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Human Rights Council concludes General debate on Human Rights situations that require the Council's attention

Human Rights Council 

19 September 2013

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting today resumed its general debate on human rights situations that required the Council’s attention and heard from a number of non-governmental organizations.

During the general debate speakers expressed concerns about a number of human rights issues.  Issues raised included the conduct of law enforcement agencies, arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of children, internal conflict and external military interventions, institutional racism, and discrimination against women.  Speakers also highlighted in their statements situations related to economic sanctions and unilateral measures, detainees subjected to human rights violations, global surveillance systems of personal communications, anti-terrorism laws and the situation of indigenous peoples.

Taking the floor during the general debate were: Liberation, Institute for Women’s Studies and Research, Sudanese Women General Union, General Arab Women Federation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Agence International pour le Développement, Comité international pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (CIRAC), Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, International Committee for the Indians of the Americas, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Muslim Congress, Human Rights Law Centre, Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society, Prevention Association of Social Harms (PASH), International Buddhist Relief Organisation, Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique International (OCAPROCE), Auspice Stella, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, and Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty.

China, Egypt, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Japan, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Sudan, Nepal, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Russia and Armenia spoke in a right of reply.

A summary of the first part of the debate is available here.
The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Reviews of Germany, Djibouti, and Canada.


Liberation said that Indian law enforcement agencies had committed human rights violations in the ongoing armed conflict in eastern India.  The grave human rights and security situation in India posed great threats not only to the internal security of India but had regional implications as well.  The Council had an important role to play in holding the parties to the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir accountable.

Institute for Women’s Studies and Research expressed concern for the situation of children in Bahrain, who were subject to mistreatment and held for long periods of detention.  The Bahraini authorities needed to look into those cases and immediately halt arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of children.

Sudanese Women General Union said that it aimed to empower Sudanese women through civil society partnerships.  Sudan had been engulfed in internal conflicts and many had suffered, including women and children.  Civilians had reportedly been executed by armed groups; perpetrators should be held accountable.  The violence had forced the displacement of thousands of persons. 

General Arab Women Federation said there had been many historical attempts to destabilize Syria.  The international community had acknowledged that massacres and acts of violence by extremist groups in Syria formed a true humanitarian catastrophe.  The manipulated and biased media had fanned the flames of destruction.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy highlighted the discriminatory treatment of the Dalits and other lower castes in the Hindu system.  The Indian Government had to realize that institutional racism could not proceed in today’s world.  The Council had to call on the Government to take positive legal, administrative and social steps.

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement spoke about the situation of Sahrawi women and girls living in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.  The fundamental rights of those women and girls were being violated and they were victims of all forms of violation and harassment.  Nobody was aware of the violations; the only record was testimonies from women and girls themselves.

Comité international pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (CIRAC) presented the testimony of Lamani Abdellah, a Moroccan citizen who was detained for a quarter of a century by the Polisario Front of the Western Sahara, along with other civilians.  The organization appealed to the United Nations to create an international commission to investigate the horrors of the south Tindouf province of Algeria. 

Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs said that many people in Pakistan were deprived their fundamental human rights.  A particular tragedy in Kashmir was the situation of people who lived near rivers that had been diverted to hydroelectric generators.  The organization also said that in several parts of the country security forces terrorised progressive parties, civil society activists and human rights defenders.

International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (Switzerland) drew attention to indigenous peoples in Asia who were threatened by violations caused by extractive industries which were exacerbated by the repression of activists and indigenous leaders.  Conflict with Governments and armed forces had led to the displacement of peoples which led to deprivation and other violations. 

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said there was no reliable evidence in history that any “swift and surgical” campaign by foreign forces had brought peace to a country in the long run.  The Syrian conflict had spilt into neighbouring countries and any miscalculated political and military action would only embolden and strengthen terrorism.

World Muslim Congress said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been denied the right to self-determination for the last six decades.  Enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial executions were committed in the Indian occupied territory.  The people of Jammu and Kashmir demanded action against the perpetrators of atrocities. 

Human Rights Law Centre expressed deep concern about the unlawful and punitive actions taken by Australia against asylum-seekers, who were held in detention conditions that did not meet international standards.  The Council should hold Australia accountable for any violation.  Australia had the responsibility to ensure that all procedures were in line with its international obligations.
Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society said that the imposition of sanctions against Iran by the United States and the European Union on the pretext of nuclear activities were completely contrary to basic human rights principles, as they affected a major part of the everyday private and social lives of the people.  The Iranian people were the main targets of the sanctions.     

Prevention Association of Social Harms said economic sanctions on Iran included sanctions on Iran’s banking industry; the sanctions had unpleasant effects on the daily lives of Iranian people, particularly on their health.  The Council was asked to, through removal and reduction of those types of sanctions, help Iranian women, children, senior citizens and the sick to enjoy their right to health and medical care.  

International Buddhist Relief Organization said that the issue of extractive resource development in indigenous peoples’ land and territories had to be based on full recognition of indigenous peoples’ inherent rights to their lands, territories and national resources.  Land was closely linked to them and had to be protected from arbitrary development projects, including those financed by international financial institutions.   

Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran said financial and trade sanctions had extensive effects.  The Institute said there was a lack of convincing arguments for the implementation of coercive unilateral measures by one of several members of the United Nations against other members, as a human rights principle.  The Institute welcomed the conclusions of the expert debate on the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment said that economic sanctions sought to apply economic changes to promote political change.  Sanctions had effects on vast parts of the planet and slowed development sectors.  Countries struggling with deep rooted problems as a result of sanctions would not be able to protect the environment.  Iran’s efforts to develop renewable electricity and other industries had been affected.  The Society said the links between sanctions and human rights needed to be more transparent. 

Association for Progressive Communications (APC), in a joint statement, expressed grave concerns about new threats to democratic principles and the rule of law and revelations about global mass surveillance systems.  The Association stressed the need to protect rights both online and offline, and informed that a set of principles on the application of human rights to the surveillance of personal communications had been developed by a number of non-governmental organizations.

Organization pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale said that the human rights situation in Tindouf was worrying.  People held in Tindouf were hostages of the authorities of the camp and Algeria and could not be called refugees.  Shanty towns and unhealthy living conditions persisted.  The people held in Tindouf should be authorized to go back to their families in Morocco.

Auspice Stella said that the legacy of Pinochet still existed in Chile.  The anti-terrorist law was mainly used against the Mapuche activists.  Many of them were harassed, faced death threats or were forced into exile.  The militarization of the Mapuche people was worrying.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that Baluchistan was permanently in a state of siege.  The toll of the organized and systematic “dirty war” conducted by Pakistani authorities against Baloch had exceeded  700 deaths during the past three years.  A systematic attempt was being made to make Baloch a minority in their own land, and loot and plunder of Baloch resources continued.

Recontre Africaine said it hoped the joint initiative between the United States and Russia to resolve the threat of chemical weapons in Syria would succeed.  It was regrettable that efforts to settle the law and order crisis in Sri Lanka had not seen results.  The organization also expressed concern about the situations in the Central African Republic and Mali.

Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty urged the Human Rights Council to turn its attention to China’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners which was one of the world’s largest human rights crises.  The Party said that China’s alleged systematic extraction of human organs from Falun Gong practitioners for transplantation was a major offence against human conscience.  The Party further claimed that there were thousands of reports of nerve-damaging chemicals being used against the Falun Gong practitioners.

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and some non-governmental organizations had made groundless, politically-motivated accusations against China.  The Chinese Constitution fully guaranteed the freedom of expression but also required its citizens to abide by the law.  China took an open and transparent approach to drafting its Universal Periodic Review report, in which it sought the collaboration of non-governmental organizations.  The rights of ethnic minorities were also respected and guaranteed.  The violent, criminal activities in Tibet had been instigated by separatists and had clear political motives.  China had to act in order to protect the interests of the people.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, said that its Mission in Geneva had recently organized a side-event in collaboration with Egypt’s National Human Rights Council and civil society in order to explain the current situation in the country through a public forum.  Allegations of torture and arbitrary detention were not true.  Egypt said it would not engage in a naming and shaming exercise, but instead invited speakers to obtain accurate and reliable information before making groundless allegations against States.  The interim Egyptian Government was fully committed to the road map it had recently put in place and was working towards reinstating democracy.  The empowerment of women was also top of its agenda.       

Venezuela referred to a statement made by the United States and said it was in line with its aggression against the people and democratic institutions of Venezuela.  The imperialists continued their campaign to discredit Venezuela by referring to alleged interference by the Executive Power eroding judicial independence.  That was false.  The Government of the United States was not and could not be a universal judge on human rights given its dark human rights record that included openly promoting the destabilization of countries, the invasion of sovereign States, the use of drones to execute individuals without warning and the illegal deprivation of freedom, which continued in Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  Venezuela urged the ex officio interventionist to abandon its policy against Venezuela.

Ecuador responded to a statement made by Switzerland concerning its new widely debated communications law which would allow for a democratic management of radio signals and quality information for the benefit of marginalised groups, as recommended by Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue following his visit to Ecuador.  The law was based on human rights, contrary to previous instruments based on a commercial perspective for mass media.  Ecuador was concerned by the proliferation of extreme right parties in Switzerland and the promotion of xenophobic discourse against ethnic minority, such as the Roma.  Before criticising other countries Switzerland should adopt measures to combat extremism and address racist discourse in its own territory.  

Uzbekistan, speaking in a right of reply, responded to statements made by the United States and others that it said were biased and based on falsehoods, not facts.  In Uzbekistan, the rule of law was being strengthened, and representative organizations, particularly faith groups, were active.  Uzbekistan was developing a national strategy against abuses in detention in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.  There were more than one thousand media organisations active in the country.  People were prosecuted for crimes according to evidence, not the background of the accused.  Uzbekistan noted with concern the continued use of the death penalty in certain states of the United States, and instances of racial tension and discrimination in Belgium and Norway.

Eritrea, speaking in a right of reply, said it was dismayed by the acrimonious statement of Lithuania on behalf of the European Union, and the statements of Germany and Austria, which said Eritrea was not cooperating with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea.  Eritrea said the matter had already been discussed, and it further objected to the appointment of country-specific mandate holders on grounds that they were politicized and confrontational.  That view was becoming common in the regional and international blocks to which Eritrea belonged.  Eritrea remained engaged in constructive dialogue and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

Zimbabwe, speaking in a right of reply, said that it rejected as totally unwarranted the insinuations made by the United States, United Kingdom and Germany concerning its human rights situation and the recently concluded harmonized elections.  Zimbabwe’s elections had been observed by representatives of the African Union, the United Nations and other invited countries and organizations, and the verdict of all observers was that the elections had been peaceful, free, credible and a true reflection of the will of the people.  Zimbabwe called on the United Kingdom, the United States and their allies to immediately and unconditionally lift all illegal sanctions imposed on the country so that its people could determine their destiny unfettered. 

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said that that the figures mentioned by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were totally groundless.  Japan had faced the facts of history and had expressed its feelings of sincere remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions towards other Asian States during the Second World War.  Under its policy of dialogue, Japan remained committed to resolving all outstanding issues of concern.  To that end, it had engaged in continuing discussions.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea should also take concrete action to resolve its outstanding issues; it should listen to the international community when it highlighted the serious human rights violations in the country; and should act immediately to guarantee its people’s right to food.  

Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, said that the United States did not have the moral authority to judge anyone in the Council and was the greatest threat against human rights worldwide; their drones had killed thousands of innocent people.  What lessons could a country give that stated such executions were legal, or continued to carry out indiscriminate torture, and the forced feeding of prisoners?  The United States was hypocritical to advocate for freedom of expression given the ferocious human hunt it had subjected Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to in reaction to their revelations.  The system of global espionage should be condemned since it violated not only States’ sovereignty but also the right to privacy of many people.  The only explanation for allegations regarding the accidental deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero on 22 July 2012, as well as other groundless accusations, was the intention of the  United States and its Cuban mercenaries to discredit Cuba. 

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the statement made by Armenia.  It was well known that the Nagorno Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions of Azerbaijan had been occupied by the Armenian forces and remained under military occupation.  United Nations Security Council Resolutions 822, 853 and 884, which were adopted in response to the illegal use of force and the occupation, reaffirmed both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.  The illegality of separatist entity and structures, established by Armenia on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, had been repeatedly stated at the international level.  The irresponsible attempts by Armenia to propagate the unlawful separatist entity established in the occupied territories lay at the heart of the conduct of illegal visits to the Nagorno Karabakh region, including misleading citizens of foreign countries to visit the occupied territories without prior authorization. 

Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that the United States had made unfounded allegations in its statement and actually more than 130 religious organizations were registered in Turkmenistan, according to recognised international norms.  Unregistered activity by religious groups had been decriminalised.  Wider supervision by civil society of the penitentiary system was ensured by the Criminal Code of 2010.  Efforts to strengthen Turkmenistan’s human rights mechanisms included an expert-level seminar held earlier in the year, regular dialogues with the International Committee of the Red Cross on urgent humanitarian matters within the penitentiary system, and regular prison visits by the organisation. 

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the statements of a number of speakers at the Council, notably Canada.  Iran considered that any attempt by certain members to politicize the work of the Council was not shared by a large number of delegations. Baseless allegations against Iran should be looked at in the light of the double-standards of accusing States.  In the spirit of mutual respect and constructive dialogue Iran regretted that such statements were made in the Council.  Active cooperation was the only way in which the promotion and protection of human rights around the world could be achieved.

Sudan, speaking in a right of reply, invited the European Union and Canada to acknowledge the progress made in the general human rights situation in Sudan, which was clearly reflected in the report of the Independent Expert.  It also invited those countries to focus more closely and strongly condemn the severe violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in the North and South Kordofan states by the Revolutionary Front, instead of disseminating ill-founded information about the indiscriminate bombing of civilians.  Sudan was characterized by religious tolerance and the peaceful coexistence of religions, including Christianity.  

Nepal, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the statement made by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, which it said lacked objectivity.  Nepal’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights remained as unflinching as ever and Nepal was fully committed to creating the necessary environment and infrastructure for the respect, protection and enjoyment of human rights in the country.  Nepal had always respected the verdicts of its Supreme Court and was committed to ensuring the independence of the judiciary.  

Iraq, speaking in a right of reply, said the statement made by earlier by a non-governmental organization was not based on accurate facts but on external monitoring, press reports and documents written by the International Crisis Group.  The statement therefore misinformed rather than contributed to the Council and turned it into a forum to settle political accounts.  The current Government had been elected by internationally-monitored elections.  Such statements needed a minimum degree of credibility which involved checking facts on the ground, as some organizations did.  The organization had not visited Iraq despite the fact that Iraq had issued a standing invitation to special procedures.  Iraq had taken several measures to address corruption, but suffered gravely from terrorism, which undermined human rights.

Sri Lanka, speaking in a right of reply, responded to references to it made by Germany, the United States, and Ireland.  Elections to the Northern Provincial Council were to be held later this week but Germany had chosen to discredit the process and prejudge its outcome.  Sri Lanka was dismayed by the lack of objectivity displayed by Germany, and surprised that the United States called on Sri Lanka to set dates for the relevant Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, when in fact Sri Lanka had already updated the Council on its proactive engagement with the mandate holders.  Concerning alleged reprisals against human rights defenders, Sri Lanka said it was still awaiting the receipt of specific information to verify such allegations.  Concerning Ireland’s statement, Sri Lanka said it denied allegations of human rights violations against prisoners detained in connection with terrorist activities, but noted that the treatment of those incarcerated in connection with the conflict was subject to judicial scrutiny.  Consular access was consistently provided to the Irish Embassy in the case of an Irish national detained for links to the Tamil Tigers.

Russia, speaking in a right of reply, said the European Union, Germany and Austria were misinformed regarding their statements on Russian laws, and said it supposed that the States received their information from bloggers.  There was no legal discrimination against sexual minorities in Russia: rather the law in question was a legitimate child protection measure.  Before putting forward fabricated allegations about what was happening in Russia; the Czech Republic and Switzerland should look at the human rights situation in their own countries.  Russia expressed concern, for example, about discrimination against Roma in the Czech Republic, overcrowding in Swiss prisons, and the effective prohibition on asylum seekers from appearing in some public places in Switzerland.

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that it would like to correct assertions regarding the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh in statements made by Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan’s assertion that there were Security Council Resolutions which named Armenia was wrong; Azerbaijan should read its documents more carefully.  Visits by foreign nationals to the region were important for resolution of the situation and it was insulting to those dignitaries who had visited for Azerbaijan to imply that they had been deceived in some way.

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said that Armenia had fallen short of addressing Azerbaijan’s arguments and stressed that foreign nationals who illegally visited the occupied territories without prior authorization from the authorities of Azerbaijan would be denied entry to Azerbaijan.

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that Azerbaijan had already been urged to abandon counter-productive attempts to hinder foreign nationals from visiting Nagorno-Karabakh.  Instead of directing accusations at Armenia, Azerbaijan should focus on the numerous human rights violations occurring in its territory.

For use of the information media; not an official record