33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Geneva, 13-30 September 2016
EU Statement - Item 2: Update by the High Commissioner followed by General Debate
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.
We thank the High Commissioner for presenting his update to the Human Rights Council and reiterate our support for the independence and integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner and his office. We call on all States to further step up their support for the important work of the OHCHR, including by granting access.
The world is facing a major challenge in responding to the global crisis caused by unprecedented mixed migratory flows of people who often undertake a very dangerous journey in the hands of traffickers and smugglers. The EU remains fully committed to refugee protection, the human rights of migrants and addressing the root causes of irregular and forced migration. It is crucial to step up cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination in order to address these challenges in an effective and efficient way. It is also important to promote the universal ratification and effective implementation of the UN convention against transnational organized crimes and its protocols.
The EU welcomes the 19 September High-Level Meeting in New York on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. We acknowledge a shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in dignity and safety. We also believe that this Summit can and should be a starting point for a global response to migration challenges, where the respect for human rights should never be forgotten, among other considerations of a holistic approach also taking into account humanitarian needs, development, rule of law and security.
At the time of critical human rights situations in many parts of the world, we very much appreciate the OHCHR presence and rapid response to human rights crises and challenges. In addition, we would support a more proactive preventive role of the OHCHR.
The periodic reports by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine are an invaluable source of impartial information, and the regular Interactive Dialogues provide a very important platform for sharing this information and keeping this issue high on the HRC agenda. The EU underlines the need to fully implement the recommendations of the UN human rights mechanisms to Ukraine. We concur with the High Commissioner’s assessment that fundamental freedoms are severely limited for people living in armed group-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine and that the human rights situation in Crimea, after its illegal annexation, has considerably deteriorated. Worst affected are the Crimean Tatars, whose main representatives body, the Mejlis, has been banned. We reiterate our call for full, immediate and unfettered access for international human rights actors to Crimea.
The EU shares the High Commissioner´s concern over the reports of the shrinking of political space and of increasing intimidation of members of civil society and media in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of the electoral deadline as foreseen by the Constitution. We call on the Government to ensure an open political space and to increase confidence-building measures, and on the Independent National Electoral Commission to announce the date of the Presidential elections as required by the Constitution.
The EU demands accountability in Syria and an end to impunity for human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, including Da´esh. We condemn that the Syrian regime and Da´esh have committed and allowed attacks against the Syrian people, including with chemical weapons, as according to the findings of the Joint Investigative Mechanism so far, and recall the UNSCR 2118 in this regard.
Additionally, the EU is gravely concerned about the deepening human rights and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and notes the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict, which will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a peace agreement that leads to a durable solution to the conflict.
Regarding Bahrain, the EU recognises the challenges that Bahrain faces, and encourages it to aim for stability through reforms and inclusive reconciliation in an environment where peaceful political grievances can be expressed freely, and where violence has no place. The EU is concerned about the dissolution of the opposition political society Al-Wefaq, the sentencing to 9 years on appeal against its Secretary General Ali Salman and the arrest and travelling bans for human rights activists, including the re-arrest of Mr. Nabeel Rajab. Deprivation of nationality of Bahraini citizens, including prominent figures such as Sheikh Isa Qassim, is also of concern. The EU calls upon all parties to support a more inclusive dialogue and to work together towards national reconciliation and a sustainable political environment. The EU is also worried about allegations of torture, and welcomes the work of the Special Investigations Unit and Ombudsman to investigate these. The EU calls on Bahraini authorities to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.
The EU is concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cambodia. We call on the Cambodian authorities to allow the opposition to freely carry out their legitimate role, without threats or intimidation and to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society.
Turning to the Maldives, the EU is concerned about recent moves to restrict freedom of expression and association as well as to end the moratorium on the death penalty.
With regards to Thailand, it is essential that the current restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly are lifted to allow for an open, inclusive and accountable political process towards genuine democratic transition.
As in previous sessions, the EU will strive for ensuring open and unrestricted space for civil society, whose voices are vital for the Council's debates and decisions. We firmly condemn all reprisals, and lend our full support to the President and the Bureau to take all necessary measures to prevent them and to ensure full accountability for such cases.
Thank you, Mr President.
 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.