EU and India must work together at UN to protect human rights

The European Union (EU) and India should work together at the United Nations (UN) to protect human rights in places of crisis, Amnesty International has said.

The call came in a letter sent on Tuesday to the Swedish Presidency of the EU, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, ahead of the EU India summit in New Delhi on Friday.

Amnesty International addressed the EU’s handling of the displacement crisis in the wake of the internal armed conflict in Sri Lanka, human rights violations in Myanmar, corporate accountability over the Bhopal gas leak disaster and India’s use of the death penalty.

As global actors, both the EU and India have a responsibility to play an active role in the protection of human rights internationally, regionally, and at home, Amnesty International said.

“On the world stage the voice of the UN is particularly important in the promotion and protection of international human rights; both the EU and the Indian government should ensure that they support the UN in this role as effectively as possible.”

The UN’s poor handling of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka during the internal armed conflict, particularly at its end, was cited by Amnesty International as a recent example of the need for principled co-operation between global actors on crisis situations.

The organization said that while the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka had “long been foreseeable” earlier this year there were “few signs of co-operation between the European Union and India to address the human rights situation in Sri Lanka at the UN.”

Amnesty International expressed its disappointment with the resolution on Sri Lanka adopted at the end of the UN Human Rights Council’s special session on 27 May, which “praised the Sri Lankan government, entirely ignored the human rights violations committed by the government, and disregarded the need to establish accountability.”

Pointing out that the UN Human Rights council had failed to create an international fact-finding mission for Sri Lanka, similar to the one in Gaza, Amnesty International went on to say that the “UN handling of the situation in Sri Lanka and the outcome of the special session was very damaging to the credibility of the UN human rights political bodies.”

The EU was urged to use its discussions with India to strongly engage with Myanmar to end “serious and systematic human rights violations, including detention of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, often in appalling and sometimes isolated conditions.”

On the subject of corporate accountability, Amnesty International said that the EU needs to demonstrate its leadership to ensure that multinational companies (headquartered in the home states like the EU) respect human rights in their operations in the host states (where the human rights impact of these companies’ operations is felt, like India). The EU and India have a particular responsibility in ensuring protection of human rights in those affected communities. Both preventive mechanisms and remedies are needed in order to close the gap.

With that in mind, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak disaster, Amnesty International urged the Swedish Presidency to use the EU India summit to “call on the Government of India to take urgent and decisive action to address to the long-term impacts of the Bhopal gas leak disaster, including proper clean-up and remediation of the factory site, adequate medical care, regular supply of safe water for the affected communities and economic rehabilitation.

In line with the EU’s commitment to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International also said that EU should use its discussions with India, “to call for India to take a positive approach in the lead up to the debate and resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the General Assembly in November 2010.” India had no executions since 2004, but voted against the UNGA moratorium on death penalty in December 2008.