Thank you, Mr. President,
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania , and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action recognises democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law as key principles for the protection and full enjoyment of human rights.
Societies with strong rule of law and respect for human rights are more likely to be peaceful and resilient; and more likely to be stable and prosperous.
The promotion and protection of human rights of course also requires a strong accountability framework that provides effective remedies to victims. This is particularly true in situations where we see gross violations and abuses of human rights on a systemic scale.
The European Union remains firmly committed to the fight against impunity and the promotion of international criminal justice. Since the very beginning, the EU has supported a strong and effective International Criminal Court. It will continue to work towards the universal ratification of the Rome Statute and calls on all countries to prioritise this.
The VDPA also emphasises the indispensable role played by civil society, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists, to remind governments of their human rights obligations, to claim protection and redress for victims and to support governments in their implementation.
The European Union is seriously concerned about recent and on-going activities in several countries that aim at suppressing the activities of NGOs. Attempts to outlaw NGOs, by way of legislation that runs counter to international human rights obligations, or by way of arbitrary judicial proceedings, make a mockery of the rule of law and fly in the face of any open and democratic society that is committed to upholding the human rights of its citizens.
The European Union rejects attempts by some states to limit the space for civil society by pressuring or interrupting NGOs or other civil society representatives who speak out on their countries’ human rights situation at the Human Rights Council. We equally condemn all attempts to prevent their citizens from cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms, or to intimidate or punish them. Cooperating with the UN is the right of every individual. It is the obligation of all states to protect these individuals and other human rights defenders from harassment, intimidation and other forms of reprisals.
I thank you.
*The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.