Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi launched on Monday 10 December, UN Human Rights Day, UK’s campaign for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for January 2014-December 2016.
“The UK is committed to strengthening the UN’s mechanisms for driving progress on international adherence to human rights standards, demonstrated by our constructive and thorough approach to our Universal Periodic Review, led by the Ministry of Justice in May” said Baroness Warsi.
She added that UK membership of the HRC would reaffirm UK’s commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms across the world.
“We have been a strong supporter and active contributor to the HRC since its inception in 2006. Through the HRC, we have been able to turn rhetoric on human rights into accountability and lasting change, leading initiatives on issues including the prevention of torture and combating intolerance”, underlined the British Foreign Office official.
Though the HRC the UK has called to account those countries who commit the most serious and widespread violations against their own citizens, for example in Belarus, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and most recently, the HRC has been at the forefront of the international response to the crisis in Syria, mandating the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria to investigate human rights violations and abuses.
“Membership of the HRC will help ensure the UK stays at the front of efforts to hold those responsible for crimes in Syria to account”.
Likewise “we would use a place at the table to promote appropriate attention to country situations and to priority human rights themes. We would fight hard against those who seek to weaken or undermine international human rights mechanisms”.
The UK campaign will focus on four key human rights priorities: protecting those most vulnerable in societies, working towards human dignity for all, responding proactively to evolving challenges, and keeping human rights at the heart of multilateral priorities, concluded Baroness Warsi.
“We believe in a Human Rights Council that can make its voice heard, even when the issues are unpopular or difficult to hear. We believe in a Council that is not bogged down by politics, but where the rights of the individual are paramount; a body where states are held accountable for their actions against their citizens, where peers review peers.
“I believe strongly that we have an important role to play, which is why the UK is standing for election. We bring experience, commitment and ambition. We want to play a part in strengthening the Council, as we have since its inception in 2006. In that time the Human Rights Council has grown in status and effectiveness”.
This year, Ministers agreed the HRC should be the UK top priority international election for 2013. A budget of £30,000 has been allocated between this and one other priority international election (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, ACABQ).