Swiss president opens UN Human Rights Council against backdrop of Ukraine crisis

Bern, 28.02.2022 - The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) began its 49th session in Geneva today with representatives of states from around the world. The President of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis, opened the session together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. In his speech, Mr Cassis once again strongly condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine and its flagrant violation of international law, contrary to the basic principles of the United Nations Charter.

The armed conflict in Ukraine will be one of the main topics of the session. "The civilian population and persons hors de combat must be protected and treated humanely," said Cassis, calling for full respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. Once again, the Swiss president called on Russia to cease its military intervention and to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian soil.

Mr Cassis urged the international community to work together to ensure that human rights institutions are able to contribute to the protection of the civilian population in Ukraine. Every effort must be made to ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are held to account. Switzerland supports holding urgent talks on this issue.

Fostering effective multilateralism
Cassis underscored that respect for difference, justice and equity is a guarantor of global stability and prosperity, saying: "We are convinced that respect for human rights is a core element of conflict prevention."

In that same spirit, he went on to reaffirm Switzerland's commitment to effective multilateralism and to strengthening the UN's capacity to act. "Our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2023–24 is very much in keeping with those principles," he said.

The 49th session of the HRC will run until 1 April 2022. The HRC is tasked with combating human rights violations and making recommendations to address them. Switzerland helped to establish it in 2006 and has actively supported its work since then.

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