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


GENEVA (14 September 2018) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  

In the general debate, speakers noted that a holistic approach to human rights was necessary to implement the 2030 Agenda and to ensure that no one was left behind.  Many advocated a rights-based approach to sustainable development, one respecting the core principles of non-discrimination, inclusion and participation, transparency and accountability.  The Human Rights Council should strengthen the two-way, mutually reinforcing linkages between human rights and the 2030 Agenda, through a stronger synergy and interaction with the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  Speakers said international cooperation was indispensable for the effective implementation of States’ human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Some speakers underlined the direct relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and the building of an international order that allowed for an equal distribution of resources.  In that vein, they welcomed the references to allowing a differential treatment in international trade law to grant more favourable conditions to least developed and developing countries so that they too could benefit from trade and investment.  Some speakers said that pushing through the priorities of a select group did not contribute to the resolution of human rights issues.  Everyone had the duty to work on draft resolutions on the situation of categories of persons objectively, without inventing new rights.

Speaking in the general debate were Iraq, Belgium, Nigeria, Slovakia, Kenya, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Japan, Holy See, Montenegro, Thailand, France, UN Women, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Syria, Bahamas, Iran, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Algeria, Greece, Ireland, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, New Zealand, Viet Nam, Maldives, Libya, and Republic of Moldova.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Soka Gakkai International ,( in a joint statement with severals NGOs1); Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance; Penal Reform International, (in a joint statement with IDPC Consortium); International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (INCPL); World Jewish Congress; VIVAT International; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; Together against the death penalty; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, (in a joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; Conectas Direitos Humanos and International Service for Human Rights); Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action; International Federation of ACAT Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture ; Victorious Youths Movement; Association of World Citizens; Liberation; Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi; Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs ; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA); Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA; Association Dunenyo ; "Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud ( C.D.P-C.E.N.S); African Development Association; Graduate Women International (GWI); Make Mothers Matter; Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum; France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand; Life Foundation - Green Ecological Group ; Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment; International Association for Democracy in Africa; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship; Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture; Center for Environmental and Management Studies; African Regional Agricultural Credit Association; African Green Foundation International; Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims; World Environment and Resources Council; Pan African Union for Science and Technology; Commission to Study the Organization of Peace; Prahar; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; United Villages ; World Muslim Congress; United Schools International; International-Lawyers.Org; Indian Council of South America; Canners International Permanent Committee; Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP); Sikh Human Rights Group; National Union of Jurists of Cuba; World Barua Organization; Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas; United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation; International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD); International Fellowship of Reconciliation; International Muslim Women's Union and Colombian Commission of Jurists.

Brazil, Bahrain, India, and Pakistan spoke in a right of reply.

The Council will next meet in public at 9 a.m. on Monday, 17 September, to continue the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, to be followed by an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and an interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.  

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

Iraq stated that States needed to meet a number of human rights challenges to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  Preserving water was essential for the right to life.  Water was also key for climate change.  Protecting the rights of cities to water was an essential work of the Council, as was its combat against impunity.  Iraq called for the upholding of economic, social and cultural rights in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Belgium reminded that no less than 170 countries were execution free in 2017, which was a reason for great optimism.  It remained concerned that the countries that still applied the death penalty did so in a way that was incompatible with international law.  The most serious crime threshold was often not respected, and the majority of executions were carried out for drug-related offences or under counter-terrorism laws that allowed for the death penalty in vaguely and broadly defined terrorism-related crimes.

Nigeria noted that as a developing country it was strongly committed to the implementation of the right to development, whose lack would undermine global peace and stability.  To that end, Nigeria had developed a social and economic master plan for 2017-2022 to ensure inclusive economic growth for its citizens.  The Government had also upheld the right of everyone to participate in political life as a prerequisite for building a strong, peaceful and prosperous society.

Slovakia underlined that equal participation in political and public affairs was not just a basic human right, but also a crucially important principle that underpinned a true democracy.  The State derived power from citizens and it was only through free and fair elections and civic engagement that a democracy could flourish.  Slovakia actively supported the right of people to participate both at home and abroad.  It perceived civic participation as crucial for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.  

Kenya called for the equal participation by all nations in international decision-making and asked for a transparent multilateral trade system that reflected the development needs of all nations.  Kenya also noted that discussions on the right to development had faltered due to divergent views and lack of consensus among countries.  It was imperative that States reached a consensus on the elaboration of comprehensive standards to implement the right to development.

Republic of Korea said that the digital world presented challenges to human rights.  The Korean Government had planned side events to raise awareness about the intersection of technology and human rights.  Governments at the local level played a critical role in the protection of human rights.  The Republic of Korea had tabled a resolution on local governments so they could have a better understanding of human rights with the help of local stakeholders.

South Africa believed that progress was slow in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because enough attention was not focused on the means of implementation such as technology transfer, capacity building and market access.  South Africa expressed hope that when the national reviews were presented in 2019 to the High-Level Political Forum, there would be dedicated space for developed countries.  Delegations in New York and Geneva stood ready to support the High-Level Political Forum in its role on ensuring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ecuador said that the right to development should be central to the 2030 Agenda.  Ecuador was committed to human rights as well as the rights of nature.  Ecuador had developed a plan called, “All Life,” which covered the life cycle of all human beings.  The plan’s focus was also committed to overcoming inequalities faced by women as well as children.  Ecuador concluded by adding that social justice required a transparent global alliance between governments.

United Kingdom said that in 2018, 66 journalists and media workers had already been killed and over 300 imprisoned, simply for doing their job.  Myanmar was called on to release two Reuters journalists and Iran was urged to drop the criminal charges against BBC Persian staff.  In Russia, impunity for attacks on journalists continued and in Afghanistan, 10 journalists had lost their lives in a single day.  Governments were called on to take all measures to ensure the safety of journalists and to end impunity for crimes against them.

Japan explained that it had been doing its utmost to ensure the safety of workers on decontamination projects in Fukushima through controlling the amount of radiation they were exposed to.  The Government rigorously supervised the decontamination projects in accordance with relevant laws and regulations and if a violation was found, the Government gave administrative guidance and ensured it was rectified.  

Holy See said that the world economy was not able to create enough quality jobs for young people.  The unemployed youth tended to lose hope and found themselves trapped in a spiral of social exclusion.  The political voice of youth was not strong enough and in developed countries, the ageing population often outnumbered young people.  For an inclusive future, youth had to be considered as a valuable resource rather than a liability.

Montenegro welcomed the report on youth and human rights, which showed a wide range of discrimination and numerous challenges faced by youth across the world.  Youth participation in the Council was welcomed and hope was expressed that the new United Strategy on Youth would accelerate progress in order to make today’s world safer for youth.

Thailand said that the Human Rights Council should strengthen the two-way, mutually reinforcing linkages between human rights and the 2030 Agenda.  Thailand supported stronger synergy and interaction between the Council and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  The Council should provide more space for States and relevant stakeholders to share their good practices and challenges in that respect.  International cooperation was indispensable for the effective implementation of States’ human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals.  

France supported a rights-based approach to persons with mental health conditions.  As for combatting drugs, States had to adopt fair and balanced measures, while respecting the right to health, free and informed consent, and access to justice, which were at the heart of its anti-drugs strategy for 2017-2020.  France also called for the respect of the rights of youth and their social and political engagement, which was an area of priority for France.

UN Women expressed hope that the recommendations of the intersessional expert meeting on the human rights of women and girls and gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda would help address the persistence of pervasive gender inequalities in every dimension of sustainable development.  Women and girls had to have knowledge, agency and power to have control over and decide freely on their sexual and reproductive health, and to protect themselves against HIV.

Russian Federation noted that pushing through the priorities of a select group did not contribute to the resolution of human rights issues.  Everyone had the duty to work on draft resolutions on the situation of categories of persons objectively, without inventing new rights.  The call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should give new impetus for the work on new thematic and country reports.  The Russian Federation opposed the imposition of a single method for resolving human rights concerns.  
Netherlands remained committed to protecting human rights online, including the right to privacy.  Any restrictions to that right needed to comply with international human rights law.  The safety of journalists was of great concern and although attacks against them had been given greater attention, attacks were, nevertheless, on the rise.  The Netherlands denounced any arbitrary arrest, imprisonment or other form of violence against journalists.

Syria expressed its concern as to the way thematic issues of the secretariat were dealt with.  This was a priority for Member States, particularly developing ones.  The issues and the clustered dialogues weakened the ability to have a fruitful interactive dialogue.  Syria appealed to those responsible for laying down the Council’s order of work to take those matters into account because they were very important matters for developing countries.

Bahamas agreed that there was a need to better develop statistical tools to monitor the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the 2030 Agenda.  The Bahamas noted that there was still work to be done to achieve geographical diversity in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which would render its work more relevant and effective.  The Bahamas thanked the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council for her historic engagement with the Human Rights Council.

India said that development processes needed to be nationally owned and driven by national needs and priorities.  These processes needed to be complemented by equitable economic relations.  India shared the international community’s desire for enhancing physical connectivity and believed it should bring greater economic benefits to all in a balanced manner.

Iran stressed that unilateral economic coercive measures such as economic sanctions had far-reaching and adverse implications, not only for the human rights of targeted States’ populations but also for third parties engaged in normal economic activities.  Economic sanctions disproportionally affected the most vulnerable people and deep concern was expressed over the imposition of unlawful unilateral sanctions by the United States.

Costa Rica emphasized the notion that international law, including human rights, provided the legal framework for the implementation of the Agenda for Sustainable Development both at the national and international levels.  The 2030 Agenda set out clear targets that had to be met, including a healthy environment, which would allow enjoying the right to development.  The ongoing fight against climate change was welcomed.

Bangladesh observed a tendency in the Council to rank human rights hierarchically and then assess the human rights situation in a country from a hierarchical perspective.  In such assessments, the inherent interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights should not be forgotten.  Besides expressing concerns, highlighting positive change and appreciating challenges was a better way to be constructive.

Algeria noted that the right to development was closely linked to human rights.  The increasing number of crises, migration, poverty and climate change all required a response from the international community.  The notion of development had to be considered in a way that would consider the wellbeing of current but also of future generations.  All States were urged to step up their cooperation with the Working Group on the right to development

Greece noted that a holistic approach to human rights was necessary to implement the 2030 Agenda and to ensure that no one was left behind.  It thus advocated a rights-based approach to sustainable development, one respecting the core principles of non-discrimination, inclusion and participation, transparency and accountability.  In that vein, Greece was working on three resolutions on social rights, namely on the right to work, on cultural rights, and on the world drug problem.

Ireland remained deeply concerned that each year millions of children still died from preventable and treatable diseases.  The High Commissioner’s report provided further evidence that a human rights-based approach to healthcare was essential to improving child mortality outcomes.  Ireland also welcomed the report on the draft guidelines for States on the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs.  

Botswana underlined the direct relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and the building of an international order with equally distributed resources.  It welcomed the references to allowing a differential treatment in international trade law to grant more favourable conditions to least developed and developing countries so that they too could benefit from trade and investment.  At the national level, Botswana was making efforts to eradicate poverty and provide equal development opportunities for all its citizens.  

Azerbaijan reiterated its firm commitment to the cause of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which embodied all human rights, including economic, civil, cultural, political and social rights, and the right to development.  It considered that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was a complex process enabling joint action of State authorities, civil society, and international organizations.  

Tanzania said it was working to realize the right to development and was implementing the Second National Five-Year Development Plan.  Tanzania continued to facilitate sustainable economic development by the provision and implementation of stable and predictable legal frameworks that promoted entrepreneurship.  Tanzania also continued to implement anti-corruption measures with a view to accelerating development.

New Zealand stated that the majority of preventable maternal deaths occurred in conflicts, natural disasters and displacement settings.  Humanitarian and conflict situations exacerbated existing inequalities and created barriers to the respect, protection and fulfilment of women and girls’ right to sexual and reproductive health.  New Zealand called on the Council to integrate sexual and reproductive health rights into the mandates of investigative bodies.

Viet Nam said that gender equality was enshrined in the country’s legal framework. Women played an increasingly influential role in the work force.  Gender equality was an indispensable and smart investment.  The link between development and women’s participation in social and political life was in the best interest of any country.  By investing in projects that promoted women in the workplace, the right to development would be more quickly achieved.

Maldives was committed to improving the standard of living of all Maldivians, through adopting a host of legislation and government policies to formalise second and third generation rights for all.  They had included, among those rights, the right to a safe and healthy environment while also strengthening their universal healthcare system.  The engagement of Maldives in the Council had contributed to the strengthening of democratic governance at home.

Libya said migration showed that no fundamental services or rights were available in countries of origin, which was why people were risking their lives in order to find decent work.  The international community was called on to grant further support to least developed countries so that they could achieve the right to development.

Republic of Moldova said that the world currently had the largest youth population and it was facing many challenges.  Resolution 35/14 asked for the identification of cases of discrimination against young people in the achievement of their rights.  The comprehensive view of the report on the issue of youth was appreciated and the Republic of Moldova believed that the Council could do much to improve the position of youth and their human rights.

Soka Gakkai International, in a joint statement with severals NGOs1, said that more than a third of the 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals emphasized the crucial role of young people.  Youth were critical agents of change, so it was essential to empower them through human rights education to become active global citizens, ultimately contributing to the building of inclusive societies, and overcoming social divides, hatred and discrimination

Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance said that human rights defenders by the very nature of their work were always at risk.  Lamentably, the situation in the Philippines was nowhere near normal and according to the United Nations report, there were alarming levels of reprisal.  President Duterte had been hell-bent on relentlessly spreading an anti-human rights narrative and Filipinos believed that human rights were an obstacle to development.

Penal Reform International, in a joint statement with IDPC Consortium, reminded that prison overcrowding in some 120 countries was exacerbated by drug-related offences.  The organization called on States to apply proportional and alternative prison sentences for drug-related offences and encouraged the human rights system to further address that problem.  It also called on the United Nations to strengthen inter-agency cooperation on drug-related issues.

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (INCPL), in a joint statement, emphasized the critical importance of meaningful participation in public affairs, and recognized its centrality in building democratic societies, social inclusion, gender equality and advancing economic development.  The organization also underlined the importance of addressing any acts of reprisal against civil society.  

World Jewish Congress drew attention to anti-Jewish attacks in Europe.  How could a continent that had plunged into the depths of evil a few decades ago face similar ills nowadays?  How could individuals still be targeted because they belonged to a minority group?  It was paramount to recognize that neo-Nazis and other extreme groups did not only pose a threat to Jews and other minorities but were also an attack on the founding values of modern democracies.

VIVAT International expressed concern about the human rights situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina where State employees had not been paid their social contribution for many years.  The organization recommended to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to comply with the recommendations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII urged all Member States to make greater efforts to create optimal conditions for the implementation of the right to peace in their countries.  The organization called for the establishment of a Ministry of Peace, a measure to help make peace a reality.  On International Peace Day, the organization would convene an event launching the proposal for establishing a Ministry of Peace in all countries.    

Together against the death penalty said the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel and degrading treatment were crucial, now recognized by 144 countries in the world.  Burkina Faso was the latest country to eliminate the death penalty, but the organization was concerned about the reintroduction of the penalty in certain countries like Sri Lanka and Turkey.  The organization invited Member States to attend the seventh World Congress against the Death Penalty, which would take place in Brussels.

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, in a joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; Conectas Direitos Humanos and International Service for Human Rights, said the world was seeing alarming tendencies toward a deeper militarisation of States to counter drug crimes.  In Latin American countries, as well as in the Philippines and Bangladesh, harsh drug-related policies contributed to human rights violations.  Drug policies disproportionally impacted women and minorities.  

Fundación Latinamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social denounced the unilateral coercive measures of the United States and United Kingdom against Venezuela.  Their financial blockade interrupted trade, including food, medicine.  Also banks were in trouble in Venezuela but Brazil’s Government would not cancel a debt of millions of dollars.  The imposition of those coercive measures were unlawful.

Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action Aboriginal Corporation welcomed the appointment of Australia to the Council and urged it to take pronounced steps at the global and national level towards the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.  Australia had to provide resources to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations effectively participated.

International Federation of ACAT Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture were particularly interested in the application of the death penalty on persons under 18, pregnant women and persons with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities.  International laws, including Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, explicitly prohibited implementing the death penalty against such persons

Victorious Youths Movement stressed that since the creation of Tindouf camp in Algeria, members of the Polisario had tried to force groups of children to stop their studies and join the military service, which was incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child because children could be deprived of their childhood.  The Polisario had always used schools and school programmes to indoctrinate its ideology and hatred.  

Association of World Citizens said that the principle of transitional justice meant there was not statute of limitations for most serious crimes committed.  The principle of transitional justice had to be applied in Yemen four times.  Yet it had failed to happen, despite the fact that the Government had adopted such an initiative in 2012.  After the end of the war, there would be a need again to apply the principle of transitional justice for the last war.

Liberation noted that India had failed to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in the north-east of the country.  Tripura was a tiny state in India and might be the only one in the whole world where infiltrators had been ruling the native population since 1949.  The local population had been reduced to a minority due to the illegal immigration.  The organization called on the Human Rights Council to help the indigenous people of Tripura.

Association pour l’intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi drew attention to caste-based discrimination in India, even though such discrimination was forbidden under the Indian Constitution.  In a recent incident in Rajastan, more than 70 Dalit families had been socially boycotted by villagers.  They were denied access to water from the public tap, schooling for their children, and forced into destitution.  

Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grand Lacs stated that Morocco had recently made efforts to modernize its southern provinces by adopting a model of socio-economic development for the citizens of Sahara.  The project was based on initiatives in the private sector to create employment based on cooperative regional platforms.  However, the persons in the Tindouf camps lived in difficult conditions.  The organization called on the Council to end the suffering of the detained persons and allow them to return home.  

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee reminded that India had not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Fundamentalist forces were growing in strength in India and they were cracking down on human rights activists.  The organization urged the Human Rights Council to ask India to ratify the Optional Protocol and to release detained human rights activists.  

Organisation international pour les pays les moins avancés said that there were many small island States that were particularly exposed to the effects of climate change, some predicted to sink in the next 50 years.  The societies living in the affected areas needed to be protected by the international community.  Climate change needed to be considered as a core problem.  Without a healthy environment, development could not occur.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA said the Indian justice system authorized impunity for crimes.  The speaker was the widow of a man executed in Manipur, and she said that government officials even sought impunity for their crimes, a process which was unprecedented and condemnable.  She urged the Council to ask the Government of India to repeal their draconian laws.

Association Dunenyo said that the Western Sahara was a conflict in North Africa between Morocco and the Polisario Front backed by Algeria.  Since 2011, Morocco had launched a regionalisation process which made it possible for its people to choose representatives in a credible and transparent way.  However, the Saharawi were not allowed to vote or choose their representative freely in Tindouf camp.

"Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud ( C.D.P-C.E.N.S) raised the human rights crimes that the Algerian army was inflicting against the Saharawis.  The organization had gathered evidence regarding those crimes and conveyed it to relevant international organizations, and asked that violators be brought to justice.  Algeria had also imposed restrictions on the Saharawis and their army had continued the killing of these people as well as forced disappearances.  Youth had also been killed.

African Development Association stressed that the situation in Tindouf camp in Algeria was intolerable as people there were deprived of their fundamental human rights.  The whole confinement of women, men and children for over 40 years was a very unusual situation.  The people in the camp suffered in silence in the absence of institutions and international human rights organizations.  If the Polisario could avoid responsibility, the State of Algeria should not.

Graduate Women International (GWI) spoke about the problem of widowhood as one of the most neglected human rights issues.  The number of young widows was increasing worldwide, and young widows were mostly found living in rural areas, especially in Africa and South Asia, where patriarchal customs often dominated and customary law was followed at the expense of modern age marriage legislation.  In such contexts, widowhood was deemed a social death.

Make Mothers Matter noted that being able to vote or to be voted for and having access to public service was central to the right to participate in public affairs.  Unfortunately, in 2018, many women could not fully exert those rights.  The World Economic Forum ranked Iceland as number one in the world for gender equality and in 2018, Iceland was ranked number fourth in the ranking of the world happiness index.

Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum said that the war on terror had been raging for 17 years now, but the world was no closer to defeating Islamist terror.  Jihadism continued to attract Muslim youth.  It was imperative for Muslim countries that had signed the United Nations Charter to work towards developing a new theology of peace, pluralism and gender justice.

France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand underlined that everyone had the right to contribute to and benefit from development.  In Western Sahara, that right had no meaning in practice as people could not use their own natural resources due to the illegal occupation by Morocco since 1975.  Morocco had been extracting those resources without the free, prior and informed consent of the Saharawi people.  The policy of discrimination by Morocco was a serious and burdensome barrier to the exercise of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Saharawi people.  

Life Foundation - Green Ecological Group emphasized that many medical practitioners had been imprisoned by the system that had failed those it was supposed to serve.  The organization supported the rights-based approach to mental health, and noted that it addressed the Council on behalf of more than 50 civil society organizations from 26 countries.  It urged all countries to start implementing the relevant recommendations on the rights-based approach to mental health.

Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of the Environment noted that unilateral coercive measures imposed on Iran had seriously affected its people and environment.  They had led to limited use of nature-friendly sources of energy.  Removal of the economic sanctions could lead to positive changes in the environment, a decrease of air pollution, better usage of water resources, and improved agricultural methods.  

International Association for Democracy in Africa called attention to Pakistan’s discrimination and harassment of religious minorities.  Religious fundamentalism and cultural prejudices had built their home in Pakistan.  People belonging to religions other than Islam faced legal insecurity, including forced disappearances.  Numerous Christians had been detained by the military on charges of anti-army activities.  

International Association of Democratic Lawyers expressed deep concern over the lack of debate that followed the report on Venezuela.  Many countries had officially expressed concern, but following the report, not much was discussed in the Council.  The report said there was no humanitarian crisis but rather an economic war in Venezuela.  Members of the Council were called on to continue to cooperate with the Venezuelan Government.

Article 19-International Centre against Censorship said that journalists continued to be murdered worldwide in 2018 and the lack of progress in investigations was emblematic.  Journalism was not a crime but it was being treated by governments as such.  A call for the release of journalists held in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Turkey had been launched.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that the decision of the United States to stop financing in this way was racist as it was a punishment inflicted on all Palestinian people, only causing additional suffering.  The Council, as well as any country upholding human rights, was urged to firmly condemn the decision of the United States.

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies said that Pakistani security forces abducted people and the Working Group for enforced disappearances had documented the majority of cases.  Families were suffering as they were deprived of their family members.  The Council Member States were urged to pressure Pakistan to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said that even though Pakistan claimed to be a constitutional liberal State, it subdued its population with political oppression and tyranny.  Pakistan simultaneously opposed and homogenised principles and there was religious exclusion.  Slow genocides in Pakistan highlighted the Government’s hypocritical politics.

African Green Foundation International said that in Sri Lanka, the provincial council elections were in jeopardy.  In carrying out its mandate, the Council could not promote the human rights violations of one people in a country if this violated the rights of another group.  A political settlement for the Tamils in Sri Lanka was sought but did not address the political election situation which violated the rights of the Tamil people.  

Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said that children in Yemen were now facing a triple threat of hunger, disease and bombs.  The shocking strike on a bus carrying schoolchildren had left dozens of civilians and children dead and injured.  The organization deemed the Saudi and Emirate’s governments responsible for the human rights violations in Yemen and urged the Council to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate those violations.

World Environment and Resources Council drew the attention of the Council to the grave human rights violations of the Sindhi people which had resulted from the construction of the mega Daimer-Bhasha Dam by Pakistan.  The proposed and built mega water projects by Pakistan were in contradiction to international laws, agreements and conventions on climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity as well as water accords.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology stated that the army controlled every facet of life in Pakistan.  Anyone questioning the status quo and the establishment would disappear.  Some 5,500 persons had disappeared, including students, journalists, and activists who dared to speak about atrocities and question the authorities.  

Commission to Study the Organization of Peace called attention to cases of arbitrary detention in Pakistan.  Guarded by the national Constitution, the security forces acted as police forces and randomly used the State detention laws.  Pakistan was becoming a state that could not measure up to the values it proclaimed to embody.  

Prahar drew attention to the unrelenting conflicts, violence and hostile movements in Assam in India.  All rights of indigenous communities in Assam would be soon extinct if the updating of the National Register of Citizens in Assam was not reverted to the year 1951.  That situation was due to the failure of the Indian Government to respond to the particular sensibilities of communities in Assam.  

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence reminded that the United States’ irresponsible approach towards Iran would lead to an economic war with global consequences.  The organization called on the United Nations and the General Assembly to stand up to the bullying of superpowers and for the principles of international law.  The Council and its bodies had a clear responsibility to respond to such violations.  

United Villages asked for the establishment of a commission of inquiry on Jammu and Kashmir.  India had to show its political will and allow the United Nations team to visit Jammu and Kashmir, as recommended in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to allow the investigation of systematic human rights violations against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Villages Unis said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been struggling for their right to self-determination for the past 70 years.  The Commission of Inquiry had to check the human rights violations perpetrated over the years and the United Nations team had to be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir.  Human rights defenders were hoping that the Council would finally take action.

World Muslim Congress said that the detailed report of the High Commissioner represented a unique chance to bring peace to one of the most volatile and oldest conflicts.  Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control was an emergency situation.  Severe violations by the world’s largest democracy were being committed.  India was urged to accept the findings of the report and embark on a peace process.

United Schools International said that the High Commissioner had failed to report on cross-border terrorism perpetrated by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir in its recent report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.  Moreover, designated terrorist organizations had been classified as armed groups and leaders 38 times in the report.  Such inappropriate terminology directly contradicted the one used in common United Nations parlance.

International-Lawyers.Org alerted the Council to the human rights situation in Iraq, as 15 years after being the site and victim of an illegal war, there had been no genuine discussion of Iraq in the Council.  Iraq was now host to massive, grave and systematic human rights violations so numerous that they covered the full mandate of the Council.  The situation of detention and prisons in Iraq was abhorrent.

Indian Council of South America said that in the case of Alaska, the United States indoctrinated policies of superiority.  As written in a quote, the land held by the natives was distinguished by the dominant purpose of the whites to occupy the land.  The native inhabitants were characterised as a people over whom the people of Europe might claim an ascendency; this was a doctrine of superiority as it applied today and had never been overturned.

Canners International Permanent Committee said the Pakistani military was used to crush and control ethnic minorities.  Under a corrupt democracy, the army was free to murder, kidnap or torture those that questioned their power.  Freedom of expression was criminalized online, journalists were attacked and civil society organizations were under great restrictions, with non-governmental organizations expelled.

Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle mentioned the situations in Syria, Palestine and Yemen, as well as the Uighur and Rohingya peoples.  If the United Nations were to be effective then it was essential to review its organization, which no longer corresponded to the current world order.  Twelve Russian vetoes had led to the stalemate on Syria and the United States’ vetoes had held up resolutions regarding Palestine.  If peace were to be sought, then the United Nations had to be fairer and more equitable.

Sikh Human Rights Group noted with alarm the incremental powers that were given to intelligence and security services of any developed countries, such as Canada and the United States.  The unilateral coercive decision by France to categorise Sikhs as a purely religious community and deny their children access to properly integrated schooling was not acceptable.  The organization concluded by asking the United Kingdom to share its approach in incorporating faith communities in decision making.

National Union of Jurists of Cuba called for the guarantee of human rights for all citizens through training on human rights among lawyers and legal practitioners, and through public awareness campaigns.  It supported that process and provided relevant expertise.  It was important to raise awareness about that participatory democratic exercise.  

World Barua Organization noted that in northeast India indigenous peoples had constantly faced a threat of extinction.  The continuous activities of India’s armed forces in the past 60 years had left a trail of mass atrocities.  The organization expressed hope that the Government of India would soon repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and that it would deal with the illegal migratory influx in the northeast.  

Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas expressed serious concern about poverty and hunger and about millions of people suffering from malnourishment and lack of drinking water.  Advanced technology and resources were blocked by the prevailing economic international order.  The organization reminded the Human Rights Council of Fidel Castro’s call for action instead for abstract thoughts.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation recalled that since the events in Yemen had started, all economic institutions had been prevented from functioning, including health centres, leading to the spread of cholera all over the country.  The United Nations was responsible for ensuring the re-establishment of peace in Yemen.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination noted that in numerous human rights crises, root causes, including inequality and discrimination, were not addressed.  Such was the case of Yemen where the international community’s peace efforts had only resulted in short-term propositions.  The sudden attack of the Houthi militia in 2014 deserved more investigation in relation to the main causes of the conflict.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation was pleased that the report on youth devoted a brief section to contentious objection to military service.  Armed conflict overwhelmingly embroiled youth.  While younger age cohorts could find themselves as victims, older cohorts could be engaged in command roles.  A wide range of non-State actors also used the force of propaganda to entice young people into their ranks.

International Muslim Women’s Union said it was very difficult to share the plight of Kashmiri women who lost their children due to State terrorism by the occupation authority.  Hope was expressed that the relevant United Nations mechanisms would take note of such savage behaviour and assist in bringing justice to those suffering mothers.

Colombian Commission of Jurists said that nearly two years after the peace agreement had been signed between the Government of Colombia and FARC rebels, they had hoped to have more details about the mechanisms in place to search for victims of the conflict.  The organization also asked for victims to have access to proceedings.  It was important to show support for the various Columbian institutions working in the aftermath in order to uphold the rights of victims.  

Right of Reply

Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said Brazil’s commitment to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples was enshrined in their legislation.  Brazil was one of only 23 countries to have ratified International Labour Convention resolution 169.  There were currently 305 ethnic groups speaking 274 languages in Brazil, and the indigenous population was on the rise.  The institution for indigenous peoples had been reinforced with the addition of over 200 public servants and public policies to advance the needs of indigenous peoples.  Also, any violations and allegations of violence against those populations were being investigated by the competent authorities.  For example, federal prosecutors were currently investigating farmers that had participated in attacks against indigenous peoples.  Nearly 20 per cent of people in human rights programmes were indigenous.  

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made by some non-governmental organizations during the interactive dialogue on the prevention of genocide, deeply regretted hearing some twisted descriptions that would feed sectarian and racist tensions.  These came from some who completely ignored the facts or intentionally distorted historical and geographical facts.  Bahrain was a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society characterized by social coexistence.  Many had praised its efforts to spread tolerance and understanding.  For those who did not know Bahrain’s society – it had been an oasis of peace and stability in the region for years.  Bahrain was receiving expatriates and allowed them to freely exercise their religion, and it categorically rejected attempts to correlate what was taking place in Bahrain with genocide.  

India, speaking in a right of reply in response to Pakistan, stressed that no amount of rhetoric could deny that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India.  Pakistan was the one that occupied a part of Indian territory and it sponsored cross-border terrorism against India.  The people of Jammu and Kashmir had repeatedly demonstrated their faith in Indian democracy.  Pakistan bombed its own people and used draconian blasphemy laws to repress any religious difference and dissent.  Furthermore, it continued to allow activity for a wide range of terrorist actors, even during elections.  

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, said that political and misleading statements had been made by the United Kingdom.  Journalists worked freely in Iran and only those violating national laws were treated according with the law.  There were 146 media outlets active in Iran.  BBC Persia was not independent and it was financially and politically affiliated with the foreign and security departments of the British Government.  The activity of this network was particularly prominent in 2009 and 2018, when it went beyond the mandate of media activity.  They had disseminated false information, disturbing public opinion.  

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that India had made several sets of lies.  The first one was on cross-border terrorism.  India was nurturing a most lethal terrorism, which had led to the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.  The second set of lies was that India was espousing religious tolerance.  India was run by a political organization which was close to an ideological, hate driven organization.  A number of churches had been vandalized.  Eating and carrying beef was a crime, resulting in public lynching.  Rape was used as a means to target women by Indian security forces and 93 rapes were committed every day, which was alarming.  The Council had to ask about India’s crimes against humanity in Jammu and Kashmir.


1 Joint statement: Soka Gakkai International; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; Association Points-Cœur; Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; Foundation for GAIA; Global Eco-Village Network; Graduate Women International (GWI); Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos; International Catholic Child Bureau; International Council of Jewish Women; International Council of Women; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD); International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education OIDEL; Mothers Legacy Project; ONG Hope International; Planetary Association for Clean Energy; Teresian Association; UPR Info and World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations.


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