Respect for human rights, as well as for the principles of freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law, are the values which all member States of the European Union share. As such, these values also influence EU policy both within and without its borders.
Embedded in its founding treaty, they were further strengthened when the EU adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, and again when the Charter became legally binding when the Treaty of Lisbon came into force in 2009. "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (Article 4 of the Charter).
The protection of human rights around the world is not a task the European Union can undertake alone. Here ACAT groups play a vital role. Their presence on the ground means they are best placed to gather information and to identify priorities.
FIACAT’s Expertise within European Networks of Civil Society Human Rights Organisations
To enable it to provide the most data and an objective analysis to European Union bodies, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA), an independent agency devoted to human rights, boasts a large network of partner bodies. It cooperates on a national, European and international level with institutions and members of civil society such as FIACAT.
For its part, the EU organises regular consultations with networks of NGOs, such as the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) of which FIACAT is a member. These consultations are held at regular intervals throughout the year.
Advocacy Work of FIACAT
FIACAT takes part in advocacy work before EU bodies, and expresses the concerns of its members, in particular to:
• The Committees and Delegations of the European Parliament, specifically the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) attached to the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).
• The Services of the European Commission, specifically those of the “Directorates-General”(DG), Development and Cooperation EuropeAid (DEVCO) or the DG for Justice which ensures respect for fundamental rights by the EU and all member States at national level;
• The Human Rights Working Group of the Council of the Union (COHOM), when discussing matters of maltreatment, torture, the abolition of the death penalty or the fate of immigrants sent back to countries practising torture.
FIACAT and the Dissemination of EU Guidelines on Torture and the Death Penalty
The European Union produced six sets of guidelines on: torture, the death penalty, and dialogue with third countries on human rights, children in situations of armed conflict, human rights defenders and children’s rights. These documents describe the different ways in which the EU’s human rights priorities are implemented, in its relations with third countries.
FIACAT is working towards effective implementation of this instrument. It contributes to the dissemination and appropriation of these Guidelines by players on the ground. Moreover, FIACAT has been actively involved since 2007 in their revision as part of discussions with the Subcommittee on Human Rights.
Intervention by FIACAT and its ACAT network
Through the work of FIACAT in offering advice and expertise, advocacy and implementing European regulations, all the ACAT groups are able to express their concerns about the various instances of non-respect of human rights which they see in their own countries, and their voices can thus be heard by European institutions and partners of FIACAT.