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National statements

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Thematic issues

  • Commission of inquiry
  • DPRK
  • Fiji
  • Human Rights
  • Humanitarian
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Justice
  • Myanmar
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY – Third Committee

Agenda Item 68 – "Promotion and Protection of Human Rights"

Statement by Ms Tanisha Hewanpola, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations

Thank you Mr Chair.

Respect for human rights is a cornerstone of Australian values. Australia has a proud history of promoting and protecting human rights as inherent, universal and indivisible. We hold strong that all people are entitled to respect, dignity and legal protection regardless of their age, race, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other distinguishing characteristic. The international community has achieved much in the promotion and protection of human rights. We must remain vigilant and united so that our progress does not slip.

Australia was proud to participate in the recent World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and to support its Outcome Document, aimed at ensuring the rights of the world's Indigenous peoples are respected.

Australia is dedicated to pursuing recognition of Indigenous Australians in our Constitution. Australia is committed to working towards a referendum which will seek to recognise, in our founding document, the rightful place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as our nation's first peoples.

Mr Chair,

In our own region, we remain deeply concerned by the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK provided compelling evidence of arbitrary detention, torture, and coercion for political purposes. Australia urges the Government of the DPRK to heed the Commission's recommendations and take immediate steps to provide its people the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international human rights instruments. We also urge the international community to implement the recommendations of the Commission, including investigation of crimes against humanity.

Mr Chair,

We welcome the Government of Myanmar's continued progress in implementing its ambitious reform agenda, and on negotiating a nationwide ceasefire with all ethnic armed groups. Australia remains deeply concerned about the situation in Rakhine State however, and urges the Government to address the underlying causes of the unrest, and ensure the fundamental human rights of all people are respected.

Australia welcomed Fiji's historic elections on 17 September and congratulates Fiji on taking this important step in its return to democracy. We look forward to continued progress relating to freedoms of expression, media and association.

Mr Chair,

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is cherished in Australia, which is home to a diversity of peoples with a multitude of faiths and beliefs. We are therefore distressed by the barbaric and systemic attacks on ethnic and religious minorities carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups.

ISIL has demonstrated their complete contempt for human rights. Australia condemns absolutely their barbaric actions. We welcome investigations by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights into all of the unconscionable crimes committed in this conflict to bring perpetrators to account, and to seek justice for the many victims.

In Syria, ISIL's consolidation in the eastern region has seen even more Syrian civilians suffer brutal violence. All parties to the conflict in Syria, including the Assad regime, continue to systematically violate human rights and to deny humanitarian access. All parties must respect the human rights of Syrians and comply with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Mr Chair,

Australia urges Iran to translate President Rouhani's positive statements on freedom of expression and non-discrimination into concrete actions. We reiterate concerns regarding executions, particularly of minors, restrictions on civil and political rights, and the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. We urge Iran to engage in a transparent manner with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on Iran.

We welcome encouraging developments in Ukraine, notably the ceasefire agreement and the Minsk Protocol, which have restored law and order to some areas in the east. However, the ceasefire has seen serious, repeated breaches. Australia calls on all parties to respect the ceasefire. This is an essential step in moving toward a lasting political solution, based on respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In South Sudan, Australia is concerned with the disregard for human rights shown by President Kiir and Riek Machar. We urge all parties to immediately halt hostilities, and commit to inclusive reconciliation. Australia also urges the Government of Sudan to uphold fundamental freedoms as part of its National Dialogue.

Mr Chair,

We cannot afford to take human rights for granted – nor can we afford to allow our progress toward the promotion and protection of human rights to slow. Australia strongly believes that every human being is born free and equal, and in dignity, and with rights. We believe that preserving and protecting human rights is essential not only to defend the individual but also to safeguard our societies and economies. It is of the greatest importance that when in times of difficulty and challenge that we remind ourselves of the fundamental truth: that human rights are universal, inherent and indivisible.

Thankyou Mr Chair.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015
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