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The Human Rights Council holds general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention


24 June 2015

Minister of Justice of South Sudan Addresses the Council

The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, during which speakers raised allegations of human rights violations in countries and regions around the world and reiterated the Council’s responsibility to address all situations of concern. The Council also heard an address from Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice of South Sudan.

Speakers in the general debate highlighted concerns about shrinking space for civil society and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists in a number of countries. They also expressed concerns about attacks against civilians and violations of international law during armed conflicts. Several speakers regretted the confrontational approach of this item of the Council and condemned the politicization of human rights issues.

Latvia on behalf of the European Union, Ireland on behalf of 25 States, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Israel, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Spain, Iran, Georgia, Belarus, Slovakia, Malaysia, Ukraine and Eritrea took the floor.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Sudwind, Minority Rights Group, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Reporters without Borders, Franciscans International in a joint statement with Budi Tjahjono, Liberation, Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparency, African Development Association, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Victorious Youth Movement, International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Association Dunenyo, World Organisation against Torture, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Alsalam Foundation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanist Association, World Muslim Congress, Africa Culture Internationale, Asian Legal Resource Centre, World Barua Organization, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights House Foundation, OCAPROCE Internationale, United Nations Watch, Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Amnesty International, Civicus, Presse Embleme Campagne, American Association of Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Article 19, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi, Baha’i International Community and Centrist Democratic International.

Myanmar, Ethiopia, Bahrain, China, Sudan, Japan, Burundi, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Maldives, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Indonesia and Iran spoke in right of reply.

The Council also heard an address from Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice of South Sudan, who said that, in the context of the ongoing crisis, the Government had to extend the tenure of the National Legislature and the tenure and the mandate of the Office of the President to avoid a constitutional vacuum and negotiate a peace agreement.

The Council is having a full day of meetings today. At 4 p.m., it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Kyrgyzstan and Guinea. The consideration of the outcome of Kiribati has been postponed to next week.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Latvia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, condemned serious human rights violations and abuses in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and called for accountability in South Sudan. The European Union was also extremely concerned about the excessive use of the death penalty and the harassment of human rights defenders in Egypt. It called for the release of all prisoners of opinion in Azerbaijan and China. The European Union expressed concerns over the situation in Uzbekistan, and torture in Turkmenistan. It was deeply concerned about restrictions on the freedom of expression in the Russian Federation and Venezuela, and regretted that Israel had not granted access to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry.

Ireland, speaking on behalf of 25 States, expressed concern about the shrinking space and harassment of civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan, where critical voices were systematically silenced. It called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Azerbaijan and referred to individual cases of political prisoners in urgent need of medical care. Azerbaijan should cooperate fully in the field of human rights with the international community, and facilitate visits with Special Procedures. Azerbaijan was bound to abide to decisions of the European Court on Human Rights.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the international community should support human rights in all countries, and that human rights had to be addressed in a fair and equal manner, with objectivity, non-selectivity, non-interference and respect to sovereignty of States. It stressed the importance of human rights not to be used for political purposes and adopting politically motivated decisions. All actors on the international scene should build an international order based on inclusion, mutual respect and the promotion of cultural diversity.

Latvia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, voiced concerns over violations and abuses of human rights in Burundi, in particular the excessive use of force by the security forces against demonstrators, and restrictions incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Council should stand ready to convene an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Burundi should the situation further deteriorate.

Ireland voiced concern over increasing restrictions on civil society space in many countries, including in the Russian Federation and Ethiopia. In Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and Myanmar there were threats to freedom of religion and belief. Violence against children and recruitment of child soldiers were worrying in South Sudan. Ireland called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to enter into an active dialogue with the Council, and noted that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory remained a matter of serious concern.

Germany expressed concern over the worsening human rights situation in China and urged the Government to immediately release all detained human rights defenders and to stop restricting the work of international civil rights organizations. It was also concerned about the shrinking space for civil society in the Russian Federation and Egypt, and condemned human rights violations in eastern Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the effects of the conflict in South Sudan.

France reiterated its concerns about the situation in Syria and the suffering caused by the regime and ISIS. France called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. France supported the creation of a mandate to investigate human rights violations in South Sudan and hold perpetrators accountable, and underlined the importance for Burundi to respect freedom of information. France called for accountability of perpetrators of systematic violations in Eritrea; and condemned acts by Boko Haram, recalling that counter-terrorism activities had to comply with international law.

Netherlands remained highly concerned over the situation in Iraq and international crimes by ISIS, and urged the Iraqi Government to hold perpetrators of crimes to account. Netherlands underlined the situation of vulnerable groups in Iraq, including women, children and refugees. Netherlands called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law and to investigate abuses, and expressed concerns about the situation in Crimea. In South Sudan, justice and accountability would be a crucial part in any peace agreement.

Saudi Arabia condemned continuous violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and their lack of recognition by the State and denial of their basic human rights. Saudi Arabia also regretted hate speech and discrimination against the Rohingya. The continuous violations against them led to them fleeing the country and putting their lives at risk. Saudi Arabia called for international solidarity to help the Rohingya Muslims.

United Kingdom remained deeply concerned by the appalling violations and abuses of human rights in Syria, and by Iran’s use of the death penalty and restrictions on freedom of expression and belief. It welcomed the opening of the new Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul as an important step towards establishing accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Other concerning situations were in Burma, Gaza, South Sudan and Sudan.

Japan welcomed the establishment of the field-based structure in Seoul, and expressed hope that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would heed the calls of the international community to improve its human rights record. It also expressed concern about the human rights situation in Syria, South Sudan and Nigeria. A human security based approach, with emphasis on protection and empowerment of each individual, should be the high priority.

Montenegro encouraged States, as principal guarantors of human rights, to redouble efforts within the existing international legal framework. Decisive actions and firm commitments from all Governments were needed to place human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens at the heart of their national policies. Montenegro was concerned that Syria did not cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was encouraged to renew its initially expressed interest in cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Russia stated that Ukrainian forces had once again started shelling populated areas and civilians were suffering. The restrictions on movement, introduced by Kiev, were limiting movements of humanitarian organizations as well. Russia was seriously concerned about Ukraine’s suspension of certain provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Some Ukrainian battalions, such as “Aydar”, were committing crimes and had not yet been brought to justice.

United States was deeply concerned about the human rights situations in Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Sudan. In China, concern remained about increased arrests, detentions and forced disappearances, including in Tibetan and Uighur areas. Cuba was urged to improve respect for fundamental freedoms, release arbitrarily detained activists and provide greater internet access. Egypt violated freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Minority groups and independent media were prosecuted in Russian-occupied Crimea.

Venezuela was opposed to the selective practice that promoted initiatives directed specifically at some countries, and said this item of the Council should not be used at directing unjustified and politically motivated accusations. It underlined the credibility of the Council, and said naming and shaming should be eradicated from its work. Venezuela regretted that major powers just criticized the human rights of developing countries to fulfil their political agendas, and omitted to address poverty and the right to development. Venezuela expressed concerns about arbitrary detention by the United States.

Cuba said Western powers used this debate at every session to advance their political agendas and make baseless accusations against developing countries. Western powers should first address their own human rights problems, including arbitrary detention and other violations perpetrated in the name of countering terrorism, violations of the rights of migrants, racism and xenophobia and police brutality. The Council was set up to encourage dialogue and promote cooperation. Cuba had nothing to be taught about human rights.

China said the work of the Council should focus on dialogue, cooperation, technical assistance and capacity building. Country specific dialogues and mandates were in opposition with this goal and with the United Nations Charter. Regrettably, the United States and European countries had made false allegations against countries of the South, including China. China pointed at human rights problems in the United States, including torture, police violence and racism. In European countries, bills on terrorism restricted freedoms, migrants suffered violations, and xenophobia was on the rise.

Norway said it was concerned about massive human rights violations in South Sudan. The Government had to investigate those incidents and prosecute the perpetrators. Norway opposed the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. An alarming number of executions were being carried out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia. Norway regretted the persistent worsening of conditions for civil society in the Russian Federation.

Iceland said that States were ultimately responsible for combatting discrimination and had to do so actively, both internally and by speaking up internationally. In Saudi Arabia women and girls faced severe discrimination in law and practice, whereas in the Russian Federation discriminatory legislation targeted civil and political rights. In Myanmar there were ongoing instances of religious and anti-Muslim violence, while the human rights situation of the Rohingya community was worsening.

Canada remained concerned by the widespread human rights abuses in South Sudan, and by the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Sudan. Accounts of mass rape by Government-aligned troops had to be investigated and perpetrators had to be held accountable. Canada was also concerned about the human rights situation in Eritrea and Uzbekistan.

Switzerland said that increasing restrictions on civil society organizations in a number of countries was a raising concern for Switzerland. In China, criminal charges brought against individuals and institutions were reducing the space for civil society. In Russia, a recent law on undesirable international organizations had created a risk of the interference by the State in the legitimate activities of civil society. Switzerland was preoccupied with restrictions on human rights in the context of political manifestations.

Australia stated that the barbaric terrorist organization Daesh was a major and lethal threat to the people of Iraq and Syria. The abuse of human rights and violence by Daesh were deeply concerning and Australia condemned them in the strongest terms. Australia reiterated its call for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry’s report.

Israel said that in Iran, executions multiplied by the day, journalists were imprisoned, minorities were persecuted and women were discriminated against. In Saudi Arabia, women were still subject to discrimination, and the use of torture and executions had increased. A plethora of violent radical non-State actors, supported by States sitting in the Council, terrorized the population. The Council was politicized and biased and it exhibited hypocrisy instead of discussion of the root causes of extreme Islamic terrorism.

Czech Republic expressed concern over the silencing of dissenting voices in China, Azerbaijan and Venezuela. It expressed hope that the situation in Bahrain would be resolved peacefully. It called on all those countries to release those who defended the rights of others. Czech Republic was also concerned about mass death sentences in Egypt. The culture of impunity in Syria was alarming. In the Russian Federation a law stifling civil society had been passed.

Ecuador drew the Council’s attention to the growing use of fire arms against alleged criminals, usually black and Latino, in the United States, and the impunity of persons who used such force. It raised concern over the overcrowding of prisons in the United States and the bad conditions in which inmates were held. The Committee against Torture had criticized that practice, but it nevertheless persisted.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea noted that human rights violations in the United States had reached a grave stage in the form of interference in internal affairs, plots, aggression and war against other countries. The European Union was committing gross violations, such as rejection and brutal killing of immigrants, desecration, Islamophobia, praising and inciting neo-Nazism and discrimination against minorities.

Belgium stated that in Eritrea, systemic and grave violations had caused mass departures of young people. Uzbekistan had refused 13 times visits in the context of the Special Procedures of the Council. In Burundi, the culture of fear created obstacles for the opposition to campaign, which would make the upcoming elections less credible. Recent legislation in Russia allowing for arbitrary decisions limiting space for civil society was extremely regrettable.

Azerbaijan said that intolerance and hate speech against minorities in a number of European countries, neglect of women and children in the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, and discrimination of Roma in Germany and Poland, were all matters of concern. Overcrowding of prisons and the high number of gun-related deaths in the United States were among serious problems which should be looked into.

Spain was worried about the expansion of settlements, forced demolitions and displacement of Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel. The situation in Libya was gravely deteriorating, and was being made worse by the rise of Daesh. Violations of international humanitarian law in the east of Ukraine were unacceptable, and Spain was particularly concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea.

Iran noted that the United States had failed to implement many recommendations of its Universal Periodic Review process. Iran was deeply disturbed by the systematic human rights violations of the Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli regime. Noting that discrimination was one of the greatest challenges today, Iran said that in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Norway, people were subject to exclusion and violence because of who they were and what they believed.

Georgia reminded that on numerous occasions it had drawn the Council’s attention to the alarming humanitarian situation and persistent human rights violations in Georgia’s occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. The continuous vacuum of international presence on the ground had turned both regions into “black holes” and one of the most inaccessible places on earth.

Belarus said it would prefer for all human rights issues to be discussed at the Council in accordance with the principles of universality and impartiality. Nevertheless, some countries were promoting their political agenda, which was a clear example of double standards. Belarus called on the Council to put an end to politicizing, and to perform its work on the basis of constructive dialogue and cooperation.

Slovakia remained concerned that many individuals were prevented from exercising their fundamental freedoms and human rights, particularly freedom of expression and association, and reiterated concern about the situation in Belarus and in Eritrea. Slovakia reiterated the urgent need to end impunity and hold perpetrators of human rights violations in South Sudan accountable.

Malaysia remained profoundly concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and strongly urged all parties to end violence and cease all discriminate and disproportionate attacks in civilian populated areas. Achieving a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria would also address the IS threat in the country and the region in a more effective manner.

Ukraine drew attention to the continuing neglect of Russia of its obligations arising from the Minsk Agreement, and stressed that its obligation of release of all detainees related to all Ukrainian citizens unlawfully detained in Russia. Russia should stop torture and cruel treatment of illegally detained Ukrainian citizens and ensure their release and safe return to Ukraine.

Eritrea rejected politically motivated country-specific mechanisms. Human rights were being used for political purposes and promoting various geopolitical agendas, which was a trend that should be avoided. The neutrality and objectivity of the Council had been compromised. It remained necessary to combat all efforts violating non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity of the Council.

Sudwind said that the number of executions in Iran was more than the number of executions in all other countries, except for one. Iran pretended that it cared about the economic, social and cultural rights of its people, but it imprisoned a number of citizens for defending the rights of street children.

Minority Rights Group drew attention to the pressing situation concerning violence against women in Iraq. Protection and provision programmes for survivors were inadequate to facilitate victim reintegration into society. The vast majority of violent crimes against women were not prosecuted.

Human Rights Watch voiced concern about the detention of dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists in Uzbekistan, and the fact that the Government refused to investigate human rights violations and crimes. In South Sudan, thousands of civilians had been killed and both sides used child soldiers; Human Rights Watch called on the Council to create a Special Rapporteur for South Sudan. The Council should also monitor the human rights situation in Burundi.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues drew the Council’s attention to the surge of sexual violence by Egyptian security forces. The Egyptian Government recently opened an investigation into the activities of several civil society organizations. Saudi Arabia continued to defy all international human rights standards. The Council had failed to take action on the situation in Bahrain, which was a stain on its reputation.

Reporters without Borders called on Saudi Arabia to respect its international obligations in which it reaffirmed its commitment as a Council member. It urged the King to issue a pardon for all news providers who were unjustly detained, and asked Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support those issues.

Franciscans International, on behalf of severals NGOs1 said that the Council was the only international mechanism that had the competency to fully and comprehensively address the human suffering witnessed today due to climate change. The Council should have this issue permanently on its agenda and establish a mandate on human rights and climate change to assess its full impact on human rights.

Liberation said that traditional institutions in India functioned as watchdogs in maintaining social order, but their power had been undermined and they were not recognized by the State, which led to disorder.

Non-Violent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty drew attention to the violation of international free territory of Trieste by Italy, where citizens were arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and of association. An international Commission should be established to determine the role of free port of Trieste.

African Development Association said that perfectly ordinary situations in provinces in the south of Morocco were being instrumentalized in order to tarnish the image of Morocco on the international stage. In 2014, the World Human Rights Forum in Marrakech had demonstrated the significant progress Morocco had made in the field of human rights.

Action international pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs said that nobody was denying progress made in certain parts of Morocco. There were high levels of schooling, low levels of poverty, and the human development index there was rather high. Civil society ought to be reinforced to further promote human rights in the region.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that Israeli jailers did not care about the wellbeing of the imprisoned Palestinians. There were at least 25 Palestinian prisoners suffering from cancer, who were not receiving appropriate care in the Ramla jail. The occupiers should be pressured into releasing them. Negligence leading to the deaths of prisoners ought to be monitored.

Victorious Youth Movement was deeply concerned about the human rights situation and security situation in so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. People in the Pakistani administered Kashmir still lived in pathetic conditions and did not have freedom to exercise their fundamental rights.

International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism was alarmed by the current situation in Japan with the rights of the people of the Ryukyu/Okinawa under threat by the construction plan of a new United States military base in Henoko. Environmental human rights defenders, peace activists and protestors demonstrating against the plan had been subjected to violence by the police.

Association Dunenyo said that natural resources were a matter of sovereignty and fuelled economic development, and this was the case in Western Sahara. There was a need to ensure the fair distribution of income from natural resources for the benefit of the people of Western Sahara.

World Organisation Against Torture, in a joint statement with International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), stated that the repression in Azerbaijan had particularly escalated over the previous year, with arbitrary arrests of prominent human rights defenders and journalists. The repression seemed to be a strategy closely linked with the celebration of the European Games, to prevent criticism from spoiling the event.

Centre for Reproductive Rights was concerned about violence targeting women and girls in Nigeria and neighbouring countries by Boko Haram. The extremist group had abducted more than 2,000 girls since early 2014. The captors repeatedly subjected kidnapped women and girls to rape. In Paraguay, abortion was denied to a 10-year old girl reportedly raped by her stepfather. The girl should be given full medical services.

Alsalam Foundation said that in 2011, Bahrain had used arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, excessive force and torture in response to a widespread peaceful protest movement calling for reforms. In 2014, the Government had arbitrarily stripped a total of 52 Bahrainis of their native-born citizenship for exercising their human rights or opposition activism.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that Dalits in India were not provided with political representation and were treated as second grade citizens. Sikhs were restricted to petty businesses and were deprived of their due economic rights to excel in India like other elite Hindus. Socio-economic exclusion of north-eastern populations and Kashmiri Muslims was also a problem.

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that atheists in Egypt were threatened and prosecuted and last June authorities had launched a campaign against atheism which was jeopardising the society. This systematic operation jeopardised free society and freedom of opinion and thought.

British Humanist Association said that violence to which religious non-conformists were subjected had increased in both severity and frequency in Bangladesh. The Government had criminalized “defamation of religion”, creating a de facto blasphemy law, while violent vigilantism had also increased. Bangladesh should reform its legal code and practice in order to preserve the fundamental human rights to freedom of thought and expression.

World Muslim Congress said that India deprived people in the occupied Kashmir of human rights. The Army was provided with full impunity from being prosecuted for gross human rights violations. An example of a 21-year university student who was arrested and killed was given. Peaceful protests against such killings were regularly violently broken. Arbitrary arrests of protesters regularly took place.

Africa Culture Internationale stated that military operations in Balochistan existed to silence the voices of Baloch people, who asked for the rights to their land and access to vital resources. Asking for the right to protect identity, faith, culture, language and uphold socio-economic rights had become a crime for the people in Balochistan.

Asian Legal Resource Centre, in a joint statement with Franciscans International, stressed that judges, prosecutors and lawyers in Asia faced acute forms of suppression of their freedom to engage in their profession independently. Thailand’s judiciary, for example, had been passively supporting the military installed administration.

World Barua Organization said policies of the Government of India divided the population of the northeast of the country into castes. The different developmental policies of India had also discriminated against the region and had been used to justify discrimination policies.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association raised concerns about summary executions and arbitrary detentions in India, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian army had declared war against the civilian population.

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, in a joint statement with Conectas Direitos Humanos, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), Minority Rights Group (MRG), and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), spoke about the interrogation programmes by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and human rights violations related to it. It said the United States had failed to hold perpetrators of torture accountable, and therefore had failed to ensure non-recurrence.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Maldives where the right to peaceful assembly was being severely restrained and trumped up charges suppressed political dissent. The ongoing political impasse in Bangladesh continued to induce serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, and the draft Foreign Donation Act would stifle democratic space.

Human Rights House Foundation, in a joint statement with Article 19- International Center Against Censorship, and The International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) that the Government of Azerbaijan employed politically motivated criminal prosecutions and detentions, and the current crackdown was set apart from past repression by the scope of individuals being targeted, seriousness of charges and length of prison sentences imposed. Azerbaijan should put an end to this unprecedented repression against civil society and immediately release and rehabilitate the civil and political rights of all prisoners of conscience.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale regretted that little was said about Tinduf camps, where the rights of refugees were being violated. The lack of justice and lack of prospect for the future meant that the youth were targets for terrorist recruitment, and there had been cases of abduction. Criminal responsibility of those who deprived people of freedom should be raised.

United Nations Watch said that the vision of peace from the United Nations Charter had sadly not yet become a reality. Hamas in Gaza had been given tons of cement by the international community, which it had used to build kilometres of tunnels under the Israeli territory to kidnap and harm Israeli citizens. The Hamas charter called for war.

Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos stated that serious human rights violations committed by Moroccan forces in Western Sahara were of a systematic and persistent nature. Families of 400 people who had disappeared were continuing to demand access to justice, truth and reparations. Morocco did not facilitate the humanitarian work of independent experts.

Amnesty International said that the Conservative Government would bring forward proposals on the United Kingdom’s Bill of Rights. Proposals to replace the human rights act were not merely cosmetic and could lead to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights altogether. Individual States should not be the only and final arbiters of human rights on their territories.

World Association for Citizen Participation Civicus expressed concerns at restrictions of freedom of expression and of assembly and the persecution of human rights defenders. Shrinking space for civil society had emerged as a global challenge. The Association was concerned about the Government’s clampdown on civil society and opposition in Ethiopia, and on restrictions in Azerbaijan.

Presse Embleme Campagne expressed concern about the space for free journalism in Yemen, and reminded members of the Council of a resolution adopted by this body last year on the security of journalists and media staff. It referred to attacks and threats against reporters in Yemen.

American Association of Jurists, in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) called for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, who had completed 34 years in imprisonment in United States prisons for supporting the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of Puerto Rico.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that in response to the popular unrest against decades of severe repression, human rights violations, social injustice and rampant corruption in the Arab region, almost all governments, with the exception of Tunisia, had failed to enact fundamental institutional reforms and ensure a transition to democracy. Instead, they had chosen to double-down on repression by attempting to silence dissent, restrict civil society, and lay siege to human rights defenders, all in the name of insuring stability and security.

Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, in a joint statement with Civicus-World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that civic space was shrinking across Europe and Central Asia, with many governments increasingly perceiving the expression of alternative viewpoints and dissent as a threat. Russian influence on countries’ legislation was growing, with an increasing rejection of universal human rights, and the replication of its restrictive “foreign agents law” across the region.

Eastern and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that thousands of civilians had been killed since the conflict in the young country of South Sudan broke out in December 2013. It was time for the Council to address this situation, establish a mandate on South Sudan and call on the African Union to release its own report on this country. The situation in Burundi was of concern, and the Council must take action to address emerging human rights and humanitarian crises.

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement spoke of a case of a person abducted by the Polisario Front and accused of high treason. He had been released since, but had no passport which would allow him to circulate freely and could not reunite with his wife and five children. His case expressed the clear violation of human rights in numerous ways.

Arab Commission for Human Rights said that the Council needed to act to ensure that all citizens in all countries could enjoy their rights to the fullest. The tragic situation of the Rohingya in Burma was shocking, and the way the Burmese authorities were acting was unacceptable. A country mandate should be established for South Sudan as well.

Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi stated that it was very uncommon for Heads of State and Government to commit violations, such as hate speech, as was the case with the Turkish President Erdogan. Around 559 Turkish journalists and photographers had lost their jobs in 2014. All those not aligned with the President were exposed to violations of their human rights.

Baha’i International Community described how Iran shut down businesses for having closed during Baha’i holidays. Iranian authorities were persecuting the Baha’i community, and violating their economic rights in an effort to eradicate it as a viable entity in the place of its birth.

Centrist Democratic International had someone from Cuba speaking about her son being arbitrarily detained in Cuba in reprisal for her human rights work. Cuba had also denied all his fair-trial rights and his right to be released on parole. She asked that harassment against her and her family by the Cuban authorities stop.

Statement by the Minister of Justice of South Sudan

PAULINO WANAWILLA UNANGO, Minister of Justice of South Sudan, said that the Government had to extended the tenure of the National Legislature, and the tenure and the mandate of the Office of the President, which were due to come to an end by 9 July 2015 as per the provisions of the Transitional Constitution. In the context of the ongoing crisis, this had been done to avoid a constitutional vacuum and ensure that those two institutions had the mandate to negotiate with rebels and own any peace agreement concluded on behalf of South Sudanese. The Government continued its efforts to demobilise children associated with armed forces and had issued Punitive Orders which prohibited recruitment and use of children, and occupation of schools and hospitals. Since the National Security Service Law had been passed, the reform of the Service had been undertaken, including the recent recruitment based on educational standards and other requirements provided in the law. The Government was quite aware that there was no other alternative to end the current crisis other than sustainable peace, and that fair accountability would only be when peace had been achieved.

Right of Reply

Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply, said the Eritrean Government valued the freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the right to free assembly and association. The Constitution provided for the work of civil society at the grass root level. Elections were held in a democratic and transparent manner, with the participation of all political parties. Civicus had to accept that Ethiopia was a country that enjoyed the rule of law. No arrests were made because of criticism of the Government, and Civicus was called upon to base their statements on facts.

Myanmar, speaking in a right of reply, raised objections to the usage of the country name of Burma in the Council. It noted that the relevant law defined the responsibility of media workers and established a new media council. Myanmar was stressed that the country was multi-ethnic and multi-confessional and that no discrimination was allowed. The Government would continue working to preserve stability and peace.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, responding to the accusations of the delegations of Ireland and Switzerland regarding the rights of human rights defenders, said such statements should be governed by the general principles of human rights, rather than limited to narrow political considerations. Bahrain reaffirmed the rights of human rights defenders as long as they did not commit acts that were legally unacceptable. Any trial was the result of a violation of the law, which represented some threat to the peace and stability of the country.

China, speaking in a right of reply, refuted allegations by Switzerland and the Czech Republic and recalled both countries’ human rights problems, including racial discrimination, violations of the rights of migrants, racism and repression against the Roma community.

Sudan, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the unfounded and politically motivated allegations by the United States and the United kingdom. Freedom of the press was protected in Sudan. Disputes and law violations were settled before independent courts, and the recent elections were free and fair. A politically negotiated settlement was the way toward peace, but the rebels refused such a settlement. The United States’ sanctions were a violation of the right to development of Sudan.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said human rights and respect of humanity were a basic principle on which Japan stood. Japan called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Burundi, speaking in a right of reply, rejected accusations that Burundi violated freedom of expression, suppressed demonstrations and closed down local media. Sometimes people abused the freedom of expression and Burundi said that no one was above the law, and cautioned that there was a need to draw distinction between demonstrations and insurgency. The Government was working towards holding free and fair elections.

Uzbekistan, speaking in a right of reply, was consistently working to promote and protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law. It was regularly monitoring places of detention and was developing national preventive mechanisms. In November 2014, the National Action Plan had been adopted for the implementation of the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review and by other human rights treaty bodies.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply concerning comments on the death penalty, said Pakistan was aware of the international law on the subject and had not violated any of its provisions. Pakistan had lifted its 2008 moratorium on the death penalty in 2014 after being criticized for not doing its utmost to address terrorism. The use of the death penalty was a criminal justice issue and it was a sovereign right of States to choose their own justice system.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the allegations that the judiciary in the country was not independent. It was stressed that no power could interfere in its proceedings and decisions. As for the death sentence, according to Egyptian law it could be applied in certain cases. Freedom of association and assembly was also upheld, as long as it did not jeopardize public order and security. The allegations of civilians being delegated to the military court were false, except for crimes that were direct assaults on military facilities. The number of civil society organizations was increasing, and Egypt rejected any attempt of using human rights for political purposes.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the remarks made by the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said it was regrettable that that country was making such false accusations, which held no merit. The field structure in Seoul was established in accordance to the relevant decisions of the United Nations bodies. The Republic of Korea called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully cooperate with the field based office in order to improve the human rights situation on the ground.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, clarified that the Crimean people had decided to realize their right to self-determination in line with international law. As for the right of the Crimean Tatars and other national minorities, they had full access to their rights. Any violations of human rights were monitored by a relevant body and sanctioned if proven true. The United States continued to consider themselves as a model of democracy, but it continued to violate human rights at home and abroad, such as freedom of speech, xenophobia and violations in the penitentiary system. Serious problems of racism and xenophobia, including the endorsement of neo-Nazism, also existed in the European Union.

Maldives, speaking in a right of reply, said a non-governmental organization’s statement on the human rights situation in Maldives was based on false accusations. Maldives was a peaceful country, and most protests were held peacefully. Some individuals had been arrested in connexion to violence during some protests. Maldives had always encouraged cooperation, transparency and mutual respect. The former President was serving a jail sentence on terrorism charges.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements by Japan and Republic of Korea, said Japan had committed atrocities in the last century, including sexual slavery known as comfort women. The current Japanese authorities remained a long way from sincere acknowledgment. The authorities of the Republic of Korea were using security legislation to violate human rights, and it was clear that the Office of the High Commissioner there had a political agenda to implement the will of the United States.

Saudi Arabia, speaking in a right of reply, said the Syrian regime had lost credibility in the whole world. Saudi Arabia was committed to protect the rights of its people, based on Sharia law. In response to Iceland and Israel, Saudi Arabia categorically rejected foreign interference in its judicial affairs. Saudi Arabia condemned countries financially supporting terrorism.

Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, drew attention to police violence and citizen insecurity in the United States and said that human rights were being systematically violated in developed countries. Cuba would continue to respect the human rights of its entire people, contribute to the exercise of those rights in other countries, and continue to encourage civil society to participate in all public spaces so that they could contribute to the construction of the society that Cuba wanted without outside interference.

Indonesia, speaking in a right of reply, said that countries which retained the death penalty should always apply it with utmost caution and in full compliance with international law. The death penalty served as a deterrent against most serious crimes in a society.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, was firmly convinced that manipulation of the Human Rights Council by Saudi Arabia was far from the cause of human rights.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that the international community had adopted resolutions on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since 2003. It was the time for that country to take concrete measures to promote and protect the rights of its own people, in close cooperation with the field structure.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply in response to the statement made by the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that instead of attempts to blame others, that country should take positive actions.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, noted that the Republic of Korea should end the military presence of the United States on its territory. Japan committed crimes against humanity during its military occupation of Korea. The atrocities committed by the Japanese imperialists in Korea were unforgettable, and Japan was called upon to face the crimes it had committed instead of embellishing its history.


1 Joint statement: Franciscans International, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Foundation for GAIA, Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE), Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH), International Movement ATD Fourth World, Edmund Rice International, and Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU).


For use of the information media; not an official record