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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of
the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
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, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein align themselves with this statement.
The EU strongly supports the UN Human Rights system, High Commissioner Bachelet and her Office, and their efforts aiming at better respect, protection, and fulfilment of human rights worldwide. The second Geneva event of the cross-regional “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative is a good demonstration of what is possible in this field.
In the context of our event today, we would like to refer to our statements during the respective interactive dialogues with regard to the situations in Eritrea and the occupied Palestinian territory.
The people of Iraq have over the past months exercised their human right to assemble and voice their legitimate concerns. These rights must be respected. The EU is urging the Iraqi Government to protect peaceful demonstrators, do its utmost to stop the use of excessive force, including lethal force, against protestors and put an end to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, abductions and killings of civil rights activists, journalists and human rights defenders by what is often described as "unknown third parties". All violations must be investigated. Accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims is critical for building trust within the Iraqi society. Freedom of expression is a human right guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution and needs to be respected. Civil society organisations must be able to operate independently Journalists must be enabled to do their work freely and the access to the internet needs to be unhindered. Addressing socio-economic reforms requires immediate attention.
In 2019, Yemen continued to be deemed by the UN as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, a situation which is a direct result of the ongoing conflict. Together with the aggravated socioeconomic vulnerability, violations of international humanitarian law and human right violations against civilians are manifold. Women and girls continue to face discrimination and gender-based violence. All parties to the conflict have been reported to have used child soldiers under 18. Abuse of east African migrants transiting through Yemen is widespread and frequently includes torture, rape and forced recruitment. Overall, the use of torture, arbitrary detention and the death penalty, especially when applied to minors and to persecuted religious minorities, must come to an end. The EU has stepped up its advocacy for human rights in Yemen on multiple occasions, while also supporting projects that aim to reconcile Yemenis in an inclusive and sustainable path to a long deserved peace.
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.
The EU reiterates its call on the Cambodian authorities to take immediate action to re-open the political space in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for a credible, democratic opposition, as well as to lift all restrictions on the space for civil society and media. We also urge the Cambodian authorities to reinstate the political rights of all opposition members banned from political life and to release without conditions all opposition members and activists detained on political grounds.
On Venezuela we remain seriously concerned about the human rights situation in the country. While we note the access granted to some places of detention we call on the authorities to follow on their commitments including to receive 10 Special Procedures mandate holders and to establish a permanent presence of the OHCHR with unfettered access to all regions and detention centers. We will revert to Venezuela in our statement under Item 4.
In Nicaragua the overall situation of human rights and democratic governance remains highly concerning. Positive steps in the release of some political prisoners have not been accompanied by the implementation of the totality of the March 2019 agreements, notably on the reestablishment of civil and political rights. The continued refusal to resume the dialogue with the opposition conveys a negative signal on the willingness of the government to work towards a peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis. The EU urgently calls upon the government of Nicaragua and all parties to constructively re-engage in a meaningful, results-oriented and comprehensive national dialogue, including on the adoption of electoral reforms according to international standards as an essential step to restore trust in public institutions.
The EU acknowledges that important progress has been made in advancing respect for human rights in Sri Lanka since 2015. The EU calls on the government of Sri Lanka to maintain a sustainable and durable reconciliation process, including by ensuring the continued work of the Office for Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations, by replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and through confidence-building measures. We are concerned that the government of Sri Lanka no longer supports the framework of Resolution 30/1 to address the legacy of the past conflict and to foster accountability, reconciliation and human rights with the support of the Council. In view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the EU recommends that the government of Sri Lanka puts in place an action plan to affirm its commitment to reconciliation, the rule of law (also with a view to ending impunity for war crimes), the protection of civil society, independent media and human rights. The EU encourages the government of Sri Lanka to remain engaged with the UN and international partners, and the EU will continue to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to further strengthen the dialogue on governance, rule of law, devolution and human rights. Regarding the death penalty, the EU encourages Sri Lanka to maintain the moratorium, with a view towards complete abolition.
The EU expresses its serious concern over the continuing crisis in Cameroon's North-West and South-West regions, where a shocking violent incident took place in a village in the North-West of Cameroon on 14 February, leading to the death of many civilians, including children. Violence against civilians is unacceptable. We call upon the government to ensure that the announced investigation is conducted in an independent and impartial manner and that those responsible are held accountable for their actions. A political approach through dialogue remains the only way to find a sustainable solution to the crisis.
The decision of the government of Honduras not to renew the mandate of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) is regrettable and a step in the wrong direction. This decision sends a negative message which hampers on-going efforts in the fight against corruption and impunity in the country. We call upon the government of Honduras to continue anti-corruption efforts, including through legislative reform and the reorganisation of the penal justice system. The EU is also concerned about the high number of attacks on Human Rights Defenders in the last year and calls the government of Honduras to continue improving the efficiency of the National Mechanism of Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the country.
The EU also expresses concern over the high number of attacks and killings of Human Rights Defenders over the past year in Guatemala and the serious increase in legal acts criminalising Human Rights Defenders. 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 new government of Guatemala to uphold democratic principles, respect human rights and the Rule of Law.
We acknowledge the progress in the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia that has saved thousands of lives. However we remain especially concerned with the frequent violence, including killings, against human rights defenders, in particular those advocating on behalf of rural, community-based and specific ethnic groups, such as indigenous and Afro-Colombians, and the increase by 50% of the killings of women human rights defenders, as well as the killing of former FARC-EP combatants. We encourage the Government to take further action in order to protect more effectively the population at risk, bring perpetrators to justice and to establish presence of state institutions in the conflict- affected areas. Gender-based violence and grave violations against children are a matter of great concern.
Notwithstanding generous efforts made by the Colombian authorities and population in the integration of Venezuelan migrants, additional attention should be paid to countering human rights abuses against migrants in situation of vulnerability. We welcome the overall good cooperation on human rights including a constructive EU-Colombia Human Rights Dialogue last April.
[*] The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.