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Human Rights Council opens fifteenth regular session

Human Rights Council
MORNING 13 September 2010

Hears Update from High Commissioner for Human Rights on Work of her Office

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its fifteenth regular session, hearing an update by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on the activities of her Office, following which it held a general debate, in which speakers addressed, among other things, the importance of protecting human rights defenders and the upcoming review of the Council. The Council also adopted the agenda for the session.

In an opening statement, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the Council, said this session would be important and challenging. The principal challenge would be to engage in the review of the Council without losing sight of the already heavy agenda in the regular sessions in order to advance the promotion and protection of human rights. Members would need to forge unity of purpose out of diversity and take up enthusiastically and in an even-handed manner all human rights issues that impacted the peoples.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing her updated annual report, said the fifteenth session began against a backdrop of immense human suffering caused by natural disasters, violence and conflict in many parts of the world, and indiscriminate attacks against individuals, mainly women and children. These were powerful reminders of the pressing need for protection both in emergencies and chronic human rights situations. The Human Rights Council and the international community should support squarely and vocally human rights defenders, and ensure the safety and protection of defenders and other witnesses who cooperated with UN-mandated fact-finding and investigative initiatives. With regard to the Human Rights Council Review, it offered the opportunity to find ways to hone and better fulfil the high mandate bestowed upon the body. Ultimately, international public opinion would judge the Council on the measurable positive change that the body fostered where it truly mattered to rights holders.

In the ensuing general debate, speakers said, among other things, that all human rights were universal, inalienable, interdependent and interrelated, and human rights issues should be addressed within the global context through a constructive, dialogue-based approach, in a fair and equal manner, with objectivity, impartiality, non-selectivity and respect to national sovereignty. Affected by the financial crisis and natural disasters, many countries found difficulties in realising the Millennium Development Goals, and the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should pay more attention to the promotion of economic, social and cultural development in developing countries, promote international cooperation, and help those in disaster-stricken countries to reconstruct. The international community must stand up for human rights advocates, and stand against the repression they endured in retribution for peacefully calling for the enjoyment of their rights.

The upcoming review of the Human Rights Council was one opportunity to promote the work of the Council to more positively and proactively address the situation of these human rights defenders and, more generally, affect human rights conditions on the ground. The review of the Council must lead to strengthening the work and functioning of the Council. It offered a unique occasion to assess the work of the Council thoroughly and make improvements to its work and functioning where needed. The Review would give an opportunity to identify all problems affecting the Council, and it should examine the entirety of its mandate, and not just the institution-building package, as the essence of the Review was not about renegotiating the package, but building upon it for better functioning of the Council.

A number of speakers also expressed deep concern for the recent wave of intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion, saying it was regrettable this issue was not mentioned in the High Commissioner’s statement. Hostilities towards Islam, such as controversial cartoons or the burning of sacred texts, only fuelled greater divisions amongst religious groups around the world, a speaker pointed out. The defamation of the Islamic religion was of increasing concern to many countries and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should make this a top priority on their work agenda.

Speaking in the general debate were the representatives of Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Belgium on behalf of the European Union, Syria on behalf of the Arab Group, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, France, Libya, Mexico, United States, Cuba, Russian Federation, China, Norway, Poland, Bahrain, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Qatar, United Kingdom, Jordan, Brazil, Switzerland, Japan, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Hungary, Bangladesh, Uganda, Maldives and Chile.

This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council is scheduled to conclude its general debate under this agenda item, following which it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

Opening Statements

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW, President of the Human Rights Council, said he was honoured to have the opportunity to work together with all members of the Council. This session marked the beginning of the fifth cycle of the Human Rights Council, which would be important and challenging. The principal challenge would be to engage in the review of the Council without losing sight of the already heavy agenda in the regular sessions in order to advance the promotion and protection of human rights. The workload in this cycle would increase significantly and the President would need to rely on the collective efforts, collective will and collective wisdom on the part of all members of the Council. Members would need to forge unity of purpose out of diversity and take up enthusiastically and in an even-handed manner all human rights issues that impact the peoples.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing her updated annual report, said the fifteenth session was beginning against a backdrop of immense human suffering caused by natural disasters, violence and conflict in many parts of the world, and indiscriminate attacks against individuals, mainly women and children. These were powerful reminders of the pressing need for protection both in emergencies and chronic human rights situations. Special Procedures mandate holders, press reports and advocates consistently pointed out that human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society activists in all regions of the world faced threats to their lives and security because of their work.

Peaceful dissidents, human rights advocates, lawyers and press representatives had been targeted and violently attacked in countries, including Iran, Iraq and Somalia. Difficult conditions that put in jeopardy human rights workers, journalists, trade unionists and community organizers were often compounded by competition over natural resources, as was the case in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. The curtailment of civil society's scope of action and social activism with ad hoc laws or other restrictive measures in countries such as Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, Libya, Panama, Syria and Tunisia was disturbing. In Israel draft laws had given civil society cause for concern. Peaceful activists had been injured and arrested for protesting the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory. In the Gaza Strip, the de facto authorities shut down civil society organizations. In Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, little progress had been achieved to bring to justice the perpetrators of murders and attacks against defenders which occurred during the past few years. Similarly, in Guatemala, Mexico and Serbia state institutions had seemingly been unable to respond to attacks against defenders and activists.

Pressure on human rights defenders, the media and civil society organizations often increased in the course of electoral processes. This had happened during the June-July election cycles in Burundi, as well as in the run-up to the August presidential polls in Rwanda. And in Sudan, the general climate of repression and intimidation of the April presidential elections and their aftermath now cast a grim shadow over the conduct of next year’s referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan. The Human Rights Council and the international community should support squarely and vocally human rights defenders, and ensure the safety and protection of defenders and other witnesses who cooperated with UN-mandated fact-finding and investigative initiatives. The international community must also exercise utmost vigilance regarding forthcoming elections, including those scheduled for November in Myanmar.

With regard to situations of concern in specific countries, Ms. Pillay noted the new policies of France towards the Roma, saying such measures could only exacerbate the stigmatisation of Roma and the extreme poverty and exclusion in which they lived. Conditions of migrants from Mexico or transiting through Mexico warranted utmost vigilance. The obligations of States to protect people from terrorism and to fight this scourge were beyond question; however, anti-terrorism measures should never imperil human rights and due process.

The overall human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan had remained an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights priority, and a mission had been dispatched to monitor and address human rights concerns in that country, which mission was receiving reports of arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, pressure, harassment and discrimination. In October, the Office would release the report of the mapping exercise that documented serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1993 to 2003. Last June, Ms. Pillay said she had visited Uganda and Kenya, holding a series of meetings with Government officials, civil society and other actors to discuss a range of issues, and urging them to address and help to mitigate violent strife and abject poverty, and the need for remedies for individuals and entire communities which had suffered violence and dislocation.

With regard to the Human Rights Council Review, it offered the opportunity to find ways to hone and better fulfil the high mandate bestowed upon the body. It should find ways to enhance the Council’s ability to deal with chronic and emergency human rights situations, and increase the impact of its work on the ground. This would enhance the credibility of the Council, and would better meet the expectations of the wider human rights community. Flexible working methods would enable the Council to better focus on a broad range of human rights violations. Ultimately, international public opinion would judge the Council on the measurable positive change that the body fostered where it truly mattered to rights holders. From this perspective, the success of the Universal Periodic Review in highlighting situations of concern and in harnessing the cooperation of a variety of stakeholders should not be grounds for complacency.

With regard to Special Procedures, the Review provided an opportunity to take full stock of the great benefits of the contributions these independent and unpaid experts made through their reporting, fact-finding, and cooperation with States. Finally, both on the review and on the work of the Council in General, Ms. Pillay said she could not overemphasise the need to find better ways to expand and make optimal use of the contributions of civil society, and of national human rights institutions and regional human rights mechanisms. A process of reflection on how to strengthen the treaty body system should be initiated. The Council needed to act on the right to development in a collegial and constructive manner.

General Debate

MONA ELBAHTIMY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Non-Aligned Movement attached great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the United Nations Charter and other instruments relating to human rights and international law. All human rights were universal, inalienable, interdependent and interrelated and the human rights issues should be addressed within the global context through a constructive, dialogue-based approach, in a fair and equal manner, with objectivity, impartiality, non-selectivity and respect to national sovereignty. The Council was at an important crossroad in its history, in part due to the launch next month of the Open Ended Working Group on the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council. In addition, the Non-Aligned Movement welcomed the preparations for holding a series of workshops on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred, in implementation of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference. In this regard, it was important that all workshops and panels effectively represented different schools of thought and legal systems.

ZAMIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, congratulated the High Commissioner for assuming the Chair of the Global Migration Group and thanked her for the update on a number of critical human rights situations around the world. The High Commissioner had rightly pointed out that the reports commissioned by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, even on the request of the Human Rights Council, were not always discussed and followed up and said there was a need to devise a mechanism on commissioning those reports and making optimal use of those reports in the work of the Council. The review of the Council must lead to strengthening the work and functioning of the Council, but this was not a reform exercise. This intergovernmental process must strictly conform to its mandate and should not open the institution-building package, which had a very delicate balance. The Organization of the Islamic Conference regretted that the High Commissioner’s statement contained no reference to the recent events such as “Burn a Koran Day” meant to defame and stigmatize religions and hoped that this issue remained an important priority in her work. While the High Commissioner’s statement referred to some regrettable human rights situations in some parts of the world, it ignored some other significant situations of grave and consistent human rights violations, which gave the impression that there existed double standards in the consideration of specific situations.

ALEX VAN MEEUWEN (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in the High Commissioner's presentation today, she rightfully drew the attention of the Council to the plight of human rights defenders worldwide, as they were often subject to attempts to restrict their activities, including through violent attacks. The European Union reiterated the responsibility of Governments and individual political leaders to refrain from statements or acts that might endanger the safety of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders, and journalists. The Council could not remain silent when lives were in danger, in particular when it was due to their cooperation with mechanisms of the Council, and the European Union would continue to work toward the improvement of the Council's record in this regard, both with regard to the prevention of violations and the need to ensure accountability when violations did occur. Freedom of expression and freedom of association were vital for strengthening democracy and ensuring full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. On the situations of concern mentioned by the High Commissioner, the European Union esteemed her work and that of the Office's human rights advisers on the ground. The European Union was convinced that addressing terrorism effectively while fully respecting human rights was possible. The rule of law, including due process and the prohibition of torture must be respected at all times. The European Union attached high priority to the review process of the Council, which offered a unique occasion to assess the work of the Council thoroughly and make improvements to its work and functioning where needed.

FAYSAL KHABBAZ HAMOUI (Syria), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the Arab Group had followed with interest the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and in particular her concern for human rights abuses in certain Arab countries. The Arab Group was surprised at some of these points and was curious to know her sources of information. Members of the Arab Group were working hard towards the promotion and protection of human rights, in conformity with the cultural and religious natures of their countries. Arab nations hoped that the High Commissioner would also highlight some of the many positive developments that had been made and not focus exclusively on the shortcomings and failures. Furthermore, Syria called for further action and condemnation to be made with regard to Israel and the human rights abuses it caused to Arab countries in the region, and in particular in the Occupied Syrian Golan.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, thanked the High Commissioner for her update and her views on the forthcoming review of the Human Rights Council. The review offered the prospect for the Council to better fulfil its mandate and its essence was not about renegotiating the institution-building package but building upon it for better functioning of the Council. The Universal Periodic Review mechanism had recorded much success in spite of it being one of the newest mechanisms in the United Nations human rights system. The African Group shared the view of the High Commissioner that Special Procedures played a significant role in the work of the Council, but emphasized the need for mandate-holders to respect the provisions of the Code of Conduct in the execution of their various mandates. The African Group fully recognised the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights towards the realisation of the right to development and noted the proposal by the High Commissioner that the Council should invite the heads of the relevant United Nations agencies to participate in the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. The African Group expressed its deep concern on the recent wave of intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion and said it was regrettable they were not mentioned in the High Commissioner’s statement.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said with regard to the situation of the Roma in France, the French authorities had never stigmatised individuals belonging to a minority due to their origins. There was no "Roma problem", but some European Union citizens faced more difficulties with social insertion, and required particular attention, and it was in that spirit that France was working with countries of origin and other European Union States to integrate the Roma more successfully. The measures taken by the Government strictly respected the laws of France and European Union legislation. The camps that had been dismantled had been illegal. In order to address the extreme economic precariousness characterising the situation of most of these individuals, each had been offered assistance to resettle in their countries of nationality, and had benefited from individual review of their situation. France largely shared the High Commissioner's views on how to examine the work and processes of the Council. France had prepared four documents, hoping they would be a useful contribution. The review would give an opportunity to identify all problems affecting the Council, and it should examine the entirety of its mandate, and not just the institutional package.

IBRAHIM A.E. ALDREDI (Libya) presented Libya’s warm regards for Eid to all Muslim delegations. Islam was a religion of peace and brotherhood and Libya extended warm wishes to all peaceful nations. The delegation had listened closely to the High Commissioner’s statement and thanked her for expressing concern over the disastrous floods that had occurred in Pakistan. However, Libya had hoped that the High Commissioner’s statement would include some mention of the atrocious human rights situation in Palestine, where citizens had lived in fear and terror for decades. Libya reiterated that it offered full liberty to civil society organizations operating in its country and was more than willing to cooperate with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Finally, in the wake of the anniversary of the sad events of 9/11, Libya said that hostilities towards Islam, such as controversial cartoons or the burning of sacred texts only fuelled greater divisions amongst religious groups around the world.

JUAN JOSE GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said that the brutal assassination in August of 72 migrants transiting through Mexico demonstrated the violence of organised crime and migrants’ vulnerability when confronted with this scourge. The Government would not leave those crimes unpunished and since it had learnt of this event it had been doing its best to bring those responsible to justice. Migration was a complex phenomenon that required actions and compromises of countries of origin, transit and destination. It was based on the principle of shared responsibility to maximise benefits and minimise risks, particularly risks for migrants themselves. Migration could not be stopped by closing the borders or prosecuting migrants. This limited vision of the phenomenon resulted in the violation of migrants’ rights and their greater vulnerability. Mexico would host the Global Forum on Migration in November, which would be an opportunity to discuss the many dimensions of migration. Mexico agreed with the High Commissioner’s statement on human rights defenders and said that they ensured the best functioning of democracy. Mexico highlighted the effective and timely work of the Special Procedures which contributed to the de-politicization of certain issues and said that the review would offer an opportunity to better discuss how to support the work of the Special Procedures.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said this was a world where some who simply sought to exercise their fundamental rights were under attack. The international community must stand up for human rights advocates, and stand against the repression they endured in retribution for peacefully calling for the enjoyment of their rights. The upcoming review of the Human Rights Council was one opportunity to promote the work of the Council to more positively and proactively address the situation of these human rights defenders and, more generally, affect human rights conditions on the ground. The Human Rights Council should be ready and able to address country-specific situations, especially human rights crises, under a common rubric with an integrated toolbox of options available to do so. On the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the field, the United States commended the High Commissioner and her team in field offices who had made an impact on the ground. The United States renewed its call for the High Commissioner to visit Iran in the near future and urged the Government of Iran to facilitate genuine access for this trip. Finally, the United States wished to register its disappointment with the High Commissioner's comments about the United States' compliance with human rights and due process when it was compelled to use lawful force. United States targeting practices complied with all applicable law, including the international laws of war, and the United States took all feasible precautions to minimise harm to protected civilians.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said Cuba thanked the High Commissioner for her statement. However, Cuba felt that an interactive debate with Ms. Pillay would have strengthened the accountability of her report and resolved any uncertainties surrounding her sources. Cuba noted with dissatisfaction the increasing tendency in the statements of the High Commissioner to target southern countries with unfair and unsubstantiated accusations. Conversely, Cuba also noted a certain protection of northern States in these statements. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was in need of a significant overhaul. Never before had there been a more urgent need in the Office to address the serious imbalance in the geographic representation of employees. Also of concern were the exorbitant administrative costs of the Office, which needed to be addressed. In closing, Cuba stated that the Council was currently threatened by the very same politicisations that had dragged down the Human Rights Commission.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation thanked the High Commissioner for her report and expressed serious concern regarding the phenomena which had negative impacts on the human rights situations around the world, such as the financial and economic crises, conflicts, terrorism, technological or natural disasters. Those required the Council to look into the human rights agenda in a new light and the functioning of international institutions should be in accordance with current realities. The current review of the Human Rights Council should ensure improvements to enable the Council to better carry out its functions and respond to existing and emerging human rights challenges. The review should ensure trust in the Council by the States, which meant that the Special Procedures must operate in strict accordance with their mandates. The Russian Federation attached great significance to interaction between civil society and the State, which were deepening. One indicator of the importance of the protection of human rights was the promotion of the visit of the High Commissioner to the Russian Federation next year, which would give new impulse to the constructive collaboration between Russia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

QIAN BO (China) said this year marked the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. Affected by the financial crisis and natural disasters, many countries found difficulties in realising the Millennium Development Goals, and the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should pay more attention to the promotion of economic, social and cultural development in developing countries, the promotion of international cooperation, and helping those in disaster-stricken countries to reconstruct. The Government of China had tried hard to carry out disaster relief and protection, and improve the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people. China had formally invited the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to visit China in December. Since the creation of the Council, its work had progressed steadily, but there were still technical and other problems. The Council's review was not to re-open negotiations, but to make practical and constructive suggestions within the Institution-building Package, so that the Council could better fulfil the provisions of the General Assembly resolution establishing it.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway) thanked the High Commissioner for her statement and expressed Norway’s appreciation for her focus on the situation of human rights defenders. The realities on the ground were alarming as human rights defenders and their family members continued to be harassed, arrested, tortured and killed. Lawyers were needed to defend these vulnerable individuals and challenge impunity. Also needed were journalists who highlighted abuses, revealed injustices and published challenging stories. The Council owed human rights defenders not only protection but also public recognition of their important and legitimate work. Incidents of reprisals continued to be a serious problem that needed more visibility and follow up. Norway called on the Council to systematically address this issue and encouraged non–governmental organizations to contribute to this debate with advice and proposals on how this could be done. In concluding, Norway reiterated how impressed it was with the integrity and independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was key to the credibility of the United Nations human rights system.

ANDRZEJ SADOS (Poland) said that, as a new member of the Human Rights Council, Poland would continue its strong support for the High Commissioner and for the work of her Office. Poland was particularly aware of the crucial role human rights defenders had in the implementation of international human rights standards at the national level and in encouraging States to live up to their international obligations. Poland was concerned about the cases of harassment against persons cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and agreed in the need to ensure the safety and protection of defenders and other witnesses who cooperated with the United Nations mandated fact-finding initiatives and other human rights mechanisms. The full and unconditional will of the States to cooperate with Special Procedures reflected their commitment to uphold their international human rights commitments. Poland shared the High Commissioner’s assessment that the ability of the Council to deal with chronic and emergency human rights situations determined the credibility of this body. Poland would organise an international seminar on the human rights treaty body system in September, which it hoped would further foster the process started in Dublin and continued in Marrakesh.

MUNA ABBAS RADHI (Bahrain) said Bahrain was going forward with developmental reforms to strengthen rights, democracy, human rights, and economic and social prosperity. Bahrain was among the leading countries in the protection and promotion of human rights, as these were important for improving the lives of citizens and residents, allowing them to have a life of dignity. Freedom of expression was guaranteed in Bahrain, and any citizen and resident could express their opinions through legitimate channels that were open to all. There were no prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, which was a small country that was very great in terms of its culture and the work of its citizens. Bahrain was proud of its men and women, aiming to give them good education, healthcare, an independent justice system, and increasing the role of women. Bahrain had made great progress in the field of human rights, and supported the work of civil society organizations, facilitating their registration and helping them in their work, as long as they respected the law. Bahrain had taken legal measures against those responsible for acts of terrorism. Bahrain attached great importance to the work of civil society and non-governmental organizations and aimed to respect the rights of all those detained and to respect international human rights principles. Bahrain was committed to pressing forward in the protection of human rights and reforms in all political and economic areas, believing that human rights were the guarantee of a safe society.

PARK SANG-KI (Republic of Korea) said the Republic of Korea reiterated the concern expressed by the High Commissioner over the immense human suffering caused by the recent floods in Pakistan. The severity and increased frequency of natural disasters throughout the world in recent years had prompted a greater need for human rights protection in humanitarian emergencies. The Republic of Korea acknowledged that the Council had made a number of significant achievements for the betterment of human rights situations, for example, by introducing the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. However, it had also revealed its limitations and shortcomings, particularly in urgent and grave human rights situations. Finally, it was very opportune for Ms. Pillay to address human rights defenders and the right to development as major thematic issues in her statement. As such, the Republic of Korea believed that development was an all-inclusive concept and that human rights and development were closely interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

OTHMAN HASHIM (Malaysia) said Malaysia supported the need to provide protection to human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activities and hoped that the Council would continue to support the efforts by the international community to combat negative religious stereotyping and incitement to religious hatred and hostility. In human rights situations that had arisen or had been exacerbated by situations of armed conflict and natural disaster, attention must be focused towards alleviating the humanitarian situation and improving security conditions. Malaysia took note of the High Commissioner’s suggestion on possible focus areas during the upcoming review of the Council and reiterated its firm support for her initiatives.

VIJAVAT ISARABHAKDI (Thailand) said the protection and promotion of human rights began at home. Since the delegation of Thailand last spoke at the Human Rights Council, the political situation had returned to normalcy, and considerable progress had been made to implement the reconciliation programme, which enjoyed wide support. Thailand was pleased that many vulnerable groups received special attention in the reports to be considered during the session, and attached great importance to the rights of these groups. The Council should follow up on these reports in a more consistent manner. On the issue of country situations, Thailand favoured a cooperative approach, and a promotion of technical cooperation, with creative and non-politicised ways of dealing with these situations. The review process should seek to enhance the Council's ability to deal with chronic situations and improve the situation on the ground, and creative ways should be found to deal with emergency situations.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) expressed Qatar’s appreciation for the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, especially the importance of protecting human rights defenders and other activists in the field of human rights. Qatar, reflecting its belief in the importance of following the principles of the Human Rights Charter, and its belief in the role of civil society, ensured that its Constitution guaranteed the right to assembly and the right to establish associations. Qatar was working to support non-governmental organizations and encouraged national organizations to achieve consultative status. Ms. Pillay had mentioned a number of cases of human rights violations but Qatar noted with regret the silence on certain human rights abuses, such as the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Syrian Golan. The defamation of the Islamic religion was of increasing concern to many countries and the Qatari delegation called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make this a top priority on their work agenda. Finally, with respect to the right of development, it was important to analyse the numerous challenges facing this right.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said that the reports of ongoing violations in Kyrgyzstan remained a source of deep concern and underlined the importance of achieving progress in the political process underway. The United Kingdom was grateful for the prominent focus on the situation of human rights defenders in the High Commissioner’s statement and called on all United Nations Member States to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders to operate effectively. The United Kingdom was troubled by the ongoing politically motivated human rights violations in Zimbabwe and the narrowing of democratic space across Sudan following the elections. The Council must respond to serious events on the ground such as the recent mass rapes that had taken place in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and noted that the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping would provide a written report on what United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would do to improve its operation there following their failure to react. Protection of civilians must be the highest priority for the peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Kingdom encouraged the High Commissioner and her staff to support this work.

SHEHAB A. MADI. (Jordan) said the rich update by the High Commissioner provided comprehensive and thorough information on the activities of her Office, as well as on several issues of human rights concern. The protection and promotion of human rights was central to the international community, but despite the progress and advances made with respect to human rights, there were still human rights violations. In this context, Jordan fully agreed with the High Commissioner that there was a vital need to protect human rights defenders and activists and ensure their safety. The establishment of the Human Rights Council had been a solid manifestation of the international community's commitment to advancing the human rights system. Nevertheless, much remained to be done, and, in this respect, the forthcoming review of the work and methods of the Council should ensure better functioning of the existing human rights machinery. The review should lead to strengthening the Council and to developing its performance in a manner that ensured further respect and adherence to human rights principles.

MARIA LUISA ESCOREL DE MORAES (Brazil) said that Brazil attached priority to realizing the potential of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance and capacity building. Strengthening cooperation would bring positive change for rights holders. As the High Commissioner said, that would be the basis for judging the work of the Council. States and societies had the legal obligation and the moral duty to prevent and combat discrimination. In all parts of the globe, xenophobic manifestations were a reminder that more determination was needed to translate commitments in tangible deeds. Brazil also expressed its condolences to the families of the 72 migrants that were victims of gang violence in Mexico last month, some of whom were Brazilian nationals. The protection of the migrants required greater international cooperation and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should play an important role in devising strategies for the protection of migrants and for the dissemination of good practices. Finally, Brazil mentioned that during this session it would present a draft resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and they would work closely with all interested parties to achieve its adoption by consensus.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland) said Switzerland was awaiting with interest the publication of the mapping project of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed between 1993 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This report would enable combating impunity and putting in place reform and reparation mechanisms. Switzerland shared the concern regarding intimidation, repression and acts of violence against human rights defenders. It was also worrying to note the criminalization of human rights defenders activities by some States, particularly during elections. Switzerland called on the authorities concerned to respect their obligations and to shed light in an impartial and transparent manner on acts of violence against human rights defenders. Switzerland welcomed the High Commissioner’s commitment to the review of the Council which would make it more efficient and flexible. In that sense, Switzerland suggested that the High Commissioner offered an evaluation of the evolution of the instruments of protection.

KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan) said the update by the High Commissioner served as a timely and important report of relevant facts on the ground, and called upon the international community, including the Human Rights Council, to take concrete actions in response. However, there were some countries where serious human rights violations continued, and these had not been mentioned. Japan looked forward to the High Commissioner and her Office continuing their important work, both in terms of monitoring situations of serious human rights violations around the world, and of making various efforts to redress such situations. With regard to the review of the Human Rights Council, Japan supported the view that it should adopt flexible working methods. Innovative modalities of work, such as urgent debates and stand-alone interactive dialogues, should continue to be used. With regard to the Universal Periodic Review, the most important challenge was the effective implementation of accepted recommendations, and many countries required technical cooperation in this regard. The forthcoming review should establish a framework to ensure appropriate coordination in this regard. The activities of civil society enlivened the debate in the Council, and helped to deter human rights violations on the ground. Issues raised by human rights defenders and the media should be carefully considered and, where appropriate, used as a basis for taking stock of and redressing, if not preventing, specific situations.

MAURICIO MONTALVO (Ecuador) said that Ecuador was ready and willing to help promote and protect human rights in all their dimensions around the world. Ecuador thanked the High Commissioner for her report and agreed that many countries were suffering from natural disasters. However, there were many other human rights victims that also deserved the full attention of the Human Rights Council. While it was important to highlight the unjust treatment of Roma in Europe, the Council should also address the serious and reprehensible legislation adopted in the State of Arizona in the United States against illegal migrants. Moreover, the vile murder of 72 migrants in Northern Mexico should prompt thinking on solutions and was a clear example of the extreme vulnerability of migrant workers. International solidarity against people smuggling and efforts to protect the rights of migrants was urgently needed. A frank and open dialogue on this issue needed to take place. Ecuador concluded by reiterating its support for the Universal Periodic Review and stated that it should never be used as an excuse for complacency.

TATIANA LAPICUS (Republic of Moldova) thanked the High Commissioner for her substantial statement and said that as a member of the Human Rights Council, the Republic of Moldova attached primordial importance to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Government had launched in June a permanent invitation to Special Procedures. The Republic of Moldova fully shared the opinion on the need to protect human rights defenders and to create an electoral environment which promoted full dialogue. States had the obligation to protect people from terrorism and the Republic of Moldova was in the ongoing process of strengthening its capacities to fight international terrorism. The Republic of Moldova was committed to the review process of the Council and was committed to finding effective means to strengthen its credibility, particularly in dealing with chronic and emergency situations.

LEVENTE SZEKELY (Hungary) said it was regrettable that many of the reports of the High Commissioner were not discussed or followed up. The Council often failed to follow up on stipulations of its own resolutions - it was time to put more coherence into the work of the Council. The Council could and should also do more to protect human rights defenders, especially in the case of persons who cooperated with the United Nations and its representatives and mechanisms, where it had an obligation to respond better to their needs for protection. Most human rights violations stemmed from different forms of discrimination, based on various features, including the discrimination of persons and communities because of their national or ethnic origin. More attention should be paid to the latter forms of discrimination as well. All European States should take steps to improve the rights of the Roma, and the situation of the Roma was closely linked to the extreme poverty in which many of their communities lived. The review of the Council offered a chance to enhance its ability to deal with chronic and urgent human rights situations.

Mr. MD. ABDUL HANNAN (Bangladesh) said Bangladesh extended its condolences to the flood victims in Pakistan. This particular incident and other natural disasters strengthened the need to address the pressing issue of climate change and its effect on civilians around the world. Bangladesh reiterated its position on reaching a conclusion on a formal arrangement of periodic interaction between the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In so doing, Bangladesh did not envisage the erosion of the High Commissioner but, on the contrary, believed that it would enhance cooperation in the mission of promoting and protecting human rights. The High Commissioner had offered a snapshot of certain human rights situations. Nevertheless, there was always a concern that a certain degree of subjectivity was inherent in such reports. The need for objectivity and equality, which was at the heart of the creation of the Human Rights Council, would be essential going forward.

JUSTINIAN MUHWEZI KATEERA (Uganda) said Uganda believed that the review should provide an opportunity to improve the work and functioning of the Council, but not put to risk the delicate balance struck in the institution-building text. The challenges faced in Karamoja were caused by deteriorating climatic conditions, cattle rustling and the insecurity caused by proliferation of small arms in parts of the Horn of Africa. The Government of Uganda had carried out a successful disarmament process and was pleased that the High Commissioner was able to see first-hand the success of the intervention during her visit to Uganda in June. Uganda was disappointed that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had carried out secretive investigations while preparing the mapping report in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Authorities of concerned countries had not been involved and the countries had been presented with a report that had contained damaging and false allegations. This method of investigation ran counter to the established practice of the United Nations human rights mechanisms and threatened peace and security in Africa and the stability of the Great Lakes Region.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives) said the Maldives was committed to protecting and promoting human rights, and looked forward to bringing this commitment to bear during its membership of the Council. The Council must be a forum that could respond to important human rights situations as they emerged, and be a body that based its work on engagement, cooperation, and dialogue with concerned States. As part of the review process, the Council must enhance its ability to deal with chronic human rights situations and demonstrate that these interventions had real on the ground impacts and results. The way to do so was to improve the capacity to reach out to the country concerned, invite them to engage meaningfully with the Council, and work with them to address the situation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should submit proposals on how the Council could improve its responsiveness and effectiveness in dealing with pressing human rights situations around the world. In 2008, the Maldives ratified a new Constitution which, for the first time, guaranteed the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and since then the new Government had worked tirelessly to consolidate democracy and to give life and meaning to the rights written down in law. However, this had not always been easy, and in this situation, the international community had a crucial role to play.

VICENTE ZERAN (Chile) said Chile wanted to pay tribute to the High Commissioner during a time that required extra efforts for balance, objectivity and inclusiveness. The Human Rights Council was needed to bridge the gaps between countries. Chile believed that cooperation was not an abstract concept and stated that all avenues needed to be explored to promote the active involvement by all parties. Moreover, an agile mechanism needed to be established to address the more urgent situations of human rights abuses. The Council needed to ensure that it remained the principal player in the international human rights system. In this view, the independence of Special Procedure mechanisms was crucial to this objective. Chile was also very much interested in promoting a gender perspective in the work of the Human Rights Council.

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