The torture of human beings has no place in the 21st century. On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the European Union reaffirms its strong commitment to combating torture worldwide, in all its forms, contexts and settings.
The restrictions and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to higher levels of human rights violations and abuses in both the public and domestic spheres, including increased violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, physical attacks and psychological trauma for many human beings.
The Council today imposed sanctions on 8 individuals, 3 economic entities and the War Veterans Organisation in relation to the military coup staged in Myanmar/Burma on 1 February 2021, and the ensuing repression against peaceful demonstrators. The EU's restrictive measures are largely aligned with those of major international partners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified human rights and democracy challenges in many parts of the world. That is why the EU has placed human rights front and centre of its foreign policy. This is one of the main features of the freshly adopted 2020 European Union Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. While the world is confronted with unique challenges, the EU maintains its leading role in supporting human rights, democracy and rule of law, within its borders and across the globe.
Today we mark World Refugee Day, in the midst of a pandemic that has had a deleterious impact on public health, as well as on the economy. Refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and stateless persons have felt this crisis most acutely and risk being left behind. This year, as we reflect on World Refugee Day, we must also recall that to win the battle against the pandemic, safe and effective vaccines should be accessible to all across the globe.
To commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, call for an end to violence in conflict zones and in the private spheres.
One year ago, the UN Secretary-General called for a cessation of violence both on battlefields and in homes. Yet his latest report shows that conflict-related sexual violence has continued unabated during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains a cruel and widespread tactic of war, torture, terror and political repression.
No country, no region in the world has been spared from the impact of COVID-19. The virus is exacerbating existing inequalities and has a disproportionate effect on refugees, internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants and stateless persons. We must all redouble our efforts. As vaccination campaigns are underway in the EU, the EU is working to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular through the COVAX Facility.