GENEVA (Public Radio of Armenia) — During his trip to Switzerland, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
The Commissioner praised Armenia’s consistent efforts towards preventing new genocides, while stressing how the international community is more resolute today to prevent crimes against humanity.
“As a nation that survived the first genocide of the 20th century, we feel obliged to take steps to unite the efforts of the international community to exclude new crimes against humanity,” Nalbandian said.
Issues related to minorities and violation of human rights as a result of the situation in the Middle East and the routes of their settlement were discussed. It was noted that Armenia has given refuge to about 20,000 thousand migrants from Syria.
The interlocutors discussed issues related to the protection of human rights in Armenia. Minister Nalbandian spoke of Armenia’s effective cooperation with international human rights organizations.
The Armenian Foreign Minister briefed the UN High Commissioner on the efforts of Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group towards the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
Following the meeting, Nalbandian addressed the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
In his speech Nalbandian condemned all crimes against humanity that are taking place in the Middle East. Below is the text of his speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ten years of successful experience of the Council is by itself an achievement but it is also a major responsibility. The experiences of recent years prove that human rights, peace and security are interrelated.
Today the world is facing unprecedented threats and challenges. We are facing the rise of hatred, xenophobia and racial discrimination, facing situations, where the right to life is under serious threat, as war and other acts of mass violence continue to take the lives of thousands of innocent human beings around the world.
Armenia condemns the atrocities, the crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Middle East, by “Daesh”, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, which constitute a threat to the existence of religious and ethnic minorities in the region, including the Armenians who have been for centuries a genuine component of the cultural diversity of the Middle East.
About 20,000 refugees sought protection in Armenia due to the conflict, on per capita basis making our country as the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe. We welcome the initiative to convene high-level meeting on global responsibility sharing through pathways for admission of Syrian refugees which will take place at the end of March, here in Geneva.
During its existence, the Human Rights Council has played a key role in international efforts aimed at genocide prevention. There is a growing consensus in the international community that prevention will be effective if it is accompanied by the fight against impunity, against the denigration and denial of the committed genocides.
Armenia continuously works on the concept of genocide prevention, and regularly presents to the Human Rights Council appropriate resolutions.
In March last year the Human Rights Council, upon the initiative of Armenia, unanimously adopted a resolution on the Prevention of Genocide. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all countries who cosponsored and supported this resolution. In follow up to this initiative Armenia continued its efforts within the UN General Assembly by introducing a resolution on designating the 9th of December as International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The first article of these Covenants proclaims: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It is well known that the UN Charter underlines the respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as a purpose of this organization.
This right is among the basic principles presented by the international mediators for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenia fully shares this approach because, without free and full exercise of this right, a whole range of human rights are unattainable and lasting peace endangered. We do agree with the view, expressed in the UN, that self-determination is an expression of democracy, and its implementation is essential to the establishment of a peaceful international order.
According to the Geneva Conventions civilians may under no circumstances be the object of attack and must be protected. Armenia strongly condemns the continued attacks of Azerbaijani military forces against civilians and civilian objects along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh. It is yet another gross violation of the international humanitarian law by Baku. It requires immediate reaction from the international organizations.
I would like to add a few words about Armenia’s human rights commitments and new developments within human rights agenda.
Armenia continues its efforts aimed at consolidating democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law, national mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights and sustains strong partnership with the international organizations. We actively work with all UN human rights mechanisms, including special procedures and treaty bodies.
Constitutional reform in Armenia that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe characterized as of “extremely high quality” and “in line with international standards”, was approved by the nation-wide referendum last December. It is another important step also aimed at advancing many of the mentioned goals.
In 2015, Armenia passed through the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. In November last year, a government-civil society dialogue was held, during which the process of implementation of the UPR recommendations was discussed. The government of Armenia is planning to submit a mid-term progress report which will be continuation of the best practices of work within the UPR process and gives us more opportunities to assess the current situation and rightly planning further actions. The successful implementation of recommendations stemming from the UPR and other UN human rights mechanisms will further strengthen Armenia’s human rights records and strengthen the rule of law and democracy.