European Union Election Observation Mission
Ghana, 2016

HRC45 - Item 4 - Human Rights situations that require the Council's attention - EU Statement

Geneva, 25/09/2020 - 13:58, UNIQUE ID: 200925_9
Statements on behalf of the EU

Statement by H.E. Mr. Michael Freiherr von UNGERN-STERNBERG Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany, on behalf of the European Union

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Madame President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The European Union welcomes this opportunity to discuss human rights situations that require the Council's attention.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.

With regard to the situations in Myanmar, South-Sudan, Syria, and Burundi, we would like to refer to our statements during the respective interactive dialogues.

The EU is seriously concerned about the worrying human rights situation in Belarus in the aftermath of the presidential elections in the country. The 9 August elections were neither free nor fair, therefore we do not recognise the results. The EU condemns the disproportionate and unacceptable violence displayed by the state authorities against peaceful protesters. Violence must be avoided and all those unlawfully detained must be immediately and unconditionally released. Civil society and opposition actors engaged in discussions of political transition must be protected from arbitrary arrests and violence. The EU expects a complete and transparent investigation into all alleged abuses. We call on the government of Belarus to fully cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, including by allowing her access to visit the country.  

The EU is seriously concerned about the worrying human rights situation in Russia. The poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny with a chemical nerve agent raises serious questions that Russia has to answer. The EU condemns in the strongest terms this assassination attempt and calls on Russia to bring those responsible for the poisoning to justice. The recent sentencing of Yuri Dmitriev is the latest manifestation of the pressures on independent civil society, human rights defenders and independent political voices, as well as the restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU calls on Russia to live up to its international human rights commitments. We continue to call on Russia to protect the rights of persons belonging to minorities and persons in vulnerable situations including by ensuring accountability for the reported cases of persecution. Freedoms of expression, association, assembly, media, religion or belief, as well as the rights of persons belonging to minorities and persons in vulnerable situations, including Jehovah’s witnesses are routinely breached. The EU calls on the Russian Federation to thoroughly investigate the persecution of LGBTI persons, including in Chechnya and calls for effective investigations into the persistent reports of grave human rights violations and abuses. The 'Foreign agents' and 'Undesirable organizations' legislation have set serious limits on the ability of non-governmental organisations to operate in Russia, and have curbed freedom of expression in Russia. Recent amendments adopted to Russia´s constitution raise concerns about further restrictions and Russia´s willingness to abide by its international commitments. The constitutional changes must not be used to justify possible non-implementation of Russia´s international law commitments, specifically of its obligations to implement binding decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.  We reiterate our concerns at the deteriorating human rights situation in the illegally annexed autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and the continuing persecution of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities including Crimean Tatars as depicted by the June interim report of the UN SG. 

On China, the EU continues to be gravely concerned about the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, and systemic restrictions on freedom of religion or belief against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Extensively researched reports alleging forced labour, and forced sterilisation and forced birth control in Xinjiang add to the gravity and magnitude of these concerns. The EU calls for an independent, objective, impartial and transparent assessment of the issues of concern already identified by the UN Special Procedures mandate holders in November 2019 and by a large group of UN independent experts in June 2020. We reiterate our call on China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We also reiterate our call on China to uphold its national and international obligations, and to respect human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. The EU urges China to ensure the rule of law, establish fair trial guarantees and to investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture and harassment of human rights defenders and their families. We are gravely concerned about the detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals, including Yu Wensheng, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi, Tashi Wangchuk, Tiyip Tashpolat, Li Yuhan, Wu Gan, Ge Jueping, Liu Feiyue, Wang Yi, Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, Wuge Jianxiong, Ding Jiaxi, Xu Zhiyong, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, Guo Quan and Chen Jianfang. We call for their immediate release, as well as for the immediate release of EU citizen Gui Minhai. His rights, including inter alia to consular access and due process, have not been respected.  We are concerned about growing restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and about intimidation and surveillance of journalists. The EU considers the national security legislation for Hong Kong adopted by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress on 30 June to be a matter of grave concern. The EU is particularly concerned about the extensive erosion of rights and freedoms that were supposed to remain protected until at least 2047; about the lack of safeguards and clarity in the law; and about its extraterritorial provisions. The announced postponement of the elections to the legislative council call into question the exercise of the democratic rights and freedoms guaranteed under Hong Kong’s basic law while the recent disqualification of pro-democracy candidates also weakens Hong-Kong international reputation as a free and open society. The EU calls on the Hong Kong authorities to reconsider these decisions.

Following the adoption by the Council of a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines, the EU encourages the Philippines, to cooperate closely with the OHCHR as it pledged when joining the Council. We reiterate our concern by the death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs in the country and call for effective, impartial and transparent investigations of all cases of death. We also encourage the authorities to investigate reports of harassment and killings of human rights defenders and lawyers, journalists and other media workers, and religious leaders. The EU also calls the attention of the government to refrain from reinstating the death penalty which would constitute a human rights violation, including of the ICCPR's Second Optional Protocol. The EU urges the government to deepen its cooperation with the High Commissioner and implement the recommendations outlined in the report released by the OHCHR in June.

The violence and loss of human lives in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel remain of deep concern for the EU. The Palestinian population continues to face repeated human rights violations and abuses. The EU recalls the importance of unhindered work of civil society organisations, both in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory. The worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in the Gaza Strip remains of grave concern and the EU calls for an end to the closure, full opening of the crossing points, and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors. The EU firmly condemns increased rockets, incendiary balloons and other attacks from the Gaza strip targeting civilians, as well as terrorist attacks, and any other form of violence, including a continued upward trend of settler related incidents, and incitement on all sides.  While recalling Israel's right to defend its legitimate security interests, the EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations under International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), not least in these difficult times of the coronavirus pandemic, and including with regards to Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. The EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel's settlement policy, which is illegal under international law, and actions taken in this context such as demolitions and confiscations, including of humanitarian structures and EU funded projects, evictions and forced transfers. The EU calls on Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, including East Jerusalem, especially in sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1, which severely threatens the two state solution. The EU welcomes the announcement on the normalisation of the relations between the state of Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain. Israel’s commitment to suspend plans to unilaterally annex areas of the occupied Palestinian territory is a positive step. Any unilateral decision that undermines a lasting, agreed solution should be avoided. The EU reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law.

The EU recognizes Egypt's key role for regional security, stability and migration and recalls the need to counter terrorism in full respect of international human rights law. We reiterate our call on Egypt to release all human rights defenders including Mohammed El-Baqer, Amr Imam, Patrick George Zaki, Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, Esraa Abdel Fattah, and Ibrahim Ezz El-Din. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, we call for particular leniency towards those with health conditions. The EU recalls the importance of the respect of online and offline freedom of expression, media, peaceful assembly and association and the need to stop unduly restricting space for civil society, human rights defenders and dissenting voices, including through assets freezes, travel bans and long periods of pre-trial detention, as well as any acts of intimidation or reprisals. The recent arrests and court sentences against young women active on social media is a cause for concern. The EU notes the recent approval by the Egyptian parliament of a new law that protects the identities of victims in sexual harassment or assault. It is also crucial that the positive step of adopting the 2019 NGO law, is urgently implemented in a way that guarantees civil society to work freely and ensures full respect for rights and freedoms stipulated in Egypt's constitution and under international law. The EU reiterates its call on Egypt to address all alleged cases of enforced disappearance and to shed light on the circumstances of the death of Giulio Regeni and Eric Lang and bring about justice. The EU reiterates its calls on Egypt to immediately suspend the issuance and implementation of the death penalty and address the issue of military trials of civilians, as well as the issue of mass trials.

The EU remains very concerned about the human rights situation in Libya in the face of the many egregious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We continue supporting UN efforts to address this and welcome the establishment of a mechanism to investigate human rights abuses in Libya. We urge all sides to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in particular ensuring the protection of civilians and safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. The EU remains gravely concerned by the worrying human rights situation, including but not limited to the situation of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, access to social and health services, access to justice, conditions of detention, the situation of women and youth, civil society organisations, and stresses the need to protect human rights defenders and journalists. The EU calls upon all actors to end widespread impunity for human rights violations and abuses and to fully cooperate with the international criminal court, including on the outstanding arrest warrants.

In Venezuela, the EU condemns continued erosion of democratic principles and institutions and urges the Venezuelan authorities to ensure inclusive, free, fair and credible elections. The EU condemns ongoing harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of democratically elected members of the national assembly. Persistent  human rights violations,  including arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings by the security forces as well as shrinking space for civil society, lack of independence of judiciary and the serious abuse and exploitation of children and indigenous peoples by criminal groups in the mining areas, as reported by the OHCHR is of deep concern. The violations of economic, social and cultural rights, including severe limitations regarding access to adequate food, water, health and education are also of great concern. The EU urges all national actors to work towards peaceful restoration of democracy and respect for human rights.

The uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 is compounding an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen, where conflict continues unabatedly, famine is again on the horizon, the economy has been devastated and an environmental disaster is looming. It is fundamental that all parties to the conflict answer the UN Secretary-General's call on those fighting to end hostilities. The EU urges again all parties involved in the conflict to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from acts which inflict further suffering on the population, including violations of international humanitarian law such as obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in need. The EU believes in the need to ensure accountability for all violations, including the alarming increase of attacks against journalists, and therefore supports, in light of its significance, 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. Also for this, the EU will seek to ensure a renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts and will continue supporting the UN-led efforts to resume peace talks including the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and achieve sustainable peace in the country.

The EU remains concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey, including freedom of expression, violence against women and girls, arrests of and charges against human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges, academics, members of parliament and democratically elected mayors. As an EU candidate country and long-standing member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is expected to apply the highest democratic standards and practices. The EU reiterates its call on Turkey to protect the rule of law, judicial independence, due process, the right to a fair trial, and human rights and fundamental freedoms, including property rights of persons belonging to minorities and of minorities’ legal entities and universal access to cultural life in accordance with Turkey's international commitments.

 

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