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

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Report of the Human Rights Council

New York, 01/11/2019 - 19:15, UNIQUE ID: 191101_9
Statements on behalf of the EU

1 November 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 on Item 65: Report of the Human Rights Council

1 November 2019, New York - Amb. Silvio Gonzato addresses the UN General Assembly

 

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*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, align themselves with this statement.

 

Mr. President,

The European Union would like to warmly thank the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Coly Seck, for presenting the Council’s annual report to the UN General Assembly and for his able stewardship of the work of the Council in 2019.

 

Mr. President,

Two weeks ago the High Commissioner for Human Rights opened her statement to the 3rd Committee pointing out that: "Undeniably, we are facing rising challenges to multilateralism – and to many fundamental international human rights treaties, laws and values. We are witnessing an increase in xenophobia, hate speech, pushbacks on women’s equality and the rights of minorities, as well as restrictions on the civic space and widening inequalities in income, wealth, access to resources, and access to justice. The High Commissioner's point is emphasized by the fact that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. We should never forget that.  

 

Mr. President,

During this reporting cycle the HRC has adopted 88 resolutions, 42 UPR decisions and 2 Presidential Statements. These numbers reflect the importance that countries from all regions of the world attribute to its work.

 

The HRC plays an important role in contributing to face the challenges mentioned by the High Commissioner. During its High Level segment the Council held a mainstreaming panel on human rights in the light of multilateralism, highlighting the role that human rights have in strengthening multilateralism.

 

The HRC has an agenda item dedicated to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This year it gave a strong message by adopting the African Group led resolution dedicated to the issue without a vote for the first time in many years. Differences remain but an effort was made from all sides to find a compromise.

 

Many interventions this year related to the fight against incitement to hatred. The EU led another resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for a period of three 3 years. In collaboration with the Government of Denmark, we have also organised an Istanbul Process stock taking meeting in Geneva, and the Government of the Netherlands is hosting the 7th meeting of this process in just over two weeks’ time. This is an important opportunity to collectively address intolerance, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief. It will also keep the Rabat Action Plan high on the international agenda.

 

In terms of fighting the "pushback on gender equality" we welcome the work done by the HRC with the adoption of several strong resolutions that address women's and girls' full enjoyment of their human rights and gender equality from combating violence against women and girls, to fight child, early and forced marriages, combating discrimination against women and striving for equal pay.

 

In terms of fighting for the rights of persons belonging to different vulnerable groups we would like to mention the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, resolutions on indigenous peoples, and of the human rights of migrants .

 

The HRC has integrated different dimension of agenda 2030 in its work, thus contributing to fighting widening inequalities in income, wealth, and access to resources.

 

Mr. President,

Real progress was achieved this year in relation to civil society participation, a key priority for the EU. In March, the European Union was proud to support the Norwegian-led resolution           on "Recognizing the contribution of environmental human rights defenders to the enjoyment of human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development” on environmental human rights defenders. Consensus on this critically important issue was a significant step forward for the HRC, and augurs well we hope, for the renewal of this vital mandate in 2020. More recently at the September session, the Human Rights Council emphatically endorsed a resolution on reprisals, an initiative that was strongly supported by the EU’s member states. Acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who have cooperated, cooperate or seek to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms simply cannot be tolerated. It is timely that this resolution invited the General Assembly to remain seized on developments on this issue. Both in Geneva and New York, we must ensure that we are vocal in condemning these acts, and, in this regard the EU commends the leadership that you have shown Mr President, in using your good office to highlight the important work undertaken by the HRC Bureau on these issues.

 

The EU is fully committed to the need for better prevention of human rights abuses by businesses and improved access to remedy for victims inside the EU and beyond. In the EU, existing legislation can enable the victims of corporate human rights abuses to find adequate access to remedy.  The EU is committed to building on a solid body of legislation and policies and underlines that the added value of any possible legally binding instrument should be to enhance the protection of and respect for human rights as well as to ensure a level playing field for companies globally.  Any instrument needs to be fit for purpose and to be able to be effectively implemented and enforced. It is also important for it to enjoy strong cross-regional support from both developing and developed countries. We wish to reiterate that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide the authoritative framework for immediate practical action around the world and policy coherence for Governments on this important and pressing agenda of protecting human rights in the business sphere; and that we recognise that the UNGPs are widely supported in this context.  The EU will continue working with all States and stakeholders to make genuine progress on the Business and Human Rights agenda.

In line with our long-standing and principled opposition to capital punishment, during HRC42 the EU supported a resolution focusing on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of the death penalty. This resolution reaffirms that States Party to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights are barred from reintroducing the death penalty and condemns its resumption in all cases. While abolition should be the ultimate goal, this resolution emphasises that, when the death penalty is still applied, which is regrettable, it must be strictly limited to the most serious crimes in conformity, with international human rights law.

 

In the context of human rights and terrorism the European Union supports the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council but would have wished to see a stronger emphasis on the importance that states respect international law including the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings when adopting and applying counter-terrorism measures. The EU also remains concerned about the integrity of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Protecting the mandate will remain a central priority for the EU.

 

Mr. President,

On 17th October, the General Assembly elected 14 new members of the Council. We welcome in particular the more diverse membership of the HRC and encourage countries that have never been members to consider their candidatures. 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 give due importance to the human rights situation in their own countries and to fully 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, but we particularly expect from the newly elected members that they engage in the work of the Human Rights Council in a spirit of self-reflection with a view to improvement of their own human rights situation, and to address all human rights concerns that come before the Council on their merits. In this regard, we remind Venezuela, Libya, Sudan, DRC, Eritrea, Somalia and the Philippines of their particular obligation of cooperation as members of the Council.

 

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 have not done so to extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures.

 

Mr. President,

 

Accountability for human rights violations and abuses lays at the core of the HRC work in Myanmar, Burundi, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.

 

On Myanmar, the EU welcomes the work of the UN Fact Finding Mission, which shone a light on the grave human rights violation in the country.  The EU is also pleased that the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which was established by the Human Rights Council last year and welcomed by the General Assembly, has been declared operational by the UN Secretary-General as of 30 August 2019 and has started its important work. We call on the Government of Myanmar to grant access to the Mechanism, to cooperate with it and to ensure that full accountability for violations and abuses of human rights can be achieved. The EU is pleased that we have continued the close and constructive cooperation with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and again presented a joint resolution on behalf of the OIC and the EU during the 42nd session of the HRC.

 

The European Union welcomes the extension of the mandate and the work of the Commission of Inquiry as the human rights situation in Burundi remains extremely serious. For the third consecutive year, the Commission has documented crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations and abuses.  In accordance with the principles of early warning and prevention, the Commission has also identified several risk factors in the current environment. The situation needs to be followed with the greatest vigilance. The EU regrets that the Government of Burundi failed to cooperate with the Commission and condemns the threats and intimidations against its members. We encourage the Burundi authorities to resume cooperation with the Commission and all relevant human rights mechanisms, including the OHCHR.

 

The EU welcomes the extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur on situation of human rights in Belarus. This year we have tried a cooperative approach with Belarus to get the country concerned on board and commit to cooperation. While we negotiated constructively and in a good faith, the Government unfortunately decided against the cooperative approach and therefore we again had to present the resolution requesting the extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur, which is especially important in the light of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Belarus.

 

We expressed profound concern with the situation in Yemen. The Human Rights Council was offered ample and compelling evidence by the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all parties to the conflict. Such violations and abuses - which persist despite the relative decrease of fighting since a few weeks - need to be properly documented and investigated. The EU therefore supported the resolution that renewed the mandate of the Group of Experts and calls on all States to fully cooperate with the GEE.

 

The EU remains gravely concerned by the human rights situation in Syria. We welcome the announcement made by the UN Secretary General on an agreement to form a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee. The EU praises the UN Special Envoy for facilitating the agreement in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254. We have offered our full support to the establishment of a genuine political process, which must be accompanied by meaningful progress on the ground. The EU calls on all parties to support this process, and refrain from actions that risk undermining, return urgently to the previously agreed ceasefire and to protect civilians. The EU will keep the human rights situation in Syria under continued scrutiny, including in the HRC. We underscore therefore our continued support for the important work carried out by the Commission of Inquiry and the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism. We also note the important role the International Criminal Court could play in this regard, and the authority of the Security Council to refer such situations to the Court.

 

The report of the High Commissioner confirmed the seriousness of the human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela that are taking place in impunity. The EU calls on the Venezuelan competent bodies to fully implement the totality of its recommendations and to cooperate with the OHCHR, the HRC and its mechanism including the recently established Fact Finding Mission.

 

We welcome the continued support that has been rendered to Georgia and Ukraine. The EU remains deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed against persons living in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the government of Ukraine, and in illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation. The work of Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and HC's regular updates to the HRC are very important platform were we can receive impartial information and updates directly from the ground and to keep the issue high on HRC's agenda. We stress that all international human rights observers and monitoring mechanisms should be granted full, free and unrestricted access to the entire sovereign territory of Ukraine. We also welcome the HC's regular oral and written updates on Georgia under item 10, and urge those exercising effective control to grant unimpeded access for the OHCHR and other international human rights mechanisms to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

 

In Sudan, the European Union welcomes the extension of the mandate of the Independent Expert and the Sudanese Government’s commitment to establish a fully-mandated OHCHR country-office in Khartoum and field offices in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and East Sudan. These two mechanisms will support Sudan in addressing its human rights situation and, therefore, make progress towards a more stable, democratic, and prosperous country. The EU is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders with the objective of supporting Sudan to make this progress firmly in mind.  

 

Through Joint Statements the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon have been addressed by the HRC.

 

During the past year the Human Rights Council has also demonstrated its commitment to provide technical assistance and capacity building to promote human rights to the governments of DRC, Libya, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Cambodia. We welcome the adoption of a resolution initiated by a group of countries in the region requesting OHCHR monitoring over the human rights situation in Nicaragua. We trust that the HRC will continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building can make a difference and take action where necessary. The European Union calls for unfettered access by international human rights monitoring mechanism to be granted to all territories.

 

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 the extension of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

 

Mr. President,

 

To be able to deliver the HRC must continue to work on its own efficiency always looking at its impact on the ground. We hope that the efforts by the current President will build on his predecessors' work and we wish him success. HRC members and observers are now more conscientious of the need to better use the Council's toolbox. For the European Union, it is crucial to further improve synergies between the HRC and the Third Committee, while at the same time ensuring that the mandate, the independence and the work of the HRC is respected. Moreover, we welcome consistency between the work of the HRC and the ACABQ and the 5th Committee with a view of ensuring that the activities mandated by the Human Rights Council are appropriately funded and can be duly implemented.

 

The Human Rights Council, including its system of Special Procedures, the establishment of accountability mechanisms, the Universal Periodic Review and all other mechanisms of the HRC has 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 fulfil their international obligations.

 

For the HRC to increase its preventive role, the broader use of the HRC’s mechanisms should applied, including by transferring reports and other materials to the Security Council when relevant. During the current year, the HRC has invited the General Assembly to do so in the cases of Syria, Myanmar, Burundi and Yemen.

 

The European Union will continue to do its part in engaging with the mechanism of the HRC and all stakeholders working to promote and protect human rights, including by presenting resolutions on the rights of the child, together with GRULAC and on Freedom of religion or belief as well as on different country situations.

 

I thank you.

 

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

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