European Union External Action

HRC 41 - EU Statement: Item 2 - General Debate on HC oral update

Geneva, 25/06/2019 - 14:38, UNIQUE ID: 190625_9
Statements on behalf of the EU

41st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 24 June – 12 July 2019 EU Statement: Item 2 - General Debate on HC oral update

Mr. President, 

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

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[1], Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.

The EU warmly welcomes High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and would like to thank her for her oral update to this Council. We continue to count on her strong leadership in the years to come.

We reiterate our full support and pledge our continued cooperation with the High Commissioner and her office, whose effective functioning, independence and integrity we will continue to defend. We wish to reiterate these principles which are indispensable for the legitimacy of the UN human rights architecture vis-à-vis States as well as people on the ground. We call on all States to fully collaborate with the OHCHR and its Special Procedures, including by ensuring that mandate holders have unhindered access to and contact with individuals and civil society. The EU attaches great value to the important role of all civil society actors, whose contributions are vital for the work of this Council and will ensure that their voices continue to be heard by creating a safe and enabling environment for all those who work for the defence of human rights. We firmly condemn all reprisals and lend our full support to the President and the Bureau to take all necessary measures to prevent them and ensure full accountability for such actions.

The European Union is highly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide and welcomes this opportunity to discuss human rights situations in various parts of the world that require the Council's attention. It is our common responsibility to remain alert and ensure a timely and adequate response to all human rights violations. We welcome and support the High Commissioner’s mandate to present reports to the HRC at her own initiative, and The EU takes note that a second report on Kashmir will be published soon.

The EU reaffirms the urgent need to put an end to the conflict in Yemen through an UN-mediated, inclusive political agreement.  We welcome the “Stockholm Agreement” and reiterate our strong support to the UN Special Envoy’s work. As the war enters its fifth year, the EU calls on the parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law. Civilians continue to suffer the consequences of violence. Protecting civilians, and children in particular, as well as civilian infrastructure, remains vital. Similarly, the EU will seek to promote accountability, including through its support to the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen. The EU calls on all conflict parties to continue engaging constructively with the GEE and urges them to ensure access for the GEE to the country to enable them to carry out their mandate and provide them with full access so that they can fully investigate all alleged violations and abuses. 

 EU remains gravely concerned about the worsening human rights situation in a context of degrading insecurity in Mali, in particular the continuous deadly attacks against the civilian population in the centre of the country and the escalation of violence and reprisals between communities. We call on the Malian authorities to ensure the swift and effective investigations of all attacks in order to bring perpetrators to justice and to prevent further violence in the country by ensuring reconciliation, justice and better governance over the management of local conflicts. Full compliance with international human rights standards by national authorities remains crucial. Any human rights violations only fuel the popular mistrust and frustration in the state.

The situation in the North and South west regions of Cameroon remains a concern, as violence, human rights violations and abuse continue to be reported, attributed to both armed separatist groups and security forces. The EU calls on all parties, as a matter of urgency, to engage in a credible and inclusive dialogue designed to address the underlying issues. In this regard, the EU welcomes the readiness of the Cameroonian government to enter into a dialogue with the protest movement, as recently expressed by Prime Minister Ngute. The EU calls on the Cameroonian government to implement concrete steps to start a thorough and transparent dialogue process. In Cameroon's Far North, renewed Boko Haram attacks have caused numerous civil and military casualties. The right to a fair trial also remains an issue, as a considerable number of political opponents and simple protesters are detained and await trial, including before military tribunals. The EU stands ready to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and preserve the stability and the territorial integrity of Cameroon.

The EU recognizes as a first positive step the recent pardons granted by President Azali in Comoros, and continues to advocate the opening of the government towards an inclusive dialogue with all political and civil society actors. The EU underlines its concern at the current human rights situation in the country and notes with concern that the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, had to suspend his official visit to Comoros. The EU reiterates its commitment to engage with the authorities but will continue to insist on the acceleration of reforms – including in the justice sector – and for the respect of commitments undertaken by Comoros in international agreements to which it is a party.

The situation in Benin is of concern. The EU calls for a thorough investigation into the use of firearms by the security forces. It welcomes the announced free and transparent dialogue between political forces that will be needed to relieve the tensions in the context of the last legislative elections. In this regard, the EU also calls for unrestricted freedom of expression, the press, information and assembly.

With reference to previous statements, human rights violations continue to be reported in Gabon. The EU reiterates its willingness to discuss these issues bilaterally in the framework of its Intensified Political Dialogue, which was unilaterally suspended by the Gabonese authorities in 2017.

The EU wants to draw the attention on the Human Rights situation in Equatorial Guinea. The EU is concerned about the lack of political space for the opposition parties, the illegalization of the only opposition party with parliamentary representation, the harassment on human rights defenders and cases of alleged torture and ill treatment of members of the opposition while being under police custody.

The EU also expresses alarm over the increasing number of attacks and killings of Human Rights Defenders over the past year in Guatemala. The EU reiterates its willingness to continue supporting Guatemalan institutions and the Guatemalan people in their ongoing fight against corruption and impunity. We call on the present and future government of Guatemala to uphold fundamental democratic principles, respect human rights and the independence of the country's constitutional court. 

In Colombia, the implementation of the peace process continues - in a complex and deeply polarized environment. Risks and challenges remain from a range of sources:  domestic politics, the illegal economies and associated violence and, more recently, the spill-over of the Venezuelan crisis. After an improvement in the wake of the Peace Agreement, there is an increase in violence with a proliferation of illegal armed groups fighting over the control of drugs and other illegal activities in the former FARC areas where the state has not managed to establish its presence. This has caused a worrying increase in the number of killings of human rights defenders and local leaders as well as in internal displacement.  We welcome the overall good cooperation on human rights incl. a constructive Human Rights Dialogue last April. We welcome the government commitments in addressing the intimidation and killings of human rights defenders and social leaders and encourage further decisive action and engagement also with civil society and look forward to positive results.

The EU reiterates its previous calls to the Cambodian government to take urgent action to restore a functioning democracy in the country. The EU expects to see significant improvements in the environment for political opposition, for media and for civil society. The respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, underpins the granting of EU trade preferences. We call on Cambodia to take immediate and credible measures to reopen the political space; to fully release opposition leader Kem Sokha; and to reinstate his political rights and those of the opposition members who have been banned from political activity, so that they can play a full part in the political life of the country.

The EU reiterates its previous calls to the Vietnamese government to guarantee freedom of expression both online and offline, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, and to release bloggers and human right defenders imprisoned for having peacefully expressed their views.  The EU continues to urge the authorities to create a more conducive, fair and open environment for civil society to actively contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive development of Vietnam.

In conclusion, we would like to once again thank the High Commissioner and the dedicated staff of her Office for the support provided to the Human Rights Council. We remain fully committed to supporting their valuable work and stand ready to work closely with the Council in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.

Thank you Mr. President.


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


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