Assessing EU’s Southern Neighbours: The Erosion of Civil Society in the Euromed

Algeria, Egypt, Freedom of Speech, Justice and the Rule of Law, Libya, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Syria, Women’s rights and gender justice

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As the EU sets to evaluate annual progress made by its southern neighbours’ on human rights, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) rings the alarm on the wave of restriction on civil society and the assaults on the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression sweeping the Arab World.

On 24 March 2014, and in the context of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU is to publish reports that assess the human rights situation in the Southern Mediterranean countries last year. As the Arab world is marred by instability and rising violence with dire consequences for human rights, EMHRN is concerned that the renewed ENP designed in the wake of the Arab Spring has failed to effectively support independent civil society to take part in transition processes crucial for democracy.

EMHRN takes the opportunity of the launch of ENP progress reports to share its serious concerns with regards to the challenges faced by civil society as Human Rights defenders are routinely harassed, threatened and sometimes criminalized; as legislations and practices with regards to associations are increasingly restrictive, and as public meetings and demonstrations critical of public polices or officials are dealt with as security threats. Recent events in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Algeria demonstrate a worrying escalation in human rights violations that bode ill for activists across the region.

EMHRN urges the EU to step up its commitment to promote human rights, democratisation and support for independent civil society actors in countries where their ability to operate independently and effectively is undermined. The EU should strengthen its “more for more” policy and set freedom of association, assembly and expression, women’s rights, and the promotion of justice at the heart of its relations with its southern neighbours.

Finally, EMHRN hopes that its country recommendations (links available in the table below) will be taken into account in the upcoming Progress Reports.