I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania align themselves with this statement.
The EU warmly welcomes High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to this 39th session of the Human Rights Council and would like to thank her for her first update to this Council. We look forward to her strong leadership in the years to come.
We reiterate our full support and pledge our continued cooperation with the High Commissioner and her office, whose effective functioning, independence and integrity we will continue to defend. We wish to reiterate these principles which are indispensable for the legitimacy of the UN human rights architecture vis-à-vis States as well as people on the ground. We call on all States to fully collaborate with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures, including by ensuring that mandate holders have unhindered access to and contact with individuals and civil society. The EU attaches great value to the important role of all civil society actors, whose contributions are vital for the work of this Council and will ensure that their voices continue to be heard by creating a safe and enabling environment for all those who work in the defense of human rights. We firmly condemn all reprisals and threats of reprisal, and lend our full support to the President and the Bureau to take all necessary measures to prevent them and ensure full accountability for such actions.
Today’s human rights violations are among the root causes of tomorrow’s conflicts. It is our shared responsibility to redouble our efforts, remain alert and ensure timely and adequate responses to human rights violations worldwide. In this context, we welcome the reports about Venezuela and Nicaragua. The EU deplores the decision of the Nicaraguan government to expel the OHCHR from the country and urges the Nicaraguan government to reconsider its decision. The EU also takes note of the report on Kashmir.
The EU notes the announcement of the long-delayed parliamentary elections in Gabon and remains hopeful that they will contribute to national reconciliation, following the contested presidential elections of August 2016 and post-electoral violence, which has never been subject of an investigation by the authorities, and which has led to detentions that persist two years on. We are also concerned that the pre-electoral period has been characterized until now by worrying trends, with authorities systematically banning requested gatherings and protests and the temporary suspension of the two main opposition newspapers and other national and international media outlets. We urge the Government to ensure an equitable, inclusive and transparent electoral process, conducive to credible results and promote equal participation in public affairs.
As the 7 October Presidential elections approach, acute and persisting violence in the North West and South West provinces of Cameroon remains a serious concern. The EU firmly condemns all use of violence against civilians and State representatives, calls on the authorities to protect the population and stresses that use of force by State agents must be proportionate. The EU considers that a lasting solution to the crisis can only be achieved through a dialogue in which all parties engage constructively and welcomes any initiative in this direction. The EU appeals to the Government and armed groups to grant unimpeded access to all human rights and humanitarian actors and emphasizes the importance of impartial and thorough investigations into alleged human rights violations and abuses. The EU stands ready to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The EU remains concerned by the threats to democracy and human rights in the Maldives and is following closely the evolution of the political situation and the preparation of the upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for 23rd September. Credible, transparent and inclusive presidential elections are essential for sustainable development and stability.
The EU welcomes the overall progress made in advancing respect for human rights in Sri Lanka but notes that much remains to be done and that there is only six months left before the High Commissioner’s next report in March 2019. It is vital for the Government to make full use of this opportunity to advance the commitments it has made to the Council that are needed for lasting national reconciliation. Regarding the death penalty, EU encourages Sri Lanka to maintain the moratorium, with a view towards complete abolition.
While acknowledging the spirit of modernization and reform embodied by the Saudi Vision 2030, the EU has significant concerns about the recent arrests of human rights defenders in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and by reports that the Public Prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for activists, which also runs counter to the reforms mentioned above. We reiterate the importance of the role of human rights defenders and civil society groups in the process of reform which the Kingdom is pursuing. The EU encourages Saudi Arabia to engage constructively in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review, scheduled for November 2018.
The EU reiterates its grave concerns about the human rights situation in Turkey, including restrictions to freedom of expression and about the arrests of, and charges against, human rights activists and defenders related to their human rights work, as well as journalists, civil servants, academics, members of parliament and of the judiciary. The EU is especially concerned about the deeply worrying backsliding situation of the rule of law. The EU calls on Turkey, a candidate country, to reverse these negative trends and urgently address these serious shortcomings. Turkey needs to respect the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, as well as procedural safeguards to warrant due process and fair trials, and to enforce international human rights standards, in accordance with its international obligations, and implement all judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in line with Article 46 of the ECHR. The EU further urges Turkey to refrain from adopting any new legislative proposals or restrictive measures that would invalidate any positive effect of the termination of the state of emergency. The EU further hopes that the lifting of the State of Emergency in Turkey can result in substantive improvements in respect for human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
The EU is following closely the situation of Human Rights in Haiti. The consolidation of democracy and democratic institutions, promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of civil society organizations is crucial for the development and stability of the country. However, the EU remains concerned about the non-prosecuted excessive use of force by law enforcement bodies, severe socio-economic inequalities, widespread corruption and impunity, prolonged pre-trial detention, exploitation of children, human trafficking, and other forms of violence against women, gender inequality and discrimination against vulnerable groups, including human rights defenders, LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities. We are disappointed that the recommendations accepted by Haiti under the October 2016 UPR process have not been taken forward and regret in particular the lack of a Human Rights Action Plan and nomination in the Government of a focal point on human rights. This is all the more concerning following the decision not to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert.
The EU is concerned about the human rights situation in Tanzania, including increased restrictions to the rights to freedoms of expression and assembly, including arrests of, and charges against, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and members of parliament. A free and vibrant civil society and a strong and independent media are crucial ingredients for a sustainable and effective development of a society and a cornerstone in the fight against corruption. The EU appreciates the generosity of Tanzania when it comes to receiving refugees and notes that as part of the tripartite agreement between Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR, repatriation of refugees to Burundi has started. The EU underlines that the return of Burundian refugees must be safe, voluntary and dignified and in line with international law including refugee law and the principle of non-refoulement.
In conclusion, we would like to once again thank the High Commissioner and the dedicated staff of her Office for the support provided to the Human Rights Council. We remain fully committed to supporting their valuable work and stand ready to work closely with the Council in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.
Thank you Mr. President.
 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.