Human Rights Council
10 March 2017
The Human Rights Council this afternoon 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.
Speakers stated that without effective measures to ensure truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, countries in situations of transition or post-conflict could not hope to achieve reconciliation. They highlighted the question of the death penalty and the use of torture by some countries and called on all States to ensure safeguards against torture and to end reprisals against human rights defenders. Speakers noted that religions, convictions and beliefs were not rights holders – individuals were, and stressed that the role of the State was not to protect beliefs, but to protect the right to freedom of conscience.
A number of delegates raised concern about violations of the rights of children, especially in the Middle East where 15 million children were, because of the ongoing conflicts, deprived of education and at risk of recruitment by armed forces. A speaker stressed the need for more participation by youth worldwide. The right to culture was intended to protect cultural traditions and should not be used to oppress other groups, they said, noting that not all cultural practices were protected under international human rights law.
Speaking in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: Centre for Global Nonkilling, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Advocates Inc., Action international pour la paix et le dévelopment dans la région des Grands Lacs, United Schools International, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, Kiyana Karaj Group, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, FIAN International, Alliance Defending Freedom, Prahar, Friends World Committee for Consultation, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Evangelical Alliance, Liberal International, Reporters Sans Frontiers, Peivande Gole Narges Organization, Soka Gakkai International, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Organisation International pour le développement intégrale de la femme, Coup de Pousse Chaine de l’Espoir Nord-Sud, Obsevatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie, International Commission of Jurists, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Alsalam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Asian Legal Resource Centre, International Education Development Inc., International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Indian Council of South America, Association pour les Victims du Monde, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Barua Organization, Institute for Women’s Studies and Research, Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, African Commission for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights, Association Bharati Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Women’s Human Rights International Association, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, European Centre for Law and Justice, Prevention Association of Social Harms, Japanese Workers’ Committee, Centre for Inquiry, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, International Humanist and Ethical Union, France Libertes: Fondation Danielle Miterrand, Liberation, United Nations Watch, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Associaton Civil, Conseil International pour le soutien a des proces equitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII (joint statement), World Jewish Congress, Franciscans International, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Child Foundation, European Union of Jewish Students, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum, Presse Embleme Campaign, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Graduate Women International, Society for Threatened Peoples, Association Mauritanienne pour la promotion du droit, Corporate Accountability International, Institute for Policy Studies, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc., Association of World Citizens, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Public Services International, Alliance Creative Community Project, International Muslim Women’s Union, International Service for Human Rights, Friends of the Earth International, and IDPRC Consortium.
The first part of the general debate can be seen here and here.
Speaking in right of reply were India, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, China, Pakistan, Armenia and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, 13 March, when it will open its agenda item on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. It will hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation 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
Centre for Global Nonkilling highlighted the need for more participation by youth worldwide. It had to be recalled that young people had citizen rights, but their participation in political and social life had to be supported by all generations and institutions.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said for six years the Government of Bahrain had violated human rights, attacking freedom of expression and speech. Khiam Rehabilitation Centre wondered if the time had not come for the Government to reconsider its human rights record. Given the arrests and detention of 24 human rights defenders and all the recommendations that were never put into effect, the Council must come out of its silence and call on Bahrain to improve its human rights record.
Human Rights Advocates Inc. said the right to culture was intended to protect cultural traditions and should not be used to oppress other groups. Not all cultural practices were protected under international human rights law, subjecting them to limitations. Despite strong legal reforms in many States, extremist practices still existed. States should implement broader reaching educational programmes regarding the impact of those practices on human rights.
Action international pour la paix et le dévelopment dans la région des Grands Lacs said unveiling the truth and ensuring victim reparation was a challenge in transitional justice. At the same time, the lack of implementation of recommendations created disappointment among victims and their families. Action international also wanted to draw attention to the hundreds of victims of torture in Tindouf, these people were suffering and were victims of crimes from Polisario organizations.
United Schools International said China’s presence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and in particular in Gilgit Baltistan, was an extension of its ambitions of reconstructing the ancient Silk Road. United Schools International strongly rejected the construction of that corridor of exploitation. The construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was illegal and in contravention of international laws.
International Association for Democracy in Africa drew attention to children’s rights, especially their right to food. Many of their rights had been overlooked, such as in Pakistan where children were forced to work and were abused. In Syria child labour had also become a problem.
Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran stressed that social rights, in addition to access to food, water, housing, jobs and health should include warm, intimate, friendly and comfortable interactions. Humans needed to be trained and experienced in love to grow their social nature and be able to communicate with others.
Kiyana Karaj Group drew attention to the 15 million children in the Middle East who were deprived of education due to the ongoing conflicts which had destroyed numerous schools, and due to the recruitment of children by armed groups.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy noted that the rights of women and children in Baluchistan had been consistently violated by Pakistani security forces. Security forces had attacked and abducted civilians, mostly women and children. The silence of the international community regarding the situation in Baluchistan was very concerning.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said the national highway linking Pakistan with India was blockaded, and the Government of India was not able to lift the blockade. The economic blockade was supported by the Indian Government, and the minister of Manipur had accused the insurgent group of joining hands. The High Court of Manipur had declared the blockade unconstitutional. There were thousands of Indian armed forces unable to protect the highway from the blockade supported by the insurgent groups.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee drew attention to caste system in India that excluded Dalits, who suffered from oppression at the hands of the upper caste; the caste institution persisted despite the legal framework. Caste atrocities were committed to ensure that Dalits lived in exclusion from society, women had no access to higher education, there were many incidents of atrocities, and the heinous nature of the crimes was beyond imagination. Caste was escalating to other parts of the world and becoming an international issue.
FIAN International welcomed the presentation of the report of the second session of the open-ended inter-governmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. All States were called on to participate in good faith in the third session, and the core group of States were called on to ensure that the draft paper to be developed for the third session was sharp enough to allow for negotiations to begin.
Alliance Defending Freedom said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief had not paid adequate attention to the actual current trends towards the establishment of a negative system of “doctrinal secularism.” In violation of the rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, numerous individuals in a number of countries had had their fundamental liberties curtailed and had been pushed out of the public square by an aggressive secular liberal polity which claimed to be objective and ideologically neutral.
The Special Rapporteur was called on to investigate and report on those issues.
Prahar drew attention to the human rights of the indigenous peoples of northeast India. Illegal migration was a severe and burning issue that affected all indigenous people of northeast India. It had led to many problems, including overpopulation, rising rates of unemployment, poverty and crime. Indigenous lands and institutions had been encroached on by illegal migrants. Large scale migration had significantly changed the demographics in Assam and the northeast region and had become the leading cause of social, economic and political instability.
Friends World Committee for Consultation said it welcomed progress made by the Global Migration Group in developing principles and guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations. Failure to protect migrants was a grave human rights concern. Further commitments on border management and reception of newly arriving migrants and child migrants in the New York Declaration were needed urgently. These principles and guidelines could contribute to the development of the Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.
International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education, on behalf of severals NGOs1, said the World Programme for Human Rights Education was an essential tool for implementing the United Nations Declaration by providing a concrete framework for action and by strengthening partnerships and cooperation at all levels. Human rights education was a sustainable approach to addressing the root causes of human rights violations and was key to the Sustainable Development Goals
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, in a joint statement with Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero, said that adverse human rights impacts of corporate activities were not gender neutral. Corporate activities in the community may cause or even exacerbate gender discrimination because of pre-existing gender roles and structures within that community. Applying a gender perspective meant seeking to prevent and address negative gendered impacts, including analysing the different way in which corporate activities may affect women and men.
World Evangelical Alliance pointed out to arbitrary migration bans based on religion which violated human rights. The Alliance welcomed the effort to develop a Global Compact on migration, and expressed hope that the Compact would cover all aspects of migration, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Without peaceful and stable governance, the problem of migration would continue.
Liberal International noted that every 40 minutes a woman died from domestic violence in the Russian Federation, amounting to 14,000 women per year. Nevertheless, on 7 February 2017 President Vladimir Putin had signed a law establishing violence within families as an administrative rather than criminal offence, punishable by a mere 15 days in prison or even a fine.
Reporters Sans Frontiers International drew attention to the United States where the President threatened journalists who displeased him. In France one of the presidential candidates had harassed journalists covering her campaign. Other examples of limitations on freedom of the press were found in Poland, United Kingdom and Hungary.
Peivande Gole Narges Organization warned that women were more vulnerable than men in economic, social and political crises. They fell victims to organized crime in the context of conflict and ended up being used as slaves, servants and prostitutes. In the light of violence faced by women, international treaties needed to become more transparent and they needed to reflect more concern for human rights than for Government interests.
Soka Gakkai International spoke about human rights education and training, which played a critical role, and were a key approach to the Sustainable Development Goals, including through education for human rights. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, States were focusing on monitoring. Human rights education was implemented through the collective efforts of individuals, communities, civil society, national human rights institutions and governments.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that children were the seeds who could blossom, and child sexual abuse was something children did not understand. Child exploitation such as rape and the abuse of children was a complete violation of the rights of the child, but cases of child sexual abuse were being reported from all over the world. Children could be subjected to abuse in areas that were considered safe such as their homes or their schools.
European Union of Public Relations said children were just like flowers in the garden of the world, but the flowers could be shattered. Children were deprived of their rights in many countries, they were dying of malnutrition, and one of the most distressing problems affecting them was child labour. Such activities were damaging elements to the physical and mental health of children. In Pakistan, the situation of children was very miserable.
Canners International Permanent Committee said housing was a basic need for all persons, and there were a number of elements before a dwelling met the basic needs, and those elements included cultural adequacy. Housing was important for preserving social structure. The right to adequate housing had been acknowledged as a basic right including in the constitutions of many countries. According to international human rights law, every person had the right to an adequate standard of living.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies drew attention to the rise in extrajudicial killings in Karachi. Many victims were picked up in staged encounters. The right to a fair trial was a luxury that few in Pakistan could afford. The State routinely engaged in torture with impunity. Despite being rampant, the Government routinely denied involvement. The Centre called on Pakistan to implement a checks and balances system to ensure the rule of law.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology said the right to housing was a basic right of all humans. While thinking about adequate housing, refugees and migrants were most vulnerable to discrimination and alienation. The most distressing situation was faced by women and girls in refugee camps, who faced a lack of privacy and were vulnerable to rape.
Organisation International pour le développement intégrale de la femme said freedom of expression and of association were important criteria for how human rights were respected in certain societies. With respect to freedom of speech in Tindouf camps and in Morocco, refugees could not speak up or express their opinions freely. They were systematically institutionalised inside the camps with no freedom of movement.
Coup de Pousse Chaine de l’Espoir Nord-Sud said irregular migration had disastrous consequences. Many countries like Germany had facilitated the situation for migrants. Others had made it difficult for migrants to cross their territories and migrants were subjected there to increasing discrimination and derogatory treatment.
Obsevatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie noted that torture was still practised in Sri Lanka, as reported by numerous international human rights organizations. There had been repeated accounts of severe sexual abuse of both male and female detainees by security forces and police. It called on the Human Rights Council to monitor the human rights situation in northeast Sri Lanka.
International Commission of Jurists stated that without effective measures to ensure truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, countries in situations of transition or post-conflict could not hope to achieve reconciliation. One example was Nepal where the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Investigation on Disappeared Persons had not been effective.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain highlighted the question of the death penalty and the use of torture by some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, which systematically used coerced confessions extracted by torture. It called on all States, including Saudi Arabia, to ensure safeguards against torture and to end reprisals against human rights defenders.
Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement, noted that local redress was not available around the world so communication with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was the only solution. It expressed concern over the use of arbitrary detention, measures taken against opposition groups, as well as systematic discrimination against Shi’a and human rights defenders in Bahrain.
Iraqi Development Organization called the attention of the Council to the human rights situation in Yemen, where millions were facing starvation and thousands were dying because seaports and airports were blocked and food and medicine could not be brought in. The situation was caused by the war by the Saudi-led coalition, and unilateral coercive measures.
Asian Legal Resource Centre said that Asian States had spent the least amount of sources to develop their institutions into modern temples of justice. In the Asian region, justice institutions were of no use to ordinary persons, the poor and less influential. The United Nations and Asian States must recognise the problem and take urgent action on re-engineering the justice sector.
International Education Development Inc., said that the demise of the right to self-determination and the failure of the Council to act in the face of genocidal policies had had a catastrophic effect on the situation of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The failure should not be repeated in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, where the authorities had declared the intention to eradicate the Hmong people for their complicity with the United States during the war in Viet Nam.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination recalled that the aggression towards the people of Iraq 14 years ago was against a sovereign State. It had caused 1.5 million deaths, and even today, most Iraqis were denied their fundamental freedoms. Iraqis had the right to truth, to justice and the right to reparations.
Indian Council of South America said it had initiated a petition to put the issue of self-determination back on the Human Rights Council’s agenda. The Council had a duty to listen and act upon the violations of the right to self-determination. Environmental safeguards were being breached by the current Trump administration, which was unacceptable and which would cause irreparable damage to the environment and indigenous populations in the United States.
Association pour les Victims du Monde noted that in Sri Lanka cultural rights were misused to advance the dominance of the Sinhalese majority at the expense of minority communities, such as Tamils. The Tamil community had been denied the right to self-determination. Furthermore, the national law stipulated that only a Buddhist could become president of the country.
ANAIA (L’eternel a Repondu) said that crimes against the Tamil people were being committed through military occupation, while the Tamil people were fighting those abuses. They would welcome the support of the United Nations for their fundamental rights. An investigation into genocide was requested.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities stated that international reports had warned of a famine in Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, and several factors had resulted in the food insecurity there. Putschists had used up the countries’ foreign currency reserves, and the harmful effects of food insecurity were the result of the countries’ health authorities.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence noted that the destruction of wildlife and contamination of soil and water negatively affected the Middle East region, where forests had been destroyed. There was a water crisis in Yemen. The negative effects of water pollution remained years after the conflict was over. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the environment was called on to examine the situation in Yemen.
World Barua Organization thanked the Special Rapporteur on truth and guarantees of non-recurrence for the clarity on the issues of victims’ participation, and drew the attention of the Council to the economic blockade in the north-eastern part of India, where since 1 November the ferrying of all essential commodities along two highways had been blocked.
Institute for Women’s Studies and Research said that the realization of the human rights of women was facing many challenges today, and in particular in the face of extremist and terrorist groups which were depriving women of their fundamental rights.
Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund stated that indigenous communities suffered great abuses of rights and freedoms by transnational corporations, often with State complicity. Currently, 11 human rights defenders were being held in preventive detention in Guatemala, accused of challenging the presence of hydroelectric projects in their lands.
African Commission for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights said that the entire population of the occupied Jammu and Kashmir had spent last summer under the longest curfew. How was it acceptable for a constitutionally democratic and secular modern nation to commit genocide of Kashmiris for demanding their right to self-determination?
Association Bharati Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul drew attention to enforced disappearances which had been a common practice in northeast Sri Lanka since 1984. The Government had appointed different commissions on truth, reconciliation and missing persons, but none of them had manged to come up with the truth.
Women’s Human Rights International Association reminded of the execution of 30,000 peaceful protesters in Iran in 1988, noting that executions of dissidents were still ongoing. Iran had been called to end the impunity for such violations, but had never responded. The Association thus called on the Human Rights Council to investigate executions in Iran, starting with those in 1988.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that the international community had to deal with large-scale surveillance run by the United States. States had the responsibility to protect digital communication, and international protection should be granted to persons who had revealed mass violations of the right to privacy. The Association urged the United Kingdom and Sweden to grant Julian Assange freedom of movement.
Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment drew attention to many human rights violations in the Middle East and psychological harm caused to children. The situation was alarming and the Society called on the Human Rights Council to condemn and address such suffering.
Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue was optimistic about the 2030 Agenda. The international community was asked to work quickly to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, while due attention had to be paid to women. Yemeni children could not live in peace although Yemen had ratified the Convention in 1991; children there were sexually exploited and kidnapped, and faced permanent disabilities.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the delay in the Council programme meant they were blocked from having a dialogue with many Special Procedures. Human rights activists in Iran had limited contact with their families abroad, and others were prevented from receiving health care.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomed the emphasis on children in armed conflict, but said it was not just non-State actors who were responsible for child soldier recruitment. In some countries young men were still conscripted when they were aged 17. Under the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all States were called on to review their conscription regulations.
European Centre for Law and Justice drew the Council’s attention to the case of an American citizen imprisoned in Turkey. Christians and other religious minorities were subjected to excessive regulation and the pastor in question had worked on behalf of the people of Izmir, and had now been held for 63 days with no evidence against him.
Prevention Association of Social Harms spoke about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where thousands had been killed or injured in airstrikes over the last two years. Some 12 million Yemenis were at risk of famine, and 2.2. million children were malnourished, warned the speaker.
Japanese Workers’ Committee said that Hiroji Yamashiro, a 64-years old peace activist in Okinawa, had been detained for 140 days on relatively minor charges. He had led protests against new United States Marine Corps facilities in Okinawa, advocating the right to peace.
Centre for Inquiry stated that religions, convictions and beliefs were not rights holders – individuals were, but regrettably, not all States accepted that position. The role of the State was not to protect beliefs, but to protect the right to freedom of conscience. States should recognize those central truths.
Centre Europe – Tiers Monde stated that it was the rights of communities that were most violated by transnational corporations, and those should be at the centre of the Intergovernmental Working Group’s attention. The right to reparation and guarantees of non-repetition should be guaranteed. All Member States had the responsibility to support the work of the Working Group.
International Humanist and Ethnical Union stressed the need to safeguard cultural rights, namely the right to artistic expression and scientific inquiry, which were undermined in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and many others. If the international community failed to protect those rights, extremists and fundamentalists would win.
France Libertés: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand highlighted the importance of victims’ participation in transitional justice measures. Under the current justice system in Iran, no such transitional justice measures were possible. Impunity would only result in more mass executions. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth should carry out an inquiry into the 1988 massacre as part of his mandate.
Liberation noted that every individual and community had the right to development. In India, women were facing sexual and physical violence due to their low-class position. Liberation appealed to the Human Rights Council to end India’s shameful practice of denying the basic rights to its citizens.
United Nations Watch said that rising anti-Semitism was worthy of the attention of the international community. For the most part the response of the High Commissioner had been silence, and he had issued no statement over a wave of anti-Semitic attacks that were occurring all over Europe. On the other hand, the High Commissioner had condemned Israel at length.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Associaton Civil said that in Argentina, people with psychosocial disabilities experienced great inequality, and the enforcement of laws was uneven. Psychiatric hospitals should be replaced, and Argentina had gone quite far in that regard, but concern over the implementation of the law and the challenges remained.
Conseil International pour le soutien a des proces equitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said that the Middle East was seeing a systematic violation of all human rights, and the international community remained silent when Israel usurped the land of other people. The disease of human rights abuses was spreading around the world, and the Human Rights Council was called on to put an end to the bloodshed.
Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, on behalf of severals NGOs2,celebrated the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Peace, and appealed to all Member States to make an even greater effort to ensure peace in the world, respect human dignity and human rights, protect all peoples, and realize a more equitable and sustainable development.
World Jewish Congress said that the world had witnessed a dramatic increase in terrorism and extremism that was impacting the enjoyment of human rights for all, including religious minorities. The threat of terrorism could also be exploited by populist parties seeking to restrict long-established religious practices for political gain. States had a duty to protect religious minorities and their citizens alike from terrorism and extremism.
Franciscans International, in a joint statement with International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; International Commission of Jurists; and Colombian Commission of Jurists, was encouraged by the growing participation of States and other stakeholders in interesting and constructive discussions, but remained concerned by the failure of some to truly engage constructively in the process. Access to effective remedy and reparations remained problematic at the domestic and cross-border levels. In order to effectively protect human rights from business-related abuses, civil society coalitions should go beyond existing international human rights standards.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale said that the right to development was inalienable. Sahrawi refugees had been denied fundamental rights by the Polisario. The Polisario was not a liberation movement, but was led by corrupt leaders. A defenceless population was living in a precarious situation in a place that did not allow them to live in dignity.
Child Foundation noted that education was a right, not a privilege. Refugee families were constantly struggling to achieve financial stability, safety, and hope for a more prosperous future. It was the international community’s job to create and support a nurturing environment that allowed for the success of refugees. By supporting the primary and secondary education of those refugees’ future generations, the international community had the potential to help them rebuild.
European Union of Jewish Students warned of the rise of the far right in France, which was on the edge of seizing power. The National Front declared that, if it won power, it would forbid the wearing of kipa in public. The young generation had the historical responsibility to prevent the far right from taking power in France.
Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum underlined the importance of the right to freedom of thought and religion. Blasphemy laws continued to be on the statute books, for example in Pakistan, where religious minorities could be arbitrarily accused of blasphemy and killed. Such anti-minority legislation not only violated the United Nations resolutions, but also Islam’s primary scripture.
Presse Embleme Campaign reminded that the media community had suffered heavy losses in 2016, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2015. Endless conflicts, terrorism, criminal activities and impunity were the main causes of that very heavy toll. The overwhelming figures demonstrated that the international community had a duty to reinforce the protection of media workers in the field.
Society for Development and Community Empowerment stated that systematic and enforced disappearances in northeast Sri Lanka were common and were conducted against the Tamil community. They amounted to crimes against humanity and ultimately to a genocide of the Tamils.
Chant du Guepard dans le Desert said that the environmental conditions of conflict regions were very dire, and in Yemen and Syria, the international community was witnessing an endless tragedy for the environment. The Middle East region was struggling with vast drought and water shortages. Arms dealers failed to consider the environment and had no worries about the present or future situation.
Hazrat Javad al-Aemeh Cultural Charity Institute stated that everyone had the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries. Every international actor needed to take responsibility for the problem and alleviate the impact on host countries. European countries were deporting Afghan asylum seekers in groups claiming there were places in the country which were secure from war. The forced return of Afghan asylum seekers from Europe was condemned.
Al-Hakim Foundation said that Islam was a religion of peace and moderation and did not allow for aggression. Unfortunately, Al Qaida existed, it enslaved and raped women, selling them on slave markets as they had done in pre-Islamic times. Shi’ite women were subjected to rape and burning alive, as Yezidi women had testified; ISIS had widowed a million women.
World Muslim Congress noted that the right to self-determination of people was embedded in the Charter of the United Nations. In Jammu and Kashmir, a new force of terror had resulted in more than 125 people deaths since 18 July 2016. Kashmiri youth were targeted for blinding, and the international community needed to listen to a wake-up call of SOS from Kashmir.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle stated that it wanted to draw attention to constant human rights violations in Iraq. It condemned practices that could be considered as crimes against humanity. The war against terror could never justify violations of human rights. It called on the Council to monitor the human rights situation in Iraq and urged the Iraq authorities to punish all involved in such abuses.
Graduate Women International believed in fostering peace through education, and emphasised the vital role of education in building peace. It called for safe learning environments free from harassment and discrimination for all girls. Cultural practices did not diminish girls’ right to education, including child marriage. Girls’ education was one of the few silver linings that could contribute meaningfully to the peace process.
Society for Threatened Peoples brought attention to the situation facing the Uyghur population in China. They continued to be subjected to highly restrictive policies of religious freedom and freedom of movement and were feeling the effects of a broadly enforced anti-terrorism law. The protection of human rights needed to be central to any constructive counter-terrorism strategy. Effective counter terror strategies and the protection of human rights were not conflicting goals.
Association Mauritanienne pour la promotion du droit referred to the genocidal war in Sri Lanka, where many people had been unaccounted for during the last year of the war. In fact, Tamil prisoners had been subjected to forced disappearances during the entire three decades of the war. Those who committed war crimes were in the Government and military positions. The Council should appoint an independent commission of inquiry to evaluate the so-called reconciliation that took place in the country.
Corporate Accountability International said that it was fundamental to adopt a legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and hold them responsible for human rights violations and abuses. Transnational corporations had benefitted from a scandalous lack of accountability, and it was imperative to establish measures of good governance which would guarantee that human rights prevailed over investment agreements and corporate instruments.
Institute for Policy Studies noted an undemocratic trend of a lack of transparency in the operations of transnational corporations. It was important to continue to work on the development of an instrument to govern the activities of transnational corporations.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc. said that the right to life was widely considered to be the most fundamental human right, without which other rights would be irrelevant. Thinking about birth rates only in terms of economic development was self-serving and callous.
Association of World Citizens noted that one quarter of the world population could not satisfy their nutritional need, and millions were starving to death. In a number of country, prominent people were being imprisoned, including notable academics, doctors and lawyers.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said that there were rising threats to the safety of human rights defenders and increasing restrictions on their work. In Cambodia, four human rights defenders had been in arbitrary pre-trial detention for over 10 months on trumped-up charges. Thailand was using criminal provisions to silence human rights defenders.
Public Services International thanked the Ecuadorean Ambassador for her report on transnational corporations and said international standards were needed. The current legal architecture was discredited and the suggested instrument should emphasize the production chain. The instrument would be an act of justice which would restore faith in global governance structures.
Alliance Creative Community Project spoke about the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka and said that many arrests had been recorded, and there was a proposed legal act which would allow the government to crush opposition. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to call on the Government of Sri Lanka to release political detainees and to review that act.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that the pathetic state of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir showed no improvement, and it was an ugly scar on the Indian State. A situation was referred to where a person had been charged with involvement in a crime and subsequently released after twelve years.
International Service for Human Rights said that in the case of Serbia, protection gaps for migrants remained. Serbian human rights defenders faced obstacles in their work. Children were not always able to access the protections they needed. It emphasised the critical role that civil society could play, especially in providing services where Governments could not.
Friends of the Earth International stated that a binding instrument on business and human rights was vital. Voluntary policies by companies had not curbed violations. It recommended that future treaty obligations open court to victims. In that regard, a court needed to be established to punish violators. Promising developments were taking place in Europe, but were facing resistance from lobbyists.
IDPRC Consortium said that the outcome of the special session on drugs recommitted States to respect the rule of law in the implementation of drug policy. People did not surrender their rights because they did drugs. It called for an end to the criminalisation of people who used drugs, notably in the Philippines and Malaysia.
Right of Reply
India, speaking in a right of reply, said that Pakistan had once again misused the Council. It kept referring to the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, but it conveniently forgot to refer to its own occupation. The foremost challenge in Jammu and Kashmir was the scourge of terrorism, which received sustenance from Pakistan. Pakistan had to shut down its terrorism factory in light of the ongoing global terrorist concerns. Free, fair and regular elections had been held in India, whereas Pakistan’s human rights record in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan had been deplorable.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, underlined that the militarily aggressive Armenia had again abused the Human Rights Council. Armenia’s efforts to facilitate illegal visits of foreign nationals to Nagorno-Karabakh was a violation of Azerbaijan’s law, and was used as a propaganda against Azerbaijan. Obviously such persons who were violating the territorial sovereignty of Azerbaijan were blacklisted.
Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the nonsensical claim by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that it did not need to reiterate its position on “North Korean” defectors who had escaped of their own will. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been ruled by only one family lineage for three generations in the past 70 years, and yet it was speaking about civil and political rights.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic, speaking in a right of reply, said that 49 ethnic groups lived in harmony in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Government consistently pursued a policy of solidarity and equality among all ethnic groups on the basis of national unity. Every ethnic group was equal before the law, and all acts of ethnic discrimination and division, barriers to participation and exclusion on the basis of ethnicity were prohibited.
China, speaking in a right of reply, stated that it was a country of the rule of law and its judicial bodies acted in accordance with the law. Counter-terrorism policies and measures were never addressed against any one religion, but aimed to protect to the maximum possible the security of all ethnic minorities, including the Uighurs. In China, policies and religions were separated and no one could force any one, including minors, to believe or belong to a religion.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, argued that India had unleashed a reign of terror in Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 70,000 Indian soldiers were operating against the population in complete impunity. That was a classic example of State-sponsored terrorism. It was an undeniable fact that the Kashmiri people’s to right to self-determination exercised through a plebiscite had been recognized by the United Nations, and that Kashmir was an internationally recognized dispute.
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that Azerbaijan made futile attempts to manipulate public opinion. Azerbaijan was a dictatorship where people were silenced for speaking up, and journalists were intimidated. A side event on repression in Azerbaijan had been organized. In 2016, Azerbaijan had been ranked very low on a press freedom index, while Nagorno-Karabakh was well above Azerbaijan in international rankings. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh had developed efficient, democratic State institutions.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the “South Korean” allegations as politically motivated, and said that it was well-known that during the term of the now impeached “South Korean” President, abuses had occurred, including human trafficking. The so-called “North Korean” defectors were victims of human trafficking. “South Korea” was urged to stop its racket against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and release the citizens abducted last year.
1Joint statement: International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education; Graduate Women International; Kennedy Center for International Studies; Lazarus-Union Wien; ONG Hope International; Planetary Association for Clean Energy; Soka Gakkai International; OSMTH (Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem); Teresian Association; Instituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice Delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; International Volunteerism Association for Women Education Development; International Organisation for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism; International Council of Women; International Catholic Child Bureau; International Association for Religious Freedom; Institute for Development and Human Rights; Global Eco-Village Network; Foundation for GAIA; Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education; Company of the Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul; Association Points-Coeur; Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS OSAKA); Soroptimist International; and Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII
2Joint statement: Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; Planetary Association for Clean Energy; International Organisation for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Making Mothers Matter; United Network of Young Peacebuilders; Marist International Solidarity Foundation; World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations; Pax Christi International; ONG Hope International; Association Points-Cœur; Foundation for GAIA; Nonviolent Peaceforce; Scalabrini International Migration Network; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development; Teresian Association; International Association of Peace Messenger Cities; New Humanity; and American Association of Jurists.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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