Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva

Feb 28, 2011

-- Check against delivery --

Mr. President,

Madam High Commissioner,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those who have been to Tunis or have stood on Tahrir square could sense the power of freedom. The people’s optimism and their desire for a new life in dignity were evident everywhere.

A new chapter of history is being written. Seeing so many young people taking to the streets, fills me with hope. Brave men and women are ousting those who disregarded their fundamental rights and freedoms for decades. It reminds me of the peaceful revolution in Germany more than twenty years ago.

Tragically, the exact opposite is happening in Tripoli.

The violence the leadership in Libya is inflicting upon the people is shocking. These actions are totally unacceptable. The perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes. If necessary, they shall be held to account before the International Criminal Court.

I denounce and condemn the horrendous violations of human rights committed by the Libyan regime.

Germany has been a strong advocate for robust sanctions against the Libyan regime.

I applaud the Security Council's decision to impose sanctions on those responsible for atrocities in Libya. I expect the European Union to agree on equally robust sanctions.

Let there be no doubt about our intentions. These sanctions are not directed against the people of Libya. Any sanctions will only be levelled at those who are responsible for the violence. And sanctions will strike hard at those who are responsible.

Mr President,

Germany has offered both Tunisia and Egypt a partnership for transformation. We as democrats are supportive of fellow democrats. This offer extends also to Libya once it has decided to follow the path towards democracy.

Beyond this immediate commitment we need a long-term strategy. Therefore I propose to establish a North-South pact to promote democracy, the rule of law, and to foster economic development.

We can help build democratic institutions. We can help promote an effective rule of law with truly independent judges. We can support the states in their fight against corruption. We can intensify trade and promote the people's pursuit of happiness.

Europe and its Southern neighbours must seize this historic opportunity to build a strong and lasting partnership for the 21st century.

This pact is an offer for a true partnership between equals.

Mr President,

The events of the past weeks underscore how closely security and peace are linked with freedom, human rights, and development.

Those who demonstrate are not demanding freedom or jobs. They rightly want both. The people's demand for respect and human rights is entirely legitimate.

Their determination sets an example for all of us here at the Human Rights Council.

These events confirm our continuous struggle in the promotion of human rights. We must live up to our duty to support these brave men and women.

In demanding respect for their fundamental rights and liberties, they demand no less and no more then they are entitled to.

The idea that democracy and stability are opposites was never true. Stability cannot be achieved with disrespect for human rights and contempt for political and economic freedom. The stability of a country depends on the stability of its society. Only a free society is a stable society.

Mr President,

Human rights apply universally. This is not a question of East or West, North or South.

We do not lecture anyone. But we will commit every effort to achieve the aim that one day human rights are a reality for every man, woman or child, wherever they may live. Our demand for human rights is not an interference but an obligation.

Mr President,

my recent journey to Iran has not altered my assessment of the human rights situation in that country. We deplore the recent wave of executions.

Human rights are not negotiable. They apply globally and are valid for everyone.

Last week I implored President Ahmadineschad to safeguard human rights in his country. I call upon the Iranian leadership to respect the will of the people and to protect the opposition in the country.

Mr President,

Germany will continue to promote and strengthen human rights. We rely on the ever growing strength of this Human Rights Council.

I trust the Human Rights Council to act resolutely. So far, the Council has lived up to its responsibilities. Last Friday's resolution is ground-breaking and its significance extends way beyond Libya. The unity expressed last Friday sends a clear message to all those who violate human rights. For the first time, this Council asked the General Assembly to suspend the membership of a country due to blatant violations of human rights. Now the General Assembly has to act.

I commend all delegations for passing the resolution by consensus and with the support of all regional groups. It strengthens the credibility of the Human Rights Council and the UN system as a whole. This Council has acted as a true advocate for human rights. Now we need to take the next step. I call upon all members of this Council to support the international investigation that has been mandated under UN-leadership.

With the spirit and determination this Council demonstrated last Friday we must all embrace the opportunities of the ongoing review process.

Critical human rights situations have to be addressed with a sense of urgency. The review must reflect the lessons of the past weeks.

All members of this Council carry a responsibility for the global state of human rights.

We are accountable to our citizens at home, as well as to every individual whose rights are still being violated elsewhere.

This Council can become a beacon of hope for legions of victims who are yearning for the light of freedom and democracy to end the darkness that oppresses their lives.

Mr President, thank you very much for giving me the floor.

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