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Human Rights Council Concludes Interactive Dialogue on Sri Lanka and holds Interactive Dialogue on Nicaragua

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her report on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and then held an interactive dialogue on her annual report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua.

Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report A/HRC/46/20 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and heard the response of Sri Lanka as a concerned country, in a previous meeting, and a summary can be found here.

In the discussion on Sri Lanka, speakers welcomed the detailed report and its focus on the issue of accountability for past violations, as well as the current human rights situation.  The shrinking space for civil society was of particular concern, as Sri Lanka was urged to review the Prevention of Terrorism Act.  Other speakers said the report lacked contextual analysis, did not take into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sri Lanka’s comments, and mischaracterised Sri Lanka’s long history of fighting terrorism, as well as its successful cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review. 

In concluding remarks, Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the Office of the High Commissioner enjoyed a very frank and open relationship with the Government of Sri Lanka.  Victims had a central place in the design of accountability mechanisms, and the Office provided support in this regard.  Legislative reforms must comply with international obligations.

Speaking on Sri Lanka were the United Kingdom, European Union, Norway (on behalf of Nordic countries), Canada, Germany, Russian Federation, France, North Macedonia, Australia, Philippines, Switzerland, Venezuela, Japan, Netherlands, India, Marshall Islands, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Belgium, Gabon, Pakistan, United States, Iran, Cameroon, China, Belarus, Maldives, Montenegro, Viet Nam, Syria, Cambodia, Nepal, Egypt, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba and Eritrea.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, International Commission of Jurists, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Society for Threatened Peoples, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Council then held an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her annual report on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.

Ms. Bachelet said that since her last oral update to the Council, the socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua, which erupted in April 2018, had been exacerbated by the damage caused by both the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota.  As Nicaragua approached general elections on 7 November 2021, the rule of law continued to deteriorate.  The High Commissioner acknowledged the Government's efforts to increase social spending and contain the impact of the economic crisis, as well as incipient signs of opening up to humanitarian assistance by some United Nations agencies. 

Nicaragua, speaking as a concerned country, emphatically rejected the report because Nicaragua considered it to be unilateral, biased and lacking in objectivity, all of which confirmed the politicization and manipulation of human rights at this time in history, as they were instrumentalized for interventionism against the processes and paths of sovereignty and dignity that its peoples travelled. 

In the discussion on Nicaragua, speakers expressed concern that Nicaragua had recently enacted laws that could be used to restrict political participation and curtail freedom of expression in the upcoming election.  Arbitrary detention and violations of freedom of expression left little space for political dialogue.  Other speakers recalled that any technical assistance should only be provided at the request of the concerned State.  Opposing the manipulation of the Council, they said this dialogue was the result of a politically motivated resolution.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Al-Nashif said a physical presence in Nicaragua and greater cooperation on the part of the Government would allow the Office to more accurately observe the situation in the country.  She continued to encourage the Government to allow access to the Office.  The balance of compliance with the Office’s recommendation remained deficient.

Speaking on Nicaragua were Canada on behalf of a group of countries, Sweden on behalf of Nordic-Baltic Countries, European Union, Russian Federation , France, Ecuador, Switzerland, Venezuela, Colombia, Netherlands, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Belgium, Iran, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Belarus, Mexico, Syria, Luxembourg, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Germany, Georgia, Sri Lanka, United States, Cuba and Eritrea.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Réseau International des Droits Humains, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Centre for Justice and International Law, International Service for Human Rights, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and World Organization Against Torture.

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

The Council will next meet in public at 3 p.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her report on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her Report on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka

Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and heard the response of Sri Lanka as a concerned country, in a previous meeting, and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

During the discussion, speakers welcomed the detailed report, and its focus on the issue of accountability for past violations, as well as the current human rights situation.  The militarisation of the current government and its impact on the Tamil and Muslim communities was a cause for concern.  Speakers asked the High Commissioner about the ways that victims could be involved in the accountability process.  The forced cremation of COVID-19 victims had to stop.  Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from resolution 40/1 and its lack of support for the comprehensive Human Rights Council process was regrettable.  The shrinking space for civil society in Sri Lanka was of particular concern.  Sri Lanka was urged to review the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Other speakers welcomed Sri Lanka’s efforts to improve the human rights situation and its openness in discussing its issues.  The report lacked contextual analysis, did not take into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sri Lanka’s comments, and mischaracterised Sri Lanka’s long history of fighting terrorism, as well as its successful cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review.  Speakers expressed regret over the recent demolition of the Tamil monument at Jaffna University, noting that domestic human rights measures were not credible given the past history of backsliding.  Nearly a decade of Council engagement had not led to accountability for past war crimes, as alleged perpetrators had been appointed to senior government positions, facilitating further abuses.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her concluding remarks, noted that the Office of the High Commissioner enjoyed a very frank and open relationship with the Government of Sri Lanka.  Victims had a central place in the design of accountability mechanisms, and the Office provided support in this regard.  Legislative reforms must comply with international obligations.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua

Report

The Council has before it the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights A/HRC/46/21 on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.

Presentation of the Report

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she was presenting her report on Nicaragua in accordance with resolution 43/2, and covering the period from 1 August 2019 to 31 December 2020.  Since her last oral update to the Council, the socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua, which erupted in April 2018, had been exacerbated by the damage caused by both the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota.  As Nicaragua approached general elections on 7 November 2021, the rule of law continued to deteriorate.  The Office of the High Commissioner had documented 117 cases of harassment, intimidation and threats by police officers or pro-government elements against students, peasants, political activists, human rights defenders and organizations of victims and women.  Arbitrary detentions, mostly of short duration, had followed.  An additional 34 cases of intimidation against the media and journalists considered to be “opponents” had been documented. 

Civil society sources reported that more than 100 people continued to be deprived of their liberty for political reasons.  Indigenous communities continued to face invasions of their lands and violent attacks by settlers, in addition to the devastating impact of the two hurricanes.  The human rights violations perpetrated during the 2018 social protests continued in impunity.  While acknowledging the Government's efforts to increase social spending and contain the impact of the economic crisis, as well as incipient signs of opening up to humanitarian assistance by some United Nations agencies, Ms. Bachelet highlighted the lacking implementation of the recommendations contained in her previous report.  Incorporating a strong human rights approach and the participation of the most vulnerable people could contribute significantly to the solution of the current crisis and to reconstruction efforts after natural disasters.  She urged the Government to allow her Office access to the country to fulfil its mandate, which included monitoring human rights in the electoral context and technical advice to guarantee the exercise of public freedoms. 

Statement by Concerned Country

Nicaragua, speaking as a concerned country, expressed its non-acceptance and absolute rejection of report A/HRC/46/21 of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Nicaragua emphatically rejected it because it considered it to be unilateral, biased and lacking in objectivity, all of which confirmed the politicization and manipulation of human rights, as they were instrumentalized for interventionism against the processes and paths of sovereignty and dignity that its peoples travelled.  Nicaragua called on the Council to assume its responsibilities before history, recognizing the right of all peoples of the world to make their decisions and live in sovereignty, respect and with human consideration.  In this discredited, tarnished and disfigured Council, the Nicaraguan people did not feel represented, even less so when this Council’s alignment with foreign interests and their oligarchic affiliates was so evident.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed concern that Nicaragua had recently enacted laws that could be used to restrict political participation and curtail freedom of expression in the upcoming election.  Arbitrary detention and violations of freedom of expression left little space for political dialogue.  Impunity for human rights violations and abuses was widespread, denying victims’ rights to justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.  The Government continued to protect officials and armed groups involved in violations.  It must bring the repression to an immediate halt and allow full access to the Office.  Other speakers recalled that any technical assistance should only be provided at the request of the concerned State.  Opposing the manipulation of the Council, they said this dialogue was the result of a politically motivated resolution.

Violations suffered by Afro descendants and indigenous people were highlighted by speakers, who urged Nicaragua to promptly investigate these crimes.  While the Government claimed the contrary, harassment, threats, persecution, and restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression continued, as public instruments were used as tools of repression.  The Government should implement the recommendations of the Office.  Many people had been deprived of liberty without trial, and civil society organizations had documented cases of torture and sexual violence.  Since 2015, attacks by armed groups had left dozens dead, and more wounded.  Human rights defenders faced death threats and ill-treatment.  No credible prosecutions had been launched for the violations.  The Council should continue its work on Nicaragua, renewing the mandate of the Office in that regard.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her concluding remarks, said a physical presence in Nicaragua and greater cooperation on the part of the Government would allow the Office to more accurately observe the situation in the country.  She continued to encourage the Government to allow access to the Office.  The balance of compliance with the Office’s recommendation remained deficient.


Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/fr/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/02/human-rights-council-concludes-interactive-dialogue-sri-lanka