Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

Outcomes of the 39th session of the Human Rights Council from an EU perspective

28/09/2018 - 16:47
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From 10 to 28 September 2018 the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC39) took place in Geneva, discussing the world's most pressing human rights issues.

For us, the European Union, effective multilateralism is the golden thread which guides our work. Just a few days ago, EU and UN leaders pledged in New York to continue to engage together as positive forces for change to promote and renew the full commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based global order. This was also underlined with the launch of the “Good Human Rights Stories Initiative”, initiated by the EU together with a cross-regional coalition of countries to whom human rights matter.

"We need to build bridges, partnerships and networks in support of multilateralism and the rules-based order," says the newly appointed Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Walter Stevens.  "In a more complex, volatile and unpredictable world there is a need to stand behind the UN, at the bedrock of the multilateral system, to broaden dialogue and cooperation and to build new alliances. The resolution at this Human Rights Council session on the situation in Myanmar is an excellent example of such cross-regional cooperation, sending a strong and unified message. I would like to warmly thank our colleagues from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the close cooperation and partnership on this resolution." The EU and OIC have for the first time presented a joint resolution at the Human Rights Council, following up on the findings contained in the final report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. The resolution, which was adopted by the Council on 27 September and supported by over 100 countries, establishes an independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law, as well as to prepare case files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, and ultimately determine individual criminal liability. "The European Union has consistently advocated against impunity for those responsible for systematic human rights violations in Myanmar," says Ambassador Walter Stevens. "This resolution is an important step towards ensuring accountability."

Given the continuously grave human rights situation, the European Union has also presented a resolution on Burundi, which renews the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), allowing it to further deepen its investigations. The resolution follows up on the findings of the CoI, which documents an increased number of human rights violations and abuses, committed in a climate of widespread impunity and providing reasonable grounds to believe that some human rights violations may constitute crimes against humanity. "The continuous lack of cooperation by Burundi - a Member of the Human Rights Council - is very worrying," says EU Ambassador Walter Stevens. "We urge the Government of Burundi to cooperate with existing human rights mechanisms, such as the CoI, the OHCHR Office in Bujumbura, the African Union human rights observers as well as the mechanism created by Burundi's own resolution in September 2017."

The human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate. "Given the gravity of the situation in Yemen, we believe it is important to give the Group of Eminent Experts more time to continue their important work." states EU Ambassador Stevens. The EU fully supports the resolution on Yemen which renews the existing mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue their important work.

The EU continues to call for an end to the unacceptable violence in Syria, which causes the suffering of millions of Syrians. All those responsible for breaches of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be held accountable. Thus, the documentation of human rights violations and efforts to gather evidence in view of future legal action is very important. We therefore continue to support efforts by the Human Rights Council to keep the situation in Syria on the agenda and to press for accountability, including through the important work of the Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM).

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. Impunity is never acceptable. The Human Rights Council plays an important role in the international community's pursuit to ensure accountability and to improve the human rights situation. At the 39th session of the Human Rights Council the EU therefore strongly engaged in negotiations and interactive dialogues on the human rights situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Nicaragua. We would like to thank both the African Group and the Lima and Brussels groups for the very good cooperation in this session.

Public campaign: In the margins of the Human Rights Council, the EU successfully kicked-off a campaign in support of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) efforts to raise awareness around the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bracelets with sentences of the Declaration were distributed at the Council session and a photo booth encouraged delegates, members of civil society and the wider public to wear the bracelet and show their support on social media with the hashtags #Standup4HumanRights and #HumanRightsPower. A web article on the campaign can be found here.

All EU statements and intervention at the Human Rights Council are published on the EU Delegation's website. Updates are also regularly posted on the EU Delegation's Twitter account @EU_UNGeneva.

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