52nd session of the Human Rights Council - High-level segment

Statement by Sweden delivered by H.E. Mr Johan Forssell, Minister for Foreign Trade and Minister for International Development Cooperation

Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

There are moments in history when one era ends and another one begins. The 24th of February last year - almost exactly one year ago - was such a date.

Russia’s illegal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine marked a clear turning point.

I welcome the Human Rights Council’s condemnation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which is not just an unprovoked attack on a sovereign State, but also a violation of international law, including the UN Charter.

We salute the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian people, defending not only their country, but also the principles of freedom and sovereignty. Totalitarian states – regardless of their brutality – can never take away our firm belief in freedom and the rule of law. 

Sweden will continue to support full accountability for the crimes committed as part of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The executions, the torture, the sexual violence and the illegal deportations - all crimes must be investigated. All those responsible must be brought to justice. It is imperative - as a matter of justice for the victims. As a deterrent against future human rights violations. But also to uphold respect for international law.

The reports of the International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and of the High Commissioner will be important contributions to the international efforts to ensure that there will be no impunity.

Mr President,

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A great achievement and its importance and impact are hard to overestimate.

The Declaration, and all the human rights treaties that followed, have transformed our societies - and our world - in profound ways.

The past 75 years have proven that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are not just words on a paper.  If respected, they are a blueprint that can - and have - shown us how to build societies that are more free and more just, with less hunger and less fear.

That is our heritage, and that is what we now must build on.

Because the work is far from over.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we recall not just the rights attained, but also the rights that are still denied.

Mr President,

unless we embrace freedom of expression online and offline, free media and the rule of law we will struggle to find lasting solutions to our challenges. Only an open society, that can freely draw on the genius, the competing views and diverse voices of all its members, will be innovative enough to deliver what we need: a decent and sustainable future for all. My government’s determination to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law remains unabated, and our support to civil society actors and those defending democracy and human rights is steadfast.

In the same way: unless we embrace gender equality, we will never succeed in building peaceful or prosperous societies. The great advances in women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights - including sexual and reproductive rights – in the post-war period have gone hand in hand with an unparalleled democratic and economic development. Let me underline that human rights are – and must be - universal and should be fully enjoyed by all, irrespective of gender, religion, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

At this session, and over the coming years, this Council will address many of the key issues before us such as the serious situations in Iran and in Afghanistan.

A lot is at stake:

Will the open standards that form the foundation of today’s digital world be replaced by protocols that give States control over critical data flows?

Will human rights-based or authoritarian principles form the basis of the artificial intelligence technology that will shape much of our future?

Mr President,

I started my intervention here today by saying that we live in a new era.

In this new era, we see an increasing competition over values, and narratives. Opposing views of how societies should be organised.  We see efforts by major powers to create political and economic dependencies to bolster their positions.

In this era, it is more important than ever that the Human Rights Council steps up to its role as the global body charged with protecting and promoting international human rights law.

By promoting international cooperation and developing the normative framework. But also by addressing the violations and demanding accountability from those responsible.

Civil society, human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations must be able to make themselves heard in this Council without fear of reprisals.

The new High Commissioner and his Office must be empowered and financed to carry out their work with full independence.

Mr President,

Human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law are core values for Sweden. We will always react when there is systematic oppression and when rights are violated or abused.

And we will always believe, like the drafters of the Universal Declaration 75 years ago, that the best world is a world where  freedom, and the equal value, of every one of us is respected.

Thank you.



Last updated 27 Feb 2023, 2.23 PM