5 July 2018
The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate under its agenda item 10 on technical cooperation and capacity building.
In the general debate, delegations reiterated the importance of technical assistance and capacity building in the promotion and protection of human rights, as it served as a supplementary tool to States. Resolutions on technical cooperation had to provide specific tools to countries that would enable them to enhance their institutional capacities and boost the capacity of national human rights institutions and local civil society organizations. States were urged to fully cooperate with the Council when receiving technical assistance, including allowing full unimpeded access. Some speakers said that only if the principles of sovereign and territorial integrity, as well as non-interference in their internal affairs, were respected, would the Council be able to promote and protect human rights. The Council should not be used as a tool for a few powerful countries.
Speaking during the discussion were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Peru on behalf of a group of 53 countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Brazil on behalf of group of countries, Egypt on behalf of a group of countries, South Africa on behalf of group of countries, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Maldives on behalf of a group of countries, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Australia, Spain, Togo, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Ukraine, Hungary, Nepal, Japan, Egypt, United Kingdom, Mauritius on behalf of a group of countries, Maldives, Thailand, France, Poland, Iceland, Finland, Jordan, Libya, United Nations Children’s’ Fund, Estonia, Chad, Sudan, Lithuania, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Sweden, India, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova, Tanzania, Viet Nam, Italy, Costa Rica, Ireland, Syria, Albania, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Belarus.
The following civil society organizations also spoke: Network of African National Human Rights Institutions; International Lesbian and Gay Association; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch, (in a joint statement with International Commission of Jurists and International Service for Human Rights); Liberation; Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA; Center for Organisation Research and Education; Alliance Creative Community Project; American Association of Jurists; Human Security Initiative Organization; Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea; International-Lawyers.Org; Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik; Association of World Citizens; Ius Primi Viri International Association, ; World Barua Organization; International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD); Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme; Iraqi Development Organization; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; Alsalam Foundation; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme; Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul; L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie; International Solidarity for Africa; ABC Tamil Oli; Tamil Uzhagam; Association Thendral; Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation; International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with several NGOs1); World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace; Health and Environment Program (HEP); Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia (in a joint statement with several NGOs2).
Venezuela, Cuba, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Mexico, and Egypt spoke in a point of order concerning the statement of Peru on behalf of a group of countries.
Russia, Venezuela, Morocco, Cambodia, and Peru spoke in a right of reply
At 2 p.m., the Council will begin to take action on draft resolutions and decisions. The thirty-eighth regular session of the Human Rights Council will conclude on Friday, 6 July.
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that every country, be it developed, developing, underdeveloped, or least developed, had its human rights challenges. As such, it was important to be able to understand these challenges and have the capacity to address them. In this context, adopting a confrontational approach was not productive. The international community must maintain a non-political, non-polarizing and non-confrontational position towards the review of countries under item 10. Strengthening national institutions for human rights was crucial.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of 53 counties, referred to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, as referred to in the High Commissioner’s report, where there was a downward spiral.
Venezuela, in a point of order, said issues that fell outside the aegis of the Human Rights Council should not be raised. Venezuela was not under review by any of the documents presented at this Council. It was not a concerned State under this item. If attempts were made for arbitrary or illegal interference, these would be rejected. Venezuela called on the President to bring the speaker to order and requested that the speaker speak on relevant matters.
Peru, on behalf of a group of 53 countries, reiterated that the statement was being made in the spirit of item 10. The character and nature of the human rights situation in Venezuela related to technical assistance and was necessary and urgent. The group of countries urged Venezuela to accept technical assistance and human rights capacity building. They also urged Venezuela to work with the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner. Peru rejected the point of order and requested to continue the statement.
Cuba, in a point of order, said no report had been presented by the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Venezuela. Therefore, it was not understandable how or why a group of countries were allowed to speak on Venezuela. Cuba requested that the statement not be allowed.
United Kingdom, in a point of order, requested that the statement be allowed to continue. It was an established practice in the Human Rights Council that all speakers were able to speak under all agenda items. With the current situation in Venezuela, technical cooperation was necessary. Peru on behalf of the group of countries had provided a very clear rationale as to why this statement was relevant under item 10.
Bolivia, in a point of order, supported the call of the Venezuelan delegation, seconded by the Cuban delegation, and asked that these requests be heard.
Mexico, in a point of order, supported the statement by Peru and was concerned by the situation in Venezuela. Furthermore, it was under the opinion that it was Venezuela that was politicizing the space of the Human Rights Council.
Egypt, in a point of order, called on all other delegations to maintain the spirit of cooperation in a positive vein and to respect item 10 – technical cooperation and capacity building - and not to interfere in other countries.
VOJISLAV ŠUC, President of the Human Rights Council, said presently the Council was considering item 10, which was technical cooperation. During this debate, all speakers were expected to speak under this item. As long as the framing of the speech was in reference to the item under discussion, reference to specific countries was acceptable.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of 53 countries, referred to torture, and other atrocities occurring in Venezuela.
Venezuela, in a point of order, said Peru was speaking with the aim to attack Venezuela in an arbitrary way. There was no report by any United Nations body or any other independent body on the situation in Venezuela. Venezuela did not accept any scenario of illegal interference. The document cited in this statement was illegal and arbitrary. It was being used to attack countries of the south. This was not a legal approach and it could not constitute a valid precedent for the work of the Human Rights Council. Venezuela alerted the members of the Human Rights Council of the practice which was being attempted to be established today. There was no course of action. Reports against sovereign States which had been drafted unilaterally and illegally by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could not be accepted. This was a serious violation of the mandate in question and a serious politicization of the human rights bodies under the Office. Placing those services in the service of subjective political agendas and double standards was unacceptable. Venezuela reiterated its call to the President to implement articles 78 and 79 of the General Assembly regulations and called on the speaker to faithfully speak under the points of the item. In the case this was not so, he called on the President to withdraw Peru’s right to speak.
VOJISLAV ŠUC, President of the Human Rights Council, repeated that as long as the speaker was addressing human rights issues relevant to the agenda item under consideration, and was framing his comments within this context, the references to specific countries were permissible. He gave the floor to Peru.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of 53 countries, referred to the grave situation that deeply affected the rights of the people in Venezuela. It was equally concerned about the impact of the economic situation on the right to food. The report indicated a rapid increase in malnutrition among children. Equally, there was an outbreak of diseases previously eradicated. The group of countries called on Venezuela to prevent any further deterioration, to recognize the gravity of this situation, and to open its door to humanitarian assistance and technical cooperation. They called on the High Commissioner to continue to report on the situation in Venezuela.
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, underscored the importance it attached to technical cooperation and capacity building as they had an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights. The African Group believed that States had a primary role in protecting human rights, however all States, particularly developing and least developed countries, were entitled to technical assistance, especially when they were being reviewed, as they needed sufficient resources.
Brazil, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, believed that initiatives adopted under agenda item 10 had to provide a space for constructive dialogue concerning human rights. Resolutions on technical cooperation and capacity building had to provide specific tools to countries that would enable them to enhance their institutional capacities. Such tools particularly included financial resources that were needed to boost the capacity of national human rights institutions and local civil society groups.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that since the inception of the Council, technical cooperation and capacity building had presented a necessary element of work. Technical cooperation and capacity building served as a supplementary tool to States in their efforts to expand capacities needed for the promotion of human rights. The technical role of the Council was complementary to the technical dimension of the mandate holders and Special Procedures.
South Africa, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that the human rights of the Sahrawi people and the humanitarian situation in the occupied territory of Western Sahara remained a deep concern, as well as the situation in refugee camps. This was stressed in the latest report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council. The Sahrawi non-governmental organizations were still waiting for a technical assistance programme and the Office of the High Commissioner was urged to implement such a programme.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that addressing inequalities would contribute to removing structural barriers to the full realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. States were urged to fully cooperate with the Council when receiving technical assistance, including allowing full unimpeded access. Access had to be given to the Office of the High Commissioner to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and Burundi was called on to resume cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner.
Maldives, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the Human Rights Council was at a crossroads and States must determine where their priorities rested. Representatives of small States played an important role in acting as the voice for the most vulnerable people. Through greater representation of small islands, the universality of the Council was reinforced. All States must contribute to support universality in global institutions.
United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, pointed to the relevance of identifying priorities of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to help support technical assistance efforts. Increased cooperation between States and United Nations country teams must be fostered. Joint efforts and exchanging best practices would help countries implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
Pakistan said technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights was a key mandate of the Human Rights Council. Assistance was required by practically every State and must enjoy national ownership. Technical assistance must cater to cultural specificities and prevent polarization and politicization. Pakistan would continue to contribute to the Voluntary Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Australia acknowledged efforts by the High Commissioner to strengthen human rights protections in Georgia. Australia noted human rights concerns over cases of torture and ill-treatment in that country. The Government must address those and other issues raised by the High Commissioner. Australia supported calls for United Nations bodies to gain immediate access to the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Spain recognized the contribution of Member States in capacity building and technical cooperation. This was a way to prevent human rights crises from developing. Spain highlighted the importance of the Universal Periodic Review and of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the field of Human Rights. The Fund had been established in 1987 and was based on contributions by States. Spain was surprised that some States not only refused to cooperate but avoided seeking assistance from this kind of Fund
Togo highlighted the importance of capacity building and technical assistance, which it had received and was grateful for. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had trained and deployed over 800 human rights officers in Togo. It was important to note that if technical assistance and capacity building were to be provided, they needed people to help them carry on over the long term. Togo noted that the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights had recognized that Togo was a positive example of technical cooperation.
Venezuela expressed deep regret and concern that the President of the Human Rights Council had not previously given the floor to four countries that had asked to speak on a point of order. Article 71 of the General Assembly rules stipulated that during the discussion of any matter, any representative may make a point of order. According to the delegation of Egypt, speaking on behalf of a like-minded group of countries, dialogue was one of the most important things available to this Council and agenda item 10 was supposed to provide countries with the necessary conditions to improve their situation of human rights, inter alia through genuine dialogue and technical assistance and capacity building, given in consultation with and at the request of the country concerned. Only if the principles of sovereign and territorial integrity, as well as non-interference in their internal affairs, were respected, would this Council be able to promote and protect human rights. The Council should not be used as a tool for a few powerful countries. What they were witnessing was a flagrant violation of international law.
VOJISLAV ŠUC, President of the Human Rights Council, drew attention to paragraph 79 of annex four of the General Assembly rules of procedure which stated that the presiding officer may, if he considered it necessary, request an expression of views from delegations on a point of order before giving his ruling. In the exceptional cases when this practice was resorted to, the presiding officer should terminate the exchange of views and give his ruling as soon as he was ready to announce this ruling. This was his explanation.
China stressed the importance of equal assistance to all countries which were in need, and to improve capacity building. It called on the Council to prioritize its work on technical assistance and capacity building. It also called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve work in this field. Technical cooperation must be guided by the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. It was not acceptable to use technical assistance and capacity building to interfere in the internal affairs a country. The Human Rights Council must strike a balance and respect the choice of the country in this regard.
Cuba said a new road was opened for the promotion of human rights with technical assistance. Unfortunately, the actions of some States were undermining the credibility of the Council. There was frequent hijacking of the agenda item 10 by some States for their own purposes, and this was reflected in some of the resolutions. The statement concerning Venezuela was drafted with a clear objective to undermine the Venezuelan Government. The Council should not be a place where political agendas were promoted.
Ukraine appreciated the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner. In 2014, the Ukrainian Government had initiated a deployment of the Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights Monitoring Mission. It was critical for monitoring to extend to Crimea and Sevastopol where people faced blatant violations. Russia’s policy of non-cooperation with human rights monitoring mechanisms extended beyond Ukraine, including in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Hungary said that a record 68.5 million people had been displaced by persecution and mass atrocities worldwide so the international community had to think about strategies on how to take prevention action whenever needed. Fulfilling the responsibility to protect had helped save lives in Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen and elsewhere. Grave concern was expressed concerning the ongoing human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly on the eve of upcoming elections.
Nepal said that a needs-based system of technical assistance was needed. According to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, any technical assistance rendered to States had to be contingent upon their request and aligned to national objectives. The Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund remained useful for conducting capacity-building activities and supporting the participation of least developed countries in the work of the Council
Japan said the human rights situation in Cambodia was steadily improving and the Government was cooperating with United Nations mandate holders. However, Japan was concerned that the country’s biggest opposition party had been dissolved in the lead up to elections expected later this month. All stakeholders must promote dialogue. Dedicated efforts by the Government were crucial to promoting and protecting human rights.
Egypt reiterated the importance of technical assistance to allow States to improve the human rights situation at the national level. Assistance must be given pursuant to the request of the concerned country and must not interfere in internal affairs. Necessary financial resources must be made available to countries when assistance was requested. Egypt welcomed the launch of the bilateral programme between the Government and the Council.
United Kingdom said the work of the High Commissioner benefited from constructive engagement with States. The United Kingdom remained dismayed about the deteriorating situation in Cambodia, marked by the dissolving of the largest opposition party. The situation in breakaway regions of Georgia was concerning. Recent land return in Sri Lanka was a positive development.
Mauritius, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed appreciation to States that had provided funds to support the work of least developed countries and small island developing States. Contribution allowed those States to gain a greater understanding of the work of the Human Rights Council and instil cultures of human rights. Mauritius reiterated appreciation for contributions to the Voluntary Trust Fund.
Maldives said the Human Rights Council was the primary organ that built consensus and was the primary vehicle by which present and future prospects for humanity were collectively improved. The effectiveness of this institution depended on the meaningful engagement of all Member States of the United Nations in the work of the Council. The drive towards universal representation at the Council was based on the notion that the Council was representative of the entire United Nations Membership.
Thailand said that a sizeable number of the human rights recommendations by the treaty bodies, Special Procedure mandate holders, and by States in the Universal Periodic Review, were directly or indirectly related to specific Sustainable Development Goals targets. Given these mutually reinforcing linkages between human rights recommendations and the Sustainable Development Goals, technical cooperation for the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations would also include strengthening of national statistical systems on human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.
France said that technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was a way of accompanying States on their paths to reconciliation, fight against impunity and break out of crises. It was vital that all States fully cooperated with the human rights mechanisms and with the High Commissioner’s Office and implement all recommendations. France encouraged the Government of Haiti to continue its cooperation with the Office, the recommendations of which had to be implemented. In terms of Mali, the Government had been helped by the Office and the mandate of the Independent Expert.
Poland commended Georgia on its ongoing and constructive cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as for its efforts to improve the lives of people living in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. Poland expressed serious concern about the human rights situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions, especially in the context of discriminatory practices based on ethnic grounds. It strongly condemned the violations of human rights and urged stakeholders involved to ensure improvement in the human rights situation in the occupied regions.
Iceland echoed the concern of the Office of the High Commissioner on the state of human rights of populations living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and called on those in control of those regions to grant immediate access to the Office of the High Commissioner. Children in Abkhazia were not provided with access to education in a language they understood, and restriction of freedom by Russian border guards was also a major concern. Iceland extended full support to Georgia’s sovereignty.
Finland said that the Council was the intergovernmental body to monitor and make recommendations for the fulfilment of human rights. Finland supported the reporting of the High Commissioner on Georgia and was firm on the non-recognition policy of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. How could the international community best support the High Commissioner in fulfilling his mandate on Georgia?
Jordan said that agenda 10 item served as a framework for technical assistance, enabling the Office of the High Commissioner to assist countries. It was essential for States to be provided with the expertise that they needed, as this was the only way to assist in the development of national policies. The importance of cooperation with other human rights mechanisms was underscored, provided it took into account the will of the State and was not done in a coercive manner.
Libya emphasised the need for continued technical assistance to States to implement policies for the promotion of human rights. States had to have capacity building programmes if they were to implement their commitments. The State was the primary responsible party for human rights and Libya was pleased to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner and other mechanisms to improve its situation.
United Nations Children’s Fund commended the Government of Burundi for increasing efforts to protect the rights of children. Burundi had adopted a national plan of action on juvenile justice and had launched a national campaign to register vulnerable children at birth. Still, Burundi must step up efforts to ensure that all children had access to education and pursue the reintegration of homeless children.
Estonia called on States to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner on technical assistance projects, including by allowing unhindered access to relevant bodies. Estonia regretted that Russia continued its aggression against Georgia. Estonia called on de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to grant access to United Nations entities to assess the human rights situation.
Sudan said the responsibility to guarantee human rights belonged to national governments. To that end, States needed technical assistance and capacity building to better promote and protect human rights. Any cooperation must be provided with full respect for the concerned country’s sovereignty. Sudan was concerned that it had not received any assistance but was mentioned under the agenda item on the matter.
Lithuania firmly supported the Office of the High Commissioner in its efforts to provide technical assistance. Lithuania was concerned about the gross human rights violations in Russian-controlled regions of Georgia. Authorities controlling the regions had the responsibility to uphold all rights and freedoms. Lithuania supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
Indonesia was of the view that technical cooperation and capacity building were key to the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council. Item 10 should provide a venue for a genuine discussion on the capacity-building challenges and needs of Member States. Technical assistance provided should be directed at the priorities underlined by the State concerned, and should be designed to meet its evolving needs, in line with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Bulgaria reiterated its full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. It was seriously concerned about the situation in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, including continuous violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms; a deterioration of the humanitarian situation and security conditions of the population; an intensified process of the so-called “borderization;” restrictions on access to education in one’s native language (Georgian); and discrimination against the Georgian population in the conflict areas.
Latvia deeply regretted that there had been no progress regarding access by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other regional monitors to the regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia currently outside the effective control of the Georgian Government. Continuous denial of access raised particular concerns about the human rights situation in these regions. Latvia reiterated its call for unconditional and unimpeded access to the staff of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and international human rights mechanisms to both regions.
Sweden said respect for human rights had long been a cornerstone of Swedish foreign policy. Sweden strongly believed that respect for human rights was a prerequisite for the prevention of conflict, ensuring safety, and fair, equal and sustainable development. Technical support to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law constituted a major part of Swedish bilateral development assistance, which in total amounted to more than one per cent of its gross domestic product.
India believed that the best way to protect human rights was by strengthening national mechanisms. The Council and its mechanisms had to focus on enabling States to develop necessary national institutions and capacities through rendering appropriate technical assistance. The primacy of a State’s role and participation had to be fully respected in the process. Such an inclusive approach would enjoy confidence and trust of States and would result in the optimal utilization of all the resources available.
Azerbaijan had always highlighted the necessity of significant efforts of the High Commissioner and the Council to adequately respond to and publically address serious concerns over the violations of human rights of internally displaced persons and refugees. With regard to the armed conflict in Georgia, with which Azerbaijan shared relations of strategic partnership, Azerbaijan condemned violent extremism and aggressive separatism and reiterated support for the territorial integrity of Georgia.
Republic of Moldova reiterated its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. The Government of Georgia was commended for its active cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and for its efforts to promote human rights in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Republic of Moldova was concerned about the repeated denial of access of the Office of the High Commissioner and other monitoring mechanisms to the two regions, and about human rights violations there.
Marshall Islands expressed its gratitude to the donors and coordinators of the small island developing States/least developed countries trust funds. The continued participation of the Marshall Islands in the Council had a positive impact on its efforts to respect and fulfil human rights. As a small island State, Marshall Islands had no proper resources or capacity to improve the rights of persons without the technical assistance of external experts or donors.
Tanzania said the political situation in Burundi was stabilising. Refugees were registering for voluntary return and Tanzania was helping facilitate their safe and dignified return. However, the repatriation programme was acutely underfunded. Development partners were urged to fund social programmes in Burundi. All parties to the Burundi peace process must engage in talks in good faith.
Viet Nam said the High Commissioner could provide useful technical assistance with the permission of the concerned State. Viet Nam regretted the continued practice in the Council to name and shame certain States. Viet Nam had provided two Special Procedures with all the relevant information that they had requested. There was a need to ensure the impartiality of all human rights bodies.
Italy stressed that technical assistance had a crucial role to play in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Italy believed in the universal participation of all States in the Human Rights Council and expressed its support for the Voluntary Fund for least developed countries and small island developing States. The Fund could make concrete the adage that no one be left behind.
Costa Rica regretted the serious humanitarian and economic crisis unfolding in Venezuela. There was a lack of political guarantees for human rights. There was a massive outflow of Venezuelans to other countries in the region. Those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice. Venezuela must grant access to Special Procedures and the Council must closely follow the situation.
Ireland thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for its enhancement of technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights. Ireland believed that civil society played an invaluable role in holding Governments to account in their human rights obligations. It welcomed especially the methods set out in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner which provided a roadmap to facilitate civil society’s involvement in the work undertaken on technical assistance.
Syria said technical assistance and capacity building were key tools designed by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action to help countries improve their systems. The objective was to help countries building their national capacities, at their request and with their cooperation. This item should reflect the need for these countries, and refrain from turning into a tool of blaming and shaming. Syria expressed its full respect and support of Venezuela and the need to respect its sovereignty.
Albania welcomed the assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support Georgia in enhancing the protection of and respect for human rights. It commended Georgia for its positive engagement and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tbilisi. At the same time, it regretted that the authorities in the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/Southern Ossetia continued to deny the access of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign States on the pretext of human rights. It strongly condemned all manoeuvres devoted to misusing item 10 for purposes other than genuine human rights. Item 10 should be focused on increasing the capacity of countries at the request and with the consent of countries concerned and on the principle of respect for sovereignty and non-interference. It should not be misused for naming and shaming.
Belarus stressed that technical cooperation in the area of human rights was an important part of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The capacities of Belarus had been boosted to improve human rights protection, including the development of indicators. Gratitude was expressed to the donor countries and the United Nations team, particularly the United Nations Children’s’ Fund.
Network of African National Human Rights Institutions encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner to strengthen its efforts in supporting the work of national human rights institutions to ensure they fulfilled their mandate effectively. There was a need to further strengthen their technical capacities to enable them to promote the rights of migrants, undertake detention monitoring visits, conduct surveys on violations of human rights of migrants, and formulate appropriate recommendations.
International Lesbian and Gay Association shared some best practices on protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. New Zealand had passed a law to clear historical gay sex convictions. In Trinidad and Tobago, the High Court of Justice had declared unconstitutional the criminalization of consensual sexual relations between same sex adults. In Pakistan, the National Assembly had passed a law giving non-binary persons the ability to self-declare their gender and obtain national identification documents.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that when Burundi denied access to, or even worse withdrew visas from experts, this was evidence of a case of extreme policy incoherence. Burundi, which refused any form of cooperation and continued to launch personal attacks against independent experts and the Office of the High Commissioner personnel, was unfit to serve as a Council member.
Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement with International Commission of Jurists and International Service for Human Rights, said that each person in Venezuela had lost an average of 11 kilos in 2017. The situation was described as “spiralling downwards with no end in sight”. The Human Rights Council could no longer look away as the crisis in Venezuela demanded immediate action. Human Rights Watch encouraged continued reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner on the situation in Venezuela.
Liberation said the agenda item on technical assistance provided space for States to present problems without fear. Sadly, not many countries were taking advantage of the opportunity. India was failing to protect the human rights of its vulnerable citizens. India had repeatedly failed to uphold human rights due to a lack of rights mechanisms and ill-prepared institutions.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA said technical assistance and capacity building could help build national human rights mechanisms in line with international standards. India must seek help from the international community to address human rights violations. The State must address issues of illegal immigration that were having negative effects on vulnerable communities.
Centre for Organization Research and Education said the discussion on technical assistance helped stakeholders understand the matter. India must request technical assistance to help protect the rights of the people of Assam. The Government was failing to implement legislation and assistance could improve in the collection of relevant data. The Council was urged to guide India in addressing the human rights situation in Assam.
Alliance Creative Community Project said the Tamil people were urgently in need for the Human Rights Council to provide the necessary technical assistance and capacity building to protect their rights. In May 2009, Sri Lankan military forces had conducted a genocidal war against Tamils by killing more than 146,000 people. In Sri Lanka, there had been nearly 18 commissions of inquiry from 1963 to 2013, but none had delivered justice.
American Association of Jurists recalled that Western Sahara was the only non-self-governing territory that did not have an internationally recognized administering power and that was under illegal occupation of a foreign colonial power. The Kingdom of Morocco also illegally annexed the territory it occupied. It recalled that since 1979, the United Nations General Assembly had continuously recognized the Polisario Front as the legal representative of the people of Western Sahara.
Human Security Initiative Organization said technical cooperation should seek to achieve improvement in national mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights. It had to take into account different beliefs and practices in different countries. Therefore, it was difficult to have one model for all. If assistance remained focused on short-term assistance, sustainable development would not be achieved. Long-term assistance was needed.
Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea expressed its appreciation for the provision of technical assistance and capacity building to the Yemeni Government in order to promote human rights. But the people did not see the results of this assistance due to its misuse by the Yemeni Government. The people of the south had been suffering from the lack of access to electricity and water for days, not to mention the deterioration of health, education and food supply delivery.
International-Lawyers.Org highlighted the imperative nature of technical assistance efforts to ensure the sustainable futures of countries. Despite Mali’s commendable efforts to cooperate with recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review, it would require continued assistance towards its peace agreement. In the Central African Republic, there was a dire need to support the rehabilitation of victims. Many Pacific Island States faced the existential hazard of rising sea levels and required support.
Verein Sudwind Entwickungspolitik said that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization realized the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action to contribute to the 2030 Agenda. In September 2016, a working group was established in Iran, however, a year later, the Supreme Leader of Iran put an end to the whole effort. Even minor steps towards reporting on a few of the Sustainable Development Goals was not tolerated by the hardliners in Iran.
Association of World Citizens, speaking about upcoming elections in Cambodia, said that no reform had been carried out on the election system, and there was no guarantee that the elections would be independent or free and fair. The Cambodian authorities were asked to stop using intimidation and arbitrary detention against civil society.
IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association noted the importance of the resolution of the Council concerning Yemen and the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate serious human rights violations. Serious challenges in areas of security and stability remained, including suffering of civilians. Capacity building was essential in order to hold the perpetrators of crimes accountable and ensure justice. The Council was asked to increase technical assistance and cooperation towards Yemeni civil society.
World Barua Organization said freedom of assembly and association were basic human rights being violated by India. Thousands of peaceful protesters faced torture and murder. Relevant authorities were not trained to handle sensitive situations. The situation had become outrageous and the Human Rights Council must help the Government of India address human rights violations.
International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) called for attention to the human rights crisis in Yemen. The imposition and constant renewal of the sanctions regime was debilitating the country and hindered access of humanitarian assistance. The international community must lift the blockade and restore the integrity of the people of Yemen.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation said technical assistance was a key component to the efforts of the Human Rights Council to promote the rule of law. Rohingya Muslims and people in Burundi were not safe from violence and sexual exploitation. The Human Rights Council must defend people being robbed of their ancestral land, including in Sri Lanka. Internally displaced Tamils did not have basic human rights.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme was concerned about the lack of cooperation by some States with Special Procedures. In Myanmar, despite the disposition of the international community to provide assistance, the Government was refusing to allow assistance and cooperation. The Human Rights Council must take into consideration the situation of displaced persons in situations of conflict.
Iraqi Development Organization raised concerns over Bahrain’s refusal to accept assistance in the lead up to elections. People were being detained as a result of their political activities and free and independent media outlets had been shut down. There was no space for civil society engagement ahead of the elections. Bahrain must engage with human rights mechanisms and release political prisoners.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc. drew the Council’s attention to Bahrain’s continued disregard for cooperation with international mechanisms for human rights capacity building. The Government had sought international legitimacy for its upcoming elections, yet it continued to refuse cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner or other United Nations bodies.
Alsalam Foundation raised the fact that the United Arab Emirates had failed to address recommendations from its past Universal Periodic Reviews. Although 86 States had made 180 recommendations during the second cycle, the United Arab Emirates had failed to implement any of them. The Emirati Government continued to restrict fundamental freedoms, sentencing activists to prison in unfair trails.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the United States continued to export arms to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that these weapons were causing wide suffering of civilians in Yemen. The bloodshed would continue if the Saudi Arabia-led coalition continued its attacks, and there was a need to establish a commission of inquiry.
Conseil International de Soutien à des Procès Equitables et aux Droits de l'Homme noted that in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, criminal justice systems failed to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice law. Fair and public trails had become a foreign concept and civilians were tried in military and specialized criminal courts. The Saudi-led coalition was carrying out indiscriminate air attacks in Yemen that amounted to war crimes with complete impunity.
Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul said the families of the disappeared Tamils had protested for over 500 days and those who had called for accountability and justice had lost faith in the Office of Missing Persons in Sri Lanka due to the failed commissions of the past. The Office of Missing Persons was the only visible development that had taken place after three long years following resolution 30/1 of 2015.
L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Democratie said the existence of crucial evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lanka Government in the 2009 war was more than enough to call for independent international investigations. However, thus far in the Human Rights Council, there had been only calls for Sri Lanka to investigate itself. The past resolutions against Sri Lanka had not been implemented by the Government, and the root cause of this was the lack of political will.
International Solidarity for Africa said in his report to the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had clearly stated that there was a lack of progress in implementing resolution 30/1 of 1 October, 2015. The structural genocide of the Tamils continued unabated. There had been no demilitarization in the Tamil areas. The genocide continued under the assistance of the Sri Lankan armed forces present in the north and east of the Tamil dominated areas.
ABC Tamil Oli said Australia had recently been given a seat on the Human Rights Council despite its bad record on asylum seekers and prisons/detention facilities. The situation on Manus Island was shocking. It included authorities turning asylum seekers away on boats, as well as beatings, torture, and multiple reports of child sexual abuse by prison and security staff. All recommendations in this regard were totally ignored by the Australian authorities. ABC Tamil Oli urged the Council to recognize Australia’s hypocrisy.
Tamil Uzhagam said the Sri Lankan regime was not pursuing justice for human rights violations to Tamils. The Government had waged a genocidal war against Tamil communities. Further investigations were needed to investigate crimes committed against the Tamil people.
Association Thendral said families of victims of enforced disappearances were unwilling to cooperate with the Sri Lankan Office of Missing Persons. Their reluctance resulted from the Government’s consistent failure to address issues of enforced disappearances. Accountability was a necessary step to heal past wounds and the Human Rights Council must set up offices in Sri Lanka to build confidence in State institutions.
Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation said it was providing care to vulnerable children in Iraq. It was now focusing on addressing the mental health issues of people affected by the conflict. Projects were underway to provide children with the compassion they needed following the loss of their parents. Children must grow up in an atmosphere of love, happiness and understanding.
International Service for Human Rights in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said the next High Commissioner was essential to ensure dignity for all. The same was the case for the work of human rights defenders. The next High Commissioner must be a dedicated human rights defender and must build strategic alliances with all relevant stakeholders. The Secretary-General needed to support the work of the Office of the High Commissioner.
World Association for Schools as an Instrument for Peace Intervention said it was an honour to address the Human Rights Council at this historic session where the act of withdrawal of the United States had only emboldened the people of the United States to coordinate campaigns to participate in all future sessions. The United States Human Rights Network and its hundreds of members would participate with persistence.
Health and Environment Program said it was essential to build capacity in Georgia and Burundi. As a key element of capacity building, both countries had to also address issues related to an enabling environment, in particular leadership, career structure, critical mass, infrastructure, information access and interfaces between human rights defenders who must act peacefully in all their actions to defend and promote fundamental rights and victims of violations.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia in a joint statement with several NGOs2 said that while it stressed the importance of technical assistance and cooperation, it was alarmed by some States that did not recognize the importance thereof. It was deeply concerned when non-governmental organizations were interrupted and not given the chance to address the Human Rights Council. The statement by Cambodia was a recent example. In order for the Human Rights Council to be effective, the debates must be open to all criticisms regarding the country in question.
Right of Reply
Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, drew attention to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and asserted that they were independent States. Russia did not have effective control over those republics. There had been a clear violation of the rules of procedure during the current debate as mention of countries not included in relevant reports was inappropriate. Countries must respect existing rules of procedure.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said certain reports by Special Procedures on Venezuela had not been mandated by it. In Venezuela, human rights were fully enforced and the State pursued productive dialogue. Some issues in the country were the result of cruel interventions and sanctions by countries like the United States. Countries making allegations against Venezuela were serving northern imperial powers. Venezuela had always cooperated with the United Nations and invited Special Procedures to visit the country. Several countries that supported declarations against Venezuela had Governments that came to power undemocratically. Venezuela denounced the fact that the United States had threatened Venezuela with military intervention.
Morocco, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement by South Africa on behalf of a group of countries regarding Moroccan Sahara, said this statement sought to instrumentalise the Human Rights Council. The statement had distorted and provided a fallacious reading of the Secretary General and the resolution. The United Nations recognized Morocco’s full cooperation with the human rights mechanisms. Once more, Morocco’s cooperation had been illustrated by the visit of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General to Morocco last week, where he had been able to see what was happening on the ground, meet with representatives, and see economic progress in the region. The statement made by South Africa came from a number of countries whose own human rights records had been raised in the Council a few weeks. Morocco strongly denounced the instrumentalisation of the Human Rights Council by this statement.
Cambodia, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Japanese delegate’s statement and that of others against Cambodia, reiterated that Cambodia remained committed to participate in and engage with all United Nations human rights mechanisms and the international community to promote, protect and respect human rights and to nurture democracy and uphold the rule of law. Cambodia was the first country to host the first and oldest Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights field office and had engaged with the country Special Rapporteur since 1993. Cambodia had witnessed an average of seven per cent economic growth for two decades. It was a plural-party democracy, and people were free to choose their government through free, fair and periodic elections. As previous elections had shown, prejudice and the refusal to recognize the electoral processes and election outcomes by the same groups was not unprecedented. This refusal had become customary political practice and a bargaining tactic of the opposition parties. Therefore, to prevent history from repeating itself, Cambodia called on all international communities to provide support and assistance and send their observers to elections in Cambodia.
Peru, speaking in a right of reply, said that it spoke on behalf of 53 countries that were all concerned about the human rights situation in Venezuela. Venezuela was thus rejecting the opinion of 53 States and accusing them of following instructions from a third party. All 53 States were sovereign and had to react when a certain country was undermining democratic order and violating human rights. Over 1.5 million Venezuelans were leaving their country and no one could remain indifferent.
1Joint statement on behalf of: International Service for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Conectas Direitos Humanos; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Human Rights House Foundation; International Commission of Jurists; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; International Lesbian and Gay Association and Peace Brigades International Switzerland.
2Joint statement on behalf of: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; Conectas Direitos Humanos; Human Rights House Foundation; Human Rights Watch; International Commission of Jurists; International Humanist and Ethical Union and International Service for Human Rights
For use of the information media; not an official record
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