Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation of Iceland, today warned that the Covid-19 pandemic must not be used to justify long-term restrictions of civil liberties and freedom. “We need to call out efforts to this effect and we must, as a matter of priority, re-double our efforts on behalf of the values we hold so dear: peace and security, rule of law and human rights, including those of women and girls and the LGBTI+ community,” Thórdarson said in his address to the annual high-level week of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Minister Thórdarson recalled that Iceland had recently served on the Human Rights Council as an elected member for half a term, replacing the United States of America following their resignation from the Council in June 2018. “We are pleased to see the US now returning to active engagement with this important institution,” he said.
“Let me stress that to me this Council is by no means a perfect body. However, a dialogue is always for the good, even when we disagree, while the absence of dialogue only serves to protect human rights violators. That is why we must work hard to reform the Council, rather than to disengage and leave it to others to shape as they wish.”
Minister Thordarson noted in his address that in too many countries around the world people are being persecuted because of their faith, political views or sexual orientation. “Human rights defenders and journalists risk their lives and liberties every day for calling out these injustices and for engaging in an open, democratic debate. We have a collective duty to promote and protect the human rights and freedom of all,” he said.
The Minister noted with regret the backslide with regard to democracy and the rule of law in places such as Belarus, Hong Kong and Myanmar. Thordarson also took the opportunity to call on the Russian Federation to use their recent election to the Human Rights Council as a springboard for a new approach, “where universal human rights truly mean every individual is guaranteed full rights, including the freedom of speech and peaceful protest, as well as other civil and political rights.”
The speech of Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation of Iceland, at the 46th Regular Session of Human Rights Council can be read here.