Thursday was in some aspects a good day in the European Parliament.
In a resolution on mass surveillance (I’ll get back to that one when we have the final, consolidated text) the EP voted on the Edward Snowden case. (Link»)
By 285 votes to 281, MEPs decided to call on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender”.
A very slim victory, but still a victory.
However, most EU member states refuse to give Snowden asylum or other forms of protection. It has been said that they cannot deviate from normal asylum routines (including that the asylum seeker would have to show up in an EU country to have his case examined). But one should keep in mind that most EU states have granted human rights activists and dissidents protection on purely political grounds outside the ordinary asylum process.
So, it’s purely about political will.
Today the EP also rewarded its human rights award — the Sakharov prize — to the Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi. (Link»)
Badawi has been put in prison for ten years and is also sentenced to 1,000 lashes for having “insulted” the Saudi political system and the religion.
“This man, who is an extremely good man, an exemplary man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties,” Mr Schulz told a packed European Parliament assembly in Strasbourg, France.
“I call on the Saudi king to immediately free him. Relations depend on human rights being respected by our partners… they are not only not being respected but are being trodden underfoot.”
This is a strong political signal, even though it might not really interfere in any substantial way when it comes to relations between the EU and Saudi Arabia. (Unless the Saudis goes bananas, as they have done when being criticised about the Badawi case on earlier occasions.)