[Human Rights] HRC/20th Session, Austrian Statement under Item 4 "Country Situations"
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20th Session of the Human Rights Council
Statement by Austria
It is the Council’s mandate to promote and protect human rights everywhere. Part and parcel of this mandate is that it shall address situations of violations of human rights, in particular gross and systematic violations. In this spirit, my delegation needs to highlight a number of situations that do require the Council’s attention.
The most acute human rights crisis the world is facing right now is taking place in the Syrian Arab Republic. As we have stated before Austria is deeply concerned about the ongoing systematic human rights violations and abuses in that country. The indiscriminate killings, acts of torture and arbitrary detention undertaken by the Syrian authorities since early last year may amount to crimes against humanity as pointed out by the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Council. The complete intransigence of the Syrian authorities to international efforts to restore peace is deeply deplorable and inacceptable. Again, we must underline that impunity cannot prevail and that the International Criminal Court should be tasked to start investigations.
Another country situation we are deeply concerned about is Belarus. As Foreign Minister Spindelegger pointed out recently, Austria supports the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to report on the human rights situation that has been deteriorating further last year. We share the High Commissioner’s concern about the many instances of arrests, detentions and ill treatment of political opponents, journalists and civil society activists and we call on the Belarusian authorities to heed the call of the International Community to release all remaining political prisoners.
We are witnessing a worldwide increase in acts of intolerance and violent attacks against persons belonging to religious minorities and their places of worship. Especially those who have chosen a religion that differs from the majority often face enormous difficulties, sometimes even putting their own life at risk. At the same time, legal restrictions on religious freedom, including government restrictions or social hostilities based on religion, are rising in many countries. We are especially concerned about the situation of the Baha’i in Iran, the violence between religious communities in Nigeria, the continuing discrimination of the Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar, the difficult situation and harassment of Christians in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. We call on the governments of these countries to promote freedom of religion or belief and protect religious minorities. Fostering dialogue between religious communities is essential to create confidence and to promote understanding and the full enjoyment of these rights.
As pointed out in the latest report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, children continue to be victims of recruitment, get killed and maimed and suffer sexual violence and abuse in a number of countries. We call on all of these countries to redouble their efforts to protect all children from these violations. In particular, we are concerned about child recruitment in the border regions of Sudan and South Sudan. We call on all the parties to protect children’s rights. We call on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to finally implement the Child Protection Law of January 2009 that criminalizes child recruitment and prosecute offenders.
Lastly, my delegation would like to state its concern about recent cases of repression of human rights defenders that have collaborated with this Council. It has come to our attention that videos and pictures of one human rights lawyer and his wife were disseminated through pro-government forums as a type of reprisal after they participated in the UPR of Bahrain to give testimony. Equally, we condemn physical attacks and threats against Sri Lankan human rights defenders here in Geneva and back home merely for attending the last Council session. This is not only unacceptable, it raises the Council’s responsibility to protect witnesses who address us.
I thank you.