I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union on item 114c on the agenda, entitled “Human rights situation in the world”. The countries associated with the European Union (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia), and Cyprus and Malta align themselves with this declaration.
The European Union has chosen this year to draw the Assembly’s attention to certain trends and developments, both positive and negative, which it believes should be pointed out, following its speech on the subject to the Commission on Human Rights at the end of March, without giving a full picture of the human rights violations that give it cause for concern. It wishes also to reserve the expression of its serious concern on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq and Iran for the introduction of the resolutions that the European Union has decided to submit on the situations in those countries. The situation in Burma will be addressed when Sweden presents its initiative concerning that country.
The European Union has adopted an approach focusing on developments because it believes that it is essential not only to prevent and curb deterioration but also to backup and support positive trends. The European Union considers that the achievement of human rights, the promotion of the rule of law and of democracy are permanent challenges for all our societies and are the fruit of processes which are not instantaneous and which are never complete. It wishes to contribute to these processes by all means of action at its disposal, including its development policy, while taking care to promote all rights of the individual. The defence of human rights, along with the preservation of peace and the strengthening of international security, is at the heart of the principles underlying the European Union’s foreign policy. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are also one of the essential bases of the construction of Europe and a priority for the governments that make up Europe as well as those on their way to becoming members. Their implementation is a preoccupation and something they are constantly striving for. At the end of the year they will therefore proclaim, together with the Commission and the European Parliament, a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
I. The European Union is sorry to have to state that serious human rights deficiencies persist in many countries where no significant progress has been noted in recent months. The remarks made in its speech to the Commission on Human Rights regarding those countries unfortunately still apply.
This is the case in China, with which the European Union is carrying on a Human Rights Dialogue, from which it expects concrete results. As before, it deplores the extensive use in China of the death penalty and serious breaches of fundamental freedoms, particularly in the form of harsh measures taken against persons who exercise them, including members of national minorities, particularly in Tibet. All these practices were denounced by the General Affairs Council on 20 March 2000.
It is true of many countries where institutions make no allowance for pluralism and where the expression of opposition or dissidence is systematically repressed. It is true of Syria, Laos and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where the European Union hopes that the rapprochement with the south will open the way to progress on rights and freedoms. It is also true of Cuba, whose authorities the European Union reminds of the need to make progress on civil and political rights. This is also true of Pakistan, where the human rights environment continues to be a matter of grave concern to the European Union. This is again the case of Chad.
It is also the case in Rwanda and Uganda where, despite some progress on specific points, the general human rights situation is still preoccupying the European Union. The European Union encourages them to renew their efforts to put an end to the ongoing violations.
The European Union will thus not go into further detail here about the situation in those countries. In no sense does that mean that it condemns less vigorously the rights violations committed there or that it is resigned to not being able to play a part in eliminating them. It would simply refer, as regards those countries, to its speech of March 2000 and repeat to them its urgent appeal to make the necessary efforts for full respect for universal human rights.
II. The European Union believes that the High Commissioner for Human Rights is right to pay particular attention in her report to situations in which civilian populations are or have been victims even the main victims of serious and large-scale atrocities during clashes, as in Sierra Leone, Chechnya and East Timor, in violation of humanitarian law and human rights.
The European Union is thus gravely concerned by the situation in Sierra Leone and in particular by the violations of the Lomé peace agreement by the RUF and the continuation of terrible atrocities committed by the RUF and other rebel groups. It encourages the High Commissioner to continue her action in support of the country’s authorities in their efforts to strengthen the promotion and defence of human rights. It is willing to support the authorities of Sierra Leone and the United Nations in setting up the special court and a judicial system guaranteing respect for human rights. It stresses once more the importance of the issue of rehabilitating child soldiers.
In Timor, the European Union is counting on the Indonesian Government, in line with the commitments it has made, to pursue and bring to justice the perpetrators of the atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999. It welcomes to this end the assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The European Union hopes that all persons suspected of having orchestrated and participated in the murder of the three HCR officials in Atambua will be swiftly brought to justice. In this context, it welcomes the arrest of militia chief Guterres and several people suspected of involvement in those events. The Indonesian authorities should take additional measures to disarm and dissolve the militias and rapidly resolve the refugee issue. The European Union urges the Indonesian Government to follow through the first steps it has taken in that direction. Those steps should be continued and brought to a conclusion as a matter of urgency. The EU is convinced that the activities of the militias and the refugee situation in West Timor could have very serious repercussions for the political development of East Timor.
The European Union remains concerned about the situation in Chechnya and regrets that the Russian Federation has only partly responded to the demands of the Commission on Human Rights. It notes that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the detention centres and that a Russian Government special representative for human rights is now based in Chechnya, with the support of the Council of Europe. It calls on Russia to hold without delay an independent enquiry, meeting international standards, on the atrocities committed by all the parties to the conflict and to allow access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Special Rapporteurs from the Commission on Human Rights who request it. It expects of Russia that effective judicial proceedings be instituted against perpetrators of atrocities. It invites the Russian authorities to increase their efforts to provide humanitarian aid and to ensure that it arrives. It underlines the importance it attaches to the swift return of the OSCE Assistance Group. It reiterates that only a political solution will make it possible to end the conflict and ensure the security and rights of all.
III. Civilian populations continue to suffer serious violations of their rights because of unresolved conflicts in other regions, whether they are direct victims of armed action, are fleeing fighting and destruction, are expelled or ill?treated, or are simply deprived of security, or have their fundamental freedoms restricted. The European Union hopes that political solutions, fully integrating the human rights dimension, can be found for these conflicts and that civilians can be spared and protected.