Carlos Coelho em defesa dos Direitos Humanos

8 de Dezembro, 2009

61st Anniversary - Universal Declaration of Human Rights



Brussels, 08.12.09






Thanks to inviting me for this Human Rights Day Seminar.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on the idea that rights are inherent in the nature of the person and has been, without doubt, the best known and used instrument by governments and also by the civil society.


Human Rights and fundamental freedoms are the values and principles that make us humans and the foundation of our coexistence, they are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.


The primary responsibility to protect human rights rests with national governments (regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems), but other states, as well as institutions, also have a responsibility to act in accordance with international human rights rules and standards.


I'm convinced that the European Union is firmly committed to continue to develop a deeply rooted culture of human rights in Europe and worldwide.


I'm very happy with the entering into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, due three main reasons:


1 - It brings legal value to the Charter of Fundamental Rights.


2- It allows the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Parliament has several times underlined the need for the EU to become a full member and the need not only to promote fundamental rights but also, and above all, to ensure strict respect for these rights during the process of drafting all legislative proposals.


3- It offers new possibilities to act more efficiently in external relations and is requested to the High Representative to establish a Human Rights Action Plan in order to promote the human rights values in the external dimension.


The new Programme of Stockholm (that intends to provide the roadmap for the future development of the JLS over the next five years) will also be focus on the interests and needs of citizens and the challenge will be to ensure security and to protect citizens without threatening the fundamental rights and freedoms.





I would like to, briefly, point out 8 challenges:


1- Human Rights in the world


EU' external relations should underline the need to promote human rights all over the world. European money should not help to support dictatorships and human rights violations.


2- Asylum


The way as EU' countries welcome asylum seekers and refugees is also very important. We, urgently, need to have an European Asylum policy with common standards and ensuring a full respect of human rights.


3- Prisoners' detention


Regarding the way that prisoners are treated it should be given special attention to the quality of the installations, the conditions and the way that the detainees are treated, as well as to the investment on the reinsertion of these prisoners.


4- Torture


The existing Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Protocol nº 1 (1966), the Geneva Conventions on armed conflicts (1949) and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) were not enough to avoid same cases of use of torture in the framework of the fight against terrorism.


In my opinion there is, clearly, a lack of a judicial body empowered to hear individual complaints and other remedies in cases of violations and this situation appears to limit the impact of the Convention against Torture and the prohibition of torture found in the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


5- Secret Detentions


A person may only be detained on the basis of and according to procedures set out by the law.

When we are talking about secret detention one of the most problematic aspects lies in the impact which such secrecy has on the prisoner's defence rights (articles 5 and 6 ECHR). The fact that persons may be held prisoners in secret detention facilities, (as it happened, very recently, in the context of the extraordinary renditions) without anyone knowing where those persons are or what is going on (in fact, as far as it is known they are just persons that have disappeared) - is unacceptable. This so-called incommunicado detention, is a detention without the possibility of contacting one's lawyer, or family, and of applying to a court. In addition, this infringement can be aggravated with prolonged secret detention periods and unlawful modalities of interrogation and treatment that could even lead to death.




6 - fight terrorism


There are also opinions putting in question if these are the most adequate juridical instruments to fight against the new forms of terrorism. My position is clear: if the actual legislation doesn't give the necessary answers to these new demands, than we have to change it: rethink, debate and approve new laws. But, until than, we have to respect the existing laws. No democratic civilization can be build over the violation of the law. Anyway I cannot support any laws that intend to fight against terrorism that don't respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.


7 - The aims don't justify the means


Even the most noble aim doesn't justify the use of means that might put in risk or even violate the basic principles in which our societies are based. One of the main principles on the European legislation is the principle of proportionality - any actions taken to reinforce security must be proportional to the risk that might bring in terms of violating any fundamental rights.


8 - Data Protection


There is a general feeling that our fundamental rights and freedoms are being attacked. The right to privacy has been one of the main victims, with the growth of personal information stored in computers servers, mobile phones records, credit-rating databanks, between others, in such a way that we are rapidly advancing in direction to a surveillance society, in the name of security. The main reasons for that are the spectacular growth of the technologies of information, communication, observation and data registration.


I agree that in our days a fast and efficient exchange of information has become a key instrument in any fight strategy against international crime, namely against terrorism. To increase the cooperation between law enforcement agencies is, equally, essential in order to improve security and, to this end, to share information held in different data bases, might prove to be appropriate, but only when it seems to be necessary, proportionate and in the limits of their competences in order to be able to fulfil their tasks and always with full respect of the law and the data protection rules.


Any transmission of data has to be protected by law, subject to jurisdictional control and respect the right of the persons concerned to access that data and to ask for rectification or erasure when the data is not correct.