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HRC31: Statement by the government of Denmark. Delivered by Minister for Foreign Affairs Kristian Jensen.

Statement by the government of Denmark, delivered by Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Kristian Jensen at the 31st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 1 March 2016

Genève, Tuesday 1 March 2016

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Mr. President,
High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Human rights enable us to sleep sound at night. They are universal ground rules which benefit us all. They create stability, a notion of right and wrong. We all have a stake - and a role - in respecting and protecting human rights.

It is 10 years since the Council saw the light of day. When turning a corner in life, one should reflect on the pros and cons. What have we achieved? And how can we generate more results?

The Council has many things to celebrate. Just last month, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Universal Periodic Review of Denmark in this very room. The UPR has great potential to improve national human rights protection.

Many of the Council’s thematic resolutions improve international standards. Look at the consensus reached on the resolution combating religious intolerance in 2011, the resolutions on freedom of religion and belief, resolutions on violence against women, and on discrimination against LGBTI. Milestones have been moved, and new countries have signed on.

For Denmark, gender equality is a prime concern. The world has seen great improvements for women and girls. With the Sustainable Development Goals we now have the duty to ensure that we “leave no one behind”.

The fight against torture and ill-treatment is a high priority for Denmark. We will present a draft resolution specifically addressing torture in police detention and call for an international dialogue on how best to tackle this issue.

Mr President,
Let me also remind us all that we see significant progress for human rights at country level. In Tunisia, a democratic constitution has been adopted, and free and fair elections were held in 2014. The Georgian government has taken important steps to consolidate core democratic principles and improve laws on gender equality and violence against women. Burkina Faso is completing a remarkable democratic transition. And Kenya has a new constitution with an impressive bill of rights.
Implementation of human rights takes political will. It takes time. I have just visited Mali where I saw a need to keep focus on the protection of human rights, especially in the fragile security situation in Northern Mali. We applaud the creation of a reconciliation commission and await its work to end impunity.

The Government of Somalia is working with security forces and law institutions to improve the human rights situation. The government must ensure accountability of its security forces and that human rights violations are prosecuted.

In Sri Lanka, the government is seeking reconciliation, justice, and protection of human rights. Participation of the international community is key to ensure accountability and reconcilliation. We urge that Sri Lanka works actively to further improve the human rights situation, especially in the  North and East.

Mr. President,
Let me now turn to the deplorable situations of grave human rights violations, which call for the attention of the Council. Denmark remains deeply concerned by the continuing serious human rights violations in parts of eastern Ukraine and in the illegally annexed Crimea. Human rights must be respected and humanitarian access ensured.

The political turmoil and widespread killings of civilians in Burundi are appalling. In South Sudan, ending the armed conflict and full implementation of the Peace Agreement are vital to address the urgent humanitarian needs. 

Turning to the Middle East, we strongly condemn the high and increasing number of executions, notably mass executions and executions of political prisoners and minors. Key regional actors such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have a special responsibility in reducing the use of executions. 

In Syria, I call on all parties to the conflict to stop indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The deteriorating humanitarian situation is profoundly concerning. Humanitarian assistance is being blocked and no serious efforts are undertaken to protect civilians. In Yemen, killing of civilians and human rights violations have soared. There is no military solution to the conflict, and I urge all parties to resume the UN facilitated peace talks.

The human rights situation in Libya is worsening with a general breakdown of law and order and brutal violence against the civilian population. Only a political settlement and an end to the armed conflict can stop this tragic development.

The extent of terrorist groups committing human rights abuses and meaningless killings is deeply alarming.  The barbaric terrorist organization Da’esh is a global threat and has demonstrated its absolute contempt for human life by its horrific acts of sadistic violence, including against religious minorities.

We are similarly alarmed by al Shabaab in Somalia, the violent extremist groups in the Sahel and Boko Haram in Nigeria.  We strongly condemn these actions. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. The rule of law and our rights and freedoms are our strongest weapons against terrorism.

Mr. President,
10 years in, the Council has shown numerous results. But the tasks before us are still many, widespread and complex. Yesterday, I launched Denmark's candidature for this Council for the period 2019-2021. Denmark has never before been a member, and we are eager to contribute more profoundly to this important work.

Among the Nordics, we are very happy that Finland has announced its candidacy for the Council in 2022-2024, and Denmark fully supports the Finnish candidature.

As a member of the Council, Denmark will stand for Dignity, Development and Dialogue. 

The inherent dignity and the equal rights of all are at the center of our approach to human rights. We will continue our dedicated work for women to have the same opportunities and rights as men. Freedom from torture or ill treatment is at the heart of a life in dignity and will remain a Danish priority. We will be a strong voice in the work for indigenous peoples’ rights.

Our long term engagement in development cooperation will remain an important contribution to human rights implementation. There can be no compromise on the universality of human rights, and we will advocate for the rule of law as a cornerstone of national and international structures.
Dialogue is an important element of change. If elected to the Council, we will keep our strong focus on open, direct and honest dialogue. We will protect the equality of nations, regardless of size, geo-political power or economic performance and build bridges across this room.

I thank you, Mr. President.