My country, Estonia, is starting its 3-rd and final year on this Council. When starting our membership, we set clear priorities, the foremost among them being freedom of expression both on- and offline, rights of women and children and of indigenous peoples.
Last Sunday my country elected a new parliament, for the 7-th time after restoring our independence. I mention this since Estonia decided for universal suffrage among the first countries in the world in 1917.
While fully aligning my statement with that of EU HR Mogherini on Tuesday on behalf of EU (and its MS) my country is very concerned about recent deterioration of human rights situation in many parts of the world.
The latest UNHCR data speak of 1,801,700 persons of concern in Ukraine. A year ago there were almost none. Let us be clear. This is not an internal conflict. The calamity Ukraine is suffering has been inflicted from outside. Behind each person there is a huge tragedy and violation of their human rights. That is why we consider the role of HRM(M)U vital, to which Estonia has contributed and will also, in order to document and deter serious violations of human rights, in particular the systemic intimidation and persecution of Crimean Tatars by the occupying power. Their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continues to be curtailed and limitations have been imposed on the freedom of religion and belief in Crimea. International human rights monitors must be provided with unrestricted access to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea.
We reiterate our strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, also confirmed by the General Assembly in its resolution 68/262. And we should not be fooled by the attempts to distort the principle of self-determination – we are not talking of a nation called crimeans wanting to establish their own state.
Regarding Georgia, we see worrying developments in the occupied territories. The de facto authorities are fortifying the ABL and cutting parts of Georgia off from the rest of the country. We do not recognize the so called “Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership” signed by Russia and de facto authorities in Abkhazia, a region that is an integral part of Georgia. Such steps are not in any way conducive to stabilizing the situation. Instead, all efforts should be made in the Geneva international discussions to achieve progress on security and humanitarian issues that continue to affect communities in Georgia. As previous HC Navi Pillay mentioned about Tskhinvali region “one of the most inaccessible places on earth, with no access permitted for international agencies”. Including herself.
Today six months pass since the abduction of Estonian police officer Mr Eston Kohver by the Russian Security Services on 5.th of September on Estonian territory, I stress our territory, near the Estonian-Russian border. His abduction and continuing illegal detention constitute a clear and grave violation of international law by the Russian Federation. Russian authorities have done nothing to resolve the matter and we call once again on the Russian Federation to act according to its international obligations and release Mr Eston Kohver immediately and guarantee his safe return to Estonia.
The situation in Syrian Arab Republic has been the major acute concern of this council. Throughout the four years of the conflict the situation has only continued to deteriorate. The Syrian regime is responsible for massive human rights violations of their own people. Also, the atrocities committed by terrorist organizations such as ISIL have been shocking for the whole international community. This has created rapid escalation of violence and overall deterioration of human rights situation where all parties of the conflict commit serious crimes. Today, the Syrian conflict is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis which is seriously affecting Syria’s neighboring countries. Estonia has supported the alleviation of the humanitarian situation of Syrian refugees with more than 1.4 MEUR so far, mainly through UN humanitarian agencies. We firmly believe that the solution to the crisis can only be political and support all efforts to achieve one.
Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials. The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) revealed in its report last year that in many instances, the violations of human rights found by the Commission and documented in its report, meet the high threshold required for proof of crimes against humanity in international law. The perpetrators enjoy impunity. The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the DPRK will be held accountable.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression is the cornerstone of every democracy. Estonia has been a confident supporter of the internet resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council over the last years and continues holding one of the top ranks of online freedom in the world. At the same time, we are deeply concerned about increasing restrictions to the right to freedom of opinion and expression in many countries. As one of the founding members of the Freedom Online Coalition in 2011, we call on the states restricting freedom of expression, including on the Internet, to lift such restrictions and to join the voice of those who are promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The importance of the role that civil society organizations play in advancing human rights is increasing, but regrettably there are governments who adopt repressive measures against our partners working for NGOs. We call on countries to prevent silencing the voice of civil society, intimidation and reprisals against those who speak out, whether it be in the Human Rights Council, social media or elsewhere.
The protection and promotion of the human rights of indigenous peoples has always been and will remain among the priorities of Estonia’s human rights agenda. Despite some progress we note with regret that 7 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights we are still talking about lack of awareness and understanding about indigenous peoples’ rights and that the fulfillment of these rights is still a challenge. We commend the significant role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has played in advancing the development of indigenous issues. The guidance and help of the Office and of the human rights mechanisms is continually needed. Estonia has regularly contributed to the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately the number of contributors is not very big and therefore we invite more states to do the same.
My country will conclude its membership on the Council this year. We believe every country that observes human rights has the right and should have a possibility to serve on this council, for advancement of human rights globally.
Statement by Estonia at UN Human Rights Council 28th Session, 4 March, 2015
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