The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, closed the session that marked the end of Portugal's mandate as an elected member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations (2015-2017). The session was held on February 7 at Palácio das Necessidades, in Lisbon.
In his speech, the minister warned against the temptation to "repeatedly choose the same black sheep" when it comes to respect for human rights, recalling that Portugal has its own weaknesses in this field.
"What we suggest is to keep things in perspective and refrain from repeatedly choosing the same black sheep to try to ensure they are the only ones under the spotlight. There are many black sheep, some of them in Portugal, and we must see them all and not be selective when it comes to identifying problems," he said.
For the minister, "the idea that some are clean, and others are unclean is a dangerous idea, whichever the field."
The head of Portuguese diplomacy argued that Portugal has "a very poor performance in terms of human rights" in some areas, such as violence against women, while in others "it is excellent, such as in combating discrimination based on sexual orientation".
As an example of good practices, Santos Silva also underlined Portugal's "international fight" for "the abolition of the death penalty, not only via the moratorium" in countries that still have the death penalty in their legal framework - such as Equatorial Guinea, a member of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP).
Portugal is engaged in an "active and permanent fight, in all UN General Assemblies, for the abolition of the death penalty, because it understands that it is a barbaric and inhuman penalty," he said.
The public policy of response to drug addiction, based on a medical and non-criminal approach, the fight against discrimination and the advancement of important civil rights, such as the right to equality regardless of gender or sexual orientation, as well as the openness to receive refugees, are other cases that show Portugal's involvement in the defense of human rights.
For the minister, the realization of human rights should be seen "more as a film than merely as a photograph, trying to understand how a process unfolds," he said.
Finally, the minister addressed "a very complex issue": the balance between the sovereignty agenda and the human rights agenda.
"Neither the sovereignty agenda can be used to conceal severe violations of human rights, nor can the human rights agenda be used to postulate that some countries deserve to live in limited sovereignty, while others deserve to live in unlimited sovereignty," he said, concluding that "to some extent, all countries live in limited sovereignty."
In addition to the speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the session was opened by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Teresa Ribeiro, and included a debate on "Portugal and Human Rights: assessment, perspectives and challenges", with the participation of Catarina de Albuquerque, José Manuel Pureza, Pedro Neto and Luís Cabaço, and moderated by Sofia Branco.
The book "Portugal and Human Rights at the United Nations", coordinated and published by the Diplomatic Institute, was also presented on this occasion.