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Human Rights Council concludes urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests

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18 June 2020

Human Rights Council

18 June 2020

Ends Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in Mali and Begins Discussion on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine

The Human Right Council this morning concluded an urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests.  Voting on a draft resolution on the debate was postponed.  The Council then concluded an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali and began an interactive discussion on the High Commissioner’s oral report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.
  
During the urgent debate, speakers expressed solidarity with and deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd.  History had proven that when allowed to take root, racism damaged societies for generations.  Colonial institutions, as historically employed by Europe in Africa to perpetuate marginalization, social exclusion and economic inequalities, were cited as root causes by speakers.  Since systemic racism was a result of colonialism and slavery, fighting it must mean also coming to terms with these root causes. 

Speakers urged the Council to retain the focus of the proposed commission of inquiry specifically on the killing of George Floyd, police brutality and institutional racial discrimination within United States police.  The creation of a second thematic international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism and police brutality globally was also encouraged. 

The urgent debate started on Wednesday, 17 June, and a summary can be found here.

Speaking in the urgent debate were Portugal, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia (video message), Finland, Mozambique, New Zealand (video message), Costa Rica, Lebanon, Haiti, Iraq, Vanuatu, Barbados, Maldives, Organization of American States, Montenegro, United Kingdom, Guyana, Nicaragua, Luxembourg, Iceland, Norway, Ethiopia, Holy See (video message), Slovenia, Ivory Coast, Ireland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Turkey, Tunisia, Malta and Israel.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: American Civil Liberties Union, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Centre for Global Nonkilling, Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Global Action on Aging, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, World Jewish Congress, Human Rights Watch, Iraqi Development Organization, Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy and Human, Rights in Bahrain Inc, Action Canada for Population and Development, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Inc., International Lesbian and Gay Association, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Partners For Transparency, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Minority Rights Group, United Nations Watch, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Ingenieurs du Monde, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Amnesty International.

Speaking in right of reply were Brazil and China.

The Council then concluded the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali.  This interactive dialogue started on Wednesday, 17 June and a summary can be found here.

Speakers noted with satisfaction the significant progress made by the Government of Mali in the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  They nevertheless expressed concern about the enormous and multifaceted challenges facing the countries of the Sahel region in general and Mali in particular.

Alioune Tine, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, in concluding remarks, said the rule of law could not be implemented where there was no State.  If a regional strategy was not put together to tackle insecurity, a lasting solution could not be found; the problems of Mail could not be addressed properly if those of Burkina Faso and Niger were ignored. 

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were Chad, Niger and Botswana.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme

At the end of the meeting, the Council began an interactive dialogue on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ oral report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.  Presenting the update, Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that 52 site visits and 129 in-depth interviews of victims, relatives and witnesses of human rights violations were made during the reporting period, calling on the government and the self-proclaimed republics to facilitate humanitarian crossings of the contact line. 

Ukraine, speaking as the concerned country, hoped that the report’s recommendations, which referred to both parties involved in the hostilities, would not further neglect directly mentioning the Russian Federation, not letting it escape the consequences of the grave human rights violations it was committing. 

During the interactive debate on Ukraine, speakers expressed deep concern about the ongoing human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Russian Federation against persons living in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the government of Ukraine, and in the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.  Some reiterated that they did not recognize the illegal annexation and remained committed to fully implementing non-recognition policies, including through restrictive measures.

Speaking during the interactive discussion were the European Union, the Czech Republic, Canada, Estonia, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, France, Hungary (video message), Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania (video message), Ireland, Croatia, Montenegro, Latvia, Russian Federation (video statement) and Turkey.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV.

The Council will meet again on Thursday, 18 June at 3 p.m. to conclude the interactive discussion on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ oral report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.  It will then hold interactive discussions on the human rights situations in Libya and in the Central African Republic.

Urgent Debate

The urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests started on Wednesday, 17 June, and a summary can be found here.

Speakers expressed solidarity with and deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, noting that international mechanisms such as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action already existed to fight racial intolerance since systemic and institutionalised racism was a pervasive concern across the globe.  It was the tragic killing of George Floyd that had brought this pervasiveness sharply into focus, reflected in demonstrations worldwide.  Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes were singled out as States where protesters were routinely arrested and detained, while other speakers noted that the democratic world only pretended to live free from racial discrimination.  History had proven that when allowed to take root, racism damaged societies for generations.  Colonial institutions, as historically employed by Europe in Africa to perpetuate marginalization, social exclusion and economic inequalities, were cited as root causes by speakers.  Since systemic racism was a result of colonialism and slavery, fighting it must mean also coming to terms with these root causes.  Speakers condemned the recent upsurge in the ideology of white supremacy and hate speech, contributing to hate crimes and growing levels of violence, expressing deep concern regarding institutionalised racism in the United States police force.  Many speakers condemned police violence against peaceful protesters worldwide and reiterated that the public must be able to trust the police again, encouraging the Council to coordinate a global response on this issue.  Multiple social science studies demonstrated that racial discrimination within criminal justice systems perpetuated the problem in a never-ending cycle, therefore police reform and increased accountability must be at the top of the agenda. 

Speakers noted that this urgent debate on systematic racism and police brutality against people of African descent should engender a collaborative approach with civil society to tackle these complex issues.  Speakers urged the Council to retain the focus of the proposed commission of inquiry specifically on the killing of George Floyd, police brutality and institutional racial discrimination within the United States police.  The Council was urged to keep references to “black lives matter” in the proposed resolution.  The creation of a second thematic international commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism and police brutality globally was also encouraged.  Other speakers expressed doubt that the United Nations and the Human Rights Council were fit to tackle global racism.  Prevention was emphasized as an important focus in combatting racism and diminishing the increasing rates of racist violence, as were outreach and awareness raising of the dangers of the far right.  In the United States, qualified immunity allowed officers to only be convicted if they broke clearly established constitutional rights, creating a culture of impunity within the United States police force.  In Brazil, black people and children were constant targets of police violence, especially in the favelas.  Citizens in the Middle East and North Africa were too often confronted by an international community unwilling to hold governments to account, and speakers urged the Council to not repeat these same mistakes.  In Bahrain, peaceful protesters were routinely arrested and tortured, and Afro-Bahrainis suffered disproportionately due to institutionalised and systemic racism.  Speakers stated that Israel’s systematic shoot-to-kill policy of Palestinians amounted to apartheid and highlighted incidents of racism, police brutality and other forms of discrimination in Iran, Mauritania, Venezuela and China. 

Interactive Discussion on the Human Rights Situation in Mali

The interactive dialogue on Mali started on Wednesday, 17 June and a summary can be found here.

Discussion on Mali

Speakers noted with satisfaction the significant progress made by the Government of Mali in the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, but nevertheless expressed concern about the enormous and multifaceted challenges facing the countries of the Sahel region in general and Mali in particular.  The fight against terrorism was a major hurdle preventing economic development and the enjoyment of human rights by all the Malian population.  The international community was urged to support the Malian authorities in the difficult tasks of effectively implementing the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement on the one hand, and on the other, to release the pledges of funding for the G5 Sahel and the Humanitarian Response Plan.  It was important to encourage the international private sector to invest more in the implementation of social and economic reparation measures in Mali.  Evidence of the expanded operations of terrorist groups could be found in the recent attacks that had taken place in the central region of the country.  Speakers asked the Independent Expert to outline the strategy to combat the spread of terrorism and foster political stability in the country.  Other speakers flagged the sporadic attacks being carried out by terrorist groups in the north and the centre of the country.  These attacks targeted civilians and peacekeepers.  Given that the situation in Mali could have a negative impact on the entire region of West Africa, speakers asked about the Independent Expert’s strategy to ensure long-lasting regional peace.  They also requested information on the impact of COVID-19 on the matters under discussion.

Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali

ALIOUNE TINE, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Mali, said the rule of law could not be implemented where there was no State.  If a regional strategy was not put together to tackle insecurity, a lasting solution could not be found; the problems of Mail could not be addressed properly if those of Burkina Faso and Niger were ignored.  This was a challenge for the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and all of Africa.  Armed militias must absolutely be dissolved.  They sometimes had more arms than the army and were therefore able to exercise complete control over certain zones.  It was important to carry out a rigorous assessment of the situation in the country so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.  The international community must intervene rapidly; it was urgently important that dialogue be facilitated, lest a confrontation emerge, the consequences of which could not be predicted.

Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine

Documentation

The Council has before it the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 12 July 2019 on Cooperation with and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights (A/HRC/RES/41/25).

The Council has before it the Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine (A/HRC/43/CRP.7).

Presentation of Oral Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ twenty-ninth periodic report on the human rights situation in Ukraine.  She said that 52 site visits, including along the contact line, as well as 129 in-depth interviews of victims, relatives and witnesses of human rights violations were made during the reporting period between 16 November 2019 and 15 February 2020.  After six years, the conflict in Ukraine was still ongoing.  During the reporting period, there had been 19 civilian casualties, including two deaths, a 55 per cent decrease since the previous three-month period.  Since then, however, a sharp rise had been recorded, with 12 civilians killed and 67 injured from 1 January to 31 May this year.  All parties must take action to implement the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global cease fire.  Since March, the Office had heightened the monitoring of COVID-19 related human rights issues, including older people in long-term care facilities, people in detention, persons with disabilities, homeless people and Roma.  The government and the self-proclaimed republics were called on to facilitate humanitarian crossings of the contact line in eastern Ukraine, given continued restrictions on crossing and the lack of clear criteria for crossings on humanitarian grounds.

At the end of December, 222 detainees were simultaneously released by the Government of Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics, the first major release in two years.  Subsequent interviews uncovered patterns of torture and ill treatment that remained systemic, with the Ukrainian Security Service being a major perpetrator of these violations.  In Donetsk, torture and ill-treatment was similarly systemic, recording the use of electric shocks, asphyxiation, mock executions and sexual violence.  Moreover, within self-proclaimed republics, court proceedings in cases of people accused of links with armed groups were closed to the public.  Across Ukraine, freedoms of expression and media continued to be attacked, shrinking further in self-proclaimed republics, with social media the only platform where critical views could be voiced.  Ms. Al-Nashif welcomed the Government's adoption of a revised Electoral Code, which addressed recommendations to enfranchise internally displaced persons and labour migrants in elections.  In the autonomous republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, conscription campaigns continued in violation of international humanitarian law, with at least 3,000 men enlisted in the Russian military. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

Ukraine, speaking as the concerned country, stated that the report demonstrated again the terrible consequences of the illegal Russian occupation of Ukraine, making the occupied region a factory of despair and pain.  Ukraine continued to work with the Minsk Group, directly negotiating with the Russian Federation as a party to the ongoing international armed conflict and with representatives of illegal armed groups, which were fully dependent on Moscow and implemented the Russian strategy of the destabilization of Ukraine.  Russia was exercising full control of the occupied region.  Ukraine hoped that the report’s recommendations, which referred to both parties involved in the hostilities, would not further neglect directly mentioning the Russian Federation, not letting it escape the consequences of the grave human rights violations it was committing.  The Russian Federation persistently tried to distort the truth, via a wide-scale global campaign, committing war crimes in the meantime.  As part of these legitimation efforts, Russia pursued the systematic policy of changing the demographic makeup of Crimea, oppressing the Crimean Tatar minority.  The mere display of Crimean Tatars of Ukrainian identities was a serious crime in the eyes of the occupiers.  Under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia deprived Ukrainian citizens of the possibility to own land in the Crimean peninsula, in a clear violation of international humanitarian law, seeking to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to remove this issue from the global conscience. 

Ukrainian National Human Rights Institution, in a video message, said that, in six years, Ukraine had lost 300,000 civilians, including 146 children.  The number of injured was more than 7,000, and 1.5 million people had become displaced.  Children were suffering; there rights were violated as a result of military action.  The Institution’s information was based on various sources as they did not have access to the occupied territory.  She thanked all international partners for their support for peace and human rights. 

Discussion on Ukraine

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said they were deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Russian Federation against persons living in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the Government of Ukraine, and in the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.  A number of speakers said that they did not recognize the illegal annexation and remained committed to fully implementing non-recognition policies, including through restrictive measures.  Speakers supported the re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  The Minsk Agreements must be honoured by all parties, including the Russian Federation.  Crimean residents continued to be oppressed, freedom of expression remained massively curtailed, and local citizens were forced to join the military service by the occupying power, in breach of international law.  De facto authorities continued to persecute civil society, national minorities, or anybody voicing discontent about the annexation.  Minority groups such as the Crimean Tatars were particularly targeted.  Their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and religion, were being violated.  The latest reports of forced conscription, forced transfers and deportations, shed light on practices that were prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Speakers urged Russia to stop its violations of international law and to grant human rights monitors unhindered access to Crimea.  Regarding eastern Ukraine, the severe consequences of the conflict for the population were concerning, notably for the 48 victims identified this year by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Observer Mission.  The situation was exacerbated by COVID-19, and this affected vulnerable groups disproportionately.  Speakers deplored that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not have access in the territories not under the Ukrainian Government’s control.  All international observers should have access to all places of detention, they emphasized.  Several speakers welcomed the exchange of prisoners that had taken place between December and April.  Some encouraged the parties to build on this achievement and take additional constructive steps.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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