[Human Rights] HRC / 22nd Session; General debate country situations
Austria fully aligns herself with the EU statement.
The Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures play a crucial role in addressing serious human rights situations throughout the world. Victims of abuse look to us for vindication of their grievances. We have a clear responsibility to respond to their calls. In this spirit, Austria wants to highlight a number of situations in three substantive areas that require the Council’s attention.
We are deeply concerned about the growing discrimination and the rising number of violent attacks against persons belonging to minorities, in particular religious minorities and their places of worship, in many parts of the world. Legal restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief are rising. We are especially concerned about the situation of the Baha’i in Iran, the Shi’a Hazara in Pakistan and violence against Christians in particular in the MENA region. We call on the governments of these countries to promote freedom of religion or belief, to ensure the protection of religious minorities and to advance an agenda of inter-religious dialogue and tolerance.
Austria also calls upon the Chinese authorities to ensure that the rights of all minorities – including Tibetans and Uyghurs - are respected, in full accordance with the rights and guarantees enshrined in the Chinese constitution. In this context, we are particularly alarmed by the rising number of self-immolations among Tibetans.
We are also concerned about the human rights situation and in particular about the situation of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. We call on the government to advance a process of accountability for human rights violations and of political reconciliation, by implementing the recommendations made in the LLRC report. In cases where countries persistently fail to investigate human rights violations it is the responsibility of the international community to instigate such investigations.
We also remain concerned about the continuing discrimination of the Rohingya in Myanmar, despite remarkable recent progress in other areas. We urge the Government of Myanmar to take action, to bring about an improvement in their situation and to protect all their human rights. We welcome the Government’s willingness to establish a country office of the High Commissioner as an important step forward to continue the way of political reform.
Austria is furthermore concerned about the difficult situation of persons belonging to Roma, Sinti and Traveller communities in many countries throughout Europe. We call on all States to foster a climate of tolerance and dialogue and to improve the access of persons belonging to these minorities to public services such as education, health care and housing, as well as to advance their integration into the labour market.
Austria is highly alarmed by the increasing number of human rights violations against journalists. In many countries, journalists are directly targeted, harassed, detained and intimidated, especially for reporting on human rights violations, corruption and organized crime. The increase in targeted killings of journalists is of particular concern. In 2012 Syria, Somalia and Pakistan were among the most dangerous places for journalists in the world. We call on all governments to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without any interference. Perpetrators must be held accountable.
Austria is also concerned about the imposition of the death penalty, in contravention of international human rights law. We particularly condemn the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, pregnant women, mentally disturbed persons and drug-related crimes.. Therefore, we condemn the repeated imposition of the death penalty on individuals that were minors at the time of their offence, both in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen, where over 20 juvenile offenders are on death row at the moment. Despite steps taken by Iran to abolish the imposition of the death penalty for juveniles, executions still continue. We are also seriously concerned about the Iranian practice of applying the death penalty for non-violent crimes and victimless offences. We also condemn other inhuman punishments like flogging, beheadings, amputations or stoning wherever they occur.
The death penalty and other forms of physical punishment are not only clear violations of international human rights law, they are also archaic, inhumane and do not have any preventive value. We therefore urge all countries to establish as a first step a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, leading to its final abolition. .
I thank you.