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Human Rights Council holds general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

1 October 2020

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Secretary-General on Alleged Reprisals, and General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories

The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  It also concluded its interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on alleged reprisals, and the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Speaking in the general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were Germany on behalf of the European Union, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Estonia on behalf of a group of countries, Kuwait on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Armenia, Venezuela, Bahrain, Nepal, Sudan, Israel, Cuba, Greece, China, Iran, Algeria, Russian Federation, Georgia, United Nations Development Programme, Myanmar and Azerbaijan.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions : Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Zero Poor in Africa, The International Organisation for LDCs, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, Asociacion HazteOir.org, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Elizka Relief Foundation, France Libertes : Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Synergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable, Sikh Human Rights Group, International Muslim Women's Union, World Jewish Congress, World Muslim Congress, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Global Welfare Association, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, World Barua Organization, United Nations Watch, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities , Liberation, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Villages Unis (United Villages), International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva, Ingenieurs du Monde, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Iuventum e.V., Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre , European Centre for Law and Justice, Servas International, Health and Environment Program, association of world citizens, International Women's Health Coalition, Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'Homme, Conselho Indigenista Missionário, Centre for Organisation Research and Education, Prahar, African Green Foundation International, and International Buddhist Relief Organisation.

India, Brazil and Pakistan spoke in right of reply.

At the beginning of the meeting the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on alleged reprisals against those who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations.

Speaking during the interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on alleged reprisals were the following non-governmental organizations : Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, and Chinese Association for International Understanding.

The Council then concluded its general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

Speaking were Human Rights Watch, Association Ma'onah for Human Rights and Immigration, International-Lawyers.Org, Institut International pour les droits de l'homme et le Development, Ingenieurs du monde, Partners for Transparency, Iraqi Development Organization, Servas International, and Africa Culture Internationale.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next hear the presentation of the intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, followed by a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Secretary-General on Alleged Reprisals

The interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on alleged reprisals started on Wednesday, 30 September and a summary can be found here.

Speakers were concerned that in some countries, punishing human rights defenders was a policy.  Others noted that not a single country from Western Europe was mentioned in the report, nor was the United States, which seemed to indicate it was biased.  Some speakers called for the creation of an accountability mechanism for States responsible for reprisals.  In the absence of reactions from States, the Council must take up cases of reprisals and conduct investigations.  Speakers flagged various forms of reprisals that had taken place in several countries or involved their Governments, including Israel, South Sudan, Burundi, Djibouti and Philippines.

General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories

The general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories started on Wednesday, 30 September and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Pointing out that international law prohibited an occupying power from destroying property unless “absolutely necessary” for “military operations”, speakers stated that the strong evidence that serious crimes had been committed in Palestine since 2014 underscored the need for International Criminal Court scrutiny over the situation through a formal investigation.  Noting that even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel continued to commit grave violations, speakers urged the Government to put an end to all settlements that violated international law.  Israel’s actions amounted to genocide, said some speakers.  All annexation efforts should be denounced by this Council and the international community.  Some speakers said Iran had pushed Arab States and Israel to realize they faced a common threat, namely Iran.  Poverty was endemic and reprisals at the hand of colonizers continued unabated in Palestinian refugee camps ; item 7 did not concern Israel, but rather the occupation.  The recent acceleration of settlements in the West Bank and the occupation’s severe constraints on civil society, notably as regards the circulation of people and goods, was flagged by some speakers.  Since March 2020, many Palestinian families had lost their income, which could cause the political situation to worsen.

General Debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Speakers said human rights should not be a mere afterthought, but rather at the centre of development ; accordingly, development could not justify the restrictions of human rights, as the Sustainable Development Goals made clear.  The World Economic Forum had foreshadowed that none of those present, nor their children, would see a world where gender equality was fully achieved.  This should spur all to make additional efforts towards this goal.  The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods in developing countries required the international community’s attention, and misuses of social media were compounding the effect of Islamophobia on the pandemic.  Speakers deeply regretted the curtailing of human rights, and political arrests and detentions, notably those that victimized foreign nationals.  Pointing out that some powers instrumentalized human rights, speakers called for the elimination of obstacles preventing development.  Noting that today was the International Safe Abortion Day, speakers urged States to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of women and girls and to ensure uncompromised access to available, accessible, acceptable and quality sexual and reproductive health commodities and services, including modern contraception and comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care on request, as part of universal health coverage and as essential health care, at all times, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some speakers welcomed the cross-regional joint statement presented by Austria on behalf of 30 States and called upon this Council to take further action to, inter alia, protect intersex persons’ autonomy, rights to health and physical and mental integrity.

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For use of the information media; not an official record