Human Rights Council
22 March 2017
The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues on an oral update of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, and on the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and the activities of the Office in Guinea, under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.
Presenting the oral update of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, expressed concern that people on both sides of the contact line in the east of Ukraine continued to suffer and were unable to enjoy their basic rights, including to life and freedom of movement. Detention continued on both sides. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics continued to detain an unknown number of people, and there were concerns of torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence. The level of trust in the judiciary was very low and that was why finalizing the judicial reform was so important, especially as accountability depended on an independent and robust judiciary. In Crimea, a territory under temporary occupation of the Russian Federation, there were serious concerns about human rights violations. Mr. Gilmour reaffirmed the commitment to continue to assist the Government of Ukraine in its reform, and he urged the authorities to turn the recommendations received into real changes in the legal framework and the practices of the State.
Speaking as the concerned country, Ukraine noted that the Russian Federation continued to supply deadly assistance to illegal armed groups in Ukraine that had committed numerous terrorist attacks. In occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation continued to wholly disregard human rights, while implementing policies of cultural erasure and pervasive discrimination. Ukraine therefore encouraged the Secretary-General to seek ways and means to ensure safe and unfettered access to Crimea by established regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms to enable them to carry out their mandate.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed that only a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements would result in conditions allowing due respect for human rights in Ukraine. Conflict-related sexual violence was of particular concern, as well as widespread arbitrary and illegal detentions, torture, and lack of justice and freedom of expression in the areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Tens of thousands of people were deprived of life-saving services and basic necessities. Speakers called on the Russian Federation to use its considerable influence over the separatists to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and to grant unimpeded access by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international organizations to Crimea and the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine in order to help achieve peace and improve the lives of people living in those regions. Some speakers drew attention to the difficult situation of internally displaced persons and those living in rural areas of eastern Ukraine who had been systematically deprived of essential social benefits by the Government of Ukraine.
Speaking were European Union, Finland, Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia, Czechia, Iceland, Georgia, Russian Federation, Poland, France, Council of Europe, Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, United States, Estonia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Slovakia, and New Zealand.
Also taking the floor was the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, and the following non-governmental organizations: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights House Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Caritas Internationalis, and Minority Rights Group.
Presenting the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and the activities of the Office in Guinea, Mr. Gilmour explained that the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea with the Government of Guinea, civil society and other stakeholders had resulted in significant progress on a number of key issues. Efforts had been made with respect to transitional justice and national reconciliation. The main recommendations had been related to the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, the reform of security and justice sectors, a review of the historical record, and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the national reconciliation process. Nevertheless, in spite of the commitment of the Government to prioritize the fight against impunity, major shortcomings remained in the response to many cases of prosecution of the presumed authors of crimes against humanity committed during the 28 September 2009 events, the lack of trust of citizens in the justice system, and lengthy pre-trial detentions. Impunity also remained a feature of the fight against gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, the perpetrators of which were hardly ever brought before the courts.
Speaking on behalf of the concerned country, Cheik Sako, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals of Guinea, said that Guinea had embarked on the justice sector reform 2015-2019 which addressed access to justice, ensuring independence of the judiciary, improving institutional and human capacity, and combatting impunity. The reform called for the adoption of new laws, including the criminal code and the criminal procedure code, and for criminalization of torture and abolition of the death penalty.
Kalifa Gassama Diaby, Minister of National Unity and Citizenship of Guinea, said human rights violations needed to be addressed in order for justice to be done. Regarding impunity, the reality was that there were difficulties, and the situation needed to be explained without just referring to techniques and procedures. There were two ways of looking at Guinea, from outside and from the inside, two approaches which complemented each other.
Asmaou Diallo, President of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of 28 September 2009, said she had lost her son in the massacre. Work had started on documenting the events. The Office of the Prosecutor had said the events of that day were crimes against humanity. A historic trial had been announced and for the first time in Guinea such persons would be judged. The investigation should be completed as quickly as possible.
In the ensuing discussion, delegations stressed that while there had been significant progress made, efforts should be further supported so Guinea could continue its path. Worry was expressed, however, about continuing impunity and corruption, with delegations calling for judicial reform as a priority as well as continued cooperation with international mechanisms.
Speaking were the European Union, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Egypt, Benin, Morocco, United States, Mali, Togo, Chad and Algeria.
The following civil society organizations also delivered statements: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (joint statement), Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme and Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue.
The Council is having a full day of meetings today. At 1 p.m. it will hold separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on the report of the High Commissioner on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
Presentation of the Oral Update of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, presenting an oral update on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, expressed concern that people on both sides of the contact line in the east continued to suffer and were unable to enjoy their basic rights, including to life and freedom of movement. In the last three months, 130 conflict-related civilian casualties had been recorded, 23 deaths and 107 injuries. Shelling, including from multiple-launching rocket systems, had caused 65 per cent of the casualties. The Assistant Secretary-General reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligation to protect civilians and to live up to their promises in Minsk. In Donetsk and Avdiivka, there had been shelling, with schools and hospitals damaged, and loss of water and electricity; people suffered on both sides of the contact line, an arbitrary boundary and not a border. Divisive narratives were leading to the growing isolation of the territory controlled by armed groups, while disproportionate restrictions on freedom of movement across the contact line affected an average of 23,000 people per day and deepened the divide between communities.
Detention continued on both sides, said Mr. Gilmour, noting that the Government had granted access to prisons and pre-trial detention facilities, but access to those controlled by armed groups was still to be received. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics continued to detain an unknown number of people, and there were concerns of torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence. The level of trust in the judiciary was very low and that was why finalizing the judicial reform was so important, especially as accountability depended on an independent and robust judiciary. In Crimea, a territory under temporary occupation of Russia as recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, there were serious concerns about human rights violations. The treatment of detainees was particularly worrying, as authorities extracted confessions through torture and ill-treatment, and transferred detainees to Russia where some were denied access to medical care. There were new patterns of interference in the activities of defense lawyers in prominent human rights cases. The Assistant Secretary-General said that the Office had requested access to Crimea, and that with or without that access, it would issue a specific report on the human rights situation there later this year.
The report of sexual violence in Ukraine described patterns of sexual violence against individuals deprived of their liberty in the conflict-affected regions in the east of the country, the majority of which dated back to 2014 and 2015. The Office had documented several cases which amounted to torture or to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and some could amount to war crimes. Mr. Gilmour reaffirmed the commitment to continue to assist the Government of Ukraine in its reform, and he urged the authorities to turn the recommendations received into real changes in the legal framework and the practices of the State. While doing the best with the limited resources and mandate, the fact of the matter was that the overall human rights situation in Ukraine – especially on both sides of the contact line between the Government and armed groups in the east of the country, and in Crimea – was alarming and gave rise to real human suffering, concluded Mr. Gilmour.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Ukraine, speaking as the concerned country, noted that after three years, it was clear that the Russian Federation did not intend to stop its aggression and illegal occupation of Ukraine’s territory, to de-escalate the situation and to implement the Minsk Agreements. The seventeenth report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights once again showed the enormous harm caused to Ukraine by the Russian aggression and illustrated the urgent need for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, especially the implementation of a sustainable, immediate and full ceasefire, regain of full control over the border with the Russian Federation, the withdrawal of weapons, and the disengagement of forces and hardware. The Russian Federation continued to supply deadly assistance to illegal armed groups in Ukraine that had committed numerous terrorist attacks. In occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation continued to wholly disregard human rights, while implementing policies of cultural erasure and pervasive discrimination. Ukraine encouraged the Secretary-General to seek ways and means to ensure safe and unfettered access to Crimea by established regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms to enable them to carry out their mandate.
Interactive Dialogue on Ukraine
European Union voiced strong support for the work of the Mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine and concern about the spike in hostilities there. It called on the Russian Federation to use its considerable influence over the separatists to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and it regretted the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea and the persecution of the Crimean Tatars. Finland deplored the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea, and the violation of the rights of women in conflict affected areas. The violations committed against the Tatars and the Ukrainian speaking communities had to cease, international observers should be given full access to Crimea, and those responsible for violations should be held accountable. Denmark stressed that only the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements would result in conditions allowing due respect for human rights in Ukraine. Conflict-related sexual violence was of particular concern, as well as widespread arbitrary and illegal detentions, torture, and lack of justice and freedom of expression in the areas controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
Croatia said the inflow of foreign fighters continued and displacement was worrisome, expressing concern about the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation. Croatia stood ready to share its best practices with Ukraine, and asked which steps the international community could take to allow civil society to carry out its humanitarian activities. Slovenia underscored the importance of implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and joined others in calling for free access for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Crimean peninsula. Czech Republic said the casualties resulting from the conflict were deeply worrying, and called on all parties to grant unhindered access to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, including to detention facilities.
Iceland said the latest reports underlined that the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine was untenable, and noted that the conflict could escalate at any moment. Iceland was concerned that the justice system could not adequately investigate sexual violence, resulting in impunity for such crimes. Georgia said the life of the population living under Russian occupation was at stake, and the United Nations mission should have access to the whole territory, including Crimea. Georgia supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. Russian Federation shared the concern of the United Nations expert regarding the situation in Donbass. Concern was also expressed at the additional restrictions on freedom of opinion, and the Russian Federation called on the United Nations to call on Kiev to abide by standards of international law.
Poland noted the grave toll on the population of the ongoing fighting in east Ukraine and the deteriorating situation in the Russia-occupied Crimea and the town of Sevastopol. The heinous violations of freedom of religion or belief, especially against Crimean Tatars, were of grave concern, and demanded further investigation. France was very concerned about ongoing gross human rights violations in east Ukraine, and stressed that combatting impunity was essential. France condemned violations of the rights of Crimean Tatars and stressed the importance of granting access to international observers to all parts of Crimea. Council of Europe said it cooperated with Ukraine on the implementation of constitutional reform and the effective functioning of the judicial system. It also worked on decentralization and territorial reforms in the country, taking into consideration the ongoing conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the rights of internally displaced persons.
Switzerland called on all authorities and de facto authorities in Ukraine, including in Crimea, to grant access to detention centres, and expressed concern about serious human rights violations in Crimea, including torture and ill-treatment. Japan stressed the importance of the focus of the international community on the human rights situation in both the eastern part of Ukraine and in the Crimean peninsula. Japan urged all parties to the hostilities in the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the Crimean Peninsula, to provide free and unlimited access to international monitors. Belgium said that it was essential for all actors in the conflict to recognize the principle of distinction of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law and said that all must immediately stop the destruction of schools and hospitals.
Australia urged all parties in Ukraine to permit unimpeded access by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international organizations to Crimea and the conflict zones in eastern Ukraine in order to help achieve peace and improve the lives of people living in those regions. United Kingdom regretted the continuing high number of civilian casualties in Ukraine and the sentences passed by rebel authorities in eastern Ukraine which might amount to war crimes. It called on the Russian Federation to grant access to mandates of relevant organizations. Netherlands reaffirmed its deep concern about the deterioration of human rights in Crimea, including the denial of freedom of expression, assembly and religion. It also highlighted the difficult situation in the Donbas where civilians, industry and critical infrastructure were at risk.
Austria shared great concern over the increase in hostilities in eastern Ukraine and the recent drastic escalation of the conflict. Austria remained fully committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. How could conflict-related sexual violence be addressed in more detail? Germany noted that in the areas controlled by separatists in eastern Ukraine and in illegally annexed Crimea, civilians continued to face human rights violations, which should be thoroughly investigated. Tens of thousands of people were deprived of life-saving services and basic necessities. United States condemned the widespread abuses of human rights by Russian occupation authorities in Crimea and combined Russian-separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. It was imperative that combined Russian and separatist forces halted their attacks on civilian infrastructure, including the Donetsk water filtration station.
Estonia called for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and called for holding all perpetrators accountable. The Russian Federation, which had de facto control of Crimea, should immediately release all political prisoners and stop the persecution of journalists critical of the Russian authorities. Turkey said the continuing crisis in Ukraine posed a direct threat to international peace and stability. Turkey was ready to contribute to all endeavours to improve the human rights situation in the country. Turkey would continue to follow the situation and defend the rights and interests of Crimean Tatar Turks who were among the principal constituents of the peninsula. Bulgaria appealed for a peaceful and lasting settlement of the crisis in Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk Agreements and on the principle of territorial integrity, sovereignty and protection of human rights.
Sweden urged the Human Rights Council not to lose sight of who was the aggressor and who was the victim in the conflict, adding that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol constituted clear violations of international law. Hungary said the focus of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on conflict-related sexual violence was pertinent, and both men and women were subjected to sexual violence. Hungary emphasized the importance for all parties to fully respect and implement their obligations under the Minsk Agreements as a crucial element of the political solution. Ireland expressed deep concern at the recent escalation in violence in eastern Ukraine and said it was imperative that all parties fulfilled their obligations under the Minsk Agreements. Ireland asked for an assessment of the current situation of Tatars in Crimea.
Romania regretted the lack of justice and accountability for human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and hoped that the recently adopted action plan toward the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions would contribute to the better protection of civilians. Spain condemned the persistent human rights violations and abuses and said that the impact of the conflict in eastern Ukraine on civilians and civilian infrastructure was unacceptable. Spain was also worried about the worsening human rights situation in the occupied Crimea and stressed the importance of access for the international community. Latvia was gravelly alarmed by the findings of the latest report and the appalling disrespect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Crimea. Russia should implement General Assembly resolution 71/205.
Lithuania was concerned about the serious restrictions of public space in the occupied Crimea, where Crimean Tatars were portrayed as terrorists by de facto authorities only because they did not recognize the legitimacy of Russia’s annexation. Republic of Moldova followed with concern the tense and deteriorating situation and increasing levels of violence in east Ukraine, and stressed the importance of unhindered access by the United Nations human rights monitors. Full compliance with the Minsk Agreements was paramount to the improvement of human rights situation. Slovakia was concerned about the escalation of the conflict in the eastern part of the country leading to serious human rights violations and abuses, including summary executions, incommunicado detentions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment. Those responsible must be held accountable. New Zealand remained concerned about the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine and the impact of the continuing conflict on the lives of those living in the area. It continued to call for a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, starting with a real and lasting ceasefire.
Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights reminded of 12 Ukrainian nationals, sentenced to different terms of imprisonment, who had been transferred from penitentiary institutions in occupied Crimea to the mainland of Ukraine. Their transfer was not acceptable to the Ukrainian party as the territory of Crimea was the territory of Ukraine, temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.
Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern over the safety of civilians living along the line of contact between areas controlled by the Ukrainian Government and Russian-backed separatists. It urged both parties to cease the use of GRAD rockets and other heavy weapons which should not be used in populated areas. Human Rights House Foundation drew attention to the dire human rights situation in Crimea, which had become a zone without the rule of law. Human rights defenders there had been detained by Russian authorities, which also targeted journalists and independent lawyers.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom noted that the situation in eastern Ukraine remained extremely difficult for internally displaced persons and those living in rural areas. Since the spring of 2016 the Government of Ukraine had systematically blocked social payments to them, depriving them of essential social benefits. Caritas Internationalis recalled that the protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine had triggered acute humanitarian needs and had resulted in violations of fundamental rights. It drew attention to the escalation of violence around Avdiivka, a frontline community north of Donetsk city. Minority Rights Group International said the banning of the Mejlis had been followed by a range of violations against Crimean Tatars, including arrest and detention of Mejlis members. Concern was also expressed at the situation of Roma, who remained the most economically and socially marginalized minority community in Ukraine.
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that as the report made clear, the civilian population around the contact line had been bombarded and had sustained a lot of casualties. The international community should align its voice with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in encouraging the parties to implement the Minsk Agreements. Calling for the protection of civilian life was also important, and humanitarian actors should pay attention to the most vulnerable, and it should be ensured that donor support was applied with conditionality based on compliance with human rights application. The situation of the Roma minority was worrisome, including reports of Roma being denied medical services. The eviction of Roma families had also been noted, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue to monitor the situation. In response to a question on the rights of women, Mr. Gilmour said decreasing restrictions on the freedom of movement was important. As to a question on how access to victims could be improved, he said it was an important area and Member States of the international community which had influence should exercise it in that regard. In response to a question on which lessons had been learned from the conflict he underscored the importance of the support which the international community had provided to the Ukrainian Government in their reform efforts. The situation of the Crimean Tatars continued to be of concern. Restrictions on civil society were very worrying, Mr. Gilmour said, as was the situation for unaccompanied children. Regarding a question on proportionality, the teams in the east were monitoring the situation with those principles of proportionality in mind.
The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea (A/HRC/34/43).
Presentation of the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights and the activities of the Office in Guinea
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, reminded that the Human Rights Council had decided to focus on impunity for human rights violations in Guinea. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea had worked with the Government, civil society and other stakeholders to elaborate strategies to address human rights challenges in the country, which had resulted in significant progress on a number of key issues. Efforts had been made with respect to transitional justice and national reconciliation, marked by the submission of the final report of the National Consultations on 29 June 2016 to the President by the two leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities, co-chairs of the provisional National Commission on Reconciliation. The main recommendations had been related to the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, the reform of security and justice sectors, a review of the historical record, and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the national reconciliation process. Nevertheless, in spite of the commitment of the Government to prioritize the fight against impunity, major shortcomings remained in the response to many cases of prosecution of the presumed authors of crimes against humanity committed during the 28 September 2009 events, the lack of trust of citizens in the justice system, and lengthy pre-trial detentions. Impunity also remained a feature of the fight against gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, the perpetrators of which were hardly ever brought before the courts. There were also challenges regarding economic, social and cultural rights, notably with respect to transparency in the management of mineral resources and the protection of the environment and of communities in mining areas. There had been continued reports of arbitrary detention and arrests, excessive use of force, torture, and breaches of the duty to protect the population from lynching. Most allegations of human rights violations had been attributed to the security forces. The recommendations of the High Commissioner included security sector reform, supporting the post-Ebola recovery plan, and ending gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.
Statements by the Concerned Country
CHEIK SAKO, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals of Guinea, speaking as the concerned country, said that the adoption of the national policy and plan of action 2015-2019 had marked the beginning of the justice sector reform which addressed access to justice, ensuring independence of the judiciary, improving institutional and human capacity, and combatting impunity. The reform called for the adoption of new laws, including the criminal code, the criminal procedure code and the military code; torture had been criminalized and the death penalty would soon be abolished. Much effort was being invested in combatting impunity. The reforms aimed to strengthen the criminal justice system, as well as to modernize and humanize the penitentiary system. Guinea was in the process of building the rule of law, which was a gradual process. Institutions were being set up, such as the Constitutional Court, the Higher Council of the Judiciary, and others. Criminal competence had been given to lower courts in order to speed up the processing of cases, some of which had been in the backlog for several years. A number of human rights cases which were before the judiciary system would be gradually addressed.
KALIFA GASSAMA DIABY, Minister of National Unity and Citizenship of Guinea, said human rights violations needed to be addressed in order for justice to be done. Beyond the procedural aspects, Guinea was facing structural issues. That did not mean the country was exonerated. The authorities did have the responsibility to address justice and impunity. But the picture he said he was presenting might give a better understanding of the situation which was very complex. The country’s socio-cultural circumstances complicated matters on the ground. Politics in the democratic sense were meant to serve the people. An intellectual approach was needed to find the most appropriate solutions. Regarding impunity, reality was that there were difficulties, and the situation needed to be explained without just referring to techniques and procedures. Work needed to continue on the consolidation of the State. The society should feel part of the State as a stakeholder. Work needed to be done on reconciliation so Guineans could overcome the sufferings of the past and build a foundation for a strong society. There were two ways of looking at Guinea, from the outside and from the inside, two approaches which complemented each other.
ASMAOU DIALLO, President of the Association of Victims, Parents et Amis du 28 Septembre 2009 (APIVA), said she had lost her son in the massacre. Work had started on documenting the events. Over 450 victims had been supported. The international community also played a key role, with the Office of the Prosecutor-General speaking against violence. The Office of the Prosecutor had said the events of that day were crimes against humanity. For the past eight years, the Prosecutor’s Office had visited many times to evaluate the progress of the investigation. That made it possible for the national justice system to make progress. A historic trial had been announced and for the first time in Guinea such persons would be judged. The investigation should be completed as quickly as possible.
Interactive Dialogue on Guinea
European Union welcomed the legislative reforms and hoped that the progress made in the justice sector would lead to the rapid trial of the perpetrators of the 2009 crimes. Impunity remained a considerable challenge, and security sector reform must continue. France said that the efforts of the international community had supported the efforts of national authorities to bring back the rule of law and guarantee human rights. The fight against impunity was a priority, and France encouraged Guinea to take all the necessary steps to bring to trial perpetrators of the 2009 crimes. Belgium welcomed the national political dialogue which allowed the country to emerge from the political crisis in 2016, and also welcomed the abolition of the death penalty. Concern remained about female genital mutilation, including lacunae in the law and the lack of political will to address the problem.
United Kingdom welcomed the removal of the death penalty from the criminal code and took note of efforts to combat torture by defining it in line with the United Nations Convention against Torture. The efforts to improve health-care facilities across the country were crucial in the post-Ebola climate. Egypt welcomed the implementation of the national reconciliation plan of action and judicial and security sector reforms, and encouraged Guinea to continue to combat impunity and gender-based violence. Benin welcomed the signature of the agreement to end the crisis emanating from the intra-Guinean political dialogue in 2016, and emphasized the importance of the current judiciary and security reforms, including in the area of criminal justice.
Morocco stated that the Guinean authorities were engaged in a constructive dialogue with the human rights bodies. Guinea had made significant progress in a number of areas, and the Guinean efforts needed to be further supported so that the country could quickly achieve its goals. United States congratulated Guinea on its progress towards judicial reform. Impunity and corruption, however, continued to stain the Guinean judiciary. Much work remained to be done, but the adoption of the new procedural and criminal codes was encouraging, as they brought Guinea in conformity with international standards. Mali appreciated the cooperation between Guinea and the human rights mechanisms, and noted a substantial drop in confrontations connected to political demonstrations. Mali was delighted that the end of the Ebola epidemics in Guinea had been announced. Efforts of Guinea to combat impunity were supported.
Togo appreciated the progress made by Guinea on the promotion of human rights. The Guinean authorities seemed committed to bringing the country’s laws in line with international human rights standards. Guinea was encouraged to continue its combat against impunity. Chad congratulated Guinea for the notable efforts put in place on the plan of action on national reconciliation. Chad encouraged Guinea to continue with important reforms of its criminal system on the basis of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Algeria was delighted by the steps taken in the sphere of human rights in Guinea, including the fight against impunity. The Guinean authorities were committed to bring Guinea’s judicial framework in line with international law. The international community ought to continue providing required support to the Guinean authorities.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, in a joint statement, said that regarding the stadium massacre, the extradition of Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, known as “Toumba” was welcomed. The justice system in Guinea was urged to hold a transparent and credible trial. The Government was called on to reform the justice system and punish human rights violations. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme exhorted Guinea to take measures to reinforce citizens’ human rights and to ameliorate detainees’ conditions. Cooperation and communication between non-governmental organizations and the Government was necessary to facilitate the monitoring of reported cases of human rights violations. Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue said the process of capacity-building was a truly African process aimed at finding a genuine solution to problems. The implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was a crucial tool to face the requirements of the people of the country.
Concluding Remarks on Guinea
ANDREW GILMORE, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that a number of speakers had referred to the September 2009 incident and accountability related to it. It was encouraging that the perpetrators would be brought to trial in 2017, but it was important that those indicted should be suspended from public posts, including a person recently appointed as the Governor of Conakry. The fact that those individuals remained in office created security threats for the victims and the witnesses. Guinea ought to be assisted by the international community in order to ensure that the landmark trial took place as planned in 2017. Female genital mutilation remained a very serious problem in Guinea, which was the country with the second highest prevalence in the world. Those who performed female genital mutilation needed to be held to account.
CHEICK SAKO, State Minister, Minister of Justice of Guinea, stated that the presence of two Ministers from Guinea today demonstrated the importance Guinea gave to human rights. All grave violations of human rights had been subject to sanctions and punishments. For some time now, the authorities had been investigating the incidents brought up by several speakers. Procedures had to be respected for criminal proceedings; it was understandable that the victims were in a hurry, but it was important that every precaution be taken with respect to procedures. It was the desire of the Government that the trial take place in Guinea in full accordance with the law. For the procedures, it needed to be sure that no rights were violated, including the rights of those accused. Regarding gender-based violence, for more than a year now, courts had been issuing sentences, and new texts had increased punishments. Awareness-raising was also very important, so that the general public would understand that certain practices were unacceptable. Mr. Sako assured everyone that the judges were working in harmony with international experts on investigating the incident of 28 September 2009.
KALIFA GASSAMA DIABY, Minister of National Unity and Citizenship of Guinea, said that politics did not stop the people of Guinea from having a rigorous and critical analysis of their country. The authorities would not deny or minimize the scope of the human rights problems which existed in Guinea, but in order to tackle those challenges, fighting impunity and prevention were equally important. It was important not to look at Guinea according to established democratic diagrams. Guinea had to move from the structural impasse; as an “adolescent State”, Guinea was facing a number of challenges which more mature States no longer had to deal with. Traditional forces in Guinea were fighting against attempts to combat gender-based violence. In Guinea, many people were older than the State itself, which was only 60. Awareness raising was of critical importance. The authorities accepted their share of responsibility; Guinea needed to be supported on that path, as the society could not be changed overnight.
ASMAOU DIALLO, President of the Association des Victimes, Parents et Amis du 28 septembre 2009, was encouraged by the statements of the two Ministers. Everybody needed to be incorporated in the legal system and trust it. The victims expected a great deal from the Guinean legal system. Support from the international community in that regard was important. Victims needed financial support; since the September 2009 massacre many victims felt they were no longer at home in their own country. Some victims were traumatized for life and were not even able to work or appear in public. The Government had to think about the daily lives of the victims of the 28 September massacre, as well as those who had survived earlier massacres.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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