Vienna, 13 February 2013 – “An ongoing commitment to human rights has for many years been a central aspect and absolute priority of Austrian foreign policy. The membership in the UN Human Rights Council offers additional possibilities for supporting the battle against human rights violations worldwide”, said State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka during the latest report of the Human Rights Council in Parliament.
“The allegations of human rights violations in Mali must be investigated in full and those responsible be brought to justice to create a real chance for reconciliation and peace. For this reason, we will demand an investigation of the human rights violations in Mali at the upcoming meeting of the Human Rights Council”, Lopatka announced.
“The serious human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed in Syria also cannot go unpunished. We have repeatedly demanded that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) be involved and will continue to do so”, said the State Secretary, who in this context also referred to the joint demand voiced by Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger and the Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Ireland and Slovenia to involve the ICJ in the situation in Syria. Lopatka stated that the situation of Christians and other minorities in Syria was particularly precarious as they were faced with the threat of displacement, similar to the plight of minorities in Iraq.
Naturally, human rights had also been a subject of the talks held by Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger in Saudi Arabia. “The rights of women, religious freedom, freedom of speech and the abolition of the death penalty are important concerns to be voiced in our dialogue with Saudi representatives. I will also be discussing these questions with the Chairman of the Saudi Human Rights Commission”, Lopatka emphasised.
State Secretary drew a positive balance of Austria’s work in the UN Human Rights Council so far. “With the adoption of a resolution to protect journalists and the election of Renate Winter into the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, we have achieved visible results with our emphasis on freedom of the media and children’s rights”, said the State Secretary, who will address the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 25 February.
“Our emphasis on religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities is more topical than ever. The European Union is currently also working on guidelines on these subjects, as suggested by Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger”, Lopatka stated. “Human rights are a core element of our activities with regard to religious and cultural dialogue. The annual meeting of the Alliance of Civilisations in Vienna and the King Abdullah Centre are platforms for a dialogue on religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities”, the State Secretary concluded.
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