EU priorities for the 39th session of the Human Rights Council

From 10 to 28 September 2018 the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC39) will take place in Geneva, aiming to bring attention to the world’s most pressing human rights issues. We, the European Union, will be strongly engaged in all activities of the Council, translating our commitment to multilateralism into a proactive multilateral agenda. For us, the promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of multilateralism.

We are looking forward to a first Council session in the presence of the newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The European Union will do all it can to support her in the fulfilment of her mandate. Support from the international community to the High Commissioner and her Office is all the more needed in these challenging times for human rights, as demonstrated by examples of a shrinking civil society space, reprisals against human rights defenders, failure to respect the human rights of all without discrimination, the prevalence of torture and profound shortcomings in the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

In a year where we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the European Union reaffirms its support to an effective and efficient functioning of the Human Rights Council and will use this platform to promote human rights with a strong voice.

During this upcoming HRC session we will in particular propose a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar. The report of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar contains very serious allegations of crimes committed under international law warranting investigation and prosecution. The European Union has consistently advocated against impunity for those responsible for systematic human rights violations in Myanmar and the report of the Fact-Finding Mission confirms the importance of ensuring that perpetrators of crimes are held to account. The EU stands ready to work on the basis of the recommendations contained in the Fact-Finding Mission’s report and will engage proactively with the United Nations and members of the international community towards establishing an appropriate accountability process.

The human rights situation in Burundi continues to be of serious concern. Following the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which documents continuous serious violations of human rights, as well as a lack of political space and restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the EU will actively engage to ensure the continuation of effective investigation and reporting to the HRC of the situation on the ground.

The situation in Yemen has been deteriorating to an unprecedented level. The EU will hence closely follow the first report of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts, as well as the High Commissioner’s report on the human rights situation in Yemen, which will both be presented at the upcoming HRC session. We will remain strongly engaged throughout the Council session to advocate for ending impunity and to ensure effective, impartial and independent investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law.

Syria continues to feature very high on the Council’s agenda, after eight year of continuous and widespread violence and persistent violations of international law. The international community must never accept impunity. We will therefore once more engage in the negotiation of a strong resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, supporting efforts to document human rights violations and to gather evidence in view of future legal action. The Syrian regime bears the overwhelming responsibility for the catastrophic humanitarian situation and the suffering of the Syrian people. We thus reiterate our call to have the situation in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court.

The EU will continue to pay particular attention to the serious human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in the challenging context of the implementation of the electoral calendar and the country’s preparation for inclusive, credible, transparent and peaceful elections. The EU will advocate for maintaining the issue of the DRC on the HRC’s agenda through monitoring and reporting.

Public campaign: In the margins of the Human Rights Council, the EU will kick-off a campaign in support of the OHCHR’s efforts to raise awareness around the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bracelets with sentences of the Declaration will be distributed at the Council session. A photo booth with the bracelets will be available from 17 to 20 September in front of the Human Rights Council, encouraging delegates, members of civil society and the wider public to wear the bracelet and show their support on social media with the hashtags #Standup4HumanRights and #HumanRightsPower.

Henry Borzi


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