Thank you, Mr. President,
I have honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The following countries align themselves with this statement:
The candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the EFTA Country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia.
First of all, we would like to thank Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen for submitting the Human Rights Councils fourth annual report. We would also like to thank Ambassador Martin Iheoghian Uhomoibhi, the former President of the Human Rights Council, who was in office during the period covered in the report.
When this Assembly in 2006 decided to establish the Human Rights Council, it was a decision aimed at strengthening the ability of the UN to ensure that all persons would be able to enjoy all human rights. We also decided that the Council should address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and respond promptly to human rights emergencies. We all know that peace, security, development and human rights complement each other, and are mutually reinforcing. It is through their joint promotion that we will strengthen our collective well-being.
The principles of universality, impartiality, and objectivity must guide the work of the Council, and direct us at this Assembly as we consider its report.
It is the view of the European Union that the Plenary of the General Assembly is the appropriate place to consider the report of the Human Rights Council, which in GA resolution 60/251 was established as a subsidiary organ of this Assembly.
The members of the Human Rights Council have an important responsibility to fulfil the promise of the Council as the main UN body for the protection and promotion of human rights. It is important that States who pursue membership of the Human Rights Council formulate concrete, credible and measurable pledges to promote and protect human rights at the national and international levels. In this regard, we encourage States to consider the Suggested Elements for Voluntary Pledges and Commitments by Candidates for Election to the Human Rights Council, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Some important progress has been made since the establishment of the Council. For instance, by the end of 2009, half of the UN Member States will have been through their first Universal periodic review. We express our appreciation to the majority of states that have engaged constructively in the process of Universal Periodic review. We hope that those States that have instead tried to hamper the process in order to avoid criticism will engage more openly next time round.
The EU encourages all Governments to take advantage of the opportunity the Universal Periodic review provides for States from all regions to do better, by means of dialogue and cooperation.
The EU hopes that the experience from previous sessions will help improve the future ones, and hopes that all States under review will cooperate with the Council in good-faith and with all necessary rigour.
The Council has also continued to serve as a forum for dialogue on a wide range of thematic human rights issues and specific human rights situations. In line with its mandate, the Council has made recommendations with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights and it has contributed to the further development and understanding of international norms and standards in the field of human rights. The EU attaches great importance to the role of the Council as a forum for dialogue, in which every human rights issue can be raised. We encourage Member States to continue to consider the human rights situation on the ground and the needs of victims as the guiding criteria when determining the agenda of the Council.
The EU finds the ongoing monitoring and reporting role of the Council equally important. Through various mechanisms, the Council was informed of serious and ongoing human rights situations and thematic human rights issues. It has also allowed the Council to learn about new developments and possible best practices. It is only by objective monitoring and reporting to the Council that it can identify the needs of victims and the possible areas for assistance to States,
We wish to underline the importance of the cooperation of States to allow the Council to fulfil the mandate that we all together agreed upon and to live up to the expectations of people around the globe.
In this regard, the EU would like to thank civil society organizations for their important contribution to the work of the Council. We hope that their cooperation with the Council will continue and develop further.
Some situations of violations have been addressed in resolutions and Special Sessions including in Sudan and Burma/Myanmar. Regrettably, the Council has been prevented from addressing some other human rights emergencies. It is crucial for its credibility that the Council can live up to its promise of ensuring universality, objectivity and non-selectivity, in accordance with its mandate.
Four special sessions were held over the past year, one of which, the eighth special session, dealt with the Situation of human rights in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The EU still hopes that the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in DRC will be re-established. A number of issues need to be addressed, not least the widespread use of sexual violence against women and children, and the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the DRC. As we heard recently in Third Committee from the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, the possibility of other extremely serious human rights violations in the build up to the elections remains a real concern.
Many of the issues dealt with at special sessions remain of very serious concern, among them the promotion and protection of human rights in Sri Lanka, where the situation, in particular in the former conflict zone, remains critical.
We are convinced that country mandates are needed to keep the Council and other parts of the UN system informed of serious situations, and to contribute to obtaining tangible improvements on the ground. The seriousness of the human rights situation must be addressed also by country mandates and these mechanisms should enjoy the full support of all of us.
The primary objective of the Special Procedures of the Council is to promote expertise and best practices, and to make recommendations in order to ensure greater respect for human rights. All Member States of the EU have extended a standing invitation to the special procedures and we would call upon all UN members to do likewise. The EU finds it imperative to safeguard the role played by all Special Procedures mandate holders in monitoring, advising and publicly reporting on serious human rights situations and thematic issues. In this regard it is also crucial to safeguard the independence of the Special Rapporteurs and the other procedures so that they can carry out their respective mandates without undue interference and pressure from Member States.
We call upon the Council never to lower its guard concerning situations that deserve the full attention of the international community. The mandate of the Council is not to protect governments from scrutiny, but individuals from human rights violations. We do not accept an artificial divide between raising human rights violations in individual countries, and the provision of technical assistance to improve respect for human rights. The important role of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, and the Office of the High Commissioner in providing advice and capacity building and monitoring is a case in point.
We are now closer to the deadline for the General Assembly to review the status of the Council by 2011. In the course of next year, 2010, this Assembly is likely to start focusing on this review. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that only two years have elapsed since the institution building package for the Council was adopted. The ongoing work of the Council must not be interrupted. Moreover, we may seek the best ways to address many of the shortcomings of the Council during its continued work. The EU calls on all States to work together to fulfil the full promise and potential of the Human Rights Council to make a difference when it comes to protecting and promoting human rights.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.