Speech by Minister Hanke Bruins Slot at the UN Human Rights Council

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slot at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, 27 February 2024.

The spoken word applies.

Mr. President,

Your excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last week, the wife of Alexei Navalny spoke at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

The hall was hushed as she talked about the death of her husband and his legacy.

Navalny paid the highest price for being a Russian that fights for freedom and democracy.

Unfortunately, his death is not an isolated tragedy.

He was one of many who have been arbitrarily detained for their work to protect human rights and democracy.

In Russia and other places around the world.

His death is a reminder of our duty to protect human rights defenders.

Their voices must be heard.

This also holds true for the Human Rights Council.

In this light, I want to underline the importance of the effective participation of civil society organisations in the proceedings of the Council.

Human rights defenders and civil society organisations make this Council stronger and more effective.

Over the next three years, as a member of the Human Rights Council, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will therefore advocate for their right to participate.

And as Benelux countries we will continue to raise the names of those human rights defenders that have been silenced.

Human rights are under threat in many countries around the world.

Many innocent civilians are victimised by war and violence.

In Gaza, I’m deeply concerned about the situation in Rafah right now.

It is hard to see how a large-scale military operation in such a densely populated area would not lead to many civilian casualties and a bigger humanitarian catastrophe.

This is unjustifiable.

It is of the utmost importance that negotiations quickly lead to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

And lead to a sustained cessation of hostilities.

The scale of human suffering in Gaza is horrific, and more humanitarian aid is urgently needed.

I also strongly reiterate our call on Hamas for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will support investigations into all alleged human rights violations in this terrible conflict.

We already donated 3 million dollars to the ICC.

Today, we will donate another million euros for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, especially for the work in the Palestinian Territories.

Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, we have the same commitment.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will continue to call for accountability for grave human rights violations.

Membership of the Human Rights Council comes with a great responsibility, both at home and abroad.

As a member of the Council, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will focus in particular on six thematic priorities.

I already mentioned two of them: the protection of human rights defenders and civic space and our call for accountability.

In addition to that, we are committed to protecting…

…the rights of women and girls,

…freedom of religion and belief,

…the rights of LGBTIQ+-people,

…and freedom of expression.

At the centre of our work are the many victims and survivors of human rights violations and abuses.

Such as the Yazidis, who suffered so much at the hands of ISIS.

Such as the Uyghurs, who live under continuous state-led repression in Xinjiang.

In our fight, we must not forget the many victims and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

It is a painful truth that such violence is not an exception but a widespread practice.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will play its part in discharging our collective duty to ensure the Council remains effective.

We must work together to strengthen the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by ensuring sustainable, predictable and adequate funding.

Most important, however, is our openness to cooperation.

Be assured that the Kingdom of the Netherlands stands ready to be your partner in promoting and protecting human rights.                                      

Thank you.