– Check against delivery –
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, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union would like to thank the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Joaquín Alexander MAZA MARTELLI, for presenting the Council’s twelfth annual report to the UN General Assembly.
The European Union has strongly supported the Human Rights Council since its establishment and we continue to do so. Eleven years have passed since the General Assembly established the Human Rights Council in 2006 and much has been achieved. The system of Special Procedures, the establishment of accountability mechanisms, the Universal Periodic Review and all other mechanisms of the Council have contributed positively to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.
Through the delivery of technical assistance and capacity-building mandates, it has also helped countries faced with human rights crises to build human rights protection policies and to fulfill their international obligations.
The Council has been entrusted with the mandate of promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner. Also part of its mandate is the addressing of situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and making recommendations thereon.
Furthermore, the Council should also promote the effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the UN system. There is further potential to strengthen dialogue and synergies between the HRC and the Security Council, in order to ensure that human rights are central in all UN action. The HRC mandate to contribute through dialogue and cooperation towards the prevention of human rights violations and to respond promptly to human rights emergencies, must be fully operationalized in order to translate early warning into early action. The Council’s existing mechanisms can be better used to play this stronger prevention role. The European Union looks forward to continuing to contribute to the full implementation of the Council’s wide mandate given by resolution 60/251.
Calls for enhancing and strengthening the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council have steadily increased over the past few years. The European Union is firmly committed to engaging constructively in an inclusive cross-regional process of reflection, dialogue and review, coordinated from Geneva, focussing on the body’s working methods, efficiency, effectiveness and impact. The outcomes of such a Geneva coordinated process would then help inform action deemed necessary in New York.
The Secretary General addressed the Council during its high-level segment, in March, and alerted us all to the fact that “Disregard for human rights is a disease, and it is a disease that is spreading – north, south, east and west.” And he continued to say that “the Human Rights Council must be part of the cure“. The Council is indeed part of the cure: Commissions of Inquiry and fact finding missions have been established to respond to serious allegations of human rights violations and abuses around the world; the system of independent Special Procedures mandate holders are our eyes and ears and contribute to a global early warning system giving us indications of emerging crises and assisting countries in respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights obligations.
The European Union will continue to make every effort to ensure that the Human Rights Council is not only able to help prevent or address violations and abuses of human rights, including gross and systematic violations and abuses, as well as to respond promptly to human rights emergencies, but also to improve human rights standards and their implementation worldwide through systematic work on relevant thematic issues. In this context, the EU recalls the importance of the independence of the Council and strongly opposes any attempts to undermine the institutional position of the Council within the UN system.
The European Union welcomes the central role played by the Human Rights Council in addressing human rights situations throughout the world. The severe consequences of the crisis in Syria and the violations committed by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime and its allies, cannot be ignored by any State. Any breaches of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice. In this context, the Council’s ongoing response to the crisis remains critically important as demonstrated by efforts to foster accountability and fight against impunity.
The European Union welcomes the decision reached by consensus during the last session of the Human Rights Council to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a group of eminent international and regional experts to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Yemen, to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the conflict and to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible. We call on all parties to cooperate fully with the new investigative mechanism for Yemen.
During the past year the Human Rights Council has also demonstrated its commitment to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and to provide technical assistance and capacity building to promote human rights to the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Libya, and Mali. We furthermore welcome the continued support that has been rendered to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, Republic of Guinea, Georgia, Libya, and Ukraine. We trust that the Council will continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building can make a difference and take action where necessary.
Civil society and human rights defenders play a crucial role in the work of the Council and its mechanisms, as provided for in the 2007 institution-building package. Targeting individuals or groups who engage with UN human rights mechanisms is deplorable and runs contrary to the promotion and protection of human rights. The European Union strongly condemns any act of violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisal or threat thereof. The ability of individuals and groups to raise concerns with special procedures without fear of reprisals is vital for the work of these mechanisms and their capacity to fulfil their mandates. The issue of reprisals needs a consistent approach at the international and regional levels. We must do the utmost to prevent and eliminate such acts. Civil society and its representatives are valuable partners for human right mechanisms and the protection and promotion of human rights. We therefore welcome the work done by the Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, in the role designated by the Secretary General to receive, consider and respond to allegations of intimidation and reprisals against those seeking to cooperate with the UN and its mechanisms. The European Union will continue to support their engagement with the Council and the human rights mechanisms.
On 16th October, the General Assembly elected 15 new members of the Council. Serving as a Council member entails important responsibilities – resolution 60/251 provides that: “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and shall fully cooperate with the Council”. While we congratulate the new members, we also remind them to pay careful attention to the human rights situation in their own countries and to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms in the promotion and protection of the human rights of all, without discrimination of any kind. No State has a perfect human rights record, and we therefore encourage the newly elected members to engage in the work of this Council in a spirit of self-reflection with a view to improvement of our own human rights situation, and to address all human rights concerns that come before the Council on their merits.
We also strongly encourage all States and other stakeholders to cooperate with the Special Procedures as a means to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights. We take this opportunity to call on all States that haven’t done so to extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures.
We welcome the fact that the Human Rights Council is seized with regard to the serious human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and underline the importance of the mechanism established on accountability concerning events in the Kasai regions. We urge the Government of the DRC to fully cooperate with the OHCHR and the international expert group in this regard. Being a member of the Council increases the responsibilities to cooperate with the Council mechanisms and to adhere to international norms and obligations.
The European Union welcomes the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and calls on the Government of Burundi – as a member of the Council – to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry as well as with other international human rights mechanisms. As stated in the Council’s founding resolution, members of the Human Rights Council should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights both domestically and internationally and we reiterate our urgent call on the Government of Burundi to do so.
The EU welcomes the establishment of an Independent International Fact Finding Mission to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. The European Union takes this opportunity to call once again on the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with this mission.
We also welcome the extensions of the country specific mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus and the extension of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. In this regard, it is important to recall the Special Session held in December 2016 following allegations of ethnic cleansing, including proportions of sexual violence of an unprecedented severity and scale.
In conclusion, let me reiterate our continued commitment to the work of the Human Rights Council and to further strengthen its role in the protection and promotion of human rights, the development of international human rights law as well as in the prevention of human rights violations and abuses. We will continue to systematically uphold and ensure implementation of existing international norms and standards, and at all times to strongly defend the universality, indivisibility, interdependency, inalienability and interrelated character of human rights.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.