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High Commissioner for Human Rights Presents Report on Situation of Human Rights in Iran and Oral Update on Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua

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22 June 2021

22 June 2021

Human Rights Council Hears Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, and Concludes its Interactive Discussion with the High Commissioner on her Annual Report

The High Commissioner for Human Rights this afternoon presented a report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and an oral update on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. The Human Rights Council also heard the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and concluded its interactive discussion with the High Commissioner on her annual report.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the Secretary-General's report on Iran, noted that the report covered the period from 1 June 2020 to 17 March 2021. Economically, the country was facing deteriorating living standards, high inflation, and widespread unemployment, fuelling discontent and protests. At the political level, the authorities had shown no willingness to adopt meaningful reforms. Sectoral sanctions had aggravated economic distress, and the COVID-19 pandemic had badly hurt the already strained health sector - they must be waived. However, the existence of sanctions did not remove the State's responsibility to respond to the pandemic in line with human rights law.

Iran, speaking as a country concerned, said it was fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. The United States should be held to account for the massive, systematic and gross violations of human rights caused by its unilateral coercive measures. Urging an approach that avoided politicisation and double standards, Iran said the report being considered had been produced by a political mandate devised by a few Western States, including Canada, to pressurise Iran.

In her oral update on the human rights situation in Nicaragua, Ms. Bachelet noted that a human rights crisis had affected Nicaragua for years. Unfortunately, almost all recommendations made by the Office had not been followed - the crisis was worsening. In June, police had arrested political leaders and persons planning to run for presidential elections. Unfortunately, the Government was not answering communications from the Office. The High Commissioner called on Nicaragua to urgently change its course of action, free all arrested persons, ensure free elections and remove restrictive legislation. Accountability for all serious human rights violations committed since 2017 had to be ensured.

Nicaragua, speaking as a country concerned, said the Government of Nicaragua sought to defend the nation's sovereignty and avoid the interference of North American countries and Europe that sought to maintain their colonial dominance. The interventionist and supremacist positions of so many countries were on full display, including that of the United States. This colonial spirit sought always to persecute Nicaragua, which had risen courageously to the challenge, fostering a culture of conciliation within its borders.

At the end of the meeting, the Council heard the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, presented his report "20 Years Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing: Taking stock – moving forward". Outlining his future priorities, the Special Rapporteur said discrimination in relation to housing was an important matter, and spatial segregation often existed in parallel with highly unequal, discriminatory access to a range of human rights. Discrimination and segregation, the climate crisis, the right to housing and its nexus to humanitarian law and humanitarian response were also among his priorities. There was also a need to rethink land governance and address the role of private and public actors in ensuring accessibility and affordable housing.

He also addressed the visit of his predecessor, Leilani Farha, to New Zealand.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the interactive dialogue on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Speakers congratulated the High Commissioner for her active engagement in discharging her mandate, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the Council should be in line with the fundamental principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and non-politicisation, and mandate holders must engage constructively with the concerned States. Climate change was an existential threat to humanity and jeopardised the enjoyment of all human rights, aggravating intersecting forms of marginalisation, and speakers noted the increasing support for the establishment of a new Special Procedure on climate change and human rights.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Bachelet said the role of the Special Procedures was essential, as attested by their response to issues that had emerged during the pandemic. She encouraged States to support the work of the Coordination Committee, which had shown its ability to respond effectively to criticisms while acting as an intermediary between Special Procedures and stakeholders. States, the Council and all stakeholders could better capitalise on the complementarity between the Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures.

Speaking in the interactive discussion were Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Spain, Russian Federation, Philippines, Hungary, Uruguay, Burundi, Eritrea, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Mexico, Panama, Mauritius, Colombia, Tunisia, Albania, Cambodia, Sweden, Bolivia, Mali, Italy, Vanuatu, Mozambique, Iceland, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Chad, Lesotho, and Botswana.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, American Association of Jurists, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Centre for International Environmental Law, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Franciscans International, and Amnesty International.

Speaking in right of reply at the end of the interactive discussion were Iraq, Morocco, China, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Algeria, Cambodia, Belarus, Pakistan, and Japan.

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

The Council will next meet on Wednesday, 23 June at 10 a.m. to hold a high-level panel discussion on the multisectoral prevention of and response to female genital mutilation. It will then start an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. At 3 p.m., the Council will resume its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

Interactive Discussion on the High Commissioner's Annual Report

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her annual report on Monday, 21 June and the interactive discussion started this morning. Summaries can be found here and here.

Discussion

Speakers congratulated the High Commissioner for her active engagement in discharging her mandate, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the Council should be in line with the fundamental principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and non-politicisation, and mandate holders must engage constructively with concerned States. Impunity enabled the recurrence of human right violations; the lack of rule of law was visible in a variety of countries. Speakers stated that the responsibility of discourse applied to the Office of the High Commissioner, expressing concern over recent efforts to expand the work of the Office beyond its narrow human rights mandate. The protection of human rights must be performed only through dialogue and cooperation between States, in line with the United Nations principles. Speakers noted the increasing support for the establishment of a new Special Procedure on climate change and human rights, noting that time was literally running out for those in small island developing States to tackle this issue.

The world faced a number of challenges in creating an equal society, said speakers, highlighting the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, religious minorities, women, children, persons on the move, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons, and indigenous peoples. The COVID-19 vaccine must be accessible to all; speakers requested donor countries to share their supplies and remove restrictions, calling for the text-based negotiations underway at the World Trade Organization to be completed at the earliest, and the waiver granted. Speakers noted that they looked forward to the High Commissioner's report on systemic racism and police violence and highlighted the need to address root causes. Climate change was an existential threat to humanity and jeopardised the enjoyment of all human rights, aggravating intersecting forms of marginalisation. Speakers noted that the work of the treaty bodies relied on personal interactions, urging the Office to consider measures to ensure that meetings and reviews of States could go ahead in person.

The COVID-19 pandemic had made it clear that equality and human rights must be at the forefront of building back better. The human rights system was an important force in preventing conflict and violence, and as such States should provide full and unhindered access to all related mandates. Some speakers said that the High Commissioner's reports often relied on questionable information from unreliable sources, a trend that affected this report as well. Speakers agreed with the High Commissioner's finding that a lethal disregard for desperate people was rampant on migrant routes throughout the world, urging the Council to establish independent monitoring and verification of pushbacks and collective expulsions, and the violations used to enact them. Speakers urged the Council to put in place a robust mechanism that would investigate systemic and structural racism in law enforcement, including excessive use of force and other human rights violations against Africans and people of African descent, and carry forward the demands it had heard from families of victims of police violence and civil society. Rising poverty stood in sharp contrast to the ideals enshrined in the United Nations Charter and this situation had been exacerbated by the pandemic. Speakers called for renewed action by Council members on this rising poverty.

Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the role of the Special Procedures was essential, as attested by their response to issues that had emerged during the pandemic. She encouraged States to support the work of the Coordination Committee, which had shown its ability to respond effectively to criticisms while acting as an intermediary between Special Procedures and stakeholders. States, the Council and all stakeholders could better capitalise on the complementarity between the Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures. As the United Nations Secretary-General had said, in the wake of the pandemic, the world faced a potential breakdown but could also achieve a breakthrough. The High Commissioner said she remained convinced that human rights were key to achieve a breakthrough.

Presentation of the Secretary-General's Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/HRC/47/22)

Presentation of the Report

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the Secretary-General's report covered the period from 1 June 2020 to 17 March 2021. Economically, Iran was facing deteriorating living standards, high inflation, and widespread unemployment, fuelling discontent and protests. At the political level, the authorities had shown no willingness to adopt meaningful reforms. Sectoral sanctions had aggravated economic distress, and the COVID-19 pandemic had badly hurt the already strained health sector - they must be waived. However, the existence of sanctions did not remove the State's responsibility to respond to the pandemic in line with human rights law. In 2020, at least 267 people, including nine women, were executed – but only 91 of these executions were announced. At least 69 Kurdish individuals were executed, including some after convictions under vaguely defined charges, as executions of minorities, including Baloch, increased.

The use of inappropriate force by security forces against protesters and bystanders in November 2019 amounted to the worst incident of State violence at protests in decades, and there had been no accountability for any of the gross human rights violations committed by security forces. The High Commissioner noted a high number of reprisals carried out by State agents and entities against people who cooperated with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Lawyers and numerous civil society activists had been imprisoned for advocating women's rights and an end to compulsory veiling laws. The Sentence Reduction Law, which entered into force last year, was a positive step and had led to the release of some imprisoned human rights offenders. Overall, the report found a disturbing human rights landscape for Iranian women and men of every religious faith, ethnic origin, social class and other status. The High Commissioner expressed regret that the framework for the right to political participation was not in line with international standards.

Statement by Country Concerned

Iran, speaking as a country concerned, said Iran was fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. The United States should be held to account for the massive, systematic, and gross violations of human rights caused by its unilateral coercive measures. Urging an approach that avoided politicisation and double standards, Iran said the report being considered had been produced by a political mandate devised by a few Western States, including Canada, to pressurise Iran. This had contributed to the spread of negative stereotypes on Iranians. The methodology of the report was based on excessive generalisations. Noting that it had provided over 60 pages of responses and comments to the report, Iran wished its professional approach had been reciprocated by the drafters. It was problematic that the report had underwritten the effect of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.

Presentation of the High Commissioner's Oral Update on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that a human rights crisis had affected Nicaragua for years. Unfortunately, almost all recommendations made by the Office had not been followed - the crisis was worsening. In June, police had arrested political leaders and persons planning to run for presidential elections. The Office had warned that new laws could be used to persecute the opposition, but to no avail. Reforms to the Criminal Proceedings Code had meant that people could be held beyond 48 hours with no charge. The presumption of innocence was challenged. The political right of persons to vote for the person of their choice was severely undermined as civil society and the international community were excluded from the election process. There were severe limitations on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and political participation.

In May, two political parties had been suppressed. There was a rise of persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and others. Cases of aggression by police continued as 15 men had recently been arrested. Social leaders, human rights defenders, lawyers, students, and peasants were all victims of harassment by the police, at home and in their organizations, as bullying of civil society members continued. Authorities stigmatised the opposition, threatening them on social media, and harassed journalists, involving them in criminal investigations and leading to a climate of fear. There was no guarantee of a credible electoral process. The Office observed reports of attacks on indigenous populations in the north. Unfortunately, the Government was not answering communications from the Office. The High Commissioner called on Nicaragua to urgently change its course of action, free all arrested persons, ensure free elections, and remove restrictive legislation. Accountability for serious human rights violations since 2017 had to be ensured.

Statement by Country Concerned

Nicaragua, speaking as a country concerned, said the Government of Nicaragua represented the brave and valiant Nicaraguan people and accordingly sought to defend their nation's sovereignty, and avoid the interference of North American countries and Europe that sought to maintain their colonial dominance. The interventionist and supremacist positions of so many countries were on full display, including that of the United States. This colonial spirit sought always to persecute Nicaragua, which had risen courageously to the challenge, fostering a culture of conciliation within its borders. The immoral attempts to coerce Nicaragua should be denounced. Those present should not fall prey to the disinformation strategy that targeted Nicaragua, and the actions of the United States that violated the United Nations Charter. Nicaragua would not cede to the imperialists.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Housing

Reports

The Council has before it A/HRC/47/43 20 Years Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing: Taking stock – moving forwardReport of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context

It has before it A/HRC/47/43/Add.1 Visit to New Zealand

It has before it A/HRC/47/43/Add.2 Comments by New Zealand

Presentation of Report

BALAKRISHNAN RAJAGOPAL, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, addressing the visit of his predecessor, Leilani Farha, to New Zealand, said the housing crisis confronting New Zealand was a human rights crisis. Ms. Farha was concerned that the country had not yet enshrined the right to housing in its legal order in a manner that allowed individuals to seek effective remedies for violations of this right through administrative, non-judicial and judicial mechanisms. She therefore recommended to recognise the right to adequate housing as an enforceable right in national legislation and in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Housing policies must address historic injustices and displacement and the ongoing discrimination against Maori, Pacific peoples and persons with disabilities.

Turning to his report, "20 Years Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing: Taking stock – moving forward", Mr. Rajagopal said the achievements and contributions made by the mandate of the Special Rapporteur since it was established in the year 2000 included development guidance, 33 thematic reports, 34 country visit reports, and 385 communications sent to States and other actors.

The COVID-19 pandemic had brought death and despair, but new opportunities as well, for bilateral dialogue with diplomats and government representatives dealing with housing rights matters by virtual means. Such virtual meetings may particularly be called for when concerns indicated a grave breach or a pattern of housing rights violations. Outlining his future priorities, the Special Rapporteur said discrimination in relation to housing was an important matter, and spatial segregation often existed in parallel with highly unequal, discriminatory access to a range of human rights. Discrimination and segregation, the climate crisis, the right to housing and its nexus to humanitarian law and humanitarian response were also among his priorities. There was also a need to rethink land governance and address the role of private and public actors in ensuring accessibility and affordable housing.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/06/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-est-saisi-de-rapports-sur-liran

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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