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Human Rights Council opens eighteenth session and hears address by High Commissioner for Human Rights

MORNING

12 September 2011

High-Level Dignitaries from Uruguay, Sri Lanka and Benin Address the Council

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its eighteenth regular session, hearing statements by the Foreign Minister of Uruguay, the Minister of Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka, the Minister of Justice for Benin, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and then holding a general debate.

Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Council was opening against the background of towering human rights challenges, such as the food emergency in the Horn of Africa and fears of a new global recession and noted the failure of Governments to meet their preventive and remedial human rights obligations, which included the responsibility of effective governance and human rights-based cooperation. Ms. Pillay said that the commemoration of the terrorist attacks in the United States in September 11, 2001 and the attack on United Nations personal in Abuja were tragic reminders that all manifestations of intolerance and violence must be addressed and noted the need for countermeasures adopted by States to combat terrorism to be designed with sufficient regard to human rights.

Luis Almagro, Foreign Minister of Uruguay, said the Council was a key component of the international system and it was necessary to consolidate it and strengthen it through concerted action and cooperation among all Governments in a balanced and resolute way, avoiding double standards and stressing the role of civil society organizations. Mr. Almagro said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played a crucial role and Uruguay would support the initiatives aimed at facilitating the fulfillment of its mandates, including field missions. In 2012 Uruguay expected to welcome the Independent Expert on safe drinking water and sanitation, a central topic for development.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka, said that with regard to reconstruction, the Government, in a mere two years and three months after the end of the armed conflict, had achieved tremendous successes. Resettlement has been achieved at a pace unmatched elsewhere. Given the caseload of over 290,000 internally displaced persons at the end of May 2009, the Government had brought down the numbers to a mere 7,000, which posed a potential role model for other countries and conflict zones. Over 11,600 ex-combatants were put through varying programmes of rehabilitation and a proper legal and institutional framework was set in place for child combatants to be rehabilitated. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was inquiring into the conflict and its causes and was evolving recommendations to ensure that such a situation would never arise again.

Marie Elise Gbedo, Minister of Justice of Benin, said that the international community had recognized the efforts made by the Government of Benin to promote and protect human rights, including the adoption of a National Policy Paper for Women which aimed to improve the social and legal status of women. Ms. Gbedo said that Benin was at a crossroads of hope and the Government requested the support of the Council to implement further measures to promote and protect human rights including the drawing up of the second part of the Universal Periodic Review.

Member States which addressed the Council in the general debate that followed the High Commissioner’s statement included Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic States, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Poland on behalf of the European Union, Mexico, Italy, China, United States of America, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Qatar, Thailand, Spain, Bangladesh, the Russian Federation, Austria, the Republic of Moldova and Cuba.

In the general debate, speakers raised concerns about a number of issues highlighted in the High Commissioner’s statement. They emphasized the need for resources to fulfill existing mandates and noted the need to increase the proportion of unearmarked contributions to enhance the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Speakers said human rights issues should be addressed on the basis of dialogue with objectivity, impartiality non-selectivity and respect for national sovereignty. Terrorism constituted a violation of international human rights law, including the right to life and speakers noted the concern given by the High Commissioner to the lack of a human rights perspective in counterterrorism efforts and, in this regard, emphasized the need for preventing religious hatred and intolerance. Concerning the recent events that had occurred in North Africa, speakers called for an increase in technical assistance and capacity building in the promotion and protection of human rights and said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should help countries to consolidate their process of reconciliation and post crisis strategies. Concerning the tragic humanitarian situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, it was necessary to act quickly to put an end to the crisis.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when the Council will conclude its general debate and then start an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

Statements by High-Level Dignitaries

LUIS ALMARGO, Foreign Minister of Uruguay, noted that yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11 and that such acts of barbarism still moved the sensibility of all countries where democracy, freedom and tolerance constituted fundamental values. Uruguay condemned terrorism in all its forms. September 11 also commemorated the date of the military coup that overturned and took the life of Chile’s legitimate president Salvador Allende. This was a reminder of a bitter era for Latin America which fortunately had been left behind and had taught the region that liberty, democracy and fundamental rights were precious possessions to be defended every day. For Uruguay, the Council was a key component of the international system. It was necessary to consolidate it and strengthen it through concerted action and cooperation among all governments in a balanced and resolute way, avoiding double standards and stressing the role of civil society organizations. Thousands of people in the world, whose rights were currently being violated, waited for the Council to take adequate and effective decisions. Cooperation of the concerned countries was fundamental for the Council’s actions to be effective. In this regard, decisions made by the Council concerning possible human rights violations in given countries should privilege any procedures that aimed at achieving such cooperation; at the same time the international community should give priority to the interest of the victims and the Council should send a strong message concerning the importance of cooperation. The concept of cooperation should be a two track system. On the one hand, it required that concerned States cooperated with the international system; on the other, it was important to take note of the means which the system could provide to help States to strengthen national capacities. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played a crucial role and Uruguay would support the initiatives aimed at facilitating the fulfillment of its mandates, including field missions. To this end it would also be necessary to ensure that the Office had adequate resources.

Mr. Almargo said Uruguay had invited Special Procedures in areas that constituted important challenges: the penitentiary system and the fight against human trafficking, specially women and children. The interaction had been positive and Uruguay was interested in continuing to benefit from the opinion of international experts. In 2012 Uruguay expected to welcome the Independent Expert on safe drinking water and sanitation, a central topic for development. Uruguay’s Parliament had recently approved the creation of a national human rights institute and the Government was committed to upholding international commitments by updating national reports on treaty bodies through an inter-ministerial commission tasked with producing these reports and ensuring the fulfillment of recommendations. Mr. Almargo hoped that the work of the Office and the high level panel on integrating a human rights perspective into the United Nations system would lead to coordinated work and avoiding duplicating efforts. Mr. Almargo stressed the importance for a new culture of dialogue in the field of human rights to promote cooperation and technical assistance, reducing tensions and assuring an impact on the ground. The international community could not remain indifferent to the suffering of victims of human rights violations; conventional treaty sources should be strengthened but improving the methods of work and capacity of the Council, perfecting its work and the quality of its procedures and strengthening the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was also needed. In these areas the Council still had a long way to go. Uruguay was committed to working towards these objectives it would contribute to them during its presidency of the Council.

MAHINDA SAMARASINGHE, Minister of Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka, said that Sri Lanka’s approach in its engagement with the Council was predicated upon the principle of constructive engagement. Sri Lanka had been forthright and candid in its exchanges and had never adopted an evasive or equivocal approach. Before the end of the armed conflict in May 2009, Sri Lank had warned its international friends and partners that the remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s international network and other elements were working tirelessly to subject Sri Lanka to unrelenting pressure. This had been a tangible threat to Sri Lanka winning the peace and securing a better future for all her people. The Government’s immediate and long term goals were to achieve a sustainable peace with equality, equity and the guarantee of human dignity. With regard to reconstruction, the Government, in a mere two years and three months after the end of the armed conflict, had achieved tremendous successes in connection with the reconstruction effort. Caring for internally displaced persons in welfare centers alone had cost the Government $ 31 million. Resettlement had been achieved at a pace unmatched elsewhere, given the caseload of over 290,000 internally displaced persons at the end of May 2009, the Government had brought down the numbers to a mere 7,000 which posed a potential role model for other countries and conflict zones. Over 11,600 ex-combatants were put through varying programmes of rehabilitation depending on the need and level of involvement in terrorism with many released through the judicial system. A proper legal and institutional framework was set in place for child combatants to be rehabilitated and this critical segment of Sri Lankans had been cared for, trained and rehabilitated at great cost to the State.

Reconciliation and political solutions must be found if Sri Lanka was truly to win the peace. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was inquiring into the conflict and its causes and was evolving recommendations to ensure that such a situation would never arise again in Sri Lanka. The Commission should be given time and space to come up with their findings and recommendations. The President of Sri Lanka had started the process of conducting democratic elections throughout the North and East, letting people decide who it was they wanted to represent them at different levels. A Parliamentary Select Committee would be tasked with formulating a series of measures that the vast majority of the Sri Lankan people would find acceptable. A national level discourse focused on constitutional reforms was also under way. During the Universal Periodic Review process in May/June 2002, the Government took stock of what it had achieved and the current challenges and how to address them. The Government had pledged to devise a five-year National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and had worked hard on fulfilling that pledge with the assistance of key Government institutions and civil society groups. A significant development was the lapsing of the Emergency Regulations promulgated under the Public Security Ordinance in 2005 after the assassination of the Foreign Minister. As early as May 2010, the Government had reduced the scope of the Emergency Regulations in keeping with steps to improve the situation on the ground. The Government had pledged that as the situation gradually improved, it would make adjustments, refinements and policy changes to reflect a challenging environment. The Government had directed efforts to participate in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2012 and welcomed all friends and partners to engage in that dialogue.

The Government of Sri Lanka was concerned at a growing trend in the Human Rights Council to depart from well established principles of procedures in the conduct of the affairs of the Council and noted the failure on the part of the High Commissioner to inform the concerned State, Sri Lanka, regarding a report about Sri Lanka that was transmitted between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General.

MARIE ELISE GBEDO, Minister of Justice of Benin, said that the international community had recognized the efforts made by the Government of Benin to promote and protect human rights and noted that the Government of Benin had recognized the National Transitional Council of Libya. A large number of reforms had been carried out in Benin, including the adoption of a National Policy Paper for Women which aimed to improve the social and legal status of women by providing integrated legal centres for the victims of violence. A policy of micro credits for young people and women was enacted and new court rooms and judicial training had occurred. The national mechanism for the prevention of torture was also being established. Free primary education and free schooling for girls up to grade four were all being implemented and there was an effort to reform prisons. Efforts were being made to increase female participation in all political parties. A new law on equality between men and women in the civil service had been implemented and the National Assembly had recently adopted a law against corruption with the establishment of a monitoring body to combat corruption. The National Assembly had also agreed to Benin’s accession to the protocol for the abolition of the death penalty. Benin was at a crossroads of hope and the Government requested the support of the Council to implement further measures to promote and protect human rights including the drawing up of the second part of the Universal Periodic Review. The Government of Benin reaffirmed its commitment to all mechanisms of the Human Rights Council with the aim of achieving the Millennium Goals relating to human rights.

Statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council was taking place against the background of towering human rights challenges, such as the food emergency in the Horn of Africa and fears of a new global recession. The dire emergency in the Horn of Africa was both the product of devastating natural phenomena, and the failure of governments—individually and collectively—to meet their preventive and remedial human rights obligations. These included the responsibility of effective governance, and human rights-based international cooperation. Further, there was no doubt that the deliberate obstruction of human rights and humanitarian work had exacerbated already desperate conditions. The spiralling effects of the crisis were now engulfing the Horn of Africa where as many as 750,000 lives may be at risk. A denial of the right to food undermined the right to health, thus ultimately putting at risk the most fundamental of all human rights, that was, the right to life. While ensuring people in need were fed today, efforts should also be devoted to long-term sustainability. On the effects on human rights of some States’ sovereign debt crises and the consequent sharp decline of the stock market which threatened to produce another global economic recession, the High Commissioner said that as the debt crisis unfolded across Europe, America and elsewhere, they were witnessing a wave of drastic social cuts, and a worrying trend of legal reforms to contain budget deficits. It was imperative that they examined and addressed the potential repercussions of economic upheavals on those people who were already living in precarious and marginalized situations, such as women and children, minorities, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. All Member States must consider that austerity measures alone may not work to address economic woes. Human rights issues including education, employment, and in general the opportunity of a life in dignity, as well as transparency, accountability, and good governance must not be neglected.

Ms. Pillay said the world yesterday commemorated the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and joined in remembrance of the victims of the attacks against the United States, as well as of all people across the world killed or injured by terrorists, who held human rights in contempt. Countermeasures adopted by States to combat terrorism had frequently been designed with insufficient regard to human rights. This had all too often led to an erosion of rights and fostered a culture of diffidence and discrimination which, in turn, perpetuated cycles of violence and retribution.
Sri Lanka was one such case. The High Commissioner noted the President’s decision to allow some emergency measures to lapse, but strongly urged the Government to follow up with a comprehensive review of all security-related legislation and detentions. Similarly, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan the killing of civilians by opponents, as well as by governmental and international forces engaged in counter-terrorism operations, continued to be a major concern. In these countries, as elsewhere, the protection of civilians must be a paramount priority. The international community must also be mindful that intolerance existed in all societies in forms less glaring and with an impact less visible than terrorism, but with consequences just as tragic. To counter the escalation of prejudice predicated on ethnic, national or religious divides, her Office was undertaking a number of activities.

Marginalization and exclusion, compounded by the activities of organised criminal organizations, fostered an atmosphere of extreme insecurity and abuse, and made it increasingly difficult for States to protect their populations. In many countries, and especially in Latin America, criminal violence surpassed the violence caused by internal conflicts. This, in turn, bred further marginalisation and intolerance of those sectors of the population who were viewed as the causes of violence and insecurity but from whose ranks most of the victims come. This issue was a focus of her visit to Mexico in July.

Ms. Pillay said the protest movements in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere showed unequivocally that economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development mattered to people as much as political and civil rights. In some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, protests had resulted in the dawn of new, democratic political orders, based on human rights and the rule of law. Yet, the road to democracy may not be as easy as they would all wish for. She welcomed the Republic of South Sudan as the newest member of the United Nations. With the assistance of the international community, South Sudan had an opportunity to build a democratic and prosperous country that was based on the rule of law, good governance and human rights. In all regions and all countries, the daunting and long-term process of state-building required concerted efforts to make transitions successful. To that effect, accountable, transparent institutions of governance that were respectful of people’s rights must be established. Impunity must end, and accountability for past human rights violations must be ensured so that the abusive past does not undermine hard-won gains and future progress.

The Human Rights Council had led global calls for accountability for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law through its creation and dispatch of international commissions of inquiry, including to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Syrian Arab Republic and Côte d’Ivoire. The High Commissioner said she wished to commend the advocacy of Special Procedures mandate holders in helping to foster and build this historic human rights momentum in many countries. Regrettably, some governments persisted in refusing to grant access to these experts, or hampered their independent on-the-ground assessment of the human rights situation, or continued to victimise the human rights defenders who collaborate with them. She supported the Secretary-General’s report and his call to stop this unacceptable practice as a matter of priority and for the Council to get to the bottom of this matter.

With regard to Syria, the High Commissioner noted that, according to reliable sources on the ground, the number of those killed since the onset of the unrest in mid-March 2011 in that country had now reached at least 2,600. Both the immediate and long-term protection of civilians in situations of violence must be the focus of their collective efforts. Gaps between initiatives by the Human Rights Council and realities on the ground needed to be kept in sharp focus and addressed. Further, more attention needed to be paid to the situation of human rights in areas which, for various reasons, were controlled by de facto authorities. In Yemen, protestors calling for greater freedoms, an end to corruption and respect for the rule of law were being caught in an increasingly violent struggle for power. Hundreds had been killed and thousands had been injured. And in Libya, emerging reports of brutal violations, including mass summary executions and disappearances were extremely alarming. Also of great concern was the safety of migrants in Libya, in particular those from other African countries. Justice could not be meted out summarily. Rather, it must be delivered, whether through national judicial mechanisms or international mechanisms, in accordance with human rights principles and the rule of law.

General Debate

HICHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the commitment of the Non-Aligned Movement to contribute to the work of the Council and welcomed the presence of the High Commissioner. The Non-Aligned Movement emphasized the need for resources to fulfill existing mandates and noted the need to increase the proportion of unearmarked contributions to enhance the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Non-Aligned Movement attached great importance to the protection of human rights on the basis of the United Nations Charter and international human rights law. Human rights issues should be addressed on the basis of dialogue with objectivity, impartiality non-selectivity and respect for national sovereignty. Non-Aligned Movement countries were committed to allowing national civil societies to play an important role in the protection of human rights, providing feedback. The Non-Aligned Movement noted the attention paid by the High Commissioner to the situation in the Horn of Africa and, in the context of the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, remarked that this inalienable right required policies at the national level and equitable economic relations and cooperation at the international level. The Non-Aligned Movement would engage delegations in consultations concerning the draft resolution on the Right to Development that would be presented during this session.

Terrorism constituted a violation of international human rights law, including the right to life and the Non-Aligned Movement noted the concern voiced by the High Commissioner to the lack of a human rights perspective in counterterrorism efforts and, in this regard, emphasized the need for preventing religious hatred and intolerance. It was important that the dialogue with experts on this issue organized by the Office of the High Commissioner would lead to effects on the ground. The Non-Aligned Movement welcomed the priority allocated by the High Commissioner to the rights of migrants and underlined the need to use human rights instruments to protect those in all stages of the migratory process. Finally, the Non-Aligned Movement reiterated its commitment to engaging with delegations in the fulfillment of the mandate of the Council.

FODE SECK (Senegal), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group welcomed the 15 new members who had joined the Council. The African Group condemned the blind violence that had occurred against the Office of the United Nations in Kenya. The Council should make a demonstration of active solidarity on the crisis in the Horn of Africa and the African Group urged the Council to draw inspiration from the seventh special session held in 2008 on the food crisis. Concerning the recent events that had occurred in North Africa, the African Group called for an increase in technical assistance and capacity building in the promotion and protection of human rights and said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should help countries to consolidate their process of reconciliation and post crisis strategies. 2011 was a red letter year for the African Group because it marked a number of important anniversaries, including the Durban Declaration, however the African Group remained concerned about the persistence of racism and xenophobia and the difficulties faced by migrant workers and called for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.

MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan), speaking on behalf the Organization of the Conference of Islamic States, thanked the High Commissioner for her statement and supported her call for further resources, noting that these should be drawn from the regular United Nations budget to lessen reliance on earmarked funds and promote independence. The Organization of the Conference of Islamic States applauded the response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa and urged the international community to take more steps to save lives at risk. There were growing fears of a global recession and the Organization of the Islamic Conference urged more caution as well as transparent and rule based policy making at the national and international levels. Such policies should take account of the right to development. The Organization of the Islamic Conference noted the upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development and said that the international community should take this opportunity to secure an equality of opportunity for all.

Terrorism was a flagrant violation of the right to life. The Organization of the Islamic Conference agreed with the High Commissioner that an exclusive reliance on the use of force exasperated problems in all cases. It was necessary to avoid casualties of non combatants and States must combine efforts to address grievances, lack of governance and prolonged conflicts. The Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned Islamaphobia against Muslims around the world and expected the Organization of the Islamic Conference workshop to help address loopholes in current national and international human rights law. On the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, it was important to reaffirm the anti-racism and anti-intolerance agenda. The Organization of the Islamic Conference urged Sudan to take note of the areas that were mentioned in the High Commissioner’s statement. They took note of the steps regarding the emergency regulations taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and said that the international community should give time and space as prejudging would not help achieve the desired outcome.

HICHAM BADR (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that concerning the tragic humanitarian situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, it was necessary to act quickly to put an end to the crisis. Many countries had taken a number of initiatives, including through civil society, sending food and medicines and improving the living situation of the most marginalized groups including refugees and women. The Arab Group noted the references made to recent protests in countries in the Middle East and Africa and stressed the underlying question of social and economic rights. The right to development was the cornerstone for promoting social development. National policies should support this right and also relations among States should promote a favorable economic environment to help realize this right on the ground. The Arab Group thanked the High Commissioner for her efforts in preparation of the activities to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development and urged the High Commissioner to keep abreast of developments in the area. The Arab Group called upon South Sudan to base all of its initiatives on the basis of the principle of cooperation with neighboring countries and the protection and promotion of human rights. They emphasized the signing of peace agreements among different factions and the efforts of the Government to ensure the rule of law. There was no need for international investigations to be carried in this regard. Human rights violations continued in the occupied Palestinian territories and despite repeated calls and numerous resolutions, including by the Security Council, the situation persisted. The right to self-determination continued to be refused to the Palestinian people, as well as forced settlements and other practices not in keeping with international law and human rights. The Arab Group reaffirmed its willingness to engage and contribute to the promotion of human rights and to ensure that international action lived up to the expectations of the people.

REMIGIUSZ A. HENZEL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union appreciated the work of the Office of the High Commissioner including human rights monitors and advisers on the ground. The European Union commended the work of the Office to respond to the dramatic changes and evolving situations in the Middle East and North Africa region and appreciated the report on the situation in Syria, the response to the changes in Libya and looked forward to the report of the successful mission to Yemen. The European Union was dismayed by reports of human rights abuses, including targeted attacks of civilians in South Kordofan during the ongoing violence there and supported the call for independent investigations of the reported human rights violations. The European Union fully supported the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner to bring the human rights dimension of major conflicts to the Security Council. The European Union remained gravely concerned about the ongoing human rights violations in Belarus, notably the continuing repression of political activists, human rights defenders, civil society and media, as well as torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners and the carrying out of two death sentences in July despite requests by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to delay these executions.

ULISES CANCHOLA (Mexico) thanked the High Commissioner for her concise but substantive statement, and echoed the alarm expressed by Ms. Pillay over the situation of human rights in various parts of the globe as well as the impact that the current worldwide economic crisis was having on the exercise, promotion and protection of human rights. Mexico believed that the concepts elaborated on in the High Commissioner’s statement were valid and relevant. In particular they focused on four elements that Mexico believed to be essential to achieve sustainable and long-term conditions for the promotion and protection of human rights: good governance, human rights, the rule of law and cooperation. Mexico had defined the stages of its current political transition in exactly those terms. Over a decade ago Mexico had started an analysis and took stock of the obligations entered into under the international human rights mechanisms and instruments. It had established an ombudsman who recognised the national network of human rights promoters and defenders under the broadest possible basis. In the international sphere Mexico had been participating actively and was proactive in the founding of the Human Rights Council and its institution building. The High Commissioner had opened an office in Mexico. The Mexican Government was committed to carrying out its recommendations concerning the rule of law. In July this year Mexico welcomed a visit from the High Commissioner. She had a chance to see first hand evidence of the improvements and progress Mexico had made in each of the stages mentioned. Despite this progress, Mexico was convinced that the well-being of their citizens was more important than ever before.

LAURA MIRACHIAN (Italy) welcomed the report of the High Commissioner and the activities of her Office. The timely statements by her Office carried significant political weight and had influenced political actors to react to recent events in North Africa. The demand for human rights coming from societies and institutions was growing. In a context marked by social turmoil and humanitarian crises, the international community had the responsibility to respond. In the context of the anniversary of the 11 September attacks and more recent acts of terrorism, in the interest of the promotion and protection of human rights, Italy was committed to fighting intolerance and discrimination. Concerning the issue of migrants, Italy welcomed the report with interest. Italy remained committed to the protection of human rights of all migrants. The capacity of its reception centers had been enhanced and enabled to cope with emergencies. Italy recognized the role of the Council and the High Commissioner. In a broader perspective, the challenges ahead would only be tackled by the Council taking consensual positions as often as possible through engagement across regional groups and enhanced cooperation among States and the Office of the High Commissioner.

XIA JING GE (China) said that China hoped that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would focus more on issues of general concern for developing countries such as economic and social rights through investing in poverty alleviation in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should abide by basic principles, including a strict following of the mandate given by the Human Rights Council, working in a fair and independent manner and with full respect for the internal soverengity of the countries concerned and by fulfilling and respecting the rights of each country. China noted the positive developments of the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. A people-centered approach in China had shown that the hard efforts of the Government had resulted, by the end of 2010, in various measures in the Government’s Human Rights Action Plan having been achieved. China had safeguarded people’s economic and social rights along with minority rights and stressed that the country was still developing and the Government would continue to adhere to the concept of putting people at the centre to comprehensively promote the development of human rights in China.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said that at this moment when the world was witnessing many societies in political upheaval and transition, the United States appreciated and applauded the High Commissioner’s central point that accountable, transparent institutions that respected human rights were essential for successful political transitions to strong stable governance. As Ms. Pillay noted, the Human Rights Council had led global calls for accountability for gross violations of human rights through its creation and dispatch of international commissions of inquiry to Libya, Syria and Côte d’Ivoire. The United States concurred with the High Commissioner’s assessment that the Human Rights Council must make it a priority to solve the problem of lack of cooperation with United Nations mechanisms in the field of human rights.

As Ms. Pillay had underscored, the ‘protection of civilians in situations of violence must be the focus of our collective efforts’. In this session, the United States looked forward to interactive dialogues on Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Cambodia. In the case of Syria, they looked forward to hearing the preliminary facts that had emerged about atrocities committed by Syrian authorities. Unfortunately Syrian authorities had prohibited the Office of the High Commissioner’s fact-finding mission from entering Syria to conduct their investigation but the fact-finding mission would report on credible evidence they had uncovered through other means. Close attention by the international community provided hope to the people subject to government brutality, and helped highlight the Syrian regime’s gross human rights abuses. The commission of inquiry for Libya had overseen an extremely volatile human rights crisis and received alarming reports of brutality, mass summary execution and disappearances. They looked forward to learning how to further support accountability for human rights in Libya. The High Commissioner had also highlighted the serious human rights situation in Sudan and had published a report which described a wide range of alleged human rights violations in South Kordofan since June of this year. The International Expert mandate for Sudan must be renewed so that monitoring and reporting on this urgent situation could continue.

DANTE MARTINELLI (Switzerland) thanked the High Commissioner for her overview and expressed Switzerland’s support for her findings. Ten years ago the attacks of 11 September marked the eruption of intolerance in the global media and political spheres. Peaceful demonstrations were not a new phenomenon; people sought respect for their fundamental civic, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It was important to tackle the underlying causes which prompted people to demonstrate and express their aspirations. Demonstrations should be seen as opportunities to embark in a national dialogue. To provide room for freedom and consultation was a key element for democracy. Switzerland thanked the Council for the convening of the panel on the promotion and protection of human rights during peaceful demonstrations. It would constitute an opportunity to reaffirm the applicable judicial framework and to exchange experiences and good practices. Progress on the rule of law and transitional justice reaffirmed the importance of supporting transition processes; and, in the spirit of complementarity, Switzerland, Argentina and Morocco were proposing the establishment of a new Special Procedure mandate holder on the promotion of truth, justice and reparations. Concerning the burden posed by armed violence, Switzerland and the United Nations Development Programme launched in 2006 the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development which aimed at significantly reducing violence before 2015. A ministerial conference to take place in Geneva this October would be the occasion of assessing its work and for proposing new measures.

GULNARA ISKAKOVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa clearly confirmed that a safe world order should be based on the rule of law and not only on protecting human rights. Kyrgyzstan strongly condemned all sorts of serious human rights violations and having itself undergone revolutionary change, the country believed that dialogue and reform were critical for resolving conflict. Kyrgyzstan in 2010 made itself fully aware of the importance and relevance of institutions involved in post conflict resolution and noted the positive role of the regional office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on post conflict resolution in its country which resulted in a programme on stabilizing the situation in affected areas being adopted. Kyrgyzstan was interested in dialogue with the Council on issues of human rights defense and in 2011 the Rapporteur Against Torture would make a country visit to Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan announced its candidacy for a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said that a number of serious human rights challenges and humanitarian situations as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s statement merited the Council’s attention. Among the most devastating and far reaching in scope was the continuing humanitarian and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, made even more acute by the effects of climate change. As a responsible member of the international community, Malaysia had sought to provide some assistance to the affected region by dispatching humanitarian aid and assistance. Malaysia concurred with the High Commissioner’s concerns on the spiraling effects of the ongoing sovereign debt crises and that in such scenarios the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized would be even more negatively and disproportionately affected. Malaysia also noted and appreciated the positive advocacy role and engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through assistance in truth and reconciliation processes in transitional societies.

LUC-JOSEPH OKIO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that the report of the High Commissioner showed that the human rights situation in the world faced many challenges with significant consequences. Member States should be impartial in their consideration and work towards the promotion of human rights and, if it pulled together, the Council could be successful. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was willing to work with States and civil society for the protection of human rights worldwide and had submitted periodic reports, among others topics, on its domestic efforts towards the elimination of discrimination against women. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had welcomed mandate holders of Special Procedures and was waiting for future visits. Concerning the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had facilitated the participation of its population and was involved in a dynamic move forward in nation-building measures and the recognition of the rights of peoples. The Democratic Republic of the Congo aimed at updating and strengthening its legal frameworks concerning human rights. The effective implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development and the Durban Declaration against racism and racial discrimination were of utmost importance. The crisis in the Horn of Africa reminded the international community of the need for cooperation to protect the right to life. The situation of migrants was also of concern and the Democratic Republic of the Congo called upon States to take all measures to ensure the respects for the rights of the migrants. The Council should take all situations concerning human rights violations regardless of the location where they were committed.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that the eighteenth session of the Council coincided with the dire food crisis currently unfolding in the Horn of Africa where many lives were at risk and Indonesia subscribed to the High Commissioner’s assessment that Governments should have the primary duty and responsibility to meet their preventive and remedial human rights obligations, including the right to food of their citizens, through good governance and the rule of law. No issue was more important to developing and developed countries today than employment. For nations, jobs were the engine of development and progress. With nearly half of the world’s population under the age of 25, young people could make an important contribution to global prosperity. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were two of the cornerstones of democracy. Indonesia encouraged the peaceful transition toward democracy in Libya which reflected the wishes and aspirations of Libyans to decide their own future. Indonesia urged the Council to observe and respect every procedural requirement relating to the work and function of the Council as outlined and agreed upon through Council decisions 16/21.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) noted the High Commissioner’s statement which highlighted the challenges facing the world which affected the full enjoyment of human rights. In the Horn of Africa, the humanitarian crisis was affecting hundreds of thousands of people and Qatar supported the High Commissioner’s call that shortages that affected livelihoods should be resolved within the human rights field. Good governance, rule of law and international cooperation would all be needed to address the crisis. Qatar would continue its aid through the airlift from Doha, which started at the instructions of the Prince of Qatar. Qatar condemned the cowardly and barbaric attacks of terrorism of 9/11 and attacks on United Nations’ personal but warned of the consequences of accusing only Arabs and Muslims of terrorism.

Qatar said that the meeting to be held on 22 September in New York was an occasion to reaffirm the commitment to fight racism and racial discrimination. Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development was an opportunity to reinforce this right for all. The High Commissioner’s report provided a clear picture of the protest movements in a number of Arab countries. Qatar supported the High Commissioner’s appeal to countries in a transitional stage to show self restraint, prevent loss of life and avoid retaliatory action. The Prince of Qatar had said that the international community should not expect quick achievements as all revolutions had a gestation period and that eventually they would all achieve freedom and democracy. Qatar would support action to assist this and noted the need for the revolutions to deliver equal benefit of resources and the need to improve the situation in the Arab world in line with the aspirations of its people.

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand) said that human rights were a common thread that wove itself through all work in the United Nation’s system. The commemoration of the September 11 attacks and the violent attack in Abuja showed that extremism and terrorism remained threats to human rights and therefore could undermine democratic societies. Thailand believed that a more just and inclusive development path should be pursued as all States shared a common stake in the right to development in order to create an economic order that underpins global security and peace. The Council had reacted with unity of person to the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. Thailand would put forward a draft plan on reinvigorating agenda item 10 concerning economic, social and cultural rights.

AGUSTIN SANTOS (Spain) said that Spain had suffered itself the scourges of terrorism and was sensitive towards its victims. However, the recognition and remembrance of victims was not enough. The Council should do more to promote and protect the human rights of victims of terrorism. Spain thanked the High Commissioner for the work of her Office in this area. On the basis of the discussion panel that took place during the Council’s session in June, Spain would consult with States to explore the best way to fill the Council’s gaps on this matter, including the creation of a special mandate to deal with States’ obligations to the victims of terrorism and the impact of terrorism on the freedoms and rights of citizens. The crises in various countries in the Mediterranean region and North Africa had posed an enormous challenge to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner had acted accordingly. The swiftness of the reaction to these events, including the opening of an office in Tunisia and its reports on the situation in Syria and the description of the dramatic situation on human rights in Libya, demonstrated the commitment and efficiency of her Office. Spain recognized the work of the High Commissioner to end violence, discrimination and criminalization of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The High Commissioner had clearly stated that no human beings should be deprived of their human rights on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The report to be presented by the Office of the High Commissioner on this issue would be a good opportunity to move forward on this issue. Finally, Spain expressed concern for the situation in South Kordofan and the reports of violent acts against civilian population. Spain supported the renovation of a mandate on Sudan and the investigation of violations through a commission of inquiry.

NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh) said that Bangladesh supported the High Commissioner’s reference to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and noted that racism still existed. Intolerance towards migrants, often Asian workers, occurred in many countries, often as a result of xenophobic tendencies. There was a duty on host governments to ensure the safety of migrants. Bangladesh was concerned about the food crisis aggravated by climate change in the Horn of Africa. International cooperation should work to maintain sustainable economic growth, build world food security, and promote monetary stability. Bangladesh urged a move to a culture of entitlement and international cooperation rather than charity. Regarding the Office of the High Commissioner’s work at the field level, greater understanding of local conditions should be undertaken. In dealing with governments, dialogue should be used, not coercion and confrontation. The most effective way to promote human rights was often to strengthen capability of national government.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russia) said that Russia supported the tenet that the current difficult economic situations in many countries was having an impact on human rights, particularly the lack of opportunities facing young people. It was among the poorest sections of society that racism and xenophobia spread rapidly. It was necessary to step up humanitarian aid to alleviate the food crisis in the Horn of Africa and Russia supported the upcoming meeting in September on this topic. The Russian Federation also supported the promotion of human rights but could not tolerate a situation where the actions of international forces meant to support human rights led to an increase in human rights violations. The Russian Federation urged for more dialogue and closer cooperation between States and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said that recent human rights challenges, especially in the context of events in the Middle East and Africa, showed that enhanced cooperation on human rights was needed and possible. Austria believed that the Office of the High Commissioner had a crucial and vital role to play in this regard in order to ensure the worldwide protection and mainstreaming of human rights. Austria commended the work of the High Commissioner and the establishment of a country office in Tunis; it also welcomed her cooperation and engagement with the Egyptian authorities as well as the successful mission to Yemen. Austria shared the High Commissioner’s assessment that state-building required concerted efforts to make transitions successful. This included the establishment of independent and transparent institutions and reforms. Austria was particularly concerned about the current human rights situation in Syria. It was unacceptable that peaceful protesters were killed and that journalists were attacked. Also alarming was the situation in South Kordofan, Abyie and the Blue Nile state, including reports on extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions. Independent monitoring of the human rights situation on the ground was of the utmost importance. Guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of the Office of the High Commissioner was a priority for Austria and was a precondition for an effective work on the ground. Effective cooperation was necessary at all levels. This included the obligation for all Governments to cooperate with Special Procedures. It was unacceptable that some Governments persisted in refusing to grant access to Special Procedures or hampered their independence or even victimized human rights defenders who collaborated with them.

VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) said the Republic of Moldova appreciated the actions of the High Commissioner and that of her Office to safeguard human rights. The Republic of Moldova reiterated its determination and commitment to human rights as a Member State of the Council. The international community needed to focus on preventative actions. The Moldovan Government was prepared to join in efforts to ensure the immediate protection of those suffering from violence. The approach to human rights needed unity and firmness. The Republic of Moldova welcomed the dramatic changes in North Africa and Middle East. It also welcomed the reports on Syria and Libya which were prepared despite the lack of cooperation by the Governments in Tripoli and Damascus. The Moldovan delegation supported the establishment of an office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunis and welcomed the regional office set up in Cairo. They were satisfied that the High Commissioner had referred to violations of criminal and humanitarian law in South Kordofan and welcomed a call for an investigatory panel. On combating terrorism, the Republic of Moldova called on effective cooperation and coordination to warn of terrorist threats. The Republic of Moldova had enacted measures and laws to protect human rights in its fight against terrorism.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that the food crisis in the Horn of Africa and the aggressive imperial powers with military designs were the most pressing challenges to human rights. Cuba asked why the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had not engaged in food distribution to save lives. Cuba condemned terrorism in all its forms and called for the immediate liberation of five Cuban individuals detained in the United States on anti-terrorism laws. Cuba said that soverengity was coming up against enormous challenges.

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For use of the information media; not an official record