We are pleased to be here in this 44th session with all members of the Council and observers and grateful to all of them for their support to resuming our work, all the more important in these difficult times of an unprecedented crisis.
We are also thankful for the extraordinary commitment and efforts of the High Commissioner and her Office to ensure a human rights-based approach in our responses, limiting any restrictions to human rights to what is strictly necessary and proportionate for the time of the crisis. The mandate and independence of your Office is of the utmost importance, in particular when guiding governments in that their response plans are people-centred and uphold the dignity and human rights of all without discrimination of any kind.
There is no tangible positive advancement concerning democracy and human rights in Nicaragua. Repression by security forces and pro-government armed groups of political opponents, peaceful protesters, journalists, civil society organisations and members of the Catholic Church continues. The EU expects the Nicaraguan government to abide by the commitments made in the March 2019 agreements with the opposition, notably on the reestablishment of civil and political rights, to reach a peaceful, negotiated and democratic way out of this crisis. We urgently call upon the government and all parties to constructively re-engage in a comprehensive national dialogue. We urge the government to adopt electoral and institutional reforms according to international standards, and to guarantee free and fair elections in 2021.
The EU welcomes and fully supports the work of the OHCHR on Venezuela. We are deeply concerned about the considerably deteriorating human rights situation in the country, including in the context of COVID-19. We remain very concerned about continuous human rights violations such as arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings. The EU strongly condemns recent acts and decisions by the Maduro government against civil and political rights and democracy, which have further shrunk the democratic space in the country. We urge all relevant stakeholders to engage in negotiations aiming at the holding of democratic presidential and legislative elections.
The EU remains deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses and violations committed in the areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the Government of Ukraine and about the deteriorating situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol since the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation. In line with the recent report of the Secretary General, we stress that international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms and organisations must be granted unimpeded access throughout the entire Ukrainian territory including in the areas of Eastern Ukraine not controlled by the government and in illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. The EU underlines the need to ensure the respect for rights already exercised of persons belonging to national minorities as enshrined in UN and Council of Europe conventions and related protocols. The EU takes note of the steps taken by Ukraine to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission on the law on education and underlines the need to fully implement these recommendations.
We reiterate our serious concerns at the overall situation of human rights in the Russian Federation. Pressure and restrictions on civil society continue to increase because of restrictive legislation. Concerning the amendments to Russia´s Constitution and the proposal for the primacy of the Russian Constitution over international law, the EU calls on the Russian Federation to ensure that it fulfils its international law commitments. The EU urges Russia to respect freedoms of expression, association, assembly, media, religion or belief, academic research (especially in the field of history) as well as the rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups.
The EU has stated publicly its concern following the announcement of the imposition of a national security law by decision of China's National People's Congress (NPC) as it risks to seriously undermine the 'One Country Two Systems' principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.
The EU recalls that fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, as well as Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, are enshrined in the Basic Law and in international agreements, and must continue to be upheld.
We also reiterate our call on China to uphold its national and international obligations, and to respect human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, especially in Xinjiang as raised, inter alia, under agenda item 4 of the Human Rights Council’s 43rd session.
The human rights situation in Cameroon continues to cause serious concern, as violence against civilians continues in the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions, and civil society members and journalists are being harassed, detained and even killed. The humanitarian situation, in particular the high number of IDPs is increasingly worrying. We call upon the government to ensure independent and impartial investigations of human rights violations and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
The EU supports the call of the High Commissioner for the parties to the conflict in Yemen to agree on an immediate ceasefire, abide by their obligations under international law and take every possible measure to protect Yemenis, in particular women and children, from human rights’ violation and abuses committed by all parties. The use of child soldiers, torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention continue. Migrants, journalists, human rights defenders and members of minorities have been particularly targeted. We call on all parties to ensuring access to medical treatment and information to contain the spread of COVID-19 and other deadly outbreaks in Yemen. The EU supports the ongoing work of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts and the National Commission of Inquiry, and urges all parties to fully cooperate with them.
The EU remains concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey, including freedom of expression, arrests of and charges against human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, academics, members of parliament, democratically elected mayors and other members of the opposition. The EU calls on Turkey to protect the rule of law, judicial independence, due process, human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with Turkey's international commitments. In this respect, Turkey is expected to apply the highest democratic standards and practices, including the strict respect of fundamental principles of law, such as the right to a fair trial and the principle of presumption of innocence.