Vienna, 10 December 2012 – "Today is a day of joy and celebration, as the EU will receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I am convinced that the EU deserves this distinction: Not only has it ensured a long period of peace and stability but it has also strengthened the rule of law, democracy and human rights as a mainstay of our continent. At the same time, this day is also a reminder for us to live up to our responsibility and use all our efforts to fight human rights violations and for a life of dignity for all", Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the occasion of today's International Human Rights Day.
Austria and the EU have dedicated a lot of energy to human rights in 2012. By adopting its new human rights strategy, the EU has set out to pursue a number of additional activities. The EU's newly appointed Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, is to give a face and voice to these endeavours.
"The 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities that we celebrated in 2012 was reason to focus on the situation of persecuted minorities, of whom there are still far too many worldwide. What is particularly alarming is the increasing number of violent attacks against religious minorities. The freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and must be respected as such", the Vice-Chancellor said.
"Unfortunately, the upheaval in the Arab World has not entailed positive change in all the countries concerned, as we are reminded daily by the blood shed in the conflict in Syria. We must not cease our pressure to put an end to human rights violations and we have to hold the perpetrators accountable. However, there are also other countries where the rights of women and religious minorities are violated and where these groups of society lose out in the transition processes. Here, too, we have to become active", Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.
"The continued human rights violations in Belarus – the only country on our continent to still impose capital punishment – may be different in scope but they are just as alarming. Together with its partners in the EU, Austria has successfully applied itself in the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that the human rights situation in this country is now being closely monitored by a UN Special Rapporteur and that increasing pressure will be exerted on Lukashenko to finally implement fundamental freedoms", Spindelegger continued. The minister also expressed his concern about reports on human rights violations in China, especially with regard to infringements of the freedoms of opinion, religion and belief, and the situation of the Tibetan and Uighur minorities.
"The UN Human Rights Council adopted a comprehensive resolution on the protection of the freedom of the media this year. The resolution, a first in this respect, had been initiated by Austria and is intended to contribute concrete measures to improving the safety of journalists worldwide. We view this first success as a token of encouragement to continue our work on the Austrian priority subjects in the Human Rights Council and other international fora in close cooperation with the civil society - because human rights will also be very high up on the agenda in 2013, when the 20th anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights will be celebrated", Spindelegger concluded.
The promotion of human rights is an essential element of Austria's development cooperation. Austria fights for the protection of children and youth in Central America and in the Western Balkans, among others through its contribution to projects on violence prevention, and it promotes the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of women to fair trial and political participation.
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