The March session will focus on a number of countries, where we feel compelled to speak out about severe human rights violations. We will make it a priority to press for cooperation of those countries with the Council and its mechanisms.
“Once again, the EU will engage actively and vocally in the Human Rights Council. Our goal is to make the HRC as effective as possible and to support it wherever we can in its mandate to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights for all people everywhere,” says Mariangela Zappia, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva.
Highlights and EU action:
- Myanmar/Burma: The EU will again present a resolution on Myanmar/Burma, recognizing at the same time the progress made. However, we believe that continuous monitoring is still needed and will thus urge for the swift establishment of a country office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
- Syria: The situation in Syria remains one of the most acute and dire human rights and humanitarian crises of recent history. At the upcoming Human Rights Council (HRC) session, we will press strongly for immediate and unfettered access for the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to the country, as well as for the renewal of its mandate for another year.
- North Korea (DPRK): The report by the CoI on the human rights situation in the DPRK lists a wide array of systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have been committed and continue to take place in the country, some even qualified as crimes against humanity. The EU and Japan, who together initiated the establishment of the CoI, will work with the Council to ensure proper follow-up.
- Central African Republic (CAR): We are deeply appalled and saddened by the human tragedy unfolding before our eyes in the CAR. We look forward to our first exchange of views with the newly appointed Independent Expert after her first visit to the country. The resolution adopted at the Special Session should now be implemented. The EU is committed to finding a solution to the conflict and is currently setting up a military operation to contribute to the security on the ground.
- Sri Lanka: After the release of the report by the High Commissioner, we will continue to press for progress on human rights, accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka and lend our full support to a resolution seeking to achieve these goals.
- Human Rights Defenders: We pay tribute to the many human rights defenders who often take a great risk by participating in the Council. This year we mark ten years of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, and we will step up our efforts against all forms of harassment, intimidation or persecution of those who cooperate with UN human rights bodies.
- Rights of the child: In partnership with Latin American countries, we will present a resolution addressing barriers to children’s access to justice and putting forward recommendations for improving children’s redress for violations of their rights around the world.
- Side events: The EU Delegation is part of several events, such as a debate on “Freedom of Religion or Belief” and a photo exhibition, jointly with the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU, entitled “The Right to Smile – Realizing children’s rights around the world”. We will also partner with the Human Rights Film Festival on a thematic evening on Belarus.
Just a few days ago, we saw once again proof of the indispensable work of the Human Rights Council, when the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on the human rights situation in North Korea (DPRK) was published. The report, which received worldwide media coverage, lists a wide array of systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have been committed and continue to take place in the DPRK, some of them qualified by the CoI as crimes against humanity. The report builds on hearings – some of them for the first time in public – of hundreds of victims, whose testimonies should never be forgotten. The Commission has done exceptional work, and we pay tribute to the courageous men and women who testified in front of the world the atrocities they went through, lending their voice to the hundreds of thousands of people whose basic human rights have been and continue to be violated in the DPRK. The EU, alongside Japan, advocated vociferously last year for the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry, and will work together with other countries to ensure appropriate follow-up to its findings. We call on the DPRK to implement the recommendations made in the report and to swiftly address these human rights violations.
In Syria, we continue to witness one of the most acute and dire human rights and humanitarian crises of recent history. Until now, the Syrian authorities have not granted the UN Commission of Inquiry unfettered access to the country, something which we will continue to push for in the upcoming HRC session. In the same vein, we will advocate for collaboration of the Iranian authorities with the HRC and access for the Special Rapporteur to the country. We will also press Myanmar/Burma to uphold its commitment to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by swiftly establishing an OHCHR country office.
We want to pay our respect to the many human rights defenders around the world, who often take a considerable risk by simply participating in the Human Rights Council. This year we mark ten years of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, and sadly the need for their protection and support is bigger than ever. The shrinking space for civil society is of great concern to us, and we will continue to speak out on this matter. This is also why we will come to the defence of any NGO – irrespective of their message – , whose right to speak at the Council is hampered.
Throughout the session, we will highlight some of our priorities via special events. These include a debate on “Freedom of Religion or Belief” on 12 March, the opening of the photo exhibition, in partnership with the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU, “The Right to Smile – Realizing children’s rights around the world” on 10 March and a discussion on “DRC: Breaking the Links between Natural Resources and Conflict” on 21 March. In addition, we will partner with the Human Rights Film Festival on a thematic evening on Belarus on 9 March.
Further information on all of those events can be found on our website under http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/un_geneva/press_corner/events-calendar/index_en.htm