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Human Rights Council Starts High-Level Segment, Hears from Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Montenegro and Colombia

The Human Rights Council this morning began its high-level segment, hearing from the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Montenegro and Colombia. Addresses were also heard from the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and of Yemen, as well as from Ministers representing 15 other countries.

Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said it was time for the international community, in particular the United Nations, to punish the perpetrators of crimes and violations of international law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and further compel them to implement the peace plan resulting from the Nairobi and Luanda processes.

Milo Ðukanovic, President of Montenegro, said this year’s debate was taking place in the context of the continuation of the one year-long war of Russia against Ukraine and the tectonic quakes and consequences for global security, geopolitics and economics. The Russian aggression was a test for the entire world.

Gustavo Petro Urrego, President of Colombia, said the Government of Colombia had set itself the objective of overcoming violence with the profound conviction that peace needed to be the foundation of a new social contract that promoted the overcoming of injustices and historical exclusions.

Petr Fiala, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, said all people had the same rights and freedoms, which could not be divided, and these rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be promoted. People in many countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar or Cuba were still suffering from human rights violations, and the international community should not be silent about it.

Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed, Prime Minister of Yemen, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was historic, and the basis for international efforts for setting the standards of international human rights instruments. The main approach to addressing human rights violations was through addressing the functions of national bodies, activating monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and empowering the judiciary to investigate human rights violations.

Also speaking were Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan; Ivica Dacic, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia; Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand; Tran Luu Quang, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam; Wopke B. Hoekstra, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Julio César Arriola Rámirez, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay; Antonia Urrejola Noguera, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile; Abdellatif Ouahbi, Minister of Justice of Morocco; Abdulla Shahid, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives; Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy of Denmark; Ilia Darchiashvili, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia; Arnoldo Andre, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica; Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland; Aïssata Tall Sall, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Senegal; and Maria Ubach Font, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra.

Speakers, among other things, reiterated the call for effective multilateralism as the best available tool to overcome major challenges. To do so, the international community needed to address the root causes of the degradation of the human rights situation around the world. The challenges, both old and new, conventional and unconventional, required to think more progressively and innovatively how to bridge the growing disconnection between standards and reality, while resisting the temptation to take measures and actions that could become part of the problem, not the solution. The international community had the opportunity, but also the duty, not only to reiterate commitment to its tenets, but also to give new momentum to collective efforts aimed at preserving, protecting and promoting human rights.

The Ministers said it was a sad fact that in the twenty-first century the world continued to face violations of basic human rights everywhere. Dialogue and cooperation were the best way for all countries to seek a common voice, identify priorities, share resources, and deliver on the targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was essential to strengthen the Council and all mechanisms and procedures that ensured its operation. States must respect the decisions taken within the body, as this would ensure the efficacy of all measures put in place to ensure human rights, as it was one of the most important bodies ensuring a comprehensive human rights agenda, moving the world towards a fairer, more inclusive society.

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 fifty-second 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

FÉLIX-ANTOINE TSHISEKEDI TSHILOMBO, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been shaken since 1994 by deadly cyclical violence and looting of its natural resources by terrorist armed groups. For 30 years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been the scene of the most abominable human atrocities. The Government had taken actions to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Rwandan authorities had revived the Terrorist Movement of March 23, M23, to attack the Democratic Republic of the Congo and block the Nairobi peace process. This was the place to denounce the false allegations of the Rwandan leaders both on collaborations with certain officers of the Congolese army and on speech tribal hatred against the so-called Rwandophone populations. The President pointed to the report of the United Nations group of experts on the security situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As for hate speech against Congolese Tutsi, the Government remained firm against any individual and group holding such speech.

It was imperative to put an end to the warlike adventures of Rwanda in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was time for the international community, in particular the United Nations, to punish the perpetrators of crimes and violations of international law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and further compel them to implement the peace plan resulting from the Nairobi and Luanda processes, endorsed by both the African Union and the United Nations Security Council. The Democratic Republic of the Congo expected its bilateral and multilateral partners to support its efforts to restore the State authority throughout its national territory and to reform its judicial apparatus, its structures and those working in them

MILO ÐUKANOVIC, President of Montenegro, said this year’s debate was taking place in the context of the continuation of the one year-long war of Russia against Ukraine, in the midst of deconstruction of the foundations of the international order based on rules and the United Nations Charter, and the tectonic quakes and consequences for global security, geopolitics and economics, including the energy crisis and food crisis, inflation pressure, and increases in the costs of living and doing business. The Russian aggression was a test for the entire world, and it generally functioned as a sobering and cohesive factor in the international community. Given all of this, it was important to take an open and clear view of how countries treated their obligations to protect and promote human rights, because it was what human lives, peace, security, and stability depended on.

Montenegro welcomed the permanent attention that the Human Rights Council dedicated to the situation of human rights in Ukraine in this context. More than ever, the world needed this vision and spirit of the Universal Declaration, which was why Montenegro added its voice to the resonant calls of the High Commissioner to rejuvenate global consensus on human rights as universal, indivisible and interdependent and to revive the spirit and vitality of the Universal Declaration, ensuring that human rights were in the focus of responses to polycrises and that they were supported by the legal system based on the rule of law, as well as supporting the inclusive, efficient, and networked multilateralism and its institutions. Montenegro would remain a principled voice regarding drastic violations of human rights, crises and conflicts that took place in other countries around the globe, and would continue its pro-active and constructive role in the Council, with a view to strengthening respect for and preservation of universal human rights everywhere and for all.

GUSTAVO PETRO URREGO, President of Colombia, said the Government of Colombia had set itself the objective of overcoming violence with the profound conviction that peace needed to be the foundation of a new social contract that promoted the overcoming of injustices and historical exclusions in Colombia. For this reason, the Colombian Government would create the National System of Equality and Equity, with the aim of formulating and implementing policies and measures to promote the elimination of economic, political and social inequalities and to promote the enjoyment of the right to equality. The objective of total peace arose from the conclusions of the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, created by the Peace Agreement between the Government and the guerrilla group of the extinct FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which highlighted the relationship between violence and drug trafficking.

For this reason, Colombia proposed a new drug policy with a human rights approach, implementing strategies that addressed the structural causes of the phenomenon, such as poverty and institutional weakness, among others, and generated a regulation based on the care of life. The commemorations of the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Work and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were an opportunity to identify which rights required special attention and how to strengthen the instruments. The Colombian Government had decided to deepen Colombia’s work with the Council, ratifying instruments such as the Escazú Agreement, among other measures. The Government also undertook to give an open invitation to the Special Procedures and renewed the Headquarters Agreement that regulated the operation of the Office in Colombia of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, giving it continuity at least until 2032. Colombia aspired to be a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2025-2027.

PETR FIALA, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, said protecting human rights was the highest priority of the Government’s foreign policy and drew inspiration from former Czech President Václav Havel, who believed that all people had the same rights and freedoms, which could not be divided. If someone was denied their freedom, then everybody was. “We cannot be silent when we face evil or violence. Because if we are silent, it means we accept it”, he said. Basic rights and freedoms should not be taken from anyone, but they sometimes were. This was why these rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be promoted. Expressing support to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office, Mr. Fiala said that the Czech Republic had joined the United Nations Human Rights Council again and now had a leading role.

On the situation in Ukraine which was very important for the Czech Republic, Mr. Fiala said that people in Ukraine were suffering from many crimes and violations of their human rights carried out by Russian occupation forces. Czechia supported Ukraine and its brave people in this battle. The country had welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees and would continue to help Ukraine as needed. The attack on Ukraine was also making the human rights situation much more difficult in Russia, where repression was growing. Mr. Fiala appreciated that the Council had established a mandate of a Special Rapporteur to monitor the conditions in Russia. Human rights violations also continued in Belarus, where about 1,500 people were in prison for political reasons. It was typical that Czechia focused on its eastern neighbours. But people in other countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar or Cuba were still suffering from human rights violations. Like Václav Havel had said, the international community should not be silent about this.

MAEEN ABDULMALEK SAEED, Prime Minister of Yemen, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was historic, and the basis for international efforts for setting the standards of international human rights instruments. Yemen was one of the first countries to deal positively with it, and was a party to more than 58 declarations and protocols linked to human rights and international humanitarian law. Yemen had included them in its Constitution and legislation, with the Government placing human rights at the top of its priorities, in particular in the context of the activities of the Houthi militia. Human rights were essential to achieve a just and secure peace for all, but unfortunately, the Houthi militia did not believe in peace, and the international community had witnessed the details of their activities, failing to end the suffering of the Yemeni people, failing to implement peace agreements, violating all legal and moral principles and conventions of human rights, and terrorising all those who opposed it. Yemen had been turned into the largest minefield in the world.

As a result of this, Yemen had decided to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist group, and called upon the international community to do so similarly. In defiance of the will of the Yemeni people and the international community for peace, the activities of the Houthi militia required efforts to address the crisis, and restore the State and all rights and freedoms. Peace was achieved by restoring legal and constitutional conditions that preserved the rights and dignity of individuals, in a context of respect for international laws and agreements, guaranteeing laws and human rights. The main approach to addressing human rights violations was through addressing the functions of national bodies, activating monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and empowering the judiciary to investigate human rights violations. Yemen continued to make strenuous efforts to achieve these goals.

MUKHTAR TILEUBERDI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said Kazakhstan fully stood for the rule of law with the United Nations Charter as one of the cornerstones of the international multilateral system. Tireless efforts had been made by Kazakhstan last year to further strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights and to build a democratic society. Significant reforms had been introduced transforming the entire political system of the country and bringing tangible social-economic changes. Earlier this year, Kazakhstan had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, and it would establish a National Fund for Children, among other measures. Kazakhstan was working with the countries of Central Asia and Mongolia to declare the region as the world’s first death penalty-free region. This area was already a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Last year Kazakhstan held a referendum on amending the Constitution. The protection of the constitutional rights of citizens was a main priority. As a result of the reforms, the Constitutional Court was created, and the legal status of the Human Rights Ombudsperson was enshrined in the legal status of the Constitution. The procedure for registering political parties had also been greatly simplified. The inclusiveness of the electoral process was ensured through the legal introduction of a 30 per cent quota for women, youth, and persons with special needs. On 19 March this year, parliamentary elections would be held in Kazakhstan, with a new system which ensured that the entire spectrum of opinions of voters would be covered. This year, Kazakhstan intended to present a draft resolution on a “Safe and inclusive learning environment” to the Council. The State reiterated the call for effective multilateralism as the best available tool to overcome major challenges.

IVICA DACIC, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that it was a sad fact that in the twenty-first century the world continued to face violations of basic human rights everywhere. For Serbia, it was certainly the most painful that such cases were faced in its southern province. In Kosovo and Metohija, the provisional institutions of Pristina systematically prevented the right to a dignified, safe and secure life of Serbs and other non-Albanian population. Numerous examples testified that the non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija faced the restriction of freedom of movement, the denial of basic civil rights, and discrimination. Serbia was among the countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons in Europe.

Serbia had been pointing out for years that persons in long-term displacement needed to be given the right to choose between local integration and return to their place of origin, which applied to both refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija. Serbia was committed to avoiding politicisation, to an objective and non-selective approach to the issue of human rights, as well as to the provision of assistance to United Nations Member States in promoting human rights capacities. Efforts had been made to enhance national legislation in this area. The protection of minority rights in Serbia was at the highest level and in line with the highest international standards. Serbia wished to show by its own example that the protection of minority communities symbolised the maturity of a society.

DON PRAMUDWINAI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said the international community was meeting today at a pivotal moment as it celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Convention that had led to the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The occasion called for all to assess and reset, not the goals and standards of the Declaration, but the way that States endeavoured to apply and implement them in order to preserve and restore fundamental human dignity that was universal. To do so, the international community needed to address the root causes of the degradation of the human rights situation around the world.

There were three main formidable foes to human rights: wars, internal political and economic strife, and the triple planetary crisis. The most worrisome reality was that these foes had been spreading around the world both in intensity and complexity. The challenges, both old and new, conventional and unconventional, required States to think more progressively and innovatively how to bridge the growing disconnection between standards and reality, while resisting the temptation to take measures and actions that could become part of the problem, not the solution. The right to life and human security was decimated by wars, and the reprisal of nature deprived so many lives of their livelihood. These were some of the root and associated causes of human rights deprivation. The Universal Periodic Review was an important mechanism to continuously reinvent and readjust efforts to maintain the hope of human rights.

TRAN LUU QUANG, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam, said it was now 75 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A multitude of international treaties and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had also been adopted, which provided a strong foundation for the international community. Yet wars, conflicts, violence, poverty, inequality and injustice loomed over the everyday life of millions of people. Natural disasters, epidemics, climate change, environment degradation, and food and water insecurity were intensifying. Mr. Quang conveyed the deepest sympathy from Viet Nam to the Governments and peoples of Türkiye and Syria for the tremendous losses they suffered due to the recent earthquake. Viet Nam had provided assistance to help those affected. Mr. Quang thanked all Member States for electing Viet Nam as a member of the Human Rights Council for 2023–2025; the State was determined to shoulder its international responsibilities.

Having overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic instabilities, Viet Nam’s 2022 gross domestic product growth was 8.02 per cent, and 92 per cent of the population was covered with health insurance; 30 per cent of Viet Nam’s National Assembly deputies were women. The State was committed to becoming a modern, industrialised country by 2045. Viet Nam was strongly committed to multilateralism, international law and the United Nations Charter. It was vital to understand and respect the particularities of each country, and seek commonalities, instead of politicisation or interference. Dialogue and cooperation were the best way for all countries to seek a common voice, identify priorities, share resources, and deliver on the targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Further attention needed to be paid to ensuring better enjoyment of the most fundamental rights. Viet Nam proposed that the Council adopt a document to reaffirm the values of and commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

WOPKE B. HOEKSTRA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said that in the shadow of the one-year anniversary of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, it was painfully apparent that human rights were under severe attack. This was happening in Ukraine, which was witnessing rape, deportation and child abductions; in Russia, where the repression of civil society and independent media was almost complete; and in so many other parts of the world. This was a time that called on States not to stand by in silence, but to speak out in support of the international order and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written 75 years ago and so very relevant today. This was precisely why the Human Rights Council was so very important. The Netherlands’s was a candidate for election to the Council for the term 2024-2026. Membership required speaking out about human rights violations, while also looking critically domestically. Working together was the only way to understand each other and move forward.

The Netherlands was grateful for all the Council’s impressive collaborative endeavours and encouraged countries, large and small, to seek election to a seat on the Council. The Human Rights Council should protect the human rights of all people everywhere and at all times, preventing violations, providing assistance, and conducting independent investigations. Every Member State should champion human rights, which could never be optional, as they were interlinked and indivisible and applied to all. The international community should ensure that women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, plus persons could exercise their rights to the full and that journalists and human rights defenders could do their work without fear. Accountability should be pursued. In Iran, brave young girls and women, young boys and men, were risking their lives to protest for their rights. The world needed that courage. States should listen to each other and have the courage to speak out when they witnessed injustice – that was the only way to promote and protect human rights.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RÁMIREZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, said multilateralism was the best tool in order to build the consensus needed to solve the besetting problems facing humanity, namely diversity and confrontation, and ever more multilateralism was required to counter these. In this respect, strengthening the universal human rights system was crucial to prevent conflict, and all of this framework was established in order to build peace: by following it, future generations would be protected from the scourge of war and untold horrors, preserving peace, and moving forward for all. The participation of Paraguay in the Council was testimonial of its will to tackle the problems that knew no borders: climate change, organised crime, migration, pandemics, and many others. There should be recognition of the special challenges faced by land-locked developing countries, which required special aid to deal with the specific challenges facing them.

Paraguay would continue to focus on national human rights implementation mechanisms and follow-up reports, using technical cooperation based on its national mechanisms. Paraguay was shocked at the worsening situation of human rights in Nicaragua, where civic space was particularly affected, with arbitrary detention of civil society defenders, including journalists. It was a moral obligation of the Human Rights Council to send a clear message to victims, allowing them to know that they were supported, and renewing the mandate of the Group of Experts. Venezuela should give access to the Fact-Finding Mission established by the Council, allowing it to make progress in ensuring accountability. It was essential to strengthen the Council and all mechanisms and procedures that ensured its operation. States must respect the decisions taken within the body, as this would ensure the efficacy of all measures put in place to ensure human rights, as it was one of the most important bodies that ensured a comprehensive human rights agenda, moving the world towards a fairer, more inclusive society.

ANTONIA URREJOLA NOGUERA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said the Human Rights Council was the main space for cooperation, dialogue and consensus on human rights at the United Nations. In the October election last year, Chile won the first regional majority to return to a seat as a member of the Council. In 2023, Chile commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the coup d’état that overthrew the government and established a dictatorial regime, during which serious human rights violations were committed. During the dictatorship, international cooperation and the accompaniment of international organizations had been fundamental to assist nationals in situations of need. More than three decades after the recovery of democracy in Chile, the President had made the protection of human rights the central axis of the Government programme.

Situations such as Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, violations of women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan and Iran, and the repression suffered in Nicaragua demanded timely and equal responses. Chile had considered promoting a feminist foreign policy and aimed to eradicate gender-based violence in all its dimensions, as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The country had launched a Turquoise Foreign Policy to respond to the triple crisis of climate, biodiversity loss and global pollution. Chile’s priorities within the Human Rights Council would include the debate on business and human rights, and the impact of new technologies on human rights. In 2023, the sessions of the Human Rights Council coincided with two milestones: the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. These milestones called on the international community to continue deepening the work carried out by the Council.

ABDELLATIF OUAHBI, Minister of Justice of Morocco, said that Morocco’s membership in the Council was an incentive for it to continue to fulfil its human rights obligations, as an embodiment of the supreme will of the State and the irreversible strategic national direction. Morocco continued with its major reform projects, including the reform of the national health system. Attention was paid to developing a quality public school roadmap as well as promoting the right to work and social dialogue. Equality and women’s issues as well as a review of the penal system were also being addressed. In 2022, Morocco had submitted its national report for the fourth round of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and presented and discussed its combined fifth and sixth periodic report with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Morocco was preparing to discuss its second periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families with the Committee next March, and its report on the implementation of the Convention on Racial Discrimination with the Committee on Racial Discrimination in December.

On the Moroccan Sahara issue, Mr. Ouahbi reaffirmed Morocco’s support for the political process and its commitment to the format of round tables, with the participation of all parties, under the auspices of the United Nations, with a view to reaching a realistic, international, sustainable and consensus-based solution. This should be done within the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and on the basis of the autonomy initiative, which for the nineteenth time the Security Council had considered serious and credible; 91 countries now supported this initiative, and its dynamism had been strengthened by the opening of consulates in the Moroccan Sahara by a number of African, Arab and South American countries. The suffering of Moroccans detained in harsh conditions in the Tindouf camps in Algeria continued, as their daily lives were affected by siege, confiscation of the right to assembly, and prohibition of movement, among other basic human rights violations.

ABDULLA SHAHID, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had given rise to a golden age of multilateralism, and the international community must reflect on the progress achieved over the past 75 years, and reaffirm its commitment to keeping human rights at the heart of all developmental efforts, in order to build a more just, resilient, and inclusive world. To fully realise this simple truth of universal equality, to accomplish the mission of this Council, all countries must be given an equal voice. Maldives’ foreign policy was premised on three core pillars: protecting human rights, promoting democracy and good governance, and combatting climate change. Since President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed office in 2018, Maldives had been on a path to strengthen democracy and good governance, at home and abroad, and had renewed its commitment to democratic principles through extensive legislative reform and policy.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was a milestone in many aspects – but it was a watershed moment for women’s rights – with the universal acceptance that women’s rights were human rights. Countries around the world were already facing the realities of the triple planetary crisis: pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Today’s climate disasters were the symptoms. They would continue to intensify unless the root causes were addressed, and would continue to upend lives, disrupt livelihoods, and impact people’s rights. In 2021, the Human Rights Council had recognised for the first time that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was a human right, and last year the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed this right globally. It was now up to all to make this right a reality at the national level.

DAN JØRGENSEN, Minister for Development, Cooperation and Global Climate Policy of Denmark, said when the Council gathered last year, the international community had condemned the act of aggression by Russia against Ukraine. Today, more than a year later, these blatant violations of international law and human rights continued, which was difficult to believe. A year ago, the decision to establish an Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was timely and needed. The whole world was affected by Russia’s violation directly or indirectly, from energy and food supply to justice and rule of law. In Afghanistan, the past year had been devastating, especially for women and girls. Media workers and human rights defenders were living their lives in fear. The Taliban had reintroduced brutal public corporal punishments and executions.

In Iran, the international community had witnessed a wave of protests all over the country following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini. Protesters had been met with violent crackdowns, mass arrests, death penalties and executions. The fact-finding mission established by the Council was an important signal that the international community would not accept impunity as these violations continued. In China, Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang faced alarming human rights violations. China was urged to work with the United Nations to implement its recommendations. In Russia, restrictions of freedom of speech and assembly were crushing civil society space. The establishment of a Special Rapporteur was an important response to an alarming human rights situation. During these dark times, the brave people who fought for human rights were lights in the dark. In the seventy-fifth year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Denmark remained deeply committed to take action on human rights, which States were here to protect.

ILIA DARCHIASHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine had already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and made several millions flee their homes. As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world continued to witness mass violations of international humanitarian law. Justice should be served through international legal mechanisms. Russia should comply with the international norms, immediately cease the aggression, unconditionally withdraw all its troops and military equipment from Ukraine, and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country within the internationally recognised borders. As a member of the Council, Georgia saw more opportunities to contribute towards effective implementation of the mandate of the Human Rights Council in close cooperation with all stakeholders.

While Georgia spared no efforts to further advance higher standards of human rights protection on the Government-controlled territory, the situation in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions was deteriorating. The population on the ground and those living adjacent to the occupation line were suffering from illegal militarization, installation of artificial barriers, erecting razor-wire fences along the occupation line, and other grave violation of the human rights. There was a rising sense of impunity as no progress had been achieved in ensuring justice for the deprivation of life of ethnic Georgians. Some Georgian citizens were still in illegal detention in both occupied regions. The deteriorating human rights situation in Russian-occupied regions of Georgia required urgent international efforts. Georgia would re-table a draft resolution on “Cooperation with Georgia” and counted on Member States’ continued support.

ARNOLDO ANDRE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, said the seventy-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was this year; the Declaration was the cornerstone of the universal human rights system, whose basic core idea was that of equal dignity for all persons. This was also the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which had led to the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These were times of serious social and political upheaval: democracies were being weakened, leading to a loss of power, rigging of elections, and reducing judicial and legislative powers to simple marionettes of tyrants. Costa Rica was particularly concerned with the human rights situation in the brotherly country of Nicaragua. There were illegal wars of aggression against other States, and Member States of the United Nations were perpetrating these aggressions, using foreign mercenaries, coup d’états, fake news, disinformation and post-truth.

Costa Rica was convinced that multilateral space and international dialogue were the best way to resolve severe interconnected challenges, namely poverty, inequality, hate speech, climate change, and the shrinkage of democratic space everywhere, and was working to these ends through reducing violence and discrimination against women and girls through various means. Costa Rica would step up efforts to ensure that the international architecture responded to the various attacks on human rights due to the climate crisis, as well as harms to the oceans, loss of biodiversity, and harm to the environment. Efforts and initiatives to combat multiple and inter-sectional forms of discrimination should be fully supported by all, as they were by Costa Rica, which was committed to human rights, international law, democratic principles and values and implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, cornerstones that allowed the country to live in peace, without an army, and as an unshakeable pillar of the United Nations and its work.

PEKKA HAAVISTO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said Finland worked to ensure that gender equality was always a top priority for the Council. Mr. Havvisto said he had great respect for the bravery of women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran. The international community needed to support their call for positive change. Russia had blatantly violated the United Nations Charter by its unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine, committing brutal atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, including children. The Russian aggression hampered agricultural production in Ukraine, which meant less food for the world population. Globally, poverty and food insecurity were on the rise. The Council could build on the work done by the United Nations General Assembly on the right to food. Finland fully supported the action by the Council to hold Russia accountable for its violations. The work of the Commission of Inquiry needed to continue, and the Council needed to stand with Ukrainians.

It was the duty of the international community to act on all human rights violations, no matter where they occurred. The severe situations in Syria, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Venezuela should not be forgotten. A prosperous society embraced different views and backgrounds, regardless of religious or ethnic origin. In this regard, the oppressive restrictions on civic space in Russia, Belarus and China was a concern. During Finland’s Universal Periodic Review last November, valuable views and suggestions were shared and this work continued at home. It was hoped the world could reflect on the joint commitment as the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated.

AÏSSATA TALL SALL, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, said the Human Rights Council was at a crossroads at a time when there were serious threats to human rights. Security issues, climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, the migration crisis, extreme poverty — all affected human rights, requiring a shared willingness to mobilise and increase the dignity of human beings. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded the world that there were rights, basic needs that should be accessible to every individual, including food, water, primary health care and medicine. The conflict that broke out last year had exposed the world’s collective vulnerabilities, particularly in terms of food and energy security, while causing a generalised price spike. President Macky Sall, who assumed the Presidency of the African Union in 2022, had advocated for more inclusive multilateralism.

Known for its well-established tradition of promoting and respecting human rights, Senegal never stopped to work to improve human rights in all its dimensions, especially for women and girls, young people, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which inspired this Council, had two concrete goals: to avoid atrocities and the law of the strongest, and to promote a world without terror and extreme poverty. The international community should contribute to this. The Human Rights Council, with its guiding principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and dialogue, brought to the international community an ideal platform to meet. States should continue to use it wisely.

MARIA UBACH FONT, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said this was a year where many anniversaries were being celebrated, including the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Andorran Constitution, leading to stock-taking. Disregard for human rights had led to barbaric acts that outraged the conscience of humanity. In terms of human rights, despite the progress made, there was a general backsliding, with an increasingly complex geo-political situation. Basic freedoms, such as the rights to speak out and to education, were rights that no Government should ignore. There was also a resurgence of armed conflict, including that in Ukraine. The climate crisis gave rise to heatwaves and fires, leading to human catastrophes, and the recognition of the Human Rights Council in 2021 of the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment was major progress.

Andorra had the highest capital in Europe: the mountain was its identity. Mountainous regions were vulnerable to climate change, and action taken should respect the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. In these difficult and uncertain times, the international community must renew its commitment to all human rights, regain their universality and indivisible nature, motivating and raising awareness among all generations, particularly young people – just consulting them was not enough. There must be a process ensuring that young people could participate now in tomorrow’s policies and be more involved in public life: there should be education for a democratic future. Andorra responded effectively and sensitively to human rights crises across the world, despite its small size, which it did not view as a pretext to fail to respond to international crises and challenges.

Source: UN Human Rights Council