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Human Rights Council concludes its high-level segment

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28 February 2018

MORNING

Also Concludes its General Segment

GENEVA (28 February 2018) - The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its high-level segment, hearing statements from 17 dignitaries, who presented efforts to promote and protect human rights, and spoke of the Council as the main global forum for discussing human rights challenges.

Maria Ubach, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a unique mechanism that reminded States to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Andorra was working to fulfil 85 recommendations from the last two cycles of reporting, and it had participated in the United Nations campaign “Stand up for Your Rights.”

Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, noted that the world was witnessing the establishment of a renewed just and democratic polycentric world order.  However, he warned of a dangerous trend to use human rights as a pretext to put pressure on certain “unwelcome” and “objectionable” countries.  Continued attempts to retain dividing lines and politicize work remained the main problem of the Human Rights Council.

Tudor Ulianovschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, announced his Government’s intention to present its candidature for election to the Human Rights Council for the period 2020-2022.  The Republic of Moldova would continue to advocate for a Council that acted as the main global forum for the protection and promotion of human rights.  

Gilles Tonelli, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Monaco, noted that despite all the progress made in the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fear and despair were still present throughout the world.  Over the last years, the Council had responded adequately to human rights crises.  But given the scale of the violence in the world, it had to redouble its efforts.

Riad Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, reminded that 70 bleak years had passed by since the beginning of the plight of the Palestinian people, and 50 years since the occupation of Palestine by Israel.  The international community should not just speak of the two-State solution without taking practical steps to defend it.  

Jean-Claude Gakosso, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Congolese Nationals Abroad of the Congo, emphasized the commitment of his country to the protection of the environment and the conservation of the eco-system, and appealed to all nations and peoples to support the initiatives undertaken by Congo to preserve and safeguard the Congo basin.

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, stated that the Human Rights Council had to examine systematic abuses of human rights, whereas the international community had to genuinely place civilians at the heart of peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations, and to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against humanity did not escape justice.

George Ciamba, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, expressed regret for the lack of support of some countries to the work of the Human Rights Council.  Romania was strongly committed to the fight against discrimination of any kind and the fight against impunity and combatting hate speech, which had to be profound objectives present at all levels of society.  

Anne Sipiläinen, Under-secretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy of Finland, said that the Human Rights Council should cooperate more with the General Assembly and the Security Council.  She also encouraged the Council to actively discuss human rights in the context of gendered aspects of digitalization and artificial intelligence.

Abdulla Faisal Al-Doseri, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, stressed that his country was founded on tolerance, religious freedom and peaceful coexistence, which were guaranteed by the national Constitution.  He noted that it was important for the international community to accept differences and mutual respect.

Mehdi Ben Gharbia, Minister of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society and for Human Rights of Tunisia, said that with conflicts continuing around the world much remained to be done.  He stressed that States had to be able to protect their sovereignty in order to achieve stability.  

Battsetseg Batmunkh, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, said that Mongolia particularly appreciated the constructive discussions on human rights in the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the work done by the Council in the areas of the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants, minorities, women, children and persons with disabilities.

Mohamed T. H. Siala, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya, stated that his Government had knocked on many doors to accomplish national reconciliation.  Turning to the migration crisis, he noted that irregular migration had stifled the livelihoods of Libyan citizens, and that the competent authorities were investigating the allegations of the ill-treatment of irregular migrants.

Ahmet Yildiz, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, warned that brutal terror organizations and extremists were intensifying efforts to destabilize the region and the world.  In its fight against terrorism, Turkey acted transparently and in line with the rule of law and its international obligations.  

Artemisa Dralo, Vice-Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, highlighted her country’s concern about the deterioration of human rights situations in numerous regions of the world, and about the rise of violent extremism and non-State armed groups.  She noted that diversity was an integral part and major asset of European societies.  

Don Pramudwinai, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said the Royal Thai Government had designated, for the first time ever, human rights as a national agenda.  The Government had been working on various social measures and legal reforms, and aimed to improve the universal health coverage which presently covered almost 100 per cent of the population.

Ayesha Raza Farooq, Member of the Senate Committees of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs, Law and Justice of Pakistan, said institutions at all levels in Pakistan focused on human rights and progress was being made despite security challenges.  In the wake of attacks in 2014, Parliament had acted to lift a moratorium on the death penalty, she said, assuring that the penalty was enforced in line with the Constitution and international norms.  

Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, said that while much had been achieved to promote human rights, much more still remained to be done.  The major challenges facing the world today – of growing inequality and exclusion, entrenched conflicts, radical nationalism and violent extremism, and the threat of climate change – reflected the dual failures of human rights and the rule of law.

Mary Catherine Phee, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the United States, said the United Nations needed a body to hold countries accountable.  However, it was an outrage that the Human Rights Council, had again served as a platform for officials who were known to be associated with human rights violations and abuses.

In the ensuing general segment, addressed by countries that did not send dignitaries to speak from their capitals, speakers stressed that the current Human Rights Council session was taking place in a backdrop of conflict and instability.  The Council’s working methods must be assessed in order to ensure it could effectively respond to crises around the world.  Speakers stressed the relevance of dialogue and cooperation in effectively addressing human rights issues.  Several speakers said addressing the situations in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and Palestine were clear priorities.

Speaking in the general segment were Brazil on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Viet Nam, Israel, Serbia, Cyprus, Greece, Syria, Italy, France, India and Oman.  Also speaking were the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations Development Programme.

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions took the floor, as did the following civil society representatives: Khadija Ismayilova, Gofran Sawallha, Jeanne Sarson, and Nicholas Opiyo.  

Speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made during the high-level segment were the following countries: United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, India, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Iran, Cyprus, Chile, Japan, Qatar, Pakistan, Armenia and Venezuela.    

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  It will next hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, and with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, to be followed by a panel discussion to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

High-Level Segment

MARIA UBACH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a unique mechanism that reminded States to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Andorra had set up an inter-ministerial coordination mechanism to fulfil 85 recommendations from the last two cycles of reporting.  In 2010, an open invitation was sent to Special Procedures by Andorra and today that invitation was renewed.  Periodic reports had been regularly submitted to the treaty bodies and a voluntary national review had been conducted for the forthcoming United Nations Economic and Social Council session in New York.  The empowerment of women and girls had to be cross-cutting and achieved at all levels of society.  A white paper on equality had been published in Andorra and it would serve to promulgate future law on equality and non-discrimination.  A quality education system was essential and the promotion of human rights and global citizenship had been fostered in Andorra, which had over 100 nationalities.  Over 70 per cent of schools had been improved so that children with disabilities could attend them.  Andorra had participated in the campaign “Stand up for your rights”, launched by the United Nations.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra had allocated 35 per cent of its development aid to international cooperation programmes that aimed to improve the lives of children.  The Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Syria was welcomed and it was stated that Andorra had provided financial contribution to the impartial and independent investigation mechanism in Syria.

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said international relations were going through dramatic changes – the world was witnessing the establishment of a renewed just and democratic polycentric world order.  This process was accompanied by major threats and challenges requiring collective engagement.  There remained dangerous trends to use human rights as a pretext to put pressure on certain “unwelcome” and “objectionable” countries.  Continued attempts by a number of Council members to retain dividing lines and politicize its work remained the main problem of the Human Rights Council.  The manifest unwillingness of some Council members to unequivocally condemn international terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations under the pretext of upholding freedom of expression was striking.  Dividing terrorists into the “good” and “bad” ones was unacceptable.  Russia would continue to persistently fight against this vicious practice of double standards, including by providing support to the Syrian Army in their efforts to finally eradicate the terrorist threat.  Russia was gravely concerned by the recent decision of the United States Administration to keep open the illegal prison in Guantanamo.  It regretted that allegations of human rights violations were increasingly used by certain States as a pretext for imposing unilateral economic restrictions.  In conclusion Mr. Lavrov warned that it was dangerous to speculate on human rights violations to “justify” reckless military escapades aimed at regime change in sovereign countries.  

TUDOR ULIANOVSCHI, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, presented the priorities of his country in the promotion and protection of human rights, noting that the objective of the Government was to improve the functioning of the human rights framework, adjust the legislation to respond to the latest developments in international standards, and to ensure protection and equal opportunities for all, including the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society.  Moldova’s top priority was to consolidate the justice system so that it could become truly independent, efficient, transparent and accessible.  It would also pay special attention to the activity of the national preventive mechanism so that cases of ill-treatment could be eradicated.  Mr. Ulianovschi announced his Government’s intention to present its candidature for election to the Human Rights Council for the period 2020-2022.  The Republic of Moldova would continue to advocate for a Council that acted as the main global forum for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Referring to the Transnistria region of the Republic of Moldova, Mr. Ulianovschi underlined big gaps in terms of protecting human rights there, noting that his Government was committed to settle the related issues through dialogue and mutual understanding.  The Transnistrian conflict could be settled quickly if there was enough political will.  In conclusion, Mr. Ulianovschi addressed the Council on behalf of Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, as members of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, noting that those countries’ efforts to protect human rights were hindered by the ongoing conflicts and violations of their territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

GILLES TONELLI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Monaco, stated that despite all the progress made in the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fear and despair were still present throughout the world.  Monaco had contributed to the humanitarian response of the United Nations in Syria and supported financially the creation of the international, impartial and independent mechanism to conduct inquiry for violations of the most serious breaches of international law.  Over the past years, the Council had responded adequately to situations with all its means.  The creation of a fact-finding mission for Myanmar was welcomed as well as the deployment of the Group of Experts in Yemen.  Given the scale of the violence in the world, the international community had to redouble its efforts.  Mr. Tonelli said that Monaco had been admitted to the United Nations 25 years ago, under Prince Rainier III.  Since 1993, Monaco had strengthened its human rights record and reinforced its legislation to align to the international obligations and United Nations instruments.  In 2017 the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been ratified.  This autumn, Monaco would present its report within the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.  In closing, it was stated that the Bureau of the Council needed to develop a system of reforms for the work of the Human Rights Council.

RIAD MALKI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, reminded that 70 bleak years had passed by since the beginning of the plight of the Palestinian people, and 50 years since the occupation of Palestine by Israel.  The Palestinian people had endured the most heinous forms of Judaization and attempts to remove Arab characteristics of Jerusalem.  Israel’s colonial policies were directed at removing the identities of Arabs and Christians alike.  All that was supported by the decision of the United States Administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem, in a clear violation of international agreements and of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  That decision contradicted several United Nations resolutions; it was null and void and it did not change the fact that Jerusalem was the capital of the Palestinian State.  Israel was escalating its systematic schemes to persecute the Palestinian people, deport them and arbitrarily arrest them through the adoption of racist laws.  Human rights and peace went hand in hand.  The Palestinian people had been deprived of their fundamental rights and peace by the Israeli occupation regime for 70 years.  It was high time for the international community to impose its vision of peace in Palestinian territory by confronting the Israeli colonial settlement system and prohibiting it.  The international community should not just speak of the two-State solution without taking practical steps to defend it.  It had to hold Israel accountable and ensure that it respected United Nations resolutions.  

JEAN-CLAUDE GAKOSSO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Congolese Nationals Abroad of the Congo, said the Congo was honoured for its two consecutive mandates as a member of the Human Rights Council.  It was very happy that this session was being held when all of humanity was preparing to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Congo had chosen dialogue as its guiding light.  Dialogue had to always be inclusive.  Thanks to the virtues of dialogue and to the policy of extending a helping hand, the Government of the Congo had signed a ceasefire agreement with the rebel movement in the country in December.  To this effect, Mr. Gakosso paid tribute to the United Nations and to the help offered by those on the ground.  Always mindful of values of peace and stability within its borders, the Republic of the Congo was working to ensure that these values were held true within and beyond its borders.  Undertaking the lead on the Libya conflict within the African Union, the Republic of the Congo had been able to bring the main parties around the same table.  Finally, Mr. Gakosso re-emphasized the commitment of his country to the protection of the environment and the conservation of the eco-system.  In March, the Congo would host an international conference on peatlands.  He launched a strong appeal to all nations and peoples to support the initiatives undertaken by the Congo to preserve and safeguard the Cogon basin.

DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, stated that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a key document guiding Belgium’s actions in its internal and foreign policies.  Peace, security and development involved the respect of rights of each and every individual.  It was with that conviction that Belgium campaigned for the Security Council membership in the period 2019-2020.  The Human Rights Council had to examine systematic abuses of human rights, and Belgium wanted to play a key role in highlighting the plight of children in armed conflict.  The international community had to genuinely place civilians at the heart of peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations, and to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against humanity did not escape justice.  Turning to the right to life, Mr. Reynders noted that Belgium had been constantly committed to the abolition of the death penalty.  Alongside the European Union, Belgium would host the seventh international congress on the abolition of the death penalty in Brussels in February 2019.  Mr. Reynders stressed the need for strengthening reporting to the United Nations treaty bodies and Special Procedures, and he underlined the key role of the Human Rights Council in the protection of human rights.  Only an in-depth debate among all Members could guarantee that the Council preserved its integrity.  Mr. Reynders commended the path that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had followed since its creation, as well as the tireless engagement and work of High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.  

GEORGE CIAMBA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania, said Romania believed in the utmost importance of the indivisibility and universality of human rights.   Every country had the duty and responsibility to bring about an end to the violations of human rights.  Romania regretted the lack of support of some countries to the work of the Human Rights Council.  Romania was strongly committed to the fight against discrimination of any kind and the fight against impunity.  Combatting hate speech had to be a profound objective present at all levels of society.  In this direction, courses aimed at promoting tolerance had been introduced in schools in Romania.  Tolerance had to be a guiding principle, especially in the context of the ongoing migration crisis.  Mr. Ciamba also underlined the importance of tackling the root causes as well as the complex effects of the challenges brought about through the migration crisis and the importance of addressing human rights violations in this regard.  As a sign of its engagement tackling these challenges, Romania continued to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Organization for Migration to provide temporary shelter to refugees in need of immediate evacuation from their first country of refuge in Europe’s first evacuation facility – the Emergency Transit Centre in Timisoara.  Since its establishment, the Centre had offered a safe place for over 2,400 refugees while their cases were being processed for onward resettlement.  

ANNE SIPILÄINEN, Under-secretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy of Finland, said that the Council had to reinforce the recognition of the mutual dependence of peace and security, development and human rights.  Finland offered continued support and admiration for the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Council should more often cooperate with the General Assembly and the Security Council, bringing their attention to reports through the Secretary General.  Finland called on everyone to respect the Security Council call for a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.  Human rights violations in the Crimean Peninsula, illegally annexed by the Russian Federation, were condemned, and Myanmar was called on to ensure national reconciliation.  Finland had recently commissioned a study on its work to protect human rights defenders and recommendations had been obtained that the protection of human rights defenders had to be mainstreamed in security and trade policies.  Deepest respect was paid to Ms. Asma Jahanagir for her contribution to human rights protection throughout her life.  In closing, the Council was encouraged to actively discuss human rights, including gendered aspects of digitalization and artificial intelligence, seeing how digitalization was an important tool in enhancing sustainable development.  Finland had announced its candidature to the Council for the term 2022-2024.

ABDULLA FAISAL AL-DOSERI, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, spoke of ongoing legal reforms that had extended the independence of judges, and oversight powers of the Parliament.  Bahrain had made great achievements in freedom of expression, freedom of religion, participation in political and economic affairs, and equality before the law.  All laws guaranteed political and public participation, and especially the rights of children, elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as women’s rights.  The Government had also strengthened human rights institutions in the country, and civil society organizations.  As for judicial independence, Bahrain refused any attempt of interference in the judiciary.  The rights to peace, security and development were the pillars of the United Nations.  Bahrain had respected all its international obligations by cooperating with the Human Rights Council and by participating in the Universal Periodic Review.  Mr. Al-Doseri stressed that his country was founded on tolerance, religious freedom and peaceful coexistence, which were guaranteed by the national Constitution.  Bahrain had hosted numerous events promoting peaceful coexistence and multi-confesionalism.  It was important for the international community to accept differences and mutual respect.  The Government of Bahrain was determined to counter terrorism and violence through actions in line with international norms, such as intercepting funding for terrorism, and through promoting tolerance.  

MEHDI BEN GHARBIA, Minister for Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society and Human Rights of Tunisia, said the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an opportunity to assess human rights achievements.  With conflicts continuing around the world much remained to be done, he said, adding that States had to be able to protect their sovereignty in order to achieve stability.  Tunisia was resolutely continuing with its democratic transition, working to foment respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.  Policy was inclusive and focused on debate and consultations.  The State was pursuing consolidation of institutions and remained open to cooperating with the United Nations to achieve its goals.  Achieving development would serve to consolidate democracy.  Economic and social progress must be based on peace and stability.  The terrorist scourge was being challenged through a comprehensive national strategy based on a culture of tolerance that rejected all forms of intolerance.  The eradication of corruption was prioritized.  Turning to women’s issues, the Government had adopted a law to combat all forms of violence against women.  Equal opportunities were being created to allow for women to participate in decision-making processes.  The Human Rights Commission was being strengthened to ensure the country was in line with its international obligations.  Tunisians remained concerned over the situation in Palestine as Israel continued flouting international law.

BATTSETSEG BATMUNKH, Deputy Foreign Minister of Mongolia, commended the multifaceted efforts exerted by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his team for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.  The Council was proactively addressing existing and emerging global issues through its thematic and country specific mandates.  Mongolia particularly appreciated the constructive discussions on human rights in the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the work done by the Council in the areas of the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants, minorities, women, children and persons with disabilities.  Mongolia acknowledged the importance of strengthening the United Nations human rights pillar’s effectiveness vis-à-vis the Council’s heavy workload.  However, any initiative to reform and improve its activities must be consistent with the General Assembly resolution 60/251 and the relevant resolutions and decisions of the Council.  Mongolia strongly supported the Universal Periodic Review process, and in this regard, it looked forward to the joint implementation of a technical assistance project with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

MOHAMED SIALA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya, said the Government had knocked on all doors, including the African Union and the Arab League, and all other unions and friendly countries to move together to accomplish national reconciliation.  While recognizing the difficulties faced, important progress had been achieved.  The National Reconciliation Government had welcomed the roadmap announced by the Special Envoy of the Secretary General and the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. The High Commission of the National Reconciliation Government had taken all steps to make this roadmap a success.  A draft Constitution had been drafted and was awaiting approval by Parliament.  The previous year, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited Libya carrying out successful consultations as well as signing a cooperation agreement between the Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Turning to the migration crisis, Mr. Siala said irregular migration had stifled the livelihoods of the Libyan citizens.  Despite the hundreds of thousands of migrants that were flowing into Libya and straining the already scarce resources of the country, the Government exerted all possible efforts within the country’s limitations.  Regarding the allegations of the ill-treatment of irregular migrants the competent authorities were carrying out investigations.  All perpetrators of ill-treatment would be prosecuted.  He called upon all countries to adopt a balanced and consensual resolution on capacity building in Libya, and extended an open invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders to visit the country.

AHMET YILDIZ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said Turkey’s Government had undertaken comprehensive human rights reforms with a zero tolerance approach to torture, and it had created national human rights institutions.  Brutal terror organizations and extremists were intensifying efforts to destabilize the region and the world.  Terror had become a daily threat and recent activities by several terror organizations had required the Government to take swift action and declare a state of emergency.  Turkey acted transparently and in line with the rule of law and its international obligations.  The conflict in Syria had also forced the Government to take action outside its borders in line with its right to self-defense.  Utmost efforts were devoted to protect civilian populations.  Turkey was home to over 3.4 million Syrians and hosted the largest refugee population in the world.  Turning to Myanmar, Turkey had delivered urgent aid to the Rohingya population.  The Government remained deeply concerned over the situation in occupied Palestine with recent unilateral Israeli action and continued settlement activities violating international law.  The rising tide of Islamophobia across the world called for international solidarity to foster a culture of peace.

ARTEMISA DRALO, Vice-Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said Albania strongly supported the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that it supported the integration of the human rights dimension in the agenda of the United Nations.  Albania was concerned about the deterioration of human rights situations in Syria, South Sudan, Burundi, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar, and about the rise of violent extremism and non-State armed groups.  Diversity was an integral part and major asset of European societies.  Ms. Dralo noted that human rights and minority rights could only be ensured in a society where dialogue, understanding and cultural diversity were viewed as a source of enrichment.  In the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, many goals were directly relevant to human rights.  It was therefore important for countries to adopt a human rights-based approach and to strengthen national institutions and their capacities for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Albania was one of the five pilot countries for the implementation of Goal 16, directly related to good governance, democracy and rule of law.  It had already initiated the process of prioritizing the Sustainable Development Goals through the preparation and drafting of the baseline report on the Sustainable Development Goals and the road map on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

DON PRAMUDWINAI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said Thailand was serious in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the promotion and protection of human rights, which were mutually reinforcing.  Thailand would leave no one behind by mainstreaming human rights into the development strategies.  It was for this reason that since last November, the Royal Thai Government had designated, for the first time ever, human rights as a national agenda, linking it with Thailand’s 4.0 policy and the efforts to achieve sustainable development.  The Government had been working on various social measures and legal reforms, and aimed to improve the universal health coverage which presently covered almost 100 per cent of the population.  It had also introduced the Welfare Card Scheme, benefitting over 11 million registered low-income earners.  In terms of international efforts to protect and promote human rights, Mr. Pramudwinai shared several thoughts for further action.  First, human rights must not be viewed as the work of the Government alone – it was everybody’s work.  Second, more focus on the protection and promotion rather than remedy was needed.  Thirdly, protection and promotion had to start early.  Fourthly, human rights were about holding ourselves accountable.  And last but not least, the mechanisms had to be strengthened in order to be fit-for-purpose, responsive and constructive.

AYESHA RAZA FAROOQ, Member of the Senate Committees of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs, Law and Justice, said Pakistan’s membership in the Human Rights Council was an affirmation of its resolve to promote and protect human rights.  Objectivity, transparency, and impartiality must guide the work of the Council, she stressed.  Pakistanis strove for equality, respect for diversity, and justice, with democracy flourishing in the country.  Institutions at all levels focused on human rights and progress had been made despite security challenges.  Security forces, backed by national consensus, were making positive strides.  In the wake of attacks in 2014, Parliament had acted to lift a moratorium on the death penalty, she said, assuring the penalty was enforced in line with the Constitution and international norms.  Women were actively participating in legislation, administration and civil society to ensure work on women’s rights focused on clear priorities.  Minority rights were also identified as a policy priority, including the recognition of transgender citizens.  The right to self-determination was a fundamental right, she said.  In occupied Jammu and Kashmir, 700,000 Indian soldiers had transferred it into a valley of pain and sadness.  In the past 18 months, India had been responsible for 300 civilian deaths.  Pakistan requested the High Commissioner to send a mission to occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and all United Nations resolutions must be respected.  

IRENE KHAN, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, said hers was the only intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to advancing the rule of law and access to justice.  This year, it marked its thirtieth anniversary as an inter-governmental organization.  The inter-dependence of human rights and the rule of law were obvious.  In the absence of fair laws and effective institutions, human rights were simply “paper promises.”  On the other hand when laws and institutions were not based on human rights, they became tools of oppression and injustice.  As the world marked the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms. Khan hoped the Council would champion the rule of law as a pathway to making human rights real.  Certainly an impressive legal architecture of treaties, tribunals, institutions, laws and standards had blossomed over the past 70 years to protect, promote and advance human rights at international, regional and national levels.  But all knew that while much had been achieved, much more still remained to be done.  The major challenges facing the world today – of growing inequality and exclusion, entrenched conflicts, radical nationalism and violent extremism, the threat of climate change – reflected the dual failures of human rights and the rule of law.

MARY CATHERINE PHEE, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the United States, said over the past year, the United States had actively pursued the Human Rights Council on two related fronts: improving the Council and addressing critical human rights issues.  The United States continued to look closely at its participation in the Council.  It wanted to see the Council succeed.  To be most effective, the United Nations needed a body to hold countries accountable, provide a platform for human rights defenders, and assist countries that were working to improve human rights at home.  However, it was an outrage that this body, dedicated to human rights, had again served as a platform for officials who were known to be associated with human rights violations and abuses.  Their presence made a mockery of the Council’s work.  To improve the Council, the United States had highlighted three areas that needed focus.  First, in terms of membership, the Council could not act effectively to help the oppressed when oppressors held seats in the Council.  Second, regarding the agenda, it was unacceptable that the Council treated Israel differently from every other United Nations Member State.  Thirdly, regarding effectiveness, the United States was greatly disappointed that the Council had failed to agree to the efficiency measures that the Bureau had put forward.  This session, the Council would focus attention on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Myanmar, South Sudan and Syria.  The United States hoped that the Council members would come together to adopt robust resolutions for each, as they had for Sri Lanka, where the government had committed to making improvements.  

General Segment

Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, said the human rights component of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries was vivid in their cooperation in the fight against human trafficking, protection of women’s and children’s rights, providing access to medicine, food and nutritional security, and the promotion of protection of refugees.  The eleventh summit of the Community had taken place in Brasilia in 2016, discussing the linkages of the 2030 Agenda and human rights.  The Community had organized in-depth discussions on how to align strategic cooperation with the sustainable development goals.

China called for a new model of international relations based on international cooperation and shared vision.  The 2030 Agenda had to be implemented and economic globalization made more inclusive.  Human rights had to be implemented through security and mediation efforts had to be intensified.  Human rights also had to be implemented through cooperation and joint dialogue, encouraging multilateral institutions and building of national human rights institutions.  China was ready to engage in dialogue on human rights, based on mutual respect, and avoid politicization and double standards.

Côte d'Ivoire said the current Human Rights Council session was held in a backdrop of violence and extremism leading to an increase in global insecurity.  The international community must do more to ensure fundamental rights could be enjoyed by all.  The Council must pay closer attention to unwinding situations and take a proactive approach towards conflicts.  Human rights were the pillar of stability and Côte d'Ivoire was improving social and economic rights, especially for the most vulnerable citizens.  

Cuba said intolerance and inequality were on the rise.  Some States held hegemonic ambitions and were fostering conflict and preventing the enjoyment of human rights and self-determination.  Cuba remained committed to creating a stable world order as reflected by the Latin American and Caribbean Zone of Peace.  Cuba ejected unilateral measures against Venezuela and expressed deep concern over the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States.  

Viet Nam said genuine cooperation was vital to achieving environmental and climate change policy.  Viet Nam was strongly committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, but was still faced by multiple challenges.  Weather calamities were further exacerbated by the new regional economic and financial trends.  Nonetheless Viet Nam upheld its unwavering commitment to improve human rights, via, inter alia, sustainable economic restructuring which promised inequality reduction.  

Israel said present in the room of the Human Rights Council today was the mother of a missing solder who was being held by Hamas without any information about his whereabouts and whose family was being inflicted with suffering by cynical psychological warfare.  Israel appealed to the Council that this unacceptable abuse of human rights must come to an end.  What could be a better example of the partiality in the Human Rights Council than item 7 on the agenda?

Gulf Cooperation Council stressed the importance of cooperation as the only way to achieve human rights through an open and frank dialogue.  The Gulf Cooperation Council was proud of its regional initiatives which reflected its members’ commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities and others.  Greater efforts were needed to promote human rights.  

Serbia reminded the Council that 19 years had passed since the adoption of the Security Council resolution 1244 by which Kosovo and Metohija had been administered by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.  The non-Albanian communities in Kosovo, in particular Serbs, faced serious obstacles in enjoying their basic human rights, security, freedom of movement, and private property.  These issues were the reason why less than five per cent of 220,000 internally displaced persons had returned to Kosovo since 1999.

Cyprus said pain and anguish continued to be caused by new and old human rights abuses and countries must work together to overcome polarization.  Cyprus fully supported a review of the Human Rights Council’s working methods to improve its efficiency.  Cyprus would present a resolution on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage.  It would soon be 44 years since Turkey had invaded the island, he said, adding that he looked forward to the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on the situation.

Greece said human rights were the foundation of peace.  Rights violations led to threats to development and an effective human rights architecture was needed to address those violations.  Greece was convinced that a consensus-based approach was the best way to achieve tangible results.  Efforts in Greece were targeting civil and political rights and promoting pluralism.

Syria concurred with the opening statement of the Secretary General on the dichotomy of national sovereignty and human rights.  Human rights should not be used as a political tool against certain countries.  The policy of defamation was a trend exercised through the Human Rights Council and within the interactive dialogue sessions.  Campaigns against Syria were occurring even when Aleppo had been liberated from Al-Nusra front.  The Syrian State was protecting its citizens against terrorist attacks.

Italy reaffirmed its full commitment to promoting all human rights as its key priority as a candidate to the Council for the term 2019-2021.  Italy was deeply concerned about the gross violations of human rights in Syria and called on all parties, especially the Syrian regime, to implement the Security Council resolution on the 30-day ceasefire.  The situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remained of serious concern.  Saving lives and protecting the rights of migrants were Italy’s high priorities in the management of migration flows.

United Nations Development Programme said 2017 was a landmark year as Member States adopted the Strategic Plan for the Programme with the aim of eradicating poverty and developing the capacities of national institutions.  The Programme looked forward to cooperating with United Nations bodies to work towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Engagement with indigenous communities was identified as a priority.

France said human rights remained a crucial challenge, especially in conflict-ridden countries.  Children were often the first victims of conflict.  In Syria, France was working to achieve a truce.  The situation in Yemen, Myanmar and South Sudan remained of major concern.  Turning to assessing the Human Rights Council’s work, France believed the Council’s work could be improved.  Still, the Council had effectively responded to numerous threats.  

India said its human rights record had been reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism in May 2017 and it was submitting a voluntary national review on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  India had recognized the right to a clean environment as a part of an individual’s right to life.  In 2017 India had announced the set-up up of an India-United Nations Development Partnership Fund and a multi-year contribution of 100 million dollars had been pledged.

Oman highlighted that the Council was a bastion of human rights protection throughout the world and positive engagement of countries with the Council and treaty bodies had been noted, as well as the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review.  The plight of Palestinian people remained unanswered.  A two-State solution had to be implemented with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State.  This was the only answer.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, in a video message, underlined that national human rights institutions could be important actors of change and could help expand civic space, and promote and protect the work of human rights defenders.  However, they faced threats across all regions because of their mandated activities.  The Human Rights Council should ensure that they remained independent and safe.  Against that background, the Global Alliance and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would hold a conference on human rights defenders in Morocco in October 2018.

KHADIJA ISMAYILOVA, civil society representative, in a video message, noted that sadly, the results of corruption – poverty, lack of healthcare and sometimes wars – were high on the United Nations agenda, but never the root cause of the problem.  The United Nations fought poverty but avoided to fight one of the reasons – corrupt politicians who deprived their people of economic opportunities by family monopolies, bribes and abuse of power.  The United Nations often forgot about leaders who stole public funds.  

GOFRAN SAWALLHA, civil society representative, voiced deep concern about institutional racism and racial discrimination which continued to be widespread and pervasive in all regions of the world.  Among the worst affected groups were African and Arab migrants who faced increased vilification based purely on their ethnic origins.  There was a growing concern that hate speech, misinformation and disinformation in the media, including social media, was the probable catalyst.  

JEANNE SARSON, civil society organization member, said many actors were disregarding article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subjecting people to multiple forms of torture.  She called for legal recognition of non-State torture.  To remedy non-State torture violations, the Human Rights Council should support recommendations for a new legally binding instrument to address violence against women and girls.

NICHOLAS OPIYO, civil society organization member, said restrictions on civic space were spreading fast.  Only 2 per cent of the global population was considered to live in countries with an open civic space.  Governments were undermining civil society groups with widespread limits were being placed on organizations.  Civil society activists were also facing reprisals for their activities.  Progress was being made in protecting civic space in Mali and South Africa.  

Right of Reply

United Arab Emirates, speaking in a right of reply on behalf of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain in answer to the accusations made by Qatar, said the four countries believed that mediation would be the best solution, led by the Sheikh of Kuwait.  The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was solely based on information provided by Qatar.  A joint press release from the four countries that boycotted Qatar had been prepared, reaffirming that Qatar was using hate speech.  The Council was urged to ask Doha to refrain from harbouring extremists.  People had a right to self-determination and Qatar was offering shelter to extremists and terrorists.  The four countries would continue to boycott Qatar because of Qatar’s failure to respect international law.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements by Canada and Iceland, said that baseless allegation had been made.  In Egypt, there was no institutuionalized extra-judicial killings and torture, but there had been individual incidents.  Egypt had 46,000 non-governmental organizations which were operating freely.  Iceland was reminded about discrimination cases in Iceland, and the need for Iceland to upgrade its legislative framework.  Copts in Egypt enjoyed all their rights according to the Constitution.  Terrorist attacks last November had killed Muslim civilians.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the baseless allegations made by some countries, notably the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea, which were counterproductive.  The most egregious human rights violations were none other than deeply rooted racial discrimination, torture, sexual slavery and the refugee crisis in those very countries.  Nuclear deterrence was an inevitable measure to defend the sovereignty of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea vis-à-vis the nuclear threat from the United States.  Japan should apologize for its past crimes against humanity during the colonial occupation of Korea, whereas the Republic of Korea should release the abducted citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Syria, speaking in a right of reply, said that numerous unfounded accusations made against Syria were crocodile tears compared with the victims in Damascus.  There was no explanation for that selectivity.  Syria was exercising its legitimate right to fight terrorism within its own borders, and it had saved thousands of civilians from terror and destruction perpetrated by the pawns of the United States, the United Kingdom and France in the region.  Syria had respected the Astana Accords, but groups in the region had escalated violence.  Syria rejected the mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council, which violated international law.

India, speaking in a right of reply, said Pakistan was using the Human Rights Council to spread false narratives on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.  Pakistan remained an illegal occupier of the territory.  Cross-border terror was being supported by Pakistan.  Despite efforts to develop normal relations with Pakistan, terror remained a main tool of that Government.  Jammu and Kashmir was an inseparable part of India.  Pakistan should not divert the world’s attention and it should uphold its international obligations.  

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said the Armenian representative’s statement before the Human Rights Council denied irrefutable evidence of Armenia’s rights violations. Documentary evidence proved that Armenia had attacked Azerbaijan and carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.  He made reference to events in the town of Khojaly and the war crimes and atrocities committed there by Armenia.  Azerbaijan appealed to the Council not to stay quiet and called on all States to speak out for Azerbaijani refugees.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan, said that the issue of comfort women was not just a bilateral issue between the Republic of Korea and Japan but a matter of universal human rights, namely sexual violence in conflict.  Japanese military comfort women had been forced to serve under coercive circumstances against their will, as confirmed by many United Nations human rights mechanisms.  

Latvia, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Russian Federation, said that the Soviet occupation in 1940 of Latvia and consequently the illegal draft of Latvian citizens to war was a well-known fact to Minister Lavrov.  Calling Latvian soldiers that were drafted to participate in war Nazis or war criminals would not only be untrue but also a selective reading of the Nurnberg criminal tribunal.  

Lithuania, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement by Russia, stated that it had always resolutely condemned Nazism and its Criminal Code foresaw criminal liability for condoning, denying or grossly triviliazing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by Nazism and Stalinism.  Lithuania was a victim of three successive foreign occupations during the Second World War.  Russia’s attempt to monopolize the fight against Nazism by providing one-sided interpretation of history had nothing to do with the human rights agenda, and it clearly indicated that Russia’s understanding of human rights differed from the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by Belgium, noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was ill chosen as an example given the context.  The entry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the Human Rights Council should be regarded as a reflection of its will to improve the human rights situation.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo would not only further implement its will to continue its cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but it would also safeguard the compliance with core human rights throughout the country.  In 2017 the Government had agreed to host a team of United Nations human rights investigators to support the country’s justice system in the investigation of human rights abuses in the Kasaï province.    

Mexico, speaking in a right of reply in response to Venezuela, said that the Venezuelan Government had unilaterally decided to call for elections, though this had been one of the major issues discussed within the process convened in the Dominican Republic, thus rendering the dialogue meaningless.  Mexico had withdrawn from the dialogue, fully respecting the country sovereignty of Venezuela.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, rejected baseless and politically motivated allegations and distortions of reality made by several delegations concerning Iran, adding that it was incumbent that the Council consider the notorious human rights records of those countries.
 
Cyprus, speaking in a right of reply in response to Turkey which had said that Greek Cypriots had not digested the equality of the Turkish Cypriots and the resolution of the Cyprus question, reminded Turkey that the possibility of Turkey turning Cyprus into its protectorate was something what Cypriots could not digest.  The reality on the ground, as the international community was aware, was the forceful division of the island in 1974 and the continued occupation of the island, the pain and anguish of the enclaved.

Chile, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by Venezuela, clarified that the Chilean Government had taken part in the meetings held in the Dominican Republic between the opposition and the Venezuelan Government, and regretted that the parties had not reached an agreement on holding democratic elections.  Thus, the Chilean Government had decided to suspend its participation in the Dominican dialogue because conditions for the return to normalcy in Venezuela had not been met.  There was a need to restore democratic order in Venezuela, and Chile regretted the humanitarian and social crisis in that country.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, speaking in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the cited figures in the context of the past crimes were groundless.  Japan condemned the launch of ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adding that its statement on the abduction issue was also incorrect.  All abductees should be immediately returned to Japan.  As for the issue of comfort women, the statement was not factual and thus inappropriate.  But Japan recognized that the issue had hurt the honour of many women.  Responding to the Republic of Korea, Japan noted that it could not find proof of the forceful taking of comfort women by the Japanese military in any documents.

Qatar, speaking in a right of reply, said with regard to unilateral coercive measures which had been imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, that blockade had had a serious economic impact on Qatar.  Human rights had been violated under the pretext of terrorism, as the international community was aware.  The blockade had been condemned by many States as well as by reports of the United Nations.  The blockade should be ended and victims of the blockade compensated adequately.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that India was trying to mislead the Council.  Jammu and Kashmir were not an Indian territory but a disputed territory.  Kashmiri civilians fighting against occupation could not be labelled as terrorists.  India used the same rhetoric as any other foreign occupying force.  The situation in Jammu and Kashmir was devastating.  Over 700,000 Indian soldiers were operating in Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people, and blinding many others with pellet guns.  India was conducting the actions of a State sponsoring terrorism and blaming Pakistan.

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, denied the statement made by Azerbaijan about the alleged Khojaly genocide.  The facts clearly showed who the organizers of that event were.  Azerbaijan wanted to distract the attention of the Council from the pogroms against Armenians, executed by the Soviet Azerbaijani authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988.  From the very beginning Azerbaijan had resorted to violence, hate speech and propaganda.  

Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, stated that there were external and internal groups aiming to destabilize the legitimate Government of Nicolas Maduro.  The Government of the Bolivarian revolution was committed to democratic dialogue.  

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected the absurd remarks made by Japan and the Republic of Korea, which clearly showed their own sinister human rights records.  It called on them to heed the international demand to publicize reports on abductees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called on Japan to end its evasive attitude towards the past crimes and sexual slavery.  Japan’s heinous human rights crimes were well documented by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Institute of International Studies.  Japan should stop its failed arguments about the abduction issue.  

Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, said that they agreed with the Japanese delegation that restoring the dignity of comfort women and healing their wounds was indispensable.  

Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the Council was not a place where personal fantasies should be shared.  Facts were known and in 2005 during parliamentary hearings it was stated that mass pogroms had been executed with the knowledge of senior officials from the Communist party.  As for the occupied territory of Azerbaijan, no State had recognized it, including the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights.  The only way to achieve a just solution would be for Armenia to withdraw its troops from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, reiterated Japan’s stance concerning the position of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Japan had contributed to the Asia-Pacific region through the promotion of peace and democracy.  Agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea stipulated that the two countries should not be bringing up the issue of comfort women in front of international fora and international bodies.

Armenia, speaking in a Governsecond right of reply, said the hypocrisy of Azerbaijan went beyond comprehension.  While the anti-Armenian hatred was promoted on a national scale, the Azerbaijani delegation spoke in front of the Human Rights Council about the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Government of Azerbaijan was merely distracting attention from the dire human rights dire situation in the country.  The prevailing climate of impunity for hate crimes and the glorification of crimes against Armenians were ongoing.  One of the worst examples of this policy was the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Human right defenders and journalists who dared to advocate against violations were threatened, imprisoned and tortured.
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For use of the information media; not an official record

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