26 February 2024 - Statement by the Foreign Minister at the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council

Statement by H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Constantinos Kombos at the High-level Segment of the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council (Geneva, 26 February 2024)


Mr. Vice-President,


Ladies and gentlemen, 

We are meeting for the 55th Human Rights Council amidst global turmoil of seismic proportions. We are reliving events that we thought we left in the dark past.

Our presence here sends the necessary, and much needed, symbolic message: Our commitment to Human Rights remains unwavering as is our resolve to protect them. Our collective responsibility and our personal accountability, guide us.

I would like to express my appreciation to the High Commissioner, for his personal effort to instill a renewed global commitment to human rights. 

His efforts are a reminder that with the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our predecessors had shown the wisdom, the vision and the willingness to transpose into action the dreadful experiences of the war. They designed a system founded on the codification of the Values, Principles and Rights that have suffered systematic, prolonged and devastating violations. They set the framework, as a stepping stone, for the gradual deepening, and widening, of the substantive content. They were pragmatic in their approach. Incrementalism and the emphasis on safeguarding the nucleous of Human Rights, were the parameters of their methodology.

Since then, we have made enormous progress.

At the political level, and primarily at the normative and enforcement levels: globally, regionally, and in our Constitutional Orders.

We are, nonetheless, obliged to continuously, critically reflect on where we currently are, and on the direction we are heading. 

The underlying premise is clear: What we have achieved is constantly under threat. By our complacency, the looming revisionism, the illusion of absolute power, the internal undermining of our collective system. There is a plethora of challenges and threats. 

I will refer to three such examples.

Firstly, we are experiencing the effects of new and protracted armed conflicts, the first victim of which is always human rights: 

- We have just marked 2 years since Russia’s illegal invasion against Ukraine. Thousands of deaths, continuing human suffering, ongoing violation of human rights. To that, our response is to reiterate our support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, coupled with the call for accountability.

- Furthermore, Nagorno-Karabakh. We are extremely concerned about the dire humanitarian situation affecting thousands of Armenians. The illegal use of force, the violation of individual rights and the paralyzing fear of being the next victim, led to a mass exodus of Armenians.

- Finally, in the Middle East. We have witnessed and unequivocally condemned the barbarism of the terrorists, the killings, torture, sexual violence, the kidnapping. We are, since, witnessing thousands of deaths and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. Our responsibility and task is to put an end to this. 

Secondly, there is the continuing threat of state-driven infringement of fundamental rights. Our protective system has wisely focused on the vertical axis, namely the state actor as the most serious threat to rights.

We are, still, in a position where certain states act despotically, and persistently and systematically undermine human rights. Women and girls continue to face organized erosion of their freedoms. They are denied access to essential services, restrictions to the right of education and the right to work, all driven by a rationale that sees gender as a justification for violence, discrimination and social exclusion.

Thirdly, there is a growing threat of technology. This is paradoxical, yet we are witnessing the rapid growth and expansion of the capacity of technology, that is becoming a tool at the hands of states willing to use it to control people.

In this context, the Republic of Cyprus presented three years ago, its first-ever candidature for Human Rights Council membership, for the period 2025-2027

We are a strong advocate of multilateralism and of the international rules-based order. 

We recognize the pivotal role of the Human Rights Council in addressing violations, in preventing those in the future, and in safeguarding the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

If elected, Cyprus will be actively engaged with all the Member States of the United Nations and with the Office of the High Commissioner. Our sole aim is to contribute to the success of the Council, and to work collectively to that end.

2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey.

Cyprus and its people have been suffering for 5 decades the persistent violation of human rights and of Humanitarian Law:

The fate of almost one thousand persons still missing, almost 1/3 of the population of Cyprus is displaced, those who remain in the occupied areas are confronted by intimidation and restrictions, cultural sites are being destructed and looted, and there is an active policy of illegal settlement.

No Accountability, no Responsibility, no Answers.

The violation of Human Rights cannot be accepted to be normalized, neither can the victims be dehumanized and treated as statistics. And we expect this cardinal rule to guide all UN actors. This is the foundation for hope.

To end the division;

To allow peaceful coexistence;

To heal the wounds.

Thank you.