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Ireland's Statement to 37th Session of the Human Rights Council by Minister Cannon T.D.

Mr. President, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
Human rights have been central to Irish foreign policy since the foundation of our State. This principle is indivisible from our commitment to development. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to transform our world, addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality, and instability.

Ireland attaches great value to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, led so ably and independently by High Commissioner Zeid. Over the last 4 years, you have been a beacon of hope for the dispossessed, the marginalised and the forgotten across the globe.

Let me pay tribute to your courage and leadership and wish you well in your future endeavours.

In 2018, we mark the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and 70 years since the international community adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration remains a milestone achievement. On its anniversary, rather than just looking back, we should also reflect on why its values continue to be relevant in today’s world of increasing challenge to individual human rights.

Ireland maintains that our response to these challenges must be rooted in a shared commitment to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It must be grounded in pluralism, tolerance, equality, justice and recognition of the universality of human rights.
In other words: the values of the Universal Declaration.

Ireland strongly supports the promotion and protection of those who defend the rights of others. We are alarmed by reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and their families, especially as a result of cooperation with the UN. We were pleased therefore to be part of the core group which secured a resolution on reprisals at the last session and we look forward to the first Interactive Dialogue this autumn.

Freedom of Religion and Belief remains under threat in many places worldwide, with members of minority religious communities, including those of Christian, Muslim and Baha’i faiths, disproportionately affected by violence, discrimination, and harassment. Ireland will continue to work at the Council to shine a light on these instances of human rights abuse and seek accountability for violations.

We are also concerned by the rise in executions in some countries and the resumption in others of the application of the death penalty. Ireland will continue to encourage States to move towards full abolition of the death penalty.

We would also want to see more effective promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTI persons. Ireland was the first country in the world to recognise marriage equality by popular vote and we are proud to have progressive legislation on transgender rights. As Minister for the Diaspora, I am especially pleased that our citizens overseas may self-identify in their preferred gender in our official register of foreign births.

During our term on the Council, Ireland worked closely with others on the issues of preventable mortality of children under five and the protection of civil society space. We will accelerate our work on civil society space as we prepare for the June Session of the Council.

Ireland is extremely concerned about the situation in Yemen, now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, where restrictions on humanitarian access, and access for commercial goods, have caused great suffering. We are deeply concerned by reports of violations of international humanitarian law in this conflict, including attacks which have destroyed schools and hospitals.

At the last HRC, Ireland was proud to join a small core group of States which worked on the Resolution that established a group of Eminent Experts mandated to carry out a comprehensive investigation of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights in Yemen since September 2014. We look forward to the submission of their report in advance of the September Council Session.

After almost seven years of war in Syria, there seems to be no end in sight. I condemn in the strongest terms the continued attacks on civilians in Syria. I endorse fully the UN Secretary General’s call for the immediate and effective implementation of the Security Council Resolution, to allow unhindered humanitarian access to besieged populations in Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta. Ireland firmly believes that there must be accountability for the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We support the Independent International Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council to investigate all violations of international human rights law in Syria.

Ireland remains committed to constructive and principled diplomatic action on the Middle East Peace Process. In the 25 years since Oslo, there have been consistent violations by Israel of its international legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, on the treatment of a civilian population under military occupation.

Ireland and our EU partners have consistently condemned the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, especially while unwarranted restrictions are placed on Palestinian development in Area C. We are also deeply concerned about the situation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, where the historic community is under great pressure. The continued blockade of Gaza is having a terrible impact, with young people losing hope for the future.

Ireland remains extremely concerned about the situation in Rakhine State, in Myanmar. We are deeply worried by reports of serious violence and human rights violations, and the humanitarian crisis which has resulted in large movements of predominantly Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. We look forward to receiving important updates from the Special Rapporteur and the Fact Finding Mission.

In conclusion, despite the complexity of the global challenges, let us draw strength from, and be inspired by, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which encourages us to focus on the rights and dignity of all women and men. We have a collective duty to leave the world a better place for the next generation. To paraphrase the words of Ireland’s Nobel Laureate, Séamus Heaney, we must “believe that further shore is reachable from here.”

Thank you.

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