Portugal raised issues such as the death penalty and the situation of migrants at the beginning of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking by telephone to Lusa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, who led the Portuguese delegation in the first two days of the 52nd session of the CDH, said that, in the national speech, “the issue of the rights of combat to the death penalty, economic, social and cultural rights and also the rights of migrants”.
Over the last 36 hours, the Portuguese minister also spoke on a panel of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries bloc, “and it was good to be able to use the Portuguese language in a session of the United Nations”, he commented, also referring to meetings he had with the new president of the Red Cross, with the new one with the High Commissioner for Refugees and with the director general of the International Organization for Migration, the Portuguese António Vitorino – “a very prestigious person in Geneva, very respected and with much appreciation for the work that did over these five years”, made a point of emphasizing João Gomes Cravinho.
In addition, the head of Portuguese diplomacy maintained multiple bilateral contacts with various delegations and was also at a “highly attended” event on the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the central theme of this Council’s marathon, which will last for the next few weeks.
On Monday, the first day of the session, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Portuguese António Guterres, again spoke very harsh words about the Russian aggression, which “triggered the most massive violations of human rights that we are experiencing today” .
In this regard, Gomes Cravinho praised “a position of great courage” by the UN leader on the war in Ukraine, as in the past, in 2003, his predecessor Kofi Annan did in relation to the invasion of Iraq.
“António Guterres has also shown the same degree of courage and moral leadership in calling attention to what is the action of a permanent member of the Security Council”, observed the Portuguese minister.
At the session in Geneva, also marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Korösi, issued a scathing warning that Russia’s actions “effectively paralyzed” the Security Council, where Moscow has permanent seat and right of veto, including over its own actions.
João Gomes Cravinho emphasized that “all members of the United Nations have obligations under international law and a permanent member of the Security Council has added obligations”. In that sense, “Russia’s action is even more shocking” and, he insisted, “it is important to see António Guterres’ leadership in this regard”.
The Portuguese minister recalled last week’s vote at the UN General Assembly, in which 141 countries condemned Russia and that number “is exactly the same as at the beginning of March 2022”, which reveals “a very solid and permanent majority in the analysis about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and condemns this attitude without any reservations”.
Pointing out that Russia “was a member of the Human Rights Council and was expelled and relegated to an observer situation”, João Gomes Cravinho does not envision, however, changes in the Security Council, because “the rules of operation of the United Nations do not make possible a reform that does not have the support of all permanent member countries” of that body.
“Therefore, it is not possible to carry out a reform without Russia’s support, which makes a reform claim unfeasible”, he lamented, emphasizing, however, that “there was an important measure, which was the General Assembly demanding that countries that use the veto be obliged to explain that veto”, which demonstrates “the frustration that Russia is causing in the Security Council”.
Despite the issues that Portugal raised, and others of the present time, such as climate change, the unsustainable debt situation in some countries, minority rights, the Portuguese minister does not believe that these are relegated to the background, although “this conjuncture is inevitably marked by the invasion of Ukraine. Which is a reality that is not just an isolated event, but something that calls into question the entire structure of the international order.”
Regarding the practical effects of this meeting, the minister maintained that “human rights have consequences and this is seen by the degree of commitment of countries, even countries that are under the sights of the Human Rights Council”.