Year by year, the European Union is developing and strengthening its actions to promote, and ensure respect for, human rights throughout the world. This 10th EU Annual Report on Human Rights testifies to that constant commitment. Promotion of human rights is now one of the most highly-developed facets of the European Union's external relations.
The main aim of this report is to inform the widest possible audience, both in Europe and beyond the frontiers of the Union, of the EU's actions to promote human rights worldwide.
This report covers the period from July 2007 to June 2008. During these twelve months, real progress on human rights has been achieved.
The completion of the reform of the Human Rights Council and the adoption of its operating procedures should enable that central UN body to devote itself now to substantive issues. It is a unique forum bringing together representatives of States, experts and members of civil society. The European Union is fully committed to making its voice heard within the Council and to working to make it function effectively. The Human Rights Council has made a solid start, but all actors, and primarily member states of the Council should work together in good faith so that this new institution is able to fulfil its mandate and to live up to people's expectations. The first half of 2008 was marked by the first sessions of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), an innovative Human Rights Council mechanism for reviewing the human rights situation in every country in the world, which requires all States to make substantive commitments to improving their protection of human rights.
The death penalty is in retreat. Rwanda and Uzbekistan have abolished capital punishment, taking the number of States which have done so to 135. In the United States, the State of New Jersey was the first US State since 1965 to declare the death penalty illegal. The European Union remains committed on this front. It welcomes the adoption by 104 countries of a resolution by the 62 nd General Assembly of the United Nations calling for a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to the abolition of capital punishment.