Federal Minister Kurz: “Decisively oppose attacks on the freedom of opinion”

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz on occasion of the Human Rights Day

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz on the occasion of today’s Human Rights Day underlined: “In light of the multitude of human rights violations that are committed every day, we must continue our efforts to stand up for the protection of human dignity. I am especially glad that human rights activist, Leyla Yunus was released from prison by court order yesterday. Yet every day persons are being persecuted on grounds of their opinion. Poets and authors are especially affected when they or their works fall victim to oppression.

The possibility to freely voice one’s opinion is a fundamental human right and deserves our special protection.” A number of authors’ associations and human rights organisations have protested against judicial persecution and punishment which authors and poets, e.g. in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prone to, like in the cases of the Qatari poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, who currently serves a prison sentence of 15 years, the Iranian author Marzieh Rasouli, as well as the poet Fatehmeh Ekhtesari and the poet Mehdi Mousavi, who both face long term jail sentences in Iran and the Saudi-Arab poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has recently been sentenced to death.

Also, the freedom of religion and belief and especially the protection of religious minorities have been Austrian priorities for many years. “Religiously motivated and violent conflicts pose a great threat for minorities, like e.g. for the Christians in the Middle East. Religious and ethnic minorities are targets of terrible crimes in the conflict in Syria and in Iraq, which are largely committed by IS. It is the task of the international community to make those responsible answer for their actions. At the international level we are committed to the improvement of the situation of minorities and can thereby call upon our experience in interreligious and intercultural dialogue”, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz elaborated.

In international organisations like the UN, the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, Austria stands up for the improvement of human rights. The human rights situation in Austria was assessed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in the Universal Periodic Review this November. “Austria strives to be a role-model for the protection of human rights.

The regular reviews of Austria by the Human Rights Council therefore provide a welcome opportunity to present Austria’s progress within the framework of the UN, but also to constructively act upon valid points of criticism. 135 of the 229 recommendations received have already been accepted. The reaction to the other 71 recommendations is still being considered. Austria will comment on these open recommendations at the time of the adoption of the report in March”, outlined Sebastian Kurz. “Special thanks go to the civil society on this day. Its tireless efforts contribute to improving the human rights situation”, Sebastian Kurz closed.