31 October 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, 71st UN General Assembly Third Committee Item 68 (b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and (c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
No person or State in the world should be permitted to violate human rights with impunity. We have a shared responsibility to proclaim this absolute imperative and commit to its full implementation. The European Union as a community based on respect for and defence of human rights, remains therefore deeply committed to support the central role of the United Nations for the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide. We stand on the side of those who demand justice and an end to impunity, and we do everything in our power for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses to be held accountable.
The EU is appalled by the deteriorating situation in Syria. The Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population. The EU strongly condemns the excessive and disproportionate attacks by the regime and its allies, both deliberate and indiscriminate, against civilian populations, humanitarian and healthcare personnel, and civilian and humanitarian infrastructures. The EU condemns in the strongest terms the confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and Da’esh. All those responsible for such breaching of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice. The EU and its Member States will seek to explore possibilities of concerted action inter alia through the UN General Assembly.
The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to systematically and gravely violate human rights, depriving its population of political, economic, social and cultural rights, while refusing to engage more constructively with the international community in a dialogue on human rights. For this reason, the EU, together with Japan and other UN Member States will table once again a resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK urging its government to immediately put an end to the existing human rights violations, to fully engage with the UN system, and to implement the recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry.
The EU expresses its great concern at the repeated atrocities perpetuated in South Sudan and at the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at a time of particular political tension in the country and the instrumentalisation of the justice sector in a context of shrinking political space. It calls on all sides involved in the conflict in Yemen to immediately end ongoing human rights violations and abuses.
The EU remains concerned about challenges facing the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Egypt. It underlines the need for accountability for any alleged violations. The EU is fully aware of the serious challenges posed by the terrorist threat to Egypt’s stability and security and recalls the need to tackle terrorism in full respect of international human rights standards
The EU continues to express itself strongly on the situation in Burundi, reflected in the recent Resolution adopted by the 33rd UN Human Rights Council, and which is characterized by arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, a distressing increase in sexual violence and other violations of human rights. We call for a robust inquiry and accountability framework to be immediately put in place. The EU regrets the decision by the Government of Burundi to suspend cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, all the more since Burundi is a member of the Human Rights Council, and its intention to withdraw from the Rome Statute, an unprecedented move, which is also a new setback to the relations between Burundi and the rest of the international community.
The EU is following with concern the recent violent repression of protests in Ethiopia and calls on the government to exercise maximum restraint and for a meaningful dialogue with all parties involved. The EU will continue to engage with African partners and the UN to foster respect for human rights in Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Eritrea. On the latter, we noted the recommendations contained in the resolution of the UNHRC of 1 July 2016 on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, including the proposed request to the UN General Assembly to submit the report of the Commission of Inquiry to all relevant organs of the UN for consideration and appropriate action.
The EU would like to remind China of its international human rights obligations and its stated commitment to uphold the rule of law, in particular by allowing human rights defenders and lawyers to pursue their activities, by releasing all individuals detained for exercising their freedom of expression and by ensuring a safe and enabling environment for civil society, including foreign NGOs.
We have the same concern regarding Russia, where the space for independent civil society is increasingly shrinking, while human rights defenders, independent journalists and opponents are facing harassment. The EU notes and condemns persistent similar restrictions and violations of human rights in the Crimean peninsula following its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation.
The EU strongly condemns the atrocities, mass killings, use of sexual violence and other human rights abuses which Da’esh and other terrorist groups perpetrate against civilians. It reaffirms that religious belief should not justify the use of terrorism and violence, and encourages religious leaders to do all in their power to prevent the hijacking of any religion to justify terrorism and human right abuses. We would like to take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the defenders of the rights of the Yazidi community and their fight for the women and girls who are victims of sexual enslavement by Da’esh. We welcome in that context the specific commitment in the 2030 Agenda to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
More generally, the EU attaches great importance to the effective protection of human rights defenders and we concretely engage to protect them through political and logistical support. In this context, we welcome the recent special mandate given to Assistant Secretary General Gilmour in relation to reprisals against human rights defenders.
We remain worried by the high number of cases of application of the death penalty, the arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as restrictions of public freedoms in Iran. On the death penalty, the EU, working together with a large group of partners, encourages UN Members States to abolish the use of death penalty and calls upon states which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it.
The democratic change in Myanmar as well as the first actions taken by the new government in the areas of human rights and peace building are a positive development. We also recognise that significant challenges remain on the path towards an inclusive democracy and national reconciliation. The EU encourages further bold government efforts to find sustainable solutions and provide adequate protection to religious and ethnic minorities, including the elimination of statelessness.
The devastating effects of climate change, in particular on the populations and countries in the most vulnerable situations, deeply affect economic, social and cultural rights of present and future generations by endangering access to water, food, health and housing. The EU therefore calls on all UN Member States to sign and ratify the 2015 Paris Agreement without undue delay and to implement the policies and actions required to reach its targets.
The EU underlines the importance of upholding the universal human rights of all, including asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and all displaced persons. Armed conflicts, discrimination and ethnic violence, or authoritarian regimes are among the factors which give rise to forced displacement. In order to address these and other underlying causes and drivers of migration, the EU will encourage a better respect for human rights and effective rule of law in countries of origin through the different instruments available, such as political and human rights dialogues, or development cooperation.
In closing let me underline that this Committee carries a major responsibility in the eyes of the citizens of the world. In the sometimes complex world of international relations, the full realization of human rights in every part of the world must be seen as a common good above any other consideration. It is therefore our shared duty to keep the work of this Committee rooted in facts, in the situations on the ground, and to reject any attempt to divert or weaken our work. The EU remains committed to engaging in the spirit of partnership and cooperation with partners from all regions to reach lasting solutions that advance human rights.
Thank you, Chair.
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