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High Commissioner presents update on her office’s activities at opening of twenty-sixth session of Human Rights Council

MORNING

10 June 2014

Council Holds a General Debate on Annual Report of the High Commissioner and Reports of Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its twenty-sixth regular session, hearing an address from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in which she updated the Council on her Office’s activities.

Ms. Pillay, in her opening statement, her last as High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the increasing requests from the Security Council for information and advice on human rights issues were most welcome and demonstrated heightened recognition that human rights were fundamental to peace, security and development, and testified to the stature that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had developed. The High Commissioner also referred to human rights situations of concern. Issues referred to include the death penalty, violence against women and discrimination.

In the general debate that followed, speakers commended the High Commissioner and her Office’s efforts in following up human rights issues around the world, as well as the High Commissioner’s leadership in the successful outcome of the treaty body strengthening process. The Universal Periodic Review had been a successful mechanism to address gaps in human rights protection through constructive dialogue. The importance of preserving impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the work of her Office was noted. It was agreed that action on impeding human rights crises was still too slow. The appeal made to put an end to increasing hate rhetoric in certain States was echoed. It was also noted that believing in human rights did not mean imposing concepts that were not in line with countries’ heritage and this should not be used to interfere in internal affairs.

Speaking in the general debate were Brazil, Greece on behalf of the European Union, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, Indonesia on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Germany, United Kingdom, Namibia, France, Czech Republic, Mexico, Republic of Congo, United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Montenegro, Chile, Indonesia, China, Cuba, Morocco, Algeria, Japan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Switzerland on behalf of a group of 46 States, Italy, Maldives, Ireland, India, Romania, Kuwait, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Gabon, Botswana, Qatar, Egypt, Denmark, Norway, Tunisia, Syria, Thailand, Switzerland, Slovenia, Portugal, Australia, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Bahrain, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Uganda, Angola, Oman, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Paraguay, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Moldova, Uruguay, South Sudan, Armenia, Malaysia, Belgium, Libya, Nepal, Spain, Honduras, Poland, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The Council of Europe also spoke.

The following non-governmental organizations addressed the Council: Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Women’s Human Rights International Association (joint statement), United Nations Watch, CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Russian Peace Foundation, General Arab Women Federation, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Alsalam Foundation, Verein Sudwind Entwicklingspolitik, International Muslim Women’s Union, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, and World Muslim Congress.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. This afternoon, the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Opening Statements

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council, in opening remarks addressed organizational and procedural matters. The draft programme of work was examined during the organizational meeting on 26 May 2014, it provided for organizing interactive dialogues with 20 mandate holders and thematic mandate holders. There would be three panel discussions, annual thematic debates and several general debates. The programme of the session was very full. Six Special Procedure mandate holders would also be appointed. On decisions and resolutions, it was recalled that the deadline was fixed for Thursday, 19 June, at 1 p.m. The draft programme of work of the session was adopted.

NAVI PILLAY, High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her last update to the Council as High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that when first addressing the Council in 2008, she had pledged to embark on an open-minded, frank, and reciprocally reinforcing interaction, based on the premise that the credibility of human rights work depended on impartiality and commitment to truth, with no tolerance for double standards. The creation of the Council in 2006 brought strength and flexibility to the international human rights system. The Universal Periodic Review had been admirably universal, impartial and non-selective, and had had remarkable success in encouraging States to recognise and resolve gaps in human rights protection, with new emphasis on dialogue with civil society. In recent months, the Security Council had paid increasing attention to human rights and requested several reports on the situations in the Central African Republic, Syria, Libya, Mali and South Sudan, briefings on Ukraine and South Sudan, and the Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was invited to brief the Council members under the Arria formula. These increasing requests from the Security Council for information and advice on human rights issues were most welcome and demonstrated heightened recognition that human rights were fundamental to peace, security and development, and testified to the stature that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had developed. Regrettably, the international community remained unable to consistently react strongly and quickly to crises, including situations of grave human rights violations with high potential for regional overspill.

With regards to a mission to South Sudan, the High Commissioner was shocked by the targeted ethnic attacks and by the evident risk of widespread famine, to which the leaders on both sides of the conflict seemed almost indifferent. In the Central African Republic, inter-communal tensions and violence remained alarmingly widespread. The relentless violence in Syria was a tragedy for the Syrian people and a tragic failure for the cause of human rights. It was deplored that repeated calls to end the violence and seek a just and peaceful solution had been ignored by the Syrian Government and by some opposition groups, and that external powers continued to fuel this violence. The High Commissioner remained deeply troubled by death and injuries resulting from excessive use of force by Israeli security forces and concerned by continued demolitions and evictions of Palestinians. In Thailand, the military authorities were urged to respect democratic values and the country’s human rights obligations. The High Commissioner had engaged the Government of Venezuela concerning the deaths of 42 individuals since February, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and engagement.

There had been regular progress in the struggle against the death penalty. Concern was expressed with regards to Iran, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, in this regard. The High Commissioner condemned in the strongest possible terms the dishonourable practice of punishing women and girls for exercising their fundamental right to make personal decisions regarding marriage, employment, finances and all other issues. The Office had constantly sought to address discrimination, but it had been undermined by extremist political rhetoric. Recent increase across the political spectrum in several States in Western Europe of a discourse rooted in anti-immigrant and racist sentiment and religious intolerance were disturbing. The High Commissioner also referred to the Secretary-General’s Rights Up Front Plan of Action, the United Nations response to the crisis in Ukraine, the Office’s activities in Sri Lanka, and follow-up to the Council’s resolution on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Regrettably, civil society activists and human rights defenders remained under threat in many societies. There was a fundamental need for more consistent application of human rights in the economic sphere.

Every State had an interest in detecting gaps in its human rights protection. That was the role of human rights mechanisms and institutions, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Yet, the very careful reporting and analysis done by the Office and its calls for investigations into allegations of abuse had frequently been greeted with stone-walling and denial. The Office was not in the way, it was a friend that was unafraid to speak the truth. It did not only seek to help States identify gaps in their human rights protection, it also assisted States to repair them.

General Debate on Annual Report of High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Brazil reiterated its commitment to the promotion of all human rights, with active interaction with civil society, and highlighted recent legislative achievements concerning slave labour and the protection of the rights of children and teenagers. Extraterritorial actions for the purposes of surveillance, data collection and interception of communications were of concern to the Brazilian Government; Brazil was committed to freedom of opinion and expression. Brazil had taken initiatives to ensure that the upcoming World Cup would be one of fight against racism and the full protection of the rights of children and adolescents and, in the spirit of the Cup, Brazil would present a draft resolution on the right to health and sports.

Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, commended the High Commissioner for her leadership in the successful outcome of the treaty body strengthening process. The European Union underlined the importance of preserving impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the work of her Office. The European Union welcomed the regular reporting of the United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, while regretting the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that remained precarious due to illegal acts by armed separatists. The European Union also referred to the human rights situations in South Sudan, Thailand, Bahrain, Egypt and Sudan.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about systematic violations against the Palestinian people and called on the international community to take measures in this regard. Despite the legitimate expectations of developing countries, the right to development had not been adequately addressed in the report of the High Commissioner. Racist and discriminatory discourse in Western States was also a concern. While terrorist acts constituted one of the most flagrant violations of international law and endangered the stability of States and the international security, the Non-Aligned Movement regretted attempts to attribute this phenomenon to a particular group.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed concerns about the increase of a discourse rooted in anti-immigrant and racist sentiment and religious intolerance in several countries which had the potential to seriously undermine the fight against discrimination. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation welcomed the efforts of the High Commissioner to step up work to maintain the right to privacy in the face of governmental and corporate attempts to create a surveillance society via new technologies.

Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a successful mechanism to address gaps in human rights protection through constructive dialogue. The post-2015 sustainable development goals must ensure global partnerships and address the imbalance in power in global systems, including in economic ones. The African Group remained actively engaged on the situation in South Sudan and welcomed the recent signing of the agreement that would bring peace to this country.

Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said that its commitment to strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law was embodied in the establishment of a Commissioner for Human Rights for the region. It was imperative for the High Commissioner and her Office to continue to eliminate double standards from their work and pursue the principles of universality, non-selectivity and impartiality.

Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, thanked the High Commissioner and her Office for efforts in following up human rights issues around the world. The High Commissioner was thanked for drawing attention to increasing violations that Palestinians were subjected to, by Israelis. The Arab Group joined the appeal made to put an end to increasing hate rhetoric in certain States. It was also concerned about the current crisis that deprived people of their basic human rights. Believing in human rights did not mean imposing concepts that were not in line with countries’ heritage and should not be used to interfere in internal affairs.

Germany commended the High Commissioner and her Office on the strength of action put into the Rights Up Front Plan of Action. It was agreed that action on impeding human rights crises was still too slow. Sincere gratitude was expressed for the excellent and faithful cooperation extended by the High Commissioner and her Office towards Germany. It had been a pleasure to see how the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had gained in size and importance during the High Commissioner’s tenure.

United Kingdom remained extremely concerned about the critical human rights situations in Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The latest report from the Office of the High Commissioner on Ukraine was welcomed. The United Kingdom supported the call for the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with the international investigation that was mandated by the Council. The United Kingdom was concerned at the deterioration of the democratic environment in Thailand and called for a swift return to democracy. Tackling the issue of discrimination and violence against women and girls was a priority.

Namibia thanked the High Commissioner for her report and took note of the efforts to address human rights situations. Namibia remained concerned about the human rights situation in conflict contexts and condemned conflicts motivated by religious beliefs or inter-confessional reason such as those highlighted in the report. Namibia shared concern about religious intolerance, racism and xenophobic attitudes and called on all countries to show respect for the rights of all, as well as for the participation of civil society to ensure the rights of all.

France paid tribute to the work of the High Commissioner and her Office. Ms. Pillay had been at the forefront of many battles against discrimination and defended the rights of victims with passion and conviction. Violations, however, remained widespread such as in Syria but perpetrators should know that they would be made accountable sooner or later. France called for the immediate cessation of efforts to destabilise Ukraine and expressed concern about violence and recent clashes in the Central African Republic, as well as for the situation in South Sudan.

Czech Republic valued the impartiality and openness which had marked the tenure of the High Commissioner. In order to be a positive force bringing tangible human rights improvement, the Office must not be afraid of speaking the truth, however unflattering and disturbing it was. The Czech Republic also commended the swift reaction aimed at the de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine through a monitoring mission and welcomed Ukraine’s full cooperation and the Government’s effort to enact reforms and to promote a national dialogue.

Mexico was concerned about measures depriving individuals of their human rights and said that it was vital to overcome polarization and find agreements and reconcile different viewpoints. The death penalty was a form of barbaric punishment and Mexico joined the call of the High Commissioner on all States to suspend executions and establish a moratorium. Mexico condemned anti-migrant speeches and acts of violence against migrants. It stressed the need to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples and expressed support for the treaty bodies strengthening process.

Republic of the Congo thanked Ms. Pillay for her engagement on the promotion and protection of human rights in the world and noted the adoption of national legislation to combat discrimination and violence in several countries. The training and technical assistance provided by the High Commissioner and her Office to the judges and lawyers in the Republic of the Congo had greatly strengthened the protection of human rights in the country and it called for the extension of this assistance to members of the Parliament.

United States thanked the High Commissioner for her outstanding leadership and the numerous breakthroughs on critical human rights issues, such as the establishment of Commissions of Inquiry on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Syria, and focusing attention to the need to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ investigation in Sri Lanka signalled the importance of promoting justice, accountability and reconciliation and Sri Lanka should extend to the investigation its full cooperation.

Russia welcomed the steps taken during the High Commissioner’s tenure to enhance relations between States in the area of human rights and to improve the work of the Office, a complex task. Unfortunately, efforts notwithstanding, the human rights work and the work of the Human Rights Council remained marked by a high level of politicization. Flaws in the Office remained, such as geographical imbalance in staff, and programmes that were not always agreed on with States. Concern was shared on the human rights situation in Ukraine. The situation may turn into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Saudi Arabia reiterated that it had always unswervingly endeavoured to respect human rights at all levels, in keeping with the provisions of Islam. Since 2005, it had established a human rights institution and recently signed a memorandum of understanding for in-depth technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. Concern was expressed with regards to the situation of Palestinians and the international community was asked to apply pressure on Israel to move towards peace.

Montenegro noted its support for the High Commissioner’s work on the abolition of the death penalty. It commended all the countries that had made progress in the struggle against the death penalty. Montenegro shared disappointment with the failure for the cause of human rights in Syria. It was also concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Montenegro noted the support by the Office for the staff team in Sri Lanka. Montenegro strongly opposed discrimination in any form.

Chile condemned the odious events happening in Syria and the political impasse shown by the international community, which was facilitating the situation of impunity. Chile believed that there should be a commitment towards alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people. Chile noted the initiative shown by the High Commissioner in her visit to South Sudan, which attested to her will to provide the Council with greater visibility and a proactive image, in accordance with reality; to this end the Council would have to address conflict prevention among its main concerns.

Indonesia said that the cardinal principles of universality, impartiality and indivisibility for the work of the Council were clear. In order to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, the Council should stay true to its principles as well as search for more effective cooperation. Indonesia believed that the High Commissioner was in a good position to promote the implementation and fulfilment of the right to development and, in an increasingly interdependent world, cooperation and dialogue were needed in this regard.

China highlighted the efforts undertaken during the tenure of the High Commissioner noting, however, that improvements could be made. Among other areas, more attention should be paid to developing countries and social and economic rights, improving communication with Member States, and avoiding incidents of intrusion in domestic affairs. China was opposed to double standards in the work of the Office and hoped for the treatment of human rights issues in a balanced manner, avoiding the dedication of resources on issues in which there was no consensus among the international community. China stressed that assistance should only be provided with the consent of concerned countries.

Cuba recognized the commitment of the High Commissioner to carry out the work of the Office and the challenges that had put to test its capacity, neutrality and independence. Unfortunately, selectivity, double standards and politicization were again emerging in the work of the Human Rights Council and Cuba stressed that the Universal Periodic Review was an ideal mechanism to analyse human rights situations in countries and to promote international cooperation on an equal footing.

Morocco thanked the High Commissioner for the independence and neutrality of her Office and said that the number of invitations to visit received from countries was impressive. Ms. Pillay had managed to achieve progress in many thematic areas, such as the treaty bodies strengthening process, and Morocco stressed that those and other achievements would remain in the institutional memory of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Algeria said that the Universal Periodic Review needed to be governed by serene rules and should not be a place for sterile accusations. Treaty bodies and special procedures could only be credible if they conducted their work in an unconditional fashion. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights therefore needed resources for this and should address challenges such as racism, intolerance and xenophobia, but also, terrorism, the deterioration of human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the situation in the Western Sahara.

Japan thanked the High Commissioner for her leadership in the global promotion of human rights during her tenure. Challenges remained but Japan said that there was no doubt that human rights had been given prominence on the United Nations agenda during the High Commissioner’s tenure. Japan was committed to working closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the High Commissioner’s successor on the further promotion and protection of human rights across the globe.

Pakistan concurred with the High Commissioner’s reference to the heinous murder of Farzana Iqbal in the context of violence against women. Its Prime Minister had termed her killing as “brutal,” “totally unacceptable,” and ordered a prompt inquiry into the case so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice. Pakistan hoped that the Office would pay due attention to the use of armed drones and the possible deployment of lethal autonomous weapons in the context of human rights law as well as international humanitarian law.

Sierra Leone was concerned about the spread of terrorism in Africa and the rest of the world, where Boko Haram was unleashing terror in Nigeria and Al Shabab continued to strike in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya, while Al Qaida-linked Islamists were active in northern Mali. The delegation called on the international community to continue to cooperate and intensify efforts to combat terrorism in these countries.

South Africa attached great importance to the work of the High Commissioner, calling for greater visibility and resources for the realization of the right to development. The delegation remained concerned about human rights situations around the world which necessitated reflection and measures by the Council. No effort should be spared to ensure a political path supported by an international effort towards a Syrian-led negotiated political transition in Syria. South Africa also expressed concern about the situation of the Palestinian people.

Austria expressed concern about ongoing hostilities in South Sudan which had led to massive human rights violations. The Council needed to monitor the situation on the ground, like in the neighbouring Central African Republic where inter-communal violence remained preoccupying. The Council should deal more coherently and systematically with the issue of civil society space, noting the growing pressures, restrictions and reprisals confronted by civil society in many countries.

Republic of Korea expressed appreciation for the work of the High Commissioner thanks to which human rights had been mainstreamed in the United Nations system, and the nexus between human rights, peace and security and development had become strengthened and deepened. New mandates were being added every year on top of those already placed on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, so the financial and human resource constraints of the Office and the workload of the Council must be taken into consideration.

Switzerland, speaking on behalf of a group of 46 States, welcomed the positive steps of Bahrain to improve the human rights situation in the country and the creation of a number of new institutions, including the national human rights institution. Still, the human rights situation in Bahrain remained one of concern, particularly the insufficient accountability for human rights violations. The States stressed that all allegations of human rights violations must be adequately investigated, including by the newly established institutions.

Italy said that during its upcoming presidency of the European Union, Italy would maintain its priority to fight against the death penalty and would promote a global moratorium on executions that might lead to the full abolition of capital punishment. During its presidency, Italy would also support the eradication of female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriages and would address in detail the most serious country situations such as Syria and South Sudan, where credible reports confirmed human rights violations amounting to crimes of war and against humanity.

Maldives concurred that the Universal Periodic Review was universal, non-selective and an impartial mechanism and that it was the obligation of each State represented at the United Nations to maintain and adhere to it, and integrate the recommendations presented in the efforts to promote human rights in each country. Maldives reiterated the importance of retaining the agenda item on the plight of the self-determination and human rights of the people of the State of Palestine and other occupied territories.

Ireland agreed with the comment on the need to safeguard the Office from financial constraints or political influence. No State represented here could claim to be beyond reproach. The uncomfortable reality was that although there was commitment to respect and promote human rights, all at times failed to do so, in greater or lesser respects. The process of bringing human rights from the margins to the mainstream had been a long one and required advances in understanding of international law as well as practical challenges in the United Nations.

India thanked the High Commissioner for expounding her vision and priorities in the promotion and protection of human rights. India concurred that the Universal Periodic Review had had remarkable success in encouraging States to identify and resolve gaps. India had requested further information on the implementation of the Rights Up Front Plan, and this was still awaited. Given the lingering effects of the global financial crisis and its adverse impacts on human rights, it was imperative that the activities of the Office be balanced.

Romania thanked the High Commissioner for her comprehensive report and her extraordinary work carried out in the last six years in the service of the promotion and protection of human rights. Efforts to advance the human rights agenda throughout the globe had been particularly strengthened. The report presented showed that many current and future challenges existed. Romania was glad that the Ukrainian authorities had shown full availability in cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner.

Kuwait noted that the High Commissioner had referred to violations and assaults, perpetrated by the Israeli authorities against the Palestinian people. The High Commissioner had expressed agony vis-à-vis what was going on in Syria. Kuwait reiterated its request to putting an end to assaults against civilians. All parties were called upon to present humanitarian assistance. All perpetrators of human rights violations in Syria had to be held accountable. Kuwait welcomed the visit of the Office’s technical team to Bahrain.

Argentina commended the High Commissioner for her achievements during her mandate. The work of the Office required constant support for and from other actors. This had been achieved with impartiality and commitment to truth, with no tolerance for double standards. Argentina agreed that the war against terrorism could not be used to violate human rights. Argentina reiterated its conviction that the fight against impunity was vital. Financial situations or recessions should not affect human rights commitments.

United Arab Emirates commended the High Commissioner for the progress made in the sphere of human rights and shared concern about racial discrimination, religious intolerance and extremism. Challenges should not detract attention from progress made in certain areas under the leadership of Ms. Pillay and the delegation commended her initiative in providing technical assistance and capacity building following requests made by certain countries, and drew attention to the achievements of Bahrain in recent years, calling for continued cooperation in a climate of constructive dialogue.

Philippines acknowledged the efforts of the Office in organising consultations and engaging with regional actors and indicated that the international community should undertake more concerted efforts in order to address the situation of the rights of women and the protection needs of migrants in crisis situations. Philippines stressed the international responsibility to address the challenges brought about by climate change. It underlined the role of the Council as a useful platform for international cooperation, reaffirming the need of upholding the principles of universality, indivisibility and interdependence in its work.

Gabon thanked the High Commissioner for the clarity and exhaustive nature of her update. Faced with the deterioration of the human rights situation and many crises, only the determination of the international community to address the root causes underlying human rights violations could lead to positive results in the face of increasing violence and violations in many places. Gabon expressed concerns about the situation in the Central African Republic, the global struggle against poverty and inequality in the context of the post-2015 agenda, and the fight against racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.

Botswana said that the sentencing of a Sudanese women to death last month on allegations of apostasy and adultery, the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram militants in April, and the evidence of violence against women in Botswana showed that much remained to be done, everywhere. Botswana, like the rest of the international community, was seriously disturbed by the continuing human rights and humanitarian disasters in Syria, as well as in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, situations which it was hoped would be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Qatar expressed great appreciation for the unflinching efforts made by the High Commissioner during her tenure to promote human rights worldwide. Qatar shared the view that what was going on in Syria was an appalling humanitarian tragedy. The international community was called upon in a more serious manner to enhance accountability and prevent perpetrators from impunity. Violations by the Israeli occupying power referred to in the report of the High Commissioner were strongly condemned.

Egypt said that as far as what the High Commissioner had said about Egypt, it felt great disappointment. Taking into consideration the hopefulness that the Egyptian people felt and the not less important step of adopting the new Constitution, it had expected to receive a message of support from the High Commissioner during this stage of democratic change. Egypt considered that it had provided all the necessary information. The authorities were fully aware of the magnitude of the work before them.

Denmark said that over the past six years the High Commissioner’s leadership had been characterized by key qualities, such as balancing the diverse requirements of Member States while maintaining her independence. She had continuously demonstrated her ability to devote time to human rights issues most in need of attention and being immune to pressure while advancing key progressive issues. The High Commissioner had also demonstrated a combination of patience and perseverance, as well as passion and frustration, over inaction faced with human tragedies like Syria and South Sudan.

Norway said that while there were many reasons to celebrate the achievements of the High Commissioner and her Office, political and financial constraints continued to reduce its capacity to combat the serious gaps that still existed between the human rights commitments undertaken by States and the reality for people on the ground. To address this, Norway believed that it was particularly important to focus more on the chronic underfunding of the human rights pillar.

Tunisia thanked the High Commissioner in particular for her tireless efforts and unswerving devotion to the promotion and protection of human rights for all, all around the world. Tunisia expressed gratitude also for the High Commissioner’s support to the Tunisian people from the first days of the revolution, which had been decisive throughout the process of transition over the past three years. This support had been translated into numerous concrete initiatives undertaken by the Office in Tunis.

Syria said that it had not been enough for the High Commissioner to ignore the role of terrorists in Syria, she had put on equal par a sovereign State and terrorist armed groups. The reference to external forces and to foreign combatant forces was a late step and not enough. The High Commissioner continued to rely on biased accounts. It was clear that what went on in Aleppo was collective punishment imposed by terrorist groups. The High Commissioner had turned a blind eye on the most atrocious violations of human rights.

Thailand said that the prolonged political deadlock and the administrative vacuum lasting more than half a year had paralyzed Thailand, with the three branches of Government undermined by the increasingly volatile political situation. It was against such a backdrop that the military had had to step in and assume the administration of the country. A roadmap had already been announced, which included efforts for national reconciliation, the drawing up of a provisional constitution, and the holding of general elections under a democratic system which was accepted by all sides.

Switzerland was concerned about the coup d’etat in Thailand and in particular about arbitrary detentions. Regarding Ukraine, Switzerland, as the Chairman-in-Office of the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe, would continue to facilitate communication between different actors with the goal of promoting human rights in the country. Switzerland highlighted the importance of the protection of human rights in the economic sphere and underscored that States were obliged to prevent human rights violations committed by private sector actors.

Slovenia shared deep concern about the human rights violations in South Sudan that might amount to crimes against humanity. Slovenia was also deeply concerned about the situation of human rights in Sudan, in particular in Darfur. Women’s rights and the prevention of violence against women remained one of the priority areas for Slovenia, including at the current session of the Human Rights Council. Slovenia called on the Indian, Pakistani, Sudanese, Nigerian and other governments to persevere and strengthen their actions to prevent crimes against women in the future.

Portugal said that the situation in South Sudan required further urgent attention of the international community and the Human Rights Council and the authors of what might amount to crimes against humanity must be held accountable. Referring to the case of Meiram Ibrahim, the young mother facing flogging and the death penalty, Portugal called on the High Commissioner and her Office not to relent in upholding the fight for freedom of religion, individual self-determination and the active engagement towards abolition of the death penalty.

Australia welcomed the attention paid to human rights by the United Nations Security Council, including through briefings provided by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and called for deepening of this engagement. The situation in South Sudan and the volatile situation in Ukraine required further attention. Australia reiterated its commitment to combating sexual violence and its use as a weapon of war in armed conflicts.

Iceland said that the world needed the strong voice of the High Commissioner to hold Governments to account, to shed light on atrocities and abuses wherever they occurred, and to mobilize the international community to action. Iceland regretted that the Security Council was unable to address all aspects of the crisis in Syria, including referral to the International Criminal Court, and urged the High Commissioner and her successor to continue to focus on integrating gender perspective into all efforts in the field of human rights.

Sri Lanka said that Resolution 25/1, adopted with the support of less than half of the Council’s membership, challenged the sovereignty and independence of a Member State of the United Nations and violated principles of international law; it was inherently contradictory and based on profoundly flawed premises inimical to the interests of the Sri Lankan people. Its lack of clarity set a dangerous precedent and would destabilise the intricate balance in the home-grown process of national reconciliation.

Sudan said that the verdict of the Sudanese woman mentioned by the High Commissioner had been followed by a series of unfounded facts, disinformation and a negative media escalation. The said verdict was not a final ruling. The chances of revision or reviews still existed. The Sudanese Judiciary System was independent from any influence or interference from the Government or any other entity. Sudan shared concerns regarding emerging and alarming trends in some Western countries that voiced racist sentiments, anti-immigrant behaviour, and religious intolerance.

Bahrain welcomed the interest of the High Commissioner in a number of issues, in particular the right to development and the eradication of extreme poverty, among others. Concern about the lack of progress in Syria was noted. The international community needed to shoulder its responsibilities and take decisions without delay to come to a political solution to stop the bloodshed in Syria. There was concern regarding hate speech regarding migrants, and the discrimination to which they were subject.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed its strong reservation to parts of the statement by the High Commissioner. The United States and some other countries were leading efforts to denigrate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Those fleeing to the south were criminals who had committed crimes against their own country. Efforts to establish a human rights office in the north were seen as politicization and a politically motivated provocation.

Uganda commended the work of the High Commissioner for covering a wide range of human rights situations around the world. The protection of human rights and the centrality of the family as the nucleus of society were pivotal in Uganda’s Constitution and its foreign policy. Uganda strongly condemned the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The biggest challenge to the Human Rights Council now was how to avoid politicization when adopting country-specific resolutions.

Angola said that it supported efforts to find an equitable solution to the conflict in
the Central African Republic. The international community should try to pursue political solutions to various situations mentioned in the High Commissioner’s report. Angola was concerned about the violations of rights of human rights defenders, and was committed to protecting the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Oman expressed appreciation for the humanitarian efforts of the High Commissioner throughout her mandate and wished her success in her future work. The concerns she expressed about the situation of the Palestinian people were spot on and the Palestinian question in the Middle East was an example of suffering of an entire nation. Everyone in Oman enjoyed the protection of the State regardless of their race, religion, social or economic status and the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination were applied.

Nigeria viewed seriously the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram and said that terrorism had become a huge threat to political advancement, economic progress and social development. The world must come together to stamp out this menace. Nigeria urged all States to guard against all forms of racial discrimination and expressed its concern over the mounting cases of violations of the rights of irregular migrants. All States should abide by international humanitarian law and international best practices in the treatment of migrants.

Bangladesh highly appreciated the High Commissioner for her focus on the rising phenomena of racism against migrants and religious intolerance in the form of Islamophobia and shared her concern on extremist political rhetoric and hate speech by political leaders. It expressed concern at the indifference of the Council on the impacts of climate change and said that it was regrettable that, despite the concern expressed by the High Commissioner, this global phenomena had not found its adequate importance and budget in the work of the Office.

Paraguay commended and thanked the High Commissioner for her unwavering commitment during her mandate. The High Commissioner’s view was shared regarding benefits reaped by States through the Universal Periodic Review. Paraguay was committed to continuing to constructively cooperate with this and other mechanisms. Concern was expressed with regards to situations referred to by the High Commissioner. The international community was urged to work for peace. Paraguay supported the efforts of the Office to combat the death penalty.

Georgia thanked the High Commissioner for her recent visit and particularly thanked her for taking interest in displaced persons. The gravity of the situation had been witnessed during this visit. While witnessing the barbed fences along the occupation lines, the High Commissioner highlighted the devastating consequences of so-called ‘borderisation’. Georgia deeply regretted that the High Commissioner did not have access to the occupied regions of Georgia. The international community should not tolerate this deplorable policy.

Hungary said the Council had a crucial role to play in making prevention a reality. Prevention lay at the heart of the mandate of the Council and it had all the tools at its disposal which were needed to be successful. Hungary welcomed the rapid deployment of the human rights monitoring mission to Ukraine, which through its regular public reporting on human rights violations and developments and its valuable recommendations could make a significant contribution to preserving stability in the region and to avoiding a further deterioration of the human rights situation on the ground.

Israel differed with the High Commissioner over the geographic priorities in her report, but appreciated the High Commissioner’s integrity. Many of the countries most eager to criticize others were themselves the gravest violators of human rights. Diverting the focus was discrediting the work of the Council and was sending the message that the human rights of some were more important than the human rights of others. Israel firmly believed in the universality of human rights and was expected to be treated by fairness and equality at the Council.

Jordan expressed gratitude for the efforts made by the High Commissioner and her team over the past years. Jordan was alarmed about the situation of human rights in Syria and asked that ways be found to eliminate the suffering and human rights violations. Jordan condemned illegal settlements and the behaviour of the occupying power in Palestine. The Universal Periodic Review encouraged States to overcome shortcomings, and had the full support of Jordan.

Republic of Moldova stated that the successful outcome of the treaty body strengthening process and the steady operation of the Universal Periodic Review during the High Commissioner’s mandate had clearly enhanced coordination and increased synergies in the protection of human rights. The Republic of Moldova shared the High Commissioner’s view with regard to the space of activity of civil society activists and human rights defenders. It also recognized the progress made in the struggle against the death penalty, but work had to continue on advancing the cause of its abolition.

Uruguay thanked the High Commissioner for her unswerving commitment to human rights and supported the manner in which she tackled many sensitive issues. In line with the principle that no human being could have his or her rights denied, Uruguay supported all the efforts of her Office to combat all forms of discrimination. Uruguay hoped that the Office would continue to focus on the abolition of the death penalty and to ensure that human rights were fully integrated in the post-2015 development agenda.

South Sudan welcomed the visit to the country of the High Commissioner and the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and reiterated South Sudan’s commitment to end the violence and protect all its citizens. It was important to avoid finger pointing and to use dialogue to resolve the conflict. South Sudan called on the international community to support the South African peace negotiation mechanism which could be capable of resolving the crisis.

Armenia welcomed the work of the High Commissioner to promote and protect human rights throughout the world, particularly the struggle to eliminate hate speech against minority groups, especially by political leaders. Armenia had always valued preventive approaches and had paid attention to early warning signs of human rights abuses. Many human rights violations, especially those leading to genocide and those which were at the cause of many armed conflicts, could be prevented.

Malaysia said that the Council had withstood various challenges it had faced. Human rights challenges persisted, requiring the continuous attention of the Council. Malaysia condemned the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, and in particular the latest decision by Israel to continue the construction of illegal settlements. The conflict in Syria had to end, and the political process had to be given an unconditional chance to bring about a negotiated solution.

Belgium appreciated the High Commissioner’s indefatigable defence of human rights. Belgium insisted on the maintenance of the independence of rules governing the Office’s financial and human rights policies. There had been a positive global shift with regard to the abolition of the death penalty, which was why Belgium would present a resolution on the subject matter. Belgium was content that an agreement had been reached regarding the treaty body strengthening process.

Libya stated that the authorities were continuing efforts to successfully complete the establishment of institutions and protect human rights in spite of multiple security challenges. Libya was particularly worried about migrants trespassing its territory, which was an international issue and had to be dealt with it appropriately. Libya was sorry about the recent killing of the International Red Cross staff member. Libya condemned the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Nepal underscored the need of basing the sustainable development goals on the principles of universal human rights and equity, as well as the view that sub-national, national and regional circumstances and priorities needed to be taken into consideration. Nepal’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights was unflinching. Strengthening the capacity of human rights institutions and eliminating all kinds of discrimination, exclusion, inequity, and human rights violations remained a priority. Nepal looked forward to the continued goodwill of the international community with constructive engagement.

Spain expressed thanks and congratulations for the work of Ms. Pillay, noting her personal courage that had permeated the work of the Office. The Council and Member States needed this example of courage to respond to the challenges faced in general, and in particular during this session. Spain reiterated its view concerning the inhumane nature of the death penalty. It noted that a clear violation in the spirit and the letter of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights could be seen in the violence and discrimination suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Honduras thanked Ms. Pillay for her role as High Commissioner during the past six years, in particular her leadership in addressing critical human rights situations. Honduras joined in celebrating the progress achieved in areas such as the strengthening of the treaty bodies systems and the flexibility of the special procedures to address human rights situations. The international community could not remain indifferent to the violence and grave human rights violations in different parts of the word and should concert efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

Poland said that the High Commissioner had made a great contribution to the advancement of human rights around the world. Poland had celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of freedom a few days ago and said that democratic systems were the best guarantee of stability and development; transitions could be achieved in a peaceful manner. Poland supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights monitoring mission in Ukraine and strongly condemned the ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Council of Europe said that its recent report “State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe” had listed a large number of challenges in its 47 Member States, including ethnic discrimination, conditions of detention, corruption, social exclusion of Roma and others. This showed that the full protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms should not be taken for granted and the Council of Europe must become much more assertive in holding Member States to their commitments on matters of fundamental principle.

Turkey said that the situation in Syria was the worst humanitarian tragedy of the twenty-first century. Impunity for the crimes could not be accepted and accountability must be ensured. Turkey was also concerned about the issue of racism and discrimination and in many parts of the world immigrant populations were experiencing difficulties in accessing equal opportunities. The prioritization of human rights in the economic sphere was of increasing importance for Turkey, which would pursue the efforts to support and implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Iran expressed deep dismay at recent instances of racial, religious and cultural hate speeches by a number of European politicians. Iran objected to the references in the High Commissioner’s update to the death penalty in Iran without taking into consideration the nature of crimes committed. The production and distribution of drugs represented a major threat to children, adolescents and young people around the world and was a prime example of the most serious crimes against humanity. Hence, the High Commissioner had been expected to keep in sight the region’s geographical characteristics.

Iraq stated that Mosul Governorate in Iraq was currently experiencing scores of killings, after terrorist groups had overtaken that region. Iraq was asking for support in the fight against terrorism, which was a threat to all people and nations in the world.

Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amities entre les peuples appreciated the
recent visit by the High Commissioner to Morocco, but regretted that she had not visited the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Reprisal was very common in Morocco, most severely against Sahraouis human rights defenders. Human rights violations in the non-self-governing territories ought to be included in the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ annual report.

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network commended the High Commissioner for addressing violations against all persons, including on the grounds of sexual preferences and gender identity. The Network noted the progress around the world in this area, including the adoption of resolutions by different regional human rights mechanisms. The Council risked falling behind; it should address all forms of violence and discrimination and ensure systematic attention to both violation and protection gaps.

International Service for Human Rights said that discrimination and violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity remained a scourge and joined the High Commissioner in welcoming the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights resolution on this subject. The time had come for this Council to follow up on its own resolution 17/19. The Service highlighted concerns about hate speech and the situation of civil society activists and human rights defenders.

Amnesty International shared the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner about Thailand, noting that since the military declared martial law granting itself extensive and excessive powers on 20 May, it had suspended human rights protections under the Constitution. In this regard, Amnesty International noted arbitrary detentions violating the right to liberty, restrictions placed on the right to freedom of expression, and the violation of fair trial rights.

Women’s Human Rights International Association, in a joint statement, shared the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner about the large number of persons executed in Iran and urged the High Commissioner to follow the cases.

United Nations Watch said that the High Commissioner had identified several situations of human rights abuses, including the violations of women’s rights which occurred in Sudan, Pakistan and Iran. These three States were members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women which was charged with protecting the rights of women.

CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation paid tribute to the High Commissioner’s last update and legacy and said that she was the voice that spoke truth to power without fear or favour. She and her Office had succeeded in giving human rights a different rating in the world today, including through speaking to and impacting the Security Council, influencing the post-2015 development agenda and by courageously addressing violations wherever they occurred.

Russian Peace Foundation said that it had published a book with numerous eye-witness statements following the coup d’etat in Kiev in February 2014. It was concerned about the violations of the Geneva Agreement by Ukrainian right-wing organizations. The heavy artillery of the Ukrainian State had destroyed a number of residential houses in Sloviansk, killing peaceful citizens, which should be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

General Arab Women Federation stressed that the question of Palestine remained an example of massive human rights violations and serious challenges in 2014. The determined pursuit of settlement construction and the calculating nature of Israel’s land annexation constituted a serious threat to international peace and security. Syria was also a matter of great concern, where external powers continued to fuel violence through all forms of military supply. The recent escalation of violence in Iraq was truly worrying.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations underlined the importance of all the items on the current Human Rights Council’s agenda. Members of the Council should be reminded that they had agreed to keep the question of human rights in Palestine on the agenda until the illegal occupation had ended. Could the High Commissioner, in the remainder of her mandate, ensure that fighting racism remained on the top of the international human rights agenda?

Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement, brought the Council’s attention to the repeated concerns raised on the human rights situation in Bahrain, including imprisonment of opposition and human rights activists, the torture of detainees, the use of force by security forces and persecution of human rights defenders. While welcoming the work of the recently returned temporary mission of the Office of the High Commissioner, Alsalam Foundation called on Member States to take steps in this regard.

Sudwin said that more than 200 individuals had been executed in Iran since January 2014, mostly on drug charges. Ten days ago, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, a political prisoner, had also been executed for allegedly sharing information and possibly providing financial assistance to a London-based opposition television station. There was also confirmed information on secret executions, such as in the Mashhad prison.

International Muslim Women Union commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner. In the last decade a strong human rights regime had been put in place and the special procedures had been strengthened with the aim of freeing the world of violations. The report of the High Commissioner had not focused on the situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where over 9,000 women had been raped in Kashmir alone, making it one of the worst places for women on the planet.

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement shared the concerns highlighted by the High Commissioner and stressed that there was still much work to be done to ensure genuine reconciliation, justice and accountability for human rights violations. The report of the High Commissioner had not focused on the continued impunity in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir where armed forces were empowered to shoot to kill at discretion.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues was deeply concerned about the crackdown on the right of freedom of expression and the failure to stop violence against women in Egypt, lack of accountability for those responsible for violence against protestors of the “Gazi Protests” in Turkey, the imposition of the Martial Law in Thailand, and the loss of peacetime gains in South Sudan, where the major towns were suffering severe damages, massive looting and burning of property and rural areas suffered massive devastation.

World Muslim Congress said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were direct victims of the non-implementation of the United Nations resolutions and suffered extra-judicial killings, rape, torture and enforced disappearances. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were looking towards this Council to put an end to the human rights violations and play a proactive role to save the lives of the innocent Kashmiris.

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For use of the information media; not an official record