[Human Rights] HRC / 23rd Session, Update by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Madam High Commissioner, Mister President,
Austria fully aligns herself with the European Union statement.
We thank the High Commissioner for her comprehensive update and we commend her for her tireless efforts and the work of her office. We remain committed to a strong and independent OHCHR that can effectively fulfil its mandates in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The broad spectrum of activities and the worldwide presence of the OHCHR illustrate the critical role the office plays in responding to human rights demands around the world. Promoting and protecting human rights for all, without any discrimination is our shared objective.
The joint anniversaries of the VDPA and OHCHR should be an opportunity to reflect on possibilities to further strengthen the OHCHR and to better mobilise the wider UN system by effectively mainstreaming human rights. To this end, we look forward to your presence at the expert conference in Vienna on 27-28 June, which will provide us with an opportunity to examine the continued relevance of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action in the light of today’s challenges in the global promotion and protection of all human rights.
Austria supports the role of the High Commissioner in regularly briefing the General Assembly and the Security Council on grave human rights situations. The briefings on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as on other situations are an invaluable source of information and an important input to the international debate.
On the situation in Syria, Austria fully endorses the High Commissioner’s renewed calls for a referral of the situation to the ICC. All perpetrators, including those ordering the crimes, must be held to account without exception. The gravity of the offenses committed and the unwillingness of the Syrian authorities to undertake credible investigations warrant such a referral. The Security Council needs to act, two years of bloodshed are more than enough. At the same time, a credible transitional justice process will need to be initiated for those crimes that may be below the threshold of the Rome Statute in order to avoid what the Commission of Inquiry calls an “impunity gap”. Impunity for serious human rights violations is not acceptable. We commend OHCHR’s activities in supporting the work of the Commission of Inquiry and ensuring the collection of evidence of serious and widespread human rights violations, thus providing the basis for future prosecution.
Austria also shares the High Commissioner’s concern about the current trend to curtail the freedom of NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists to operate effectively without any undue interference and intimidation. Civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists all play a crucial role on behalf of others in society to advance human rights. When their rights are not protected, it is to the detriment of the society at large. Austria therefore condemns in the strongest terms any form of reprisals against them.
I thank you