Summary: 16 November 2015, New York â European Union Statement delivered by H. E. Mr. Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly on Item 67: Report of the Human Rights Council
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union would like to thank the President of the Human Rights Council, Joachim Rücker, for presenting the Council’s tenth annual report to the UN General Assembly. We also appreciate the opportunity to engage in an interactive dialogue with the President at the Third Committee in order to strengthen the links between the Council and the wider UN membership here in New York.
Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the European Union has been a strong supporter of it and we would like to reaffirm our continued support today. Being the only UN body that is purely devoted to supporting the promotion and protection of all human rights, 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, and will continue to make every effort to ensure that it is not only able to address violations and abuses of human rights, including gross and systematic violations and abuses, 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, we strongly oppose any attempts to undermine the institutional position of the Council within the UN system and the EU recalls the importance of its independence.
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 the Assad-regime cannot be ignored by any State, while the conflict’s effects have also become blatantly visible in the region and beyond. In this context, the Council’s ongoing response to the crisis remains critically important. The Council has also demonstrated its commitment to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, Libya and Mali to promote human rights, and we welcome the continued support that has been rendered to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 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 28 October, the General Assembly elected 18 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.
The EU highly values the work of the special procedures. They play a crucial role in advancing the human rights agenda. All EU Member States have extended a standing invitation to the special procedures and the EU calls upon all UN members to do likewise and to actively cooperate with them. In order to allow Special Procedures to fully carry out their mandates, it is crucial that they are able to independently assess and draw the Council’s attention to human rights issues and situations. In this regard, the EU also welcomes the growing participation of mandate holders in the Council’s work.
Given the situation in the countries concerned, the EU welcomes the extensions of the country specific mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights Myanmar, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Cambodia and Belarus. We also welcome the extension of the mandates of the Independent Experts on the situation of human rights in Haiti, the Central African Republic and Mali. We also note the first report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Finally, we welcome the consensual resolution on Sri Lanka, an important step in pursuing reconciliation and accountability there.
Thematic Special Procedures play an equally important role through their research, country specific visits and valuable contribution to the better understanding of the content of specific human rights. Amongst the many thematic Special Procedures, the EU would like to highlight the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who plays an active role in identifying existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and presenting recommendations to overcome such obstacles. Moreover, we also want to draw attention to the newly established mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism and the mandate on the right to privacy in the digital age. We wish them success and reiterate our support to their mandates.
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. Ultimately, however, the quality of the recommendations and the commitment to implement them are key for the outcome of this process. Equal treatment of all countries is an underlying element of the UPR mechanism, and needs to be maintained throughout each cycle.
The EU reiterates its strongest condemnation of acts of reprisals and intimidation of civil society representatives attending the Human Rights Council and cooperating with human rights mechanisms and the OHCHR. Following the decision of UNGA 69 not to defer consideration of HRC resolution 24/24, we call on the Secretary General to appoint a focal point for reprisals taking into consideration the concerns raised by some States on some of the provisions in the resolution. This was the will of a cross-regional group of 56 States (including EU28) expressed in a joint statement during the 30th session of the Council. We remain ready to engage with all Member States to identifying a solution to this issue. Contributions by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions are extremely valuable to the work of the Council. Their possibility to interact with the Council must be preserved.
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. 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.
- Ref: EUUN15-193EN
- EU source: European Union
- UN forum: General Assembly (including Special Sessions)
- Date: 16/11/2015