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

HRC 45- Item 2 - General Debate on HC oral update - EU Statement

Geneva, 15/09/2020 - 18:00, UNIQUE ID: 201014_10
Statements on behalf of the EU

Statement by H.E. Mr. Michael Freiherr von UNGERN-STERNBERG Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany on behalf of the European Union


Madame President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

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, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area align themselves with this statement.

The EU would like to thank High Commissioner Bachelet for her oral update to this Council. We reiterate our full support to the work of the OHCHR, whose effective functioning, independence and integrity we will continue to defend.

Madam President,

On Mali, the EU condemns the unconstitutional overthrow of Ex-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and supports ECOWAS in calling for a  civilian-led transition. The coup occurred in the context of a multifaceted crisis, including impunity over human rights violations. The EU calls for an inclusive transition period that will lead to free and fair elections security, sustainable development and respect for human right. It is equally important to ensure concrete progress on needed reforms of the democratic institutions. The fight against impunity, especially on the repeated human rights violations and abuses perpetrated in 2020, including by Malian security and defence forces, militias and armed groups, should be a priority. 

On Chad, the EU calls for a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the deaths of 44 alleged members of Boko Haram in a detention cell in N’djamena in mid-April 2020 and to identify those responsible and hold them accountable. With regards to the 14 survivors of this incident, the EU calls on Chad to swiftly bring them to trial, guaranteeing the full enjoyment of their rights to due process and to physical and mental integrity, including by ensuring that their conditions of detention meet international minimum standards, including with regards to addressing vulnerabilities caused by Covid-19

The EU remains concerned at the situation in Comoros, noting repeated reports of individuals deprived of their liberty, based on their political views or public activism, including the continued house arrest of a former Head of State, as well as examples of prolonged judicial supervision - with restrictions on the enjoyment of human rights and access to justice. A decision by the government to review all cases of alleged arbitrary detentions, including claims of being detained on political grounds, would give a positive signal. The EU also regrets reported intimidation of journalists, including arrests, and calls upon the authorities to protect the freedom of the media and access to information.

The ruling by the Botswana High Court decriminalising same-sex consensual relations on 11 June 2019 is a positive step. While final appeal ruling is yet expected, the EU warmly welcomes the unanimous decision of the High Court, which recognized that Botswana’s law and policies need to protect the rights of all, regardless of their sexual orientation. The EU underscores that human rights are universal and apply to all. The ruling by the Botswana High Court is important for advancement of human rights, not only in Botswana but also elsewhere.

The situation has significantly deteriorated in Zimbabwe, with multiple reports of arbitrary detention and harassment, torture and inhuman treatment, including towards members of the opposition, restrictions on access to justice, and targeting of journalists and others investigating or speaking out against corruption. The reported detention of untried prisoners in a maximum security prison together with convicted criminals suggests a serious violation of the principle of presumption of innocence. Public declarations inciting disrespect, hatred or violence towards various parties including churches, civil society actors and representatives of diplomatic missions have also contributed to increased tensions and risks to individuals enjoyment of human rights.  The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to limit the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens in Zimbabwe, such as the freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of assembly. The EU reiterates our ambition to support Zimbabwe in implementing concrete political and economic reforms, but for these reforms to stand the test of time they require an environment ensuring an inclusive national dialogue, through which citizens can exercise all their human rights, including their freedoms of assembly, association and expression

The human rights situation in Cameroon continues to cause serious concern, as violence against civilians, including civil society, humanitarian workers and journalists in the North-West, South-West and the Far North Regions persists even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Far North Region, we witnessed targeted terrorist attacks against IDPs and other civilians, which we condemn in the strongest terms. We call upon the government to ensure independent and impartial investigations of human rights violations and abuses and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

A few weeks before general elections in Tanzania. the EU expresses concern over the current human rights situation and the shrinking of civic space in the country. We stress that it is essential to let democracy take its course and ensure all conditions to full participation in credible and transparent elections.

The EU reiterates its previous calls to the Vietnamese government to guarantee freedom of expression both online and offline, and to release bloggers and human right defenders imprisoned for having peacefully expressed their views. International human rights commitments apply both offline and online; the EU urges the authorities to respect, protect and promote freedom of expression online, and to ensure that measure taken to counter disinformation are proportionate and carried out with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

There is no tangible positive advancement concerning democracy and human rights in Nicaragua. Repression by security forces and pro-government armed groups of political opponents, peaceful protesters, journalists, civil society organisations, LGBTI persons, peasants, human rights defenders and members of the Catholic Church continues. The EU expects the Nicaraguan government to abide by the commitments made in the March 2019 agreements with the opposition, notably to ensure civil and political rights, to reach a peaceful, negotiated and democratic way out of this crisis. We urge the government to adopt electoral and institutional reforms according to international standards, and to guarantee free and fair elections in 2021. . We reiterate our solidarity with the victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Nicaragua and our support to the Nicaraguan people in fulfilling their pressing needs and aspirations.

As candidate to the Human Rights Council, we expect Saudi Arabia to uphold the highest human rights standards. The EU reiterates its concern about prolonged detentions of women human rights defenders, including Loujain Al Hathloul, and prominent religious scholars in Saudi Arabia. We reiterate the importance of the role of civil society including in the process of socio-economic reforms, which the Kingdom is pursuing. The treatment of migrant workers remains an issue of concern, especially with respect to COVID19 conditions. Following 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.  

In Lebanon, the EU calls for an independent and credible investigation into the cause of the explosion in Beirut on 4 August in order to bring about the accountability demanded by the Lebanese people. The EU is following all developments closely, noting that all human rights, including freedoms of peaceful assembly, opinion and expression must be respected and protected.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Editorial Sections: