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Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the UN General Assembly meeting on the Secretary-General’s “Call to Action for Human Rights”, February 24, 2021

24.02.2021 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

 

Mr. President,

First of all, thank you for putting this very important item on the agenda of the General Assembly. I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his Call to Action on Human Rights that he launched one year ago.

These days, we also remember another anniversary: the peaceful protests in Syria 10 years ago that have been followed by horrendous human rights violations since then. Today is an important day because for the first time, a culprit has been sentenced. The Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany sentenced Eyad al-Gharib, a Syrian security officer, to four and a half years in prison for crimes against humanity in his role in the torture of detained protesters in Damascus. This is a very important signal to the tens of thousands of Syrians who have been victims of torture. It sends a very clear message to those in the Syrian regime and other actors who commit serious human rights violations: There is accountability. They will be brought to justice. This is a very good day today for accountability. It's also very important for reconciliation, because only on the basis of accountability can you have reconciliation and reconstruction of society.

The Call to Action is very important. I echo those speakers who called for the regular budget to provide the very basis for the operationalization of this Call to Action. As the Secretary-General told member states regarding the Fifth Committee: don't try to cut the budget. I would also like to call on the Secretary-General himself to ensure that the budget proposals also contain the means necessary to implement your call to action.

I'm inspired by our Pakistani colleague who asked the Secretary-General about what can be done with regard to violence against Muslims. When you compare reports about human rights violations around the world today, the situation in Xinjiang stands out. There are reports about hundreds of thousands of people of the Uyghur Muslim minority being kept in detention camps. There are reports about massive forced labor, systematic rape, forced sterilization of women, and destruction of the cultural heritage of Muslim minorities. These reports need verification. My question to the Secretary-General is therefore: Is there hope that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Bachelet, will get unimpeded access to Xinjiang in the near future to verify all these reports? We have seen with the High Commissioner's visit to Venezuela how effective this access is in terms of fact finding and information gathering.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.


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