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Speeches, 3/1/2011

Speech by Minister Stubb at the UN Human Rights Council

Sixteenth Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 28 February 2011
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Alexander Stubb

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Mr. President, Madame High Commissioner, Excellencies,

Human rights are on top of the international agenda today. During the past week we have followed with growing concern events in Libya. On behalf of my Government, I join the call for the immediate cessation of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Libya. It is indispensable that there is unrestricted access into Libya for humanitarian assistance that the Libyan authorities cooperate fully in this respect. I support all of those who want a peaceful transition to democracy. The safe exit out from the country of foreign nationals must be ensured.

What has and should be done to lead Libya out of the gravity of the human rights situation:

First, a strong condemnation. I join all those who have strongly condemned the violence and use of force against civilians in Libya. The message that individual States, this Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council, the EU, OIC, AU and AL have sent is very clear, the violence must stop. The response by international community has been unusually swift and excellent, indeed.

Second, to provide for a set of sanctions. I support and endorse sanctions put forth by the UN Security Council over the weekend, especially the ones calling for travel ban for Gaddafi and people around him, targeted economic sanctions, freeze of assets and arms embargo. The EU will follow suit with its decision on sanctions. These should now be fully implemented. Will these sanctions be enough at this stage? Probably not but these send a clear message.

Third, the notion of the Responsibility to Protect. In accordance with the notion of the responsibility to protect, it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect people living under its jurisdiction from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity. We - the international community - have our responsibility to help States to protect their populations. I would argue that it is very difficult to try to draw where the line goes for the responsibility to protect. Where is the line crossed? It would be very useful if the UN Security Council could deal with this question and have a look how we should define it within the upcoming weeks. The international human rights standards are the very foundation of the responsibility to protect: they must be respected at all times.

Fourth, we are dealing with crimes against humanity and it is absolutely clear that all of those involved must be prosecuted. Alleged serious international crimes must be investigated by the ICC. I welcome the unanimous UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) on Libya for referring the situation of Libya to the Prosecutor of the ICC. Widespread and systematic atrocities and attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. Everyone should keep the possibility of taking the case into the ICC in mind.

Fifth, it is clear that something big is going on in the Middle East and North Africa. We saw things falling first in Tunisia, we saw it right after that in Egypt and we are witnessing it in Libya as well. We are seeing a classic battle between values and interests. All of us have a task to do some self-reflection in this regard. Values must go first. We must listen to the voice of the people. There is a call for change. We must respect all basic liberties, fundamental freedoms. The transition to democracy must be non-violent. It is evident that a power vacuum will be formed in many of the countries which are undergoing a transition and it is something we may wish to reflect upon.

The human rights agenda does not, unfortunately, begin nor end with the events in Northern Africa. Human rights must be respected at all times, times of turmoil included. There can be no room for complacency or impunity.

Each country should be ready to critically examine human rights situation both away but also at home. Dignified foreign policy means working together towards the full realization of the rights of all individuals. The most important thing right now is our responsibility to protect people all around the world. We as States have committed ourselves to nothing less.


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Updated 3/1/2011

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