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Statement of the Deputy FM, I. Amanatidis, at the High-Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (UN, Geneva)

Friday, 03 March 2017

Mr. President of the Human Rights Council,
Mr. High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to be here today and have the opportunity to address the Human Rights Council at its 34th session.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein for his work and assure him of Greece’s continued support.

Mr. President,

The protection and promotion of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms constitute the defining principles of the Greek Constitution and an integral part of our legislation and our history. Human Rights are at the heart of our policy, both at national and international levels.

We are convinced that in order to strengthen the UN members-states’ ability to, promptly and effectively implement their human rights obligations, a consensus-based approach backed upon dialogue and collaboration is certainly more realistic and conduce to tangible results.

Greece remains committed to the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all fundamental rights, providing its full support to the multilateral human rights system within the United Nations. Consequently, we support the UN Human Rights Council’s special Procedures and the UN Human Rights Treaty Body system.

In this vein, Greece maintains a standing invitation to all HRC Special Procedures and, during the recent years, has received a significant number of relevant official visits.

Additionally, in October 2015, Greece presented its Periodic Reports on the implementation of both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In August 2016 presented its Periodic Report on the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We are, also, fully involved in the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism. In May 2016, Greece presented its comprehensive national report to the Universal Periodic review Working Group at its 25th Session.

Greece has ratified almost all major international Conventions and Additional Protocols related to the protection of Human Rights. In 2014, my country ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, whereas the Greek Ombudsman has been designated as the national preventive mechanism under the above mentioned Protocol. Moreover the Convention on the Rights on Disabilities and its Optional Protocol and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance have already been ratified and enshrined in our national legislation.

Aiming at actively contributing and further promoting the important work of the Council, Greece presented its candidature for membership to the Human Rights Council for the period 2019-2021, hoping for your support. Greece has never been elected as a member to the HRC.

If elected, my country will continue working in a spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue with all relevant UN bodies and member states, convinced of the added value of a consensus-based approach.

Mr President,

In the midst of the economic crisis, where the impact of fiscal austerity measures and of foreign debt burden on human rights has, unfortunately, become more than evident in our society, we are focusing our work in fora such as the Human Rights Council, on cross-regional initiatives aiming to tackle important social and economic rights such as: the right to work, the world drug problem, the enjoyment of cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, youth and human rights. Our attention in the area of economic, social and cultural rights emanates, also, from the fact that the promotion and protection of these rights is an interrelated component for the realization of Civil and Political Rights.

In the area of civil and political rights as such, we actively support a series of EU and other initiatives regarding the protection of the human rights defenders, the fight against racism and any other forms of discrimination including those based on religion, gender and sexual orientation. Additionally, considering that the promotion and protection of freedom of expression is a fundamental prerequisite for building inclusive democracies, we are one of the main sponsors of the Human Rights Council resolution for “the safety of journalists” and at the same time we have the leadership in the relevant resolution at the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee.

At a national level, Greece remains fully committed with the constant aim to champion, protect and promote the Human Rights of all persons residing or transiting the country’s territory, excluding any form of racism or discrimination on ethnic, religious, gender or other grounds.

The harsh economic crisis that Greece has been enduring the last seven years is an extreme case of the broader crisis affecting many European countries. The impact of economic recession has been significant, leading to a sharp increase both of the percentage of the population living under the threshold of poverty and of the unemployment rate, including, in particular, youth unemployment. Believing that the way out of the severe economic crisis must be framed by policy measures which should be in full compliance with human rights, the Greek Government has been striving, while implementing the latest financial agreement, to protect the rights of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. I would like to point out that, regrettably, the international community and its institutions have not been able to design and implement a human rights-based response to debt crises and to conduct thorough human rights assessments.

Let me stress once again that the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in Greece is a priority for our government. We insist that this issue figures prominently -and we expect that it will be taken fully into account- during the current discussions with the international institutions involved.

As regards the migration and refugee issue I stress once more that it remains a cause of major concern for us. It is very well known that Greece is facing a particularly strong migratory pressure due to its geographic position at the external border of EU. Since the beginning of 2015, more than 950,000 persons, mostly originating from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have crossed the Greek sea borders with Turkey and reached the Greek islands. The vast majority of them are refugees fleeing from war and conflicts. For the time being, as a result of unilateral measures and the closure of the Western Balkans migratory route, more than 62.000 persons are stranded in Greece.

Greece despite the severe economic constraints of the past seven years, along with its European partners and the valuable support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is giving its utmost attention to the issue and continues to mobilize all its efforts to respond adequately to this alarming influx. My country devotes tremendous efforts (and financial resources) to rescue those people in need, (so far around 150.000 people), with the aid and mobilization of local population in our frontline islands and to ensure protection of the fundamental rights and human dignity of them, specifically of the vulnerable persons and groups, notably unaccompanied children, pregnant women, disabled persons, etc.

It goes without saying that an international crisis of such a magnitude can only be tackled through international cooperation and burden sharing.

Finally, in the context of national efforts to promote human rights, it is worth mentioning that Greece, in 2014, introduced its first Action Plan on Human Rights which for the time being is under review. Moreover, a National Action Plan on the Rights of the Child and a new Action Plan on Gender Equality aiming to address the challenges arising from the effects of the economic crisis are being elaborated. These efforts highlight our determination to continue to promote human rights for all with special focus to vulnerable groups.

Concluding, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of mainstreaming Human Rights throughout the work of the Human Rights Council. In this respect, allow me to reiterate once more my country’s full commitment to the promotion of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, and its determination to continue working closely to this end with all the UN Human Rights protection mechanisms and treaty bodies.