Statement by H.E. Mrs Vesna BATISTIĆ KOS Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia on behalf of the European Union
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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*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina align themselves with this statement.
With regard to the situations in Myanmar, DPRK, Iran, South-Sudan, Syria, and Burundi, we would like to refer to our statements during the respective interactive dialogues.
The situation for human rights, civil society and democracy in the Russian Federation has continued to worsen. There is a clampdown on independent political voices, dwindling space for civil society and further growth in restrictive legislation. The EU urges Russian authorities to ensure that recently proposed constitutional amendments are in full compliance with its international commitments, and in this respect the EU calls the Russian federation to make use of the Venice Commission expertise. The EU expects Russia to live up to its international human rights commitments. We continue to call on the Russian authorities to respect freedoms of expression, association, assembly, media, religion or belief, as well as the rights of persons belonging to minorities and persons in vulnerable situations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. We urge the Russian authorities to release Yuri Dmitriev and Anastasia Shevchenko, as well as other human rights organisations and defenders, and to respect and protect and stop persecution of Memorial. The EU recalls its serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed by the Russian Federation, and the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities there, including Crimean Tatars. The EU calls on the Russian federation to investigate thoroughly the persecution of LGBTI persons in Chechnya. The EU is concerned about the recent attacks on Marina Dubrovina and Elena Milashina.
During the 21st EU-China Summit, the EU and China reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The EU is gravely concerned about the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, and systemic restrictions on freedom of religion or belief against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, as well reports about forced labour. Twelve UN Special Procedures mandate holders have assessed that the application of the Counter-Terrorism Law of China and related practices raises serious concerns, particularly for people belonging to minorities. The EU calls for an independent, objective, impartial and transparent assessment of the issues of concern already identified by the UN Special Procedures. We therefore reiterate our call on China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We also reiterate our 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 urges China to ensure the rule of law, establish fair trial guarantees and to investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture of human rights defenders and their families. We are gravely concerned about the detentions and trials of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals, including Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi, Tashi Wangchuk, Tiyip Tashpolat, Li Yuhan, Wu Gan, Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, Wuge Jianxiong, Xu Zhiyong, Chen Qiushi, Fan Bing, Guo Quan and Chen Jianfang. We call for their immediate release, as well as for the immediate release of Pastor Wang Yi and of EU citizen Gui Minhai who was sentenced on 25 February to 10 years of imprisonment by a Chinese court. The rights of Gui Minhai, including inter alia to consular access and due process, have not been respected. We are concerned about growing restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and about intimidation and surveillance of journalists. The EU recalls that fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, as well as 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.
Following the adoption by the Council of a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines, the EU encourages the Philippines, to cooperate closely with the OHCHR in this regard, as it pledged to do when joining the Council. We reiterate our concern at 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 Philippine authorities to investigate reports of harassment and killings of human rights defenders and lawyers, journalists and other media workers, and religious leaders. The EU calls the government to refrain from reinstating the death penalty which would, violate the Philippines' obligation under the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The EU also urges the Philippines to uphold its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Article 40 in relation to the criminal age.
The EU reiterates its deep concern about the violence and loss of human lives in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. 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, full opening of the crossing points, and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors, while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns. The EU firmly condemns increased rockets and other attacks from the Gaza Strip targeting civilians, as well as terrorist attacks, and any other form of violence, including a continued upward trend of settler related incidents, and incitement on all sides. The EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel's settlement policy, which is illegal under international law, and actions taken in this context such as demolitions and confiscations, including of humanitarian structures and EU funded projects. The EU reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law. The deteriorating situation on the ground threatens the prospects of a two-state solution and has serious humanitarian 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 to ensure equal rights are cornerstones of peace and security in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory. The EU recalls the importance of unhindered work of civil society organisations, both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
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. A large number of Egyptians were detained following the 20 September 2019 protests. We call on Egypt to release all human rights defenders detained in the aftermath of the protest, including lawyers Mohammed El-Baqer and Amr Imam. 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 and long periods of pre-trial detention. 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 all 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 serious concerns on the increase in death sentences, and calls on Egypt to immediately suspend the issuance and implementation of the death penalty and address the issue of military trials of civilians, as well as the issue of mass trials.
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 redouble their efforts for a sustained suspension of hostilities, de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire and return to the political process. We remain seriously concerned about indiscriminate air attacks on civilian infrastructure 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, refugees and internally displaced persons, access to social and health services, access to justice, conditions of detention, the situation of women and youth, civil society organisations, and stresses the need to protect human rights defenders and journalists. The EU calls upon all actors to end widespread impunity for human rights violations and abuses and to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court, including on the outstanding arrest warrants. We call upon all actors to refrain from any activities exacerbating the conflict or inconsistent with the UNSC arms embargo or the ceasefire, including the financing of military capabilities or recruitment of mercenaries.
In Venezuela the EU strongly condemns the acts against the functioning of the democratically elected National Assembly, as well as the continued intimidations and attacks against its members. The EU is also very concerned about the serious human rights violations such as arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings. The increasing violations of economic, social and cultural rights, including severe limitations regarding access to adequate food, water, health and education are also of great concern, especially regarding the dire humanitarian situation in the country. 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.
The EU remains concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey, including freedom of expression, arrests of and charges against human rights defenders, journalists, academics, members of parliament and democratically elected mayors. As an EU candidate country and long-standing member of the council of Europe, Turkey is expected to apply the highest democratic standards and practices. The EU calls on Turkey to protect the rule of law, judicial independence, due process, the right to a fair trial, and human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with Turkey's international commitments.
The EU is concerned about prolonged detentions of women activists, including Loujain Al Hathloul, human rights defenders, and prominent religious scholars in Saudi Arabia. We reiterate the importance of the role of civil society groups in the positive process of socio-economic reforms which the Kingdom is pursuing. The figures on executions carried out in Saudi Arabia throughout 2019 reflect a negative trend in stark contrast with the growing abolitionist movement worldwide. Following the announcement of the verdicts on the trial for the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the EU reiterates the need to ensure full accountability and transparent prosecution of all those responsible for and involved in his killing on 2 October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.