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High Commissioner presents update on her Office's activities at opening of seventeenth session of Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council
MORNING

30 May 2011

Council Holds General Debate

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its seventeenth regular session, hearing an address by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in which she updated the Council on her Office’s activities and then holding a general debate.

Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted the rise in demand for fundamental human rights across North Africa and the Middle East and cited it as a result of the decades of denial of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, as well as the right to development. The High Commissioner said that promising first steps had been taken in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan toward improving access to fundamental human rights. However, legitimate claims were being met with repression and extreme violence by the governments in Libya and Syria, violating fundamental human rights. The High Commissioner noted that suspects of serious crimes could not escape justice, as was shown with the arrests of Ratko Mladic in Serbia and Bernard Munyagishari in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Noting the continuing vulnerability of migrants, the High Commissioner expressed concern over the rhetoric of recent months to depict migrants as a singular problem best offloaded elsewhere. She mentioned the situation of migrants in Mexico, Italy, France, the European Schengen area, Denmark and Australia. It was time for all countries facing these challenges, including countries in the European Union, to show effective support in full respect of international obligations and States were urged to work together to enable proper and genuine development of the concerned countries, including through consideration of human rights compliance by all parties.

Also in opening remarks, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the Human Rights Council, said that this session of the Human Rights Council had a very intensive programme for the coming three weeks and this meant that the Council would have to resort to an unusual number of lunch-time meetings throughout the session. During this session the Council would have to take some follow-up actions further to the adoption of the review outcome. At the end of the session, the Council would also have to appoint an important number of mandate holders of the Special Procedures.

In the general debate, speakers welcomed the strong role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had played in recent events in the Middle East – North Africa region. As countries struggled to engage in a transition, it was critical that the international community provided technical assistance and capacity building, especially in the area of the rule of law and transitional justice. It was of the utmost importance to strengthen civil society and the independent media. It was important for countries to undergo transition without outside interference and it was equally important for the international community to not rely on information from unconfirmed sources. Democracy, freedom and justice could not be protected selectively and the protection of economic, social and cultural rights was also important in pursuing the right to development. The international community should ensure an enabling environment for encouraging the right to development. Concern was expressed about the situation of migrants as they attempted to flee unstable situations. The common humanity that bound all under the UN Charter required migrants to be treated with dignity and speakers asked for an investigation into allegations of the abandonment of North African migrants to their fate.

Speaking in the general debate were Hungary on behalf of the European Union, Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Republic of Moldova, France, Switzerland, United States, Spain, Poland, United Kingdom, Thailand, Chile, Japan, Cuba, China, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Qatar, Ecuador, Mexico, Norway, Jordan, Maldives, Belgium, Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Senegal, republic of Korea and Uganda.

The Council today is holding non-stop meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During its midday, the Council will continue its general debate. The Council will then hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Opening Statements

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW, President of the Human Rights Council, said that this session of the Human Rights Council had a very intensive programme for the coming three weeks and this meant that the Council would have to resort to an unusual number of lunch-time meetings throughout the session. During this session the Council would have to take some follow-up actions further to the adoption of the review outcome. At the end of the session, the Council would also have to appoint an important number of mandate holders of the Special Procedures. To this end, the President had been holding extensive consultation in this regard to ensure that the most suitable candidates were appointed. Also, on 20 June, Mr. Phuangketkeow would hand over to the newly appointed President. The Council then adopted the programme of work for the seventeenth session of the Council.

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening statement, noted the rise in demand for fundamental human rights across North Africa and the Middle East and cited it as a result of the decades of denial of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, as well as the right to development. The High Commissioner said that promising first steps had been taken in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan toward improving access to fundamental human rights. However, legitimate claims were being met with repression and extreme violence by the governments in Libya and Syria, violating fundamental human rights. The High Commissioner’s Office would present a report on the situation both Libya and Syria. Ms. Pillay urged the Government of Syria to respond to her request to dispatch a fact-finding mission and noted that the Government of Yemen had accepted a visit by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Government of Bahrain had accepted her request to send a mission to the country. Resorting to lethal or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators not only violated fundamental rights, including the right to life, but served to exacerbate tensions and tended to breed a culture of violence. The appropriate response was for the authorities to engage in a national, inclusive dialogue to address protestors’ legitimate demands.

The High Commissioner noted that suspects of serious crimes could not escape justice, as was shown with the arrests of Ratko Mladic in Serbia and Bernard Munyagishari in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The High Commissioner emphasized that the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had been engaging with a number of States in the struggle to end impunity. Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic had conducted missions to Côte d’Ivoire and Afghanistan and was currently on mission in Iraq. The Deputy High Commissioner had conducted a mission to Nepal and requested to extend the mandate of the Office’s mandate for two years. The High Commissioner said that the continued conflict in Sudan in Darfur and Southern Sudan was of grave concern, not least due to the serious implications for peace and human rights. The Government of Sudan and Southern Sudan should reach an agreement on post-referendum arrangements. The High Commissioner said she visited Senegal and Guinea in March, and equally prioritized the struggle against impunity. During her mission to Mauritania in April, the High Commissioner expressed support for efforts made by the Government of Mauritania in the fight against impunity for human rights violations. The High Commissioner continued to engage with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on accountability and commended their openness to follow up on reports on the most serious violations of human rights.

The High Commissioner referred to the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, which concluded that there were credible allegations of a wide range of serious violations of international law committed by both the Sri Lankan Government forces and Tamil Tigers in the final stages of the conflict. In Iran, the High Commissioner noted that the crackdown on opposition activists in that country had broadened to a wider group of independent lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and artists as a response to their work in defence of the rights of others. She would be addressing these concerns when she had the opportunity to take up the Government’s invitation to visit Iran. The High Commissioner also noted increased restrictions on freedom of expression in China; the situation in Viet Nam concerning corruption and other economic and social issues; the long-standing suppression of freedom of expression and assembly in Myanmar, the deeply troubling human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; worrying developments in Belarus concerning harsh and disproportionate treatment of political dissent; and the repression of protests in Uganda.

Recent events in North Africa once more demonstrated the continuing vulnerability of migrants, Ms. Pillay said. The continuing vulnerability of migrants, including refugees and other displaced persons, was emphasized and the High Commissioner expressed concern over the rhetoric of recent months to depict migrants as a singular problem best offloaded elsewhere. She mentioned the situation of migrants in Mexico, Italy, France, the European Schengen area, Denmark and Australia. It was time for all countries facing these challenges, including countries in the European Union, to show effective support in full respect of international obligations and States were urged to work together to enable proper and genuine development of the concerned countries, including through consideration of human rights compliance by all parties. The High Commissioner said that proper and follow-up processes should be set up to the numerous recommendations made during the first Universal Periodic Reviews and the Council should look into the contents of the Universal Periodic Reviews.

General Debate

ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, placed great importance on the impartiality, objectivity and non selectivity of the Human Rights Council’s work. The European Union welcomed the strong role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had played in recent events in the Middle East – North Africa region. As countries struggled to engage in a transition, the European Union believed it was critical that the international community provided technical assistance and capacity building, especially in the area of the rule of law and transitional justice. To strengthen civil society and the independent media was of the utmost importance for the European Union. A sustained engagement had the potential to ensure that reforms included human rights. The European Union noted the proposed visit by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Yemen to assess the human rights situation and to help Yemen to ensure accountability. The European Union remained gravely concerned with the human rights situation in Belarus and urged the authorities to strengthen their cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and all mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. The European Union took note of the engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner with Kyrgyzstan and said the European Union stood ready to support these initiatives. The report of the panel on Sri Lanka had concluded that there were credible allegations that major violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed on all sides in the conflict. The European Union reiterated its view than an independent process to address extremely serious allegations should contribute to strengthening the process of reconciliation and ensuring lasing peace and security in Sri Lanka. The European Union was committed to upholding the human rights of migrants. It was taking the migratory consequences of recent developments in their southern neighbourhood seriously.

IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the report of the High Commissioner contained an accurate picture of the activities undertaken by her Office and thanked her for the cooperation with countries. There had been a number of events in the Arab world, with people aspiring to freedom and away from poverty. The Arab Group supported the concern of the High Commissioner about the countries where a number of people were killed and said that the appropriate response to protests by Governments was to engage in dialogue and to strengthen democracy. The Arab Group called on the international community and the High Commissioner to ensure that the humanitarian assistance reached those in need in those countries. The Arab Group called the attention of the Council to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya, where humanitarian assistance to the population was now necessary. The Arab Group shared the regret expressed by the High Commissioner concerning the recent violence in Sudan and hoped that the upcoming visit of the Deputy High Commissioner to Sudan would help in bringing the views of the opposing parties together. The right to return of Palestine refugees must be respected. The Arab Group paid tribute to the effective role played by the Human Rights Council and the review process and outcome.

ZAMIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, noted the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East and said that it was important for countries to undergo transition without outside interference and it was equally important for the international community to not rely on information from unconfirmed sources. Democracy, freedom and justice could not be protected selectively and the protection of economic, social and cultural rights was also important in pursuing the right to development. The international community should ensure an enabling environment for encouraging the right to development. The Organization of the Islamic Conference regretted that the High Commissioner’s statement did not include any reference to the burning of a holy Koran in Florida in 2011 and noted that such acts incited hatred and stigmatized religion. The increasing discrimination on the basis of religion should not be ignored and should remain a high priority in High Commissioner’s work. The Organization of the Islamic Conference was of the opinion that the report concerning the events of Sri Lanka was an internal document of the Secretary-General, included information never verified, and that the ongoing efforts in Sri Lanka for peace and reconciliation should be supported by the international community. The Organization of the Islamic Conference noted that the High Commissioner had emphasized the difficulty of migrants reaching the European Union and joined the call of the High Commissioner to the European Union to respect obligations of human rights in this context. The Organization of the Islamic Conference expressed its concern about stigma surrounding migrants and said the international community had an important role to play in protecting the rights of migrants.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the activities of her Office and her update on activities since the last session of the Human Rights Council. The African Group was aware of the recent events in North Africa and other parts of the world. These events had helped address the process for change, but the African Group maintained that these changes should be addressed from within the countries themselves. The African Group had always held the view that the greatest protection for human rights came from a democratic framework. The African Group noted the International Commission of Inquiry undertaken in Côte D’Ivoire and said that the reported was anticipated this session. It was essential that the Governments of Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan agree on a post referendum agenda. The African Group noted the continued engagement of the High Commissioner with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the establishment of a special chamber to prosecute the perpetrators of international crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The African Group expressed concern about the situation of migrants as they attempted to flee unstable situations. The common humanity that bound all under the UN Charter required migrants to be treated with dignity and the African Group asked for an investigation into allegations of the abandonment of North African migrants to their fate.

TATINA LAPICUS (Republic of Moldova) said that the Republic of Moldova greatly appreciated the efforts of the High Commissioner and her Office to protect human rights throughout the world. The Republic of Moldova reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights nationally and internationally and reaffirmed its support to the activities of the Office in North Africa and the Arab world. Assistance must be provided to countries that embarked on the path of reform and in that regard, the Republic of Moldova supported the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunisia and Cairo. The Republic of Moldova shared the view of the High Commissioner that the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must establish a proper follow up of the recommendations made during the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. However, those recommendations must be in line with capacities and aspirations of the people in the field, concluded the Republic of Moldova.

JEAN-BAPTISE MATTEI (France) commended the High Commissioner’s role in the events in North Africa and Middle East and emphasized its support for aspirations for democracy and freedom in the region. France supported the actions of the European Union in the region. With regards to the statement of the High Commissioner, France noted the remarks about migrants coming from North Africa. France said its contribution to the humanitarian effort in Libya, including the hosting and repatriation of individuals from third party countries fleeing Libya, was significant and it remained an important destination for asylum seekers and refugees. France emphasized the strength of relations between itself and the Maghreb region, including millions of visas granted for individuals from the region annually. France supported the report of the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka, emphasized its legitimacy and called for justice in relation to violations of human rights there. France noted the human rights violations in Syria and called for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland) said as highlighted by the High Commissioner, whole peoples were taking their destiny in their hand and seeking their fundamental rights. They were peacefully using their right to freedom of expression and assembly. The values expressed by the peaceful demonstrators were indicative of a request for peaceful dialogue. In some countries they saw that authorities made commitments to a process of openness in response to requests from their people. However other countries such as Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain had opted to crackdown on demonstrators. This was unacceptable, as a stable and prosperous society could only be achieved if human rights were respected. Switzerland noted the rapid deployment of teams and the opening of offices by the High Commissioner. Strengthening their presence in countries was also important in countries such as Nepal. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was important that issues of justice and transitional justice be promoted. Switzerland was worried about tensions and violence that continued in Sudan. The arrest of Ratko Mladic and Bernard Munyagishari should be able to allow the victims to find the peace to which they were entitled. It was crucial that appropriate follow-up be given to the recommendations of the report of the panel of experts on Sri Lanka.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN (United States) said the United States appreciated the focused attention and reporting of the High Commissioner on a number of countries, despite many challenges experienced during this reporting period. The United States was looking forward to discussing reports on Libya and Syria and requested the Human Rights Council to call on the Government of Syria to allow access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the country and allow independent investigations. In Libya, the ongoing violence underlined the need for the renewal of the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during this session. The Office should remain engaged in situations in Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen and Bahrain. The Council could no longer ignore the situation in Belarus and the United States joined the European Union in calling for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on this country. The United States was deeply concerned by the findings of the panel of experts on the violations of international law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka and insisted that reconciliation in this country must be built on accountability. It was a responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the findings of the panel and to ensure the future for the people of Sri Lanka.

AGUSTIN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) commended the rapid response of the High Commissioner in Egypt and Tunisia and emphasized that the High Commissioner had Spain’s full support in these efforts. Spain recognized that the High Commissioner’s missions to Bahrain and Yemen were important to the respect of human rights and noted that these efforts should be followed up with acceptance by these countries of recommendations emanating from the missions. Spain inquired whether there would be a mission to Iran. Spain noted the panel put together by Spain and Turkey on human rights of victims of terrorism and noted the hard worked that was needed to bring together a panel on this topic. Spain also emphasized the work focused on human rights violations concerning gender or sexual identity done by the High Commissioner. A joint statement had been signed by 86 countries on the issue. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to explore this issue and it was asked to draw up a report, conference or other means of bringing attention to this issue. The need of the Office to respond to every greater request for institutional means as well as the economic context, which negatively affected the willingness of States to contribute, meant efforts had been constrained recently. Spain reiterated its commitment to support the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland) said that Poland fully shared the assessment of the High Commissioner regarding the root causes of the recent upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East. Economic development was not sufficient when basic human rights were denied to the vast majority of the society. More than 20 years ago Poland had experienced successful and peaceful democratic transition and the knowledge drawn from that history proved that the political changes could only be successful if embedded in comprehensive political, social and institutional reforms. Poland was ready to share this unique experience and in that regard, a delegation of Poland led by Lech Walesa had visited Tunisia in order to share Polish experiences of transition. Poland highly appreciated the prompt response of the High Commissioner to the recent acts of suppressing the freedom of expression and assembly and the harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in various parts of the world, including Europe. Continuing engagement of the High Commissioner in this regard was important, especially during election and post-election periods. Poland asked the High Commissioner to share her experience on how the international community could best support the political, institutional and social transitions for strengthening good governance and the rule of law.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said that it was important that the Human Rights Council supported the efforts of the High Commissioner and welcomed the fact-finding mission to Syria which was to depart soon. The United Kingdom shared the concern of the High Commissioner on the situation in Libya and the situation of migrants. The United Kingdom would continue its efforts to assist those displaced by violence in the region. The United Kingdom commended Tunisia for inviting a number of Special Procedures to visit the country and for their decision to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It was important not to let the events in North Africa and the Middle East make the Office lose sight of other human rights situations in the world, and the United Kingdom welcomed the attention of the High Commissioner on Iran and Belarus. In closing, the United Kingdom thanked the High Commissioner for her leadership and assured her of their continuous support.

EKSIRI PINTARUCHI (Thailand) welcomed the active role and continuing engagement of the High Commissioner as regards the tides of events witnessed in North Africa and the Middle East. Thailand expressed its concern for events in the Middle East and North Africa but noted that this concern should not be expressed at the expense of pressing situations elsewhere, such as in Côte D’Ivoire and Sudan. Thailand agreed with the High Commissioner that migration was another long-term challenge for every region as the world continued to grapple with increasing economic disparities, political instability and the range of natural disaster. With regards to migrants, Thailand noted that the issue could only be addressed through a comprehensive approach of shared responsibility and strengthening cooperation at all levels with full recognition of international human rights and humanitarian obligations of the country concerned. Thailand welcomed continuing dialogue and cooperation with the High Commissioner.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) noted that dialogue and cooperation were essential to the work of the Human Rights Council. Chile greatly valued that a number of countries had accepted visits by the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was necessary for national actions to be complemented by international measures. Chile noted that recommendations of international bodies and treaties bodies could help in this regard. Strengthening of democratic institutions was essential to protect human rights. There should be an appropriate inter-relationship between domestic mechanisms and international mechanisms. Chile expressed that all human rights situations should be considered to assure that no one may say that there had been political motives. Chile noted that where situations had occurred of equal importance the Council had not acted and this did not support the legitimacy of the Council. Chile wanted to protect the legitimacy and credibility of the Human Rights Council.

KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan) said Japan was supporting stable transformation of each country in the Middle East and North Africa and was helping their efforts for domestic reforms. Japan was concerned that there were still a number of Governments exercising excessive force against their citizens during peaceful demonstrations, instead of accepting their aspirations and reflecting the will of their people. The international community should provide support to countries and people seeking democracy. Japan commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the field of accountability and transparency. The Special Session of the Human Rights Council had proved its capacity to address serious human rights situations. The Universal Periodic Review was one of the most important mechanisms of the Council and its second cycle was to commence next year. Japan had voluntarily published a report on the progress in implementing recommendations it had received and had made a number of suggestions for its improvement during the review process.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said Cuba recognized the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, which continued to be denied to many minorities suffering from one of the worst food crises of modern times. With regard to the Middle East and North Africa, Cuba emphasized the need for peaceful conclusions and the respect of self determination of people of the region. Cuba condemned human rights violations committed by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization based on the false interpretation of the resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council. Cuba considered it essential that other serious violations of human rights should be identified, such as the decision to maintain a centre of arbitrary detention at Guantanamo, and crimes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Cuba condemned the clear and growing tendency of double standards in the work of the Council. Cuba stated that the Council was becoming every day more like the former Commission and called on countries of the South to work against this tendency.

XIA JINGGE (China) said that the recovery of the world economy was slow and difficult. The economic and social development of developing countries was faced with daunting challenges. The Human Rights Council needed to pay more attention to those issues and do its utmost to speed up the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and reduction of poverty. China had always adhered to governance and building a country of rule of law. The citizens’ political rights and freedoms were effectively protected by the law. The country’s freedom of expression was absolute and must not undermine the security of the country. China hoped that the international community would independently look at China’s record on human rights and added that putting pressure was not conducive to resolving issues. The strengthening of treaty bodies must take full account of the capacity of States parties. China hoped that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue its consultation with States parties and on the basis of the consensus put forward suggestions acceptable to all parties. China believed that the Government and people with Sri Lanka had the ability to deal with their internal affairs and the international community must support the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to reconcile the country and should provide helpful assistance in this regard. In this regard, the group of experts sent by the United Nations Secretary-General was to advise the Secretary-General only and the Human Rights Council should adopt a prudent approach to this country.

OTHMAN HASHIM (Malaysia) said that in context of recent developments in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, Malaysia joined others in reaffirming that democracy, development, justice and freedom from want and fear were essential prerequisites for countries to make and sustain progress in all fields. Equally important was the requirement for all parties to remain committed to peaceful and inclusive negotiations and to forsake violence. The Malaysian delegation shared the High Commissioner’s assessment that in responding to a range of situations brought to its attention, the Council had robustly discharged its functions. While noting that a majority of situations had been country specific in nature, they were of the view that the Council must continue to accord equal importance to thematic issues and priorities.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV (Russian Federation) said that numerous human rights violations in the world today led to serious concerns. Demonstrations happening now were the consequence of underlying causes, unfortunately the reaction of Governments was brutal, not only in Arab countries, but also in Europe, such as in Georgia. This was not sufficiently reflected in the report of the High Commissioner. The Russian Federation welcomed the aspirations for peaceful resolution of issues and for transition to democracy. Dialogue must be promoted and interference in internal affairs of countries might exacerbate the situation and was against international law. The Russian Federation hoped that the situations in Libya and Syria would be presented in an independent fashion. The Russian Federation welcomed the fact that the Government of Sri Lanka had already taken steps to address the situation. The High Commissioner said a lot about impunity in her statement and the Russian Federation believed that the approach to this issue must be independent and impartial, as experience showed that all parties to a conflict committed violations.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said the High Commissioner’s report gave a true reflection of what was taking place in Arab countries. Qatar also noted the response of the governments of the region which listened to the requests of the people. Qatar reiterated the need to take into consideration in a serious fashion the aspirations of Arab nations which had a thirst for human rights and the rule of law. The Arab World no longer accepted the international policy of dual standards. Qatar supported the work of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner’s call for dialogue in relation to the situation in Arab States. Qatar reiterated the need for a role to be played by civil society for a peaceful resolution. Qatar welcomed the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. It was noted that given the lack of basic foods stuffs and other necessities, the situation in North Africa might worsen. Qatar highlighted the violence faced by migrants and called for help for them from the international community. It was noted that the President had called for a lasting peace in Sudan. Qatar noted that on 27 May an extensive conference of the parties to Darfur was held.

MAURICIO MONTALVO (Ecuador) said that this year had been marked by revolutions, demands, and hope. Around the world they had seen protests, the majority of which had been peaceful, in an effort to reclaim some of the most basic and fundamental principles inherent to humanity: dignity, equality and liberty. Ecuador understood this phenomenon and had expressed its solidarity with all of the protests, while observing the strict respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Solutions in such societies were the matter of their own citizens without external intervention. The Council had to respond in a balanced way and it could not point the finger at a few while ignoring other countries, otherwise the credibility of the body could be sacrificed. Ecuador greatly valued the attention the High Commissioner had given to the issue of migration, a topic that was important to the country, and it expressed special solidarity for migrants from countries in crisis. They firmly believed that respecting the rights of these people and other vulnerable groups was the best way to create an equitable and just world in which tolerance and mutual respect was the rule and not the exception.

JUAN JOSE GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said that Mexico appreciated the attention of the High Commissioner to the kidnapping of migrants and said that the Government had rejected and condemned this practice. Mexican authorities, as soon as they had become aware of the phenomenon, had undertaken institutional measures which included identification and punishing of those gangs, to increase protection of the known migration routes going though Mexico. Mexico had also increased cooperation with countries in the region to address this trans-national phenomenon. Mexico appreciated the upcoming visit to the country of the High Commissioner which it saw as an opportunity to discuss not only this, but also other human rights issues.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway) said that the Arab spring had exposed decades of repression and denial of human rights for political power and privileges. It was with deep regret that Norway witnessed the violence and repression against people demanding freedom by peaceful means and Norway appreciated the timely and principled response of the High Commissioner to those events as they had occurred. More than ever, the world events underscored the need for international cooperation on human rights and Norway urged all countries to cooperate fully including granting access to Special Rapporteurs and fact-finding missions. Norway noted the intent of Sri Lanka to address the residual issues after the conflict in an inclusive and just manner. Norway remained committed to supporting the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in ensuring rights, development and prosperity of all its citizens. Turning to the situation in Sudan, Norway called on the leaders of this country to put the interests of the people first. Norway supported the efforts in Belarus and called on the authorities there to cooperate with the international community and to release without further delay all political prisoners in the country. The prompt reaction of the Human Rights Council to serious human rights violations globally was an important development and the Council would be credible only to the extent that it was able to react in a transparent, fair and even-handed manner.

MUTAZ FALEH HYASSAT (Jordan) said that the ongoing events in the Middle East and North Africa were shaping the future of the region for generations yet to come, a future where people could live with freedom and human dignity while fulfilling their hopes and aspirations. Equally, it was imperative that the Palestinian people fully exercised their inalienable human rights, specifically their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent, viable and territorially contiguous State in the entire West bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. At the national level, Jordan had reinvigorated its reform agenda a few months ago and embarked on a comprehensive process that tackled the political, economic, and social aspects of public and political life in order to meet the aspirations of all Jordanians. More importantly, a National Dialogue Committee was formed in February to submit recommendations to amend relevant legislation governing political and civil rights as well as public freedoms, namely the elections and political parties’ laws.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives) said that the right response of governments to the popular protests that had been sweeping through the Islamic world was to listen to the demands of those calling for change and to work through a process of dialogue to address their concerns. In that regard, the Maldives congratulated the far-sighted leadership of the governments of Morocco and Jordan for the steps they had taken to review their constitutions and strengthen human rights protections. Unfortunately, other governments had chosen the less enlightened and more brutal response. They had opted to use fear, intimidation and state-sponsored violence to subdue protests, a response which not only violated international human rights law, but one which was also doomed to failure. The more those governments tried to tighten their control, the less control they would in fact have. The Maldives renewed its calls for these governments to immediately stop using force, listen to their people, and to begin genuine programmes of democratic and human rights reforms.

FRANCOIS ROUX (Belgium) noted that the independence of the Human Rights Council was a primordial element and must at all costs be preserved and that the Council had Belgium’s support in this. Freedom of expression and freedom of association were also part of economic, social and cultural rights. Belgium hoped that the Human Rights Council would soon be able to open offices in Bahrain, Yemen and other countries in North Africa. It was noted that there was brutal oppression of the opposition in those countries. Belgium invited all countries where the Arab Spring was taking place to fully cooperate with the Council by reporting what was taking place on the ground. Belgium also noted the arrest of Ratko Mladic and the positive action by Serbia without which it could not have been achieved. Belgium also noted that fighting against impunity was at the core of the report on Sri Lanka. Belgium noted that the recommendation to establish an independent commission of inquiry on Sri Lanka should be taken seriously.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil) said that the ongoing processes in North Africa and the Middle East continued to capture the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council. But more than that, those events continued to test the ability of the Council to live up to its mandate, and to respond to serious violations while engaging concerned countries constructively. Other dilemmas the Council faced included how to react to urgent situations in real time and not be kidnapped by broader political concerns, and how to be even-handed with all parties in addressing situations of sectarian dispute of civil war. This might be a defining moment and the Council now had a chance to definitely overcome the negative legacies of the Commission and find solutions together though increased dialogue and mutual understanding, even when consensus was not possible. Serving agendas foreign to human rights could only give the Council a transitory image of relevance. The High Commissioner had an important role to play in this defining moment. Brazil shared the High Commissioner’s concerns with the vulnerability of migrants which it considered to be one of the most serious human rights problems of our time. Brazil echoed the concern of the High Commissioner on the depiction of migrants as a problem to be offloaded elsewhere. It was high time to ensure human rights of migrants, to recall and act on the basis of universal recognition that all human beings were equal and deserved to be treated as humans.

NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh) said Bangladesh believed in the indivisibility, non-selectivity and interdependence of all human rights. In the context of poverty and marginalization and the uneven distribution of the benefits of globalization, which had been aggravated for the poorest in the world by financial and food price crises, the realization of the right to development had become imperative. Discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of race, colour, creed, ethnic origin and religion was a prevalent and odious form of exclusion in many countries. This discrimination and all related forms of intolerance must be forcefully combated persistently. Bangladesh was grateful to the High Commissioner for raising the issue of the situation of migrants. Migrants continued to be a predominant group that suffered from the worst forms of discriminatory treatment globally. This group had become the first line of victims of xenophobia and anti-racist policies and practices. The host countries should embark upon fulfilling their responsibilities to protect the rights of migrants during these difficult times regardless of their origin, nationality or legal status. Bangladesh believed that the situation of migrants, in particular in the wake of the situation in North Africa, demanded the High Commissioner’s urgent initiative to mitigate their suffering.

MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan) regretted that the High Commissioner’s statement contained no mention of the burning of the Koran in Florida. Pakistan expressed concern that despite the loss of life that occurred as a result of this incident it was not mentioned in any reports. Pakistan invited the Human Rights Council to condemn such action and to promote respect for all religions and diversity. Pakistan noted that violations to the right to freedom of assembly were also taking place in other parts of the world. There had been frequent clashes in Kashmir between civilians and forces. None of this had found any resonance in the reports of the Human Rights Council. This gave the impression that there existed double standards in the consideration of different human rights situations. Pakistan highlighted the HRC11/1 report on official development assistance to help the country (Sri Lanka) fight poverty. Pakistan noted that the international community owed it to Sri Lanka to assist it and to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism.

MOUHAMADOU LAMINE THIAW (Senegal) said that the recent visit of the High Commissioner had led to the signing of an agreement on the establishment of the regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for West Africa. Senegal and the High Commissioner had convergent views on human rights issues, Senegal said, and reiterated its support for some of them, including the Universal Periodic Review process and human trafficking. Senegal renewed its continuing support to the High Commissioner and its availability for visits by any other mandate-holder.

KWON HAERYONG (Republic of Korea) said that recent developments across the Middle East and North Africa served to demonstrate the clear fact that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were the core elements prerequisite for democracy. In this regard, the Human Rights Council had delivered a clear and unified message to the international community to this effect in recent special sessions on Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria. Nevertheless, they were concerned that in some parts of the region the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators had continued. It was their sincere hope that normality be restored in an orderly and peaceful manner. In this process the Council should continue to be vigilant; human rights and fundamental freedoms should be respected and genuine and inclusive dialogue ensured. The Republic of Korea shared the High Commissioner’s concern that the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was “deeply troubling”. In this regard, the Government of the Republic of Korea called on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to take the necessary measures to improve human rights conditions in full cooperation with the international community, in particular by rendering its cooperation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

ROSSETTE NYIRINKINDI KATUNGYE (Uganda) said that it wished to address comments by the High Commissioner concerning the situation in Uganda because they did not reflect the reality on the ground and because the national investigation was still ongoing. The Government of Uganda was concerned about the high fuel and food costs and said that the Walk to Work Campaign had nothing to do with the current food and fuel prices, but the intents of organisers were different. While working to work was a legal demonstration, the police had the obligation to regulate the security. An inter-political party dialogue mechanism was ongoing and could be used to address any political issue in the country. Furthermore, a number of Special Procedures were engaged with the Government of Uganda and that was why Uganda requested that offensive language be expunged from the report of the High Commissioner.

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For use of the information media; not an official record