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Human Rights Council Starts High-Level Segment, Hearing from the Presidents of Tunisia, Lithuania, Colombia, Marshall Islands and Venezuela

28 February 2022


The Human Rights Council this morning started its high-level segment, hearing statements from the Presidents of Tunisia, Lithuania, Colombia, Marshall Islands and Venezuela, as well as from Ministers from 14 other countries.

Kaïs Saïed, President of Tunisia, said Tunisia was working to promote all human rights. Some believed that the extraordinary measures that were adopted in Tunisia were a means to deny certain rights. This belief was wrong and misleading and had nothing to do with the reality.

Gitanas Nausėda, President of Lithuania, said the international order was shattering, and he must speak out on the brutal, unprovoked and large-scale assault on Ukraine. This action by Russia and Belorussia was a despicable crime against humanity. Its effects on the international situation would be felt for decades.

Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia, said the protection of human rights was a priority for Colombia, based on the pillars of legality, entrepreneurship and equity. The new Citizen Security Law toughened the penalties for those who threatened the life of human rights defenders and social leaders.

David Kabua, President of the Marshall Islands, said the Marshall Islands had called for the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on climate change as climate change was an existential threat to people, sovereignty, and the full realisation of human rights.

Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, said Venezuela had managed to mitigate and control the pandemic, despite the many challenges due to the extortionate and criminal sanctions against the economy and people of Venezuela, blocking access to food and medical supplies before and during the pandemic.

Also speaking were Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar; Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China; Sokhonn Prak, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia; Euclides Roberto Acevedo Candia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay; Santiago Andres Cafiero, Minister for Foregin Affairs of Argentina; Riad Al-Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine; Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain; Nikola Selaković, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia; Nicu Popescu, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Integration of the Republic of Moldova; Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand; Alan Ganoo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius; Sophie Wilmes, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs of Belgium; and Ararat Mirzoyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia.

Speakers discussed the importance of upholding human rights in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The health and economic toll this had taken on citizens of all countries was a cause of concern, including the lack of universal access to vaccinations, and it was hindering the promotion of human rights. They also highlighted the escalating conflict in Ukraine, calling for a cessation of violence and for the need to respect the democratic sovereignty of Member States. Paramount was the need to protect civilians, which was at the core of upholding human rights.
Another priority was the recognition that human rights encompassed a wide range of spheres, including gender, education, digital and social rights. Embedding these rights required gradual building and strengthening, as well as taking into account national particularities and context.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 1 p.m. to continue with its high-level segment.

High-level Segment

KAÏS SAÏED, President of Tunisia, said the world was seeing unprecedented situations that humanity had never experienced before, especially this pandemic that had spared no one. In the face on such challenges, the circumstances of these developments and the efforts of the international community had been joined together at the global, regional and national levels. Overcoming this pandemic would only be possible by combining the efforts of all because the solution could only be global. Tunisia was working to promote all human rights, from the first to the fourth generation. It would achieve this with its cooperation with international, regional and national organizations. The challenges were many and the only way to address them and to address the successive generation of human rights was to promote human rights. The shared principles and values of the world should be preserved.

Tunisia had taken a number of extraordinary measures on 25 July, based on Tunisia’s firm conviction that the purpose of drafting the constitution and legislation was to promote human rights in practise, not just in texts. Tunisia had its first constitution and its first bill of rights as early as in the mid-nineteenth century. Tunisians had had a long and profound constitutional experience. Measures had been taken in accordance with the constitution to preserve the rights and freedoms and the first generation of civil and political rights, as well as the second generation of economic and social rights. Some believed that the extraordinary measures that were adopted were a means to deny certain rights. This belief was wrong and misleading and had nothing to do with the reality. Freedom of the press and freedom of movement were guaranteed. All freedoms were guaranteed by constitution and the international instruments ratified by Tunisia.

GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, said his intention had been to celebrate Lithuania’s presence in the Human Rights Council and to call for more cooperation, dialogue and commitment to effective multilateralism. However, these words now sounded hollow and empty. The international order was shattering, and he must speak out on the brutal, unprovoked and large-scale assault on Ukraine. This action by Russia and Belorussia was a despicable crime against humanity. Its effects on the international situation would be felt for decades. This followed a problem path, a path already seen earlier with attacks on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Russian battle tanks had paid homage to Stalin. There had been weak international action at the beginning, ending in silent normalisation. This lack of response had inspired Russia to lose its last respect for international law. The war in Ukraine should have been prevented by coordinated actions. It was on the international community to stop it.

With power politics back on the table, the international community’s duty was to help the victims and prevent the perpetrators. Human rights could not be a hostage to military intervention. The international community must step up its efforts, and be resolute and quick, for such military conflict disrupted countless civilian lives. No one should be left behind and no human right ignored. To make this goal feasible, there must be global action, working closely with human rights defenders and members of civil society. Lithuania rejected any attempts at politically motivated reprisals, arrests, torture, detention and killings. All should support full respect for the freedom of assembly and association, as well as for the freedom of expression, religion or belief. The international community must oppose labelling non-governmental organizations as foreign agents. The great battle for the future was only starting. A vibrant civil society would be essential for the protection of human rights worldwide. Lithuania hoped to help make this a reality.

IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, reiterated that the protection of human rights was a priority for Colombia, based on the pillars of legality, entrepreneurship and equity. This year, the Government had brought into law new guidelines for the respect and guarantee of human rights in Colombia, which would serve as a roadmap for their protection. The Government had also invested over $4 million launching a project to strengthen guarantees for the exercise of social leadership and the defence of human rights. This work had seen the protection of 3,600 social leaders and almost 1,300 human rights defenders. The new Citizen Security Law also toughened the penalties for those who threatened the lives of human rights defenders and social leaders.

Almost 13,000 people had been successfully reintegrated into civilian life, with the completion of more than 4,000 productive projects that allowed them to build a new life in the legal economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had placed considerable strains on Colombia and hampered some of the progress. As of March this year, solidarity payments would be extended to more than 4 million people to help with the fight against COVID-19. This was combined with a vaccine rollout of more than 75 million doses applied to nearly 33 million Colombians. Colombia continued to support Venezuelans facing dictatorship, and had granted temporary protection status to 550,000 Venezuelans.

DAVID KABUA, President of the Marshall Islands, noted that experience had shown that small island developing States were bringing innovative solutions to the table. The Marshall Islands was considering putting its candidature forward for the Council for the term 2025-2027. In the last six years, the Marshall Islands had acceded to 11 human rights instruments and protocols. The Marshall Islands had called for the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on climate change. As many of those from low-lying islands confronted with the reality of rising sea-levels were acutely aware, climate change was an existential threat to people, sovereignty, and the full realisation of human rights.

Equally compelling were the human rights challenges faced by the Marshallese people, arising out of their nuclear legacy. Between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islands was used as a nuclear bomb test site, administered under a United Nations Trusteeship. Certain atolls were vacated for these nuclear tests and these people and their descendants remained displaced to this day. On Runit Island, a large dome covered a massive dump of nuclear and toxic waste. Most of this waste was brought to the Marshall Islands from other nuclear test sites and dumped on them without their knowledge or consent. The Marshallese people had been exposed to nuclear fallout and had become sick. Nuclear justice for the Marshallese people could be delayed no longer, as it was already 76 years overdue. In the face of rising global threats and tensions, the Council must be the pillar of hope for humanity and hold those that violated human rights to account.

NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, said over the past two years, humanity had experienced horrendous, serious and unexpected consequences sparked by the pandemic, which had exacerbated the profound inequalities around the world, reflected in unequal access to vaccines and treatment. Health organization in low-income countries showed that only 10 per cent of the population was vaccinated. Venezuela had managed to mitigate and control the pandemic, despite the many challenges due to the extortionate and criminal sanctions against the economy and people of Venezuela, blocking access to food and medical supplies before and during the pandemic.

Venezuela had been the target of 502 unilateral coercive measures and other direct and indirect measures to destroy its economy, destabilise its democracy and put an end to the inclusive social model established by the Bolivarian revolution of the twenty-first century. A sustained campaign of lies in the international press had sought to criminalise the country, its authorities and its migrants. Attempts at coups d’etat, paramilitary entrance of criminal gangs financed by drug trafficking, and sabotage of the public services and infrastructure were all part of the economic war plan by those seeking for a change in regime, aiming to take control of natural resources and the wealth of Venezuela. Venezuela rejected attempts to use the international human rights system to substitute governments that were not aligned with the interests of the West. Foreign financial institutions denied Venezuela the opportunity to protect the health and lives of the Venezuelan people. Democratic elections had continued in Venezuela and the people had exercised their rights to vote. Venezuela’s actions in the Human Rights Council were aimed at protecting, promoting and guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

MUKHTAR TILEUBERDI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said it was very symbolic that he was delivering a statement on the eve of the anniversary of Kazakhstan's accession to the United Nations. The human rights agenda was on the top of the policy priorities of Kazakhstan, which stood firmly determined to protect and promote human rights at the national and international level. Kazakhstan had ratified eight core human rights instruments and six additional protocols. It had also engaged in the Universal Periodic Review and accepted 214 out of 245 recommendations. As a new incoming member of the Council, Kazakhstan had priorities such as gender equality, abolition of the death penalty and freedom of belief.

The tragic events of last January were a major test for democratic institutions of Kazakhstan. The President had met the demand of the protesters on decreased prices on essential items, as well as on respect of human rights of citizens, namely with the introduction of the concept of the "listening State". Mr. Tilebuberdi said the initially peaceful protests had been hijacked and he praised the restoration of law and order. Some 238 people had died and an investigation was currently underway, with preliminary results expected to be announced in two weeks’ time. Three dozen criminal cases were investigated, 742 individuals remained in custody, many of whom had previous convictions, and 406 complaints on illegal actions of the law enforcement personnel had been received. Three weeks ago, Kazakhstan had hosted a delegation from the High Commissioner’s Office and had agreed on developing a road map on technical assistance. Protecting human rights would be placed high on the agenda. The new Government had been placing a particular effort in ensuring that the income of the population would grow and that a new social code would be adopted, taking into account the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the reform of the entire national security system to insure the protection of Kazakhstan's population.

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said Qatar had followed with deep concern the military escalation in Ukraine. A constructive dialogue approach and diplomatic methods were necessary to resolve this crisis. Qatar respected Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. The protection of civilians in such circumstances should be given the highest priority and the difficult humanitarian situation that millions of refugees would face in the event of continued escalated tension was concerning. It would require the international community’s solidarity to develop emergency plans to respond to their most critical needs, in parallel with efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar said that although it seemed that the end of the pandemic was in sight, there was a need to act collectively, in a spirit of shared responsibility, to eliminate this crisis once and for all. The State of Qatar had adopted a balanced and effective approach in dealing with the manifold effects of the pandemic and was providing logistical and material support to affected countries and to the World Health Organization. Qatar would host the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals at the end of this year which would be the first environmentally friendly and "carbon neutral" tournament. The international community was called upon to continue its cooperation and assume its moral and legal responsibilities concerning the crisis in Afghanistan, Palestine and Syria.

WANG YI, State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused difficulty in promoting human rights around the world. China believed the Human Rights Charter had set a lofty goal for human rights, and it fell to each country to advance the cause in light of its own context. He affirmed that ensuring that peoples’ aspirations for a happy life were satisfied, and that they were fulfilled and secure, was the true measure of human rights. Development was fundamental to human rights, and in its absence, no human rights were possible, and China was endorsing this. Using other countries’ standards in implementing human rights was not possible, therefore, the Human Rights Council should uphold the principle of non-politicisation. Promoting human rights was fundamental to the Chinese Communist Party, which had lifted 170 million rural citizens out of poverty. China would continue to pursue a human rights path that met its national specificities and promoted human prosperity.

The Chinese Government would continue to contribute to the worthy cause of the United Nations. In relation to Xinjiang, the per capita GDP had expanded 30 times, with life expectancy rising, and religious freedom accepted. As such, claims of genocide were misplaced, and he invited any visitors who wanted to come without bias, to observe the situation with their own eyes. Regarding Hong Kong, its transformation from chaos to order had been a marked improvement in recent years, which had fostered greater democracy and harmony. In conclusion, he wished this session of the Council success in its work.

SOKHONN PRAK, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, stressed that 2022 was another year in the grip of particular challenges with lingering uncertainties and far-reaching repercussions. Over the past two years, the Coronavirus and its variants had wreaked havoc in terms of public health, socio-economic conditions and politics. Globally, the pandemic had cost millions of lives and put a heavy strain on the health systems of all countries. The gains in poverty reduction had been reversed. Gender, educational, digital and social disparity was further widened. The intensified power rivalries had caused further stresses upon the delicate peace and security. To make things worse, human rights and democracy had been weaponised against the out-group through the application of legislative and economic tools with shameless hypocrisy and double standards.

The Council must be a fulcrum of genuine and respectful dialogue to deepen understanding of commonalities and differences about human rights. Cambodia was recognised as a “success story” of a country devastated by armed conflicts and genocide, a country which had reconciled amongst its own people, and achieved enormous socio-economic transformations. Its response to the health predicament held human rights at the core, especially the rights to life, health and survival. Providing social protection interventions to the vulnerable and disadvantaged was a top priority of the Government to leave no one behind. Unfortunately, all positive stories on Cambodia were hardly reflected in the highly selective reports of the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Unfortunately, a few biased others only framed Cambodia in terms of the shortcomings in the values of perfect human rights, an exemplary standard that even their own countries could not hope to achieve. Democracy was neither an imported nor exported good. Human rights were shared values for all humanity and no country could claim the monopoly of the model of human rights and democracy.

EUCLIDES ROBERTO ACEVEDO CANDIA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, said the international community was undergoing a moment of perplexity and shock faced with the prospect of war, where human rights violations were a regrettable issue. Given the crisis in Ukraine, Paraguay asked for immediate cessation of hostilities and war and return to a diplomatic solution to the crisis. It was an atmosphere of tension but also of hope. Paraguay was always promoting solutions within the international human rights system and set out as its commitment towards working to uphold the multilateral system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been obvious that if human rights were not upheld, any crisis would find all scattered and helpless.

National human rights systems had to be strengthened and Paraguay could assist other States in promoting human rights solutions and best practices. Paraguay had in place oversight mechanisms for human rights and mechanisms for implementation. Paraguay was further committed to working on clean energy. In that sense, the Paris Agreement was upheld and the fact that the Council had a Special Rapporteur on climate change was welcomed. In conclusion, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay reiterated that there was no peace without the comprehensive upholding of human rights.

SANTIAGO ANDRES CAFIERO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, said the Government of Argentina was committed to multilateralism and the work of the Human Rights Council. The international community was not entitled to condemn the concerns of any country that had concerns over its security. All concerns were legitimate, but these needed to be discussed around the negotiating table, and not via armed conflict. This was why diplomacy was so important. Argentina condemned the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. The victims of war were truth and life. Part of Argentina remained occupied by the United Kingdom, which was a source of anguish for the country.

South America remained a zone of lasting peace, and as such valued the collective construct of national security. As an example, Chile and Argentina had signed peace agreements in 1984, and peaceful agreements with Brazil in 1985. The establishment of the South American Trade Bloc MERCOSUR had been key in building wellbeing and dismantling obstacles to collaboration. Argentina had two Noble peace prize winners in its history, and so understood that conflict disputes must be solved peacefully. The Pope, himself an Argentinian, had called for dialogue within the Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See, to resolve the current conflict. Now more than ever, it was important that the major powers shouldered their responsibility in stopping that conflict, as without peace, it was impossible to uphold human rights, and therefore the work of this Council. Strengthening the role of this body to act in the face of human rights abuses was key.

RIAD AL-MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, said every year the international community met to discuss international human rights and international human rights law. But the reality for millions of victims of egregious human rights violations continued to deteriorate, the right to justice continued to be ignored, and the culture of impunity reigned. The reason behind this was double standards. Respect for international human rights and international humanitarian law should be ensured universally. This hall had borne witness to outrageous statements justifying war crimes and crimes against humanity, many committed against the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people had suffered from this, with the Israeli Government given special treatment, allowing it to commit crimes with utter impunity. Hundreds of Palestinian families lived under the intolerable threat of dispossession. Israeli settlers enjoyed legal protection, whilst the Palestinian people were punished for protecting themselves. Israel continued to expand, stripping all Palestinians from their fundamental rights. Some States rewarded Israel with special status: only double-standards and exceptionalism could explain this upside-down reality.

States that respected international law had nothing to hide; they did not bar United Nations officials, nor ban human rights defenders. When they did, they were met with justifiable international disapproval, and yet Israel banned international investigators and got away with it, as it wished for no proof of its crimes, and could count on special treatment by the international community. Palestine called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update the database of companies involved in illegal activities in Palestine. Exceptionalism was also applied by some Member States who continued to work against item seven on the Human Rights Council agenda.

JOSE MANUEL ALBARES BUENO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, said he was addressing the Council at a time of particular hardship for Europe and for the entire international community. He recognised the work of the Council, entrusted with a fundamental mandate, that of promoting and protecting human rights, a mission “more necessary today than ever”. The Minister condemned in the strongest terms the acts of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which were "a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law".

On the COVID-19 pandemic, after two years, the world was seeing signs of recovery. However, the inequalities that had already existed had been exacerbated by the pandemic, a reminder that a move to a scenario of sustainable, rights-based recovery was needed. For Spain, vaccination was a global public good and it had been able to combine a high percentage of vaccination of its own population with being one of the main donors of vaccines through multilateral mechanisms. More needed to be done to strengthen the capacity of the Council and partnerships were key to carry out its preventive role and serve as an early warning system to avoid crises and conflicts. Spain was a firm believer that technical cooperation and support to national human rights institutions and mechanisms, and to civil society organizations, together with the work of the High Commissioner's offices on the ground, played an essential role in addressing challenges with a long-term vision. Spain would once again be a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the next three years.

NIKOLA SELAKOVIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, stressed that events of the 1990s had left a mark on the region that Serbia belonged to and Serbia was striving to contribute to lasting reconciliation by constructively approaching the resolution of all open issues, with a commitment to strengthening regional cooperation. Special attention was focused on determining the fate of missing persons. Unfortunately, this issue was often politicised, thus slowing down the process. Serbia had worked on finding a lasting and sustainable solution for protracted displacement, both for the refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the internally displaced from Kosovo and Metohija. Stabilisation of the region depended on resolving this issue. Serbia had the largest number of internally displaced in Europe - persons of Serbian and other non-Albanian nationalities from Kosovo and Metohija. In finding lasting solutions for this, it was necessary to ensure equal choice between local integration and return to the place of origin. For this, basic requirements needed to be met in the place of origin in terms of personal and property security, the rule of law and absence of discrimination.

As a country located on the Balkans migrant route, Serbia had taken a highly humane approach in the provision of shelter and by providing international protection based on the principle of non-discrimination. Concerning the pandemic and vaccination, Serbia had selflessly delivered vaccines, both to some neighbouring countries and to the countries of the African and Middle Eastern regions.

NICU POPESCU, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Integration of the Republic of Moldova, condemned in the strongest possible terms the attacks of Russia on Ukraine. These attacks violated the key principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of a country. Moldova reconfirmed the rights of Ukraine, and while being a neutral country, called on Russia to cease its attacks and return to negotiations to preserve peace on the continent.

The COVID-19 crisis had demonstrated that it was possible to develop, in record time, the means to solve human crises. This sense of urgency should be applied to other human rights matters. The Republic of Moldova had recently completed its Universal Periodic Review exercise and thanked its partners and civil society groups for their contributions. Justice sector reforms and fighting corruption were key human rights that were being streamlined by the Government. Furthermore, gender equality was important, with females making up more than one third of parliamentarians, and several key ministries led by women. The lockdown had placed victims of gender and domestic violence at higher risk, and the Moldovan Government was addressing this. The conflict in the Transnistria region of Moldova had shown an alarming trend of criminal persecution and deprivation of liberty. The conditions of detention of political prisoners remained unknown, and he called for the protection of human rights in Transnistria.

DON PRAMUDWINAI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said the COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the social fault lines and the precarity of the pandemic had highlighted the need for the international community to cooperate constructively on poverty eradication, addressing inequalities, and combatting discrimination, violence and exclusion of all forms. Thailand had enacted a universal health insurance law in 2002, and at present, over 95 per cent of the citizens of the country were covered by one of four public health schemes. The pandemic had sparked not only a health crisis, but also an economic crisis, particularly in poorer countries. In addressing social and economic impacts of COVID-19, countries should be creative in their investment in social welfare protection so that social safety nets were comprehensive, readily available, and accessible to the underprivileged and the vulnerable. The hardest challenge was to make these programmes sustainable. As billions of dollars would be needed to address the sustainability question, multilateral cooperation was needed.

On digital inequality, Mr. Pramudwinai mentioned that it was a significant cause of concern, which was why Thailand had prioritised bridging the gap of digital disparity by placing a particular emphasis on children’s access to quality education. Thailand supported the efforts to further increase the effectiveness of the Human Right Council’s tools and continued to advocate for technical cooperation and capacity building in promoting and protecting human rights. Concerned over armed conflicts in many parts of the world, including in Ukraine, the Minister concluded by emphasising the critical need for engagement for peaceful dialogue, and avoidance of any action that would further aggravate a situation that could lead to a severe humanitarian crisis.

ALAN GANOO, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius, said as a small island developing State, Mauritius was guided by universal human rights values and remained guided by the principles of multilateralism. The incomplete decolonisation of Mauritius and the forcible removal of the Chagos Islanders were the objective of advisory opinions of various international legal bodies, as well as the General Assembly, which required the United Kingdom to withdraw its administration from the Chagos Islands. The colonial power had so far failed to do so and return full administration of the archipelago to Mauritius. United Nations General Assembly resolution 73/295 of May 2019 and the judgement of the Special Chamber on the Law of the Sea had maintained that the Chagos archipelago was an integral part of Mauritius, and had called on all Member States to support the restitution of the territory. Mauritius welcomed the steps taken by the United Nations and some of its specialised agencies in this regard. The Government had recently organized a visit to the Chagos archipelago to carry out a scientific survey in the context of the maritime delimitation survey currently being carried out between Mauritius and the Maldives. The Mauritians of Chagossian origin had been wronged and deserved to be fully restored to their lands.

Mauritius had always maintained that there could not be a selective approach to human rights, and it was high time to move on from rhetoric on complete decolonisation, and Mauritius looked forward to this happening. Many countries, in particular the least developed, were still struggling to gain access to vaccinations, and this put in danger the achievement of the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals. Mauritius looked forward to the conclusion of a Pandemic Treaty allowing for the effective dealing with new pandemics in the future and remained committed to enhancing the human rights of its population. Mauritius looked forward to the continuing support of all Member States.

SOPHIE WILMES, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs of Belgium, condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which represented a fundamental violation of the tenets of the United Nations. Belgium was committed to raising this issue in all relevant fora, including within the Council today. Human rights were not a relative concept, and so no citizens could be denied their human rights on the grounds of national sovereignty, or cultural relativism. Belgium’s Universal Periodic Review had recently concluded. These processes were fundamental to the working of the Council.

The principles of equality and non-discrimination were core to human rights, but much more work was needed to overcome gender inequality. Belgium had adopted new plans of action to address a number of human rights issues in the country, and civil society organizations had been key to this work. Belgium had always advocated for the promotion of human rights, and as such it had presented its candidacy to be a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025 and asked for the support of other Member States in its application.

ARARAT MIRZOYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said the Council had been envisaged to stand for all and everyone at all times, and that it was the inherent dignity of human beings that was at stake through its work. The human rights of people in situations of conflict should be a particular focus of the Council and its Special Procedures. Armenia would introduce a new draft resolution on the prevention of genocide during the forty-ninth session of the Council, a subject that Armenia had been championing for many years, for which it would hold consultations with all interested States. Concerning the parliamentary elections that were organized earlier in Armenia, the Minister explained that international observers assessed that they had passed in compliance with the highest human rights standards. Armenia remained committed to multilateralism and adherence to the purposes and principles of the Organization.

As the United Nations Charter referred to "we the people” as the source of its legitimacy, the people and their rights should indeed be put at the forefront of everything, among which the right for self-determination, which was vital as the use of force against it often led to mass atrocities. Armenia called upon the international community to ensure international access to the whole territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan had failed to answer the last communications in sheer defiance of the United Nations machinery. Azerbaijan continued its policy of human right abuses on the borders of Armenia, where the population suffered from constant provocation from Azerbaijan’s armed personnel. The plight of the people who did not have access to the United Nations should not be ignored, Mr. Mirzoyan said.