Madam High Commissioner,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.
The European Union welcomes your informative reports on the human rights situation in the countries in which your Office operates on a national basis. We reiterate our continued support for your local activities and work, which we find to be of great importance.
We note that the report on Liberia mentions some progress made, including the establishment of a national human rights commission. Much remains to be done, however, especially with regard to the justice sector and sexual and gender-based violence. Efforts should continue to see the NHRC become fully operational. The EU would like to underline the urgency in highlighting respect for the human rights of women and children. We thank the High Commissioner for her very useful recommendations included in the report and hope for an early implementation of these by the Government of Liberia. The EU believes that continued reporting by you would be valuable.
It is with apprehension that we take note of the reported disturbing trends in Burundi; not only of severe restrictions of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, but also of prevalent impunity due to a dysfunctional justice sector. We call upon the Burundian Government to implement the many positive initiatives it has put forward to address human rights violations, social insecurity, and impunity, in particular a national human rights commission and transitional justice mechanisms. We want to take this opportunity to thank the Independent Expert for his efforts at promoting Human rights together with the GoB. It is of course unfortunate that the IE does not report on his useful cooperation with the Government to this Council.
The EU notes with appreciation the dialogue established between the Government of Cambodia and the OHCHR’s country office in Cambodia. The long experience of OHCHR in the country makes the office well placed to support and assist the Cambodian government in the strive towards fulfilment of its obligations under international human rights treaties. To this effect, we hope that a new cooperation agreement will be signed at an earliest convenience. As to the human rights situation, we would like to encourage the Government of Cambodia to strengthen the rule of law and also to ensure the independence of its judiciary and courts.
The Council has come a long way in integrating human rights of women throughout its work. More can be done however in terms of cooperation and coordination within the United Nation system. And to be able to fully enjoy their human rights, women must be seen as rights-holders and not as a vulnerable group in need of protection, assistance and care. The EU looks forward to study the report on integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system.
The EU is of the strong view that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. Therefore, we welcome the report of the Secretary-General and take note of some positive developments made, such as the abolition of the death penalty in Burundi and Togo, as well as in the US State of New Mexico. It is with concern we note the Secretary-Generals comment, that analysis of the application of the death penalty remains difficult because of the lack of transparency by States in providing information on the use of the death penalty.
The EU thank you and your Office for your efforts in the field of transitional justice, Madam High Commissioner. We join the OHCHR in highlighting the need to hold perpetrators responsible in order to establish the rule of law, end the culture of impunity, and safeguard human rights, which will contribute to lasting peace and reconciliation. In this light, we support and encourage the ongoing discussions on the possible establishment of transitional justice mechanisms in both Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We welcome the report on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism. An essential aspect you bring forward in this report is that counter-terrorism measures in some cases have lead to the criminalization of legitimate social protests and national movements for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The EU reiterates that the right to assembly and freedom of association is a fundamental human right and must be protected. Counter-terrorism measures must not be used as an excuse for limiting the freedoms of human rights defenders and the civil society.
Let me also say that the EU takes note of the Joint Inspection Units report before us. We are pleased to witness the significant progress made in recent years in attaining the goals of equitable geographical distribution and gender balance in the composition of the staff of the High Commissioners Office. Many effective steps aimed at redressing any imbalance in geographical representation have been taken by the High Commissioner and her Office, including management initiatives and greater priority given to candidates from unrepresented or underrepresented countries. Of course, the paramount consideration in the employment of staff shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. The EU countries would like to state once more that, as reaffirmed by the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee, and not this Council, remains the appropriate forum in which to address any cross-cutting issues of human resources policy, including geographical balance, in the UN Secretariat.
Thank you, Madam High Commissioner, for your attention.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.