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Since the 1990s, a 'human rights clause' has been included in all economic and cooperation agreements between the European Community and third countries. On the one hand, this clause aims to confirm that human rights are a topic of common interest, part of the political dialogue between the contracting parties. Thus it provides a basis for the implementation of common programmes. On the other hand, it aims to provide a clear legal basis for restrictive measures - including suspension of the agreement as ultimum remedium in response to human rights violations or interruptions of the democratic process in one of the contracting parties. Both aspects of the human rights clause are closely linked and equally important: they are the different sides of the same coin. This study focuses on the legal aspects of the use of the human rights clause as a basis for restrictive measures in case of human rights violations in a contracting party. In practice this function of the human rights clause is the most sensitive; from a legal perspective it is the most controversial.;In order to establish the legal framework for the practical implementation of the human rights, different fields of law are explored: European Union law, public international law and international human rights law.