From 30 June to 17 July 2020, the EU will participate actively in the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC44) taking place in Geneva, underlining that the protection and promotion of human rights is and will remain at the core of the EU's external action. "We have to put the protection of Human Rights front and centre in the fight against and recovery from Covid-19," emphasises Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva. "The fight against the pandemic should not be used as a pretext to limit democratic and civic space, the respect of the rule of law and of international commitments, nor to curtail freedoms or access to information. We will therefore continue to be a strong voice for the respect of human rights."
At HRC44, the EU will take the lead on a resolution on Belarus, following up on last year's resolution and drawing attention to the deterioration of the human rights situation in the run-up to the Presidential elections of 9 August. The Belarusian authorities have significantly increased their repressions of the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country, while formal restrictions remain in place. Belarus also continues to apply the death penalty, to which the European Union reiterated its unequivocal opposition. The EU-led resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus aims to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one more year.
"In the context of a pandemic where we have seen an increased spread of mis- and disinformation, and measures that have limited the fundamental right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information, it could not be more timely to support the resolution on Freedom of Expression at HRC44," says EU Ambassador Stevens. We have to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and civil society organisations can fully enjoy this right in a safe environment. The EU is therefore working closely with the pen-holders of the resolution and EU Member States to secure a substantial resolution on the Freedom of Expression with a focus on access to information, online and offline.
The EU remains committed to make genuine progress on the Business and Human Rights agenda inside and outside the EU in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We will therefore support and engage constructively in the upcoming resolutions related to Business and Human Rights, also to demonstrate our continued commitment to the implementation of the Guiding Principles.
Women's rights and gender equality will feature very high on this Council session's agenda. "The EU will use each and every occasion to reaffirm the full validity of our commitments to gender equality and will continue to promote the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council," underlines EU Ambassador Stevens. We will strongly engage in negotiations on gender-focused initiatives, including the resolutions on the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, elimination of female genital mutilation, as well as trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
During HRC44, we will continue to pay close attention to the human rights situation in Syria. To underscore our political and financial support to Syrians, the EU is virtually hosting the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region on the first day of HRC44, co-chaired with the UN. We will also continue to raise the human rights situation in China, including in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The human rights situation in Eritrea also remains high on the Council's agenda. To date, there is no evidence that Eritrea has made tangible progress on its human rights obligations. The EU strongly encourages progress on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea. Hence, the EU will continue to reiterate its concerns as regards the human rights situation in the country.
All EU statements and intervention at the Human Rights Council will published on the EU Delegation's website. Updates will also be regularly posted on the EU Delegation's Twitter account @EU_UNGeneva.