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Address by Ms. Flavia Pansieri United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council

Introduction to reports of the Secretary-General
and the High Commissioner under item 10
(Afghanistan, Libya, Guinea, Somalia and CAR)

Geneva, 26 March 2014

Mr. President,
Members of the Human Rights Council, 
Excellences,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to now introduce several reports prepared by the High Commissioner which fall under agenda item 10 (in numerical order).

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (A/HRC/25/41)
During her visit in September 2013, the High Commissioner heard that many Afghans, especially women, fear that achievements made in the protection and promotion of human rights will be increasingly at risk. Indeed, the upcoming elections and the scheduled conclusion of the security transition create an environment of uncertainty, including for human rights.

The High Commissioner’s report covers key developments in the human rights situation throughout 2013, particularly on the protection of civilians in armed conflict; violence against women; the treatment of conflict-related detainees; transitional justice and human rights aspects of peace and reconciliation processes; and support to national human rights institutions.

On the protection of civilians, the latest UNAMA/OHCHR report shows an increase of 14 % in civilian deaths and injuries in 2013 - with 8,615 civilian casualties, including 2,959 deaths and 5,656 injured people.

Violence, discrimination and harmful practices against women remain systemic and entrenched. The latest UNAMA/OHCHR report on the implementation of the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, released last December, found that although Afghan authorities registered more reports of violence against women over the past year, prosecutions and convictions remained low, with most cases settled by mediation.
UNAMA has also documented Afghan forces’ continued use of torture and ill-treatment against conflict-related detainees in detention facilities, and denial of detainees’ access to legal counsel.

The work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission remains crucial – and requires compliance with the Paris Principles governing the appointment process, funding, and gender balance among staff members. The Commission continues to need strong international and national support in order to continue its highly regarded work.

Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on technical assistance for Libya in the field of human rights (A/HRC/25/42)
The High Commissioner’s report on Libya reflects the human rights-related challenges and needs in  the country, as well as the technical support and capacity-building activities conducted by OHCHR through the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

17 February marked the third anniversary of a revolution which ended an era of large-scale human rights violations under the former regime. Since then, the authorities have repeatedly asserted their commitment to human rights, and the report notes positive developments, including a Law on Transitional Justice that established a Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission and a victims’ reparations mechanism.

Laws criminalizing torture, enforced disappearances and discrimination, enhancing the independence of the judiciary, and abolishing the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians were also adopted. In addition, last month, the Council of Ministers adopted a Decree to Address the Situation of Victims of Sexual Violence.

The report notes the security-related challenges faced by the Government, including with respect to preventing and promptly investigating attacks against judicial personnel – such threats recently caused the suspension of work at courts and prosecution offices in Benghazi. Thousands of persons remain deprived of their liberty since the 2011 conflict, without access to due process, amidst reports of torture and ill-treatment. The situation of migrants and internally displaced persons also remains of concern. Women continue to face challenges in ensuring their participation in public processes.

Last month, OHCHR also raised concerns with respect to measures which may unduly restrict freedom of expression and opinion, such as the amendment to the penal code which imposes prison sentences on any person “undermining the February 17 revolution” or “publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities”.

The report further sets out specific assistance provided on establishing a legal framework compliant with Libya's international obligations, strengthening national human rights bodies, ensuring effective administration of justice, developing comprehensive transitional justice processes and ensuring the protection of several social groups.

As Libya now engages with its constitution drafting process, I urge its authorities to firmly enshrine human rights principles in the legal system, and to ensure the inclusion of and attention to the rights of all segments of society, including women and minorities.

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/25/43)

The report on the Central African Republic sheds light on the human rights context, which has unfortunately continued to deteriorate rapidly and drastically since the finalisation of the report.

Last week, the High Commissioner was in Bangui where she met various interlocutors, including the President, and was able to get a brief but shocking overview of the situation.

Although large-scale killings of the type that took place in December 2013 and January 2014 appear to have halted, primarily thanks to the presence of the MISCA and operation Sangaris in known hot spots, inter-communal tensions and violence remain intense. People continue to be killed, tortured, mutilated, burned and dismembered by spontaneous or organised groups, in particular the Anti-Balaka.

Around 15,000 Muslims are reportedly trapped in Bangui and other areas in the North, North-West and South of the country. While they are protected by international forces, they remain in an extremely dangerous and untenable situation. Within their capacity, MISCA, the Sangaris and humanitarian agencies are grappling with enormous challenges, including access to the interior of the country, the prevailing insecurity and the sheer dimension of the country. They are also caught between unwillingly aiding the “cleansing” of trapped Muslim populations or not being able to ensure their safe return home.
A major overarching challenge in the Central African Republic is the persistent absence of State control, law and order - which has resulted in widespread impunity. There is no coherent army, no police, no justice system, hardly any place to detain criminals.

The economy has collapsed as well as basic services. Health care and education are virtually non-existent in most of the country. There is also a food crisis which is likely to worsen, due to lack of funding, difficulties of access and the upcoming long rainy season.

The response of the international community to the crisis has been slow in comparison to other situations in the world.

That said, the primary responsibility to respond to the crisis lies with the CAR authorities, and OHCHR stands ready to assist the Transitional Government to build and strengthen the capacity of governmental institutions to promote and protect human rights.

The most urgent priority is to ensure immediate protection. But the report also flags the need for measures to address structural and longer-term issues, in particular to:

  • restore confidence and reconciliation between the communities;
  • fight impunity, including through transitional justice mechanisms;
  • build the capacities of the judicial and penitentiary systems;
  • reform the security sector; and
  • demobilize militias and other armed groups.

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2127, OHCHR is supporting the work of the international commission of inquiry on the CAR, established for a period of one year. The Commission’s first field visit started on 10 March 2014. OHCHR is also supporting the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, who conducted her first mission from 5 to 14 March 2014 and reported to this Council today. These are two challenging mandates which need full support from the international community.  

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights on the situation of human rights and the work of her Office in Guinea (A/HRC/25/44)

The report on Guinea acknowledges the Government’s efforts in the security sector reform through the adoption of a national security policy, following a participatory process. The Government also adopted measures to improve conditions of detention, including through the construction or renovation of some prisons. It also renovated infrastructures of the judiciary, the police and the gendarmerie.

Nevertheless, outstanding challenges continue to affect the overall human rights situation, especially in the fight against impunity and the strengthening of rule of law institutions. A dysfunctional justice system continues to severely erode the public trust. Other major human rights challenges include the persistence of discrimination and violence against women, as well as inter-communal tensions that may undermine the search for peace and security.

The report outlines OHCHR technical assistance and capacity-building provided to the Government and other national counterparts. In the context of the 2013 elections, by establishing human rights monitoring networks, OHCHR contributed to early warning responses and prevention of human rights violations.

The report stresses the need to reinforce Guinea’s legal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, and to increase support to fight growing poverty and social exclusion.

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Stand-alone high-level interactive dialogue on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights (A/HRC/25/45)    

The final report responds to a request from this Council for a summary of the key conclusions of the stand-alone high-level interactive dialogue that was held on 24 September 2013. The report also includes recommendations on finalizing and implementing the post-transition human rights road map at the national and subnational levels in Somalia and on the realization of human rights in Somalia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This concludes my introduction of our country reports under item 10.

Thank you for your attention.

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