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Human Rights Council concludes interactive dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on his annual report

Human Rights Council

MORNING

9 March 2017

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its interactive dialogue with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on his annual report.

A press release containing a summary of the presentation of the High Commissioner’s annual report, delivered on 8 March, can be found here.

During the discussion, delegations from countries of origin, transit and destination all highlighted the plight of migrants and the need for the international community to take collective, decisive action.  Gender equality and the advancement of women were also noted by several speakers, with some seeing a dismantling process on gender equality worldwide in connection with other restrictions against civil society, a rise in executions and reinstatement of capital punishment in certain countries.  Some delegations, including some speaking on behalf of groups, focused on the need to end impunity, urging all States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and to become parties to the Rome Statute.  Other topics taken up by speakers included the need for the High Commissioner to respect his mandate, as well as the need for the Human Rights Council to take a non-politicized and non-selective approach to situations on its agenda.

In his concluding remarks, High Commissioner Zeid explained that the continued provision of technical support was something his Office wanted to invest in.  However, the lack of resources prohibited the Office from doing everything they would like to do.  Speaking about the accuracy of his Office’s reports, the ideal was to be granted access whenever a request had been made.  Nevertheless, the High Commissioner believed that his staff still did a good job even when they were not granted access.  The international community had to further develop the fusion between development and human rights, he concluded.

Speaking were the European Union, Namibia (on behalf of the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara), Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the Netherlands (on behalf of a group of countries), Bahrain (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Morocco (on behalf of a group of countries), Iraq (on behalf of the Arab Group),  Luxembourg (on behalf of the Group of Friends of the International Criminal Court in Geneva), Tunisia (on behalf of the African Group), Portugal (on behalf of a group of countries), Egypt (on behalf of a Like-Minded Group), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Qatar, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, France, Slovenia, Greece, United Kingdom, Australia, Czechia, Germany, Russian Federation, Montenegro, Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela, Israel, Canada, Japan, Cuba, Belgium, Nicaragua, China, Egypt,  Spain, Algeria, Georgia, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Syria, Pakistan, South Africa, Iran, Maldives, Philippines, Chile, Kuwait, Thailand, United States, Belarus, India, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Norway, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Hungary, Fiji, Honduras, Republic of Korea, Ireland, Myanmar, Togo, Ukraine, Tunisia, Nepal, Oman, Zimbabwe, Paraguay, Mali, Senegal, Order of Malta, Congo, Latvia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Jordan, Poland, Cambodia, Nigeria, Armenia, Madagascar, Sweden, Brazil, Morocco and Benin.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Human Rights Watch, Association Dunenyo, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and American Association of Jurists.

The Council has a full day of meetings today.  At 1 p.m., it will continue its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  Then it will hear the presentation of the report of the intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other businesses with respect to human rights, and of reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and his Office. 

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

European Union called on States to engage positively with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and reiterated the European Union’s commitment to the human rights of migrants.  The human rights situation in Yemen remained of concern, as were the moves to restrict freedom of expression around the globe.  Namibia, speaking on behalf of the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, was concerned about the lack of attention given by the Council to the situation of the Sahrawi people, and recalling that the denial of the right to self-determination of peoples under colonial occupation constituted a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, called for a referendum on self-determination in light of relevant United Nations resolutions.  Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, expressed concern about violent extremism and stressed the need to address its root causes, including discrimination, injustice, humiliation, inequality, and violations of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism.

El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, recognized that gender equality and the advancement of women were key preconditions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and reaffirmed the commitment to continue making progress through unity in diversity and regional integration.  Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, strongly welcomed the focus of the Secretary-General on creating a culture of prevention and said that wide-spread human rights violations could lead to mass atrocities and encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures to provide regular information to enable timely information and early action.  The world had a common responsibility to protect, and States must and could do better.  Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, called for the non-politicization of efforts to promote human rights and, stressing the universality of human rights, said that Islam sought to enhance human dignity.  The Gulf Cooperation Council was a model in upholding human rights and combatting extremism.

Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that 11 experts and mandate-holders had visited Morocco and Western Sahara where they had had contact with all stakeholders; it was noted that the High Commissioner had noted the favourable conditions provided by the Government to mandate holders.  The Sahara question was a political conflict being tackled in the United Nations Security Council in New York with a view to reaching a peaceful solution.  Iraq, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said due note had been taken of the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which provided an overview of the work of the High Commissioner.  The Arab Group welcomed the High Commissioner’s work as well as the humanitarian role played by the United Nations Fund, which provided humanitarian assistance.  It was important that the Office should be able to work properly in several countries.  The activities of international human rights mechanisms should work to consolidate national mechanisms.  Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of a Group of Friends of the International Criminal Court in Geneva, said the fight against impunity was at the heart of the work of the United Nations, noting the timely initiative of the new Syria accountability mechanism, and urging all States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and to become parties to the Rome Statute.

Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reiterated the importance of complementarity between international and national human rights mechanisms, and urged the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote the right to development while also welcoming his call to end violence against migrants.  Portugal, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the members of the group came from all regions and the group focused on strengthening domestic implementation, impact reporting and follow-up.  This new initiative aimed at bringing together, among others, States, the Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations agencies, national human rights institutions, civil society and all stakeholders on an open, inclusive, voluntary basis to share national good practises on implementation, coordination, impact reporting and follow-up.  The group aimed to support national mechanisms to create an informal channel for sharing information.   Egypt, speaking on behalf of 16 like-minded countries, said the High Commissioner for Human Rights could assist in creating a collegial atmosphere aiming towards avoiding practices of naming and shaming, double standards, polarization and politicization.  The High Commissioner should respect his mandate and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States while ensuring rights and freedoms, and to that end, it was underlined that the High Commissioner should make every effort to make a cooperative approach throughout all divisions of his Office.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, warned of the rising xenophobia, racism and prejudice, and of the rise of populists who fanned hatred and discrimination against certain ethnic minorities.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation deplored the plight of migrants and voiced concern over plans to build extraterritorial processing camps for them.  Qatar called on the international community to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to lift the blockade of Gaza.  It called on the international community to put an end to the deteriorating situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.  Ecuador shared the view expressed by the High Commissioner that political leaders had expressed complete disregard for the plight of migrants.  There was a need for international leadership to curb the growing discrimination based on ethnicity and religion.

Sierra Leone expressed concern over the disturbing rise of extremist groups.  Asylum seekers were held in detention centres and faced great uncertainty.  2017 could be a pivotal year in dealing with migrants in the spirit of tolerance rather than in the spirit of alienation and isolation.  France noted that the universality of human rights had been challenged in conflict situations.  However, those violations were not only limited to conflict situations, but also appeared in an increasing number of countries that had adopted restricting measures in the name of security.   Slovenia shared concern over the dismantling process on gender equality worldwide, as well as over restrictions against civil society, rise in executions and reinstatement of capital punishment in certain countries.   Greece stressed that it was actively engaged in providing assistance to thousands of migrants and refugees, and that it was devoted to protecting their fundamental rights.  However, the current migration crisis could not be solved by a single country; it required international cooperation and support.

United Kingdom was concerned about the pressure on religious and media freedoms in Bangladesh and the erosion of democracy in Maldives.  The fight against drugs in the Philippines was eroding human rights.  Bahrain should guarantee the human rights of all its citizens.  The United Kingdom remained deeply troubled by the human rights situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and was concerned about the situation in Yemen.  Australia applauded the High Commissioner’s call to uphold the rights of every human being in the face of growing international threats to the human rights system and expressed concern about moves to reintroduce the death penalty, rising levels of extra-judicial killings in some countries, and moves to erode women’s rights.  Czechia expressed support for the High Commissioner’s Change Initiative which aimed to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground and shared the fear about centrifugal forces threatening to break apart the human rights system and erase achievements of the past 70 years.

Germany called on all governments to refrain from reprisals against those advocating the respect for and protection of human rights.  Attempts to restrict freedom of expression and opinion, and the moves to reintroduce the death penalty in some countries and end the moratoria in other countries were of concern.  Russia noted that global challenges required the reform of international institutions, but this must be in strict compliance with international law and must not be used as a pretext for downsizing the role of States in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Russia recalled that the role of international institutions was to support and assist States in their efforts.  Montenegro stressed the need to demonstrate decisiveness and political will to invest more in inclusive dialogue and transparency at all levels, and reiterated the primary obligation and responsibility of States to guarantee security and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  

Switzerland expressed concern about the rights of minorities in Myanmar, and said a credible and independent inquiry was essential to bring perpetrators to justice.  Human rights in Burundi were also important, and stronger international monitoring was necessary in that country.  In Syria, there was a systematic use of torture, and it was urgent to take measures to bring perpetrators to justice.   Switzerland deplored the resumption of executions in some countries.  Mexico shared the concern of the High Commissioner about the plight of migrants, and reaffirmed its commitment to the defence of its compatriots abroad, expressing particular concern at the situation of vulnerable groups, and underscoring its support for the principle of non-refoulement.  Venezuela said freedoms were supported in Venezuela, which had submitted proof that there were no political prisoners in the country.  The international community should recognize the efforts of the Government of Venezuela in trying to mitigate the economic war against the country. 

Israel thanked the High Commissioner for his annual report, noting that the international community was witnessing human rights abuses around the world, but the question was whether the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights served the victims of those abuses.  Instead of being protector of the victims, the Human Rights Council continued with its obsession with Israel.  Canada said the international community was confronted by a challenge to human rights and there was a rise in intolerance, xenophobia and exclusion, while respect for human rights principles was eroding.  Special Procedures were more vital than ever, and Canada saw diversity as a strength, stressing the importance of gender equality and women’s rights.  Japan stated its intention to involve itself in country-specific issues, including Syria, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, as well as thematic issues such as freedom of expression.  Japan was also concerned at human rights violations committed by “North Korea”, and would be submitting a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in that country.

Cuba underlined the principles of impartiality and objectivity in the mandate of the High Commissioner in order to fully implement General Assembly resolution 48/141.  The defence of Venezuela and its revolution was a concern of all across Latin America.  Cuba supported President Nicolas Maduro and opposed any effort to destabilize Venezuela.   Belgium recalled the importance for all States to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to provide access to their territories.  It encouraged the High Commissioner to maintain the already demonstrated independence in his work.  Belgium voiced concern over human rights situations in countries of central Africa, especially in Burundi and South Sudan.  Nicaragua expressed concern that political speech was used with reference to the migrant crisis, in particular Islamophobia.  It lamented the occupying power’s illegal practices to prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian State.  It called for the right to self-determination of Western Sahara. 

China underlined that the equal promotion of all human rights was a common responsibility of States.  Technical assistance should be provided to States towards that end, whereas politicization and confrontation should be avoided.   The High Commissioner’s work should be guided by respect for the national sovereignty of States.  Egypt reiterated that States should not use cooperation with the High Commissioner to slander other States.  It regretted that the High Commissioner had not once mentioned technical cooperation and capacity building, or the right to development in his report.  Spain underlined the universality and indivisibility of human rights.  It shared the High Commissioner’s appeal to advance the consolidation of gender equality, noting that 2017 would be a key year in which the commitment to all human rights would be tested.  Algeria stated that the six-month fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara should be resumed.  Technical assistance should be provided to the African Union Human Rights Institution and the Western Sahara Human Rights Institution, as well as to civil society.   

Georgia noted with concern the alarming level of civilian casualties in conflicts, the large number of people displaced, and the brutal terrorist attacks, and drew attention to the human rights situation in both occupied regions of Georgia, where there were no international monitoring mechanisms and where the ongoing closure of the crossing points would further aggravate the situation of the people.  Netherlands said that more than ever, a strong presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights throughout the world was needed and stressed the need for solid research and preservation of evidence about human rights violations, especially in Syria and in Yemen.  Justice must and would be served.  Costa Rica said the world was facing an era of deep political, social, economic and technological change and stressed that endowing human beings with rights, dignity and freedoms must be at the core.  It was not the refugees, migrants, religious and ethnic minorities that were at the core of unemployment, inequality and marginalization; governments must adopt policies to address loss of work due to technological progress and to ensure equal sharing of benefits of development.

Syria said that some States continued to show double standards and stressed that sovereignty of States must be respected without discrimination.  A new approach to crises must be adopted, in dialogue and cooperation, to resolve human rights problems worldwide instead of preaching and lecturing.  Pakistan declared that it was not Pakistan that had denied access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Jammu and Kashmir; it was India which had blatantly denied access in a desperate attempt to hide atrocities in this occupied part of the world, where 70,000 Indian troops were committing violations with impunity.  South Africa agreed with the High Commissioner that the question that the world was facing now was whether to continue to work together to improve the lot of all, or if narrow political interest would prevail and the multilateral system would be dismantled.  South Africa was dismayed at the state of affairs in the Council, which was becoming a platform for settling of geopolitical scores and the advancement of narrow political interests.

Iran said the naming and shaming approach added fuel to the fire within the Human Rights Council, noting that the reference to the death penalty ran counter to the facts on the ground.  Iran was fighting the biggest drug traffickers, and the nexus between terrorism and organized crime was undeniable.  Maldives commended the launch of the practical guide and the accompanying study on engagement, noting that the Maldives at the national level had launched a national human rights framework, and that the world had many issues needing urgent attention, but human rights had to be central to any proposals to address those challenges today.  Philippines said its decision to reinstate the death penalty for “heinous crimes” related to the sale and distribution of illegal drugs was within its sovereignty, and on the arrest and detention of Senator Leila De Lima underscored that due process and the rule of law were at work in the Philippines.

Chile said the work of the High Commissioner was valued, expressing support for those who despite facing difficult situations in relation to refugees had adopted a human rights focus.  Chile underscored its rejection of all hate speech, xenophobia and discrimination, and was concerned about the trend of regression in fundamental rights.  Kuwait said it was important to respect the rights of countries to adopt approaches as they saw fit, rejecting any politicization of Council resolutions as well as rejecting terrorism and any cause for it, as terrorism had no identity and no religion.  Thailand reaffirmed its belief that the promotion and protection of human rights had to be based on the principles of cooperation as well as genuine and constructive dialogue, also noting that Thailand’s work under the political road map continued, and the draft Constitution reaffirmed the country’s commitment to equal rights, freedom of religion and belief, and many other rights.  

United States drew attention to the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of United Nations peace missions, particularly alleged sexual abuse of children by United Nations peace keepers which undermined the confidence of local populations.   How did the Office plan to facilitate the investigation of sexual abuse cases, in the context of non-United Nations mandated peace missions, and provide victim support?  Belarus regretted the growth of flagrant and mass human rights violations, and systemic problems in the protection of human rights in developed countries.  It welcomed the balance in monitoring of country situations by the High Commissioner.  However, the mandate on Belarus had outlived its usefulness.  India stressed that the state of Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, noting that the term “Indian administered Kashmir” was artificial.  The central problem in Jammu and Kashmir was terrorism and it was thus surprising that the High Commissioner was silent about Pakistan using terrorism as an instrument of State policy.  United Arab Emirates regretted the content of the High Commissioner’s report on Bahrain, reminding that Bahrain had worked hard to engage in a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.  The United Arab Emirates also condemned the obstacles to the establishment of a Palestinian State.

High Commissioner’s Remarks

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, responded to the comment on how the oral update was viewed and noted that it had to be viewed in conjunction with the report itself.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights covered issues in line with the available resources.  The leadership of the Office made sure that they were always in continuous dialogue with Member States’ representatives, and not just on the occasion of the oral update.   The oral update had to be limited due to time constraints.  The High Commissioner reminded that the Secretary-General’s new strategy on combatting sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of United Nations peace missions would be rolled out.  The United Nations needed to change and reform its approach to sexual exploitation and abuse, which also required reform and change of Member States because they exercised immediate authority on those issues.  As for non-United Nations mandated operations, a challenge would be how to make United Nations strategies on accountability, transparency and victim support consistent.   The desire by the United Nations to deal more effectively with those issues would require desire on the part of Member States to do likewise.  Any approach had to be based on victims’ best interests.  As for ensuring more inclusive societies at the time of the rise of ethno-nationalism and sectarianism, the High Commissioner noted that there was no country with a perfect human rights record.  The High Commissioner suggested to Member States to follow Canada’s inclusive social model.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Bahrain said that the words of the High Commissioner about Bahrain were contradictory to the truth as Bahrain had institutions for the protection of human rights and it guaranteed the enjoyment of civil and political rights and freedom of the media.  Bangladesh believed that globally accepted human rights standards and norms must be accepted and implemented by everyone everywhere.  Bangladesh was experiencing huge economic, social and demographic pressures because of the presence of the 300,000 undocumented Myanmar nationals on top of the Rohingya refugees.  Botswana commended the High Commissioner for the efforts to promote human rights throughout the world and urged a collective effort to find a people-centred solution to the plight of millions of migrants and refuges, also fleeing the threat of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia said it continued the promotion and protection of human rights pursuant to the principles of Sharia, noting that while human rights were universal, that did not mean implementing the principles which were contrary to Sharia.  The death penalty was only used for the most heinous crimes, and in accordance with the rule of law.  Turkey disagreed with the High Commissioner’s assessment of the situation in the country and stressed that Turkey was being targeted by multiple terrorist groups including the attempted coup d’état in July 2016; it was Turkey’s right and responsibility to protect democracy and the rule of law and the safety of its people.  The state of emergency had been installed in accordance with internationally accepted norms and standards.  Iraq praised the anti-terrorist efforts of its law enforcement forces whose conduct during the operations against ISIS was fully in line with international humanitarian law and accepted standards.

Sudan thanked the High Commissioner for the update, underlining that Sudan would continue to cooperate with the Human Rights Council.  Sudan would soon receive a technical mission as well as the Working Group on enforced disappearances.  National reconciliation was continuing in the country.  Sudan believed that there was a need to respect the territorial integrity of Morocco.  Norway said there was a need to ensure that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was sufficiently funded, adding that it was time to reform the Council’s agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.  Norway was presenting a resolution to renew the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and encouraged all States to support the renewal of that mandate.  Democratic People's Republic of Korea rejected the references made to the country in the High Commissioner’s report, saying that any “reports” on human rights issues were little more than documents of a political plot replicating and compiling unfounded and fabricated information spread by hostile forces under the disguise of human rights. 

Hungary expressed disappointment with the inaccurate interpretation of legislative changes in Hungary, and underscored that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should more frequently share information on best practices.  Fiji thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the timely report on good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights, and spoke about its national administrative organization, noting that Fiji’s Constitution incorporated the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.  Honduras said countries, like people, showed their grandeur when they were able to assist people despite their own difficulties, noting that where human rights were flouted, there was conflict and violence.  Honduras shared the concern of the High Commissioner on the vulnerable situation of human rights defenders.

Republic of Korea said the epidemic of so-called “half-truths” was splitting people from people and society from society.  It appreciated the High Commissioner’s continued interest in the human rights situation in “North Korea”, which had been perpetrating crimes against humanity, the scale of which had already gone beyond the tolerance of the international community.  Ireland called on all States to consider joining the country in providing practical support to the independence and effectiveness of human rights activities by making an un-earmarked contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  For its work to have impact beyond the confines of the Chamber, the Council must ensure that it was open to input from outside the Geneva bubble.  Myanmar dismissed the use of the term crimes against humanity in relation to the High Commissioner’s report.  All should be vigilant against unfounded claims.   Myanmar expected the United Nations to be balanced and impartial.   However, if concrete evidence was provided, Myanmar would take action against any perpetrators. 

Togo shared concerns about the human rights deterioration in many countries worldwide.   Togo was committed to the protection of all human rights and had decided to improve its institutional human rights framework.   In particular, it had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.   Ukraine said it shared the concern that the rights-based system was under attack.  For its part, Ukraine firmly believed in the indispensability of international law and justice.  It sought accountability under international law, while the Russian Federation continued to demonstrate disregard for its obligations under international treaties.  Tunisia stressed the importance of positive action in the face of obstacles and promoted dialogue amongst members of Council for the benefit of people around the world.  It called on all stakeholders to participate and support the Council’s tools and mechanisms.  This would help them become more authoritative and safeguard the universality of human rights.

Nepal noted that the interdependence and interrelatedness of human rights with freedom, peace, security and development further called for a holistic approach.  Extreme poverty, marginalization and paucity in access to productive resources posed challenges in the realization of human rights.  Oman shared the High Commissioner’s opinion that respect for human dignity and the rule of law was on the decline because of continued violations of human rights.  The issue of terrorism and its negative effect on the enjoyment of human rights should be addressed at the international level.  Zimbabwe expressed dismay over the tendency to disregard the principles of genuine dialogue and cooperation by some Member States which politicized human rights through naming and shaming, creation of country specific mandates, and imposition of unilateral coercive measures without the United Nations’ authorization. 

Paraguay reiterated its commitment to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, and shared concern over the proliferation of xenophobia, and discrimination against women, children and migrants.  Paraguay fully endorsed the actions taken by the High Commissioner and his leadership.  Mali commended the High Commissioner’s initiatives and daily work, as well as efforts to cooperate with regional human rights mechanisms.  It noted with concern the rising intolerance and Islamic terrorist groups in northern Mali.  Senegal welcomed the High Commissioner’s constant commitment to fight impunity and called on him to pay greater attention to the rights of the child and the rights of persons with disabilities.  Senegal called on the international community to strengthen financial support to the High Commissioner’s Office.

Order of Malta highlighted the question of migrants and refugees.  It was essential to integrate a human rights perspective into the global policy dialogue on migration in order to develop principles and guidelines on the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations.  Congo said that despite the lack of cooperation in some instances, the High Commissioner had strengthened the effectiveness of his message.  Congo encouraged Member States to facilitate access to their territories by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to request technical assistance from the Office when needed.  Latvia said it was regrettable to see the growing division among Council members and systematic attempts to undermine the Council’s work.  Latvia hoped the Council would once again show its unity and strength in renewing its crucial mandate.   It also stressed the importance of protecting the right of freedom of expression at a time of technological disruption.  

Rwanda said that as a new member of the Council, it was committed to upholding the Council’s mandate.  Rwanda called on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide an update on the toolkit to support States on the practical application of prevention.  South Sudan referred to the High Commissioner’s mention in his annual report that South Sudan’s National Army was committing various atrocities.  The fact of the matter was that the national army was carrying out its constitutional mandate of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan against anti-peace elements in the country.  Jordan expressed concern that the “occupying power” continued its human rights violations in occupied Palestine.  With respect to its own country, Jordan said it carried out the death penalty against those convicted of terrorism and executed capital punishment only in horrendous crimes and in accordance with the law.  Jordan supported Bahrain and Egypt in their efforts to fight terrorism and in the field of human rights.

Poland noted that the international human rights system could not exist without civil society and human rights defenders.  It underlined that the High Commissioner’s assessment of the human rights situation in Poland was one-sided.  Cambodia observed that the High Commissioner had chosen only one side of the coin to portray the human rights situation in Cambodia negatively, disregarding the actual situation on the ground.  Human rights were often used to vilify countries.  Nigeria commended the High Commissioner for his strong condemnation of terrorism, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and refugees.  The defence of fundamental human rights was part of Nigeria’s Constitution and foreign policy.  Armenia expressed concern over the rise of xenophobia, racial discrimination and hatred, and over the atrocities committed by ISIL and other terrorist groups.  Armenia condemned the suppression of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and their right to self-determination.   Madagascar noted that the mandate of the High Commissioner required constant mobilization and support of all.  Madagascar intended to strengthen its cooperation with the High Commissioner and the mechanisms of his Office.  Sweden underlined the importance of civil society’s participation as a vital component to ensure the credibility of the United Nations.  It welcomed the High Commissioner’s attention to the widespread discrimination and violence against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as efforts to reinstate the death penalty.

Brazil said that as Brazil embarked on its new mandate at the Human Rights Council, it acknowledged the responsibility of membership.  Brazil was committed to prevent human rights violations and to strengthen technical assistance and capacity building so as to close the implementation gap.  During its tenure at the Human Rights Council, Brazil would continue to give priority to the protection of vulnerable persons.  It was particularly concerned about the realization of the human rights of migrants and refugees, regardless of their migratory status.  Morocco said that Morocco had positively interacted with the United Nations system, which stemmed from the will of the King to continue that cooperation.  In the desert region and the Sahara region, Morocco refused any intent to divide its territories.  The Sahara was a part of the territories of Morocco and it had addressed several invitations to the United Nations and looked forward to such visits.  Benin said it was concerned by the proliferation of acts of violence, acts of discrimination, religious intolerance and xenophobia perpetrated against migrants and vulnerable groups.  Benin would present its candidacy for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions voiced its commitment to working with the High Commissioner’s Office to ensure that respect for human rights was at the core of the efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, and to help develop and implement the global compact on migration and refugees.  CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation regretted restrictions on civil society and human rights defenders, and it thus vigorously endorsed the call for greater allocation of resources to bolster the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  International Humanist and Ethical Union drew attention to the denial of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people which was prevalent across the world, as well as the practice of early and forced marriage.  Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs  drew attention to the crimes and serious human rights violations in the Tindouf camps, which were regularly corroborated.  Algeria continued to cover up those crimes with some 50,000 victims of enforced disappearances, and it had constantly refused visits by civil society to the camps and investigation of the crimes committed there.  

Human Rights Watch drew attention to torture in Egypt, China’s intimidation and detention of lawyers and activists, Turkey’s campaign against critics, the new United States’ administration’s ban on entry for nationals of Muslim-majority countries, the Philippines’ killing of more than 7,000 people, and serious human rights breaches in many other countries.  Association Dunenyo stated that the human rights situation in the Sahel region required serious assessment.  The Algerian authorities refused to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to register refugees in the Tindouf camps.  Comité International pour le Respect et l'Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples, on behalf of severals NGOs1, asked the High Commissioner how his Office would ensure the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and reminded of the Secretary-General’s request to fill the vacancies in the Independent Expert Group for the Durban Declaration before the end of March 2017. 

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc. raised concerns about the deeply troubling human rights situation in Bahrain and the closing of the political and civil society space there.  It echoed the Human Rights Commissioner’s concern about the increasing human rights violations in Bahrain, including the Government’s expanded arrest powers through the National Security Agency.  It also agreed that the Government must undertake concrete confidence building measures.  American Association of Jurists shared concerns about situations of conflict where human rights violations were systemic and widespread, and where war crimes and crimes against humanity remained unpunished.  It also expressed concern about the situation in the Occupied Territory of Palestine and the situation in the Occupied Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara.

Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, High Commissioner of Human Rights, thanked delegations of countries where positive trends had taken place.   In terms of incentives that could be given to cooperating countries, he said the continued provision of technical support was something the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would want to invest in, however the lack of resources prohibited it from doing everything it would like to do.  This was true in Chad and Ecuador and other places where there had been limitations due to a lack of funds.  The High Commissioner called on States to enhance technical support but said the Office needed to find the funding to do it.  In terms of recognizing States for their good work, he had recognized Turkey for their work in hosting Syrian refugees.  With respect to the accuracy of the Human Rights Council reports, the ideal was to be granted access whenever a request was made.  The optimal condition was that his Office would be granted access, but he believed that his staff still did a good job even when they were not.   Concerning cooperation with the new Secretary-General, his Office was part of the Executive Committee and all issues were discussed with a three pillar approach.   He was also pleased to see the work with the Security Council continued with regular briefings and believed it was a further validation that peace and security and human rights had an intricate relationship.  Nevertheless, the international community had to further develop the fusion between development and human rights.  He confirmed that going forward, there would be a number of briefings and debates during which many issues outlined in the report would emerge.  Opening up countries to observation would either validate or disprove what his Office had put forth.  In conclusion, the High Commissioner thanked everyone, including his staff, for their hard work.  These magnificent people were truly committed to the human rights agenda, he said.

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1Joint statement: Comité International pour le Respect et l'Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples; African Development Association; "Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud; Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs; Dunenyo; and Organisation Internationale pour le Développement Intégral de la Femme.
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