Human Rights Council
23 September 2014
Holds Dialogue with Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, General Debate on Racial Discrimination, and Hears Presentation on Ukraine
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, followed by a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. The Council then started an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Ukraine by hearing a presentation by Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, of a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Ukraine.
Verene Shepherd, Member of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said the fourteenth session of the Working Group was focused on access to justice. Many victims of racial discrimination were still unable to obtain remedies, and racism in law enforcement contributed to people of African descent being unfairly over-represented among persons under detention. Racial profiling was unacceptable and required urgent political action by authorities in States at a high level. Ms. Shepherd also presented the report of the Working Group’s country visit to Brazil in December 2013.
During the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers stressed the importance of combatting racism, racial-discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and of guaranteeing equal access to justice for people of African descent, including women and children. Speakers referred also to the importance of education and awareness raising. Two non-governmental organizations expressed their disappointment that the Council, for the first time, would not adopt an annual resolution on racism at this session.
Speaking during the interactive dialogue were the European Union, Costa Rica on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, China, Netherlands, South Africa, Venezuela, Iran, Morocco, United States, Panama and Barbados.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organisations: COC Netherlands, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, and Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme.
Brazil spoke as a concerned country.
During the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance that followed, speakers underlined the importance for States to continue their efforts for the follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Speakers were concerned about the persistence of negative stereotypes, racism and xenophobia, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and the resurgence of extremists groups in all parts of the world, including developed countries. Speakers also condemned discrimination against migrants, Roma people and people of African descent.
Speaking during the general debate were Italy on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Algeria, India, Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ecuador, Iraq, Iran, Council of Europe, Israel, Barbados, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Advocates for Human Rights, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Liberation, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, International Educational Development, International Humanist and Ethical Union, World Jewish Congress, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Africa Culture Internationale, International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, Centre for Inquiry, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Indian Council of South America, and World Barua Organization.
Lithuania spoke in a right of reply to a statement made during the general debate.
At the end of the day, the Human Rights Council heard a presentation of the report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Ukraine. This presentation will be followed tomorrow by an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Ukraine.
Presenting the report, Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that over the last six months there had been a marked deterioration of the human rights situation in the east and most recently south east of Ukraine. The deployment of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was triggered by the serious human rights violations committed during the Maidan protests, and by concerns over the human rights situation in Crimea. The integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation gave rise to a number of human rights challenges, including rights abuses allegedly committed by members of so-called self-defence units and restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief. Human rights abuses committed by the armed groups in the areas under their control included abductions, killings, physical and psychological torture, ill-treatment and other serious crimes. The situation of internally displaced persons was also alarming.
Ukraine spoke as a concerned country.
The Human Rights Council will resume its work on Wednesday, 24 September at 9 a.m. to continue its interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Ukraine and to hold interactive dialogues with the Independent Experts on Cambodia and Sudan.
The Council has before it the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its thirteen and fourteenth sessions (A/HRC/27/68)
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its thirteen and fourteenth sessions - Mission to Brazil (A/HRC/27/68/Add.1)
Presentation by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
VERENE SHEPHERD, Member of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, presented the report of the fourteenth session of the Working Group and the report of its country visit to Brazil in December 2013. The fourteenth session of the Working Group had focused on access to justice. Historically, people of African descent had had their human rights violated. It was therefore important that widespread impunity for racism, discrimination or xenophobia was combatted, and that access to justice was guaranteed. Many victims of racial discrimination were still unable to obtain remedies for wrongful acts through their domestic institutions. Racism in law enforcement was part of a larger problem based on previous hierarchy of so-called “races”, and contributed to people of African descent being unfairly over-represented among persons under detention. Often, they even suffered torture and harassment on the hands of law enforcement officials. Racial profiling was unacceptable and required urgent political action by State authorities at a high level. Education on Africa, and not only on slavery, could contribute to combat stereotypes. States should ensure that judicial remedies in case of racism or racial discrimination were easily accessible, prompt, impartial and affordable.
With regards to the Working Group’s recent visit to Brazil, Ms. Shepherd said that the Working Group had met with a variety of stakeholders to better understand the dynamics of racism and racial discrimination affecting Afro-Brazilians, and welcomed initiatives by Brazil to overcome persisting challenges. Many laws were not being fully implemented, and racism continued to impact upon the economic, social and cultural rights of Afro-Brazilians, maintaining their unequal access to education, health, employment and adequate housing. The Working Group was also concerned about violence and discrimination affecting Quilombo and Traditional African Religious communities in their realisation of their rights to land, culture and religion. The Working Group was also greatly concerned about racial profiling by the police and the alarmingly high rate of mortality among this group, and urged Brazil to invest in improved training of the police. The Working Group urged Brazil to fully implement the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on maternal mortality concerning the case of Maria Lourdes da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Brazil, speaking as the concerned country, said that inviting and receiving mandate holders was evidence of the effort of the Government to maintain dialogue and cooperation with the Special Procedures. Brazil recognized the persistence of racial discrimination in the country and the need for special measures to overcome it. There was a national system for the promotion of racial equality and social participation was at the core of those policies. The National Council of Policies to Promote Racial Equality had been created with the participation of Government and civil society organizations, while other measures such as poverty eradication had contributed to greater equality in incomes. Programmes were in place to combat the high mortality rate of people of African descent due to violence in areas of high homicide rates, and rights of domestic workers had been equated with the rights of other workers in line with the International Labour Organization Convention 191. There was still a way to go in eradicating racism and racial discrimination and that was why Brazil attached great importance to the recommendations received and was committed to the Decade for People of African Descent and its programme of activities.
Interactive Debate with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
European Union said that States must guarantee access to justice to all and no State was immune to challenges in ensuring this access, including in European States. Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, stressed that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action drew attention to the need to enhance effective access to justice for people of African descent and also the need to enlarge the concept of justice to also include social justice. Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, remained concerned that despite the guarantees, people of African descent continued to suffer worst forms of discrimination and were unable to access justice through their national systems. Racism was a public enemy of mankind noted China and expressed regret that there was still a way to go in implementing the Durban Declaration which contained a guide to States on combating racism and racial discrimination. Netherlands was committed to fight racial discrimination and was aware that it was a long process; it could not be achieved immediately and required long-term commitment.
South Africa welcomed the emphasis on the application of the principles of restorative justice and supported the recommendation that States should provide equal access to justice to people of African descent as part of their duty to respect human rights. It was critical to raise awareness of problems faced by people of African descent. Venezuela welcomed the Working Group’s focus on access to justice. It agreed on the need to implement national action plans against discrimination in any form on the basis of disaggregated data and through designing programmes to promote recognition of the heritage of people of African descent. Iran said that apart from the bitter fact of our time that African persons were often subject to harassment by law enforcement officials, many were unable to obtain redress. It was suggested that States facilitate participation in the preparation of the national mapping requested by the Working Group.
Morocco said that racism and related human rights violations were intimately linked with matters of justice. It was important to stress the difficulties faced, especially by women and children when it came to access to justice. Sustained action was required by the international community in favour of persons of African descent. United States said that the Department of Justice had launched the Access to Justice Initiative to help spearhead national efforts to expand access to civil legal aid and indigent defence for all Americans, including members of racial and ethnic minorities. It would aim to continue expanding this important initiative. Panama recognized that all human rights were universal, indivisible, independence and inalienable and had to be respected on the basis of the principles of equality and non-discrimination. It was important for the Government to include persons of African descent in the policies of the State to raise the quality of life of the population of Panama.
Barbados welcomed the report of the Working Group and regretted that human rights violations remained against people of African descent. Where there were failings in the judicial system, the international community had a duty to help improve deficiencies by offering constructive criticism and providing technical assistance. COC Netherlands in a joint statement said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons of African descent were also victims of racism and racial discrimination in Brazil and other parts of the world, and remained vulnerable to violence, poverty, sexual abuse and murder. Urgent measures had to be taken to address these issues. International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations called for the full implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations, including those relating to reparatory justice. It was astonishing that there would be no annual resolution against racism presented at this session, meaning that the Council would not formally welcome or take note of the reports by the Working Group. Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme supported the recommendations in the report of the Working Group, and also regretted that there would be no resolution on racism and discrimination at this session. It called for the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action.
VERENE SHEPHERD, Member of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said in her closing remarks that the problems and policies of Brazil were not unique in Latin America and recognized challenges posed by trying to correct centuries of wrongs for its population of African descent which was the largest African population outside of Africa. Ms. Shepherd thanked States and civil society organizations who worked on elaborating the Programme of Action for the Decade for People of African Descent, lamented the lack of the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and said that the Working Group stood ready to support the implementation of the Decade. The issue of justice was essential and the programme of reparatory justice was a critical issue that would define this century. Ms. Shepherd called on all to unite around this concept. The Working Group continued to be concerned about the lack of sufficient resources for its work, in particular to support the inclusion of civil society organizations in its activities.
General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance
Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated its commitment to the fight against racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. All members of society must be treated equally in law and in practice. The European Union supported the various civil society organizations in their fight against racism, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. The importance of ratifying and implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination was underlined.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that it was deeply concerned by growing manifestations of racial and religious discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. Today, Muslims were being dehumanized. Emphasis had been on the need to examine the consequence of unchecked and irresponsible statements and actions deliberately made to incite violence against Muslims on the basis of their religion. Islamophobia had to be treated in law and practice, equal to treatment given to anti-Semitism.
United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reiterated its entire commitment to all human rights and fundamental freedoms. What was of concern was that despite ongoing national and international efforts over decades to put an end to the various appalling forms of racism which had afflicted so many over centuries, there had been results but the phenomenon continued to prevail in various forms, in various countries, including developed countries. Racism went beyond considerations of race and skin colour, dealing now with matters of ethnicity.
Venezuela called on States to enhance the protection of victims of racial violence and to strengthen education. Venezuela was concerned about discrimination against migrants in developed countries, as well as about the resurgence of neo-Nazism around the world. Venezuela reiterated its support to the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms to combat racism and xenophobia.
Russian Federation said that tackling racism and xenophobia had to be a priority for the Council, and said that racism occurred even in countries that called themselves democratic. The Russian Federation referred to the murder of a young black person by a police officer in Ferguson, United States. The Russian Federation was also particularly concerned about the resurgence of extremism and neo-Nazism in European countries and in Ukraine, where Nazi groups had perpetrated violence and other abuses.
Cuba regretted that political parties and organizations continued to make racist speeches against migrants, and was concerned that the Western powers had no political will to address this situation and work on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Cuba supported the work of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and took note of its recommendations on access to justice.
Sierra Leone said that around the world people of African descent continued to face economic hardships and difficulties integrating into other societies due to the high level of marginalization and exclusion. Even if they lived in a post-colonial and a post-apartheid world, many negative stereotypes still persisted as a result of racial discrimination, social inequality, marginalization and exclusion.
Algeria said that the International Decade for People of African Descent was an opportunity to remind States of their duties to people of African descent and it should make sure that a whole series of pertinent measures were implemented to achieve a significant impact on the living standards of people of African descent who often lived in precarious situations and exclusion.
India said that now more than ever it was imperative to focus on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The issue of racism was of a high priority for India because of the rise of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.
Argentina said that discrimination for reasons of ethnic origin, politics, religion and financial reasons lived side by side with other forms of marginalization. Since 2003 Argentina had been seeking to build concrete tools to consolidate a more equal society. New legislation and the implementation of government policies had been essential aspects of the last decade. Argentina was promoting a more diverse society with greater space for recognition and participation.
Costa Rica said it was a country rich in cultural diversity. Statistics had made it possible to build a map of national diversity which was essential in raising the profile of this group in order to design and implement public policy in closing gaps on the rights of persons of African descent. The Government had worked with valuable advice from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on formulating an action plan to eliminate all practices of racial discrimination in public policy.
Egypt commended all United Nations bodies on efforts in order to do away with racism and racial discrimination. Despite international efforts to combat racial discrimination and racism in compliance with the United Nations Charter and other subsequent instruments, which had yielded a number of positive results, it was of great concern that racism remained widespread in many countries. There was an increase in Western developed societies of religious racism targeting Islam and Muslims.
Ecuador was proud to be a multicultural country, and said that all ethnic groups enjoyed equal rights without discrimination. Ecuador attached great importance to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and had introduced legislation against racism and hate crimes. Ecuador was combatting discrimination through education and awareness raising campaigns. Ecuador was promoting the social inclusion of persons of African descent through scholarships.
Iraq said that equality for all Iraqis without discrimination was enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. The Islamic State terrorist organization did not represent Islam at all, which was a religion of tolerance. It was vital that measures were taken to combat that group.
Iran regretted that the international community was still far behind the expectations of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. New technologies had allowed for the widespread dissemination of racist ideas. Racism against Muslims and persons of African descent in some countries was alarming. States were encouraged to promote cultural diversity through education and they should counter the dissemination of ideas based on hatred.
Council of Europe expressed grave concern about the rise of nationalist, populist, xenophobic and neo-Nazi parties in European States and said that the economic recession, which had affected a great number of countries, had increased their audience and hardened moderate political movements. Those political movements propagated hostilities and stigmatised with their hate speech certain categories of persons.
Israel remained extremely concerned about the alarming increase of anti-Semitic attacks in recent months and regretted that no tangible progress in combating them had been achieved. Modern day anti-Semitism was often also expressed in anti-Israeli rhetoric and those claiming that there was no connection between anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel were wrong.
Barbados said that the deep seated and systemic nature of racism and racial discrimination required that all worked together and that mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council were indispensable in this process. The silence surrounding the experiences with genocide, slavery and colonialism had the effect of distorting aspects of national curriculum and education pedagogy, and produced educational experience for youth that was not always relevant and was dangerous in parts.
Bangladesh said that racism contradicted the principles on which the United Nations was founded. Human rights had to be protected for all without discrimination. Bangladesh was concerned that people of African descent still suffered discrimination and denial of their culture and history. Bangladesh was deeply concerned at violations of the rights of migrants in Western countries, and at the increase of racism and intolerance against Muslims.
Sri Lanka said that the Decade on People of African Descent was an opportunity to address the human rights violations they faced. Sri Lanka reiterated its strong commitment and support to the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Decade of People of African Descent. Sri Lanka underlined the importance of international cooperation.
Advocates for Human Rights underlined the importance for the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent to take into account the pressing need for many Africans in the diaspora to access justice in their countries of origin. For Africans in the diaspora who had fled persecution, impunity persisted. Human rights violations sometimes continued in the form of reprisals against family members.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations expressed concern over the absence at the Human Rights Council of the annual main resolution on combatting racism, which was the first time ever in the work of the Council. At the same time, the programme of activities for the International Decade had been shelved by the General Assembly and its possible adoption was held hostage to the acceptance by the demands of a few for a reduced budget.
Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe said that the right to education was one of the core principles in international human rights and should be implemented by all Member States. The principle of equality and non-discrimination in the enjoyment of this right was a key for equal access to quality education for persons belonging to minority groups. Greece should take measures to guarantee this right to the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists expressed deep concern regarding the increase of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and said that the forces which used different excuses to slander and harm Jewish communities should be stopped. States must direct their efforts and engage in education and preventive legislation which should define anti-Semitism as an offence entailing criminal liability.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that Dalit women continued to face double discrimination on both gender and caste. They were frequently forced into slave-like work, and faced rape and killing. The global war on terror had substantially raised the leverage of right-wing Hindu fundamentalism to further undermine the position of minorities in the name of superfluous security.
Liberation said that all societies had to condemn racism, discrimination and intolerance. However this plague was rampant in Indian society. Due to intolerance and extremism in society, minority issues were increasingly taking centre stage in Indian politics. It urged the Government of India to, without delay, take necessary steps to stamp out racial discrimination throughout the whole society.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said it knew the Council did not believe in race, creed, colour or caste. Unfortunately, the so-called modern Indian society still did. The Dalit people were referred to as untouchables, symbolizing centuries-old oppression under the caste system. The racism-based stigma of untouchability made them especially vulnerable victims of all kinds of discrimination and atrocities.
International Educational Development drew attention to the extreme persecution of persons belonging to ethnic nationalities and asked the Special Rapporteur on racism to act to protect the victims of the approaching genocide. Ethnic nationalities in Iran including Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Turkmens and Azeris faced genocidal policies: since June 2013 more than 800 prisoners, most of them ethnic minorities, had been executed and 33 Kurdish activists faced imminent execution.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the Indian Ocean or Arab slave trade had been mentioned only once in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, even if it had been responsible for exporting an estimated 17 million slaves. The region still had serious issues with contemporary forms of slavery, including forced labour, descent-based slavery, temporary and early marriage and others.
World Jewish Congress said that the last months had seen a proliferation of anti-Semitic violence and savage attacks against Jews and Jewish monuments that spread fear among Jewish communities worldwide. These were not sporadic and isolated events but revealed an ongoing and dangerous trend: the proliferation of extreme and fundamental ideas that should be unequivocally denounced.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain spoke about cases of religious and cultural intolerance in Bahrain, particularly against Shia Muslims in the country. Bahrain continued to target many Shia religious leaders with detention and other rights abuses. The Bahraini Government was called upon to facilitate a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and to safeguard against discrimination of followers of all faiths.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said while ISIS and other terrorist attacks had left many people dead and injured, there were indications that the Western world and its allies were playing a dual role, supporting terrorist extremist groups but also fighting them on some occasions. States should replace a culture of hatred and conflict with a culture of negotiation, to prevent sectarian violence and mass killings of civilians.
Africa Culture Internationale expressed concern about violence against children, a cross-border phenomenon that did not respect any racial or social distinction. It was unacceptable that such a scourge was allowed to continue. Awareness of parents, families and communities had to be raised, and all human rights organizations must put an end to the problem once and for all.
International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights drew attention to the issue of discrimination and racial profiling relating to security measures to prevent threats of terrorism and expressed concern about the disproportionate use of such measures. Racial profiling that was based on the criteria of race without prior suspicion raised serious doubts about citizens’ protection from discrimination and their right to privacy. Measures of this kind did not limit terrorist acts, but only resulted in an increase in radicalisation.
Centre for Inquiry said that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were confirmed in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action but nevertheless many States continued to formally recognize only a certain number of religions. This sent the message to citizens of non-recognized religions or no religion at all that they were not equal citizens. State policies that banned citizens from expressing their beliefs freely were contrary to the Durban Declaration.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that murders, arrests and rapes as well as displacement of people who were forced to live in camps were ongoing in Myanmar. The Rohingya people were considered to be foreigners and the regime was violating human rights standards. The constitution divided citizens in three categories thus enforcing the division between the people.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme recalled that the objectives of three decades against racism and discrimination had unfortunately still not been achieved because of the lack of political will of certain States. It continued to be concerned that many victims were still unable to obtain reparation for illegal action when they turned to their national institutions.
Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme said that the first conference on reparation took place in Kingston last year, dealing with reparations following slavery and post-colonial discrimination. A number of important works had been published. The concept of race was a social construct used throughout the history of humanity to promote domination and it was important to dismantle it.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that that the Durban Declaration was a spectacular declaration of the international community against racism, xenophobia and discrimination of all kinds, and a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The high hopes to eliminate racism and discrimination and segregation had not been fully realised. Discrimination was rampant everywhere, including in the Arab world.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy spoke about the 1984 ‘Operation Bluestar’ massacre of at least 2,150 Sikhs in the Punjab state of India and said the Government had made no move to prosecute the political leaders involved directly in instigating the mobs to violence and killings of the Sikhs. The Council was urged to press India to bring the perpetrators of the racial massacre of the Sikhs to justice and to give Sikhs equal rights.
Indian Council of South America said the denial of the right to self-determination on grounds of racial discrimination was a crime against humanity. The Council said the Outcome Document of the High Level Plenary masquerading as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples did not apply. It called for the General Assembly to change the rules of procedure to allow equal rights and participation of indigenous peoples.
World Barua Organization spoke about discrimination against indigenous peoples, or so-called inferior races, in north-east India. It also raised concerns about common uses of force by State Security forces. It appealed to the United Nations to persuade India to take effective measures to stop the xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance of society on the basis of caste, creed and race.
Right of Reply
Lithuania, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement by the Russian Federation, said that Lithuania had suffered from persecution of totalitarian regimes, including Nazism and Stalinism. Lithuania would continue to persecute the criminals who carried out crimes no matter what their ideology was.
The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights (A/HRC/27/75)
Presentation of Report on United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the report covered the period from 21 November 2013 to 5 September 2014. The next report would be issued on 30 September, he noted, adding that his oral presentation today included an update. Over the last six months there had been a marked deterioration of the human rights situation in the east and most recently south east of the country. The current registered death toll, as of 21 September, was 3,543, if the 298 victims of the Malaysian plane crash were included, and the actual number was likely to be significantly higher. The deployment of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was triggered by two major human rights challenges in Ukraine. First, the serious human rights violations committed during the Maidan protests, and second, concerns over the human rights situation in Crimea. Mr. Šimonović spoke in detail about the background to the situation, including the Maidan protest movement and numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of protesters by law enforcement officers which revealed and further exacerbated deep-rooted divisions within Ukrainian society and long-standing grievances with respect to the lack of good governance and the rule of law of previous Governments. Accountability for the violence in and around Maidan was yet to be achieved.
The integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation gave rise to a number of human rights challenges, said Mr. Šimonović, including rights abuses allegedly committed by members of the so-called self-defence units such as abductions and enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment. The introduction of Russian legislation in Crimea had curtailed the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief. Crimean residents known for their “Pro-Ukrainian” position faced intimidation, while other Ukrainians, especially Crimean Tatars faced discrimination, particularly in the areas of education, employment, and property rights. Human rights abuses committed by the armed groups in the areas under their control included abductions, killings, physical and psychological torture, ill-treatment and other serious crimes. People had been abducted for ransom, for forced labour, and for exchange for fighters held by the Ukrainian authorities. The exact number of people being held by the armed groups was estimated to be somewhere between 500 and 800 people and ill-treatment of detainees continued unabated. There was a complete breakdown in law and order, and the rule of law had been replaced by the rule of fear and intimidation.
The situation of internally displaced persons was also alarming, said Mr. Šimonović. In one month between early August and early September the number of registered displaced persons had doubled and reached 275,498 registered as of 18 September. However, the majority of internally displaced persons seemed to be unregistered and the actual number could therefore be much higher. A disastrous winter for the internally displaced population had to be prevented. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons was visiting Ukraine this week. The 5 September ceasefire agreement and the 12-point Protocol signed the same day presented the most significant opportunity so far for a peaceful solution to the situation in the east. Although the cessation of hostilities in the east remained a pre-requisite to improving the overall human rights situation in the country, it was also important to address the underlying and systemic nature of human rights violations in Ukraine. Corruption remained one of the most serious problems in Ukraine and must be tackled as a matter of priority, together with a deep reform of the justice system. OHCHR was ready to support a multi-year human rights national plan of action for Ukraine based on the recommendations of the United Nation human rights mechanisms and the work of the Monitoring Mission. It was critically important that those recommendations be part of the wider reform agenda as the international community and Ukraine prepared for a major donor conference later this year.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Ukraine, speaking as the concerned country, commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights aimed at presenting objective and impartial information on the human rights situation in Ukraine as it helped to better understand the real causes of its deterioration, which were occupation with further unlawful annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by Russia and its subversive activities in the southeast of Ukraine. Ukraine would never recognize the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as Russia’s territories. The occupation of the peninsula had already led to substantial violations of rights and freedoms of Crimean Tatars and other minorities as well as ethnic Ukrainians. The international community was called upon to contribute to avoiding another forced deportation of Crimean Tatars.
The safety and security of its citizens was a matter of principle for the leadership of Ukraine. This goal was meant to be reached through the implementation of the President Poroshenko Peace Plan, overwhelmingly supported by the international community. It had already helped to release nearly 1,200 people who were captured by terrorists. In spite of continuing breaches of the cease-fire regime by the Russian military units together with terrorist groups, the President of Ukraine had clearly shown his adherence to peace. Notwithstanding present challenges in the field of security, Ukraine had embarked on the path of comprehensive reforms based on a human rights approach. To ensure better fulfilment of human rights obligations, Ukraine needed appropriate technical assistance, best practices and accumulated knowledge.
For use of the information media; not an official record