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On the Second Day of the Human Rights Council’s High-level Segment, Russia’s attack on Ukraine Continues to Dominate the Discussion
01 March 2022
01 March 2022
The Human Rights Council this morning began the second day of its high-level segment, hearing from the President of Costa Rica and well as 20 dignitaries from Nigeria, Timor-Leste, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Angola, Syria, Mozambique, Namibia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Russian Federation, Denmark, Austria, Romania, European Union, Bulgaria, Republic of Korea, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Russia’s attack on Ukraine continued to dominate the discussion.
Some speakers unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia was urged to immediately end hostilities and return to the path of diplomacy. The invasion of Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation was not only an attack on another sovereign nation, but an attack against the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to freedom and democracy. Russia should withdraw its forces immediately. Some said that Russia was becoming a global pariah. This was the consequence of Putin’s war of choice.
Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said that in a context of gross violations against Russian speakers and citizens in Ukraine, and the persistent refusal of the West to call the Ukrainian authorities to order, Russia could not remain indifferent to the situation of these people. In response to an appeal, Russia had decided to launch a special military operation to protect their rights, save them, and fulfil their obligations, demilitarising and de-nazifying Ukraine, so that such a thing would never happen again.
Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, said the brave and humanist path was peace, and the bravest action a leader could take was to withdraw soldiers and return them to their families, and not to kill. After only a few days, there were thousands of refugees from Ukraine, and the economic impact of the conflict was being felt around the world. The economy of gas and oil was raising temperatures around the world, and now leading to people killing each other.
Among other issues raised, speakers said human rights, peace, security and development were deeply intertwined and mutually reinforcing. The promotion and protection of human rights were key elements in the march to sustainable peace and security, as well as the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. International cooperation and solidarity were essential to defeat the pandemic and thus counteract the risk of losing decades of progress in human development as well as to ensure that no one was left behind. The right to life and human dignity were twin rights of global significance, and their promotion and protection guided the global progress. Climate change, environmental degradation and pollution remained among the most pressing challenges the world faced today, and were a threat for future generations, impacting all without exception. Multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, remained the only way to achieve global peace, security and prosperity.
Some speakers said that in its work, the Council had to be guided by the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, allowing it to facilitate genuine dialogue. Strengthening rules-based multilateralism was the only way to effectively address global issues. Peace had become one of the most important solidarity rights to build a world of tolerance, equality and hope for a better life and environment. In recent years there had been pressures, threats and conflict, making the work of promoting peace, stability and development ever more difficult.
Speaking this morning were Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica; Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria; Adaljiza Albertina Xavier Reis Magno, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste; Jan Lipavský, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Mario Adolfo Búcaro Flores, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guatemala; G.L. Peiris, Minister for Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka; Esmeralda Mendonça, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Angola; Faisal Mekdad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the Syrian Arab Republic; Helena Mateus Kida, Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs of Mozambique, Yvonne Dausab, Minister of Justice of Namibia; Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain; Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus; Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Jeppe Kofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark; Alexander Schallenberg, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria; Cornel Feruță, Secretary of State for global affairs and diplomatic strategies, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Romania; Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission; Velislava Petrova, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria; Choi Jongmoon, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Francisco André, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal; and Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom.
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The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon, when the high-level segment will continue.
CARLOS ALVARADO QUESADA, President of Costa Rica, said the brave and humanist path was peace, and the bravest action a leader could take was to withdraw soldiers and return them to their families, and not to kill. After only a few days, there were thousands of refugees from Ukraine, and the economic impact of the conflict was being felt around the world. The economy of gas and oil was raising temperatures around the world, and was now leading to people killing each other. The safety of the world was being threatened by human action and a lack of sense. The Council and the entire international community should deploy their efforts to ensure a sustainable cease fire and dialogue so that an escalation of the conflict did not occur. The Council was a forum for dialogue.
Environmental protection and the safety of those who fought to conserve natural resources needed to be ensured. In the context of the debate to fight racial discrimination, the Forum for Persons of African Descent was ever more important. Costa Rica had the door open, with no monitoring or conditions, for any human rights defender. Costa Rica was running for election to the Human Rights Council for the upcoming period, reflecting its commitment to the international community and it was at the very heart of its efforts to build peace.
GEOFFREY ONYEAMA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that tackling insecurity was one of the cardinal priorities of the Nigerian Government, as peace and security were essential guarantees for the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was important to combat illicit financial flows and ensure the recovery and return of illicitly acquired assets. Referring to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to vigorously combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Onyeama said that it had sadly not been achieved. Nigeria strongly condemned all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and reaffirmed its unequivocal commitment to the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration.
Mr. Onyeama reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The promotion and protection of human rights were key elements in the march to sustainable peace and security, as well as the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. It was important to avoid the politicisation of human rights issues and double speak that were found often in the international human rights system and advocacy. They were not synonymous with the ethos of multilateralism and they were largely counter-productive to the time-honoured principles of human rights. Nigeria would continue to deepen its commitment to multilateralism and remained seized with the promotion and protection of human rights across the globe, particularly in its engagement with the Human Rights Council.
ADALJIZA ALBERTINA XAVIER REIS MAGNO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, expressed deep concern and sadness for the current situation in Ukraine. All parties were encouraged to establish diplomatic dialogue so that an immediate ceasefire could be implemented. Timor-Leste called for the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law. During the struggle for independence, the Timorese people had experienced serious violations of human rights, for which the support of the international community had been irrefutable. Timor-Leste had become an example of a country that had successfully tackled the obstacles to transition to peace and justice, while preserving unwavering respect for human rights.
Human rights, peace, security and development were deeply intertwined and mutually reinforcing; Timor-Leste was focused on contributing to the promotion of sustainable peace and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Government's efforts to promote gender equality were highlighted, including the existence of the Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion and the adoption of several policies, such as: the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence. When it came to climate change, human rights were integrated into environmental laws and policies. The COVID-19 had shown how fragile the basic rights were, including the right to life and freedom of movement. Timor-Leste had adopted the economic recovery plan, integrating the human rights approach. Timor-Leste was putting forward its candidacy to become a member of the Council for the period 2024-2026.
JAN LIPAVSKÝ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said the priorities of the Czech Government lay on the side of the promotion and protection of human rights, both at home and worldwide. The Czech Republic supported the independence and comprehensive human rights mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office. Great importance was also attached to timely dealing with human rights violations and abuses wherever they occurred. It was the core business of the Council. All country situations should be treated without discrimination.
The human rights situation in Ukraine was of great concern, as there was a grave violation of humanitarian law. Ukrainians should not be alone - the Czech Republic was stepping up its aid to Ukraine. Russia and Belarus were systematically fighting people who had made a choice for democracy, in their own countries as well as in their neighbourhoods. The loss of human life was deplored, and the acts on Ukrainian soil by the Russian military were condemned. The methods of combat used by the Russian military were condemned by international law, including using children as humanitarian shields and ambulances as stealth vehicles. The leaders of Russia and Belarus must be held accountable. They would lose this war. Russia must end the unjustified attack, withdraw its forces, and start respecting international law and human rights law. An independent international commission of inquiry should be established to investigate all violations of human rights.
The situation of human rights was of concern around the world, including in China, where many freedoms were restricted, including the rights of minorities, both ethnic and religious. Actions of the Cuban Government to repress all forms of dissent were unacceptable. There was also concern for the situation in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Venezuela.
MARIO ADOLFO BÚCARO FLORES, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said that the political constitution of Guatemala was categorical in establishing that the State guaranteed and protected human life. Migration was a right and Guatemala was a country of origin, transit, destination and also of return. Guatemala’s principles had always been focused on full respect for human rights and especially those of migrants, regardless of the immigration status they had. Guatemala called on all States to commit to the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, welcomed the creation of the Permanent Forum on Afro-descendants, and reiterated support for the need to draft a Universal Declaration that promoted full respect for human rights.
On the COVID 19 pandemic, Mr. Búcaro Flores said that international cooperation and solidarity were essential to defeat the pandemic and thus counteract the risk of losing decades of progress in human development as well as to ensure that no one was left behind. Gratitude was expressed to all the countries that had provided unconditional assistance to vaccinate and care for the Guatemalan population. The Government of Guatemala strongly condemned Russia's unilateral recognition of the "so-called separatist Republics of Ukraine". It was important to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis, which must be resolved with respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and security of all countries. For Guatemala, prevention was essential to avoid the violation of human rights.
G.L. PEIRIS, Minister for Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, stressed that fundamental freedoms were incorporated in the constitution, and were enforced by the judicial system. Despite the threat of terrorism, Sri Lanka had restored peace, security and the rule of law throughout the country. Free and fair elections had been organised. For post-conflict healing, domestic institutions had been put in place for reconciliation and social justice. Three Universal Periodic Reviews had been carried out and mandate holders of Special Procedures had been welcomed. Sri Lanka had benefited from the expertise provided by the United Nations, chiefly provided through technical assistance and capacity building.
Despite the economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19, Sri Lanka had progressed economically, according to the latest Sustainable Development Goals report. Efforts of civil society were fully taken into account and appreciated. Sri Lanka was ready to embark on new challenges, including those caused by the pandemic and ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Council was currently under the review process. In its work the Council had to be guided by the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, allowing it to facilitate genuine dialogue. Sri Lanka welcomed the productive and beneficial work of the Council. However, Sri Lanka rejected those segments of the Council’s work that were not helpful and punitive, such as some resolutions addressing Sri Lanka. Counter terrorism legislation had to protect the rights of persons subject to trial and investigation, so recently a bill was presented in Parliament with this aim in mind.
ESMERALDA MENDONÇA, Secretary of State for Foreign Relations of Angola, said the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world was important, and the Angolan Government worked to fulfil these principles, including a partial constitutional revision with amendments which would strengthen democracy and the rule of law, as well as the inter-dependence of the functions of the different branches of power, and ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, including secret, fair and universal elections. This would also greatly strengthen the judicial system and include a better response to the need for social justice, building a democracy in which all citizens could participate.
In April 2020, Angola had launched the National Human Rights Strategy and a National Human Rights Action Plan for the period 2020-2024, in which human rights were raised to an issue of national security. In view of the success of the former, the Government had been working with civil society, leading to an increase in the number of non-governmental organizations working on human rights issues. In under two years, over 80 per cent of the planned actions for this period had been achieved. The aim of the National Human Rights Action Plan was highlighting efforts to promote and protect human rights by individuals or legal entities, raising the awareness of human rights. This was a Plan that was led by the President of Angola and included a public apology to the nation for the tragic events which bereaved thousands of Angolans in the past. Action had also been takin in the area of gender equality and the protection of vulnerable groups, and to provide health services at the municipal level. Strengthening economic, social and cultural rights was one of the Government’s priorities, and it had taken a number of steps in this direction.
FAISAL MEKDAD, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the Syrian Arab Republic, stressed the importance for the Human Rights Council to play the role agreed upon by the Member States of the United Nations when it was established. Syria regretted that Western countries were still insisting on exploiting the Council and its mechanisms to impose their double standards, and to accuse and stigmatise States of violating human rights, using these accusations as a pretext to interfere in their internal affairs. The Minister further denounced the politicised decisions targeting Syria, referring to the United Kingdom initiatives and their four billion dollars spent on disinformation campaigns targeting Syria. Syria hoped that the Council would reconsider these practices and end the work of the politicised mechanisms that it had established without the consent of the concerned State.
Since 2011, Syria had been facing a systematic war meant to undermine its stability, unity and territorial integrity. “These challenges have posed, and still have, grave repercussions on human rights in Syria, which are further exacerbated by the imposition of unilateral coercive measures on the Syrian people by the United States and the European Union, and the theft of natural and economic resources to deprive the Syrian people of their national wealth”, he said. Syria had recently completed the discussion of its third national report within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and was currently considering the recommendations addressed to it. The national report highlighted the efforts of the Syrian State, within the available capabilities, in the field of rehabilitating areas liberated from terrorism, protecting the rights of its citizens and meeting their basic needs, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and securing an environment that enabled displaced Syrians to return voluntarily to their homeland.
HELENA MATEUS KIDA, Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs of Mozambique, said that in 2021 Mozambique had been evaluated for the third time within the scope of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. As a result of recommendations adopted, the Government had sought to commit towards effective implementation to guarantee and protect citizens rights. In this context, Mozambique intended to carry out the following actions. At the Government level, an Inter-ministerial Group on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law would be created. Within the scope of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the National Working Group would be created and it would consist of government institutions, the private sector and civil society. Mozambique was also drawing up the National Action Plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
Mozambique intended to make available to the United Nations its modest and humble experience in the prevention, mediation and resolution of conflicts using dialogue. Mozambique reaffirmed its strong and unquestionable commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights which constituted the mission of this important organ of the United Nations system. Mozambique was aware that despite the efforts carried out, there were still challenges to create a favourable environment for the full exercise of human rights and citizenship.
YVONNE DAUSAB, Minister of Justice of Namibia, said States around the world continued to grapple with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination rates remained very low in the developing world, and it was a positive step that the Council would discuss finding equitable access to vaccines for all countries. It was commendable that, notwithstanding the challenges presented by the pandemic, the Council continued to respond to global needs. Namibia was a core group member of the sponsors on the right to adequate housing. The Universal Periodic Review was a priority for Namibia, as it was a unique platform for constructive dialogue between States. Namibia was committed to improving the human rights of all persons within its territory and intended to accelerate improvement. The right to life and human dignity were twin rights of global significance, and their promotion and protection guided global progress. States should reconsider the imposition of the death penalty.
The Special Procedures of the Council played important roles in the protection of human rights mandates. Namibia was considering extending an open invitation to all Special Procedures and mandate holders. All States had the duty to promote and protect the human rights of all people: nobody should be left out. It was appalling and unacceptable that people continued to suffer racial discrimination throughout the world in a context of global human rights. Attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action must be combatted. As a country that played a pivotal role in shaping the women and peace agenda at the United Nations, Namibia had adopted a national action plan, recognising that this agenda was essentially about redefining the role of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations. The representation of women within the high-level structures of the United Nations would influence States to ensuring full participation of women and gender equality, which was impacted by gender-based violence. Namibia was committed to support all efforts aiming to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.
Climate change, environmental degradation and pollution remained among the most pressing challenges the world faced today, and were a threat for future generations, impacting all without exception. There was no justification to maintain illegal sanctions, including on Cuba and Zimbabwe.
ABDULLATIF BIN RASHID ALZAYANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said wars and conflicts had been going on in the Middle East for more than a decade, leaving millions dead, injured, refugees and displaced, and depriving millions of young people of education, health care, shelter, peace and security. Peace had become one of the most important solidarity rights to build a world of tolerance, equality and hope for a better life and environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic had put the countries of the world to a test; Bahrain had been keen to address it in a thoughtful and effective manner, taking into account all health, economic, social and educational aspects, placing at the forefront of its priorities the protection of human rights such as the right to health and safety, inclusive of all citizens and residents alike. Shelters, means for examination, treatment, and free vaccinations were provided without discrimination. Bahrain supported the advancement of women's rights and had established the Supreme Council for Women, which in turn developed national policies and qualitative plans, most notably the National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women. Bahrain was currently working on finalising its fourth national report to the Universal Periodic Review, which would be reviewed in November 2022. He concluded by announcing Bahrain's candidacy for membership in the Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025.
IOANNIS KASOULIDES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, said Cyprus unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Cyprus called on the Russian Federation to immediately end hostilities and return to the path of diplomacy. Strengthening rules-based multilateralism was the only way to effectively address global issues. Cyprus had been living as a victim of foreign aggression and occupation for almost 50 years. The consequences and human rights violations by Turkey since 1974 were still much felt today: the fate of half of Cyprus’s missing persons had yet to be determined and those forcefully displaced by the Turkish army had not been allowed to return to their homes and properties. Cyprus was seeking to become a member of this Council for the first time, between 2025 and 2027.
Cyprus lay just 60 miles off the coast of Syria, which for over a decade of conflict had been beleaguered by human rights abuses. As regarded Libya, it was imperative that a new date for the postponed elections was announced, as the growing uncertainty could spiral into violence. The creation of a Special Rapporteur on climate change was crucial as it was imperative to have a human rights-based approach to mitigating the effects of climate change. Migration would remain a challenge in the years to come. Cyprus was extremely concerned about the exploitation and abuse of migratory flows by human traffickers as well as the political instrumentalization of migration by certain States. During this session, Cyprus, together with a cross-regional core group, would be presenting the triennial initiative on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage.
SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the outrageous measures by the European Union that violated the respect of one of the fundamental rights, the freedom of movement, and the imposition sanctions were appalling. The situation of the world was deteriorating - the United States and its allies were imposing the so-called “rules order” on the rest of the world, with a negative impact on human rights, as illustrated on the situation in Ukraine. The regime was waging war against its own people, and those who did not agree with the neo-Nazi policies of the Government. The ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis who had seized power in Kiev had gone unpunished, even when peaceful protestors had been burnt alive in Odessa. The West had ignored these fundamental violations of the right to life. The Russian language had been banished from schools, universities and the public sphere in Ukraine, and people who had lived in the region for centuries were seeing their rights withdrawn and were being told to go back to Russia. This was not repulsed by the enlightened West. The process of cleansing the Ukrainian Government of undesirable officials was ongoing. Legislative acts were produced allowing the Government’s security agencies to crack down on dissent and ban the opposition. There were violations of the freedom of speech. The conduct of Zelenskiy was the height of blasphemy. The Government had even insinuated itself into the spiritual world, committing religious discrimination.
Ukraine’s consistent dissemination of neo-Nazism had been carried out with the support of Canada, the United States and the European Union, who ignored the outrageous lawlessness of Ukraine. The regime had got away with its lawless actions. The overwhelming majority of Crimean inhabitants had expressed themselves in favour of incorporation with Russia, which allowed them to express their language, religion and culture. The inhabitants of Donbass had hoped that justice would prevail and that Kiev would implement its obligations under the Minsk agreement, but Kiev had directly ignored this and continued armed provocations. In a context of gross violations against Russian speakers and citizens in Ukraine, the persistent refusal of the West to call the Ukrainian authorities to order, Russia could not remain indifferent to the situation of these people. In response to an appeal, Russia had decided to launch a special military operation to protect their rights, save them, and fulfil their obligations, demilitarizing and de-nazifying Ukraine, so that such a thing would never happen again. This was particularly important as that country was being dragged into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and had made threats against Russia.
The neo-Nazi Government was clearly not a Government for the people of Ukraine. The life of every Russian or Ukrainian was no less valuable than the life of a European or American. Russia did not intend to infringe upon the rights of the citizens of Ukraine. Washington had intended to create an anti-Russia in Ukraine. Human rights were a universal constant, and could not depend on the selfish ambitions of a few who sought a selective interpretation of the United Nations Charter. The role of the Human Rights Council was to ensure that human rights issues were not used to interfere in internal affairs.
JEPPE KOFOD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, deplored that the Council had to meet in such a tragic time in history. He condemned the Russian attack on a sovereign nation, an indiscriminate attack on civilians in an unlawful and immoral war. A generation would be impacted by the decisions that countries were making at the moment, they would ask if all did enough to support Ukraine when it mattered the most. Denmark welcomed the decision of the Human Rights Council to hold an ad hoc meeting on the situation of human rights in Ukraine in relation with the Russian aggression. The human rights of Ukrainians and of everyone worldwide, online and offline, must be protected, including during the disinformation campaign of Russia.
Mr. Kofod expressed his concerns at seeing the increasing violence facing freedom of expression, of association and of beliefs; these human rights must be protected by a full engagement of the international community. Denmark urged the authorities in Russia to protect the right to peaceful assembly and to release all peaceful protestors immediately. Denmark called on the authorities in Belarus to hold accountable those responsible for violations of human rights. He further expressed concerns about the violation of human rights in other places, such as China, where he called for access for the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, as well as in Hong Kong, and in Myanmar where he called for the end of all violence and the restoration of a civilian government. In Afghanistan, the increase of systemic violations of human rights of women, girls and minorities was concerning. Mr. Kofod took note of the positive steps implemented by the Ethiopian Government but stated his concerns for the violation of human rights in the northern part of the country.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, said that the invasion of Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation was not only an attack on another sovereign nation, but an attack against the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to freedom and democracy. President Putin was called on to immediately stop this senseless war. The historical revisionism, disinformation and the use of military force instead of diplomacy brought back the demons of the past. The humanitarian situation in many places, such as Belarus, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nicaragua and many others, was alarming and required full attention. However, the world had to ensure that the Council addressed country situations in a holistic manner. Singling out or focusing on one country through a special agenda item whereas neglecting human rights abuses in others negatively impacted the Council as a whole and should be a matter of the past.
During the current session, Austria would present a resolution focusing on minorities in conflict situations. The international community must also protect those who denounced violations – journalists, civil society and human rights defenders. The number of reporters jailed for their work had hit a new global record: in the past 12 months alone, 46 journalists had been killed. Austria continued to place women's rights and gender equality at the centre of its foreign policy. In Afghanistan, hard-won gains and achievements for women’s rights were under threat. States had to ensure a human-rights based approach to new technologies – guaranteeing that existing international legal norms were fully implemented and effective in all spheres of life.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ, Secretary of State for Global Affairs and Diplomatic Strategies, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Romania, said the promotion and protection of human rights had become more important than ever today. Romania supported a global comprehensive system of human rights - a rules-based human rights system that existed globally. Human rights were one of the three pillars underpinning the work of the United Nations. Romania strongly supported the independence of the High Commissioner and the work of her Office. Romania had reiterated its commitment to upholding human rights, fundamental freedoms and non-discrimination. It was increasingly evident that all must remain true to these fundamental truths and principles, and protect life and international security.
Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty had caused deep concern for the human costs of this aggression, as well as for its unpredictable implications for the human rights and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. It was the crucial duty of the Council to monitor violations of human rights. There was great concern for reports of attacks on civilian structures in Ukraine. Russia should immediately halt indiscriminate attacks. Romania was in full solidarity with the people and Government of Ukraine, and the Russian armed forces should withdraw immediately. Regarding reports of hundreds and thousands of people being arrested by the Russian authorities whilst they demonstrated against events in Ukraine, this was a violation of the right to freedom of speech. Romania was seeking election to the Human Rights Council, which was the meeting point of promises on the protection of human rights and the rule of law, and would continue to work on this, taking into account its long-standing principled position to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Freedom of expression was today under pervasive attack globally.
JOSEP BORELL FONTELLES, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, condemned in the strongest terms Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine and stated support to the democratically elected Government of Ukraine and its efforts to defend its territory and its people. “We stand by the women and men of Ukraine whose courage and determination are an inspiration to us all”, the High Representative said, echoing the United Nations Secretary-General's appeal to Russia to stop its aggression and the High Commissioner’s words of grave concern over civilian casualties and the human rights implications of Russia’s actions.
Mr. Borell Fontelles also mentioned other situations where basic human rights were violated, such as in Belarus, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and northern Ethiopia. "The European Union will not accept any efforts to undermine fundamental freedoms or existing international human rights obligations. All members of this Human Rights Council - and the United Nations Security Council - must respect the responsibility and obligations that come with their membership" he further detailed. The Minister expressed the European Union’s full support to High Commissioner Bachelet and to the independence of her office, as her office was the custodian of human rights norms. The Special Procedures were the eyes and ears of this Council and they must be allowed to do their work. Mr. Borell Fontelles further stated that multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, remained the only way to achieve global peace, security and prosperity. He appealed to all United Nations members, big and small, to act to defend the principles and values of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council.
VELISLAVA PETROVA, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said that the Council was a pillar of human rights protection on a global scale. Throughout the years, Bulgaria had demonstrated its commitment to human rights protection, building on the principles of international human rights law. As they were speaking, the worst crisis was unfolding in Europe. As they had witnessed, armed conflict posed a great threat to the enjoyment of human rights, and the ongoing aggression to Ukraine was no exception. The aggression was strongly condemned and support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty affirmed. Russia was urged to immediately cease the attacks and adhere to international law. The Council should remain seized of the matter until it was relieved.
Bulgaria remained committed to fight against COVID-19 and socio-economic recovery from the pandemic. International solidarity was of crucial importance, and Bulgaria had assisted with vaccine distribution to other countries. Combat against racism and hate speech was high on Bulgaria’s agenda. Acts of anti-Semitism remained rare in Bulgaria. Digital technologies were growing ever more rapidly, posing new challenges for human rights. Climate change required more discussion and action by the Council. During its membership in the Council, Bulgaria had been very active on subjects such as the rights of the child, the empowerment of women, and the rights of persons with disabilities. Bulgaria had put forward its candidature for the membership of the Council for the term 2024 to 2026.
CHOI JONGMOON, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said last year conflicts had broken out in many parts of the world, leading to attacks on civilians and human rights defenders. The socio-economic crisis generated by the pandemic had led to increased discrimination and poverty. The Republic of Korea strongly condemned the situation in Ukraine, and supported the urgent debate that would be held. The reports of civilian casualties were grounds for grave concern, and these could not be justified under any circumstances. There was an urgent need to protect civilians in Ukraine. The situation in Myanmar was also one for concern, and there was a need for an independent mechanism to investigate the situation. With regard to Afghanistan, the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghans, including women and girls, should be respected.
COVID-19 had affected all areas of the globe, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was no exception. The Republic of Korea had observed the situation there with great interest, and the international community should engage the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in order to improve the situation of the people there, in particular in the north. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should also participate in solving the situation of divided families. Over the years the Republic of Korea had brought the attention of the Council to various situations linked to developments in technology. The importance of the women, peace and security agenda was very important, and the agenda should be advanced, in particular by addressing conflict-based sexual violence around the globe.
FRANCISCO ANDRE, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal, said Portugal spoke at a sombre moment, perhaps the most sombre in Europe since the Second World War. Once again, they saw war in Europe, a war that was provoked by Russia and was illegitimate and illegal and would have serious consequences. Portugal stood in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and would welcome Ukrainians who needed a place to continue their lives in safety. Mr. Andre called on the Russian Federation to stop the invasion and return to the negotiating table. The Secretary of State also commended the United Nations for its ongoing commitment to human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Portugal was helping small island developing States and least developed countries in their efforts to fight this disease through providing resources and training health professionals. With the start of vaccine availability worldwide, Portugal had supported vaccination internationally and had donated more than 5.3 million doses of vaccine to 12 countries bilaterally and through COVAX and the European Civil Protection mechanism. He further stressed the importance of respecting all human rights as the only guarantee for achieving the right to development. The Secretary of State concluded by stating that his country's priorities were the elimination of the death penalty and the protection of women's rights.
ELIZABETH TRUSS MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, said the United Kingdom was proud to promote human rights across the world. They had a moral duty, especially when it came to members of this Council. This implied Tibet and Xinjiang and other parts of the world, including Afghanistan. Today, the world had to face up to the urgent situation in Ukraine. As they were speaking, the unjustified aggression on Ukraine continued with Russian troops laying siege to Ukrainian cities, and missiles hitting schools and hospitals. Over 500,000 people had fled. Blood was on Putin’s hands. He was breaking international law, including the United Nations Charter. He was violating human rights on an industrial scale. There were no shades of grey in this war. President Putin was waging a war against a sovereign nation. Russia was becoming a global pariah. This was the consequence of Putin’s war of choice. This was a struggle for freedom of all, which was why the United Kingdom stood by proudly by Ukraine.
The United Kingdom had been the first to send defence weapons and they had sent 220 million pounds, including providing Ukraine with vital medical supplies. Russia was called on to provide safe passage for civilians and unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Now was the time to come together and join forces to take decisive actions. Together they were cutting out the vast majority of Russia from the global financial system. This would be reflected on ordinary Russians and in rising interest rates. The United Kingdom and others were working to squeeze Putin’s regime higher and higher, targeting him personally and his high echelons. Nothing and no one was off the table. Ms. Truss continued to outline how the Kremlin continued to clamp down on civil society, including political prisoners. Thousands of people had been arrested across the country for anti-war protests.
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