shortly after the military take-over it was announced that an election would be held by the end 
of 2015. However, the tentative date for elections keeps being postponed. 
The move towards the abolition of the death penalty has been slow. At least 63 crimes are 
punishable by death. The number of crimes punishable by death continues to rise. 
In general, there is limited space for freedom of expression and assembly. While some events 
have been banned, overall more debates and activities have been permitted. However, the 
authorities’ presence at such events is intimidating (observing, taking photos of participants or 
filming them). The prohibition of political gatherings of more than five people remains in place. 
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In December, the appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) adopted an amendment 
to the Computer Crimes Act, which enables the authorities to further restrict freedom of 
expression and facilitates surveillance and censorship. There is limited room to participate in 
policy formulation. The NLA approves legislation with limited public consultation and there is 
little public discussion. 
A new draft constitution was endorsed by referendum on 7 August. The National Council 
for Peace and Order (NCPO) imposed severe restrictions in the run-up to the referendum. 
Campaigning against the draft was effectively made punishable by up to 10 years in jail. The 
Thai authorities arrested a number of politicians, activists and journalists who had criticised 
the proposed constitution, publicly announced that they would vote ‘no’, urged voters to reject 
the draft constitution, and sought to monitor voting. 
The announcement in December that some 150 000 prisoners would either be freed or 
have their sentences reduced or commuted following a pardon by the new King is a positive 
development, and far exceeds earlier royal pardons. 
 
Trafficking in human beings and abusive labour practices in the fishing and seafood industry 
have attracted international attention in recent years, in particular the situation of migrant 
workers. The Thai government has stepped up measures against trafficking in human beings 
by amending the legal framework and boosting prevention and enforcement measures. At the 
same time, the protection of victims of human trafficking has been improved. The government 
announced the intention to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 188 
(Work in Fishing) and the Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention (Protocol No. 29) in 2017. 
There has been tangible progress on labour standards on fishing vessels and in the seafood 
industry and the situation of migrant workers, but enforcement remains challenging and 
efforts need to continue in the future. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy issues in Thailand, often together 
with EU Member States. The EU has not hesitated to voice concerns, through statements, 
speeches, an op-ed, various events and both formal and informal steps, with a view to 
encouraging the authorities to ensure full respect for human rights. 
Activists and human rights defenders have been charged with sedition, criminal defamation, 
breach of NCPO orders and offences against the Computer Crimes Act. Some are being tried 
before military courts, a practice which is now being phased out and is no longer applicable to 
new cases in which the offences were committed after 12 September 2016. The EU Delegation, 
often together with EU Member States, made several site visits and attended court hearings, 
as well as visits to police offices. 
The EU continued to provide financial support to projects through the European Instrument 
for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The implementation of a major new project to 
address labour issues on fishing vessels and in the seafood industry began, with government 
and ILO involvement. Thailand is also one of the beneficiaries of the EU financed project under 
the EIDHR on ‘Support for trading partners including GSP+ beneficiary countries to effectively 
implement ILS and comply with reporting obligations’.
 
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Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. The government does not have 
domestic legislation related to the protection of refugees or functioning asylum procedures. 
Most asylum seekers arrive in Thailand on a tourist visa. Once the visa expires, they become 
illegal immigrants, at risk of indefinite detention or deportation. At the World Humanitarian 
Summit in May, the Thai government announced the possibility of establishing a national 
refugee screening process for urban asylum seekers. 
In September 2016, the Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic 
Review (UPR) of Thailand. 187 of the 249 recommendations received, were accepted. The 
positive elements were Thailand’s pledges to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention 
against Torture, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced 
Disappearance, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. 
Thailand also pledged to eradicate child labour, combat forced labour and trafficking in human 
beings and provide protection to migrant workers. However, the recommendations related to 
restrictions of freedom of expression and assembly, the increasing use of Article 44 of the 
Interim Constitution and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, were not accepted. 
Also in September, Thailand acceded to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the 
Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Thailand also continued to live up to its long-standing 
reputation as a defender of the human rights of LGBTI persons.
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (RDTL)
In 2016, the overall human rights situation in the country showed modest progress compared 
to the previous year. No legislative changes were introduced. 
The EU’s priorities are the promotion of an inclusive development for all Timorese, the right to 
education and health, and the fight against gender-based and domestic violence.
 
RDTL has a good gender balance in the parliament, but could significantly improve the ratio of 
female cabinet members. Domestic abuse and violence against women remain major concerns. 
The number of cases brought to justice is still very low compared to the estimated number of 
occurrences. In 2016 the press and some NGOs continued voicing accusations of corruption, 
but whilst judicial cases were limited at the end of the year a former Minister for Finance and 
a former Deputy Health Minister were sentenced to jail on corruption charges. There are still 
only limited provisions on the rule of law and accountability, partly due to the passive attitude 
of citizens, which is understandable in view of their restricted level of education. Judicial 
procedures are slow due to the low skills and insufficient numbers of judges and prosecutors. 
The EU continued engaging in human rights and democracy discussions with RDTL in the 
political dialogue. 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support for projects funded by the European 
Development Fund (EDF) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights 
(EIDHR).
A telenovela (soap opera) on human rights (covering domestic violence, good governance, 
corruption and nepotism, and LGBT issues; etc.), produced in cooperation with the Ombudsman, 
is to be screened on national television and in 13 mobile screenings in the municipalities. It aims 
to increase the Timorese people’s awareness on human rights. The Portuguese subtitles will 
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help the telenovela to produce the same impact in the PALOP (Portuguese-speaking African 
countries).
RDTL is party to a number of international human rights conventions, mostly through accession, 
though two have not been ratified or even signed: the Convention for the Protection of All 
Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 
Disabilities (CRPD).
 
RDTL underwent its second review by the Working Group of the Human Rights Council as 
part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on 3 November 2016. More than 60 UN 
Member States took part in this exercise and produced 154 recommendations. These included 
the needs to: strengthen the judicial institutions and expand the use of mobile courts; increase 
investment in education; effectively implement laws on sexual and gender-based violence; 
strengthen the implementation of policies fighting domestic violence; allocate sufficient 
resources and adopt effective measures to further establish and implement the national 
action plan on gender-based violence; combat all forms of violence against and exploitation of 
children; and continue efforts to increase training courses on human rights for members of 
the police and the defence forces. 
The government sent the parliament a draft Land Law package for approval, however a 
chapter on evictions had been removed from the previous text that had been discussed 
publicly a few years ago, and would instead be the subject of a ministerial decree of 
application. The law is a key plank in the territorial management and economic development 
of TL, but its application will be very complex, since there are many overlaps between 
the ownership/occupation rights granted by successive Portuguese, Indonesian, UN and 
Timorese administrations.
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
2016 saw some general improvements in the socio-economic situation of the population 
due to steady economic growth, however violations of civil and political rights continued. 
Human rights defenders were harassed and arrested, with some sentenced to long periods 
of imprisonment. Encouraging developments can be linked to the opening of political 
space through public involvement in the drafting of some laws, and the follow-up to the 
implementation of the UN Convention against Torture, in line with Vietnam’s commitments 
under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.
The EU’s priority is the promotion of freedom of expression and the rule of law. The EU is also 
actively involved in protecting human rights defenders and supporting the development of 
civil society organisations and participative democracy.
 
Freedom of expression, assembly, information and the press remain key concerns. Throughout 
2016 several bloggers, journalists and human rights activists were arrested or harassed, and 
state control of the media and restrictions on religious freedom and peaceful demonstrations 
continued. Some detainees were not able to receive visits, even from lawyers, medical 
personnel and family members. Gender-based violence and corruption remain widespread 
despite government campaigns to address these issues. 
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The Communist Party of Vietnam is the only recognised political party and no other parties 
are allowed to operate legally. In 2016, the 12th National Party Congress took place. The 14th 
National Assembly was elected on 22 May 2016 for a five-year term. Tran Dai Quang and 
Nguyen Xuan Phuc were appointed to the posts of president and prime minister respectively.
Although the number of crimes subject to the death penalty decreased from 22 to 15, and more 
protection was introduced for vulnerable groups, the number of people given imprisonment 
and capital sentence as well as the number of people who have been executed have increased 
during the last five years (during the period from 30 June 2011 to 30 June 2016, 681 people 
were sentenced to death and between 2013 and 2016 429 persons were executed). The 
government is increasingly making efforts in the fight against trafficking in human beings and 
is at the forefront in the region on promoting the human rights of LGBTI persons.
Throughout the year and in particular on the occasion of the 6th EU-Vietnam human rights 
dialogue held in December in Brussels, the EU raised concerns about pending or recently 
approved legislation related to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of 
peaceful assembly and association, labour rights, the due process of law, arbitrary detention, 
torture and the death penalty. Cooperation in international fora and the implementation of 
recommendations from international bodies, in particular those made during the Universal 
Periodic Review, were also raised. The EU reiterated its encouragement to issue a standing 
invitation to UN Special Procedures, and in particular to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of 
expression and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
 
In both formal and informal settings, and in close coordination with EU Member States and 
like-minded countries, the EU articulated its concern at the ongoing harassment and detention 
of an increasing number of human rights defenders and activists. The EU reiterated its request 
for the release of all persons detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression. 
Furthermore the EU highlighted the importance of all detainees being able to receive visits, 
in line with the Vietnamese constitution and international human rights provisions. All these 
concerns were also underlined by the European Parliament in its emergency resolution of 9 
June 2016. The European Union Delegation is actively engaged in actions supporting human 
rights defenders; it meets regularly with them and their families, and raises individual cases 
with the authorities. 
Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) the EU is 
funding eight ongoing projects implemented by NGOs. These cover issues related to bilingual 
education of children from ethnic minority communities, religious freedom, empowering of 
LGBTI people, participation of women from ethnic minorities, and land rights and natural 
resources management. Projects funded under other budget lines (CSO-LA and ENRTP) also 
address the capacity of CSOs to advocate for greater service performance accountability, 
access to information, budget transparency, forest management, and better representation 
via civil society networks and citizen’s participation in policy-making.
In June 2016 the EU organised the first civil society dialogue with grantee NGOs in Hanoi. The 
EU has also been supporting the dialogue between the government, civil society actors and 
the general public to build a better understanding of the positive contribution that civil society 
can make to Vietnam’s development.
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In the near future, further progress is needed on strengthening cooperation with human rights 
mechanisms, improving compliance with treaty body reporting mechanisms and implementing 
the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
 
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VIII. Oceania
Commonwealth of Australia
Overall Australia continues to have a positive human rights record domestically and is very 
engaged in advocating human rights in the Indo-Pacific region as well as internationally. Some 
shortcomings have been identified (not least during the Universal Periodic Review process) 
in areas such as refugee policy, rights of indigenous people, and ratification of a number of 
international conventions.
The EU’s priorities are to engage with Australia on the promotion of human rights in the Indo-
Pacific region, on how best to address the issue of domestic violence, on the promotion of the 
rights of indigenous people and on human rights aspects of the policy on refugees and asylum 
seekers. 
Australian federal and state governments have identified domestic violence as an area of 
concern (one in three women will experience violence during their lifetime). Social indicators 
for indigenous peoples show they are falling behind their non-indigenous counterparts. They 
continue to be over-represented in terms of imprisonment and deaths in custody. While 
Australia has ratified the United Nations Refugee Convention, its policy vis-à-vis irregular 
arrivals by boat has been criticised. Aspects of the policy, such as ‘push backs’ and the 
situation with regard to offshore detention centres in PNG and Nauru, remain controversial 
both domestically and internationally.
The EU is not involved in Australia’s domestic processes but encourages the country to 
ratify a number of human rights international legal instruments (e.g. the Optional Protocol 
to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the International Convention for the Protection 
of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) and the International Convention on the 
Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families).
Australia and the European Union have initialled and will sign a framework agreement in 2017. 
This agreement includes a commitment to democratic principles, human rights and the rule of 
law and corresponding cooperation within the joint committee.
 
Australia and the European Union both advocate strongly for human rights in the Indo-Pacific 
region and, internationally, for global abolition of the death penalty, countering gender-based 
violence, and implementation of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Australia’s 2nd Universal Periodic Review took place in November 2015. The Australian 
government made a voluntary commitment to improve the monitoring of UPR recommendations. 
The Australian Human Rights Commission is developing a publicly accessible website for 
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monitoring progress on the UPR recommendations. An inter-departmental body has also 
been set up to coordinate and strengthen the Australian government’s overall engagement 
with UN human rights reporting.
Republic of Fiji
In 2016, Fiji made some progress when it comes to consolidating democratic rule, but more 
efforts are needed to guarantee human rights in practice and to improve the dialogue between 
the government, the opposition, civil society, the media, the private sector and trade unions.
The second EU-Fiji High-Level Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the ACP-EU Partnership 
Agreement since Fiji’s return to democracy was held in Brussels in December 2016, and was 
opened on the Fijian side by Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. The meeting included 
discussions on the outstanding human rights and democracy issues and preparations for the 
2018 general elections.
Fiji has made some developments in overcoming communal antagonism and establishing a 
common national identity, as guaranteed under the constitution. Fiji’s return to democracy 
has allowed for renewed engagement and partnership between trade unions, civil society 
organisations (CSOs) and government institutions, resulting inter alia in the signature of an 
International Labour Organisation (ILO) tripartite agreement or extensive consultations on 
several bills in the parliament’s standing committees. An ILO Tripartite Mission visited Fiji in 
January 2016, and the signature of a Joint Implementation Report avoided a Commission of 
Inquiry into Fiji’s labour relations and freedom of association. Fiji has ratified all 8 ILO core 
conventions and 25 other conventions.
 
However a number of democratic weaknesses persist, mainly due to restrictive decrees 
which take precedence over the provisions of the constitution and affect, amongst 
other things, freedom of assembly and of the media. In September, several leaders of 
the opposition and prominent trade unionists were arrested for participating in a public 
meeting about the 2013 constitution which was held without the permit required under 
the Public Order Amendment Decree (of 2012). Following these arrests and detentions, 
the EU Delegation for the Pacific, together with EU Heads of Mission in Fiji, issued a local 
statement on the need to respect the freedoms of speech and assembly. The prisoners 
were later released without charges. 
Two members of Parliament from the opposition were also suspended until the next elections 
in 2018, owing to some controversial statements. However, the Inter-Parliamentary Union 
considered their speeches to be covered by their right to freedom of expression and called 
for a lifting of the suspension.
During the year, the EU Delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities 
inviting Fiji to support EU human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level. 
The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia 
and related intolerance visited Fiji in December 2016 and expressed concern that the space 
and opportunities for constructive discussion on questions of ethnicity and race within society 
were limited.
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The UN reported that 64% of women in Fiji have faced some form of violence in their lifetime, 
and a number of initiatives have been taken to address the issue of gender-based violence 
(awareness campaigns).
A major step forward was the ratification in March 2016 of the Convention against Torture and 
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), however with a number 
of far-reaching reservations. In October 2016, Fiji hosted a regional workshop on ratification 
and implementation of this Convention in the Pacific. Two high-profile torture cases have been 
before the court; in one case, eight police officers and one military officer were found guilty 
and given prison sentences of between 7 and 9 years.
 
Concerning EU financial engagement, the EU, together with New Zealand, Australia and Japan, 
co-funded the Fiji Parliament Support Project, which is implemented by the UNDP. Further 
on, the Access to Justice Programme, funded under 11th European Development Fund (EDF) 
and implemented by UNDP, aimed to enhance the governance systems, in particular the 
institutional capacity of the Legal Aid Commission, while also supporting CSOs. The project ‘Fiji 
in Transition: Towards a Sustainable Constitutional Democracy’, implemented by the Citizen 
Constitutional Forum aimed to strengthen the role of CSOs in promoting, implementing and 
monitoring human rights.
Further EU support to CSOs centred around the 2014-2017 Fiji roadmap for engagement with 
civil society; the CSO workshop in November to discuss revision of the roadmap; and the EU-
funded Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Fiji Initiative (implemented by UNDP) which has 
worked with over 40 CSOs and community groups to consolidate participatory democracy.
Small Pacific Island States
Republic of Kiribati
The overall human rights situation in the country has improved and there is no systematic 
abuse of human rights. Kiribati’s biggest challenge is climate change. The country is at risk of 
becoming uninhabitable by the end of the century, which will lead to migration issues. Gender-
based violence is deeply rooted in traditional behavioural norms. 
Through the dialogue with the country and through different financial instruments, the EU 
promoted human rights, gender equality and increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support for civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for civil society organisations (CSOs) in the 
Pacific.
Discrimination on the basis of race or origin is prohibited by the constitution. However, only 
native I-Kiribati may own land. Gender discrimination is prohibited only as regards employment. 
The law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, gender 
identity or social status. Consensual sex between males is criminalised but there were no 
reports of prosecutions. 
 
Sexual and gender-based violence continues to be prevalent throughout Kiribati - 68% of 
women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence. Violence against children (42% 
of the population) and child malnutrition remain serious concerns. Although children have 
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been legally protected from sexual exploitation since 2013, Kiribati remains a source country 
for girls subjected to sex trafficking. Prosecution of trafficking offenders remains an issue, 
as does physical punishment of children. More positively, over 70% of young offenders are 
re-directed from the official justice system into schools or community service.
The government has not established a formal system for granting asylum or refugee status. 
The principal immigration officer is given wide discretionary authority to permit foreigners to 
stay in the country.
Women’s participation in political life is relatively low. Following the 2016 election, only three 
of the 46 members of the national legislature were women, one fewer than in the previous 
period.
In 2016, human rights were discussed during the informal political dialogue with the new 
government of Kiribati. Bilateral meetings at various levels were used as a platform to promote 
respect for human rights and gender equality in the Pacific region including Kiribati. During the 
year, the EU Delegation for the Pacific also carried out demarches and outreach activities 
inviting the Pacific Island States including Kiribati to support EU human rights initiatives and 
priorities at the UN level.
In September 2016, with support from an EU-funded project, newly elected MPs participated 
in a dialogue on Kiribati’s human rights challenges, progress, achievements and plans. The EU 
worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other donors. 
In the National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th European Development Fund, a 
specific financial allocation was set aside for CSOs (EUR 0.5 million).
 
The EU also funds the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Pacific Community 
Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) project aimed at increasing the rate of 
Pacific Islands’ ratification and implementation of human rights treaties. The project 
implemented bilateral and regional activities, e.g. in April 2016 it supported the regional 
Human Rights and Media Forum which adopted a ‘Declaration on a Human Rights-based 
approach to journalism in the Pacific’. It also carried out the regional 2016 Gender and 
the Law Consultation on the Implementation of Domestic Violence Legislation; and it 
organised several human rights dialogues with national MPs to advance human rights, 
good governance and development.
The country has not extended any standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures, but the 
Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation visited Kiribati in July 2012.
There is a need to address legislative and enforcement shortcomings stemming from cultural 
norms especially as regards gender-based violence. Enforcement of the right to water and 
sanitation is dire and has resulted in a large number of preventable infant and child deaths. 
There is also a need to increase administrative capacity on reporting.
Federated States of Micronesia
In the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the issue of violence against women and human 
trafficking problems are of high relevance. 
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Through the dialogue with the country and through different financial instruments, the EU 
promoted human rights, gender equality and the increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for civil society organisations (CSOs) in the 
Pacific.
Women are well represented in the middle and lower ranks of government at both the federal 
and state levels, but are scarcer in the upper ranks. No female candidates stood in the last 
election in 2015. All of the 14 members of Congress are men. FSM remains one of the few 
countries in the world with no women in the legislature. 
 
Women enjoy equal rights under the law, including those regarding property ownership and 
employment. The legal rights of women are protected under the FSM national constitution 
and the constitutions of the four states. However, socio-economic discrimination and violence 
against women continue to be the most prevalent human rights problem. There is no national 
legislation criminalising sexual assault, though each state has identical legislation criminalising 
sexual relations with girls under the age of 13. Cases of domestic violence often go unreported. 
Offenders rarely face trial, and usually receive light sentences. There are no specific laws 
against domestic violence, although assault is a crime. 
Following its 2015 country report under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the FSM made some reservations to CEDAW, which it 
is currently working on withdrawing.
FSM is a source country for forced labour and sex trafficking. The Human Trafficking Act 
of 2012 made all trafficking activities a criminal offence. The main victims of trafficking are 
foreign migrant workers and Micronesian women and girls engaged in prostitution. Many sex 
trafficking cases remain unreported. FSM is making significant efforts across the four states 
to implement the national action plan to combat trafficking.
There are no labour unions, though there are also no laws against their formation. No specific 
laws regulate working hours or health and safety standards at the workplace. The right to 
strike is not legally recognised.
The EU funds the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Community Regional Rights 
Resource Team project, which aims to increase the rate of the Pacific Islands’ ratification and 
implementation of human rights treaties. The project implemented a range of bilateral and 
regional activities. In April 2016 it supported the regional Human Rights and Media Forum 
which adopted a ‘Declaration on a Human Rights-based approach to journalism in the Pacific’. 
It also carried out the 2016 regional Gender and the Law Consultation on the Implementation 
of Domestic Violence Legislation. Bearing in mind that MPs from the Pacific region had adopted 
a Declaration in 2015 recognising the vital role of parliament and parliamentarians to respect, 
fulfil, protect and promote the inherent rights of all people in the Pacific, the project organised 
several human rights dialogues with national MPs to advance human rights, good governance 
and development.
 
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In December 2016, with the support of an EU-funded project, FSM ratified the Convention on 
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is working on its disability policy.
The EU worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other 
donors. In FSM’s National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th European Development 
Fund (EDF), a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 0.1 million).
FSM underwent its second Universal Periodic Review in November 2015. Progress was noted in 
some areas, such as FSM’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights 
of the Child and steps taken to improve gender equality, reduce child mortality and reduce the 
impact of climate change on human rights. At the same time, a number of ongoing concerns 
were raised by delegations, such as FSM’s high rate of trafficking in persons; the issue of 
domestic violence; FSM’s reservations on the CEDAW; and challenges linked to discrimination 
against LGBT people. The recommendations include the development of a national gender 
policy. 
In October 2015, FSM ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the 
Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. However, a large number of the 
core international human right conventions remain unratified. With the support of an EU-
funded project, FSM organised consultations and prepared a report on the Convention on 
the Rights of the Child. No visits have been made by Special Procedures during the years 
under scrutiny and FSM has not extended a standing invitation. FSM has not acceded to 
the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. FSM does not have a national human 
rights institution.
The judiciary is independent but lacks funding, which has a detrimental impact on the functioning 
of the courts. The small national police force is responsible for local law enforcement, while 
the USA provides for national defence.
 
Republic of Nauru
Nauru has experienced a mixed track record with regard to democracy, the rule of law and 
human rights. The overall situation for refugees and asylum seekers in the regional Offshore 
Processing Centre (OPC) has not improved despite an open door policy. In May 2016, Nauru 
amended its Criminal Code and abolished the death penalty and decriminalised homosexuality.
Through an EU-funded project, the EU has promoted human rights and gender equality.
The last general elections were held in July 2016, following 2 years of turmoil, during which 
five of the seven opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) were suspended from parliament. 
Limited access to state owned media, the absence of foreign reporters, restrictions on 
freedom of expression and a ban on social media all impeded the campaigning of the opposition 
candidates. International election observers’ teams noted a number of shortcomings but 
concluded that the elections were free and fair.
Nauru’s President Baron Waqa was re-elected; the ruling party won 16 of the 18 seats thereby 
further consolidating power in Nauru (the previous parliament had had eight opposition MPs). 
Only one of the four female candidates was (re-)elected. 
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In August 2016, the government decided to cancel the passports of 20 people, including a 
former president and other former MPs for alleged involvement in one of the anti-government 
riots in 2015. Subsequently, the Border Protection Minister received greater powers to cancel 
travel documents and thus prevent persons from leaving.
In March 2016, 1000 days after the OPC was opened, 144 asylum seekers protested for 
several weeks against their detention there (whilst recognising that they were free to leave 
the camp) and demanded to be recognised as refugees, many having waited for more than 3 
years to have their asylum application assessed. The latest incidents of self-harm occurred in 
May, when a number of refugees set themselves on fire and another died of a pills overdose.
 
Nauru has long shied away from independent scrutiny of the OPC. Foreign journalists – save 
for specially selected acquiescent reporters – are refused permission even to apply for a visa. 
Back in January 2014, Nauru had steeply increased the fee for media and business visas, from 
AUD 200 to AUD 8 000 (non-refundable) and from AUD 400 to AUD 6 000, respectively. 
In February 2016, Nauru further tightened visa rules for Australians and New Zealanders who 
now need a sponsorship/guarantee from a Nauru citizen if they want to visit the island. Nauruan 
sponsors/guarantors could face up to 1 year’s imprisonment for breaches of the visa regime.
During the year, the EU Delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities 
inviting the Pacific Island States, including Nauru, to support EU human rights initiatives and 
priorities at the UN level.
With support from an EU-funded project, newly elected MPs held a human rights dialogue in 
December 2016 and discussed human rights, good governance and sustainable development. 
An outcome document with a set of recommendations to advance human rights in Nauru was 
transmitted to the cabinet.
The 2nd UPR of Nauru took place in November 2015 and was finalised in April 2016. The 
UPR pointed to challenges with regard to freedom of expression, access of journalists to 
the country, physical conditions of asylum seekers, and ratification of certain international 
instruments. On a positive note, Nauru was commended for efforts to improve women and 
children’s rights and for the ratification of UNCAT and of the Convention on the Rights of 
Persons with Disabilities. 
The government considered that it had already implemented 19 of the 108 recommendations 
received. Nauru accepted 60 of the recommendations and noted 29. Those accepted included 
the recommendations to ratify core human rights conventions such as the Convention on 
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the CESCR, and to establish 
a national human rights institution (NHRI). The ‘noted’ recommendations included those to 
decriminalise same-sex sexual activity, to abolish the death penalty, to uphold freedom 
of information, press freedom and freedom of speech in the country, and those related to 
asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. 
 
In May 2016, Nauru amended its Criminal Code, abolished the death penalty and decriminalised 
homosexuality. Furthermore, with support from an EU-funded project, in 2016 Nauru submitted 
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its overdue reports on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention 
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The project also 
provided technical assistance to Nauru on the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the CRC, 
which had been signed by Nauru in 2010. 
In contrast to several other Pacific countries, Nauru has signed and ratified several of the core 
international human rights treaties. Nevertheless, legal protection of human rights remains 
weak. This is primarily due to poor incorporation of human rights treaties into domestic law and 
a lack of domestic legislative provisions to secure human rights protection. Nauru’s capacity 
to implement international human rights treaties is constrained by financial considerations 
and by the reporting burden. The review of the constitution, which was frequently cited by 
Nauruan representatives during the previous UPR, has not been completed.
The establishment of an independent national human rights institution would be a major step 
forward in terms of promotion and protection of human rights in Nauru.
Political space for opposition is limited due to the absence of independent media, restrictions 
on foreign journalists, a ban on social media and punitive measures adopted by the government 
(for example the cancellation of passports). 
Conflict resolution is an area where EU intervention could potentially have the biggest 
impact in addressing democratic shortcomings in Nauru. However, given the substantial 
financial support received by Nauru from Australia, the EU lacks incentives to stimulate the 
government’s interest in engagement on human rights and democracy.
Republic of Palau
While the government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, problems persisted 
in a few areas, including domestic violence, trafficking in human beings and discrimination 
against, and abuse of, foreign workers.
 
Through dialogue with the country and through various financial instruments, the EU has 
promoted human rights, gender equality and increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support for civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific.
In 2013, Palau ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and 
has completed its combined 2nd and 3rd reports on the Convention on the Rights of the Child 
(CRC). Following its ratification, a series of consultations were held in partnership with the 
Pacific Disability Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, where a national disability 
policy was drafted. However, legislation providing for full protection of children and disabled 
persons has yet to be enacted in Palau.
Although Palauan society is matriarchal and matrilineal, women are still under-represented 
in the National Congress, the cabinet and the higher levels of the civil service. Since the 2016 
election, there have been four women in the 29-member National Congress. Women have 
almost equal status in public and private sector employment, education and public life. Sexual 
harassment and rape, including spousal rape, are illegal. Domestic violence is not covered 
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by specific legislation and remains a challenge. However, the government conducted public 
education efforts to combat abuse against women and children. Palau which has not yet 
ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 
(CEDAW) has focused on awareness programmes and consultations with key stakeholders, 
including traditional women’s groups.
Regulations that make it extremely difficult for foreign workers to change employers once 
they arrive in Palau place foreign workers at increased risk of involuntary servitude and 
debt bondage. As a result, foreign workers are subject to discrimination and are targets 
of petty and sometimes violent crimes, as well as other harmful acts against persons and 
property. 
Palau’s legislation does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status and the 
government has not established a formal system for providing protection to refugees. In 
practice the government has nevertheless provided some protection against the expulsion or 
return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. 
 
The EU funds the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Pacific Community Regional Rights 
Resource Team project, which aims to increase the rate of the Pacific Islands’ ratification and 
implementation of human rights treaties. The project implemented a range of bilateral and 
regional activities. In April 2016 it supported the regional Human Rights and Media Forum 
which adopted a ‘Declaration on a Human Rights-based approach to journalism in the Pacific’. 
It also carried out the 2016 regional Gender and the Law Consultation on the Implementation 
of Domestic Violence Legislation. Bearing in mind that MPs from the Pacific region had adopted 
a Declaration in 2015 recognising the vital role of parliament and parliamentarians to respect, 
fulfil, protect and promote the inherent rights of all people in the Pacific, the project organised 
several human rights dialogues with national MPs to advance human rights, good governance 
and development.
The EU worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other 
donors. In Palau’s National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th EDF, a specific 
financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 0.2 million).
Palau does not have a national human rights institution but the government has expressed its 
intention to establish one, noting during its second UPR that the country would be seeking the 
assistance of its partners to acquire the specialised resources to do so. Palau has a Reporting 
Committee on UN conventions on human rights.
Palau underwent its second Universal Periodic Review in January 2016. The recommendations 
made included ratification of core human rights treaties that have already been signed, 
including CEDAW, ICCPR, ICESCR, and UNCAT. Palau has not acceded to the Rome Statute of 
the International Criminal Court.
The issue of violence against women was highlighted in the recent Belau Family Health and 
Safety Study. Additionally, a gender mainstreaming policy is currently being drafted and 
would essentially mainstream gender within the national and state government policies and 
programmes.
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There are no laws addressing sexual orientation and gender identity. Same-sex sexual activity 
was legalised in 2014. 
 
High-ranking public officials (the House Delegate and the former vice-president) have faced 
corruption charges in recent years. In August 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman asked for a 
clearer legal mandate coupled with greater independence. In January 2016, the UN held anti-
corruption consultations aimed at encouraging Palau to engage more strongly with the United 
Nations Convention against Corruption .
Palau has adopted legal measures and enforcement strategies to combat trafficking in human 
beings. The laws include protections in the areas of employment and unlawful detention of 
travel documents. However more efforts are needed on enforcing national legislation since 
Palau remains a destination country for women subjected to sex trafficking and for women 
and men subjected to forced labour.
Tuvalu
The overall human rights situation in the country has improved, and there is no systematic 
abuse of human rights. Gender-based violence (GBV) is rooted in traditional behavioural norms. 
Tuvalu’s biggest challenge is climate change. Tuvalu is at risk of becoming uninhabitable by the 
end of the century, which will lead to migration issues.
There is limited potential for administrative capacity due to the low population (10 000), and 
this creates particular constraints with regard to the supplying of regular reports under UN 
instruments, which results in insufficient data for assessing the situation.
Through the dialogue with the country and through various financial instruments, the EU has 
promoted human rights, gender equality and the increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support for civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific.
With support from an EU-funded project, newly elected MPs held a human rights dialogue 
in August 2015. As an outcome of these discussions, the Tuvalu government endorsed the 
national human rights action plan 2016-2020 in October 2016, which is to be launched in early 
2017.
 
The EU also worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and 
other donors. In the National Indicative Programmes designed under the 11th European 
Development Fund (EDF), a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 0.3 
million).
The EU also funds the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Pacific Community 
Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) project, which aims to increase the rate of 
the Pacific Islands’ ratification and implementation of human rights treaties. The project 
implemented a range of bilateral and regional activities. In April 2016 it supported the regional 
Human Rights and Media Forum which adopted a ‘Declaration on the Human Rights-based 
approach to journalism in the Pacific’. It also carried out the 2016 regional Gender and the Law 
Consultation on the Implementation of Domestic Violence Legislation. 
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Tuvalu is a party to three core Human Rights Conventions: CEDAW, CRC and CRPD. A disability 
policy has been drafted and national consultations on the policy began in March 2016. With EU 
support Tuvalu is working towards establishing a national human rights institution. So far the 
parliament has enabled the Ombudsman Commission to work on several types of complaints. 
Tuvalu also established several committees and taskforces to monitor the implementation 
of international instruments and to work on promoting them. There are currently two task 
forces that were established to monitor adherence with CEDAW and to comply with UPR 
reporting obligations.
Independent State of Samoa
The overall human rights situation in the country has slightly improved compared to previous 
years. In general, human rights in Samoa are protected by law, however the enforcement 
and implementation of these protections tend to be insufficient. Gender-based violence and 
discrimination against women remain of major concern.
Through the dialogue with the country and through various financial instruments, the EU has 
promoted human rights, gender equality and increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support for civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific.
 
In the parliamentary elections on 4 March 2016, the ruling Human Rights Protection Party 
(HRPP) won 44 of the 49 seats in parliament. The landslide victory caused some concern 
and articulated the need for an effective civil society to engage in greater advocacy with the 
government.
In 2013, the Samoan government passed constitutional amendments that introduced a 10% 
minimum quota for female members of parliament. In the March 2016 elections only four 
women were elected to parliament. The woman who received the next-highest number of 
votes, Faaulusau Rosa Duffy-Stowers, was then elected through the quota system, bringing 
the number of women up to five, out of the total of 50 members of parliament.
In 2016, Samoa ratified all three Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the 
Child: the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, 
the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, and the Optional Protocol on the 
involvement of children in armed conflict.
Violence against children remains an issue and is generally tolerated as a form of discipline; 
excessive physical discipline traditionally is seen as a parent’s right more than a human rights 
concern. A related issue is that of child sex abuse, especially within the family. School-aged 
children are frequently engaged as street vendors, although in recent years the government 
has taken several steps to protect children through the introduction of national legislation, the 
establishment of a task force, and ratification of all fundamental ILO conventions. 
While freedom of the media is generally well respected in Samoa, there have been several 
reports of isolated threats against journalists. In July 2016 the government established the 
Samoa Media Council, which has authority over all media outlets in the country regardless of 
Council membership, leading to fears of excessive government control. 
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Bilateral meetings at various levels were used as a platform to promote respect for human 
rights and gender equality in the Pacific region including Samoa. 
 
The first Enhanced EU-Samoa Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement 
was held in Apia on 4 October 2016. The dialogue was attended by representatives from civil 
society and the private sector. The EU commended Samoa for its recent progress in the field 
of human rights and the parties discussed remaining challenges, including the ratification of 
aforementioned international human rights treaties. The EU invited Samoa to examine the 
possibility of decriminalising male homosexuality.
The EU provides funding to civil society under the 11th European Development Fund Civil 
Society Support Programme. One of its goals is to strengthen the voice and monitoring role of 
civil society in Samoa in order to bolster respect for human rights, and in particular women’s 
rights, with a specific focus on reducing violence and discrimination against women. 
EU funding enabled UNICEF and Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) 
to provide training in 2016, in conjunction with the Samoan government, on treaty reporting 
concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ratification of its Optional Protocols. 
Through the dialogue with the countries and through various financial instruments, the EU has 
promoted human rights, gender equality and the increased participation of women in decision-
making. Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for implementing the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific. To that end, the 
EU also worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other 
donors. In National Indicative Programmes designed under the 11th EDF, a specific financial 
allocation has been set aside for CSOs in Samoa (EUR 2 million). 
Samoa underwent its second Universal Periodic Review in May 2016. The recommendations 
included ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention 
against Torture, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 
Following its first UPR (2011), Samoa mandated the Office of the Ombudsman to handle 
human rights issues in 2013, thereby fulfilling its commitment to create a national human 
rights institution (NHRI). The Office of the Ombudsman is considered effective and operates 
free of interference by the government or political parties, and in July 2016 it was accredited 
as an ‘A status’ NHRI by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions – a significant 
achievement in the regional context.
 
Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) 
RMI continues to make progress in the context of human rights and governance, but like 
most Pacific Island Countries, is hampered by a lack of human resources. Climate change and 
environmental disasters remain the most fundamental threats. With the sea level rising at the 
current rate, RMI is at risk of becoming uninhabitable by the end of century. The country was 
one of the first to ratify the Paris Agreement in February 2016.
Through the dialogue with the country and through different financial instruments, the EU 
promoted human rights, gender equality and the increased participation of women in decision 
making. Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential 
elements for the implementation of the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific.
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On 27 January 2016 Ms Hilda Heine became the country’s first female president (and the 
Pacific’s first female elected Head of State).
Women are still underrepresented in all areas of political life but after general elections the 
number of female parliamentarians went up from one to three. Activists have proposed that 
the constitution be amended to provide for the reservation of seven seats for women, though 
a change to the Constitution would require a referendum and a two-thirds majority.
Gender violence remains an issue in RMI. About 22% of all RMI women report experiencing 
physical violence in the previous 12 months. Parliament has since passed the Domestic Violence 
Prevention and Protection Act.
Corporal punishment is illegal in schools but is still permitted at home. There is no minimum 
age for employment for children. Only 80% of students who attend primary school reach 
eighth grade and only 70%-75% of those enter high school. There are few services for the 
protection of children, and the Human Rights Office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs is poorly 
staffed.
During the year, the EU Delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach 
activities inviting the Pacific Island States including RMI to support EU human rights initiatives 
and priorities at the UN level.
 
With the support of an EU funded project, the newly elected Members of Parliament held 
a Dialogue on Human Rights in February 2016. They recommended the development of 
a National Human Rights Action Plan and efforts towards the establishment of a National 
Human Rights Institution. During the Dialogue, the Government made a commitment to an 
annual allocation of resources to RMI’s national women’s movement, to provide services to 
survivors of domestic violence.
In May 2016, human rights were discussed during an informal political dialogue with the new 
government. 
The EU worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other 
donors. In RMI’s National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th EDF, a specific financial 
allocation has been set aside for CSOs (€ 0.4 million).
The EU also funds the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Pacific Community Regional 
Rights Resource Team project aiming to increase the rate of Pacific Islands’ ratification and 
implementation of human rights treaties. The project implemented a range of bilateral and 
regional activates. In April 2016 it supported regional Human Rights and Media Forum which 
adopted a Declaration on the human rights-based approach to journalism in the Pacific. It 
also carried out a regional 2016 Gender and the Law Consultation on the Implementation of 
Domestic Violence Legislation. Considering that in 2015 MPs from the Pacific region adopted 
a Declaration recognising the vital role of Parliament and parliamentarians to respect, fulfil, 
protect and promote the inherent rights of all people in the Pacific, the project organised 
several national MPs Human Rights Dialogues to progress human rights, good governance and 
development.
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Human trafficking remains an issue that requires increased efforts to protect victims and 
improve the enforcement of the national legislation. 
 
New Zealand
In 2016 the overall human rights situation in the country remained positive. The New Zealand 
government has a robust institutional framework to promote and protect human rights. 
Human rights concerns in New Zealand generally remain relatively marginal, with some long-
standing problematic situations in need of improvement, such as child poverty, family violence 
and socio-economic issues related with the Maori and Pasifika communities.
The EU Delegation in Wellington identified two priority issues for the 2016-2020 period: 
domestic violence, including violence against women, and the Maori situation. 
The main issues under scrutiny in 2016 have been domestic violence, the Maori situation, rights 
of the child, rights of persons with disabilities, suicide rates (highest rate of teen suicides), 
LGBTQI, the gender pay gap, women in leadership roles (numbers of women as corporate 
directors are falling), worker exploitation (migrant workers mainly in the construction, 
hospitality and dairy sectors), bullying, the right to privacy (some legislative reforms needed), 
NZ citizens unduly detained in Australia’s offshore detention centres. 
The Delegation met the independent Human Rights Commission on three occasions to discuss 
the overall situation in New Zealand and the country’s operational tools. New Zealand’s Human 
Rights Commissioner, David Rutherford, was invited to the Heads of Missions meeting in June 
2016 and gave a detailed briefing on the situation in New Zealand and the Commission’s future 
priorities, whilst also receiving questions. Contact between the Delegation and the Commission 
is ongoing and relations are excellent.
Building on reforms implemented in 2015 the NZ government has introduced more than 50 
changes to the 1995 Domestic Violence Act. These changes apply to both civil and criminal laws, 
including promotion of early and effective intervention and prohibition of coercive or forced 
marriages. The NZ government also implemented a NZD 790 million child material hardship 
package, in response to some issues identified by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
 
In October 2016, the EU and New Zealand signed a Partnership Agreement for Relations 
and Cooperation (PARC). The latter includes human rights and gender issues as areas of 
cooperation. In line with EU policy, gender issues (including human rights-related issues) have 
also been addressed in regular high-level consultations, including at the AUS-NZ-EU Trilateral 
Consultation on the Pacific in February 2016 and in the last EU-NZ security dialogue in June 
2016.
There is no active public diplomacy by the EU in New Zealand on human rights since the 
latter are respected at levels compatible with Western societies’ standards and relevant 
international legal frameworks. However, regular contact is made with relevant stakeholders 
in the country, including the NZ Human Rights Commission. Public awareness-raising activities 
are occasionally organised by the EU Delegation and resident Member States’ diplomatic 
missions, on topics such as gender equality or women’s rights.
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All in all, the biggest challenge is the sometimes low level of resources allocated to effective 
implementation of reforms or action plans. Domestic violence and the Maori situation will 
remain the main issues to be tackled in the coming years. Maori make up over 50% of New 
Zealand’s prison population (60% in the case of women).
Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is going through a vibrant societal transformation and addressing a 
wide range of human rights challenges. However adequate responses and implementation by 
government agencies are still limited and slow. Despite the good effort on policy development 
over the last couple of years, policy implementation and institutional capacities leave room 
for improvement.
There is a need to reduce gender-based violence, support the fight against child abuse, and 
implement international conventions.
The key human rights concerns in the country are gender-based violence, violence against 
children, and sorcery-related torture and killings. The number of incidents of rape and 
intimate-partner violence is one of the highest in the world. Many cases are still unreported 
and very few of those reported are adequately followed up.
 
The long-awaited landmark national strategy paper on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was 
approved by the National Executive Council on 13 December 2016. The establishment of a 
special parliamentary committee on GBV and a national GBV Council and secretariat was part 
of the national strategy to be launched in February 2017. 
In 2016 there was increased media reporting and awareness on GBV, which intensified during 
the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea in November and December, which 
was an ideal platform to raise awareness and promote behavioural change.
Cultural and religious reasons prevent PNG from using the death penalty, however it is 
maintained in law to act as a deterrent (the last execution took place in 1954). Public opinion 
remains divided over its abolition. Introduced through law in 1902, three crimes carried the 
death penalty at the time of PNG’s independence in 1975, however since 2013 there have been 
six (treason, piracy, attempted piracy with violence, sorcery-related killing, aggravated rape 
and aggravated robbery). In February 2016, the prime minister publicly announced that the 
review of the implementation arrangements for executions was put on hold.
In terms of prosecution of offenders, court orders are sometimes not respected or not enforced 
by law enforcement agencies. Instances of evidence ‘lost’ or tampered with, especially when it 
involves controversial or high-profile cases, have been reported.
Strengthened cooperation of government with civil society organisations (CSOs), as partners 
in the country’s development process, and the need for such cooperation in the specific areas 
of basic health, education, water and sanitation, law and order, politics and governance, human 
rights and economic empowerment, will improve CSOs’ involvement in policy formulation and 
political reforms, as well as their ability to access government funding mechanisms.
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The Amendment of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which will enter into force on 
1 January 2017, is considered a major step in the fight against corruption (and is linked to EU 
support for public finance management reform).
 
The political dialogue was held on 22 November 2016; PNG was encouraged to advance the 
ratification process on the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading 
Treatment or Punishment; to consider ratification of the Rome Statute of the International 
Criminal Court; and to reflect on abolishing the death penalty (which has been abolished by 
most other Pacific Island states). The EU also underlined the importance of establishing a 
national human rights institution that can advance the implementation of human rights policies 
and UPR recommendations.
During 2016, the EU Delegation organised several bilateral meetings at all levels with state 
actors, diplomatic missions, international organisations and civil society on human rights, co-
organised the ‘Yumi Olgeta’ in April and participated in the 7th PNG Human Rights Festival in 
October. The EU delivered a demarche to the government on the moratorium on the use of 
the death penalty.
In December 2016, the EU Delegation signed a contract with the Consultative Implementation 
& Monitoring Council, which will support a nation-wide platform for dialogue with non-state 
actors (NSAs) and encourage active participation of the NSAs both at national and subnational 
levels, with a focus on district public expenditure, provincial government and civil society 
partnership, open government and public participation, family and sexual violence, HIV/AIDS 
and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Under a call for proposals worth more than EUR 900 000, contracts were awarded for 
projects geared to promoting women’s and children rights, to addressing child abuse, and to 
combating trafficking in human beings and strengthening prosecution efforts.
On other projects implementation is ongoing: ‘Papua New Guinea Leadership Against Gender-
Based Violence’, which aims to build the capacity of decision-makers within government and 
civil society; ‘HOPE-A House for Protection and Empowerment’, which aims to promote the 
work of human right defenders and advocators; and ‘Addressing Violence Against Women in 
Papua New Guinea’, which aims to raise awareness among rural communities on the effects 
of gender-based violence by using a range of communication methods.
 
PNG presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the UN Human Rights 
Council on 6 May 2016. PNG accepted 101 of the 161 recommendations and simply noted the 
others.
Recommendations included the fight against gender- based violence and sorcery-related 
violence, the strengthening of gender equity, the establishment of an independent human rights 
institution, the ratification of key international conventions and compliance with reporting 
obligations, the improvement of access to education and health services, accountability for 
businesses, the decriminalisation of LGBT persons, the abolishment of the death penalty, 
police brutality and the lack of dignified correctional services. The common denominator was 
the slow progress in the implementation of the recommendations from the previous review.
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The main challenge ahead is to demonstrate tangible progress on the UPR commitments, 
in particular in addressing gender-based violence, improving law and order, and enhancing 
access to basic services such as education, health, housing and decent jobs. Law and order 
problems continue to hinder investors’ confidence and constitute the single biggest obstacle 
to achieving economic development and prosperity.
Solomon Islands
As with other Pacific countries, climate change and related human rights problems are of 
particular relevance. In 2016 the overall human rights situation improved. Gender inequalities, 
including gender-based violence (GBV) and violence against children, remain a concern. 
There is a need to promote the reduction of gender-based violence, support the fight against 
child abuse, and implement international conventions.
The Solomon Islands have yet to enact a comprehensive human rights policy. The much-awaited 
Family Protection Act 2014 implementing regulations were adopted and formally launched in 
April 2016. The act criminalises domestic violence, protects survivors, and empowers the 
courts, police and healthcare professionals to assist survivors’ access to services such as 
medical attention and justice. However, there is currently no legislation to legally prohibit 
corporal punishment of children.
 
Domestic violence remains an issue of national concern. According to studies, around two 
thirds of women aged 15–49 who have been in a relationship reported experiencing physical 
and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. 
Legal aid is officially available in criminal, family and civil matters through the Public 
Solicitor’s Office, however it has been noted that the Office is routinely overburdened and 
under-resourced. Much effort has been made to improve access to justice for women victims 
of domestic violence, particularly since the start of implementation of the Family Protection 
Act (2014) in April 2016.
The Penal Code (Sexual Offence) (Amendment) Bill 2015 introduced new categories of sexual 
offences. These include persistent sexual abuse of a child under the age of 18; sexual abuse 
of a child over the age of 15 but under 18 by a person in a position of trust, authority or 
dependency in relation to the child; child commercial sexual exploitation; and participation, 
use, distribution and storage of child sexual exploitation materials (visual, audio, print and 
data).
The government also endorsed the national peacebuilding policy, launched in 2015 as part of 
its post-conflict initiative to achieve sustainable and stable peace. A national plan of action 
against trafficking in human beings and people smuggling was finalised, and operational 
guidelines for law enforcement on the Immigration Act are being drafted.
The involvement and participation of women in political life continues to be very low. The 
Political Parties Integrity Act, the drafting of which was assisted by the EU, requires registered 
political parties to ensure that at least 10% of their candidates are women. To counter obstacles 
such as financial, cultural and various other interests of incumbents in parliament, temporary 
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special measures (TSM), including a reserved number of seats for women in parliament, have 
been discussed and announced at the highest level, with support from the EU Delegation in 
policy dialogue and public statements. To date, however, the lack of any specific action has 
been discouraging.
 
In the political dialogue held in June 2016 the EU urged the government to sign and ratify 
important human rights instruments (including the ratification of the Rome Statute of the 
International Criminal Court which had been signed in the late 1990s). The EU invited the 
country to protect the rights of the LGBTI community. 
The country acknowledged the importance of timely implementation of the recommendations 
of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). A TRC implementation roadmap is scheduled 
for submission to the national parliament later this year.
The EU Delegation has continued a dialogue with civil society organisations such as Solomon 
Transparency International on corruption, and with the Ombudsman on human rights issues.
In July 2016, the EU Delegation to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu actively participated in the 
Climate Diplomacy Week; it promoted several publications and reached out to schools and 
the media. In the Pacific region, climate change and human rights are very closely intertwined.
The EU Delegation has taken a leading role since 2016 in convening dialogue on a CSO 
roadmap, which will be followed by thematic budget lines (EUR 0.6 million from the EIDHR 
and EUR 1.5 million from the CSO-LA) under calls for proposals in 2017. There are 68 non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) currently registered with the Pacific Islands Association 
of Non-Governmental Organisations.
The EU is currently financing an action on ‘Support to initiatives and actions on the protection 
of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse’. The EU has also funded projects on 
women’s rights, violence against women, women’s empowerment and women’s participation. 
The Solomon Islands confirmed that it received 139 recommendations in its UPR in January 
2016, of which it eventually accepted 89, including ratification of the International Convention 
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the recommendations related to child protection, 
corporal punishment, trafficking in human beings, education and criminalisation of sexual 
violence, and to establish a national human rights institution. The government is committed 
to establishing a national monitoring, reporting and follow-up mechanism within five years.
 
Kingdom of Tonga
The overall human rights situation in the country has remained positive. Faced with a possible 
no-confidence vote, the government has made no progress on further democratisation or 
ratification of CEDAW, however. Domestic violence remains a major problem as does the lack 
of female participation in Tongan politics.
The EU supports capacity building for civil society organisations (CSOs) and on gender equality. 
Women are under-represented in decision making; in a July 2016 by-election, a woman won 
a seat in parliament, making her the 5th female MP in Tonga’s history. While the constitution 
officially provides for equality, this does not translate in practice into gender equality. Men 
generally enjoy preferential treatment in line with the traditional Tongan culture. There is 
generalised gender inequality in family life, where the dominant role is held by the oldest 
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male. Women cannot own land and continue to face challenges in terms of enjoyment of full 
economic rights. Domestic violence is also a major problem.
In November 2016, Tonga’s first Ombudsman was appointed: he can make investigations into 
government administration, either on the basis of a complaint made to him by any person or 
on his own motion. The bill was tabled in parliament along with a bill to finally appoint an Anti-
corruption Commissioner, for which the post had been vacant since 2007.
Despite numerous attempts by the EU Delegation for the Pacific, no high-level political dialogue 
with Tonga took place in 2016.
During the year, the EU Delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities 
inviting the Pacific Island States, including Tonga, to support EU human rights initiatives and 
priorities at the UN level. The British High Commissioner to Tonga raised human rights issues 
and highlighted the need for better application of UN human rights instruments on her visit to 
Tonga. 
The EU encourages a more structured and effective policy dialogue between government, 
local authorities and CSOs. The National Indicative Programme under the 11th European 
Development Fund (signed in 2015) provides EUR 0.6 million for CSOs in Tonga.
 
As part of the implementation of the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific, in March 2016 
the EU supported a three-day National Consultation on Child Protection in Tonga, resulting in 
the creation of a government-NGO ad hoc advisory working group on child rights, tasked with 
urging the Ministry of Education to move forward on CRC reporting and implementation. 
The project has also worked through the Women’s Division in the Ministry of Internal Affairs 
to provide technical support on the development of strategic plans for implementation of the 
Family Protection Act (2014) and the revised gender policy; and also to roll out a series of 
community consultations on the protections and redress offered under the new act.
Tonga is not a very active member of international human rights fora and has so far only 
ratified two of the core UN human rights conventions (the ICERD and the CRC). Significantly, 
however, Tonga became a member of the International Labour Organisation in 2016. 
Republic of Vanuatu
In 2016 further steps were taken to promote a stronger, more transparent and accountable 
governance system. Progress in meeting human rights obligations was also noted in the 
Vanuatu ‘examination’ in the CEDAW Committee. 
The EU’s priority is the establishment of a fully fledged national human rights institution in 
accordance with the Paris Principles (to guarantee the equality of women and girls and persons 
with disabilities) and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
There are still a number of problems especially in the fields of gender, violence against women, 
domestic abuse, rape and discrimination against LGBTI persons. There are also regular cases 
of corruption, including allegations of misuse of public and/or donor funds.
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In 2016 the government was more actively involved in promoting women’s participation in 
politics. In November President Baldwin Lonsdale had a meeting with the Women’s National 
Council and reiterated his desire to see women elected to the parliament and also running for 
presidential elections. In this context, the government discussed the introduction of temporary 
special measures (TSMs) through constitutional amendments. This follows successful 
implementation of TSMs in the municipal elections in 2014. A delegation from the Women’s 
National Council attended the opening ceremony of the December 2016 parliamentary session. 
Another positive point is the confirmed high level of independence of the judiciary. In October 
2015, the Supreme Court of Vanuatu had found 14 MPs guilty of bribery and corruption under 
the Penal Code Act and had sentenced them to 3 or 4 years    in prison. On appeal, the Court 
of Appeals confirmed the judgment, thereby proving the independence of the judiciary and its 
firm stance against corruption.
The EU Ambassador accredited to Vanuatu is based in Honiara (Solomon Islands) and maintains, 
with the help of his other colleagues, a regular and effective EU political and operational 
presence in Vanuatu. The fourth Enhanced Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou 
Agreement will be held in Brussels on 24 January 2017 and the situation regarding human 
rights, gender equality and good governance in the country is on the agenda. 
Vanuatu supported the resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty both 
in UNGA’s 3rd Committee and in the UNGA plenary in December. It also voted in favour of 
other EU-sponsored/supported country or thematic resolutions on human rights in the 3rd 
Committee in November. 
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European 
Development Fund (EDF), but the focus has been on rural development, since agricultural 
activities can play an important role in stimulating growth, creating jobs and improving 
livelihoods in rural areas. They can help fight poverty in Vanuatu and limit urban drift and 
other undesirable consequences, such as urban unemployment, drug use and violence.
 
Vanuatu has successfully completed the second cycle review under the Human Rights 
Council UPR and developed a national framework through which the recommendations will 
be mainstreamed into government planning and development programmes. These are to 
protect the most vulnerable people – women, children and those with a disability. Vanuatu is 
implementing the national implementation action plan resulting from the recommendations 
accepted in June 2014.
Despite this progress, challenges remain regarding the implementation of human rights, 
especially in the outer-lying remote islands. The challenges include access to justice, in particular 
for vulnerable groups, and strengthening of constitutional and legislative guarantees.
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IX. The Americas
Antigua and Barbuda
While several measures aimed at enhancing the protection of women’s and children’s rights 
took effect in 2016, countering domestic violence and child abuse remains a key challenge. 
The EU priorities further include non-discrimination against the LGBTI population, abolition of 
the death penalty and other improvements in the area of the rule of law, in particular the need 
to address prison overcrowding and judicial backlogs.
A new Domestic Violence Act took effect in 2016, setting out an obligation to investigate all 
reported incidents. Training on the legislation was provided to relevant staff. Trafficking in 
human beings continues to be of major concern, in particular foreign women recruited for 
prostitution. Neglect and physical abuse are regarded as the most frequent form of child 
abuse. A study in March 2016 found a prevalence of incidents of sexual abuse of teenagers 
for material gain. Corporal punishment is still administered in schools. Implementation of the 
2015 model Child Justice Bill started in 2016, aimed at diverting cases from formal courts 
to restorative justice, abolishing corporal punishment as a sentencing option and providing 
for detention in secure accommodation for children as an alternative to prison. A family 
courtroom has been established to deal exclusively with juvenile matters. 
 
No progress has been recorded on LGBTI issues; consensual same-sex activity remains illegal 
and gay people are subject to discrimination (e.g. in employment, housing, and access to 
education and health care), verbal harassment and, albeit less common, physical violence. 
Antigua and Barbuda retain the death penalty although no executions have occurred since 
1991. The country’s lone prison still suffers from extreme overcrowding. 
In 2016, the EU continued to raise key human rights issues with the authorities. Formal 
demarches were carried out in the context of the UNGA Third Committee. Antigua and Barbuda, 
as part of the Eastern Caribbean sub-region, benefits from EU assistance under the European 
Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the Civil Society Organisations programme. 
In this context, ongoing projects focus, inter alia, on countering domestic violence. Another 
project specifically devoted to Antigua and Barbuda was selected at the end of 2016 for 
implementation and seeks to reduce recidivism through increasing employment opportunities 
for at-risk young people. 
In May 2016, Antigua and Barbuda underwent the Universal Periodic Review. The final report 
was adopted by the Human Rights Council in September. Antigua and Barbuda accepted 37 of 
the 115 recommendations, and noted the 78 others. The HRC welcomed the ratification of the 
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016, progress in legal measures 
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to counter trafficking in human beings and the adoption of laws on juvenile justice. It was 
recommended that Antigua and Barbuda continue its efforts to eradicate poverty, advance 
health care services through increased allocation of resources, continue to eliminate violence 
against women and commit to non-discrimination against LGBTI persons. 
Argentine Republic
Overall, the human rights situation in Argentina is positive. Since the return of democracy in 
1983 there has been a constant commitment to human rights. Ambitious anti-discrimination 
laws, including on the human rights of LGBTI persons, are in place, although some discrimination 
remains in society. Argentina maintains commitments to human rights internationally, including 
a stated willingness to receive Syrian refugees. 
 
The EU’s main priorities are to support the participation of civil society in the policy-making 
process, and to support relevant state agencies and civil society organisations involved in the 
protection of human rights and the promotion of women’s empowerment. The EU has also 
undertaken activities on supporting social inclusion and poverty reduction, combating gender-
based violence and addressing institutional violence.
The main concerns related to the protection of human rights in Argentina are linked to: 
inequality of income distribution and resulting high levels of poverty; gender-based violence; 
and a tolerance of institutional violence arising from inefficiencies in the judicial system and 
corruption in security forces. Examples of human rights concerns that received international 
attention in 2016 include the case of Milagro Sala (pre-trial imprisonment for almost a year of 
an indigenous leader closely linked to the previous administration in the province of Jujuy, who 
was accused of embezzlement, amongst other claims) and the emergence of xenophobic and 
anti-immigrant rhetoric in mainstream politics. 
In addition, high levels of poverty (32%) have provided a fertile ground for drug-related 
violence and a rise in delinquency, triggering demands for tougher responses to crime. Justice 
and security forces are being modernised, mainly to increase their efficiency.
Gender-based violence and femicide also remain frequent despite progress in legislation and 
major demonstrations calling for action to protect women. Moreover, institutional violence 
linked to corruption and dysfunctional justice remains a cause for concern.
The law on access to public information and the creation of an autonomous agency to facilitate 
its implementation, as well as a project to boost transparency and accountability in the 
electoral system, have great potential for improving the quality of democratic governance. In 
addition, the government is driving awareness-raising campaigns on gender equality, gender 
violence and the human rights of LGBTI persons. 
 
Participation of civil society in public decision-making varies across the country. Most 
impoverished population groups have limited access to the decision-making process and 
clientelism remains widespread, especially in the provinces. Groups comprising poor people, 
migrants and the indigenous population have very limited access to decision-making bodies.
 
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The EU and Argentina will hold their human rights dialogue early in 2017. The dialogue will be 
preceded by an open consultation with civil society and both will serve as a basis for a human 
rights strategy. 
The EU Delegation to Argentina has been working with various Argentinian human rights NGOs, 
which are able to carry out their activities freely. In addition, the overall situation regarding 
freedom of speech is positive. The EU is paying close attention to the situation of indigenous 
communities in the poorer northern provinces through several assistance programmes. 
Support under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights takes the form of 
five ongoing projects, which together amount to EUR 3.2 million and are focusing on social 
inclusion, the fight against poverty and gender-based violence, civil society participation and 
capacity building, strengthening of interinstitutional cooperation, promotion of women’s 
empowerment, and designing and implementation of public policies. All five projects will 
come to an end in 2017.
The EU Delegation participated in seminars on gender equality and women’s empowerment. 
The Head of Delegation launched the Emar Acosta Award for sustainable leadership in public 
service, which recognises the empowerment of women in public service and politics. 
The EU and Argentina almost always share positions in global fora such as the UN Human 
Rights Council and the UNGA. The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is scheduled for 
November 2017.
Immediate challenges include improving the implementation of the comprehensive human 
rights legislation. The absence of reliable statistics, which has impeded the monitoring and 
the setting up of benchmarks on implementation, needs to be addressed in the coming 
months.
 
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Issues relating to gender equality and treatment of migrants were major concerns in 2016. 
The overwhelming rejection of changes pushing for greater equality in terms of child and 
spousal rights in a referendum was disappointing and could be seen as a backward step in 
addressing human rights violations.
The strategic priorities for the EU in Bahamas in 2016 were promoting gender equality, respect 
in the treatment of migrants and on citizenship, improving conditions in prisons and abolishing 
the death penalty. Other challenges concerned judicial delays, children’s rights, and ratification 
of all relevant UN instruments.
Bahamas is one of the few countries in the world that still permits gender-based inequality 
and discrimination by law. The most striking instance in the constitution is the inequality with 
regard to the ability to pass on Bahamian citizenship, and the inequality between children and 
between married and single people. A referendum and parliamentary vote needed to pass 
four constitutional amendments on gender equality was held on 7 June 2016. In spite of full 
support from the government, the opposition and international organisations, Bahamians 
overwhelmingly rejected the proposed changes. 
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Implementation of an immigration policy adopted in November 2014 remains contentious 
owing to allegations of police excesses and other human rights violations. There are credible 
concerns that Haitian migrants are being especially targeted. It is reported that an estimated 
30 000 to 50 000 Haitian immigrants and their children are denied Bahamian citizenship—
despite some having been born in Bahamas—and are also without citizenship in Haiti, which in 
practice is leaving them stateless.
 
Bahamas has a single prison, comprising a remand centre for detainees awaiting trial, a female 
prison compound, and minimum and maximum security facilities, with the latter including a 
unit housing convicted murderers. According to the government, financial constraints have 
led to serious overcrowding, which has partly been addressed by the construction of an 
Immigration Detention Centre outside the prison compound and the construction of an 80-
cell remand centre. However, there are still reports of poor conditions at this centre, with 
restricted access to basic necessities and medical care, as well as frequent occurrences of 
physical abuse by officers.
The Bahamian authorities retain capital punishment even though no execution has been carried 
out since 2000; one person remains on death row. The UK Privy Council remains the final 
Court of Appeal for Bahamians, thereby establishing a de facto moratorium since the right to 
appeal prevents implementation. 
The EU continues to raise human rights issues with the government and other stakeholders, 
including the issues of gender equality, in particular the next steps for advancing gender 
equality following the rejection of the four constitutional amendment bills in the referendum, 
and of treatment of migrants, in particular Haitians. The EU will continue to lobby for the 
abolition of the death penalty in Bahamas. 
Major challenges ahead include women’s and children’s rights, the rights of migrants and 
other vulnerable groups, prison conditions and abolition of the death penalty. 
Barbados
The overall situation presents continued challenges on women’s and children’s rights, domestic 
violence, gender and sexual orientation, prisons and justice. Legislative steps were taken in 
2016 to tackle gender-based violence and strengthen the protection of women and children, 
while other measures are being prepared. 
The EU supports the efforts of the government of Barbados to combat domestic violence and 
physical and sexual abuse of children, and to strengthen the rule of law. Moreover, the EU has 
been pressing for the abolition of the death penalty and against discrimination against LGBTI 
individuals.
 
The lack of specific information and inadequate mechanisms for data collection and evaluation 
is considered to be a major impediment to tackling gender-based violence. Neglect is the most 
common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse. Resources are lacking to deal with 
the estimated 700 cases reported annually. The judiciary is confronted by systemic delays 
and a high number of remand prisoners awaiting trial. The LGBTI community continues to be 
subject to stigma, discrimination and, albeit less common, physical violence. However, voices 
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in the media supporting gay rights are growing. Some Barbadian politicians have made very 
supportive statements – although civil society activists accuse the government of presenting 
a façade to the international community concerning the human rights of LGBTI persons. 
Barbados retains a mandatory death penalty though there has been a de facto moratorium. 
The debate on removing mandatory capital punishment for treason and murder, launched in 
parliament in 2015, has been suspended.
In January 2016, the parliament passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Bill giving effect 
to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women 
and Children. At the same time, the parliament passed an amendment to the Sexual Offences 
Act defining marital rape. The Domestic Violence Bill 2016 was passed in February 2016, aimed 
at reinforcing the protection of victims and the accountability of perpetrators. The Juvenile 
Justice Bill has not been adopted yet.
Locally, the EU maintains a regular political dialogue as well as informal discussions with 
government, opposition, civil society and other relevant stakeholders, actively raising key 
human rights issues. Formal demarches were carried out in the context of the UNGA Third 
Committee. Dialogue on the death penalty has continued and the government has taken steps 
to amend the Offences against the Person Act, with a view to removing the mandatory death 
sentence for murder. 
Barbados benefits from regional allocations under the European Instrument for Democracy 
and Human Rights and the Civil Society Organisations programme. Ongoing projects focus on 
addressing domestic violence as well as on the inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities 
in employment through vocational training and job placements. A new project was agreed in 
2016 aimed at creating sustainable livelihoods for rural farmers.
 
Belize
In 2016, major concerns included corruption, children’s rights, and discrimination against 
vulnerable groups. The ruling of the Supreme Court striking down the country’s sodomy law 
is a positive step.
Priority areas for the EU in Belize include promotion of non-discrimination against vulnerable 
and indigenous groups, protecting children’s and young people’s rights; advancing gender 
equality and the prevention of violence against women; and working towards abolition of the 
death penalty.
Breaches of the nationality acquirement process and the issuance of irregular visas and 
passports, in some cases to internationally suspected money launderers and human 
traffickers were reported. There were also reported irregularities and abuses in land 
distribution that negatively impact the poor. Confidence in the government has waned due to 
the abovementioned immigration and land scandals, as well as deterioration of the economy 
and the increase in gang violence. 
Discussions are ongoing with the government to advocate policy and legislative changes 
to improve the situation of children, and for mechanisms for complaints and redress to 
be made accessible to children. In December, the Delegation held extensive talks with civil 
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society organisations to encourage an improved uptake of the EU EIDHR call for proposals by 
CSOs that can support children and youth security, with a focus on at-risk youth from poor 
communities.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Belize had the second 
highest incidence of sexual violence in Central America in 2010. Women are vulnerable to abuse 
and domestic violence, and subject to gender inequality, a high rate of teenage pregnancies 
and restricted opportunities. In 2016, discussions were held with the Special Envoy for Women 
and Children and First Lady of Belize, Kim Simplis Barrow, about collaborating on initiatives 
to advance gender equality and raise awareness of gender-based violence in Belize. Activities 
built around special days, including International Women’s Day and the 16 days of activism, 
will be launched in 2017.
 
Human rights issues, including gender awareness, are mainstreamed in the EU’s assistance 
programmes in Belize. In 2016, a project on creating an enabling environment for the 
protection of children was implemented by UNICEF with funds from the European Union 
under the EIDHR.
Challenges ahead include ensuring non-discrimination against vulnerable groups, protecting 
and promoting children’s and youth rights and gender equality, the fight against gender 
violence, the ratification of pending UN conventions, and the implementation of legislation.
Plurinational State of Bolivia
Bolivia generally has a good official basis for human rights protection. Over the past decade, 
there have been positive developments on human rights. The 2009 constitution guarantees an 
unprecedented number of human rights, poverty has diminished and the participation of the 
indigenous majority in the political system has significantly improved. 
However, in 2016 the challenge remained to ensure that the legislation was implemented 
systematically and effectively. In June, a National Justice Summit took place to guide the reform 
of the justice sector, but the justice system and institutional capacities still need strengthening. 
Guaranteeing full respect for fundamental freedoms remained an important challenge. 2016 
was marked by social protests and demonstrations, at times resulting in violence.
The EU’s priorities are to strengthen the rule of law, improve access to justice and protect 
the rights of indigenous peoples. The EU is also supporting the elimination of violence against 
women, girls and boys and the strengthening of the rights of the LGBTI community. The 
EU Delegation in Bolivia is one of the pilot delegations chosen to increase the coherence 
and effectiveness of EU support for democracy, in line with the EU Agenda for Action on 
Democracy Support.
A particular concern in Bolivia is the minimum working age (set at 10 in some cases), which is in 
breach of ILO Convention 138. There is also a high level of violence against women and excessive 
use of pre-trial detention. A participatory mechanism for consultation of indigenous peoples 
is lacking. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of 
association described the 2013 Law Granting Legal Personality to Civil Society Organisations 
as a restriction on the freedom of association. 
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 In 2016, Bolivia took some further steps to strengthen the legal framework for human rights. 
The protection of women’s rights advanced with the adoption of the 2016 implementing 
Regulation to the 2012 Law against harassment and gender-based political violence. The 
human rights of LGBTI people were strengthened by the 2016 Gender Identity Law, which 
allows transsexual and transgender persons to change their name and gender in legal 
identification documents. 
The EU continued to engage in human rights and democracy discussions with Bolivia in various 
settings, including in the context of monitoring Bolivia’s human rights commitments under the 
Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+). The EU also continued to engage with civil society 
organisations.
In 2016, the EU continued to provide financial support through the Development Cooperation 
Instrument (DCI) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). 
In 2016 there were six ongoing contracts under the EIDHR (worth EUR 2.5 million), which 
target the human rights of LGBTI people and justice-related objectives as well as trafficking 
of and violence against women. Additionally, the EU started supporting capacity building for 
members of parliament, with a view to improving the quality of legislation. 
In the multilateral context, Bolivia has ratified all core international and regional human rights 
conventions. Bolivia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2015-2017.
Challenges for the future include demonstrating concrete steps towards the eradication of 
child labour and its sources, in dialogue with the ILO. Bolivia also needs to take further steps 
to eliminate violence against women and adopt legislation on a participatory mechanism 
for consultation of indigenous peoples. There is a continued need to strengthen institutional 
capacities and the justice system, including concrete steps to improve prison conditions and 
eliminate excessive use of pre-trial detention.
 
Federative Republic of Brazil
Over the last decade Brazil has achieved considerable progress in the protection of human 
rights, however many challenges remain and the current economic downturn might threaten 
some of the progress made. Brazil has ratified nearly all major international human rights 
conventions and is a pioneer on protection of online civil rights. 
The EU’s priorities in Brazil include freedom of association, human rights defenders including 
indigenous leaders, non-discrimination, business and human rights, the rule of law and good 
governance.
In 2016, human rights-related challenges continued to be widely reported in Brazil, more 
specifically concerning violence against women; intimidation and violence including some 
murders perpetrated against journalists, indigenous leaders and human rights defenders; 
violent conflicts over land, often between indigenous groups and business interests; forced 
evictions linked to the development of large infrastructure projects such as hydro dams; or, 
on the occasion of the Olympics, overcrowded prisons in which basic human rights and the 
physical integrity of the inmates are not guaranteed; and instances of excessive use of force 
by the police. The poorer states tend to lag behind in guaranteeing human rights. 
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2016 was the year in which, against the background of economic recession, tensions in the 
political arena were exacerbated and culminated in the impeachment of President Dilma 
Rousseff for breaching the fiscal responsibility law. 
Investigations into the activities of Petrobras exposed widespread corruption involving the 
economic and political elite. A significant number of politicians are being investigated, including 
the President of the Chamber of Deputies, who was suspended and subsequently arrested 
over corruption accusations. Several members of the government are suspected of having 
benefited from the bribery scheme. President Temer and former President Rousseff are under 
investigation by the Superior Electoral Tribunal for allegedly receiving illegal campaign funds 
in the 2014 presidential campaign. 
 
Some controversial legislative proposals have met strong criticism, in particular the Anti-
corruption Bill, which is seen as an attempt to alter the independence of the judiciary and slow 
down the anti-corruption investigations; and the proposal to amend the constitution and give 
the Congress power to demarcate indigenous lands, which is seen as a threat to indigenous 
peoples’ rights in view of the strong representation of agribusiness in the Congress. 
The EU continued to support human rights through all the available instruments in its bilateral 
relations with Brazil, including political dialogue, cooperation projects, workshops and visits. 
In addition, a session of the dialogue on human rights is planned for 2017.
The EU and its Member States organised several field visits to human rights defenders and 
indigenous groups, and also attended meetings of the Committee of Inquiry investigating the 
conflicts between indigenous communities and landowners. The European Parliament adopted 
a resolution on the situation of the Guarani-Kaiowá in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do 
Sul and MEPs also visited the community. In addition, the EU, in coordination with EU Member 
States, conducted informal outreach initiatives towards the national authorities in connection 
with a human rights-related court case. 
The EU organised a visit, by members of the Brazilian National Preventive Mechanism against 
Torture, to the EU and the Council of Europe to exchange experiences on the prevention of 
torture in detention centres. 
The EU continued to engage with and promote an open space for civil society organisations in 
Brazil, and organised activities to promote gender equality and awareness of human rights, 
to support the rights of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, to improve the 
conditions of LGBTI people, and to prevent violence against children and adolescents. The 
EU also continued its work on corporate social responsibility and business and human rights 
and facilitated exchanges between Brazilian and European companies aimed at sharing best 
practices on responsible business conduct and human rights. 
 
In 2016, 19 new grants totalling EUR 19.7 million were signed with CSOs covering different 
priorities. Of these, EUR 2.5 million are earmarked to support gender equality and women’s 
empowerment, and come on top of ongoing projects worth EUR 2.4 million; EUR 0.8 million 
support Afro-descendants, in addition to ongoing projects totalling EUR 2.3 million which 
support indigenous and Afro-descendants’ communities; EUR 0.9 million support the rights 
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of the LGBTI community; EUR 8.3 million support children and adolescent rights; and EUR 0.5 
million support human rights in detention centres. 
The EU has good cooperation with Brazil in international fora, particularly in the Human Rights 
Council, where Brazil is an important player. The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will take 
place in May 2017.
One of the main challenges for Brazil is related to the rights of indigenous people. The UN Special 
Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who visited Brazil in March 2016, concluded 
that while Brazil has a number of exemplary constitutional provisions supporting indigenous 
peoples’ rights, there has been a regression in the protection of these rights, and called on the 
government to ensure the physical safety of indigenous leaders, conduct investigations into 
all attacks and killings of indigenous peoples, bring the perpetrators to justice, and complete 
the land demarcation process. 
Canada
Canada remains a like-minded and strategic partner for the EU, and is a close ally in the area 
of human rights, with close collaboration through the UN and at UN headquarters. Further to 
the signature of the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement on 30 October 2016, there 
is ample room for improving cooperation between the EU and Canada on advancing human 
rights in third countries as well as on domestic issues. 
Canada has long had a solid reputation as a supporter and defender of human rights worldwide. 
The election, in October 2015, of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has sought to 
champion the human rights cause, further reinforced it.
 
Domestically, as the new government adopted an inclusive and progressive agenda, the main 
human rights issue remained the situation of some indigenous peoples. Despite an extensive 
legal framework enshrining several rights, a number of Canada’s indigenous people still face 
various problems such as poor living conditions, inferior access to education, various forms of 
discrimination and higher exposure to abuse, especially among indigenous women.
In 2016, the government adopted two significant measures related to the rights of indigenous 
peoples: 1/ the lifting of Canada’s reservations to, and the new commitment to fully 
implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); 2/ the launch 
of a public inquiry into the cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – both of which 
address some of the UN Human Rights Committee’s 2015 criticisms and recommendations 
for Canada.
In an effort to address the issue, in the federal government’s March 2016 budget, CAD 8.4 
billion were earmarked over the next five years, for new spending on programmes for 
indigenous communities, including funding for education, reserve water and child and family 
services. However, as of now, ‘First Nations’, while recognising the government’s renewed 
engagement as positive, are not optimistic about the effectiveness of short-term ‘stopgap’ 
measures. The organisation also voiced concerns about the fact that most of the earmarked 
funds are planned for disbursement after 2019 (i.e. after the next scheduled federal elections), 
thus risking cancellation if the new government’s political priorities were to change.
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This issue also comes within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories (human rights 
commissions and tribunals). 
Other human rights complaints come mainly from other minority groups. The Canadian Human 
Rights Commission, which administers the Canadian Human Rights Act and also ensures 
compliance with the Employment Equity Act, reported that of the 1207 complaints it received 
in 2015, 58% were on the grounds of disability discrimination and 16% on the grounds of 
discrimination on account of national or ethnic origin.
Gender issues are equally central to Canada’s domestic policies. Most noteworthy is the 
renewed attention to violence against women (in particular indigenous women). 
 
At the international and multilateral levels, Canada’s human rights efforts are centred on the 
following thematic issues: gender equality and the human rights of women and girls; children 
and youth; international indigenous affairs; freedom of religion or belief; the human rights of 
LGBTI persons; human rights defenders; refugees; persons with disabilities; climate change 
and human rights; Internet freedom. 
Canada has traditionally been a world leader in promoting and protecting women’s rights and 
gender equality. The government perceives gender equality as a human rights issue and as 
an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace and security. The 
gender equality dimension is integrated in Canada’s international development policies. 
In March 2016, the government tabled its immigration plan in parliament. The plan, which 
implements the Liberals’ electoral pledge, focused on increasing family re-unification and 
refugee numbers, while slightly reducing economic migration. Within this framework, the 
government’ plan foresaw the resettlement of 44 800 refugees, including 25 000 from Syria. 
At the end of February 2016, the government succeeded in re-settling the 25 000 Syrians; as 
of December 2016, over 35 000 refugees had been re-settled. 
In October 2016, the government tabled the 2017 immigration plan, which shifted priorities 
compared to 2016: more economic immigration and a significant reduction in refugee intake: 
the 2017 plan foresees 25 000 additional re-settlements, compared to 44 800 (the reduction 
is particularly marked for government-sponsored refugees). 
During 2016, the EU regularly addressed human rights issues with interlocutors and 
stakeholders as and where this was relevant. The EU’s principles on respect for human rights 
have been underlined in all public diplomacy activities by the EU Delegation, such as speeches, 
website and printed material and social media. A regular dialogue on human rights has been 
established and the latest session took place on 28 June 2016 in Toronto. 
 
Republic of Chile
The overall situation concerning human rights in Chile is good. Chile is a democratic country 
and it has ratified the main international and regional human rights conventions. Violence 
against women nonetheless remains a problem, as does the lack of standardised procedures 
for treatment of detained persons. 
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The government has launched a process of reform of the constitution, based on a participative 
process, with the possible objective of incorporating a full and balanced catalogue of rights, 
duties and guarantees, in line with the rights established in the principles, declarations and 
conventions on human rights.
For 2016, the EU’s priorities included gender equality, indigenous rights, the human rights of 
LGBTI persons, actions to preserve the collective memory with regard to the 1973-1990 military 
dictatorship, business and human rights, and cross-cutting issues such as strengthening civil 
society and cooperation in international fora.
The EU-Chile Association Agreement has been implemented since 2003. The agreement is 
based on respect for democratic principles, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, 
which constitute essential elements of the agreement. In the context of the implementation 
of this agreement, a specific human rights dialogue was established in 2009, and takes place 
regularly on an annual basis. In 2016 the first meeting of the EU-Chile Joint Consultative 
Committee took place, ensuring that the views of civil society and the social partners are well 
reflected in the implementation of the Association Agreement. 
Dialogue and close cooperation with Chile on human rights issues continued in 2016. The 7th 
EU-Chile human rights dialogue was held on 12 December. 
The EU provided over EUR 1 million to support projects in human rights-related areas. 
Projects co-funded under the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA-LA) and the 
European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) budget lines concluded their 
implementation stages during 2016. New calls for proposals, focusing on the new priorities 
set out in the EU-Chile human rights strategy 2016-2020, are expected to be launched during 
2017.
 
Chile cooperates well with the UN mechanisms, sends periodic reports to the treaty bodies, the 
Human Rights Council (Universal Periodic Review – the next review will take place in January 
2019) and establishes interaction with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
Republic of Colombia
The general human rights situation has improved since the start of peace negotiations but 
significant challenges remain. Together with structural problems due to the state’s limited 
capacity to ensure effective protection in certain areas, the implementation of the peace 
agreement with the FARC may cause the human rights scenario to worsen in the short term, 
particularly with regard to the situation of human rights defenders, as other groups struggle 
to occupy the vacuum left by the FARC. 
Major issues also continue to affect women and children. On economic, social and cultural 
rights, high levels of poverty affect access to health, education, water and sanitation. Afro-
Colombian and indigenous communities are especially vulnerable. Shortcomings in the 
implementation of core labour standards, in particular freedom of association, continued to 
be scrutinised by the ILO. On the other hand, post-conflict mechanisms will have to tackle 
complex issues such as victims’ rights, extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, land 
restitution and transitional justice. 
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In the long run however, there is wide consensus on the fact that the peace agreement will lead 
to a wider state presence and to a long-term improvement of the human rights situation in the 
country. The government has already given encouraging signs that the protection of human 
rights will be at the centre of peacebuilding efforts and that it will be mainstreamed into all 
regional development plans in the context of the implementation of the peace agreement, 
which is also expected to improve the recognition of the rights of the victims to justice and 
reparation, and facilitate the restitution of lands to displaced people and the reincorporation 
of child soldiers. 
While Colombia has a wide range of institutions which deal with human rights either directly 
or indirectly, many of them are underfunded, understaffed and under-represented in many 
parts of the country. 
 
While progress continues to be made in terms of le