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Minister Stropnický’s Speech the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
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Minister Stropnický’s Speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

 

Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic 37th Regular Session, February 27, 2018.

Mr President,

Mr High Commissioner,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year witnesses several historical anniversaries of much importance for us, both on the international and national level.

The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confronts us all with the question on how successful we are in implementing these rights universally. Looking back, we can be proud of many achievements. But many challenges remain. I am afraid that some are becoming even more imminent.

The Czech Republic has its own anniversaries this year. For better or worse, years ending with “8” have been of particular importance in our history. On one hand, we celebrate 100 years of our modern statehood. Born at the end of the First World War, Czechoslovakia was founded on the principles of humanity and equality.

On the other hand, there are other, darker anniversaries. They mark the beginning of periods when human rights were severely violated and people persecuted for their origin or opinion: 1938 (Munich agreement), 1948 (Iron Curtain), 1968 (Foreign invasion of Czechoslovakia). In 1968, I was a 12-year old boy and I still remember very well what it is like when rights are taken away.

Mr High Commissioner,

The Czech Republic is alarmed by your observations of the current state of human rights. We fully share your concern about the situation in the world. My delegation will address our specific concerns in further statements.

Have we not learned from the past?

How can we celebrate human rights anniversaries while humanitarian law is ignored and so many civilians die from horrible attacks? How are freedoms safeguarded when journalists and bloggers are attacked for telling the truth and fact-checking? How do we respect human rights when lawyers defending their clients or activists who dare to speak up are put behind bars for allegedly threating the state? Whose human rights are protected when people are discriminated against for their gender, color of their skin, belief or sexual orientation?

Mr President,

Václav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic, once said that if human freedom is denied to a single person, it is denied to us all. For this very reason, we cannot remain silent. With great power comes great responsibility.

The Czech Republic supports a strong human rights system, around the world and in this Council, the heart of the system. We are ready to defend and support it as much as we can.

The Council must remain efficient. We support the efforts to reform the Council, rationalize its work, streamline its activities and boost its impact on the ground. All these tasks must be implemented in a way not undermining the core principles of the Council.

We will continue to stand behind the impartial and independent Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, special procedures and Treaty Bodies. We want them to speak freely about challenges and failures of us, States, but also about positive examples. Their voices must not be silenced.

Mr President,

As a founding member of the Council, the Czech Republic remains an active and constructive partner. We are ready to cooperate in good will with all states as well as civil society.

Building upon our own experience, we pay special attention to the right to participate in public affairs. A right stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR. We brought this issue to the Human Rights Council in 2013. Together with other members of the core group we present a resolution on this topic. We have been actively engaged in a consultation process on UN Guidelines on participation in public affairs, led by the Office of the High Commissioner. We look forward to their presentation to this Council in September. Participation is also the main theme of the on-going Czech Presidency of the Economic and Social Council.

The Czech Republic regards civil society as the main driving force of democratic changes. Freely operating civil society with respect for the freedom of expression and freedoms of assembly and association are important building blocks to well-functioning democracies.

We also support activities aimed at combating torture, including through earmarked voluntary contributions. Thanks to our national Transition Promotion Programme, the Czech Republic supports institution-building projects in the area of independent judiciary and human rights.

Allow me to say a few words on equality. First and foremost, we applaud the brave women who speak up against injustice, violence and harassment. A special attention must be paid to women human rights defenders. We have been supporting the work of the UN WOMEN for some time. We will continue to do so.

The Czech Republic attaches great importance to children’s rights. We are proud to nominate our prominent expert, Professor Jílek, to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

We are also responsive to economic, social and cultural rights.

Mr President,

Last November, the Czech Republic participated in its third Universal Periodic Review. I want to thank the Member States for your valuable recommendations. We listened carefully to all statements during the interactive dialogue.

Finally,

This year we are running for the seat at the Human Rights Council for the term 2019–2021. I would like to reiterate the great importance the Czech Government attaches to this candidature. To prop up our efforts, we have committed ourselves to voluntary pledges.

Today, here at the Council, it is my privilege to ask you all for your valuable support.

Mr High Commissioner,

As your mandate is coming to its end, I wish most warmly to thank you on behalf of the Czech Republic for your leadership, fearless approach and for inspiring us.

Mr President,

Coming back to years ending with “8”, let us hope that 2018 will be celebrated as an anniversary of great human rights successes. It is our duty to work tirelessly towards this goal.

Thank you.

.