Located in Brussels, the EU Office was established in 2006 to coordinate Front Line Defenders advocacy activities with the European Union and individual EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland. The office advocates on behalf of individual cases of human rights defenders at risk to EU Institutions (European External Action Service, European Parliament and European Commission) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and to their field Missions (EU Delegations and Member State Embassies), pushing them to take quick action in line with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, e.g. raising cases with the authorities, contacting human rights defenders and their families, observing trials, visiting detained human rights defenders.
Briefing papers on the situation of human rights defenders and individual cases are brought to the attention of EU officials in relation to human rights and political dialogues that the EU has developed with third countries. The EU is encouraged to raise these cases with a view to leading to an improvement of their situation.
The EU Office regularly invites human rights defenders to Brussels for meetings with officials in EU Institutions, Member States representations and other embassies, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with non-governmental organisations. Direct face-to-face contacts with EU country desk officers, Members of the European Parliament and Human Rights Units provide legitimacy and visibility to the human rights defenders, and can contribute to their protection once back to their countries.
Urging the EU to monitor and improve the practical implementation of the EU Guidelines is also a key activity. The EU Office has taken a leading role in promoting the EU Guidelines, putting forward concrete recommendations, and making the EU accountable, for instance through contacts with both the EU Institutions and Ministries, Human Rights Ambassadors and Special Representatives, field Ambassadors, and through oral interventions at the level of the European Parliament.
EU Guidelines Field Workshops are usually held twice a year at national levels, on a rotating basis between regions, with the Front Line Defenders EU Guidelines Manual as a reference document. The Manual describes the actions that the EU and Member States can take, and especially what HRDs can expect from EU field Missions in their country. It also provides tips to guide human rights defenders in approaching the EU for assistance.
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Front Line Defenders is a member of the Human Rights & Democracy Network (HRDN), an informal grouping of 49 NGOs operating at the EU level in the broader areas of human rights, democracy and peace. In 2015, HRDN launched the Stand4 Human Rights Defenders campaign to press the EU to work on a number of areas in the coming months, with concrete proposals on ways to apply the Action Plan on Human Rights Democracy: from how to identify whether HRDs are being arbitrarily harassed, to better public diplomacy and how to respond to the closing space for civil society; and with a regular focus on cases of human rights defenders at risk that needs the EU's immediate attention.