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Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Human Rights Council's 55th session

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 26.2.2024 12.40

Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Human Rights Council's 55th session on 26 February 2024.

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Mr. President, Excellences, distinguished participants, 

It is an honour to address the Human Rights Council.  As a Council Bureau member, you can count on Finland’s commitment to promote the universality of human rights in cooperation with everyone. 

Mr. President,

The wars and conflicts we are witnessing around the world are killing and traumatizing not only adults, but what is worst, also children. Abusive governments curtail individual freedoms. 2024 is a record year for elections but many of them are anything but free. Rule by law is replacing rule of law. 

Yet we must not succumb to despair. Late Nobel Laureate Martti Ahtisaari wisely worked on the premise that “Peace is a question of will.” Fulfilling human rights is also a question of will. 

The UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights obligate us. They guide us to the realization of human rights, democracy, rule of law and gender equality for everyone, everywhere.  

This Council has a solid record of showing determination. Finland works with all stakeholders to support those who yearn for freedom and dignity, those whose rights are violated and those who defend the rights of others. 

Mr. President, 

Ukrainians heroically defend their freedom in the face of Russia’s war of aggression. The Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has documented evidence that Russian authorities have committed war crimes, including willful killing, torture, rape, and deportation of children to Russia. 

Russia has shown no willingness to end its aggression or to take responsibility for the crimes committed. Ukraine, by contrast, fully cooperates with the Commission and addresses any wrongdoing by its own ranks. 

It is vital that the Council renews the mandate of the Commission and holds Russia accountable. 

Mr. President, 

There are no safe places in Gaza. The suffering of civilians is unbearable. They need life-saving aid now. This conflict severely traumatizes an entire generation of children. We plea Israel not to take military action in Rafah.

The findings of the recent report by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) are deeply concerning.

Nothing justifies the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against civilians. Hamas must release all remaining hostages immediately and without conditions.

For the sake of civilians in Gaza, I strongly support the call of the High Commissioner that Israel must comply with the legally binding orders issued by the International Court of Justice, and with the full span of international humanitarian law.

I hope this Council will engage all stakeholders to support efforts for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, address violations by all parties and forge a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   

Mr. President,

In addition to Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, we are deeply concerned about the grim situation in Russia. Russian authorities have systematically stripped people of their fundamental freedoms, including free expression and peaceful assembly. They are also responsible for the death of Alexei Navalnyi, who sacrificed his life in arbitrary imprisonment for democracy. While there are no free and fair elections in sight, we must not forget about the numerous other political prisoners in Russia and its accomplice, Belarus.

Finland will continue to call for the respect for human rights globally, including in Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar and Nicaragua.

We call on China to enter into dialogue with the international community on human rights in China. We have followed with concern how the repressive action by authorities in China and security laws in Hong Kong have further limited the civic space. The situation of ethnic and religious communities, including the Muslim Uyghurs, continues to require our attention.

Mr. President,    

The resilience of human rights defenders worldwide is admirable. They speak for justice and gender equality, for equal rights of all LGBTIQ+ persons and against racism. They also fight against antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. The Council should embrace them as companions in building democratic and flourishing societies. Their work and that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights give us hope for a better future. Where there is a will, there is a way.

I thank you.