Human rights must become a priority in all areas of the EU’s external relations, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said while adopting its annual report on human rights in the world and EU human rights policy in Brussels on March 26, 2002.

In this year’s report, which focuses mainly on modern forms of slavery, terrorism and human rights, rapporteur Johan van HECKE (EPP-ED, B) emphasizes that all forms of forced labor represent a violation of human rights. The report calls on the Commission and Member States to draw up a list of products manufactured using child labor or forced labour, which should indicate the country of origin, and to adopt a joint approach within the WTO and the ILO on ways of combating this problem. The committee also regards the sexual exploitation of children as a crime and calls on the EU Member States to extend the jurisdiction of their penal codes outside their territory to protect children against sexual abuse.

While acknowledging that terrorist acts constitute a violation of human rights, MEPs are keen to highlight the underlying conditions that breed extremism. They add that the fight against terrorism must not in itself lead to breaches of human rights and in this connection they call for the legal status of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to be clarified.

In addition, the committee calls for the European Parliament’s role to be enhanced so as to ensure that the EU’s overall strategy is coherent and consistent. It urges that human rights be placed high on the agendas of the relevant committees and delegations of Parliament and also that an ‘ambassador’ for human rights be appointed to represent the European Parliament vis-a-vis other EU institutions and international organisations.

Lastly, the committee calls on all states to introduce a moratorium on executions with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty and reiterates an appeal to various countries (United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others) to end all executions immediately.

Member of Parliament Emma NICHOLSON (ELDR, UK) chaired the committee’s session.