Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations 3rd Committee: Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms and Reports of Special Rapporteurs and Representatives

New York, 21/10/2019 - 23:21, UNIQUE ID: 191021_25
Statements on behalf of the EU

21 October 2019, New York - Statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States by H.E. Mr. Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee Item 70: Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives

 - Check against delivery -




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


The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania align themselves with this statement.


The EU believes in the fundamental soundness of our multilateral system and its rules based international order between states, built upon the founding principle of universal, indivisible human rights for all persons wherever they may be. Without respect for human rights there can be no lasting peace, no lasting reconciliation, no stability, and no enduring development and prosperity.


The EU supports human rights as a cross-cutting priority within the organs and work of the UN. All UN members should implement, uphold and promote the highest human rights standards. Members of the UN Security Council, in particular permanent members, bear a special responsibility to support all three pillars of the UN, namely Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development.


We criticise those States who attempt to create a hierarchy between these pillars as well as a hierarchy of human rights, using it as an excuse to deny individuals human rights and fundamental freedoms, reduce the allocation of funds for the UN Human Rights system, and refuse to grant the OHCHR and human rights mechanisms access to their territories.


An effective UN Human Rights system is essential for a UN that works for the citizens of the world. The UN Human Rights system must remain an imperative platform for the international community to denounce human rights violations and abuses wherever they are committed and to seek accountability. We reject the view that human rights violations and abuses should not be addressed in international fora, nor that economic and social development takes precedent over human rights. Full respect for all human rights is the foundations of prosperity and peace, and development is not a substitute for human rights progress. The European Union reaffirms that all human rights are to be realised worldwide, whether they are civil or political rights, or economic, social or cultural rights. It recalls the centrality of human rights to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, and calls upon the UN to closely monitor their fulfilment.


In this year which marks the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, it is important to give special attention to preventing and combatting all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual violence in conflicts, and to call on the UN system and its member states to end impunity for these crimes and violations. We call for an integration of the gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and other human rights fora.


The EU will continue to promote and protect the rights of the child, including with a dedicated resolution. The 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2019 is an occasion to renew our efforts on fully implementing the Convention and encouraging states to ratify its Optional Protocols worldwide. The convention requires governments to protect children against all forms of physical or mental violence, especially in conflict situations. Among those most at risk, attention should be given to children without parental care.


The EU continues to strongly oppose and condemn the use of torture and other ill-treatment by state and non-state actors. We note with appreciation the progress made by the global alliance for torture-free trade, a cross-regional effort gathering more than 60 countries committed to end trade in goods used for torture and capital punishment globally. It also welcomes the recently adopted UN general assembly resolution on torture-free trade and calls on states to support ongoing work at UN level towards establishing common international standards in this field.


The EU also promotes a positive narrative on human rights and spearheads the Good Human Rights Stories Initiative (GHRSI): to promote human rights through positive stories to get inspired by, learn from and replicate across the world. This year during UNGA, the GHRSI organised a discussion on building quality lives through economic, cultural and social rights.


Across the world reprisals against human rights defenders, including harassment, arrests, attacks, and killings is increasing. Human rights defenders are natural and indispensable allies in the promotion of human rights and we should protect and stand up for them; the EU has been supporting politically and financially some 30.000 human rights defenders and their families since 2015.


We are concerned about the environmental and social impact of the burning amazon rain forest. We advocate the respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, including in regard to land tenure and the principle of free prior consent as set out in the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, so that indigenous peoples can continue their important role as stewards of biodiversity. 


We also see a clear contradiction between the stated commitment of States to multilateralism, their presence in the Human Rights Council and the non-signature or ratification of UN core human rights conventions. We call on China to ratify and abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), on Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and the United Arab Emirates to accede to the ICCPR, on the United States to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and on Botswana, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to accede to the ICESCR. We call on India, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan and the other States concerned to accede to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.


In the same vein the EU is seriously concerned about the continuing refusal of an increasing number of States to cooperate with and to grant the OHCHR and the human rights mechanisms access to their territories or specific regions. We call on all States to issue a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures, and honour it. 


We do not see any tangible progress on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The human rights violations in and by the DPRK are systematic, widespread and gross, including those identified by the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The EU urges the DPRK to urgently improve the human rights situation, to sign, ratify and implement additional UN human rights conventions, and to invite the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK as well as thematic Special Procedures to visit the country. Here as well as in other situations, without progress on human rights, there will be no progress on other matters of concern to the UN. 


The EU calls on China to uphold its national and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. The EU is concerned about the existence of so called political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, and restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang and against Christians across China. We urge China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The detentions and trials of human rights defenders and lawyers continue to be a source of grave concern. The EU expects China to ensure rule of law, establish fair trial guarantees and investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detentions, mistreatment and torture of human rights defenders and their families. The EU recalls that fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the 'one country, two systems' principle, are enshrined in the Basic Law and in international agreements and must continue to be upheld. The EU expresses concern regarding the use of the emergency regulation ordinance.


The international community should continue to follow closely the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urge for an immediate end to ongoing violence and violations, and to combat impunity, ensuring that those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights, many of which amount to the gravest crimes under international law, are held accountable. We welcome previous General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions regarding accountability and support the implementation of previous recommendations as well as those included in the final report of the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission. The EU calls on the international community to support the international investigative mechanism, which will play a crucial role in ensuring accountability for those responsible. Evidence suggesting the gravest crimes under international law should expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, including the ICC.


The EU condemns the violence and atrocities that continue to be perpetrated in Syria by all parties, in particular by the Syrian regime, and calls for immediate action to implement relevant UN resolutions. Systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights, some of which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, must end and those responsible must be held accountable, prosecuted and brought to justice. We continue to support the documentation of human rights violations and abuses and efforts to gather evidence in view of future legal action by the CoI and the IIIM, whose work continues to prepare the ground for holding to account those who have perpetrated grave crimes, including through the ICC and the action of national jurisdictions. The EU calls on all parties, in particular the Syrian regime, to ensure full, timely and unhindered countrywide access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to populations in need.


We express our concern regarding the continuing deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen. We call again upon all parties involved in the conflict to exercise maximum restraint and avoid acts which inflict further suffering to the population, especially children, including obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in need. Ensuring accountability for all violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law is an important part of the process to achieve a lasting settlement in the conflict. The EU therefore supports the ongoing work of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts and the National Commission of Inquiry and urges all parties to fully cooperate with them, including by giving the group access to Yemen.

In Venezuela, the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the country has confirmed the existence of serious human rights violations and abuses, including torture in detention centres, and the strong possibility of extra judicial killings. A growing number of Venezuelans are confronted by severe restrictions regarding access to adequate food, water, health and education, violating their economic, social and cultural rights. We urge Venezuela competent bodies to allow the OHCHR to maintain a sustainable presence in the country and to grant human rights mechanisms, including the fact finding mission established by the 42nd Human Rights Council unfettered access to its territory, in accordance with its international commitments. We call on all Venezuelan stakeholders to return to meaningful negotiations aiming at a peaceful solution by means of democratic meaningful presidential elections.


In Burundi serious human rights violations and abuses continue to be perpetrated in a climate of widespread impunity, some of these violations and abuses may constitute crimes against humanity. The recent report by the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi also denounces the aggravating economic and political crisis and a deepening repression of civil and political rights. The EU calls upon Burundi to re-establish full cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Commission of Inquiry by, inter alia, granting unhindered access to the country, as well as to create the necessary conditions for the ICC prosecutor to conduct the ongoing investigation. The EU also regrets the withdrawal of Burundi from the Rome Statute.


In Cambodia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Vietnam as well as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, illegally annexed by the Russian Federation, the EU continues to view with serious concern restrictions on freedom of expression, threats and attacks, arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, media workers and human rights lawyers, and unwarranted charges against them.


The EU recognises Egypt's key role for regional security and efforts to counter terrorism and recalls the need to tackle it in full respect of international human rights law. The EU recalls the importance of the respect of freedom of expression and association.


We call upon Israel to uphold international humanitarian law and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, where special attention should be given to children, women, older persons and other vulnerable groups.


We call on the government of Cambodia to ensure the proper functioning of democratic institutions, uphold respect for the rule of law and human rights, in particular guarantee freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly and association, as well as the independence of the judiciary.


In Nicaragua we want to express our concern about serious human rights violations, committed since mid-April 2018, in the context of the protests, and documented by the report of the UNHCHR. We call on the government to put an end to arbitrary arrests and urgently resume a meaningful and results oriented dialogue with the opposition in line with its human rights obligations.


In the Philippines we encourage authorities to genuinely address harassment and killings of human rights defenders and lawyers, journalists and other media workers, and religious leaders. We call upon the government of the Philippines to duly investigate all cases of death associated with the campaign against illegal drugs and to cooperate on this issue with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights and the Human Rights Council mechanisms.


The EU opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and considers that the death penalty is inhumane and unnecessary, and undermines human dignity. The EU calls on the few States that still use the death penalty, to immediately end mass executions, executions broadcast on television, death sentences based on forced confessions, and military trials of civilians, to not apply the death penalty for offences committed by those under 18 years of age or in violation of other minimum standards and to consider adopting a moratorium on all executions with a view to the complete abolition of the death penalty.




Ever since its adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly has been a crucial voice in support and defence of human rights worldwide. It should continue to be. Achieving improvements requires tireless efforts in upholding international law, and supporting the UN Human Rights System, as well as honestly and candidly recognising one's own shortcomings, as respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights is the shared responsibility of every member of this Assembly. The EU will continue to support the UN in its crucial role for the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide. In the same vein, we remain committed to engage with partners around the world in promoting and protecting the human rights of all individuals.



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

Editorial Sections: