Statement by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Alexandros N. Zenon at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council

It was Winston Churchill who said that “To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day”. This is certainly apt in more than one context, but it seems to me, that one could very well apply it to the field of Human Rights.

Peace, security and respect for human rights, are fundamental goals of the United Nations. After decades of struggles for safeguarding them, we are confronted today with their violation by international terrorism, which represents the single greatest threat to these goals, with direct impact and long term consequences.

The effects are far-reaching.

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by mass murders and gross violation of human rights, millions are displaced, their livelihoods disrupted; governments, institutions, societies and economies are destabilized; the repercussions on peoples’ lives are grave.

Extremists want fear and terror to permeate every aspect of our life; they strike at our transport system, when people go to work; they target the schools of our children; they turn feasts into battlefields.

It is our obligation to protect our citizens.

In doing so, however, and in designing and implementing our counter-terrorism policies, we must not compromise the universal enjoyment of human rights.

If we get this wrong, not only will we be accomplices of terrorism in creating a world deprived of liberties, but we are also likely to exacerbate existing and create new grievances, which will be exploited by extremists.

In determining our actions, we should bear in mind that “effective counterterrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting, but complementary and mutually reinforcing goals” (Global Counterterrorism Strategy).

But it is also essential to win back the hearts and minds of our citizens.

In Cyprus, we work with community and religious leaders, to promote tolerance and mutual respect, in order to prevent radicalisation.

Instilling, also, in our youth respect for human rights, can play a key role in this endeavour.

To effectively address terrorism, it is equally important to deprive it of its breeding ground, namely, civil strife and lawlessness, such as we see them in Syria, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere.

Without underestimating the effects of other conflicts, Cyprus has a special interest in Syria, being in its immediate neighbourhood.

That is why we support diplomatic efforts to bolster the ceasefire and the process of political transition, which will eventually lead to a diplomatic solution, end the plight of people and allow a return to stability and security.

Of particular concern is also the situation of minorities and religious groups, in the Middle East, including the historic Christian communities.

The Council has a role to play in addressing this situation and we, therefore, support the organization of a side-event dedicated to this issue during this Session.

Mr President,

Speaking of solutions, I cannot but refer to the efforts for the reunification of my country.

After almost two years of negotiations, significant progress has been made.

Last January, here in Geneva, for the first time, both sides presented maps on territorial readjustments, and, also for the first time, the Guarantor Powers met to discuss guarantees and security, issues where important differences still remain.

It would be an omission if I did not, in this context, praise the constructive attitude of two of the guarantor powers, the United Kingdom and Greece.

Whilst reiterating our commitment to the process, it is important to stress that now is the moment for the third guarantor power, Turkey, to transform its rhetoric into deeds and contribute concretely towards a settlement, by ending its military occupation and the resulting violation of human rights on the island.

It is also imperative that Turkey exercises its influence on the Turkish Cypriot leadership, in order to return to the negotiating table and resume the dialogue.

Mr President,

I have talked about things that need to be done. I would also like to talk about something that has been done.

Last year, during the 31st Session, Cyprus, in order to raise awareness of the impact of the destruction of cultural heritage on cultural rights, presented a relevant Statement together with a cross-regional core group, which was supported by 146 states.

Together with Ethiopia, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Mali, Poland, Serbia and Switzerland, we proceeded at the 33rd Session with the tabling of the first Resolution on this issue, which was consequently adopted by consensus.

On the basis of this Resolution, we look forward to the inter-sessional seminar on this issue, to be convened later this year.

I wish to appeal to all stakeholders, states, UN agencies, civil society organisations, experts and cultural rights activists, to engage constructively and contribute to the event.

Parallel to our efforts in Geneva, the protection of cultural heritage is a priority of the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, while similar initiatives are also undertaken by Cyprus in New York.

?n the same spirit the Permanent Mission of Cyprus, jointly with other Missions, organizes on Friday, 17th March, a side event on the rights of those suffering from Thalassaemia, in order to highlight human rights concerns arising from ‘neglected’ diseases.

In concluding, I wish to express my Government’s appreciation to the High Commissioner and his Office, for their inspired leadership and courageous work, under sometimes difficult conditions, with limited access to places and information.

Cyprus urges all member states to allow unhindered and unconditional access to the High Commissioner and his staff, where this is deemed necessary.

I would also like to thank the Treaty Bodies, the Special Rapporteurs and Commissions of Inquiry for their dedicated work and for gathering, processing and publishing information on the situation of human rights across the world.

I also wish to express my appreciation to the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Mr Ben Emmerson, for all the important work he has done.

Finally, allow me to congratulate you, Mr President, on your election and assure you that you can rely on the support of my Government.

I thank you for your attention.

Source: Press and Information Office