Agenda item 10
26 Septmber 2012
Distinguished members of the Human Rights Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to introduce the reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted to this session of the Council under agenda item 10.
The High Commissioner submits our first report on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights (A/HRC/21/34), pursuant to resolution 18/17 of the Council. The report outlines the main human rights challenges faced by South Sudan as a new State emerging from decades of war, and identifies priority entry points for assisting the Government in its efforts to promote and protect human rights.
Since its independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudan has made important efforts to establish the institutions necessary to respond to the needs of its population, including towards the promotion and protection of human rights. However, South Sudan faces daunting human rights challenges, as underscored during its universal periodic review. These include: the Government’s limited capacity to protect civilians, weaknesses in the administration of justice and rule of law, violations of women’s rights, lack of enjoyment of social and economic rights, and the urgent need to put in place a human rights-compliant legal framework. The report raises specific concerns about widespread violations of human rights in the administration of justice, including prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowded prisons and the continued application of the death penalty. In this regard, I wish to reiterate the High Commissioner’s concern about the execution by hanging of two men on death row on 28 August, and her call for the eventual abolition of the capital punishment, as was discussed with President Kiir during her visit in May this year.
Given the capacity gap in South Sudan, the report calls on the international community to support the Government’s efforts in developing a national human rights strategy and action plan for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Stressing the importance of a strong national legal framework, the report urges the Government to ratify the main international and regional human rights instruments and to ensure that national legislation is in harmony with international human rights standards. Finally, the report recommends a comprehensive reform of the security sector and support to key institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, the Constitutional Review Commission and the Law Review Commission.
Monsieur le Viceprésident,
J’aborde maintenant le rapport sur les activités de notre Bureau au Cambodge (A/HRC/21/35), soumis conformément à la résolution 18/35 du Conseil: le rapport décrit le large éventail d’assistance technique fournie au Gouvernement et au peuple du Cambodge dans les douze derniers mois jusqu’à juin 2012. Le Bureau du Haut-Commissariat dans le pays, qui fêtera 20 ans de travail au Cambodge l’année prochaine, continue de focaliser son assistance sur quatre domaines : le renforcement de l’Etat de droit, le soutien à la réforme des prisons, la protection des libertés fondamentales, et la protection des droits à la terre et à l’habitat.
Pendant la période sous revue, la coopération entre le Haut-Commissariat et le Gouvernement s’est approfondie. En janvier 2012, notre protocole d’accord a été renouvelé pour deux années supplémentaires. L’appui du Haut-Commissariat au Gouvernement a entraîné des améliorations concrètes, comme des appels plus rapides avec une cour d’appel renforcée, une sécurité foncière améliorée pour de nombreuses communautés autochtones, ou encore la fourniture d’eau propre et les mesures contre les inondations dans les prisons.
Toutefois, des tendances inquiétantes sont retenues dans le rapport, comme la persistance d’un grand nombre de conflits liés à la terre et une violence croissante de la part de communautés défendant leur terre, la poursuite de l’impunité pour les violations graves de droits humains, les condamnations hâtives et arbitraires de défenseurs de droits de l’homme, ainsi que le recours sensiblement plus important aux balles réelles par les forces de sécurité contre des populations qui revendiquent leurs droits et qui, dans certains cas, a entraîné la mort.
Nous apprécions le dialogue privilégié et la coopération que le Haut-Commissariat entretient avec le Gouvernement royal du Cambodge et attendons avec intérêt de fournir un appui supplémentaire dans l’année qui vient.
I am also pleased to present the first report of the Secretary-General to this Council on human rights in Somalia (A/HRC/21/36) submitted pursuant to resolution 19/28 of the Council.
On 10 September, Somalia’s eight-year transition ended with the election of a new President and Speaker of Parliament. The new Provisional Constitution calls for a National Human Rights Commission and a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. OHCHR stands ready to assist the Government, and looks forward to the appointment of a national interlocutor to proceed with the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on technical assistance in the field of human rights, signed between the United Nations and the Somali authorities last May. It should also be recalled that, in 2011, against all odds, Somalia’s active participation in the universal periodic review was a major achievement which the new Government, with the support of the international community, should build upon.
The report highlights key human rights concerns, demonstrating that the situation remains complex. It also underlines the need to end impunity for on-going human rights violations, and calls for the ratification of the Rome statute to hold perpetrators of gross human rights and humanitarian law violations to account. The report further points out to the primary responsibility of the Somali authorities to uphold human rights and hold violators to account in areas under its control, including through the establishment of appropriate national mechanisms.
The second part of the report describes the work of the United Nations to address human rights challenges in Somalia, including coordination mechanisms. OHCHR operates in Somalia through the Human Rights Unit of UNPOS, which enjoys a broad mandate but is small, and thinly spread between offices in Mogadishu, Garowe, Hargeisa and Nairobi. Despite the challenging security conditions, the human rights team has monitored cases and situations of human rights violations and activated a database of violations. Through technical assistance, the team has also helped to strengthen the capacity of national and regional authorities, most notably in the areas of rule of law, justice and corrections.
I wish to emphasize that human rights are central to the post-transition state-building process. As you may know, a strategic review of the United Nations presence in Somalia is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, ahead of discussions on Somalia at the Security Council, in December. In that connection, we call on member States, particularly the Friends of Somalia, to ensure that the protection of human rights and the strengthening of a human rights presence in-country be given the highest priority.
I now wish to introduce the report on the situation of human rights in Yemen (AHRC/21/37), pursuant to resolutions 18/19 and 19/29 of the Council. The report provides an updated assessment of the overall human rights situation in the country between January and June 2012. It is based on information gathered by a mission conducted by OHCHR in Yemen in July this year.
The report observes that, while the security situation had improved in some parts of Yemen, most notably in Sana’a, violence continued to affect some areas, impacting on the lives of individuals, and causing massive internal displacement and destruction of infrastructure. The on-going unrest has also aggravated the humanitarian and economic situation, which is affecting the whole population.
The report takes note of some of the positive developments over the reporting period. OHCHR welcomes the preparations for the National Dialogue that would form the basis for a Constitution and the positive steps taken towards the establishment of an independent human rights institution. OHCHR is also encouraged by the decline in violence against peaceful protesters or journalists, the increasing number of legally registered civil society organizations, and enhanced attention to women’s issues as well as increased participation of women in the National Dialogue and other transitional processes. Most recently, the President signed the decree that will set up a Commission of Inquiry into the violations committed during 2011 events.
Nonetheless, OHCHR regrets that investigations into past human rights violations have been selective and lacked credibility. Furthermore, the Government has so far not reached a consensus over the draft law on transitional justice, which awaits a decision by the President. We hope that the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry will form the basis for a comprehensive and inclusive transitional justice process. The report also reiterates our principled opposition to the adoption of an amnesty law granting absolute immunity from prosecution to former President Saleh and all officials who operated under his rule.
OHCHR is further concerned about the continued detention of individuals by Government security forces without due process, cases of illegal detention by armed opposition groups, as well as the continued harassment of and threats to peaceful protesters and journalists. In addition, children continue to be recruited by both Government forces and armed opposition group, despite commitments to end such practices.
The report also takes note of the Government’s active cooperation with OHCHR, and I am pleased to inform this Council that an agreement establishing OHCHR’s country office in Yemen will be signed today in New York (between the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs).
This concludes my introduction of reports under agenda item 10.