The Council of the European Union has adopted the EU’s priorities in the various human rights forums of the United Nations for 2021.

The Council represents the interests of the 27 EU member states. The guidelines are adopted on an annual basis. In the document, the EU reaffirms a commitment to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, democracy and the rule of law as well as its “full support” of the UN human rights system.

“Unwavering support”

The Council pledged that the EU would ensure that human rights remained at the core of its response to the Corona pandemic. The EU also said it would denounce human rights violations and abuses wherever they occurred, “making use of all available instruments including the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime”, it stated.

The EU-27 added that they “will fully support the work and mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [Michelle Bachelet] and her office and will call on all states to respect her independence, cooperate on the effective delivery of her mandate, and ensure adequate financing.”

The guidelines also state that “The EU will remain committed to the fight against impunity with its unwavering support to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and calls for the universal ratification of the Rome Statute and for full cooperation with the ICC.”

Venezuela: Further sanctions

Also on Monday, the Council adopted new sanctions against Venezuela. A further 19 officials of the Maduro government were added to the list of persons subject to so-called “restrictive measures”, bringing the total of Venezuelans on that list to 55.

New officials sanctions include senior Venzuelan military commanders, Supreme Court judges and members of the National Assembly elected in December, which the EU does not accept as legitimate decision-making organ.

The consequence of the inclusion on the list are travel bans to Europe as well as asset freezes. The Council said the decision was related to the individuals’ role “in acts and decisions undermining democracy and the rule of law in the country, or as a result of serious human rights violations.”

The EU said the measures were “targeted” and “designed not to have adverse humanitarian effects or unintended consequences for the Venezuelan population.” Brussels would “continue to engage and work with all stakeholders in Venezuela to promote peaceful dialogue and a democratic and sustainable solution to the crises in the country.” The EU first introduced restrictive measures on Venezuela in November 2017. The measures include an arms embargo in addition to travel bans and asset freezes.