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Tale ved FN's Menneskerettighedsråds 22. samling i Geneve

Udviklingsministerens tale ved FN's Menneskerettighedsråds 22. samling i Geneve den 27. februar 2013.

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Mr. President,
Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council,
Madame High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to lend my voice of support for the statement by Ireland on behalf of the European Union. As an EU Member State, Denmark fully endorses the points raised in that statement.

Turning to my national statement on behalf of Denmark, I would like to convey one key message:  human rights norms are goals in their own right and they are a powerful tool for progress. It would be a big mistake not to use them as the basis for our dialogue and for the development of the societies, we live in. Countries may choose different ways to protect and promote human rights. There should, however, not be any doubt about their universality - human rights cannot and should not be interpreted in different ways in different cultures. All humans are equal and have equal rights. 

The decade-long discussion about which human rights – economic or political - are most important, is fortunately behind us now and we share a new understanding of the interrelation between these rights. Freedom of expression is a valuable tool, if you can read and write, but it is difficult to learn, if you go to school hungry or you do not go to school at all. This captures in a nutshell the close relationship between political and economic rights. You cannot separate them.    

Mr. President,
I recognise that human rights norms hold the promise of changing the role of citizens from passive recipients of services to active participants that hold a set of rights. This is why I have decided to embark on a human rights-based approach for all Danish development assistance.  I believe this will be a major contribution from our side to the translation of human rights norms into what they are supposed to be: a better, safer, freer, healthier and more productive everyday life for ordinary people.

The Human Rights Council has an essential role to play here. It is particularly important for Denmark that the council delivers real progress on the ground including timely responses and adequate responses to human rights situations. In addition, it must be the frame for real progress in the normative area. I would like underline the need for continued fight for the right of women. It is shocking that it is still necessary to argue women’s right to decide over their own bodies. Furthermore, it is crucial to continuously fight for the rights of LGBT-people.

Finally, the fight against torture is a strong and long standing Danish priority. At this session of the Human Rights Council we would like to place the spotlight on the victims of torture by sponsoring a resolution on rehabilitation of torture victims. And we hope for strong support from all Member States in this regard. 
Important strides have been taken in the right direction. One remarkable achievement, is particularly worth noticing:  the UPR-mechanism seems to have the potential for creating real changes on the ground. It is a unique construction – that all countries participate and are examined on the same terms. It is also extremely useful that governments can manage the process themselves. It seems to be a formula that works. It can therefore not be emphasised enough, how important the loyal and earnest participation of all countries is. A country that decides to stand outside this mechanism does not only put itself into disrepute, it also carries a responsibility for potentially derailing a process, which holds the promise of serving as a power of real improvement of human rights globally.

Mr. President,
The Human Rights Council has shown its will to in establishing the Commission of Enquiry on Syria. Unfortunately, the work of the Commission is still highly relevant and Denmark supports the extension of its mandate. The situation in Syria is appalling and it is a disgrace that such horrific atrocities can take place in the 21st century! As the recent report of the Commission of Enquiry shows, war crimes have been committed by both sides in this conflict, while the Syrian regime is also guilty of crimes against humanity. We believe that the UN Security Council should step up to its responsibility and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Beside Syria, I would like to mention a number of other countries. The Government of Bahrain has continued a course of imprisonments of those who demand democracy despite consistent international pressure to refrain from this course of action. In January, 13 prisoners of conscience – among these the Danish-Bahraini citizen Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja - had their sentences, including life sentences, upheld in court.  Denmark will continue to follow the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain very closely – and we call on the international community to continue to apply pressure on the Bahraini Government. Bahrain must respect fundamental human rights, including the freedom of speech and assembly.

The situation in Mali is another point of utmost concern. We must not lose sight of Mali’s inherent fragility and the need to protect the civilian population. We must continue to stress the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law and for all parties to respect human rights, including Malian authorities. The capacity to monitor the global implementation of the Human Rights norms is the responsibility of all of us.

In the opposite end, I warmly welcome the positive developments in Myanmar over the last two years. I have taken note of the Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Mr. Tomas Quintana, that reforms in Myanmar are continuing rapidly. At the same time, Denmark agrees with the SR that significant human rights shortcomings remain unaddressed, and we are deeply concerned over the human rights situation in Kachin and Rakhine states. Finally, we strongly encourage the Government of Myanmar to swiftly pave the way for the establishment of an OHCHR Office in the country to provide the required assistance and expertise on how to address some of the remaining human rights challenges.

Impunity for large scale violations of human rights may risk setting a damaging precedent in terms of how states deal with internal dissent and conflict. Accountability is both important for victims and their communities and for upholding respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. In this context we hope to see a process leading to accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

The strengthening of the OHCHR is an essential element, and I am pleased to announce that Denmark has doubled its financial support to the OHCHR. However, we continue to be concerned about the on-going budget cuts and urge this session to show restraint in mandating the OHCHR with new and costly tasks.

Let me conclude by reiterating my profound conviction that human rights norms should be at the heart of our actions to promote progress and development.