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22 October 2008 - Item 64 b) Human rights questions - Statement on behalf of the European union delivered by Mr Philippe DELACROIX

Item 64 b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Statement on behalf of the European union delivered by Mr Philippe DELACROIX, Coordinator for the French presidency of the European Union in New York

- unofficial translation -

Mr. President,

I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, as well as Ukraine and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.

The European Union is extremely committed to the universal abolition of the death penalty. Accordingly, the EU participated in a group of States from every continent which brought a resolution before the 62nd session of this Assembly. This resolution calls for observing a moratorium on executions with a view to full and final abolition of the death penalty. This group received support for this initiative from about 100 United Nations Member States.

How can a moratorium help us along the path towards universal abolition of the death penalty? A moratorium would put things on hold. It should prove to everyone that crime can be prevented without killing; that justice can be served without loss of life. A moratorium will facilitate preparing the reform of the criminal justice system, which should lead to abolishing capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty should indeed remain the ultimate goal. The European Union thus solemnly calls for United Nation Member States to declare themselves in favour of a moratorium on executions and the universal abolition of the death penalty.

Mr. President,

The European Union firmly believes in tolerance, non-discrimination, and freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion or belief. These are principles on which the EU is based and to which its Member States are firmly committed.

In particular, the European Union has untiringly promoted implementing freedom of religion or belief around the world. We regret to see that this freedom is still poorly protected or even violated. Discrimination based on religion or belief, which represents a serious human rights violation, is still all too common around the world and affects people of all faiths. The European Union commends the Special Rapporteur’s work on freedom of religion or belief, which updates these violations and offers solutions to them.

The EU would once again like to urge all United Nations Member States to implement the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. At this Assembly, the European Union will submit a resolution to combat religion or belief-based discrimination oriented along these lines.

Furthermore, the European Union is convinced that it is essential to draw a distinction between criticizing religions or beliefs and incitement of racial hatred. Acknowledging and practicing religious pluralism should include the right of all people to criticize the beliefs of others, to discuss and challenge them. We will not reduce religious tension by prohibiting the expression of ideas about religions and beliefs. Thus, the EU is convinced that all human rights are interlinked and indivisible, and it believes that they must be protected in the same way.

Mr. President,

Human rights must be applied to all without discrimination or gender-based distinction. Nevertheless, discrimination against women generally continues to be a major concern. Women’s rights are all too often flouted. In all regions of the world, violence against women is still far too common. It is essential to forcefully denounce this violence, which is a true scourge in all its forms. Violence against women appears in multiple forms and differs depending upon the social, economic, cultural and political contexts of the society. These are not phenomena that are private in nature, but rather worrying ones that States must take up. They have major, categorically unacceptable consequences, particularly as regards sexual violence in armed conflicts. Domestic violence is also a characteristic of human rights violation on all continents, including Europe.

As a result, the European Union has made combating violence against women one of its priorities in order to significantly bolster its action in this area and to make women’s rights a priority issue, both politically and within the framework of cooperative actions.

Mr. President,

The rights of the child is a special priority for the EU. The practice of armed forces or groups recruiting or using children in conflict situations is of particular concern. There have been numerous success stories since the "Free Children from War" Conference in February 2007 during which the Paris Commitments were adopted, and to which 66 States subscribed. These successes were largely due to work of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and mainly manifested themselves through the demobilization of several thousand children.

Nevertheless, the situation remains troubling. There are tens of thousands of child soldiers around the world, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, called upon the international community to rally together more than ever to eradicate this scourge. The EU therefore lengthened its list of worrisome countries which it is monitoring particularly closely.

The defence of the principle of non-discrimination is one of the essential principles in the area of human rights promoted by the European Union. In this regard, discrimination, including when based on sexual orientation, violates the individual’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the right to privacy, security, and the freedom of opinion and expression.

Mr. President,

We must not underestimate the amount of work that remains to be done in combating poverty and, consequently, in promoting economic, social and cultural rights. Poverty is a complex issue which often involves discrimination. These phenomena are both the causes and consequences of human rights violations and attacks on human dignity. When more than 100 million children have no access to primary education, their right to education is flouted every day; when almost 3 million people die each year as a result of HIV/AIDS, their right to health is not upheld; when 850 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, their right to food is ignored. It is time to make new regulatory progress in economic, social and cultural rights, alongside civil and political rights. In this regard, the EU played an active role in negotiating the Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, affirming its support for a complaints procedure similar to that of other major conventions. We hope that this text can be adopted by consensus at the current General Assembly session.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, like the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action from the World Conference on Human Rights, remind us, however, that economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights are interdependent and complementary. How can we ensure that economic, social and cultural rights are respected and promoted, when civil and political rights are being flouted?

Mr. President,

We all condemn torture, but despite this universal condemnation, it and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments continue to be inflicted on men, women and children around the world. As a result, the EU welcomes two new international instruments whose implementation will significantly contribute to preventing torture, i.e. the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recently came into force.

The defenders of human rights are at the forefront of our struggle. NGO members, lawyers, doctors secretly treating torture victims, and ordinary citizens take considerable risks on a daily basis. Human rights defenders exercise freedom of expression to actively defend the human rights of their fellow citizens. The European Union would like to formally convey its respect and support for their work throughout the world and it stands alongside them as they fight for human rights and dignity. In order to fittingly mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the United Nations have organized a joint conference to provide a forum for proponents of human rights.

Mr. President, thank you very much./.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU