European Union



The European Union (EU), is a political and economic union of 28 member states. Its human rights policy encompasses civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also seeks to promote the rights of women, children, minorities, and displaced people.

The European Union is an important institution for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Latin America, as it has a presence on the ground through its EU Missions - EU delegations (the EU's own embassies) and the embassies of individual EU member states which are committed to providing support for HRDs through the EU Guidelines. The EU Missions can provide political and practical support for HRDs, including in emergency situations – such as issuing public statements, privately applying pressure on the authorities, as well as providing funding, and arranging for temporary relocation. (See 'How to contact the EU Missions' and 'Guide to the EU' below for more information about how to approach the EU Missions and what they can do).

EU Guidelines  

The EU has produced guidelines on various human rights issues to help EU Missions implement the EU's human rights policy. They include:

EU Guidelines on human rights defenders which aim to improve the support and protection given by the EU to human rights defenders with a view to allowing them to operate freely. Among other things, the EU Guidelines call on the EU Missions to:

  • coordinate closely and share information on human rights defenders;
  • maintain suitable contacts with human rights defenders;
  • provide visible recognition to human rights defenders and their work through the media, publicity, visits or invitations;
  • visit human rights defenders in custody and attend their trials.

and states that “missions should pay particular attention to the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders.”  

EU Guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them which includes specific references to women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and respect for CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). Among other things, the EU commits itself to:

  • maintain a dialogue and regular consultations with women's rights defenders and women's organisations;
  • encourage women's rights defenders and women's organisations to become involved in developing, implementing and evaluating public policies on violence against women and on discrimination against them;
  • help to combat violence against women by supporting women's rights defenders and female human rights defenders, in particular those who are threatened or who are the victims of specific and targeted repression or harassment;
  • take 'specific measures' in cases of violence, threats, harassment and repression of female human rights defenders.
 Guide to the EU

Front Line Defenders has produced a handbook -

The European Union: What it can do, Getting it to take action

This provides practical advice on the kind of support HRDs should expect from the EU, particularly from the EU Missions, and the best way of approaching them. It includes a quick reference table for requesting EU action. Although it is targeted at HRDs at risk, and their protection, it also gives sound general advice on advocacy and lobbying strategy, which can be used more generally in campaigning in relation to the EU on rights issues.

How to contact the EU Missions

Almost all the EU delegations have one or two focal points – officials responsible for dealing with democracy and human rights issues. To find the EU focal point for a particular country, click here. To find the embassies of individual member states for a particular country, go to the webpage of the EU delegation for that country (see list of EU delegations here), click on 'Travel to the EU' on the left-hand side and then on 'Embassies'.

Section 3 of 'The European Union: What it can do, Getting it to take action' (see above) provides advice on approaching the EU Missions, including the importance of good documentation, how to present the case, collaborating if possible with HRDs which have experience of dealing with the EU missions, and possibly contacting international non-governmental organisations.

Non-EU European Countries

Norway and Switzerland are not in the EU, but have both also produced guidelines, similar to those of the EU, for the support for HRDs, aimed at the staff of their Foreign Ministries and embassies.


It has embassies in many countries in Latin America – see list. If your country does not appear, try the nearest.

Its guidelines are -

Norway’s efforts to support human rights defenders


To find embassy/other diplomatic mission near you, go to the website of Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs - at the top of the page, choose your language on the right-hand corner and click on 'Switzerland around the world' to choose the country.At the bottom of the page on the left-hand side, there are links to information on the embassy and consulate in that country.

Switzerland's guidelines are

Swiss Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders