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Human Rights Commissioner Kofler on Human Rights Day

09.12.2020 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (9 December) to mark the international Human Rights Day on 10 December:

Looking at the current state of human rights worldwide, I am very concerned. Human rights defenders around the world are under pressure – and not just since the start of coronavirus, although the pandemic has clearly accentuated the trend in autocratic regimes.

We talk of shrinking spaces – but this term plays down what is really going on: intimidation, defamation, arrests and criminal prosecutions, imprisonment, torture, human trafficking and slavery.

In international forums, too, authoritarian regimes are trying to redefine human rights and to overturn existing agreements. This can be observed as regards the rights of women and minorities, freedom of movement and assembly, and the right to free expression. Germany firmly opposes this weakening of the protection of human rights in the Council of Europe, the Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council and during its Presidency of the Council of the EU. This is because respect and the promotion of human rights and the rule of law are in our opinion indispensable prerequisites for peace and stability worldwide.

All Council of Europe member states are obliged to respect the European Convention on Human Rights and to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. While we hold the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we want to campaign to ensure that this happens more reliably. In the UN Security Council, we continued to advocate a greater role for women in peace processes and during our term as a non-permanent member initiated a new resolution to combat sexual violence in conflict. During our Presidency of the EU Council, we concluded negotiations that will ensure that the export of surveillance technologies can be refused on human rights grounds. And just a few days ago, the EU Foreign Ministers, under the German Presidency, agreed on a sanctions regime to punish those responsible for serious human rights violations around the world.

This is an important step, because it goes to the heart of the question. How can we ensure, on the one hand, that our universal, inalienable and indivisible rights are respected, and how, on the other hand, can those affected by human rights violations take their cases to court and have their rights upheld? It is not enough to be right, your rights must also be upheld.

Fighting impunity, protecting the civil society spaces needed by human rights defenders, and promoting binding rules in the spheres of business and human rights will remain priorities of my work, as will combating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and addressing the topic of human rights and digital transformation.

Background information:

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. Two years later, the General Assembly decided to make 10 December Human Rights Day.

Over 20 years ago, on 31 October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325. It reiterates the important role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace talks, post-conflict peacebuilding, peace missions, humanitarian aid and post-conflict situations. It also calls for women to be involved and for gender aspects to be taken into account in all United Nations endeavours on behalf of peace and security.

Building on this, Germany put the focus on the needs of the victims of sexual violence and on the prosecution of perpetrators with the adoption of Resolution 2647.

These and other issues are set out in the current Human Rights Report of the Federal Government, which was adopted by Cabinet on 2 December and presented to the public by the Human Rights Commissioner at the Federal Press Conference on 9 December.

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