Human Rights Council
24 March 2014
Holds General Debate on Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
The Human Rights Council in its midday/afternoon meeting held a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, as well as a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing reports on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, said that they highlighted the issue of settlements, which, together with settler violence, were at the core of many of the human rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Despite repeated calls on Israel to cease settlement activity, their construction continued with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians. Ms. Pillay remained deeply concerned by the situation in Gaza where violence was on the increase. Lack of accountability was another key concern.
Palestine and Syria spoke as concerned countries. Israel was not present in the room.
In the general debate that followed, speakers noted that the overall situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had not improved and therefore remained a matter of proper concern to the Human Rights Council. Despite many calls and efforts by the international community, including the Council, the grave violations and aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people continued in a culture of impunity. The situation of Palestinian prisoners was of great concern for many speakers, who noted the inhuman conditions under which they were held, especially the vulnerable groups, including women and children. The continued construction of settlements in Palestinian territory and the policies of dispossession, eviction and construction of the separation wall on occupied land were illegal under international law and were damaging efforts to reach peace.
Several speakers expressed great concern about the European Union’s decision to speak about the occupied Palestinian territories under agenda items 2 and 4, which reflected a reward for Israel’s return to the Human Rights Council. The situation should be dealt with under the fixed agenda item 7.
Speaking in the discussion were Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Yemen (on behalf of the Arab Group), Iran (on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement), South Africa (on behalf of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum), Ireland, Morocco, Algeria, Indonesia, Cuba, Russia, China, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Oman, Sudan, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Senegal, Malaysia, Yemen, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Slovenia, Portugal, and Luxembourg.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: World Jewish Congress; AL-Haq, Law in the Service of Man; United Nations Watch; Amuta for NGO Responsibility; International Commission of Jurists; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Press Emblem Campaign; Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Society of Iranian Women Advocating for Sustainable Development of Environment; Union of Arab Jurists; Le Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut; Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; European Union of Jewish Students; and Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.
In the general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, speakers said that democracy, development and human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that the promotion and protection of human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. Delegations expressed grave concern about the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and were in particular concerned about the proliferation of new and more restrictive legislation in several countries. They stressed the responsibility of States to protect all citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and said that this was not a question of values, but a question of international law. Other issues of concern raised in the discussion included acts of reprisals against human rights defenders and members of civil society, violence against women and girls, extreme poverty, and discrimination against women.
Speaking in the discussion were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Greece (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Germany, Algeria, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, China, Austria, France, Kuwait, Morocco, Viet Nam, Egypt (on behalf of group of countries), Iran, Council of Europe, Netherlands, Slovenia and Tunisia.
Action Canada for Population and Development; Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation; Amuta for NGO Responsibility; Press Emblem Campaign; British Humanist Association; Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy; International Buddhist Relief Organisation; International Humanist and Ethical Union; Amnesty International; World Barua Organization; International Muslim Women Union; Liberation; Alsalam Foundation; United Nations Watch; Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development; France Libertes (joint statement); Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme; Action internationale pour la paix et développement dans la region des Grands Lacs; Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik; Word Muslim Congress; Indian Council of South America; Touro Law Centre; and Organisation mondiale des associations pour l’éducation prénatale also took the floor.
Speaking in right of reply were Russia and Nigeria.
The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 25 March, when it will hold a high-level dialogue on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/25/38).
The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on implementation of the recommendations contained in the report (A/HRC/22/63) of the independent international fact-finding mission on the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/25/39).
The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions S-9/1 & S-12/1 (A/HRC/25/40).
Presentation of Reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced four reports on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. The High Commissioner’s sixth periodic report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories highlighted issues of concern and set out recommendations to the main duty bearers, namely Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza. The report on the status of the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the implications of Israeli settlements on human rights of the Palestinian people addressed continued Israeli settlement activity; settler violence and accountability; Palestinian detainees, including children in Israeli custody; and the responsibilities of businesses to respect human rights in relation to the settlements. The report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, highlighted the impact of the settlement-related activities and planning policies of Israel on Palestinians’ human rights and stressed the almost complete lack of accountability regarding settler violence. The report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan contained information about the implementation of resolution 22/17.
Ms. Pillay outlined some of key concerns and recommendations and said that all the reports presented today highlighted the issue of settlements which, together with settler violence, were at the core of many of the violations of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Despite repeated calls on Israel to cease settlement activity, their construction and settler violence continued with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians. The High Commissioner remained deeply concerned by the situation in Gaza where violence was on the increase, and where the continuing Israeli blockade, coupled with the recent destruction of most of the tunnel network with Egypt, had led to a significant deterioration of economic and social rights in Gaza. Another issue was lack of accountability and the High Commissioner called for prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigations into allegations of killings, and called for implementation of the recommendations made by the Turkel Commission. Israel should take concrete steps and measures in this regard without delay, while the Palestinian leaders should address the absence of accountability, particularly by security forces. In closing, Ms. Pillay expressed her satisfaction at endorsement of the Guidance Document on Integrating Human Rights into the Palestinian National Development Plan, and at Israel’s re-establishment of relations with the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the High Commissioner and expressed gratitude for her efforts to defend the cause of human rights and the rights of Palestinians. Palestine said that item seven of the agenda on the Occupied Palestinian territories showed that the Council looked at human rights issues. Palestine suggested spelling out the concept to clarify the discussion and to carry out a study of the systematic violations taking place in Israel, which was otherwise considered to be an oasis of democracy. Reports claimed that 95 per cent of Israelis believed that Israel practiced racism, including against Ethiopians, Arabs, and Sephardic Jews. The international community should understand what was happening in Israel, for example the assassination in Ramallah of three young Palestinians after an attack had been carried out by settlers. The media had also documented rocket launches and other incidents. Those responsible for violations in Israel should be made accountable. Palestine hoped that Israel would become a State that respected human rights.
Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said that 47 years had gone by since Israel had occupied the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights and the situation was getting worse. The occupation continued and was taking great strides and the Judaisation campaigns in Jerusalem were taking feverish pace. The settlers harassed the Palestinians and the holy sites on a daily basis. Israel continued to deprive prisoners of their right to receive visits from their relatives. The international community was a witness of the blatant human rights violations by Israel and by its discriminatory and racist policies. Despite the current situation, Israel, continuing to strengthen its occupation, was blatantly violating the principle of sovereignty of peoples, and called into question their right to control their resources which was an inalienable right. Occupation would not bring peace to Israel. Israel had to realize that the only path for peace was the respect for international legitimacy. Syria challenged the Human Rights Council and reminded it that simply condemning Israel, and the indifference of so many States that supported Israel, would only encourage Israel to continue implementing these practices and believe it was above the law and above accountability.
General Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed its historic commitment to the struggle of the Palestinian people to realize peace, freedom and justice and recognized their right to self-determination on the basis of the borders of June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The African Group called for an immediate end to Israel’s settlement campaign in the West Bank, to its blockade of the Gaza Strip and to the detention, imprisonment and collective punishment of thousands of Palestinians. Israel must abandon its settlement policies. The African Group also expressed grave concern about the inhuman conditions under which Palestinian political prisoners were being held. The international community must do more to manifest the collective international support towards a just resolution of the Palestinian question.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed its incomprehension at the European Union’s decision to speak about the occupied Palestinian territories under agenda items 2 and 4, which was perceived as a concession to Israel for its return to the Council and would only further encourage Israel’s violations of international law. Agenda item 7 was an integral part of the Human Rights Council’s programme of work and should remain a fixed item on both the General Assembly and subsidiary bodies until the end of the Israeli occupation. The Organization called for a Commission of Inquiry into the arrest and imprisonment by Israel of some 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967.
Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed great concern about the European Union’s decision to speak about the occupied Palestinian territories under agenda items 2 and 4, which reflected a reward for Israel’s return to the Human Rights Council. The situation should be dealt with under the fixed agenda item 7. Through colonial expansion, collective punishment, the continued building of the separation wall, and policies of racial segregation, Israel continued to violate the rights of Palestinians. Israel claimed it had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip but it continued to subject it to an unjust blockade, and the Arab Group called for its immediate end.
Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, underscored the need for the international community to provide continued support to assist the Palestinian people to achieve their aspirations, including the inalienable right to self-determination. The Non Aligned Movement took note with appreciation of the reports presented today and agreed that Israel as the occupying power was bound by the provisions of international law in this regard. The settlements and the destruction of property were illegal under international law as they were changing the demographic profile of the occupied West Bank; they must be stopped.
Brazil, speaking on behalf of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum, said that the new mandate holder, like his predecessor, must be sensitive to the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. They were concerned about the facts presented in the reports of the Secretary-General and High Commissioner and stressed that the settlement activity must be stopped and this illegal form of occupation must be reversed. The economic and social conditions of the population of Gaza were of great concern and Israel should lift the blockade immediately.
Ireland noted that the overall situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had not improved and therefore remained a matter of proper concern to the Human Rights Council. All human rights violations, by any party, should be open to scrutiny in this debate and in the Council more generally. The continued construction of settlements in Palestinian territory and the policies of dispossession, eviction and construction of the separation wall on occupied land were illegal under international law and were damaging efforts to reach peace.
Morocco said that the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was deteriorating on a daily basis because of the systematic violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinians, and this was well documented. Israel was called upon to abide by its commitments. The reports made it clear that violations were occurring and detailed measures were being adopted in and around Jerusalem to eradicate its religious and historical background.
Algeria reiterated the importance it attached to agenda item 7. Algeria expressed concern about attempts to undermine and further weaken the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel was not paying attention to various United Nations resolutions and systematically worked to violate international human rights law and international humanitarian law, particularly the fourth Geneva Convention which was entirely applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Indonesia said the Secretary-General’s report again confirmed continued flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Indonesia was concerned by reports of Israel’s continued settlement expansion despite multiple calls by the international community. As an occupying power Israel was obliged to protect the Palestinians and their property from violence by settlers and to ensure accountability. There was great concern about the growing trend of undermining agenda item 7 of the Council.
Cuba said the Special Rapporteur’s report clearly set out violations of the human rights of the people of Palestine by the Government of Israel, and also demonstrated that the Israeli Government continued its aggressive policy towards the occupied Palestinian territories; its actions showed a distinct lack of respect for the Human Rights Council. Israel was applying a policy of genocide to the people of Palestine. It continued to use armed force against the civilian population, including women, children and the elderly. The situation of the occupied Syrian Golan continued to be a concern, and Israel continued to threaten Syrian citizens. Israel must withdraw from the Syrian Golan.
Russia said it fully supported a political and diplomatic solution of the Palestinian question and supported a duel-State solution, as discussed at the recent visit to Moscow in January by the President of Palestine. Russia opposed unilateral acts of force by Israel, in particular the expansion of its settlements. Russia further urged private contractor firms operating within the borders of the occupied Palestinian territories to demonstrate corporate social responsibility. It urged Israel to comply with the resolutions of the Human Rights Council.
China said the international community expected the realization of peace between Israel and Palestine, which was a core issue in the Middle East. China had always supported the cause of the Palestinians and the establishment of a sovereign State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Last year the President of China set out four proposals towards the resolution of the issue, and reaffirmed that negotiations were the only way to realize peace between the two parties. The priorities were for Israel to stop building settlements, lift its blockade of Gaza, solve the problem of Palestinians in detention, and stop violence against civilians.
Maldives strongly condemned the continued systematic violence against the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying power. Despite many calls and efforts by the international community, including the Council, the grave violations and aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people continued in a culture of impunity. Maldives was deeply concerned by the situation of Palestinian people detained and imprisoned by Israel, especially the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.
Saudi Arabia said that despite dozens of international binding resolutions and efforts, Israel continued to place itself above the law. Was it imaginable that in the twenty-first century a country occupying territory and violating international humanitarian law and international human rights law existed? How many years had to elapse before the international community took the courageous step to put an end to that? It was deplorable that Israel had boycotted this extremely important meeting and this showed how much disregard it had for the international community’s efforts.
Kuwait said that the reports made it very clear that there had been systematic violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, and that the blockade on Gaza continued. In Gaza measures for collective punishment were being taken which exacerbated the situation of the Palestinian population. These violations and practices were illegal under international humanitarian and human rights law and served as a major stumbling block to peace in the region. Israel had decided to build further settlements despite the appeal of the international community for which it had shown contempt.
Mexico reaffirmed its commitment to supporting an agreement in the Middle East of two States living side by side with internationally recognized borders as provided for in a series of United Nations resolutions. Mexico expressed concern about the expansion of Israeli settlements, the acquisition of land by force and other actions which had led to the degradation of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and exacerbated the situation. Israel had a duty to the Palestinian people, in particular to guarantee them access to education, healthcare, and adequate housing. Mexico appealed to the Government of Israel to freeze its expansionist policies and recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Venezuela regretted the European Union’s decision not to engage with the issue of the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories under agenda item 7, but to instead raise it under other agenda items. There was an absence of tools to persuade Israel to end its violations against the human rights of the Palestinian people. Venezuela strongly condemned the Israeli Government for its actions in the Syrian Golan. The excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army and border police in the West Bank was also strongly condemned, having led to many deaths and injuries.
Egypt said it felt the pain of the Palestinian people as they continued to suffer from the injustices caused by the Israeli occupation, without the international community putting an end to it. The matter required international will and determination from the Human Rights Council to stop the actions of Israel. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was deteriorating as a result of Israel’s blockade. Egypt had taken action to end some illegal activities to close some of the tunnels, as was its sovereign right, but nevertheless continued to help its brethren in Gaza.
Turkey said that the status quo in Palestine today was simply not sustainable. Despite outright condemnation, illegal settlement activities, which impaired the territorial integrity and contiguity of the State of Palestine, continued. These activities also involved the issue of impunity of Israeli settlers. The situation of Palestinian prisoners was another major cause for concern. The plight of the Palestinians suffering from restrictions in the Gaza Strip should also not be lost sight of.
Qatar condemned the persistence of the Israeli occupation. Israel was continuing its racist, expansionist and aggressive policy which constituted a flagrant violation of international law and international resolutions. The crimes against humanity of the unjust blockade of the Gaza Strip were condemned. This was against moral and humane standards and was a violation of international law and custom. Women, children and elderly persons were dying due to lack of medicine and food products. The international community was called upon to put an end to this illegal blockade.
Tunisia drew the attention of the Council to the fact that the discriminatory laws and policies adopted by Israel since its creation had been exacerbated in recent years. Tunisia was surprised to see that some States and organizations consistently denied the need for agenda item 7. The position adopted by these encouraged Israel to continue its discriminatory policies and exacerbated the impression of the Palestinian people that it was the policy of double standards that prevailed when Israel was described as a democratic State.
Sri Lanka underlined the need to adhere to the allocated agenda item when addressing human rights issues in the Council. It reiterated the call on Israel to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip in the framework of Security Council resolution 1860 of 2000. Sri Lanka encouraged both the Israeli and Palestinian parties to exercise utmost restraint for the sake of the safety of civilians and the greater goal of peace. Sri Lanka remained hopeful that both Israel and Palestine would utilize the opportunities presented this year to achieve a historic peace agreement in the interest of their future generations.
Iran said that settlement-related activities were at the core of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan. Iran strongly condemned Israel’s persistent colonization and unrelenting violence, terror, provocation and incitement against Palestinian civilians and their property, including homes and mosques. Iran expressed serious concern that the European Union delivered their statement under agenda items 2 and 4 which not only undermined the credibility of the Human Rights Council but also emboldened Israel’s regime to continue to disregard the basic rights of the Palestinian people.
Oman said the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was deteriorating day by day in full view of the international community. It was due to acts by the Israeli Government that were in full violation of international law. The Special Rapporteur Richard Falk referred to this with great courage in his reports and deserved thanks. Israel should exist side by side with an independent Palestinian State in line with the borders of 1967.
Sudan said that Israel was colonizing Palestinian territories and had been doing so for several decades. At present, there were more than a million Israelis that lived in settlements constructed illegally on Palestinian territory. Reports clearly showed that Israel was continuing its violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The suffering of the Palestinians continued daily, based on Israel’s policies of arrests and settlements, among others. All countries had to respect human rights, including the right to self-determination.
Libya said that for six decades the Palestinians had been suffering because of the Israeli occupation. Israel’s policies were based on the confiscation of territory, including the destruction of houses and construction of settlements, as well as the deprivation of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. The blockade on Gaza, a barbarous aggression and a threat to international peace and security, was condemned.
Bahrain stressed the violations committed against Palestinian children. Since the occupation, Israel had continued its policy of discrimination against Palestinians. The policy of racial discrimination was reflected in Israel’s practices. There were two laws that were applied to Israelis and Palestinians separately. All United Nations bodies had confirmed the legal responsibility of the occupying power concerning children and the application of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately Palestinian children had been suffering in the detention centres of Israel.
Jordan said Israel continued its human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in particular Jerusalem, which was confronted with ongoing attempts to Judaize the city. Buildings had been destroyed, and monuments and religious vestiges – both Christian and Muslim – had been attacked. Israel persistently flouted all instruments and covenants related to the matter. Jordan continued to try to thwart Israel’s measures and to support Arab inhabitants in remaining on their lands, as strengthened though an agreement signed between the King of Jordan and the Palestinian President last year.
Senegal denounced continued settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories in flagrant violation of international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. Senegal reiterated its support for the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and a two-State solution along the 1967 border lines with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and appealed to Israel for an end to the illegal settlements, to fully respect the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to fully cooperate with the Council.
Malaysia regretted that the European Union States had deliberately chosen to voice their concerns about the issue under other Council agenda items, which was unjust and unfair in many ways. Israel continued to flout and violate international human rights and humanitarian law with absolute impunity. If the persecutor was not Israel but some other State, the international community would without hesitation label its actions not only crimes against humanity but ethnic cleansing. Israel must not be further encouraged to continue its violations.
Yemen said the situation required that the Council and the international community condemn Israeli settlement activities, as well as other violations against the Palestinian people and their property. The settlements policy constituted an attack to Palestinians’ fundamental freedoms, a challenge to the international community, and a stumbling block to the peace process. The Council should endeavour to protect the rights of Palestinians.
Lebanon insisted upon the importance of this agenda item and that it should remain a standing item until the end of the Israeli occupation. Israel was deceiving itself if it believed that it could maintain the status quo and continue the violations of Palestinians’ rights. The wall constituted a violation of international law and one day would come down on the heads of those who had constructed it. Lebanon called on Israel to put an end to the occupation, to pave the way for the return of refugees, and to release all prisoners.
Bangladesh said that developments in the region, combined with an unlawful blockade, had created a serious emergency situation threatening the entire Palestinian population. Gaza remained occupied due to the control of borders, airspace, coastal waters, and periodic military incursions. The Council and the International Court of Justice had all confirmed that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and other settlement-related activities in the occupied Palestinian territory were illegal under international law.
Uruguay said it was particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as the situation of children under the Israeli occupying authority. It called on Israel to refrain from its policy of expanding settlements. A peaceful solution to the conflict could only happen when the violence stopped and respect was shown to international law. Uruguay was convinced that the Palestinian people – just like the Jewish people – had the right to live in peace in a recognized territory free from attacks.
Slovenia appealed urgently for the Palestinian and Israeli peace process to continue. Slovenia fully supported the current negotiating process under United States auspices. Respect for justice, human rights, humanitarian and international law were the cornerstones of peace, and Slovenia called on Israel and Palestine to adhere to them. The new mandate holder must address human rights violations regardless of who committed them; and all parties were expected to fully cooperate with him or her, including in allowing access to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Portugal said it continued to follow closely the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. It hoped that a just and lasting settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be reached as early as possible in order to achieve a viable two-State solution. Portugal called on all parties to comply with international standards and fully respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
Luxembourg said it was understandable that the security and well-being of the Israeli people was at the forefront of the Israeli agenda but the security and well- being of the Palestinian people could at the same time not be overlooked. Luxembourg called for a freeze in the construction of illegal settlements, and an end to the destruction of Palestinian homes and seizing of their land, particularly in East Jerusalem. The violence of rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip must also end.
World Jewish Congress said that the Council should foster dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding. The agenda surrounding the Palestinian question was not conducive to dialogue and the Council had produced a long list of resolutions condemning Israel. The Council should rescind this agenda item. When a Special Rapporteur encouraged the United Nations to play a “crucial role” in a “legitimacy war” against a Member State, promoted boycotts, and wielded loaded words such as “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”, the stakes for the legitimacy of the Council itself became too high.
AL-Haq, Law in the Service of Man said that during the last seven months of United States-led negotiations, the Israeli Government had advanced plans for more than 5,000 Israeli settlement housing units in the West Bank. Al-Haq expressed deep regret at the European Union’s position not to participate in today’s general debate.
United Nations Watch reminded the Council that when agenda item 7 was created, it had been criticised by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. United Nations Watch recognised the countries which had made it clear that this item went against the principles of the Council.
Amuta for NGO Responsibility said that European Governments provided an estimated 100 million to non-governmental organizations active in the Arab-Israeli conflict under the banner of human rights. Many of these organizations lacked the competence or capacity to implement the human rights related projects for which they were funded.
International Commission of Jurists said 10 years after the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territories was unlawful; States and international organizations had failed to take effective measures to hold Israel accountable. Israel must dismantle the wall and provide reparation to victims. At the same time Palestinian armed groups must renounce all direct or indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, speaking in a joint statement, said the occupying power Israel owed the Palestinian civilians protection as provided under the Geneva Convention, yet so far it had persistently and systematically violated those provisions. The occupying power was attempting to undermine agenda item 7 in a bargaining process apparently supported by an entire group of countries who abstained from the discussion on the item in clear contravention of their obligations.
Press Emblem Campaign denounced harassment of media workers in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. There had been an unprecedented escalation of violations against journalists by the Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. Press Emblem Campaign also strongly condemned the growing number of violations against women journalists in the West Bank and Gaza.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that the current settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories was illegal and directly violated the provisions of treaties endorsed by Israel’s Government. The Human Rights Council should take immediate measures to ensure the liberty of Palestinian people.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the city of Beit-ul-Moqaddas (Jerusalem) was one of the holiest places respected by all Abrahamic religions. The organization rejected the new United States’ plan of replacing Jordan with international forces in Eastern Beit-ul-Moqaddas. The mandate should be given to Islamic States under the presidency of Palestine.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights welcomed the emphasis in the report on apartheid and segregation and said that the Council should investigate the practices and policies of Israel aiming at apartheid and segregation and take practical measures for the implementation of the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Society of Iranian Women Advocating for Sustainable Development of the Environment said that the effects of conflict were particularly nefarious on children. Recalling the existence of international instruments that established penalties for those violating the rights of the child, the Society proposed a number of measures to ensure the application of article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in conflicts.
Union of Arab Jurists said that the occupying authorities in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria violated international humanitarian law. Settlements were multiplying and villages’ names were changing, all in violation of Security Council resolutions. Prisoners were treated in an inhuman manner. There were reports of war crimes committed by targeting Palestinian people.
Le Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut expressed support for a State of Palestine with full membership to the United Nations. The organization also referred to the situation of Tamil people living in internal displacement in Sri Lanka and expressed concern about the activities of the military.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said since 1967 Israel had demolished nearly 29,000 Palestinian homes, businesses and livestock. The motivation to demolish those homes was purely political and racially informed, to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether – “the quiet transfer” – or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves.
European Union of Jewish Students said this continued to be the only permanent agenda item solely dedicated to discussing the affairs of one country. Did the young Afghan girls denied the right to education because of their gender not warrant attention? The Council was urged to stop biased agenda item 7, which caused offence to the many silent victims across the globe who continued to suffer human rights abuses.
Commission of the Churches on International Affairs spoke with concern about the 20 per cent of the Palestinian population living in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel who had been held in Israeli prisons at one point in their lives. It raised the plight of children, minors, people in administrative detention and detainees who were seriously ill without access to medical care.
General Debate on Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the effective and full implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had yet to be realized: wars, conflicts, exploitation, and discrimination in many forms continued unabated, and at the same time, selective approaches pursued by members of the international community exacerbated the plight of millions. The manifestation of collective hate crimes, which led to violence against followers of certain religions, including Islam, was on the rise.
Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern about acts of reprisals against human rights defenders and condemned all attempts to limit freedom of expression, association and opinion. The European Union was seriously concerned about some countries where Government actions led to the death of human rights defenders. International human rights law clearly stated that all people were entitled to their human rights without discrimination and States were responsible for protecting all citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons; this was not a question of values, but a question of international law.
United States expressed grave concern that legislation in many States restricted the fundamental freedoms and human rights of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Laws criminalizing homosexuality were on the books in at least 79 countries; of particular concern was the proliferation of new and more restrictive legislation in countries such as Russia, Nigeria and Uganda. Those laws unduly limited the right to freedom of expression and created a climate that encouraged violence, targeting persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Germany said that it was worrisome to witness that some countries had gone back on the general promises in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Germany noted that the criminalisation of sexual orientation or gender identity marginalised lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups and made them more vulnerable. Equally worrying were, laws which went as far as criminalising activism concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.
Algeria said that the Vienna Conference marked an important point of the international community to ensure the protection of human rights for all without discrimination. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action illustrated the priority given by States to ensuring the equal participation of men and women. Algeria had tabled a draft resolution calling for a discussion on the rights of children. Concerning the right to self-determination, Algeria was convinced that the Vienna commitments should be implemented in a comprehensive way.
United Kingdom said that human rights were universal and should apply equally to all people. Under international law, all people were entitled to enjoy their rights without discrimination, including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, who continued to experience abuses of their human rights in all regions of the world. The delegation was concerned at developments to further criminalise homosexuality and indicated that rendering consenting same-sex relations illegal was incompatible with international human rights laws.
Indonesia said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action showed how all human rights were interrelated, and the importance of international cooperation in assisting States to fulfil their human rights obligations. Indonesia consistently asserted that the global protection and promotion of human rights should always be carried out through capacity strengthening and mutual dialogue. Indonesia reaffirmed its commitment to promoting democracy in Asia and around the world.
Russia said when the Human Rights Council was created as an alternative to the extremely politicized Human Rights Commission, the principle of cooperation was firmly enshrined. It could be said today that there had been successes in the Council’s work. Its mechanisms and accumulated experience enabled it to react to situations in a timely manner. However, Russia was greatly concerned that more and more States were using the Council as a forum to achieve their own short-term goals which had an extremely negative effect on its work.
Brazil said violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were challenges faced by all countries in all regions of the world, including in Brazil. In recent years Brazil had made significant progress on tackling those challenges and spoke about its legislative and anti-discrimination actions, including establishing civil marriage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples. The Council must strive to advance its progress achieved in fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
China said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had been guiding the development of many States for over 20 years. Extreme poverty hindered people’s full enjoyment of human rights and the international cooperation needed to regard development as one of the priority tasks and find development models that fit each country. No one should impose their own model of human rights protection or use human rights to push their own agendas.
Austria said that democracy, development and human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that the promotion and protection of human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action should be a reminder of responsibilities towards victims of human rights violations and those who sought protection, accountability and redress for the injustices they had suffered. States had the responsibility to ensure that those who spoke up for human rights were protected.
France said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recalled that the promotion and protection of human rights was a priority question for the international community. France regretted to note that despite this, fundamental human rights continued to be considered as taboo and non-subject for certain States around the world. States had the primary responsibility and obligation to respect and ensure respect of the fundamental rights of all their citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Kuwait reaffirmed that human rights were universal and indivisible. Kuwait had signed many international instruments on human rights and led among Arab States on the Human Development Index. Kuwait supported the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the eradication of poverty and the promotion of gender equality, amongst others.
Morocco said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were a pillar of the international legal arsenal of human rights. In Algeria, freedom of expression, demonstration and peaceful assembly were suppressed and the Algerian authorities had been suppressing dissidents. Article 19 of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action provided that persons from minorities had the right to enjoy their own culture and this was not possible in Algeria. Algeria, unfortunately, systematically violated human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Viet Nam shared the common understanding of the need to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as their aspiration to participate in social life without discrimination. In Viet Nam, all persons were treated equally regardless of any status. Viet Nam urged the international community to continue open and genuine dialogue on combatting discrimination and hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons while bearing in mind national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of a group of 128 countries, encouraged States to take effective action to protect the victims of terrorism through the adoption of an international framework. This would reflect the obligation of States to protect and secure the right to life, to investigate and prosecute individuals engaged in incitement, preparation or commission of terrorist acts, and to provide reparation to victims. Egypt encouraged States to consider moving towards enshrining the rights of victims of terrorism in an international framework of principles.
Iran regretted that the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, as well as the consideration of traditional and religious backgrounds, were not given enough consideration. Iran regretted the polarization of debates in United Nations human rights fora, which breached the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity. The Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action also called upon States to refrain from any multilateral measures that created obstacles to trade relations.
Council of Europe said it continued to support its members in implementing the provisions of its convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and noted that the conclusions of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, were aligned with the provisions of the convention.
Netherlands said that the key achievement of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was to provide a boost to civil society and human rights defenders. Such organizations had expanded at national levels, but today were facing violence and reprisals. All States needed to be accountable to their civil society in their approach to the implementation of their Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
Slovenia was very concerned that human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity continued to occur in all regions of the world and that anti-homosexuality laws or even the death penalty had been enacted in some countries. Different forms of criminalization, discrimination or even violence based on sexual orientation and gender equality were not acceptable according to the international human rights standards that bound all countries.
Tunisia said that the important role of human rights defenders and civil society organizations was reaffirmed by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. At the same time, concern had been expressed about the increasing harassment and retaliation against them. Tunisia fully condemned all restrictions on the activities of civil society organizations and all acts of aggression against and pressure put on journalists and media workers in general.
Action for Population and Development said that the Vienna Declaration placed individuals at the centre of development and recognised every person’s right to make free and informed decisions regarding their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health. Despite much progress made for greater respect, protection and fulfilment of individuals’ sexual and reproductive rights, challenges persisted.
Organisation pour la communication en Afrique et de promotion de la cooperation economic international said that despite efforts by international organizations and non-governmental organizations in the Tindouf camps in Algeria, the Saharawi population retained there continued to live in wretched conditions. Most persons were anaemic, malnutrition rates were very high, and there was a lack of basic services.
Amuta for NGO Responsibility said that the Vienna Declaration stated that there was deep concern regarding forms of discrimination and violence to which women continued to be exposed. The 2011 Arab Spring had sparked optimism that there would be profound democratic change in the Middle East, but these changes had not materialised. Aside from Israel, women today in the region continued to enjoy few rights.
Press Emblem Campaign indicated that since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration, the killing of media workers as well as other forms of interference had increased dramatically. Dozens of journalists had been injured while covering the violent demonstrators in Kyiv, many of them deliberately targeted although they were clearly identifiable and not participating in the protests; these cases had not yet been investigated.
British Humanist Association said that traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism were a continuing scourge in societies worldwide and were manifested in the social and systematic denial of women’s enjoyment of human rights. Neither cultural prejudices, State passivity nor traditional values could ever legitimise inadequate legal systems that violated core principles.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that many children in India remained at risk of abuse or deprivation of education. Most of them were malnourished or victims of trafficking. A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund highlighted that Dalit girls suffered high primary school exclusion. Child labour was identified as another key hindrance to children attending school. According to the International Labour Organization, India had the highest number of working children in the world.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action strongly reaffirmed the necessity to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their participation in public life. Unfortunately, their rights and freedoms remained at risk in India, and a majority of them lived under the poverty line. Indigenous peoples in India were victims of gradual displacement from their own lands, and India should return land ownership to them.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that women continued to be discriminated against in the area of justice. Women still suffered from legalized discrimination in many Islamic States. These trends were expanding to Western States, where Muslim populations more and more tried to enforce Sharia law, including in the United Kingdom and in Denmark. International Humanist and Ethical Union urged those States to take effective measures to combat this trend.
Amnesty International remained concerned about the vulnerability in which thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent had been living for more than a decade. Since 2000, a number of administrative, legislative and judicial decisions had had the retroactive effect of depriving Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality.
World Barua Organization said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recognized that gender-based violations and all forms of sexual harassment were incompatible with the human worth and dignity of the person. India’s human rights situation had taken a serious turn for the worse and the Council was asked to urge India to ensure the protection of women from gender-based violence.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called on all States to take effective legislative, administrative or other measures to prevent, terminate and punish acts of enforced disappearance. However, the practice of enforced disappearance was an enduring legacy in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Liberation said that despite the significant economic growth over two decades, the majority of the Indian population still wallowed in extreme poverty. Behind India’s economic strength there were 300 million poor people who lived on less than $1 a day. The Council should take resolute and action-oriented steps to combat extreme poverty around the globe. Time had come for the international community to exclusively focus on the realization of the rights to food and health.
Alsalam Foundation called to the Council’s attention the continued breaches of the Vienna Declaration by Bahrain, including specific violations of women’s rights. Alsalam Foundation noted with concern that Bahrain maintained reservations to several articles of the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and urged it to pass national legislation which equally protected all women from crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and marital rape.
United Nations Watch recalling human rights violations in several parts of the world, wondered why the Council was not discussing a resolution on Russian violations in Ukraine; or the situation in Venezuela; or Turkey’s ban on twitter; or executions, religious persecution and arrests of human rights defenders in Iran? While there was only one resolution on the situation of Iran, which was weak, the Council was discussing five resolutions on Israel, was this proportional?
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said it had participated in the Universal Periodic Review for the United Arab Emirates and noted several positive developments such as the right to participate in cultural life, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and freedom of scientific research and creative activity.
France Libertes: Foundation Danielle Mitterrand said in a joint statement that all people had the right to self-determination and to freely pursue their economic and social development. Western Sahara remained under the domination and control of Morocco which continued to violate the human rights of the Sahrawis, including the violation of their right to self-determination.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had affirmed that all human rights were interdependent, indivisible and interrelated and that it was the duty of States to promote and protect those rights.
Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grands Lacs said that the majority of Sahrawi people rejected separatism requests by a minority supported by Algeria. Morocco had called on the Human Rights Council to pressure the Polisario Front and Algeria to participate actively in negotiations on the basis of the autonomy project.
Sudwind said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recognized the universality of human rights, and no excuse such as cultural diversity or disparity justified that human rights could be suspended. Sudwind was concerned about informal discussions to remove the phrase “child early marriage” from the draft resolution on children’s access to justice.
World Muslim Congress said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon States to abrogate legislation leading to impunity or derogating human rights in cases of a state of emergency. In Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, India had enacted draconian laws that facilitated human rights violations and provided total impunity to armed forces, which routinely killed people and evaded justice.
Indian Council of South America said that the high level plenary to be masqueraded as a world conference on indigenous peoples was quickly being recognised by indigenous peoples as an attempt to demean and diminish their rights, given the denials of equal rights and self-determination, as well as the unequal participation.
Touro Law Centre said that the drafting committee of the Vienna Declaration had witnessed the efforts of some States and Jewish non-governmental organizations to include concern for anti-Semitism somewhere in the 150 paragraphs adopted. The Chair of the Committee had recognised that anti-Semitism was too controversial and references had been omitted.
Organisation Mondial des associations pour l’éducation prénatale said that the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir were so massive that, in order to give legal cover to the actions of its armed forces, the Indian Government had enacted a series of laws contrary to international human rights standards that facilitated human rights violations with impunity.
Right of Reply
Russia, speaking in a right of reply, was astonished regarding mistaken comments made by the United States. Russia was bound by a series of anti-discrimination obligations under the United Nations. Before making invented and unsubstantiated allegations, the United States should pay attention to its own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legislation.
Nigeria, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the statement by the United States with respect to anti-same sex marriage laws. The statement was misleading and suggested that the law infringed on various fundamental freedoms. The law was only aimed at preventing same-sex marriage in the country, and was passed by an overwhelming majority.
For use of the information media; not an official record