4 November 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Francesca Cardona, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 71st United Nations General Assembly Plenary on Item 63: Report of the Human Rights Council
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I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this statement.
The European Union would like to thank the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Choi Kyonglim, for presenting the Council’s eleventh annual report to the UN General Assembly.
Since its establishment, the European Union has been a strong supporter of the Human Rights Council. As this year marks the tenth anniversary of the Council, we would like to take the opportunity to reaffirm our continued support and our engagement to make further progress. Being the only UN body mandated to supporting the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe, the Council has strengthened the ability of the UN to help ensure that all persons enjoy their human rights and that violations thereof are disclosed. We attach great importance to both the credibility and effectiveness of the Council.
The European Union will continue to make every effort to ensure that the Human Rights Council is not only able to address violations and abuses of human rights, including gross and systematic violations and abuses as well as to respond promptly to human rights emergencies, but also to improve human rights standards and their implementation worldwide through systematic work on relevant thematic issues. In this context, the EU recalls the importance of its independence and strongly opposes any attempts to undermine the institutional position of the Council within the UN system.
The European Union welcomes the central role played by the Human Rights Council in addressing human rights situations throughout the world. The severe consequences of the crisis in Syria and the violations committed by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime and its allies, cannot be ignored by any State. Any breaches 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. In this context, the Council’s ongoing response to the crisis remains critically important as mirrored by efforts to foster accountability and fight against impunity. We would also like to stress the importance of the promotion and protection of human rights as the key to conflict prevention.
The Council has also demonstrated its commitment to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Mali to promote human rights, and we welcome the continued support that has been rendered to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, Republic of Guinea, South Sudan and Ukraine. We trust that the Council will continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building can make a difference and take action where necessary.
On 28th October, the General Assembly elected 14 new members of the Council. Serving as a Council member entails important responsibilities – resolution 60/251 provides that: “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”. While we congratulate the new members, we also encourage all to pay careful attention to the human rights records and commitments of States throughout their membership.
We attach great importance to all aspects of the Human Rights Council’s work, from the Universal Periodic Review to the special procedures that are mandated by the Council’s resolutions. It is with this in mind that we must voice our strong concerns at the draft resolution that has been tabled in the Third Committee on the report of the Human Rights Council. That draft resolution seeks to subvert a legitimate decision of the Human Rights Council by deferring one particular resolution from the HRC report, – i.e. Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 of 30 June 2016 on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In our view, any attempt to call into question the legitimacy of this resolution has no legal foundation. The text was adopted in Geneva in June, and on that basis, you appointed Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn at the Human Rights Council’s 33rd session in September as the new Independent Expert. All 47 Members of the Council went along with this appointment. Other current mandate-holders have been appointed in the past on the basis of voted resolutions. To question this mandate is to question the delicate institutional relationship between the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly and their respective competences: the creation of a special procedure is well within the purview of the HRC and should not be questioned or reopened by the GA. Otherwise the functioning of the HRC and the work of the Member States in the Council would be seriously called into question.
Moreover, the function of the new independent expert should not be misunderstood: this is about the need for States to protect the human rights of all individuals without distinction of any kind. No one should have to suffer violence or discrimination on the basis of who they are.
We strongly encourage all States and stakeholders to cooperate with the Special Procedures as a means to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and we recall notably that members elected to the Council shall fully cooperate with it.
The EU welcomes the continued cooperation of the Government of Myanmar with and access granted to the UN Special Rapporteur. This is a positive example, which hopefully can be followed by other countries. We hope that the Government of Myanmar will also see the full benefit of opening an OHCHR office with a full mandate, in light of the positive experience in other countries across regions. We also welcome the extensions of the country specific mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Belarus and the extension of the mandates of the Independent Experts on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali.
We welcome the creation of a Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan and we take note of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. We hope that the UN General Assembly and other relevant UN organs will give it due attention. In light of the ongoing human rights violations and abuses, we welcome the consensual adoption of the resolution on Yemen and look forward to the High Commissioners update on its findings at the next Council session in March 2017. Similarly, we welcome the Resolution addressing the human rights concerns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The European Union would also like to highlight the importance of the Resolution on Burundi, which, in response to the latest report of a group of independent experts, establishes a Commission of Inquiry into alleged grave human rights violations committed in the country. We look to Burundi – as a member of the Council – to fully cooperate with the Commission of Enquiry once established, as well as with other international human rights mechanisms. Members of the Human Rights Council should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and we reiterate our urgent call on the Government of Burundi to do so.
Finally turning to the issue of civil society, the European Union also attaches great importance to the participation and valuable contribution made by civil society to the work of the Council and is gravely concerned regarding the attacks, harassments, intimidations and threats carried out against participants from civil society and other stakeholders.
The European Union remains strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a truly universal and unique mechanism within the UN, addressing all human rights and applicable to all UN Member States without distinction or discrimination. As we are soon approaching the third cycle of the UPR, we encourage States to further strengthen the focus on implementation of previously accepted recommendations. We acknowledge the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building in view of the implementation of the UPR recommendations and are immensely grateful for the valuable support provided by the OHCHR in this regard. Finally, we welcome the important contributions made by civil society in the UPR.
In conclusion, let me reiterate our ongoing commitment to contribute to the work of the Human Rights Council and to further strengthen its role in the protection and development of international human rights law as well as in the prevention of human rights violations and abuses. We will continue to systematically uphold and ensure implementation of existing international norms and standards, to strongly advocate for the universality of human rights and to promote the observance by all States of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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