GENEVA (7 June 2017) - The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on the oral update of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner addressed the opening of the Council’s session on Tuesday, 6 June, and a summary of his statement can be found here.
In the general debate, speakers agreed that human rights continued to face challenges the world over. Some said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should continue to observe strictly the United Nations Charter, to follow strictly its mandate and engage into constructive dialogue with States, to promote the balance of all rights, including the right to development, and to give priority to technical assistance and capacity building. The importance of strengthening the preventive dimension of the international human rights system was underlined, and speakers stressed that early warning initiatives had to take into account the need to constructively engage with the concerned countries. Technical assistance and capacity building should be seen as an inseparable part of the efforts to prevent violations, in tandem with monitoring and advocacy. Some speakers noted that more attention should be given to the increasing unemployment rate, shortage of medicines and increasing numbers of refugees throughout the world, adding that those issues should not be monopolized by civil society. Mention was made of alleged violations of human rights in numerous countries and regions.
Speaking during the debate were the delegations of Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries, Malta on behalf of the European Union, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Timor Leste on behalf of the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt on behalf of the Like-Minded Group of Countries, Qatar, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, United States, Germany, Philippines, Switzerland, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Japan, Egypt, China, Brazil, Slovenia, Croatia, Netherlands, South Africa, Cuba, Tunisia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Iraq, Georgia, India, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Botswana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Morocco on behalf of a group of countries, Canada, Spain, Maldives, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, Thailand, Greece, Estonia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Denmark, Czechia, Australia, Montenegro, Senegal, Chile, Norway, France, Kuwait, Algeria, Honduras, Jordan, Bahrain, Mali, Syria, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Angola, Nepal, Costa Rica, Belarus, Uganda, Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ireland, Fiji, Jamaica, Armenia, Viet Nam, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Azerbaijan and Haiti.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Human Rights Watch, American Association of Jurists (joint statement), American Civil Liberties Union, International Service for Human Rights, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Al Salam Foundation, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Indian Council of South America, World Muslim Congress, Sudwind Werein Entwicklungspolitik, International Lawyers.org, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International Muslim Women’s Union, Liberation, Organisation Internationale pour le Développement Intégral de la Femme, United Nations Watch, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Association pour l’Integration et le Développment Durable du Burundi, World Barua Organization, “Coup de Pousse” Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud, Association Tourner La Page, Association Le Pont, Tamil Uzhagam, and International Career Support Association.
The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 1:30 p.m., it will continue the clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education. It will then start a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, and with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
General Debate on Oral Update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the activities of the High Commissioner aimed at opening channels of communication with all States in order to promote human rights. The African Group called for the strengthening of the available resources for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighting that they were currently insufficient. The African Group also called for equal regional representation in every body in charge of the protection of human rights.
United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of over 30 countries, said they were worried by the increasing violations of freedom of speech in the Maldives. The group of countries asked for an impartial investigation into the killing of a blogger and called on the Government of the Maldives to prevent violent extremism in order to allow free and public expression of opposing views in the country. They requested a visit to the Maldives by Special Procedures in order to encourage constructive dialogue.
Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that preventive measures were a key priority in the domain of human rights protection. The principles of international instruments must be fully applied in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, illegally annexed by the Russian Federation. The European Union expressed concerns at continued violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Yemen. Particularly worrisome were the restrictions to freedom of assembly and expression in the Maldives and the multiplication of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the report on arms, weapons and human rights. The right to life and the right to health, including political and civil rights, were frequently most affected by the use of weapons. The principles of human rights law and the responsibility of States regarding arms trafficking should be upheld, and work had to be deepened in that respect. States had to be well aware and had to take the necessary measures to offset the negative effect of the sale and trafficking of arms.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, underlined States’ primary responsibility in upholding the rights of their citizens. Technical assistance and capacity building should be made available to countries to enable them to deliver human rights, and a balanced approach to various categories of rights should be adopted. Politicization and selectivity in the application of human rights should not be allowed. Sincere and mutual cooperation, and due consideration of religious and cultural values needed to be respected. The Organization condemned the occupation of Palestine.
Timor Leste, speaking on behalf of the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, reminded of the numerous developments with respect to Western Sahara, such as the widespread use of torture and inhumane treatment, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Given the lack of improvement in the situation of the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, the Geneva Support Group called on the High Commissioner to launch a fact-finding mission there and to include the situation in Western Sahara in his regular reports. It also requested the United Nations bodies to formulate an appropriate programme of assistance for the peoples of Western Sahara.
Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said the High Commissioner had encountered many difficulties, and it was necessary to steer away from a politicized debate. The situation in Syria was of concern, and there was a need to observe the unity of the Syrian territory. Violations of the Israeli occupying force were condemned, in particular their attempt to change the status of the Great Mosque in Jerusalem. The best way to preserve human rights was to stay away from the politicization of any debate. At the next Universal Periodic Review session, new mechanisms would be requested to better implement resolutions adopted. Cooperation was essential to help countries uphold their human rights obligations.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed concern at the polarization of human rights issues. The topic required cooperation in all areas to help the international community live up to the challenges and to overcome suspicions with respect to others. The efforts of the High Commissioner would also support the United Nations mechanisms with regard to human rights. Urgent problems such as fighting terrorism and xenophobia should be prioritized.
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights for his annual report, and emphasized key issues around human rights, including concern at the growing trend of human rights violations the world over. There was a need to address the profound causes of that, which led to violence against persons on the basis of religion or belief. ISIS and Daesh were among the worst scourges of the world today. Human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories were condemned. Israel should bring an end to systematic violations of human rights. Only by working through cooperation could deprivations be brought to an end.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that it was necessary to avoid naming and shaming in any process designed to protect and promote human rights. Ensuring non selectivity and objectivity, respect for cultural particularities and diversity in the development of countries was essential in order to implement effectively human rights around the world. A full assessment of needs and resources of countries was necessary. The High Commissioner should engage in a cooperative dialogue with every country and launch consultations that would enhance confidence building between Member States and the different human rights instruments and mechanisms.
Qatar said it was committed to continue its collaboration with the High Commissioner. With regard to the history of the Jews that was outlined in the High Commissioner’s statement, Qatar highlighted the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israel’s occupation. Qatar reiterated its full engagement in fighting the terrorism of Daesh and recalled that the extreme violence used by the Syrian regimes against its own people was unacceptable.
Belgium wished to reiterate its attachment to the High Commissioner’s Office and was worried that some countries were not willing to cooperate with it. Belgium remained convinced that the Council’s Special Procedures remained the best way to fully promote human rights everywhere. It was worried that Burundi had decided to break cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. Belgium stressed that the situation of Kasaï in the Democratic Republic of Congo was particularly worrisome. It was time to implement an impartial international mechanism and provide the High Commissioner’s Office with sufficient resources to fully implement its mandate.
Saudi Arabia stated that it would continue its efforts to enhance human rights and its cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms. It noted that it had abided by all its international obligations. The Palestinian people deserved to live like any other people without occupation. Saudi Arabia therefore called on the international community to implement necessary measures to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people and to stop Israel’s conduct which was contrary to international law.
Portugal fully concurred with the High Commissioner on the challenges facing the Universal Periodic Review process. Priority should be set for advancing a systemic and comprehensive human rights agenda. Portugal saw huge potential in the follow-up procedure of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Portugal refused all attempts to justify the death penalty and called on all countries that retained that sentence to establish a moratorium on it. It also drew attention to the suffering of children in armed conflict, and the negative rhetoric vis-à-vis migrants and refugees.
United States reiterated its deep concern about Yemen’s deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation, urging that a peaceful resolution be urgently sought. Restrictions on peaceful assembly and association in Bahrain remained a great concern. The United States was also deeply concerned about the detention of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s crackdown on dissent, recent arrests of opposition leaders in the Maldives, and Thailand’s restrictions on civil liberties.
Germany expressed concern about ongoing threats to freedom of expression, saying journalists and bloggers were being intimidated, harassed, subjected to censorship, threatened with prosecution on vague charges and imprisoned in Turkey, Bangladesh, and Azerbaijan, among others. In Mexico they were being killed by organized crime groups. Only a political solution in Yemen could bring sustainable peace, and Germany demanded an independent international investigation into all alleged violations.
Philippines said the High Commissioner’s oral update had referred to the Philippines in a biased manner. The Special Rapporteur on summary executions had been consistent in ignoring guidance for Special Rapporteurs and had made public her prejudgements on the situation in the Philippines without a thorough consideration of the facts and the necessary engagement with the Philippine authorities. The Philippines fully supported the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and rejected allusions that the Philippines tolerated threats against any and all mandate holders.
Switzerland said the High Commissioner’s Office played a crucial role in strengthening conflict prevention. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence was worsening throughout the territory, in particular in the region of Kasai, and an independent inquiry was supported into violations of international law. Switzerland was also concerned about the situation in Venezuela, and called on all parties to refrain from violence. It was concerned about the extension of the state of emergency in Ethiopia and about restrictions imposed on civil society.
El Salvador stressed that the respect for human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, was universal and indivisible. These rights were enshrined in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030 that had been designed with the aim that no one was left behind. El Salvador voiced concerns about the situation of the rights of migrants, particularly the situation of children and women, and hoped that the Global Compact would help taking into account the situation of those vulnerable groups.
Ethiopia said it had extended an invitation to the High Commissioner to visit Ethiopia with the aim of exchanging views on how to further enhance cooperation with the High Commissioner’s Office. Ethiopia indicated that the unrest that occurred in some parts of the country had ended and that full stability had been restored. Ethiopia was committed to continue to submit additional information on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the Ethiopian Commissioner of Human Rights.
Japan highlighted that security and human rights were closely interlinked. On gender equality, Japan outlined the need to strengthen mechanisms to facilitate women’s empowerment. Freedom of expression was also a priority. Human rights violations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the abduction issue, continued to be a cause for grave concern and the continued involvement of the international community was essential. Japan particularly focused on the need to eradicate discrimination against leprosy and invited the High Commissioner to shed light on this issue.
Egypt reminded that there had been delays and backlog in some treaty bodies in studying the submitted reports. The Council should indeed conduct an in-depth investigation into the causes of those delays. In the 2016 report there were some shortcomings because technical assistance had been mentioned in only five per cent of the entire report, while the rest had been devoted to political and civil rights. Egypt underlined the increasing unemployment rate throughout the world, the shortage of medicines and the increasing numbers of refugees. Those issues should not be monopolized by civil society.
China stated that human rights continued to face challenges and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should continue to observe strictly the United Nations Charter, to follow strictly its mandate and to engage constructively with States, to promote the balance of all rights, including the right to development, and to give priority to technical assistance and capacity building. China valued the role of special mechanisms and the Government had implemented in earnest its treaty obligations and had submitted its reports on time.
Brazil underlined the importance of strengthening the preventive dimension of the international human rights system. Early warning initiatives had to take into account the need to constructively engage with the concerned countries. The Council had to always consider whether such initiatives had political ramifications at the domestic and international levels. Technical assistance and capacity building should be seen as an inseparable part of the efforts to prevent violations, in tandem with monitoring and advocacy.
Slovenia agreed with the High Commissioner that the practice of naming did not necessarily entail shaming. Divisiveness and hate speech should not guide the international community’s response to extremism. Slovenia deplored acts of retaliation against Special Procedures. The Universal Periodic Review was not a mere courtesy conversation, but a mechanism for improving the situation on the ground. Slovenia continued to support the work of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
Croatia supported the High Commissioner’s efforts to strengthen the human rights system, and appreciated that the High Commissioner had recognized the 2030 Agenda, expressing support for the integrity of the High Commissioner’s office. Croatia supported the work of all Special Procedure mandate holders, and found reports of threats against them disconcerting. Intimidation and reprisals against those engaging with United Nations mechanisms was also worrying.
Netherlands agreed with the High Commissioner that a violation of human rights in one country affected all countries. The Netherlands called on all to respond to the appeal to ensure the funding of the High Commissioner’s Office. The Netherlands welcomed the vision of the United Nations Secretary-General focusing on the prevention of violations. A vibrant civil society was essential toward that goal. The Netherlands remained fully committed to the Human Rights Council despite its imperfections.
South Africa shared the concern expressed by other speakers on the question of the Palestinian people. Session after session, the Council received reports on the violations of international obligations by the State of Israel with absolute impunity. South Africa reiterated its call to give full importance to the question of self-determination for Western Sahara. There was an urgent need to efficiently implement economic, social and cultural rights in order to address poverty and increasing inequalities in the world.
Cuba urged the High Commissioner to adopt a resolution aimed at improving the geographical distribution of the personnel of his Office, notably in the executive office section. Cuba had just received the visit of the Special Rapporteur on human trafficking. Cuba expressed its will to strengthen its cooperation with Special Procedure while ensuring the respect for the principle of sovereignty, and called for the respect of the free determination of the Venezuelan people.
Tunisia welcomed the level of cooperation with the High Commissioner’s Office. Tunisia had extended its invitation to different mandate holders and received the visit of 15 Special Rapporteurs. Tunisia was seeking to catch up with the delay of several reports. The Palestinian question remained an open wound at the international level and Tunisia called for the Palestinian people to be authorized to enjoy their full rights.
Bolivia reminded that it had ratified 11 international human rights instruments, which exhibited its commitment to the fulfilment of human rights. It stood ready to meet all requirements made by international human rights bodies. Cooperation was the path to support States and Bolivia reiterated its desire to support the international human rights system while respecting the sovereignty of peoples.
Paraguay expressed concern about the human rights situation in Venezuela, notably the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrations. It called on Venezuela to implement the strictest standards of human rights, and it reiterated the importance of adhering to the rule of law and reinstating the democratically elected national assembly. International assistance should be supported to ensure the wellbeing of people. Paraguay urged all stakeholders to work with the Venezuelan Government to bring an end to the violence.
Iraq said that it was crucial to open the door to Special Procedure mandate holders within the framework of sovereignty of States. It expressed concern about Islamophobic trends throughout the world which prevented Muslims from fully enjoying their rights. Terrorist groups’ actions should be condemned, and Iraq would soon announce some good news with respect to the permanent eradication of terrorist groups.
Georgia noted that recent terrorist attacks had shown the brutal truth that the international community was far from defeating terrorism. Georgia joined the High Commissioner’s concern about threats against mandate-holders. Georgia’s occupied regions remained inaccessible for mandate holders, and the High Commissioner should address the problem of lack of access. The role of the international community was critical where governments could not exercise their rights.
India recognized the role played by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the promotion and protection of human rights. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and Pakistan remained in illegal occupation of a part of the territory. The central problem in Jammu and Kashmir was cross-border terrorism, and Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of State policy. A policy of zero tolerance to terrorism was an international obligation.
Republic of Korea commended the High Commissioner for pointing out the importance of strengthening reporting to treaty bodies. The Republic of Korea recently came through a difficult period of crisis through its working democracy. The ongoing systematic grave human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remained a serious concern, and the country was urged to enhance its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms, including with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights’ Seoul office.
Nigeria said that the responsibility to promote the right to development should be the sole responsibility of States but they should also benefit from the international community’s support. Indeed, the effective implementation of this right was key to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In 2016, three human rights mandate holders had visited Nigeria. It strongly opposed the allegations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to which Nigeria had impeded the entrance of 15 human rights mandate holders into its territory, and asked for apologies.
Côte d’Ivoire voiced concerns about the rise of terrorist attacks and massive immigration. Côte d’Ivoire called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to further invest in the search for lasting solutions to those issues. Indeed, terrorism represented a severe infringement on the realization of human rights. Côte d’Ivoire urged the High Commissioner for Human Rights to remain proactive in the realization of economic, civil, political, social and cultural rights.
United Kingdom was worried about the numerous cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances around the world. The United Kingdom welcomed the holding of free and peaceful elections in Cambodia and voiced concerns about the restrictions on freedom of expression in Viet Nam. The United Kingdom was concerned about the high death toll provoked by the war on drugs in the Philippines.
Botswana noted that it was the collective responsibility of States to deliver on their obligations. The Council was set up to give a voice to the powerless and voiceless. It was clear that there was a strong resolve by the international community not to permit extremist forces to spread. States had to ensure that they were Council members of good standing. Thus, Botswana would work to improve its reporting obligations vis-à-vis a human rights mechanism in order to strengthen its human rights record.
Venezuela regretted that Paraguay had once again taken a position to support the imperial wishes of the United States and to undermine the development of Venezuela. The Government of Venezuela was engaging with all stakeholders in order to find a peaceful solution to the current situation in the country. It had reduced poverty and inequalities, and freedoms were widely enjoyed by Venezuelan citizens. Peace and democracy reigned across almost all of the country’s territory.
Ecuador said that it did not espouse any attacks on any particular country in the Human Rights Council, urging all Member States to maintain respect for national sovereignty and to engage in constructive dialogue. Ecuador supported the continued monitoring of the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. Any people who had their rights violated should enjoy proper protection. It was important that the role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was strengthened.
Iceland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed alarm at people being killed in the Philippines. While understanding the effects of illicit drugs, the Philippines should take all necessary measures to investigate all violent deaths. The group of countries said harassment and threats of human rights defenders were deeply worrying, and the Philippines should create a safe and enabling environment for civil society. As a member of the Council, the Philippines had a responsibility to uphold the highest standards. The Philippines ought to request technical assistance if necessary.
Morocco said it was engaged in a sustained interaction with the United Nations procedures. Eleven Special Procedure representatives had visited Morocco, including the Saharan regions. The United Nations Security Council had expressed its full satisfaction with the outcome of a technical mission, and the Security Council had also welcomed initiatives undertaken by Morocco and expressed no concern with respect to human rights.
Canada said society was better when women’s rights were respected, and when women and girls were valued and empowered. Societies were also better when civil society was enabled and could flourish. Canada remained concerned about continued reports of reprisals and acts of intimidation against those who engaged with the United Nations on human rights. Canada called on States to allow full and unimpeded access to the High Commissioner and his Office as well as Special Procedures.
Spain outlined that full cooperation of countries with the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council was necessary as well as allowing access for the personnel of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to zones where violence was committed. Spain also highlighted the essential role of civil society in the realization of human rights and condemned any attacks against its representatives.
Maldives offered condolences to the family of blogger Yameen Rasheed who had been stabbed to death. Maldives recalled that the country had a history of effective cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right and was willing to engage further in a constructive dialogue by receiving visits of Special Rapporteurs in the future. The Maldives encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give equal attention and treatment to all States, irrespective of size and development gains.
Sierra Leone outlined that access of both the Office of the High Commissioner and Special Procedures was an important component in the functioning of the Human Rights mechanisms. That was why Sierra Leone had issued an open invitation to them since 2011. At the same time, the reasons for non-reporting to treaty bodies needed to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Nicaragua stated that the Government of Venezuela had been under too much media pressure, adding that those were attempts to destabilize democracy in the country. It called on all peace-loving countries to uphold justice and to give their support to the people of Venezuela. The Council should not be used to undermine Venezuela.
Thailand reminded that its new constitution enshrined the full protection of human rights. The Government gave priority to economic empowerment of people and the achievement of the right to development. Thailand was late in the submission of its reports due to the lack of technical assistance and capacity building.
Greece strongly supported the universality and interdependence of human rights, and it remained committed to the protection and promotion of human rights in line with international standards. Greece was nowadays facing challenges in coping with the influx of immigrants and refugees, and it was doing its utmost to uphold their human rights.
Estonia highlighted the need for more emphasis on prevention, early warning and effective response from the Council. Human rights had to be mainstreamed in all activities of the United Nations as they were both a means and the aim of development. Human rights were central to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. What new tools and mechanisms could be used to increase the effectiveness of prevention of human rights abuses?
Pakistan said India was outright denying requests for access. It was India and not Pakistan that had curbed freedom of expression by blocking social media in Indian-occupied Kashmir. There had been mass cases of blinding by pellet guns. The High Commissioner’s announcement of remote monitoring had been welcomed, and the Independent Rights Commission had recently sent a mission to Azad Kashmir. The High Commissioner was urged to follow that step.
Russian Federation said determining modalities for cooperation with human rights mechanisms was the prerogative of States. There was a politicized approach in the Human Rights Council, which included personal attacks, inclusive of the current session. The time had come to ask why some States did not want to cooperate with the High Commissioner and why some did not report to treaty bodies. Some States were using United Nations mechanisms under the guise of human rights.
Denmark, represented by a “Youth Advisor,” said that when given the opportunities and resources to act as full and equal members of society, youth could be empowered to be true agents of change. Youth were critical actors in the promotion of human rights and the prevention of human rights violations. Ensuring meaningful youth participation and strengthening youth involvement in policies should be a core objective for any society.
Czechia noted the High Commissioner’s very serious message yesterday highlighting many States’ failed promises with regard to cooperation with human rights mechanisms. Czechia agreed that there was no need to “name” those who had chosen non-cooperation. Naming was not shaming; rather, it was part of efforts to improve the human rights situation on the ground. Closing the door to international scrutiny and assistance was the worst possible response.
Australia recalled it had received the visit of five Special Rapporteurs last year and was a candidate for the Council. Australia had provided the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants full access to immigrant detention facilities on its territory and recalled that the situations in Nauru and Papua New Guinea were matters of those sovereign States to address.
Montenegro stressed the importance for all States parties to cooperate with treaty bodies and implement the core human rights documents. There was always room to strengthen the Council and make human rights more effective and more responsive. It was essential to strengthen partnerships and cooperation at all levels.
Senegal welcomed the call for solidarity with the Palestinian people and supported an approach based on a two-State solution. The issue of terrorism needed to be addressed firmly, providing due sanctions and preserving basic human rights and inclusive policies at the same time. Senegal reiterated its full support to the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in sounding alarms in a world that faced global challenges such as extreme poverty.
Chile supported the implementation of the principles enshrined in every core human rights document. Chile asked the High Commissioner to give details on how it could ensure proper support to States in order to improve their standards in human rights. It was vital that States engaged in cooperation and dialogue and strongly committed to human rights.
Norway regretted that the international community still had to put an end to violence against women. It was a self-evident truth that women had the same human rights as men. Investing in technical assistance was not only a sound way to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, but also a good investment in preventing human rights violations.
France supported the Human Rights Council as the key forum for discussing human rights situations worldwide. The international community was facing withdrawal from global affairs which could put vulnerable groups in a more difficult situation. The liberty and dignity of women and girls needed to be further protected.
Kuwait underlined the universality and interdependence of human rights. All human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development, should be implemented on an equal footing. Kuwait expressed hope that the international community would provide additional financial support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Algeria stated that the universal nature of human rights should be encouraged in all settings and circumstances. As for the protection of human rights in armed conflict, the responsibility of all players should be assessed. The colonization of Palestine and Western Sahara should be ended, and monitoring of human rights situations there should be supported.
Honduras reiterated its solid commitment to human rights and agreed that they were non-derogable and non-optional. Honduras believed in strong cooperation and genuine dialogue in order to move forward with human rights and it had engaged with the right to adequate housing mechanisms, including Special Procedures who enjoyed open doors in the country. Honduras reiterated that the responsibility of protecting human rights rested primarily with States.
Jordan commended the efforts by the High Commissioner and called for a global approach to address challenges facing the world today. The Palestinian issue remained the key issue due to the inherent sense of injustice in this long-standing occupation, while terrorism was a threat to the world as a whole. With regard to Syria, there could only be a solution based on negotiations within the Geneva 1 Framework, respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country.
Bahrain continuously cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and was committed to continuing this positive cooperation. The efforts of the Office in the area of capacity building and technical cooperation were welcomed. There was a single model of cooperation based on sovereignty and national specificities. The mandate holders benefited from the cooperation of Bahrain.
Mali shared the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner, especially concerning some States’ lack of cooperation with human rights mechanisms and Special Procedures. In Mali, the promotion and protection of human rights were closely linked to the crisis caused by the illegal operation of Islamic terrorist groups. The Government had accelerated the efforts for peace and the international conference had allowed the key Malian stakeholders to identify the root causes of the conflict and engage in peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Syria said that with respect to the occupation by the Israeli forces of Palestine, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the residents there had fundamental rights which were being violated. The continuation of such practices was unacceptable, as was the fact that the United States Representative to the United Nations had allowed herself to hand out lessons. The High Commissioner was relaying information without verifying it.
Iran said it had always supported the mandate of the High Commissioner, and was aware of the complex nature of the Office’s activities. Activities of the Office should be based on principles of impartiality and avoiding of politicization, selectivity and double standards. Iran had issued an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and there were other remaining matters of concern.
Israel said it was essential that the Human Rights Council addressed its chronic anti-Israel bias. The country mandate that targeted Israel and the whole item 7 was biased, discriminatory, partial and unfair. Israel was committed to the work of the Council, and had engaged with Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review process, as well as appearing before treaty bodies.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea expressed reservations about some references made to the country, and consistently rejected the anti-Democratic People's Republic of Korea resolution. Hostile forces were putting pressure by using human rights as a pretext. The recent visit by the Special Rapporteur on disabilities demonstrated the country’s approach. Some reports of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights often deviated from the principles of impartiality.
Turkey recalled that it had endured a terrorist group attempt last July aiming to overthrow the democratically-elected Government. As a response, Turkey had taken all the necessary measures for the protection of its democracy, including the declaration of the state of emergency measure that was in conformity with international standards. An inquiry commission had been created and an invitation had been transferred to the High Commissioner for a future visit in the country.
Liechtenstein was worried that a growing number of countries were not willing to cooperate with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Discrediting the international human rights system in such a manner contributed to an enabling environment for intimidation, threats and reprisals against human rights defenders.
Morocco raised the issue of repeated support given by Algeria to separatists groups in Western Sahara. It was necessary to achieve proper registering of the populations living in the camp of Tindouf and to find a lasting and negotiated solution to the conflict in Western Sahara in the Security Council.
Angola said that it was imperative to look into the deep causes of new emerging types of violence against human rights such as terrorism. Angola raised the issue of the ongoing conflicts in the region of the Great Lakes and stressed that lasting solutions in this region could not be achieved through coercive and punitive measures. Angola was also deeply concerned about the situation of Congolese refugees fleeing the region of Kasaï.
Nepal said that the commitment to human rights was the main pillar of its new Constitution, adding that the country remained positively engaged with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Nepal had responded positively to the request for a visit by two Special Procedure mandate holders, and would soon be able to invite more for visits. Nepal solicited the support of Council’s Member States for its candidacy for the membership of the Human Rights Council.
Costa Rica said that violations of human rights persisted with no signs of improvement, and some were even worsening. The High Commissioner had alluded, with good reason, to shame by some States and leaders and Costa Rica said that shame should be felt also by those States which sat on the side-lines and did not address human rights violations. Member States of the Council had a higher level of obligation to promote human rights throughout the world. Costa Rica urged Venezuela to cooperate with the Human Rights Council.
Belarus noted that voluntary cooperation with treaty bodies and participation in the Council helped to ensure progress on human rights issues in many States. Belarus had requested technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for the realization of its national plan for the implementation of recommendations received by human rights bodies. Belarus was convinced of the need for cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect and rejected country-specific resolutions which did not play a positive role in moving forward in human rights.
Uganda said that the increasing trend in violent extremism required urgent attention through collective action and condemned all acts of terrorism everywhere in which innocent lives had been lost. The perpetrators of those acts must be brought to justice. Human rights violations were playing a major role in spawning or aggravating many of the crises facing the world today and protection of human rights and ensuring accountability were therefore the key to resolving them.
Ukraine supported the High Commissioner’s message of the crucial nature of monitoring in addressing human rights situations. Monitoring was the focus of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine). Ukraine counted on the continued support of the Office and hoped the High Commissioner’s visit to Ukraine would trigger further improvements in the field of human rights.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia expressed concern that ongoing conflicts and human rights violations continued to lead to civilian casualties and human suffering. Having received a visit from the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the country reiterated its commitment to cooperation with all human rights instruments.
Ireland noted with regret the detailed information outlined yesterday about countries’ lack of cooperation with Special Procedures and treaty bodies. No State could claim to be beyond reproach. It was vital that the High Commissioner was free to challenge States, and it was for that reason that Ireland attached importance to the integrity of that Office. States should request technical assistance in order to comply with their reporting obligations.
Fiji said women and girls often experienced negative stereotypes on combined grounds such as ethnicity, race, colour, health, and marital status in addition to gender. If stigma and stereotyping provided the basis for discrimination claims, then unravelling those stereotypes for the courts was challenging. Systematic and continuous efforts had to be made to sensitize and build the capacity of the judiciary, the police, border guards, and others.
Jamaica said it was a small island developing State and, while deeply committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, many challenges it faced in regularly reporting to human rights treaty bodies must be recognized, particularly in the context of the increasingly crowded human rights architecture. The visits by Special Procedures were optional and, while remaining committed to their work, Jamaica continued to prioritize its mandatory obligations.
Armenia was deeply concerned about atrocities committed by Daesh in Iraq and in Syria and the grave human rights violations in south-east Turkey. The fight against impunity was the key to prevention and Armenia welcomed the commitment of the United Nations Secretary-General in this regard. Armenia would continue to confront systematic human rights violations and denial of rights to people, including the denial of the right to self-determination.
Viet Nam stressed that the optimal way to promote and protect human rights was through genuine dialogue and cooperation and by ensuring non-selectivity, impartiality, objectivity and avoiding the practices of naming and shaming, double standards and politicization. In this context, the United Kingdom’s counter-productive approach and its groundless statement undermined comprehensiveness, objectivity and the spirit of genuine dialogue in addressing human rights.
Tanzania commended the High Commissioner for his comprehensive report on the situation of human rights worldwide and the work of the Special Procedures. Tanzania had extended the invitation to the Independent Expert on the human rights of persons with albinism, and it worked closely with the International Organization for Migration to establish the database on migrants in the country. Tanzania was also ready to host the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation.
Zambia welcomed the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights but expressed concern at reported cases of human rights violations. The issue of the promotion and protection of human rights was of great concern to Zambia. Every human rights abuse should be given the utmost attention which it deserved. The protection of human rights defenders should be strengthened.
Zimbabwe strongly believed in the centrality of the right to development in realizing all other human rights. Successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would go a long way toward fulfilling the right to development. Zimbabwe was not against visits by Special Procedures mandate holders, and would consider requests on a case-by-case basis.
Sudan expressed concern at violations of human rights worldwide at a time when impartiality had to dominate. Sudan welcomed cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, but was against the politicization of human rights and turning the Human Rights Council into a fora which spread lies.
Azerbaijan said Azerbaijan had experienced violations and the silence of the Human Rights Council could not be justified. Providing access to United Nations field staff was an efficient form of engagement, and the denial of access was of growing concern in the case of Armenia, which was the only country in the region denying access to United Nations representatives under various pretexts.
Haiti appreciated different actions taken by the High Commissioner and his Office to address the human rights issues throughout the world and reiterated the commitment to work with the Office to set up the follow-up mechanism in the country. Haiti was aware that serious efforts must be deployed to protect the wellbeing of its migrants and with this in mind, Haiti had signed an agreement with Chile and with the United States.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the refusal of Burundi to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, and the non-acceptance by the Philippines, Ethiopia and other countries of monitoring visits, including by Special Procedure mandate holders. Human Rights Watch supported the call by the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations for an increased scrutiny of countries such as Venezuela and said that the same should be done for Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
American Association of Jurists, said in a joint statement with, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, that two years had passed since the technical mission dispatched by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited Western Sahara. It was regrettable that there had been no follow up to this visit despite the increased human rights violations by Morocco.
American Civil Liberties Union was encouraged by the engagement of the United States with the Council but it was hard to take this commitment to human rights seriously while its own administration had stripped millions of Americans of health coverage, imposed a travel ban on Muslims, encouraged voter suppression, and denied land and water to indigenous peoples.
International Service for Human Rights said the continued repression in China did not reflect a State complying with standards for membership. All Member States and candidates were called on to cooperate in full faith with Council mechanisms and also consult with civil society, as well as to end and remedy allegations of reprisals, among many other measures.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said the Government-backed media had described a human rights defender wrongly and she had further been arrested and subjected to sexual abuse. She was also asked not to participate in any human rights activity. Other activists had also been subjected to torture and the families of human rights defenders were also targeted.
Al Salam Foundation said authorities in Bahrain had raided a gathering, arresting hundreds of individuals. The deadly raids had shown that the authorities continued to use deadly force against dissenters. Bahrain had a deeply flawed judiciary and the country was a rising police state. Allies of the country were urged to call on Bahrain to remedy the situation.
Asian Legal Resource Centre put great emphasis on the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ speech, but noted that after seven decades of preaching human rights norms, functioning justice delivery mechanisms did not exist. In Asia, police and prosecution were window dressing, not the first defence against human rights abuse. To achieve progress took a great deal more than a signature at the bottom of a document.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said the Philippines should grant exceptional access to the Special Rapporteur on summary executions, and the Council must hold this country accountable. Myanmar should fully cooperate with the recently created fact-finding mission and ensure a safe environment for civil society organizations to engage with this body without fear of reprisals.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procés équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen as a result of armed conflict, and by the continued inaction by the international community to the actions of Saudi Arabia which continued to bomb the country. The Human Rights Council should take strict actions against the barbaric actions of Saudi Arabia and its genocidal actions against Yemenis.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that it was deeply concerned about the decrease in the budget for the implementation of activities to mark the anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and asked for an update on the contribution that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was making towards the realization of this Programme of Action.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that Israel’s belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territory was the longest occupation in history and pointed to the Israeli intent to permanently change the composition of the population in those territories, including through illegal and forced transfers of the population. The coercive behaviour of Israel left no choice to the Palestinians but to leave their homes.
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said civil society participation was crucial to achieving human rights goals. Some members of the Council misused legal systems to imprison human rights defenders and General Assembly resolution 60/251 required all Council members to uphold the highest standards. The Council was invited to persuade China, Egypt, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and other non-cooperating States to comply with that essential duty.
Indian Council of South America noted that there was a need for a reality check on the human rights situation in the Americas, including in North and South America and in the Pacific, that were subject to grave human rights violations.
World Muslim Congress stated that India had used unimaginable inhumane methods of control against the civilian population in occupied Kashmir. One of the worst methods had been seen in April 2017 when a young man had been tied to a military jeep with a rope and pulled behind it.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, in a joint statement with, Association of World Citizens, drew attention to the massacre of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Iran 29 years ago. It asked the High Commissioner whether he saw any changes in allowing his visit to Iran.
International Lawyers.org noted that the acts of violence perpetrated against Iraqi civilians exacerbated their already dire living situation. They continued to endure not only limited services and economic hardship, but also fear as the efforts to eradicate Da’esh continued.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the promotion and protection of human rights was often dependent on the courage of a few to stand up against intolerance and repression. It was tragic therefore to witness the killing with impunity of people who had defended human rights in the face of radical Islamic forces and Governments’ placation of them, as was the case in the Maldives, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that the Indian army had violated all human rights in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where it continued to use pellet guns, placed people in arbitrary detention, and started arresting and killing young people under the Public Safety Act. Such cases of killings and disappearances were documented.
Liberation said that Western Sahara was a non-autonomous territory and that the conditions of the technical visit must be done in collaboration with the General Assembly. The confidential character of reports did not contribute to the promotion of the human rights situation in Western Sahara. The technical mission must discuss the situation with the Sahrawi people, and it was unfortunate that the terms of reference of the mission had been dictated by the occupying power.
Organisation Internationale pour le Développement Intégral de la Femme said that the Sahrawi peoples’ health, including physical and mental health, had suffered a lot. It was the obligation of Algeria to provide access to health services and access to safe water and sanitation and so prevent the outbreak of disease among the population, particularly women and children. The reduction in food rations had negatively affected the population as well.
United Nations Watch staunchly opposed the comparison of the Holocaust with the suffering of the Palestinian people by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He failed to mention that the Government of Jordan had placed its military forces under the command of Egypt during the 1967 war against Israel.
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation warned against right-wing populists whose ideas went against everything that progressive civil society stood for. That was happening even in countries with long-standing ideas of constitutional and participatory democracy.
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights drew attention to the systematic human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir, notably the indiscriminate use of weapons against peaceful protesters. All that was happening as the Indian security forces enjoyed impunity under Indian laws, notably the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in a joint statement, noted the rise in human rights violations by terrorist groups, especially ISIS, as well as by Government militia groups that operated under the radar. It recommended to the United Nations the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to investigate those human rights violations.
Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said that 90 per cent of the population in the hilly areas of Manjipour could not realize their right to life, as they lived under the Special Powers Armed Forces Act of India. The villagers had no access to clean water. The Council should also not forget the minorities of India such as Dalits in its reports.
World Barua Organization noted with regret that the High Commissioner’s oral update did not refer to the suffering of minorities in India, including the Dalits who were the lowest of the low in the Indian caste-based society. They were denied access to education, employment and even to places of warship. Dalits numbered 170 million and represented 17 per cent of the Indian population.
”Coup de Pousse” Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud said that Tindouf was a place of killing which was out of the radar of the United Nations and others who could provide remedies to the victims and their families. The extra-judicial executions were perpetrated by the Polisario and the Algerian forces which continued to arbitrarily kill refugees. The Human Rights Council should address this situation and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Association Tourner la Page expressed concern about the deeply troubling human rights situation in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu, and the arbitrary arrest of a number of human rights defenders. The Tamils living in the north and east of Sri Lanka were living under military control and the security forces blocked memorial ceremonies for Tamils killed in the genocidal war.
Association Le Pont shared concerns about the deeply concerning human rights situation in north and east Sri Lanka. While the Government made public commitments to cooperate with the United Nations, it had failed to follow through with its commitments.
Tamil Uzhagam stated that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remained problematic. Some 70,000 civilians had been killed by the end of the war, whereas almost 110,000 women had been raped. Those people had still not seen justice.
International Career Support Association requested re-investigation of the comfort women issue. The books on that issue contained factual errors, and surprisingly some references originated from comic books. That propaganda information had led to bullying of Japanese youth in the United States.
For use of the information media; not an official record