Throughout the Council session, the EU reiterated its long-standing position that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inter-related. "Another silver thread that runs through our work at the Council concerns the EU's strong support for the work of human rights defenders," added Ambassador Peter Sørensen, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva. "In this year, when we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, we are gravely concerned by the increasing pressure in all regions against them. We will continue to staunchly defend civil society organisations fighting for human rights and individual human rights defenders," he said. The EU will also continue to oppose and condemn intimidation, harassment and reprisals against individuals and groups cooperating with the UN.
During this session, the EU spearheaded four resolutions, underlining the EU's strong commitment to remain very active in, and supportive of, UN human rights fora. The EU led a resolution, together with Japan, to address the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The resolution is based on a strong and clear text reflecting the dire situation on the ground and extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Grave and systematic violations of human rights committed in North Korea continue to take place and the EU will continue to exert and advocate for international pressure so as to bring about concrete improvements of the human rights situation. The resolution also welcomes the positive developments as regards the inter-Korean dialogue and relations, facilitated in part by the DPRK’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics.
The EU has also presented a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar, which received strong cross-regional support with over 100 countries co-sponsoring the text, including all Member States of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). It expresses the Council’s strong condemnation of the reported widespread, systematic, gross human rights violations and abuses that have taken place in Rakhine state, Myanmar, since 25 August 2017 and the need to ensure that those responsible for these violations are held to account. It renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as well as provides additional resources for the Independent International Fact Finding Mission (FFM) to allow the essential compilation of all evidence of human rights violations. While the Government of Myanmar has advanced democracy, peace and national reconciliation, the decision to cease cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and to refuse the FFM access to the country is a particularly negative development and should be reconsidered.
The EU, together with partners from all over the world, continued to build on its initiative on freedom of religion or belief, working closely with the Organisation of Islamic Countries. The EU-led resolution at the Human Rights Council emphasises the role and responsibility of States to protect, promote and respect the right to freedom of religion or belief and puts a focus on the importance to implement States' commitments previously undertaken at UN human rights fora.
When crises strike, children are the first to suffer. War, terror, violence, displacement: all crises expose boys and girls to trauma and unspeakable physical and psychological suffering. This is why the EU, jointly with the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), presented a resolution on the rights of the child, focusing on the protection of children in the context of humanitarian situations.
The conflict in Syria continues to be a key priority for the EU. At this HRC session we advocated for the Council to continue to focus on the human rights situation there: to fight impunity and ensure accountability for all, to allow access for the Commission of Inquiry, ensure unhindered humanitarian access, call for the release of detainees, and to demand the full application of humanitarian law by all sides.
The EU also engaged actively on a number of African files, notably in interactive dialogues on the situations in Burundi, the DRC, Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and South Sudan, and supported an African Group resolution to celebrate later this year the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela.
To underline its priorities, the EU organised and co-sponsored several public debates in the margins of the Council. These included an event on the relationship of religion and state on 5 March, and a debate on the impact of media on freedom of religion or belief on 6 March 2018. We also co-sponsored several events on the rights of the child, including an event on surrogacy and the sale of children and a debate on promoting quality alternative care for children in humanitarian situations.
In line with our strong support for the work of Human Rights Defenders, we co-sponsored a thematic evening 'Defending the Defenders' of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH).
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU launched in Geneva and around the world an awareness raising campaign, highlighting and explaining the 30 articles of the Declaration. More information can be found here.
The EU was represented at the high-level segment of the Council by EU Special Representative on Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, who delivered a statement on behalf of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. He also spoke on 28 February at a high-level side event on the death penalty, underlining the EU's strong and principled position to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. Jan Figel, the European Commission's Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, also attended the Council and participated in various debates. Furthermore, a delegation of Members of the European Parliament led by Andrzej Grzyb attended the Council.