Check against delivery!
Mr President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
The European Union has a longstanding and clear position on the freedom of religion or belief. It remains a key priority on human rights, in line with the European Union Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry very harsh sentences, including the death penalty, which the European Union strongly opposes, under any circumstances. They are often misused to silence opponents and their defenders and to discriminate against religious minorities, with severe negative effects on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.
Ahmadi Muslims are probably the most at risk.
The High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, reiterated the European Union’s concerns regarding the application of the death penalty and the misuse of blasphemy legislation during the last European Union-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Minister [of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood] Qureshi.
The tragic cases of individuals on death row because of blasphemy accusations also point to the structural weaknesses of the Pakistani judicial system and the unequal access to justice.
In Pakistan, the European Union is strongly engaged in promoting and protecting human rights. We are providing support to Pakistan to strengthen the rule of law and access to justice and to legal representation.
The Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus, the GSP+, granted to Pakistan requires to demonstrate progress on the implementation of the 27 international core conventions. And it constitutes a strong leverage for the European Union in terms of monitoring any direct advocacy with Pakistan.
Further, through the European Union Delegation in Islamabad and the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights [Eamon Gilmore], the European Union closely follows and regularly raises individual human rights cases, with the Pakistani authorities at the highest levels. And this includes the individual cases of Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar. We do this in close contact with civil society partners.
Inter-faith dialogue is one of the priority areas of the European Union-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan. In December 2020, the European Union Delegation in Islamabad convened a roundtable to promote interfaith and intrafaith dialogue and understanding.
You can rest assured that the European Union will continue our regular dialogue on human rights with the government of Pakistan and that the particular issues of blasphemy laws and the death penalty remain important points on our agenda.
Thank you for your attention.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-204720