Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, 2 March 2012
Statement delivered by
Ambassador Christian Strohal, Permanent Representative of
Thank you, Mme President.
Mme High Commissioner,
Austria fully aligns herself with the statement of the European Union.
We thank you for your annual report and your presentation today. We fully agree with you that 2011 was a critical year for human rights, a year of momentous developments, in particular in the Middle East and North Africa, a year of people rising up, voicing their democratic aspirations and demanding respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms, a year of citizens holding their governments to account. We assure you of our appreciation for your proactive engagement in the defence of their rights.
The Commissions of Inquiry on Libya and Syria, with the commendable support of your office, have broken new ground in the arduous fight against impunity. Governments that kill, rape and torture their own population and oppress their citizens’ legitimate democratic aspirations, have to be held accountable. We very much appreciate your important role in providing independent and objective information to the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council on the serious human rights violations that have taken place.
In the case of Syria, these atrocities continue unabashed, victimizing a whole population. Austria, like many others, fully supports your unambiguous call for the Security Council, to refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As responsible members of the Human Rights Council we must stand firmly on the side of the innocent victims and do our utmost to uphold the rule of law. Austria believes that the Council should endorse your call on the Security Council for a referral to the ICC.
The ravages committed by the Syrian Government should not divert our attention from assisting those countries that have progressed further on their democratic transition. We commend you for the technical assistance and advice that your office provides in countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. We are pleased to be able to support your field activities in the region. We look forward to the opening of an office in Yemen and welcome the expansion of your activities in Somalia. We would like to ask you, when will the planned regional office in Cairo finally be opened?
Mme High Commissioner,
We also commend your continued focus on the fight against all forms of discrimination and the promotion of the human rights of persons belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups. Indeed, rising numbers of persons belonging to religious or other minorities see their human rights violated and their freedoms curtailed in many countries.
Discrimination can take many forms, whether it is women being denied their rightful place in society, girl children killed or aborted because of their sex, persons with disabilities being marginalised, human beings facing violent persecution simply because of their sexual orientation, or the colour of their skin or the religion or belief that they choose to profess. We all may be more concerned by one or the other form of discrimination, and we may wish to focus more on one or the other group. But when we deplore the human rights violation in one case and choose to ignore it in another case, we should not forget the pervasive and subversive nature of discrimination itself. For it is a slow but dangerous process, that subverts the rule of law and turns justice into injustice. Therefore, we commend you for raising your voice on behalf of all those that suffer from violation and neglect and to remind states that we have to uphold the human rights of all persons.
I thank you.