I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The European Union welcomes this opportunity to discuss human rights situations that require the Council's attention.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area align themselves with this statement.
With regard to the situations in Burundi and Myanmar we would like to refer to our statements during the respective interactive dialogues.
In Syria, we remain gravely concerned about continuing intense levels of violence in Northern Hama and Idlib, in particular due to indiscriminate Syrian and Russian airstrikes and shelling that, according to the UN, have killed over a thousand civilians over the last four months, and deliberately and indiscriminately destroyed schools, health facilities, markets and other civilian infrastructure in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. We welcome the establishment of an internal United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry to investigate these attacks. We urge all parties to implement the ceasefire and to ensure unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access in line with UNSCR 2401. The EU voices strong concerns about reports of social and demographic engineering in areas throughout Syria. The EU reaffirms its determination to hold accountable those who violate human rights and international humanitarian law. Impunity is not an option. The EU shares the United Nations’ strong concern over the recent displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib, in particular women and children. At the same time, the fate of tens of thousands of Syrians, detained, missing or forcibly disappeared remains unknown. Sexual and gender based violence and torture of detainees remain common practice. Starvation of civilians is being used as a weapon of war. We call for immediate steps to be taken by all parties, primarily the Syrian regime, to release those arbitrarily detained and provide information to affected families. We call on all states to keep the horrendous situation in the country high on the HRC agenda. We express our continued support to the mandate of the CoI and the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism and reiterate our call to have the situation in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court. The EU reiterates that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria. The EU supports a credible, political solution, in line with UNSCR 2254.
The EU is deeply concerned by the violence and loss of human lives in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in recent months. The Palestinian population living in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to face repeated human rights violations and abuses. The worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in the Gaza Strip remains of grave concern and the EU calls for an end to the closure. The EU firmly condemns rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, as well as terrorist attacks and any other form of violence and incitement on all sides. The EU calls on all parties to comply with their obligations. While recalling Israel's right to defend its legitimate security interests, the EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations under International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel's illegal settlement policy and actions taken in that context in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, notably the recent case of Sur Baher and the pending demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar. Such actions threaten the prospects of a two-state solution and have serious IHL and human rights implications. The EU is convinced that justice, the rule of law and respect of International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by all parties are cornerstones of peace and security in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory.
In Venezuela, the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the country has confirmed the existence of serious human rights violations and abuses, including torture in detention centres, and mentions the strong possibility of extrajudicial killings by Venezuelan security forces. The EU condemns the attacks against the members of the democratically elected national assembly and urges the full respect of their parliamentary immunities and prerogatives. The EU is also concerned about the violations of economic, social and cultural rights, including severe limitations regarding access to adequate food, water, health and education for a growing number of Venezuelans. The EU urges all national actors involved to work towards peaceful restoration of democracy, rule of law and human rights, including through free and credible presidential election and calls on regional and international actors to support this process.
Regarding Libya, the EU reiterates its full support to the work of the UN Mission in Libya. The EU continues to call on all parties to return to the political process and immediately implement a ceasefire and to protect civilians, including migrants and refugees. We remain seriously concerned about indiscriminate air attacks on airports and densely populated residential areas. We remind all parties of their obligation to uphold International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, including by refraining from using civilian infrastructures and allowing the safe, rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and services, and ensure protection for humanitarian workers, medical staff and the personnel of the UN Mission. The EU remains gravely concerned by the worrying human rights situation, including but not limited to the situation of migrants and refugees, access to justice, conditions of detention, the situation of women, and the need to protect human rights defenders, activists, journalists and media outlets, and calls upon all actors to end widespread impunity for human rights violations and abuses.
The EU has repeatedly expressed its concern regarding the continuing deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen. We call again upon all parties involved in the conflict to exercise maximum restraint and avoid acts which inflict further suffering on the population, including obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in need. Ensuring accountability for all violations is an important part of the process to achieve a lasting settlement in the conflict. The EU therefore 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 will seek to ensure a renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts. The EU supports a negotiated political settlement that engages without delay all parties, including the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in inclusive and comprehensive negotiations to end the conflict.
Regarding China, the EU is concerned about the existence of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, and restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We urge China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The EU urges China to ensure rule of law, establish fair trial guarantees and investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detentions, mistreatment and torture of human rights defenders and their families. We are gravely concerned about the detentions and trials of human rights defenders and lawyers including Wang Quangzhang, Yu Wensheng, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi, Tashi Wangchuk, Tiyip Tashpolat, Li Yuhan, Wu Gan, Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, Wuge Jianxiong. The continued detention of EU national Gui Minhai is of serious concern and the EU calls for his immediate release. We 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 and Tibet. The EU recalls that fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and 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.
Regarding the Russian Federation, the EU reiterates its serious concerns at the overall situation of human rights in the country. Pressure and restrictions on civil society continue to grow on the basis of restrictive legislation. The EU calls on the authorities to uphold the fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian Constitution, and Russia's international obligations and commitments, including inclusive, transparent and competitive elections, freedoms of expression, association, assembly, media, religion or belief, as well as the rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups, including Jehovah’s witnesses. The EU calls on the Russian Federation to investigate thoroughly the persecution of LGBTI persons in Chechnya. The EU reiterates its serious concerns about the human rights situation in the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula and the city of Sevastopol.
The EU recognizes Egypt's key role for regional security and stability, managing migration and efforts to counter terrorism and recalls the need to tackle it in full respect of international human rights law. The EU recalls the importance of the respect of online and offline freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly and association and the need to stop unduly restricting space for civil society, including through assets freezes, travel bans, long periods of pre-trial detention and a growing number of arrests especially since June. The new NGO law is a positive development. However, it is crucial that it is implemented in a way that guarantees civil society to work freely and ensures full respect for rights and freedoms stipulated in Egypt's constitution and under international law. The EU reiterates its call on Egypt to address alleged cases of enforced disappearance and to shed light on the circumstances of the death of Giulio Regeni and Eric Lang and bring about justice. The EU reiterates its concerns over the increase in death sentences, and calls on Egypt to suspend the issuance and implementation of the death penalty and address the issue of military trials of civilians.
Following the adoption by the Council of a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines with the aim for the Council to be further informed about the human rights situation in the Philippines, the EU encourages the Philippines to cooperate closely with the OHCHR in this regard. We reiterate our concern over the death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs in the country and call for effective, impartial and transparent investigations of all cases of death. We also encourage the authorities to genuinely address harassment and killings of human rights defenders and lawyers, journalists and other media workers, and religious leaders. The EU also calls the attention of the government to its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Article 40 and recalls the decision of the Philippines to suspend the death penalty in 2006 and expects this commitment to be honoured.
The EU remains concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey, including freedom of expression, arrests of and charges against human rights activists, journalists, academics, members of parliament and democratically elected mayors. 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 its international commitments.
The EU is concerned about prolonged detentions of women activists, human rights defenders, and prominent religious scholars in Saudi Arabia. We reiterate the importance of the role of human rights defenders and civil society groups in the positive process of reform in the field of women’s rights which the kingdom is pursuing. As we approach the one-year mark of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, The EU reiterates the need to ensure a full, credible and transparent investigation as well as due process for the defendants undergoing trial.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.