On the occasion of the final session of the Commission on Human Rights on 27 March 2006 the European Union pays tribute to 60 years of service to the cause of human rights. The European Union values the important role that the Commission on Human Rights has played in the promotion and protection of human rights. Despite the criticism the Commission has attracted in recent years, its achievements and rich legacy in the field of human rights deserve our recognition and respect.

From the Commission on Human Rights the world community inherits a rich body of international human rights law and standards. With the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Commission laid the foundation upon which the entire body of international human rights law is built. Its subsequent development of the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights, and the other core human rights instruments today form the bedrock of international human rights law. The Commission has continued the development of new standards by preparing a draft Convention on Enforced Disappearances and a draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The consideration and adoption of these texts is among the EU priorities for the Human Rights Council at its first session in June. Over the last 60 years, the Commission on Human Rights has contributed significantly to identifying and addressing challenges for the protection and promotion of human rights, including emerging or urgent issues and situations. The development of the system of special procedures has brought the intergovernmental debate on human rights closer to the reality on the ground. The independent UN human rights experts serve as an early warning mechanism for the international community and give voice to the often silenced victims. With their expert advice they contribute greatly to an informed and substantive debate. Their recommendations provide concrete guidance for the improved implementation of human rights standards.

The European Union warmly welcomes that the system of special procedures will be continued in the Human Rights Council and that all mandates have been transferred to the Human Rights Council. The EU looks forward to receiving their reports and engaging them in interactive dialogue at its first session. It is important that this system will be strengthened over time.

The European Union expresses its full support to the contribution of human rights defenders in raising awareness and advocating higher respect for human rights. Throughout the existence of the Commission, human rights defenders and their organizations have raised concerns where governments have remained silent – often against the risk of discrimination, imprisonment or even losing their life. Their continued active and effective participation in the Human Rights Council is of greatest importance to the European Union. We therefore welcome that the participation of non-governmental organizations, and national human rights institutions in the work of the Human Rights Council will be based on the rules and practices of the Commission on Human Rights

Building on the solid foundations of the instruments and mechanisms created by the Commission, the Human Rights Council now offers the opportunity to strengthen the implementation of human rights standards. The European Union stands ready to cooperate with other members of the UN in order to make the Human Rights Council an effective and efficient body, which will make a genuine contribution to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all.

The Human Rights Council should be able to address all human rights issues as they occur, including urgent situations. The Council will offer a forum for ongoing dialogue and constructive engagement. It will provide guidance and assistance to all countries to achieve the highest standards of human rights protection through dialogue, cooperation and capacity building. We will have to make good use of all the instruments it will provide in order to translate human rights norms into tangible improvements of the situation of human rights on the ground and prevent human rights violations from occurring.

The European Union reiterates its full support for the strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner and her staff are working relentlessly to promote and protect all human rights and prevent the occurrence or continuation of human rights abuses throughout the world. In the words of the late High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, we all have a part to play in making the enjoyment of all human rights a reality for everyone.
We now have the opportunity to collectively demonstrate our commitment to uphold the highest standards of human rights. It is in our hands to ensure that the Human Rights Council will build on the finest elements of the legacy of the Commission on Human Rights.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Ref: 7810/06 (Presse 91)