From 24 February to 23 June 2020, the 43rd UN Human Rights Council session (HRC43) took place in Geneva. While the session was suspended in its last week on 13 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU Delegation in Geneva actively engaged in facilitating the continuation of the 43rd Human Rights Council session and keeping the protection of human rights high on the agenda. "We were pleased to see the resumption of the session," says Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva. "We need a human rights based approach to the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic and its socio-economic consequences are affecting many, particularly those in vulnerable situations. This is a time for solidarity, international cooperation, and multilateral solutions. No one should be left behind."
In view of recent incidents of excessive use of force against people of African descent and violence against peaceful protest, the EU supported the African Group and the call by civil society and relatives of victims for the need to discuss these matters at the Human Rights Council and welcomes the adoption of the resolution by consensus. "Racial discrimination runs against the values and principles of the EU and will never be tolerated," says Ambassador Stevens. "There is a continuous need to step up our efforts and actions to prevent hate crimes, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance." The EU is determined to continue fighting against racism and put an end to such hate crimes.
Furthermore, the EU led 4 resolutions:
The resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar follows up on past years' resolutions. The EU-led resolution at HRC43 addressed ongoing human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, underlined the importance of the work of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, and called for justice and accountability as well as the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
The EU has been at the forefront of bringing the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the attention of the Human Rights Council for over a decade now. Our resolution sent a clear message to the DPRK government to immediately end human rights violations, rapidly improve civil liberties and social-economic rights, and engage with the UN Human Rights System. We called for continued support to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, as well as the accountability project implemented by the Seoul Office of the OHCHR.
Our responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil children's rights, particularly of those affected by conflict, poverty, and exclusion around the world, remains one of the EU's longstanding commitments. At HRC43, the EU together with the Group of Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), tabled a resolution with a special focus on children in vulnerable situations: The text called for the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, which received welcome cross-regional support.
Remaining fully committed to the robust protection and promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief in all parts of the world, we presented the traditional EU-led resolution on freedom of religion or belief. The text urged States to step up efforts to uphold this right while addressing intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief, as they remain widespread across the world. This resolution was presented in parallel with an OIC-led resolution on religious intolerance. Both resolutions were adopted by consensus.
The EU also strongly supported the resolution by the African Group on the human rights situation in Libya. The fact finding mission that has been created will play a vital role in establishing the facts and circumstances of violations and abuses of human rights law and humanitarian law as well as in documenting and reporting to the Human Rights Council. This is an important step forward in the fight against impunity and the promotion of accountability.
We cannot ignore the widespread human rights violations and abuses that continue unabated in many other places: The EU was very active in the negotiations of many other resolutions, such as regarding the human rights situations in Syria, South Sudan, and Nicaragua, and in dialogues on Burundi, Iran, Yemen, Venezuela, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine, as well as in raising the current human rights situation in Hong Kong.
Regarding the human rights situation in Syria, we showed our continued support to Syrians who have endured enormous human suffering and reiterated the need for accountability for violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law as of utmost importance. We will continue to urge the Syrian regime to allow safe, sustained and unhindered access for humanitarian actors, which is even more acute now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The important resolutions on the human rights situations in Georgia and in Nicaragua also received unified co-sponsorship by all 27 EU Member States.
We fulfilled our longstanding support to human rights defenders and civil society, which is a major priority of the EU, also in this session, as we continued to meaningfully engage with civil society on human rights issues across the Council’s agenda and to underline the need for a safe environment for human rights defenders.
The EU's Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, delivered an EU statement at the beginning of HRC43, emphasising that the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law remains at the core of the EU's partnership with the UN, and fully supporting the Secretary-General's call to mainstream human rights throughout the work of the UN.
During this session, the EU Delegation organised hybrid and virtual side events, among them the Good Human Rights Stories about gender equality and women's rights to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the focus of this year's general debate. We also co-organized a side event on freedom of religion & belief and gender and several side events on Syria, most prominently the screening of the Oscar-nominated movie The Cave at the Graduate Institute in Geneva in presence of the heroine of the film, Dr. Amani Ballour.
All EU statements and interventions at the Human Rights Council are published on the EU Delegation's website. Updates were timely posted on the EU Delegation's Twitter account @EU_UNGeneva.