Delegation of the European Union to the

UN and other international organisations in Geneva

HRC 40 - EU Statement: Human Rights situation that require the Council's attention

Geneva, 12/03/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190315_10
Statements on behalf of the EU

40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 25 February – 22 March 2019 EU Statement: Human Rights situation that require the Council's attention

Mr. President, 

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

The Candidate Countries Montenegro[1] and Albania* align themselves with this statement.

The European Union welcomes this opportunity to discuss human rights situations that require the Council's attention. With regard to the situations in Myanmar/Burma, DPRK, Iran, Eritrea, South-Sudan, Syria, Burundi we would like to refer to our statements during the respective interactive dialogues. The EU is concerned about the existence of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions particularly targeted at Uyghurs in Xinjiang. We urge China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The EU remains seriously concerned about the reported cases of mistreatment and torture under detention in China, and calls on the authorities to thoroughly investigate them. We call on China to uphold its national and international obligations, and rule of law and to respect freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, as well as the right of persons belonging to national minorities especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. The EU continues to be gravely concerned about the detentions and trials of human rights defenders and lawyers including Wang Quangzhang, Yu Wensheng, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi, Tashi Wangchuk, Li Yuhan, Wu Gan. The continued detention of EU national Gui Minhai is of serious concern and the EU calls for his immediate release.

The European Union reiterates its concerns on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs and calls for prompt, effective, impartial and transparent investigations of all cases of death. In addition the EU calls for action to address harassment and killings of human rights defenders, religious leaders, lawyers and journalists. It also calls the attention of the government to its commitments under the convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular article 40.   

The human rights situation in the Russian Federation remains deeply concerning. Pressure and restrictions on civil society continue to grow on the basis of restrictive legislation. The EU expects Russia to live up to its international human rights commitments, including protecting the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. We continue to call on Russia to protect rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups including by ensuring accountability for the reported cases of persecution of LGBTI persons in Chechnya. We also continue to call for the release of Oyub Titiev and Yuri Dimitriev, and the effective protection for all human rights defenders.  We call for the release of all illegally detained Ukrainians including Oleh Sentsov, Volodymyr Baluh, Pavlo Hryb and the servicemen captured on 25 November. We reiterate our call on Russia to grant international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms unrestricted access to the illegally annexed autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

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. The EU welcomes the recent acquittals of international NGO workers in a case concerning foreign funding and the current work to revise the law governing the work of NGOs. The EU continues to call on Egypt to respect freedom of expression, assembly and association and to stop unduly restricting space for civil society, including through arrests. The EU remains concerned about some articles of the recently adopted cybercrime and media laws, further restricting media freedoms and journalistic work. The EU encourages Egypt to shed light on any alleged case of enforced disappearance and on the circumstances of the death of Giulio Regeni and Eric Lang and bring about justice. The EU reiterates its concerns on the increase in death sentences and calls on Egypt to suspend the issuance and implementation of the death penalty and address the issue of military trials of civilians.

The EU is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence and loss of human lives in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel in recent months. Palestinian fatalities tripled in 2018 compared to 2017. While recalling Israel’s right to defend its legitimate security interest, the EU expects the Israeli authorities to respect the principle of necessity and proportionality in its use of force, including during demonstrations, law enforcement and security operations.  Alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all sides must be investigated thoroughly in accordance with international standards. The EU firmly condemns rocket attacks from Gaza, all terrorist attacks, and any other form of violence and incitement. The EU also remains concerned about the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza and calls for an end to the closure. All parties must guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access.  Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory have wide ranging implications on the exercise of Palestinians' rights to education, health, work and family life. The impact of armed conflict on children on both sides is alarming. The EU reiterates its concerns about the extensive use of administrative detention by Israel, while welcoming the decrease in the number of Palestinian minors in custody. The EU is also concerned about reported human rights violations by the Palestinian security forces against Palestinians in detention. The EU recalls its strong opposition to Israel's continued illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and actions taken in that context such as demolitions, in particular the pending demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar, confiscations - including of humanitarian structures and EU funded projects - , evictions and forced transfers, and their human rights implications. Such actions undermine the possibility of a two state solution. 

Regarding Saudi Arabia, the EU is increasingly concerned about the number of arrests, prolonged detentions and trials of activists and human rights defenders, occurring under counterterrorism law provisions and in specialised terrorism courts as well as the risk of imminent executions of individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association and freedom of religion or belief. Alleged mistreatment and torture in detention, especially against women’s rights defenders currently detained, is also of concern. Regarding the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the EU considers that some fundamental questions still remain unanswered and reiterates the need to ensure a full, credible and transparent investigation and due process and accountability.

The EU is increasingly concerned about the human rights situation in Venezuela and deeply regrets the violence and disproportionate use of force by security forces and armed groups against demonstrators that has resulted in numerous deaths. Growing number of arbitrary arrests and restrictions to freedom of expression and media are also of concern.  Human rights and fundamental freedoms must be respected, all political prisoners released and democracy restored through holding of free, fair and early presidential elections. The EU also calls for full access for the OHCHR to do a preliminary evaluation of the human rights situation and for immediate access for humanitarian aid to be delivered according to humanitarian principles to those in need.

The EU is very concerned about the situation in Nicaragua. We call particular attention to the judicial repression based on the anti-terrorism laws and the recent crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society organisations and free press. The office of the High Commissioner as well as other international human rights mechanisms should be allowed to return to the country with full cooperation of the authorities. We call on the government to stop repression immediately, guarantee accountability for all crimes committed, engage in a genuine dialogue with the opposition and electoral reforms to ensure free elections. The only way out of the crisis is through justice, dialogue and democracy.

The EU is deeply concerned about the current situation in Sudan, especially the excessive use of force against civilian protesters by the Sudanese security forces and the recent declaration of the state of emergency. The EU continues to call on Sudan to respect the freedoms of assembly, association and expression. The EU urges the Sudanese authorities to release all journalists, opposition members, human rights defenders and other protesters arbitrarily detained and to ensure that an independent investigation into the deaths and abuses is undertaken with those responsible held to account.

In Pakistan, the EU draws attention to the shrinking space for civil society and freedom of expression, with restrictions put on the work of journalists, bloggers and activists. The EU takes note of a decrease in the number of executions in 2018 and encourages Pakistan to expedite progress on the review of death penalty and re-instate moratorium as a first step towards abolition.

Further to the reference in its statement under item 2 on 7 March 2019, the EU remains concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey, including the protection of the rule of law, judicial independence, due process, human rights and fundamental freedoms which are not in line with international standards.


[1] Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.


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