Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session

Australian statement on situations requiring the Council’s attention

12 March 2012

Australia raised its concerns at the human rights situations in Iran, DPRK, Syria, Myanmar and Libya in this Council session, during the individual interactive dialogues. I will focus today on other countries of concern. But before doing so, I must re-emphasise our condemnation, in the strongest terms of the ongoing violence in Syria. Australia joins the international community in calling on the Syrian Government, once again, to put an end immediately to gross human rights violations and allow unrestricted access for humanitarian workers and monitors. Australia welcomes the visits of the UN humanitarian affairs chief and of the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League to Syria last week. It is imperative that the Syrian Government cooperate with these efforts in the interests of its own people.

Australia is deeply concerned by the egregious human rights violations which continue to be perpetrated around the world. We condemn these violations and call on all States to respect the human rights of their citizens.

In our own region, Australia welcomes the release of the final report of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. While the report contains constructive proposals for advancing reconciliation and reconstruction, we remain deeply concerned that it does not fully address alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Reconciliation cannot be achieved without full accountability. We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate all allegations of crimes committed by both sides to the conflict and set firm timeframes for the implementation of the report’s constructive recommendations.

In the Pacific, Australia remains deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Fiji. The decision to issue the Public Order (Amendment) Decree, which maintains most of the interim government’s emergency powers, detracts from the positive momentum that might have resulted from the January lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations. Regime decrees continue to limit freedom of assembly, association and religion, and impose media censorship. However we welcome the Fiji interim government’s announcement about consultations on a new constitution. The interim government’s pledge that those consultations will be open and inclusive is a step in the right direction. Australia is ready to support a genuine process for return to democracy.

Beyond our region, Australia remains concerned by ongoing border disputes between Sudan and South Sudan, and hostilities in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which have resulted in the displacement of vulnerable communities. We welcome the recent signing of an MOU on non-aggression and cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan, and urge all parties in both countries to exercise restraint, resolve disputes through dialogue, fulfil their responsibilities in relation to the protection of civilians and avoid any further escalation of conflict.

And finally I urge this Council to retain its focus on those suffering from natural disaster and famine. In this context, the Australian Government is deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation crisis in the Horn of Africa, in particular the humanitarian needs by southern Somalia, where 1.7 million people are still in crisis. We call on the international community to maintain humanitarian aid as well as support in the medium to longer term for the early recovery of the region.