Speech by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton before the Human Rights Council

Mr Pres­i­dent, Dear Min­is­ters, Dear col­leagues,
We meet at a time of his­toric change. Across the Mid­dle East and beyond, peo­ple are stand­ing up for that core human aspi­ra­tion: to be able to shape their own lives, polit­i­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly. They want their fun­da­men­tal rights respect­ed. They want dig­ni­ty, account­abil­i­ty, jus­tice and jobs. We must heed these calls. For they are just – and will not go away.

This Coun­cil there­fore has a grave respon­si­bil­i­ty: to ensure that our oft-stat­ed inten­tions are trans­lat­ed into real action, real progress

What mat­ters in the end is not the num­ber of res­o­lu­tions passed, but results in the real world. Right now, our atten­tion is focused on Libya – and right­ly so. The fact that so many col­leagues from across the world have gath­ered here today tells us some­thing big. That what is going on – the mas­sive vio­lence against peace­ful demon­stra­tors – shocks our con­science. It should spring us into action. I am pleased that last Fri­day (25 Feb­ru­ary), this Coun­cil held a spe­cial ses­sion on Libya, show­ing an abil­i­ty to react to events in real time. It was strik­ing and wel­come that this came about because so many groups had mobilised for it – from Asia, Latin Amer­i­ca, as well as East­ern and West­ern Europe. This is the Unit­ed Nations at its best.

The out­come last Fri­day was a strong one. I am pleased that the Coun­cil con­clud­ed on Fri­day to form an inde­pen­dent inter­na­tion­al inquiry – and also backed work under­way in New York to sus­pend the mem­ber­ship of Libya of this Coun­cil. These are impor­tant steps. But clear­ly more is need­ed.

This morn­ing too, the mes­sage is clear: we con­demn the grave human rights vio­la­tions com­mit­ted in Libya. The vio­lence and repres­sion must stop. Those respon­si­ble must be held to account. This is not just the EU’s posi­tion. It is the view of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and its high­est author­i­ty: the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

On Sat­ur­day, the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil unan­i­mous­ly adopt­ed a strong Res­o­lu­tion, with impor­tant manda­to­ry mea­sures such as an arms embar­go, a trav­el ban and asset freezes for those respon­si­ble. EU mem­bers of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil worked hard to achieve an out­come that reflects the extreme urgency and sever­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion.

Account­abil­i­ty and jus­tice are essen­tial — that is why I am pleased that agree­ment was found in the Res­o­lu­tion to refer the inves­ti­ga­tion of the on-going crimes to the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court. As EU we will of course ensure swift imple­men­ta­tion of these Secu­ri­ty Council’s mea­sures. We are already work­ing on EU restric­tive mea­sures that should come into effect very soon.

Of course, it is not just in Libya that we need to ensure respect for basic human rights. I recent­ly made sev­er­al vis­its to coun­tries across the Mediter­ranean where peo­ple are claim­ing their rights and insist­ing that the old ways of doing things sim­ply won’t do.

I met with gov­ern­ment offi­cials, mem­bers of oppo­si­tion par­ties, civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions, women’s groups and youth rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

I went to Tunis where I met groups that had nev­er been allowed to be in the same room before; and to Cairo where I met the young peo­ple who had been in Tahrir square. My aim was to lis­ten and this is what I heard:

“This is our coun­try and our rev­o­lu­tion. We want real change – and for the sys­tem to recog­nise the sig­nif­i­cance of the change. Also: “ This is the begin­ning. We need to take time to get the tran­si­tion right.” And then: “We want help. To ensure we get the first real elec­tion of a ruler in 7000 years. But more than that, to get gen­uine democ­ra­cy, not just on the day we cast our bal­lots, but the weeks and months after that too.” “We want jobs, eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties and social jus­tice, only then can we be real­ly free”.

We can and must salute the courage of peo­ple in the region for the peace­ful and dig­ni­fied way in which they have advanced their core demands.

But we can and must do more: to offer our full sup­port. Only to do what peo­ple from the region ask us to. From a posi­tion of humil­i­ty know­ing that our own his­to­ries are full of dark pages, and that our own path to deep democ­ra­cy wasn’t lin­ear or easy.

But with the con­vic­tion that in the on-going tran­si­tions, full respect of human rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms is key. Because it is the only way to get sus­tain­able secu­ri­ty, jus­tice and pros­per­i­ty.

Mr Pres­i­dent,

Human rights, we often say, are uni­ver­sal. That is why all vio­la­tions, wher­ev­er they take place, are our con­cern and must be addressed by this Coun­cil.

We know that in sev­er­al coun­tries, people’s rights are at risk: in Iran where we have seen a steep rise in exe­cu­tions; in Belarus where we are deeply con­cerned at the num­ber of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Con­go where there are dis­tress­ing reports of sex­u­al vio­lence — and many oth­er places besides.

The EU is also deeply con­cerned at the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East, includ­ing the occu­pied Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­to­ries. We are work­ing hard reach our long-stand­ing aim: a nego­ti­at­ed solu­tion lead­ing to two states.

Some­times this Coun­cil has seemed resolved only to be irres­olute.

Some of the achieve­ments of the Coun­cil per­haps do not receive the atten­tion they deserve. Take the recent work on free­dom of asso­ci­a­tion; or the mech­a­nism to pro­mote the elim­i­na­tion of laws and prac­tices that dis­crim­i­nate against women.

Still, this Coun­cil has some way to go in liv­ing up to the man­date it was giv­en by the UN Gen­er­al Assem­bly. That is why we want a real, sub­stan­tive out­come of the Review process now under­way con­cern­ing the work of this Coun­cil.

The test of suc­cess is sim­ple: it is not per se whether we pass res­o­lu­tions or cre­ate new pro­ce­dures – vital though they are.

These are the inputs. What tru­ly mat­ter are the out­puts. The real test is whether we make a dif­fer­ence on the ground: whether all the peo­ple of Libya, Iran, Cote d’Ivoire and Belarus, Burma/Myanmar and DPRK are able to enjoy free speech, fair elec­tions, the rule of law, equal rights and impar­tial admin­is­tra­tion.

Mr Pres­i­dent,

The Euro­pean Union is some­times accused of try­ing to “export” so-called Euro­pean val­ues to oth­er coun­tries. I reject that accu­sa­tion. The rights to free speech, free­dom of assem­bly, jus­tice and equal­i­ty are not Euro­pean rights: they are uni­ver­sal rights. We must nev­er fall into the trap of believ­ing that peo­ple in Africa, Asia or Latin Amer­i­ca are less pas­sion­ate about their rights.

Allow me to quote Kofi Annan’s 2005 report, “In larg­er free­dom”. “Human rights are as fun­da­men­tal to the poor as to the rich, and their pro­tec­tion is as impor­tant to the secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty of the devel­oped world as it is to that of the devel­op­ing world”.

We are meet­ing today pre­cise­ly because those rights inspire peo­ple in every part of the globe. What is true is that many coun­tries lack the insti­tu­tions that are able to defend and pro­mote those rights. That is why one of the great chal­lenges fac­ing us is to help coun­tries build those insti­tu­tions that will anchor and ensure full respect for fun­da­men­tal rights and the rule of law.

Mr Pres­i­dent,

We are liv­ing through his­toric times, and it is easy to be daz­zled by the promise of change. Just as impor­tant is where we go from here, so I should like to look ahead to a pos­si­ble direc­tion of trav­el.

To live up to our promis­es, we need to nar­row the gap:

  • between the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenges fac­ing us and the minu­ti­ae of our polit­i­cal debates;
  • between the expec­ta­tions of those who put us here and our abil­i­ty to deliv­er;
  • between vault­ing state­ments of uni­ver­sal prin­ci­ples and indi­vid­ual lives;
  • between the seren­i­ty of Gene­va and events just two hours flight from here.

I repeat: what mat­ters is not per se the num­ber of res­o­lu­tions passed but the results we achieve togeth­er on the ground.

Thank you very much

Source:
Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →