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Human Rights Council concludes general debate on human rights situations that require the Council's attention

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14 March 2018

MIDDAY

GENEVA (14 March 2018) - The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

In the general debate, speakers drew attention to the negative consequences for women, children and persons with disabilities of the proxy wars in the Middle East, lack of consultation with indigenous peoples in Latin America and denial of their right to land, difficulties in the administration of justice, obstacles to the right to self-determination, illegal military exports, the persecution of religious minorities, education of children during armed conflicts, women’s rights, rights of refugees and migrants, repressive tactics to silence legitimate dissent, tightened censorship of media outlets, enforced disappearances, systemic torture, large-scale arbitrary detention for long periods of time, unlawful killings, and accelerated use of the death penalty.

Speaking were International Association for Democracy in Africa, International Muslim Women’s Union, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, World Environment and Resources Council, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Amnesty International, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, World Muslim Congress, Roads of Success, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, American Association of Jurists, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, United Villages, Indian Council of South America, Association of World Citizens, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Africa Culture Internationale, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, Union of Arab Jurists, Liberation, Indian Council of Education, Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Coup de Pousse Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, Conseil International pour le soutien a des proces equitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, Centre for Organisation Research and Education, VAAGDHARA, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Association Dunenyo, Association pour l’integration et le Developpment Durable au Burundi, European Centre for Law and Justice, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, ABC Tamil Oli, Alliance Creative Community Project, Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France, Prahar, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Child Foundation, International Solidarity for Africa, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, Ius Primi Viri International Association (in joint statement with International-Lawyers.Org), International Education Development, Jssor Youth Organization, Human Security Initiative Organization, Jossur Moroccan Women Forum, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Tourner la Page, Tamil World, Le Pont, Association for the Victims of the world, L’Observatoire Mauritanien des droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie, International Humanist and Ethical Union, United Nations Watch, People for Successful Corean Reunification, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, International-Lawyers.org, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, Human Rights Leagues of the Horn of Africa, Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, Agence Internationale pour le Développement, International Career Support Association, Il Cenacolo, Human Rights Council of Australia, Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, and Minority Rights Group.  

Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bahrain, Iran, Venezuela, Egypt, Turkmenistan, India, Turkey, Philippines, Republic of Korea, China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Djibouti, Brazil, Belarus, Nigeria, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in right of reply.  

The first part of the general debate started on 14 March in the morning, and a summary can be found here.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  At 3:30 p.m., it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.  

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

International Association for Democracy in Africa said Hazara Shias had been targeted for over a decade now in Pakistan.  Every year there were targeted killings conducted by extremist groups.  The violence had resulted in more than 7,000 deaths.  In Pakistan, Shias were overwhelmingly discriminated against.  In 2017 a gunman had opened fire on a family of four, including a twelve-year old boy.

United Schools International said after three decades of Pakistan’s proxy war and the planned murder of the Kashmiri culture, Kashmiri boys, coerced and brainwashed into believing Pakistan’s propaganda, were laying down arms and returning to their families.  The recent surrender of a footballer-turned militant had inspired dozens of other young Kashmiri boys to return home as well.  Yet, would peace return if Pakistan continued to blatantly export terrorism?

World Barua Organization said attacks on mass gatherings of minorities had increased in India.  A report had suggested that violence had increased dramatically.  In one of the panel discussions on education, the role of information and education in increasing awareness on religious diversity had been brought to the forefront.  It was the responsibility of the Government of India to take note of recommendations and reduce the violence.

International Muslims Women’s Union said mothers suffered because of their separation from their children.  Jammu and Kashmir had become a prison where people were denied their freedoms and rights.  The detention of children was clear proof of such abuses.  The organization appealed to the Human Rights Council to heed mothers’ calls for justice.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said violence in conflict areas was consuming innocent lives.  In Jammu and Kashmir, people were being butchered in cold blood on a daily basis.  Massacres remained fresh in the memories of many.  Kashmir remained a shameful question in the face of India, the biggest violator of human rights in Kashmir.

International Buddhist Relief Organization stressed that resolutions on Sri Lanka were being implemented based on flawed reports.  The people of Sri Lanka were suffering from the poor work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The organization had filed complaints against the Office and called for a moratorium on all action on those resolutions.

Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said Pakistan was the most dangerous country for women.  Women were isolated from society.  Violence against women was alarming in the country and increasing in brutality on a daily basis.  The Commission called on the Human Rights Council to pressure Pakistan and Palestine to protect the rights of women.

World Environment and Resources Council informed about the gross human rights violations committed against the Sindhi people by the State and security establishment of Pakistan.  The Pakistani authorities were ruthlessly crushing any voice and struggle of the Sindhi people against the unsustainable, anti-environment and anti-people project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology drew attention to the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.  Since the 1980s, a series of strict Islamic anti-blasphemy laws had been introduced under which many Christians had suffered.  The Union also highlighted the rising religious intolerance in Palestine against Christian communities.  

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik drew attention to the situation of Azerbaijanis in Iran, who confronted different types of intersectional discrimination.  Many of their civil society activists had received long-term prison sentences in response to their request to celebrate the International Mother Tongue Day.  The organization reminded that Akbar Azad, Alireza Farshi, Behnam Sheykhi and Hamid Manafi had been sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence reminded that the United States and the United Kingdom continued military exports to Saudi Arabia, neglecting international law and human rights.  The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen was accused of arbitrary killings, attacking non-military sites, and blocking the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians.  The transfer of weapons to Saudi Arabia under present conditions was a potential threat to international peace and security.

Amnesty International drew attention to the resumption of police anti-drug operations in the Philippines.  The urban poor were directly affected by the culture of impunity surrounding such operations.  Venezuela was now characterized by violations to the right to food.  The human rights crisis in Egypt had taken up new dimensions in the run-up to elections with civil society facing unprecedented repression.

CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation remained extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi.  As recently as last week, three human rights defenders had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The political situation in Burundi remained tenuous and was unfit for elections.  CIVICUS called on Burundi to cooperate with international organizations and cease attacks on human rights defenders.

World Muslim Congress said human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir had increased over the past year.  The use of pellets against protesters continued unaddressed and cases of assault against journalists persisted.  Unprovoked firing was a routine of Indian forces, with even schools and ambulances targeted in those attacks.  The Human Rights Council was urged to pressure India to end such practices.

Women Human Rights International Association drew attention to the use of torture and inhumane treatment in Iranian prisons.  Iranian forces were claiming that prisoners had committed suicide in prison.  In reality, those prisoners were tortured to death.  Numerous cases of amputations were reported, as were acts of flogging.

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that they had been operating in 11 countries, 6 out of which had been subjected to specific country mandate mechanisms.  Ethiopia was at a critical junction and the new state of emergency which had been declared raised new concerns.  The civil space had shrunk significantly in Tanzania and the violence in the political realm was present with opposition leaders killed recently.  

Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea said that a week after the historical military defeat of Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Council had passed a resolution with 29 votes in favour to 12 against and with 6 abstentions.  While appreciating the effort in defeating the terror, the High Commissioner was urged to respect the United Nations Charter and not to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

American Association of Jurists drew attention to increased violence occurring in Colombia, despite the peace agreement.  The 282 assassinations of human rights defenders, registered by the Ombudsman, were reminders of the time of violence during the 1990s. The flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was also evident and the Council was asked to condemn the killings and the Government to comply with what had been agreed in the Havana talks

Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights requested the Council to create the mandate of the new Special Rapporteur on the right to peace.  The mandate had to include not only the collection of information on the right to peace but also visits to States concerned and recommending appropriate measures to implement the Declaration on the Human Right to Peace.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations was deeply concerned about the continued occupation of Western Sahara.  It was the largest of the territories on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories, and the last colony in Africa.  The people there were illegally plundered.  The United Nations should uphold the right to self-determination for Western Sahara.

United Villages noted that the Council needed to pay special attention to conflict regions around the globe, and to access to justice.  If the process of administration of justice was time consuming, labourious, indolent and frustrating, it would dissuade victims from resorting to that process.  The organization highlighted problems of due process in Jammu and Kashmir in India.

Indian Council of South America stressed that Peru considered indigenous peoples as minorities without an important role to play in the society.  The authorities did not consult them on important issues.  Ethnic minorities were not consulted in good faith, but rather to satisfy the form.  The Peruvian Government should address the social grievances of indigenous peoples.  

Association of World Citizens underlined that the proxy war of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Syria continued with the most serious negative consequences for women, children and persons with disabilities.  The organization also drew the Council’s attention to the right of peaceful demonstration in Iran and the arrest of many women.  

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development noted the gravity of human rights violations in Myanmar.  Criminal acts committed against the Rohingya population were clear proof of the Government’s failure to prevent religious intolerance and discrimination.  The Foundation appealed to the international community and the United Nations to take every possible step to address such human rights abuses.

Africa Culture Internaitonale said addressing human rights issues in specific countries must not worsen situations in neighbouring States.  People leaving their countries for political and economic reasons could bring negative development implications to transit and destination countries.  However, countries unable to provide a welcome to those fleeing dire rights situations must work to improve the situations in origin countries.

Guinea Medical Mutual Association stressed that the Human Rights Council was aware of the atrocities committed by the terrorist organization LTTE in Sri Lanka.  The group had used civilians as human shields.  The United Nations had taken no action to assist those people.  The approach taken by the Secretary-General to address terrorism was a clear display of hypocrisy.

International Movement for Non-Aligned Studies said there were basic rights that could not be violated.  Human rights were adversely affected in post-conflict societies.  As conflicts intensified, hatred accumulated and made lasting peace more difficult to achieve.  The protection of human rights was essential to achieving global stability.

Union of Arab Jurists said that the Commission of Inquiry did not objectively reflect on the plight of Syrian people and the violations of human rights as well as national sovereignty.  The United States-led coalition was also conducting grave violations amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The actions of terrorist groups who had launched dozens of rockets every day had been ignored.

Liberation said that in recent years, Hindu organizations had become more aggressive, claiming that India belonged to Hinduism.  Christians were subjected to persecutions by Hindu radical groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.  The Council was requested to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate violence against Christians and other minorities in India.

Indian Council of Education said that the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protected all individuals equally.  The issue of terrorism, as stated by Kofi Annan, struck at the heart of every nation and required a global response. The Council was urged to request a universal consensus on the fight against terrorism.

Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said that Indian occupation forces had been violating the human rights of Kashmiri civilians in the occupied territories of Jammu and Kashmir, using chemical weapons, pellet guns, violating women and blinding children.  A young generation was being brutally wiped out and the Council and the international community was standing by.

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee drew attention to the gross violations committed by militant Hindus in Punjab in India.  It requested that the heavy-handed approach by the Indian administration end, and it called on the Human Rights Council to sanction India for its human rights violations.   

Coup de Pousse Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud highlighted the dramatic increase in enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and death in custody in the so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.  The Council should put pressure on Pakistan to release all political prisoners, repeal all discriminatory clauses from its Constitution, and protect the life and liberty of people.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale noted the alarming situation of young people.  The United Nations had recognized that their opinion was essential for the development of all of society.  It drew attention to the serious problems faced by youth, such as those faced by the Sahrawi youth in the Tindouf camps.  Those young people had become targets of drug crimes and terrorist organizations.

Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme stressed that Saudi Arabia had continued its coalition war against the Yemeni people.  The international community had done nothing to relieve the suffering of people there.  That was a backward position that further exacerbated the already bad situation in Yemen.  Restrictive laws in the Gulf countries had to be reviewed and constitutional monarchies instituted.  

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA drew the Council’s attention to the situation in India and violations of human rights.  The recent upsurge of fundamentalist forces had been violating the rights of human rights defenders and minorities in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and other states.  The Government of India needed to conduct a nation-wide survey to assess the level of extremism.

Centre for Organization Research and Education said that religious minorities had been facing issues since independence in India.  There had been some policy measures to protect the rights of minorities but this was not enough.  The fundamentalist political party held a majority, there was a beef ban and Christians were attacked by fundamentalist forces every day.

VAAGDHARA noted that in the last few months India had been increasingly attacking human rights defenders and had been portraying them as threats.  Those were people advocating for the rights of women, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  The Council was urged to request India to put an end to atrocities facing human rights defenders, land rights activists and journalists.

Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights said there had been an increasing plight of people in the Indian-occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir.  People were deprived of all of their rights due to indiscriminate targeting of civilians, use of pellet guns, and the media blockade.  Independent investigation had to be carried out in Jammu and Kashmir.

Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs drew attention to the crimes committed by the Pakistani security forces in the so-called Azad Kashmir, and the pillage of natural resources by Islamabad.  The lives of most of the people depended on foreign remittances.  In addition, freedom of religion in Pakistan had been dogmatized.  

International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities voiced deep concern about the recent Turkish military attack on the Syrian Kurdish area of Afrin, noting that the Turkish Government aimed to destroy the Kurdish people.  The Turkish military intervention violated the national sovereignty of Syria and thus international law.

International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination EAFORD reminded that the international community had failed to stop, investigate or prosecute international crimes committed in Iraq.  It urged the United Nations to take into account the evidence that had been brought to their attention over the years and to ensure accountability for acts committed by all actors to the conflict in Iraq.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation stressed that victims of the conflict and civilians should be able to participate in the peace process in Colombia.  There was criminalization of peasants simply because they had protested against the way crops had been produced.  Paramilitary activities in the country had continued around the control of crop growing.  They had assassinated more than 800 human rights defenders to date. 

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme welcomed the political deal made in Kenya between political leaders and said this could serve as an example for Togo, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.  In Mauritania and Sudan, migrants were still subjected to inhumane practices and an inhumane situation concerning migrants was present in Angola and Algeria so the African Union was urged to react.
 
Association Dunenyo drew the Council’s attention to the plight of Sahrawi people who had lived confined for over 40 years in Tindouf camp in extremely difficult conditions and deprived of their basic rights.  Freedoms of expression, movement and association were violated, as well as their right to be registered, since the Algerian Government had denied the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Association pour l’integration et le Developpment Durable au Burundi said that economic exploitation in India over the last years was making the regions and provinces more impoverished.  The prevailing corruption was causing civil society to ask for accountability from the Government.

European Centre for Law and Justice called upon the Council to address the issue of resettlement of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria and to establish accountability for genocide committed against Yezidis and Christians.   The international community was asked not only to hold ISIS accountable but also to offer adequate aid.

Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul noted that the situation of manual scavengers continued to deteriorate in India.  Even though the activity had been banned under the Manual Scavenging Act of 2013, it persisted.  Another group seeking attention were Tamil fishermen, whose situation after the cyclone Ockhi had not been addressed by the Indian Government.

ABC Tamil Oli expressed concern about the ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, which might increase the refugee flow from the country and could have a detrimental effect on the current asylum seekers in transit countries.  The Government had not addressed the core issues faced by minorities.  The Council should address the plight of minority groups, especially Tamils who had fled the country to seek protection from deportation.  

Alliance Creative Community Project drew attention to the genocide committed against the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the various crimes committed by the Sri Lankan security forces that were witnessed by those who worked with humanitarian and relief organizations.  The Government of Sri Lanka had sent expired medicines to the victims of those crimes.

Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France noted that despite multiple reports of human rights abuses, Tamils were told time and time again that it was safe to return.  The widespread human rights abuses in Sri Lanka were reminiscent of the years leading up to the beginning of the armed conflict.  The organization questioned Australia’s fast assessment of protection claims in Sri Lanka.

Prahar said that India had been leading towards conditions of civil war due to sharp increases in attacks on minorities and Dalits.  The deeply rooted caste situation was behind such attacks.  Attacks on a peaceful gathering of over half a million Buddhists in January 2018 in Maharashatra state was a clear evidence of State-sponsored atrocities on religious minorities.

Association des etudiants tamouls de France said that the Muslim community had been systematically targeted over the last two weeks by Sinhala Buddhist racist gangs.  This could only be explained by the phenomenon of Sri Lanka transforming itself into a Sinhala Buddhist Ethnocracy.  Member States were called on to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court or to set up an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.

Child Foundation said that in 1951 the international community had come together to ensure the rights of refugees.  The United States had played a vital role in drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Refugees.  Today, the United States had turned its back to historic promises by introducing travel bans on thousands of persons based on discrimination on the basis of nationality.

International Solidarity for Africa said that following the withdrawal of Syrian forces, Kurds had sheltered refugees and internally displaced persons.  Today, the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels had launched an invasion on Afrin.  There was evidence that Turkey had used napalm bombs and 230 civilians, including children, had been killed.

Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” drew attention to the situation of indigenous people and their right to land that was denied to them.  They had undergone plans to be exterminated from their lands.  Transnational companies had illegally taken the lands of native Americans.  The Council should support the binding code of conduct for transnational companies.  

Ius Primi Viri International Association (in joint statement with International-Lawyers.Org), said that education of children even during war could not be neglected because the time lost could never be caught up.  Conflicts in the Middle East and Africa should not deny children the opportunity to gain an education, especially those children recruited by armed groups.  

International Education Development continued to be very preoccupied by the genocidal situation of the Hmong peoples in Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  It was too late to prevent genocide and mass atrocities, which was why the United Nations had to establish a safe haven for the Hmong peoples.  

Jssor Youth Organization noted that it was necessary to establish accountability for the crimes committed by Da’esh in the Middle East.  That was possible through the establishment of a legal framework and local tribunals in each country affected by their crimes.  

Human Security Initiative Organization warned against the proliferation of illegal weapons among civilians, noting that the perverse effects of this could be measured in mass killings across the world.  This proliferation threatened not only poor countries but constituted a major threat in developed countries and powers.  The organization recommended that the international community adopt an international convention to ban the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  

Jossur Moroccan Women Forum shared its concern for all women whose fundamental rights continued to be violated.  This included Rohingya women, migrant women in Libya forced into prison camps, women in Syria, and women forced into trafficking.  Women in Tindouf camps were suffering indoctrination from an early age and were sent to camps.  Girls in Tindouf camps had grown up and had been adopted by Spanish families against their will.  

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said corruption led to the deterioration of civil services and the abuse of funds all across the world.  It led to abusive conduct of capital investors who used reprehensive acts on young leaders.  Corruption had found a major ally – bureaucracy.  The organization called for the development of an international instrument to support and train those who fought against corruption.

Tourner la Page noted the injustice inflicted upon Macedonians by Greece, the European Union and the United Nations.  This burden was the “name issue” which had become a precondition for their country’s accession to these organizations which had turned into a genocide, with an attempt to erase the 15 million Macedonians with their ethnic and national identity.  It called on the Council to conduct an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the past and present war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide directed against the Macedonians in Greece.

Tamil World raised the situation of human rights defenders of Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka.  From December 2008 to the end of 2009, over 146,000 Tamils had been killed or disappeared by the Sri Lankan army.  For more than 9 years, families had been searching for their loved ones, however anyone asking about extrajudicial killings was intimidated and prosecuted.  The support of the United Nations would be welcome in a separate investigation on genocide.

Le Pont said that there had been incidents of anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka since 1983.  Tensions had been building in the 70 per cent Buddhist majority country.  Hardliner monks had been fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment that had resulted in an entire Muslim village being burned.  Allegations had been made that the country’s elite special task force and the army were not reacting so the international community was asked to immediately step in.

Association for the Victims of the world noted that Tamil people were facing structural genocide today through military occupation, land grabs and settler-colonisation, alongside other forms of repression.  Sri Lankan authorities were destroying the identified mass graves and the Tamil people continued to require an international investigation into genocide.

L’Observatoire Mauritanien des droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie said that at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, 330,000 Tamils had been rendered homeless and put in barbed wire camps.  The Sri Lankan armed forces still controlled thousands of acres of land and the military refused to vacate the land belonging to the Tamils.  If the international community did not react, the non-violent struggle for justice to the Tamils would continue.

International Humanist and Ethical Union stated that numerous people had been arrested because they had taken part in peaceful protests in Iran.  In addition, freedom of expression and religion had been suppressed.  Apostasy was punishable by death in Iran and women were punished for not wearing hijab.  Iran’s human rights record brought shame to all.

United Nations Watch noted that instead of discussing human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention, the session had seen the spectacle of the world’s worst violators of human rights in a cynical attempt to divert attention from their crimes.  Those violators were Iran, China, Cuba and Venezuela.

People for Successful Corean Reunification noted that despite the promises of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take care of its children and their education, children there were subjected to systematized forms of child labour, no matter their background.  They worked on farms and construction sites, building houses and repairing railroads.  

Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle drew attention to problems of the Palestinian youth under the yoke of Israeli occupation, reminding that the blockade of the Gaza Strip had continued without any reaction from the international community.  The Gulf countries had seen worsening conditions after the boycott of Qatar by a number of countries led by Saudi Arabia.  Qatari citizens should receive assistance.  

International-Lawyers.org reminded that as a consequence of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, millions of civilians had lost their lives, or had been tortured.  It was time to hold the perpetrators of the crime of aggression against Iraq accountable.  The organization urged the United Nations to improve their reporting practices on human rights abuses in Iraq and to provide Iraqi citizens with necessary protection.  

Peace Brigades International Switzerland said the violence in Mexico was unprecedented.  A worsening situation was being seen, especially for indigenous peasants defending their land.  Particularly hit were women and families who were looking for disappeared persons.  The situation of those who said that security forces were responsible was increasingly vulnerable.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should call for a special plan for the elections.

Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa said the situation in Ethiopia was highly alarming.  There were mass arrests of civilians, including children.  The organization called on the Council to remind the Ethiopian Government of its international obligations under the treaties to which it was a party, and to grant access to prisons, so as to enable the monitoring of the situation of political detainees and human rights defenders held in prisons.

Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace said women in Baluchistan were facing terrorism.  Apart from being neglected and denied by the State, they were affected by the military Pakistani operations. There was hardly a woman who had not lost her brother, son or husband.  Hundreds of women and children had been forcefully disappeared ever since.  Twelve years had passed since the Baloch women had been living in this situation and urgent action was needed to help them.  

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said Egyptian authorities increasingly employed brutally repressive tactics to silence legitimate dissent.  These tactics included passing legislation to effectively ban independent non-governmental organizations and tightening censorship of media outlets, enforced disappearances, systemic torture, large-scale arbitrary detention for long periods of time, unlawful killings and accelerated use of the death penalty.

Fundación Latinoamericana de Derechos Humanos y Desarrollo Social warned the Council about military operations on the border between Colombia and Venezuela and the concentration of military forces in the Amazon zone.  The United States and other governments planned to put a coalition which could lead to war between the two countries.  Such manoeuvres had been criticized by civil society as they ran against the United Nations Charter and were a disguise to attack Venezuela.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that human tragedy had been taking place in Balochistan while the world had been ignoring the situation.  Though it was one of the richest regions, 80 per cent were living below the poverty line and the Government only responded to protests by sending militia forces.  Torture of Balochi activists was a common practice.  The Council was asked to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation in Balochistan.

Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’homme said that worsening repression of human rights defenders and civil society had been occurring in Viet Nam.  Since 16 January, civil society activists had been sentenced.  The new law on belief and religion which was adopted was in effect an attack on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Agence Internationale pour le Développement said that Tindouf camps exemplified the sufferings of the Sahrawi people, as they had been living in difficult conditions and their rights had been violated.  However, progress was noted in Morocco where non-governmental organizations had been established in the Sahrawi region and the country had been open to the Universal Periodic Review and its recommendations.

International Career Support Association said that Japan had repressed freedom of the press, which was guaranteed by the Constitution, and was not doing anything to oppose groups with certain ideologies which had taken control of most of the Japanese mainstream media, and which were publishing false news.  Freedom of expression on social media was also seriously affected.  The Council should investigate this situation.

Il Cenacolo shed light on the fate of persons in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.  There was fraud and embezzlement.  The organization invited international human rights organizations to put an end to the wretchedness of women and children in the camps, and urged Algeria to deliver on its historic obligations.  A robust stance of the Council was needed to put an end to that situation.

Human Rights Council of Australia stressed that the country specific mandate on Myanmar was necessary as there could be no tolerance of gross and systematic human rights violations.  There should be no impunity for those crimes, and the Myanmar Government should cooperate with the mandate holder.  The organization also condemned Australia’s continued use of off-shore facilitates for migrants.  

Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression said the situation of detainees in Syria should be excluded from political bargaining and deplored the fact that international humanitarian law and human rights were ignored in this respect.  The only reliable entity to be trusted in the files was the civil society sector in Syria, as any political entity would not be impartial.  The crimes perpetrated in Syria could not be tolerated.  The Centre called on the international community to uphold international legal rights and responsibilities, including referral to the International Criminal Court.

Minority Rights Group said following anti-Muslim violence at the end of February in the eastern town of Ampara, riots had broken out on 5 March in Kandy, central province of Sri Lanka.  The Government had condemned the attacks and a state of emergency had been imposed.  However, given the history of religious unrest on the island, there was high concern for the Muslim minority community that accounted for 10 per cent of the population.  

RIGHT OF REPLY

Iraq, speaking in a right of reply, said that the rule of law had been established for thousands of years in Iraq.  The statements of Switzerland and Czechia revealed their ignorance of the situation in Iraq.  Iraq was facing serious terrorist attacks and to illustrate, an example was mentioned of a Yezidi woman who had been abducted by ISIS, starved and had her children killed.  Switzerland and Czechia should speak about the heinous crimes committed by ISIS instead of Iraq.  The death penalty was decided on after lengthy justice proceedings, involving the court of cassation and allowing for the appeal procedure.  Iraq was protecting not only itself but also the rest of the world from terrorists.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking in a right of reply, said that several countries, including Slovenia, Czechia and the United States, had stigmatized the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The United States did not have a monopoly on human rights, in fact they had a very bad record on the human rights of asylum seekers and migrants.  Concerning the unrest in December and January, a joint commission had been established, composed of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Human Rights, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders and members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.  Their investigation had resulted in the publishing of a report and the Minister of Human Rights would mention the findings when addressing the Council next week.  Concerning the alleged arrests, there should be no confusion, activists were only called in for questioning which was normal after public unrest.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, said including Bahrain under the current agenda item was inappropriate.  Bahrain remained committed to a pluralistic society with the protection of its citizens as its priority.  Bahrain firmly rejected any questioning of its judiciary.  The Government had embarked on ambitious reforms covering almost every aspect of the criminal justice system.  Bahrain advised the European Union and other Member States mentioning it in the general debate to base their statements on facts and not rely on hearsay.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected baseless allegations made by certain delegations, mainly the United States and Israel.  The abuse of human rights mechanisms was a persistent tradition of certain States seeking to pursue their own political aspirations.  Such actions served to steer those mechanisms away from adequately addressing the promotion and protection of human rights.

Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, rejected allegations made against it by the United States.  Those who practiced torture in illegal detention centres had the gall to speak against other nations.  The destabilization of Venezuela had been happening with the support and sponsorship of the United States’ Government.  Venezuela was a proven democracy.  The coups in Venezuela and in other countries in the south had had a common denominator: support of the United States, which held a grim human rights record worldwide due to its imperialist designs.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply in response to the European Union, Switzerland and Germany, refuted their unfounded allegations.  Much legal progress had been made in Egypt despite the terrorist threat.  Instead of wasting the Council’s time, those States had better revert to Egypt’s mid-term report under the Universal Periodic Review, where they could read that media and civil society were partners in the implementation of the Egyptian Government’s human rights plan.  As for arbitrary arrests, individuals were arrested by the decision of the judiciary.  The alleged enforced disappearance of a BBC reporter had turned out to be false.  Egypt closely worked with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.  The use of the death penalty was confined to the most serious crimes.  

Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by Switzerland, recommended that the Council be guided by credible information.  Turkmenistan ensured unimpeded access to information, in accordance with article 42 of its Constitution.  The Government guaranteed the freedom of collecting, receiving and spreading information.  This could not be done without the protection of the private life of citizens and social order.  The Turkmen Government had established close cooperation and active dialogue with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and held regular meetings with it.  During the last negotiations, Turkmenistan had provided the information requested by the Working Group, and was satisfied by the outcomes of those meetings.

India, speaking in a right of reply in response to a statement made by Pakistan, said it was most incredible that Pakistan consumed the time of the Council in making claims against India when its own dubious history as a major source of terrorism in the region and beyond was well known.  There had been numerous reports on how disappearances routinely happened without impunity in Pakistan.  More than a million people remained displaced as a result of the conflicts in northwest Pakistan.  Women were abducted and forcibly married.  Pakistan masked it territorial ambitions in the territories of Jammu and Kashmir under the guise of human rights.  It supported cross-border terrorism in India.  Was it not woefully farcical that the State that had protected Osama bin Laden made claims that it was a victim?

Turkey, speaking in a right of reply, rejected references made by some delegations.  The state of emergency in Turkey was declared after Turkish democracy and constitutional order had been target of the most heinous attack in its history conducted by Fetullah Terrorist Organization whose leader continued to live in the United States.  After the coup attempt, swift measures had been indispensable not only for security considerations but also for the protection of human rights.  The state of emergency was a permissible practice under international law.  Delegations which raised unfounded criticism against Turkey had to take all necessary measures to stop the trend of xenophobia against migrants in their countries.

Philippines, speaking in a right of reply, said it respected human rights as enshrined in the Constitution.  During the campaign against illegal drugs, the Government had adopted a balanced approach, putting an emphasis on reintegration and a system of checks and balances.  Also, 352 personnel had been fired for unprofessional behaviour.  The public remained free to express their opinion, or join non-governmental organizations.  Concerning the issue of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Council was informed that she was put on the list of suspected terrorists because she was a supporter of the Maoist rebel group.  The list was devised in accordance with the existing law, the same way it was done in the United States.  The case was already in the courts.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s statement, noting that Seoul had provided humanitarian assistance to workers who fled the regime in line with its international human rights obligations.  

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that several delegations had levelled unfounded allegations that amounted to interference in Beijing’s internal affairs.  In France, migrants and persons with disabilities faced discrimination.  In Canada, indigenous people faced exploitation.  In the Netherlands, xenophobia and racism were on the rise.  China called on Member States to address their own human rights issues.  Chinese citizens were now enjoying an unprecedented level of human rights and accusations against China did not hold any water.  Chinese judicial organs were closely following the law and the work of civil society was encouraged.  Sill, activities aiming to overthrow the Government and foment instability were not tolerated.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, said the United Kingdom continued to spread fake information.  Russia remained fully open to addressing the allegations made by that Government but the United Kingdom showed no interest in cooperating.  Turning to Georgia, Russia said South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent states.  Russia said United States officials continually spread lies about Moscow and called on Washington to end its interference in the internal affairs of other countries.  Responding to Ukraine, Russia said that country was attempting to distract from its own difficulties and pointing the finger elsewhere.  

Japan, speaking in a right of reply in response to a remark made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the reference to “sex slaves” was inappropriate and injured the dignity of the women.  In all the years following the Second World War, Japan had consistently upheld and promoted human rights.  It had also promoted peace in the Pacific region and in the international community.

Thailand, speaking in a right of reply, wished to provide clarification on the issues of fundamental freedoms as raised by one civil society organization.  Building on the announcement of human rights as its national agenda, the Government of Thailand remained committed to its human rights obligations.  While respecting freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as fundamental pillars of a democratic society, it must also respect the balance between the exercise of such freedoms and peace and order of the society as a whole.  The Government did not encourage messages that would lead to social divisiveness, and which many infringed upon the rights and freedoms of others.  In this regard Thailand underscored the importance of the respect for national law and regulations which were in place to guarantee the rights and freedoms of its people as well as the fostering of a peaceful society.  Government officials must be able to duly carry out their duties pursuant to the law.

Djibouti, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement of Eritrea, said unlike what Eritrea had stated, it did not seek politicization of the situation.  It did not believe that anyone should be politicizing situations or creating situations of hysteria.  The situation of human rights had been distorted and Djibouti had tried to establish a constructive dialogue.  The Council should be looking after the victims of human rights.  It recalled the conclusion that crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea.  Based on systematic denial, human rights violations in Eritrea could not be denied.  

Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said it remained committed to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and there were 262 demarcated indigenous territories in Brazil.  The Government was not undermining the process of demarcation of land.  Just last year, the Minister of Justice had recognized another territory.  Violence against indigenous peoples was being considered and dealt with accordingly.  Regret was expressed that some non-governmental organizations had been using the Council’s session to misinform the States.  In the last two years, Brazil had enacted significant political changes and economic reform.  Acute fiscal imbalance was addressed through adjustment to finance public policies aimed for the most vulnerable.

Belarus, speaking in a right of reply, regretted that the Human Rights Foundation, a non-governmental organization, had been seeking to misinform the Council.  The technical assistance of the Office of the High Commission was an important tool welcomed by the Belarus Government so it came as a shock that it would be blocked by the court.  

Nigeria, speaking in a right of reply, said that the non-government organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide had not been cross-checking the real situation on the ground.  Yesterday, the Yoruba ethnic group in Adamawa state of northern Nigeria had celebrated the return of peace, after five years of security challenges, posed by Boko Haram terrorists.  In northern Nigeria people with different religious beliefs lived in harmony, as seen by the inter-religious marriages.  Nigeria had recorded success in its counter-terrorism efforts within the frame of the multinational joint task force.  Boko Haram was continually changing tactics but the Government remained focused in their combat against terrorism.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, speaking in a right of reply, said International Education Development non-governmental organization had made false claims.  The Government was pursuing a policy of solidarity with ethnic minorities.  All ethnic groups were offered equal protections under the law.  The situation of the Hmong people in Phou Bia as descried by the organization was false. There was no military action or restrictions on food sources.  That region was recognized as a development site where job opportunities were being created.  To prevent misunderstanding, Lao People’s Democratic Republic urged the organization to rely on facts when making statements.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said India once again misled the Human Rights Council and falsified history.  Jammu and Kashmir was not part of India, instead it was a disputed territory.  India conveniently sought to label the freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorism.  India could not hide the actions of its trigger happy forces.  Pakistan had defeated the scourge of terrorism and that success was a cause of concern for India.  The senior Indian leadership financed and fueled terrorist activities in Pakistan.  India was drifting towards radicalism as elections were characterized by public frenzy and anti-Muslim sentiments.  

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, categorially rejected the unfounded and unjustified allegations that Japan had launched against it.  Japan promoted double standards and politicization of human rights which had nothing to do with the promotion and protection of human rights.  It was ironic that such a country was talking about human rights, when it imposed barbaric sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which denied the access to basic medicines to women and children.  These were actions that should be held accountable.  Japan was one of the most vicious violators of human rights in the world.  It was responsible for past crimes against humanity, including but not limited to a genocide of one million people, the drafting of 8.4 million Koreans, and sexual slavery of Korean women.  Instead of changing the reality and before giving lessons to others, Japan should assume its historical responsibilities, and provide reparations to the victims.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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