The popular uprisings of the “Arab Spring” underpin the crucial significance of universal human rights. Human rights apply to all people, at all of times, everywhere. We call upon all countries in the region to find inspiration in the ideas that fuel the Arab Spring and to promote respect for human rights, rule of law, reforms and democratic rule. Norway stands ready to support these efforts.
It is important to keep in mind that these processes should be inclusive. The situation of religious minorities in the region has proved to be particularly fragile. Minority groups must be protected not targeted.
The human rights situation in Syria has continued to deteriorate in spite of strong international warnings. The numbers of protesters killed, arrested and abused remain high. The relentless Government crackdown has incurred tremendous human and social costs on Syrian society and poses a grave threat for the future of the country. That is why we were pleased to support the Human Rights Councils condemnation, actions and calls on the Syrian regime expressed in the resolution of 22 August. We note and appreciate the strong support expressed, not least by Arab states, in favour of that strong resolution. We welcome also the efforts of the Arab League to halt the aggression of Syria against its own people. Norway calls on the Syrian government to put an immediate end to the violence, to stop the arrest and torture of political dissidents and to respect its human rights obligations.
Norway is still deeply concerned by the reports on the human rights situation in Yemen, characterized by comprehensive acts of violence against civilians. Norway condemns the Yemen authorities’ use of violence and killing of civilian population. We call on the authorities of Yemen to protect peaceful protesters, refrain from brutal violence and bring those responsible to justice.
In Bahrain, we are also concerned over reports of a range of violations against people who are associated with the anti-government protests earlier this year. We call on Bahraini authorities to investigate these matters properly, secure basic human rights and ensure handling of all court cases in line with recognized, international standards.
In Myanmar we have lately witnessed a number of positive developments, including on human rights issues. Restrictions on the media have been lifted, a new radical law on labor unions has just been passed, a controversial dam-project has been suspended after public discontent. The sessions in Parliament are democratic and transparent, there is an ongoing reconciliatory dialogue between the Government and Aung San Suu Kyi, a national human rights commission has been established, and there is a process of releasing political prisoners. We welcome these developments, and we believe President Thein Sein is genuine in his aspirations for positive change. At the moment, it seems that the lack of capacity is a greater liability to the implementation of reforms than the actual lack of will. Norway is therefore of the opinion that the international community should engage in capacity building efforts to further support and promote human rights in Myanmar.
The overall human rights situation in Myanmar continues to call for our attention. The continued reports of grave human rights violations in areas of the country ridden by armed conflict give particular reason for concern. We are aware that the Government lately has engaged in dialogues with the armed groups, and we acknowledge and support these efforts, while we keep stressing the importance of the international community closely monitoring the situation and encouraging the parties to find sustainable solutions by peaceful means. We strongly encourage the Myanmar Government to release all remaining political prisoners, and in this process allow full access for ICRC to carry out an independent assessment of the actual number of political prisoners. Norway believes this also would be in the interest of the Myanmar Government.
Norway is deeply concerned with the serious human rights situation in the DPRK, and encourages the government of the DPRK to co-operate with international partners in order to improve the human rights situation. Norway views cooperation with the UN’s various mechanisms and resources on human rights as fundamental. We acknowledge the DPRK’s participation in the universal periodic review (UPR) procedures. However, it is a matter of concern that the DPRK has not given any response to the 117 recommendations made in the review or signaled intentions to follow up on any of them. Norway would like to emphasize the importance of co-operating with the UN Special Rapporteur and granting him access to the DPRK.
The humanitarian needs of the people of the DPRK and the situation regarding food shortages is of special concern. The UN Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, have recently visited the DPRK to assess the food situation. Given the serious humanitarian situation, it is important that international humanitarian organizations are granted free access in order to do their work. The regime must take steps to ensure that there is no disparity as regards to access to food, focusing on the needs of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.
Again Norway will present a draft resolution on the promotion of and protection of human rights defenders and a draft resolution on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced.
Across the globe courageous human rights defenders work tirelessly to promote democracy, development and human rights. Their cause is to improve the lives and freedoms of others. They are essential in promoting tolerance and human dignity. And they are essential in ensuring that all human rights are implemented on the ground.
They deserve our greatest possible attention and support. The protection of human rights defenders is strongly supported by a large number of states. We are thus confident that this committee will be able to find a strong and comprehensive common ground on this issue.
Norway also looks forward to constructive cooperation with all to reach a consensus text on the draft resolution on internally displaced people. IDP’s continue to be one of the world’s major humanitarian and human rights challenges. In his report the Special Representative particularly focus on climate change and internal displacement. It is alarming that according to United Nations estimates, up to 50 million people are internally displaced because of natural disasters each year. The Special Rapporteur concludes that a human rights-based approach should be used to inform and strengthen all actions to address climate change-related internal displacement.
Human rights violations and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity remains a serious global challenge. Norway welcomes the decision of the Human Rights Council to commission a study to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. As part of a core group Norway is organizing a side event the 8th of December on the occasion of the international human rights day. The focus will be on how member states can focus on countering inequality and discrimination of sexual minorities.
No country can claim that they have no violations of human rights. It is our duty to recognize the gap between our aspirations and achievements. If we are not able to take a critical view on our own records and show willingness to listen to constructive criticism – and make efforts to close the gap between our aspirations of human rights and its realities on the ground, we clearly undermines the validity and legitimacy of the legally binding universal human rights framework.