The Third Committee session this year takes place against a backdrop of numerous challenges that affect the human rights situation all over the world. Conflicts, instability, poverty and a sense of hopelessness in some parts of the world account for massive dislocations of populations, unprecedented since World War Two, and migrants and refugees in search of shelter flood our roads. At the receiving end, Serbia has met these challenges humanely and responsibly and in accordance with international standards.
My country is fully committed to cooperation with United Nations mechanisms in the field of human rights and is ready to make its contribution to the universal promotion of these rights. As a recent example of the commitment, I bring to your attention the resolution, adopted by consensus in the Human Rights Council, on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage of which my country was one of the co-authors.
Two special procedures came to my country in the last two months alone: Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights visited Serbia, while in March the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing presented her Report on the visit to Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija, in June 2015. We expect to submit the third report within the universal periodic review mechanism by the end of 2017.
A State Party of almost all key United Nations Conventions and International Covenants in the field of human rights, Serbia has cooperated actively with all human rights treaty bodies and submitted reports on the implementation of conventions on a regular basis. We shall submit our report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the beginning of January 2017, while the report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is planned for March next year.
We are well aware of the challenges faced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including those in the financial area. Nonetheless, we consider that, in deciding whether to strengthen or close an OHCHR field presence, it is necessary to assess all the aspects of human rights questions and consult the host governments.
Just as we did in previous years, we feel obliged to point to the human rights situation in the Serbian Province of Kosovo and Metohija this year, too. I regret to have to say that there has been no progress in the protection of the rights of ethnic communities in the Province, in particular of the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija. Many challenges and unresolved problems continue to exist in the field of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including security, freedom of movement, use of language and script, rights to education and property and the exercise of cultural and religious rights. Incidents, including arson, plundering, especially of returnees’ homes, physical attacks, intimidation and the obstruction of people to tend their fields and visit the graves, often destroyed or desecrated, of their kith and kin have plagued and continue to plague the everyday life of Kosovo and Metohija Serbs. This situation can hardly be expected to convince over 200 000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija to ever consider a venture back home and a return to their property, which is their basic human right. Let me also recall that a dignified and safe return of these people is an obligation under UNSCR 1244 (1999) which has not been implemented to this very day.
Serbia has embarked on the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština in good faith, desirous of resolving the questions that will make the normal life of people possible and fully respect their human rights. It continues to be committed to the dialogue, yet dialogues are two-way streets of sorts and presuppose a good will of the other side, too, which has not been the case, especially of late.
Xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance and racism are on the rise and continue to pose a threat to Europe, including South-East Europe. Experience has taught us how dangerous and threatening they are, mostly to the rights of minorities. My country is concerned over the ever more frequent incidents targeting the Serbian minority in neighbouring Croatia. This is no place and time to discuss particular incidents; instead, I shall bring to your attention the Opinion of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities on Croatia. We expect that Croatia will consider the serious criticism and concern of the Advisory Committee in respect of many issues related to the protection of minority rights in Croatia and implement its recommendations in good faith.
The road, Mr. Chairman, for the progression of human rights is not without pitfalls in any country of the world and, as a multinational and multi-confessional State, Serbia has had a fair share of them as well. Yet, through its legislation, highly appraised internationally, it will continue to invest practical efforts in promoting the status of its minorities, non-discrimination and the strengthening of human rights of all its citizens in accordance with its strategic and legislative frameworks within the process of EU accession and in accordance with international standards and obligations provenient from relevant United Nations instruments.