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"Mr President, honourable Members, it is a pleasure to speak to you about the outcome of the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of the High Representative. Iran remains a source of serious human rights concerns such as the increasing application of the death penalty and repression against media operators. The EU will fully support the renewal of the mandate of the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran. The EU also expects the Human Rights Council to continue to closely follow the human rights situation in other countries of the region, such as Yemen and Bahrain. We acknowledge the recent positive development in Burma/Myanmar. Serious challenges still remain and must be addressed in order to improve the human rights situation in the country and deepen its transition to democracy. For this reason, the EU will introduce a resolution to extend the mandate of the UN special rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar. Likewise, the EU will work closely with Japan in order to secure an extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to address the continuing critical human rights situation in the country. The issue of accountability in Sri Lanka should remain on the agenda of the Council. The authorities need to fully implement the recommendations of the report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts and the lessons learnt, and of the reconciliation commission. Ms Ashton is deeply concerned by the increasing number of acts of religious intolerance and discrimination across the world. She recently condemned violence against religious minorities in Nigeria, Egypt and anywhere in the world. The EU will engage at the Human Rights Council for freedom of religion or belief, seeking to renew a strong collective response based on human rights standards. Finally, last year, the Council adopted a landmark resolution on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, introduced by South Africa. The EU will work at this session to ensure the success of the follow-up panel on discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The annual session of the Human Rights Council, which brings together key actors on human rights from states to NGOs, can be considered the world’s House of Human Rights. The EU stands ready to engage and cooperate with countries from all regions to ensure the success of this session. We want this Council to have a direct impact on the empowerment of people and to hold accountable those who are responsible for grave human rights violations. The UN has a unique legitimacy to promote respect for human rights as universal norms. Throughout the past year, the Human Rights Council has demonstrated its willingness to respond in a united way to the call of millions of citizens for their right to freedom from fear and from want. The EU was instrumental in making the Human Rights Council adopt resolutions on North Africa and the Middle East, in particular, Libya, Syria and Iran, but also in the case of Belarus. These are actions that matter. They put the governments of those countries under close international scrutiny and send a clear message. There must be no impunity for gross human rights violations. This response is proof that multilateral institutions matter. It is our duty to consolidate the momentum built up in 2011 in Geneva and New York and help the UN to live up to its mandate. The High Representative, Ms Ashton, is strongly committed to these efforts. This is why, early in her mandate, she participated last year in the main session of the Human Rights Council together with US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and delivered a very strong speech on human rights. Unfortunately, this year, the date of the main session clashes with the Foreign Affairs Council, which she will be chairing and which will be discussing Syria and key issues of concern on human rights. The second day overlaps with the General Affairs Council, in which she has to participate in order to ensure that the views expressed in the FAC discussion on Serbia and Kosovo are fully and accurately reflected in the GAC discussion of Serbia. The High Representative remains strongly committed to the defence and promotion of human rights worldwide. The High Representative, Ms Ashton, welcomes the continued interest of the European Parliament on the EU human rights policy in the UN and the intention of Parliament to send a delegation to Geneva to attend the 19th session. I will address the Human Rights Council during its ministerial part, representing the High Representative, Ms Ashton. I will stress the EU’s determination to continue playing an important role in the work of the Council. The EU will intervene consistently in the different agenda items of this Human Rights Council session. I would like to highlight some of the EU’s priorities for the session. We have just had a substantial exchange on Syria, and you will agree that its dire human rights situation deserves to stay high on the agenda of the Human Rights Council. We believe that the Human Rights Council should maintain a strong, effective capacity to monitor the situation. We will work to secure concrete follow-up to the resolutions on Syria adopted by the Council in 2011."@en1

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