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Human Rights Council concludes general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights

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11 March 2019

Human Rights Council
MORNING 

11 March 2019

Holds Minute of Silence to Honour Victims of Plane Crash in Ethiopia, who included United Nations Employees

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  At the beginning of the meeting, the Council held a minute of silence to honour the victims of a plane crash in Ethiopia on Sunday, 10 March, who included United Nations employees.

The summary of the first two parts of the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, held on Friday, 8 March can be read here and here

In the discussion, speakers called attention to the continued use of segregated institutions and education for children with disabilities, and to the fact that 1.8 billion people globally lacking adequate housing.  The international community urgently needed to combat all forms of violence against children, taking into account the root causes and recognizing the pivotal role of mothers in the protection of children.  Some speakers regretted that States had failed to take action on climate change and air pollution, noting that the consequences of climate change had affected communities in developing countries, especially indigenous peoples.  They called for the creation of an international court of climate justice to hold accountable those countries that failed to address climate change.  Other speakers noted that terrorism had to be attacked internationally through the exchange of best practices and the prevention of access to weapons by terrorist groups.  Speaking of the women who were harassed, raped and attacked, some speakers urged patriarchal societies to end such practices because none of the Sustainable Development Goals would be attained unless a gender perspective was integrated.  Women in the least developed countries were often not informed about their rights and entitlements and such countries needed to empower female figures.  Speakers also drew attention to the crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion in several countries, including through the arrest of journalists, writers and women human rights defenders. 

Speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: United Schools International, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme, International Muslim Women’s Union, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES (in a joint statement with International Institute of Mary Our Help of the Salesians of Don Bosco and European Youth Forum), Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations , Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, L’observatoire mauritanien des droits de l’homme et de la démocratie, Association of World Citizens, Godwin Osung International Foundation, Inc. (The African Project), Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, Sikh Human Rights Group, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Franciscans International, Union of Arab Jurists, International-Lawyers.Org, Iraqi Development Organization, Alsalam Foundation, International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with Amnesty International), Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, United Nations Watch, Ingénieurs du Monde, The European Centre for Law and Justice, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Educational Development, Inc., African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, The International Organisation for LDCs, France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), British Humanist Association, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR), International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, United Villages, Society for Threatened Peoples, Liberation, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, African Agency for Integrated Development (AAID), Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Servas International, Human Rights Advocates Inc, Afro-European Medical and Research Network, and Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

China spoke in a right of reply.

The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

United Schools International noted that State patronage of terrorism was abhorrent and yet Pakistan used terrorist groups in its proxy wars with its neighbours.  Pakistan was willing to use its nuclear arsenal and bring the world to the brink of nuclear war just because it wanted to defend its terrorists, such as Jaish al Mohammed.  While Pakistan continued to export terrorism, it remained a member of the Human Rights Council.

CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation echoed the concern of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the crackdown on peaceful protesters in various countries across the world, and cited examples in Zimbabwe and Sudan.  It asked Member States of the Council about what they were ready to do to protect those who protested peacefully.

Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme drew attention to the electoral fraud in Kuwait, and people being imprisoned by the authorities that did not abide by the rule of law and their international commitments.  There was an oppressive regime in Kuwait that pretended to champion human rights.  The organization stressed that the situation of “bidoon” (stateless persons) was a humanitarian catastrophe.

International Muslim Women’s Union said there were a number of conflict areas where human rights were being violated, and the United Nations had an obligation to promote human rights in those areas.  In Kashmir, there were grave human rights violations, as highlighted by United Nations reports and resolutions and it was one of the most militarized areas in the world.  Indian military forces were all enjoying impunity due to the Special Powers Act.

Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum said that the United States was withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq inspired by the Taliban declaration of victory.  The international community still remembered what happened in 1989 when international troops withdrew.  In this backdrop, the complicity of the international community to allow the Taliban to govern Afghanistan was inexplicable, so the international community was called on not to repeat the same mistake from 1989.

International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES said it was imperative to develop and implement strategies that allowed youth participation.  The Council addressed the issue of youth with several resolutions and with the United Nations Youth Strategy.  Member States were called upon to establish a Special Procedure mandate holder on youth and to give youth greater participation in decision-making.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that the Borok people and their livelihoods in the Tripura state of India were under threat and called on the Government to safeguard them from extinction by guaranteeing their human rights and their right to their homeland.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that all human rights should be treated equally and as interrelated and interdependent, and urged the Council to consider the violation of economic, social and cultural rights on the same footing as civil and political rights.  There would be an upsurge in discrimination with advancing environmental degradation and increased migration. 

Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said that although India said it was committed to protecting the rights of human rights defenders, the speaker said he was harassed by police in his home due to his involvement with civil society and human rights non-governmental organizations.   India was urged to be more open to criticism by the international community.

Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” drew attention to the environmental, poverty, food and social crisis taking place in France, where protesters had mobilized to protest against the rising fuel prices, the reduction in social security, the rise in commodity prices and taxation, and the new form of slavery in Europe.  They called for greater equality and as a result they suffered from police violence. 

L'Observatoire mauritanien des droits de l'homme et de la démocratie sought the urgent protection of Eelam Tamils, who were under military pressure.  The Tamil people in Sri Lanka had over 70 years of experience of deception and disappointment with successive Sri Lankan Governments.  The organization urged the Council to intervene and help Tamil victims of genocide to conduct an international investigation against the Sri Lankan Government.

Association of World Citizens called attention to the flagrant violations of women’s rights in Yemen by the Houthi militias, noting that they continued to be the majority of victims of the conflict along with children.  The organization appealed for the release of women human rights defenders from prisons and detention centres, and for holding the perpetrators to account.  

Godwin Osung International Foundation, Inc. (The African Project) asked the international community to urgently support Tamils.  The Singhalese army had been committing atrocities, and they had carried out sexual violence during the war.  The Sri Lankan authorities were denying any responsibility.  The Tamil community was not happy to live with people who had not been prosecuted for the war crimes they committed.  The Council was urged to react to the plight of the voiceless Tamils.

Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, in a joint statement with Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said that sanctions by the United States were designed to block medicine to civilians in Iran.  The United States measures had stopped pharmaceutical companies from trading with Iran.  Victims of the unilateral coercive measures must receive compensation and help.

Sikh Human Rights Group suggested that a United Nations declaration on diversity would complement existing instruments and mechanisms on human rights, particularly on combatting discrimination.  This had already been discussed with representatives of many States and with the Advisory Committee, and the feedback was encouraging.  The group hoped that the Council would support such a declaration.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development highlighted the importance of guaranteeing the safety and protection of women human rights defenders, especially regarding online harassment in India and in Maldives.  It called on the international community to address these threats in a holistic manner and commended the Special Rapporteur on women human rights defenders for highlighting the intersectionality of the threats faced by women human rights defenders.

Franciscans International commended the Special Rapporteur on the right to food’s report on Indonesia for highlighting the situation of malnutrition in Papua.  It regretted the Indonesian Government’s lack of action in guaranteeing the rights of small-scale farmers and called for a comprehensive assessment of the regulatory system and for their continued collaboration with civil society.

Union of Arab Jurists said that the Syrian State was struggling to uphold its sovereignty but was faced with a lack of international cooperation.  International actors should not use threats or force against Syria, but the use of terrorism and neo imperialism imposing unjust economic sanctions on Syria was a hindrance in guaranteeing peace and prosperity in the region.

International-Lawyers.Org regretted that States had failed to take action on climate change and air pollution.  The Human Rights Council and United Nations Member States must take action and ensure that the adverse effects of climate change were addressed.  The consequences of climate change had affected communities in developing countries, especially indigenous peoples.  The organization called for the creation of an international court of climate justice to hold accountable those countries that failed to address climate change.

Iraqi Development Organization expressed deep dismay about the horrific human rights violations occurring in Yemen, in particular the Saudi Coalition’s unlawful economic coercive measures illegally imposed on the entire population with devastating impacts on vulnerable civilians, including women, children, the elderly, the sick, injured and disabled.  Protecting Yemen’s economy was an objective that all parties should strive for given that its decline and potential collapse affected all civilians.

Alsalam Foundation raised concern about Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on freedom of opinion and expression, reminding that since 2011 at least 16 journalists and writers had been imprisoned.  No member of the royal family had been held accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The organization also called attention to the recent arrest of women human rights defenders and noted that Saudi Arabia was in violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with Amnesty International, warned about cases of reprisals, which were occurring in cases where human rights defenders were cooperating with the United Nations.  This was occurring in Egypt where forced evictions took place, in the Philippines where defenders were labelled as terrorists, and in Turkmenistan and Yemen where attacks were carried out against defenders.

Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik said that in Iran, Esmail Bakhshi, the labour rights spokesperson, and Sepideh Gholian, who spoke online about the torture of both of them during detention, had been rearrested and tortured again in order to make them retract their accusations of torture.  Ms. Golrokh Ireaee and Ms. Atena Daemi were still in jail and Ms. Daemi needed medical tests outside prison.

United Nations Watch said that everything that was said by some of the worst dictatorships was unreal and untrue.  Accusations about massive attacks on Gaza borders were false.  It was dishonest to call protests in Gaza civilian protests.  The truth was that these so-called protests involved terrorists with bombing devices.  It was an insult to call these peaceful protests.

Ingénieurs du Monde welcomed the recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Sustainable Development Goals and highlighted the need to take into account the individual needs of persons with disabilities.  The group called on the Council to reaffirm their commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The European Centre for Law and Justice spoke about the case of Pastor Yousef Khani who had been repeatedly harassed, imprisoned and beaten in Iran for his Christian faith.  It reminded the Council that Iran had a responsibility to adhere to international human rights law, and that the treatment of Pastor Yousef violated the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, and called for his immediate release.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues called on all delegations to work on better judicial cooperation and the selective scope of the relevant treaties.  It asked the Council to share drafts of the legally binding instruments as soon as possible, with a clear roadmap.

International Educational Development, Inc.reminded that it had been active on the issue of self-determination for the people of Kashmir since 1989, but there were still ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law there.  The current situation was dire as the hostilities between India and Pakistan escalated.  The leaders of both countries needed to understand that the people of Kashmir had the right to self-determination, which should be expressed in an internationally recognized referendum.    

African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters shared the concern of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, and called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the past and current human rights violations, and to guarantee the right to self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The International Organisation for LDCs spoke on behalf of all the women who had been harassed, raped and attacked, and urged patriarchal societies to end such practices.  None of the Sustainable Development Goals would be attained unless a gender perspective was integrated.  Women in the least developed countries were often not informed about their rights and entitlements and such countries needed to empower female figures. 

France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand said that the new head of the judiciary in Iran was one of the key perpetrators in the 1989 massacre.  At the time, he was a deputy prosecutor in Teheran and had played a key role in the crackdown on protesters and was later part of the death commission.  Mr. Razizi was proud of his role and often spoke about it publicly.  The Council was urged to pressure Iran on this issue.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) said that Kashmir was the site of grave human rights violations.  Children were victims of violence and were subjected to forced recruitment.  Yemen was one of the conflict zones with the largest number of children who were exploited.  Many schools were turned into military barracks and 2 million children were unable to go to school.  Children were suffering most in armed conflict.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that in Egypt protesters were targeted for peaceful protests.  A case was presented where a person was detained for a song he sang that criticized the authorities, though he did not write the song.  His detention had been extended indefinitely.  Egyptian authorities were called on to release him and States were urged to use diplomatic means to pressure Egypt to do so.

China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) said that in Tibet, Buddhists built temples in mountains.  They lived alone with no children so old people were taking care of themselves.  Local governments had taken measures to improve the situation in villages.  All of the 47,000 Buddhists were benefiting from pensions and social allowances.  These actions had facilitated connections between Buddhists and residents.

British Humanist Association said that in the last four years, seven countries had abolished blasphemy laws.  Nonetheless, many countries still had death penalties for blasphemy laws.  All countries were called on to allow religious diversity and abolish blasphemy laws and the Council was urged to call on States to do so.

Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) reminded that the Indian occupation forces had systematically killed Kashmiri youth and harassed Kashmiri women in a planned strategy.  The Indian military had given free rein to the occupation forces to kill even protesters who only threw stones.  An example was the blinding of a young girl in her mother’s arms during the protests.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination reminded of the plight of civilians in Syria, noting that the responsibility for holding all the perpetrators remained on each and every State.  Universal jurisdiction was a powerful tool to prosecute war criminals in national courts and for tackling impunity and guaranteeing justice. 

United Villages called for the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the human rights violations perpetrated against the people of Jammu and Kashmir, where people had suffered misery for the past 70 years.  The families of missing persons were waiting for their loved ones who disappeared without any trace. 

Society for Threatened Peoples said that the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities were being targeted in Xinjiang province in China, and were held in internment camps without due process.  It called on the Council to take action, stating that the arbitrary detention of 1 million people and the ensuing crimes against humanity were within its preview, and urged the Council to set up a fact-finding mission.

Liberation called on all Member States to abide by their commitments, highlighting that in India, hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples had been evicted from their homes without legal process, suggesting that India was not serious enough on protecting indigenous peoples’ human rights.

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee thanked the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders for his comprehensive report and urged all Member States to ratify all relevant international instruments. 

African Agency for Integrated Development (AAID) called the attention of the Council to the dire situation in Afrin, in western Kurdistan, aka northern Syria.  Since the invasion and occupation of Afrin by Turkey’s military in March of 2018, the majority Kurdish city of over 1 million had been turned into a dystopian nightmare.  The Turkish Government was considering a large-scale military invasion of this region as recently voiced by their Defence Minister.

Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, in a joint statement with Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of Preachers and Edmund Rice International Limited, welcomed the work of the Working Group on business and human rights, and supported new instruments that would prevent violations of human rights by corporations.  Draft treaties needed to focus on the rights of victims and remedies.  This was key, particularly in the case of environmentalist human rights mechanisms.  Preventive mechanisms had to be invoked.

Servas International said it was an organization actively working for peace and security, and was actively pursuing women’s empowerment and sustainable development.  Women had the voice and power to be agents of choice, as was discussed here on International Women’s Day.  It was of utmost importance to protect women human rights defenders and protect victims globally.

Human Rights Advocates Inc reminded that 1.8 billion people globally lacked adequate housing.  It urged all States to incorporate fiscal measures to ensure meeting the Sustainable Development Goal in relation to the right to housing.  The organization also called attention to the continued use of segregated institutions and education for children with disabilities. 

Afro-European Medical and Research Network, in a joint statement, thanked the Council and mandate holders for having presented several reports on violence against children.  The international community urgently needed to combat all forms of violence against children.  While international standards had laid the foundation for the protection of the rights of the child, it was necessary to investigate the root causes of violence against children, and to recognize that mothers played a paramount role in the protection of children.

Egyptian Organization for Human Rights denounced terrorist acts carried out around the world, which prevented the exercise of human rights, especially the right to life.  Terrorism had to be attacked internationally through the exchange of best practices and the prevention of access to weapons by terrorist groups.  The organization encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue the study of the impact of terrorism on all human rights.   

Right of Reply

China, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statements on the situation in Xinjiang, said the intention of these organizations was to mislead the international community.  China firmly rejected these statements.  The security situation in Xinjiang was improving.  There used to be a terrorist attack every day.  The vocation centres were not concentration centres, rather they were boarding schools and training centres, aimed to eradicate extremism and teach skills to these persons.  All measures had been taken following consultations with the people of Xinjiang and in line with Chinese laws.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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