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Human Rights

German President Gauck: human rights need protectors

President Joachim Gauck has pledged German help in the fight for human rights in a speech at the UN's Human Rights Council. Gauck called fundamental human rights "the foundation of all human co-existence."

German President Joachim Gauck called for a global fight in favor of human rights in a major speech on Monday, saying that the issue should be pursued irrespective of a country's size or inernational standing.

Gauck said responsible countries should always stand up for the rights of individuals, "even if that sometimes means criticizing neighbors or friends," in an address to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

He also warned against turning a blind eye to abuses on cultural grounds, saying that "torture kills, injures and is never acceptable," irrespective of the victims' identities or where it takes place.

"For me, human rights remain the foundation of all human co-existence, the precondition for us to be able to use fulfil our incredible potential as people, to change our lives for the better," Gauck said. The German president also said human rights were "not just universal, but indivisible as well. Economic, social and cultural rights belong inseparably with political and civil freedoms." Gauck also stressed the importance of people and governments actively protecting and defending such rights.

Speaking from experience

A protestant pastor who grew up in former Communist East Germany, Gauck discussed his personal experiences with repression - and their positive conclusion that served as the springboard for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"Along with many others, I witnessed how people who appeared powerless were able to bring about the fall of an all-controlling and repressive state, an entire regime, an empire," Gauck said.

Though Gauck named no specific countries in a speech that could have applied to a war-torn country like Syria, a major developing power like China or Russia, or NATO members like Germany or the US, he did offer direct praise to the UNHRC commission investigating human rights violations in Syria's civil war.

The UNHRC was founded in 2006 with the task of helping to uphold the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first adopted in 1948. Though it can investigate and advise other UN bodies, the UNHRC cannot impose any sanctions or penalties.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, epd)