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Human Rights council discusses human rights situation in Sri Lanka and Myanmar

AFTERNOON
 
Concludes Interactive Dialogue on Burundi
 
GENEVA (29 June 2016) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein present an oral update on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and his report on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.
 
The High Commissioner noted with satisfaction that the Government of Sri Lanka had engaged with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and had taken some steps towards promoting reconciliation.  However, he regretted that the implementation of a comprehensive transitional justice agenda was been hampered by a lack of clarity around responsibilities and a strategy that linked together different processes. 
 
Speaking of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, the High Commissioner stressed that it was vital that the entrenched discrimination against minorities be addressed, including the structure of laws and policies that denied fundamental rights to minorities, and decades of impunity for serious violations against these communities.
 
Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, noted that it had begun taking action on all fronts related to strengthening good governance and the rule of law, promoting and protecting human rights, fostering reconciliation, and achieving economic development.  The road ahead was challenging, but it was powered by the determination and resolve to achieve reconciliation.     
 
Myanmar, speaking as a concerned country, objected to the allegations of “systematic and systemic discrimination and policies of exclusion and marginalization,”  and the use of terminology, such as “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes”, noting that they were not relevant nor reflective of the situation on the ground. 
 
In the general debate on reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, his Office and the Secretary-General, speakers noted the positive steps taken by Sri Lanka toward reconciliation and urged the country to further promote it on an institutional level.  The Government of Sri Lanka was encouraged to maximise the involvement of civil society in the current consultation process to ensure meaningful input into the design of transitional justice mechanisms.  It was further urged to address human rights violations, including sexual violence, disappearances and arbitrary detention. 
 
On Myanmar, delegations welcomed Myanmar’s commitment to engage constructively with the United Nations on ongoing human rights issues.  However, the situation in Rakhine State remained of serious concern.  It was deplorable that the Rohingya Muslims had to flee their own country and undergo various kinds of violations, such as citizenship and cultural heritage deprivation.  Speakers urged the Government of Myanmar and the international community to continue working closely with regional countries in order to achieve an inclusive national dialogue. 
 
Speaking were Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Marshall Islands on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Switzerland, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Ghana, Thailand, Turkey, Norway, Japan, Iceland, United States, Australia, Pakistan, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Estonia, Ireland and Azerbaijan.
 
The following civil society organizations also spoke: International Commission of Jurists, International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, Society for Development and Community Empowerment , Prahar, Association Bharati Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, and Minority Rights Group.
 
Russian Federation spoke in a right of reply.
 
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the implementation of resolution 30/27 on technical cooperation and capacity-building for Burundi in the field of human rights.  The interactive dialogue started this morning and a summary can be found here.
 
During the interactive dialogue, speakers regretted the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi, notably a significant number of executions since the beginning of 2016, as well as arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture, which were mostly committed by the security forces.  They urged all parties to stop all forms of violence and to engage in an inclusive national dialogue.  The unfolding humanitarian situation had resulted in over 260,000 civilians fleeing to neighbouring countries since April 2015, and another 80,000 internally displaced persons.  Some speakers strongly supported the deployment of United Nations police monitors to Burundi to support the work of the African Union observers, whereas others expressed hope that any resolution of the Human Rights Council would respect Burundi’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
 
In his concluding remarks, High Commissioner Zeid explained that for security reasons his Office could not communicate the names of torture victims to the Government of Burundi.  Instead, the Government of Burundi should carry out independent and credible investigations of allegations.  It had to proceed with an examination of the legality of all detentions, free all those detained arbitrarily and ensure that everybody had the right to a fair trial.  Restrictions on the activities of civil society should stop as well. 
 
France, Rwanda, Australia, Egypt, China, New Zealand, Ireland, Sudan, Luxembourg, and United States took the floor.
 
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Commission Nationale Indépendente des Droits de l’Homme du Burundi, Dominicans for Justice and Peace, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, World Organization Against Torture, Human Rights Watch, Africa Culture Internationale, World Evangelical Alliance, Alliance Defending Freedom, and CIVICUS.
 
The Council will next meet on Thursday, 30 June at 10 a.m. to hear the High Commissioner’s annual presentation on technical cooperation and the report of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation, followed by a general debate.  In the afternoon the Council will proceed to adopt decisions and resolutions. 
 
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi
 
France reiterated its support for the work carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi, which was essential for fighting impunity.  It regretted a significant number of executions since the beginning of 2016, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture.  Rwanda deplored the human rights violations committed mainly by the security forces in Burundi.  It was regrettable that Burundi had levelled baseless accusations against Rwanda that were entirely without substance.  Australia was deeply concerned about the apparent lack of political will to address the crisis in Burundi.  It remained concerned about the unfolding humanitarian situation, with over 260,000 civilians having fled to neighbouring countries since April 2015, and another 80,000 internally displaced. 
 
Egypt took note of the challenges faced by the Government to establish a national dialogue and to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations.  It emphasized the importance of coordinating international efforts with those of Burundian institutions.  China welcomed efforts of the Government of Burundi to promote national reconciliation and called on all parties to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.  It expressed hope that any resolution of the Human Rights Council respected Burundi’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  New Zealand strongly supported the deployment of United Nations police monitors to Burundi to support the work of the African Union observers, and encouraged the Government to agree to their deployment as soon as possible. 
 
Ireland was deeply disturbed at the extent of human rights abuses and violations that were documented, and condemned the actions of police members, who continued to execute, disappear and detain civilians with impunity.  It urged armed opposition groups to cease their attacks immediately.  Sudan encouraged the different parties to engage in dialogue and reach a peaceful solution to the crisis.  It reiterated the importance of cooperation with the concerned country while respecting its sovereignty.  Luxembourg remained deeply concerned by the death of hundreds, and by human rights violations compelling hundreds of others to flee.  It was urgent to prevent an escalation of violence through a national dialogue addressing the root causes of the crisis, and to ensure accountability.  United States called on all sides to put an end to violent acts and human rights violations and abuses, and underlined the importance of efforts towards accountability and of de-escalation before mass atrocities were perpetrated.
 
Commission Nationale Indépendente des Droits de l’Homme du Burundi welcomed measures taken to reduce prison overcrowding, and called for further efforts to investigate abductions and disappearances.  It was concerned about new cases of trafficking in persons in the country. 
 
Dominicans for Justice and Peace, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities); and Franciscans International said that the only way out of the crisis was through political dialogue addressing the root causes of the conflict, and involving the Government, opposition coalitions and civil society representatives.  It was also important to ensure media freedom.  International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said that some of the grave human rights violations in Burundi were ethnically motivated and genocidal and called upon the Council to establish a Special Rapporteur under agenda item four on human rights situations of concern.  World Organization against Torture, in a joint statement, with Fédération internationale de l’Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture; and Track Impunity Always – TRIAL noted the proliferation of secret places of detention where torture was practiced, including unofficial cells run by the Secret Services in Bujumbura, and was concerned that the inability of civil society to access places of detention because of harassment hampered documenting of torture in detention. 
 
Human Rights Watch said that lawlessness in Bujumbura had spread across the country, with reports of increased brutality by Burundian intelligence services, including torture.  The Council should support the creation of an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate grave abuses since April 2015, including torture and sexual violence.  Africa Culture Internationale noted the continued efforts of Burundi to meet its international obligations, particularly freedom of expression and association, and the positive measures it was taking for children.  World Evangelical Alliance said that although Burundi was involved in the resumption of talks in Arusha, the violations of humanitarian and human rights law continued.  Burundi should unite in diversity.  Alliance Defending Freedom said that freedom of expression and opinion was key to an open society and that unfortunately churches in Burundi had been targeted simply for calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.  CIVICUS, in a joint statement with the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, urged the Council to establish a Special Rapporteur mandate on Burundi to immediately take over from the mission of independent experts dispatched by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
 
Concluding Remarks
 
Burundi, in concluding remarks, said that distinction had to be made in the two time periods covered by the report.  In the second period of time the situation had improved in terms of security, detentions and neighbourhoods affected.  There were no ethnic tensions.  There was a problem of political misunderstanding.  The police and the army were protecting the people.  The crisis should not be seen in ethnic terms.  The Government was committed to the Arusha Agreements and it was pursuing the 50-50 representation sharing agreement between the Tutsi and Hutu in the police and the military.  As for accountability, it investigated members of the military and police.  The Government was determined to root out any kind of human rights violations.  However, it was difficult  to understand the situation on the ground from far away. 
 
ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in his concluding remarks that, for security reasons, his Office could not communicate the names of torture victims to the Government of Burundi.  Instead, the Government should carry out independent and credible investigations of these allegations.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue to provide technical support to the national human rights commission of Burundi, including ahead of the Universal Periodic Review.  The Government had to proceed with an examination of the legality of all detentions, and free all those detained arbitrarily.  It had to ensure that everybody had the right to a fair trial, and that accountability for violations and abuses was ensured.  Restrictions on the activities of civil society had to stop.  Cooperation with the African Union was an essential part of the work carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including through their joint monitoring activities in Rwanda and through joint training activities for law enforcement officers.  The expulsion and arrest of school children on charges of scribbling on the President’s photo had continued, he said.  These children had to be released.  
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it Human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/18).

Oral Update by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, and Presentation of the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Myanmar
 
ZEID RA'AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted with satisfaction that the Government of Sri Lanka had engaged with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and had taken some steps towards promoting reconciliation. The decision to sing the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil on Independence Day, for the first time since the early 1950s, had been a powerful gesture.  The process of constitutional reform had achieved significant momentum with the adoption of a resolution by the Parliament establishing a constitutional assembly to develop a new constitution to go to referendum in 2017.  This process presented an opportunity to rectify structural deficiencies that contributed to past human rights violations, and reinforce guarantees of non-recurrence such as strengthening civilian oversight over the military.  The High Commissioner was however concerned that the Government had not moved fast enough with tangible measures to build confidence among victims and minority communities; there were anxieties that the full promise of governance reform, transitional justice and economic revival, risked stalling or dissipating. 
 
In the context of transitional justice, High Commissioner Zeid noted the lack of progress on the revision of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act of 2015, while the implementation of a comprehensive transitional justice agenda was hampered by a lack of clarity around responsibilities and a strategy that linked together different processes.  The High Commissioner welcomed the appointment of the Secretary-General of the Secretariat for the Coordination of the Reconciliation Mechanisms and the appointment in January 2016 of an eleven-member Task Force of prominent civil society members to conduct national consultations, and stressed the importance of ensuring the centrality of victims and those traditionally excluded, including women, in the design and implementation of transitional justice processes and mechanisms.  International participation in the accountability mechanisms, as stipulated in the Council’s resolution 30/1, would be a necessary guarantee for the credibility, independence and impartiality of the process in the eyes of victims given the magnitude and complexity of the alleged international crimes which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  A comprehensive and well-coordinated strategy on transitional justice was required for the Government to implement its commitments in Resolution 30/1, and it should be backed up by a concerted public information campaign involving civil society in the design of transitional justice mechanisms.
 
Turning to the report on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, the High Commissioner recalled that the United Nations had expressed its concern at the situation of minorities in Myanmar for many years, and that the report confirmed the need to urgently address the serious human rights violations affecting the Rohingya and other minorities.  The new Government that had taken office in April 2016 was the most ethnically diverse in decades and it had already taken some initial steps to address the situation of minorities in the country, including the creation of a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the setting up of a Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine State, chaired by the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  It was vital that those initial steps led towards a major and comprehensive effort to address the entrenched discrimination against minorities, including the structure of laws and policies that denied fundamental rights to minorities and decades of impunity for serious violations against these communities.
 
The Myanmar authorities had officially recognized 135 ethnic groups, but not the Rohingya; most of the Rohingya were rendered stateless and deprived of access to basic economic and social services.  Patterns of widespread and systematic violations against the Rohingya included arbitrary deprivation of nationality, restriction on freedom of movement, threats to life, liberty and security, sexual and gender-based violence, denial of the rights to health, education and adequate standard of living, protracted displacement, forced labour, human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and limitation on political rights.  The patterns of violations suggested the possible commission of crimes against humanity, if established in a court of law.  The report also featured violations against other minorities in Myanmar, including in the context of armed conflict, such as deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, use of child soldiers, torture, and others.  This was the key moment in Myanmar’s history and the High Commissioner urged the Government to open a new window of hope by embarking on an urgent and concerted effort to halt discrimination against minorities, in law and in practise, and to ensure accountability for past and on-going allegations of human rights violations in order to develop a new and deeper confidence in its rule of law institutions.
 
Statements by the Concerned Countries
 
Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, noted that it had begun taking action on all fronts related to strengthening good governance and the rule of law, promoting and protecting human rights, fostering reconciliation, and achieving economic development.  The Government had set up a Secretariat for Coordinating the Reconciliation Mechanism under the Office of the Prime Minister, a task force consisting entirely of civil society representatives to seek public views with respect to the truth seeking process, accountability and reparations mechanisms, and a Permanent and Independent Office on Missing Persons.  The Government was also working on the first draft of the new counter-terrorism legislation, and toward a new constitution, whereas a new Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict Affected Displacement had been prepared.  The Government had clearly instructed the military that all the land obtained from civilians had to be returned by 2018 at latest.  The road ahead was challenging, but it was powered by the determination and resolve to achieve reconciliation.     
 
Myanmar, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the High Commissioner’s report contained some inaccuracies, notably concerning allegations of “systematic and systemic discrimination and policies of exclusion and marginalization.”  No such policy was the State practice in Myanmar.  The use of terminology, such as “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” was not relevant nor reflective of the situation on the ground.  The delegation explained that citizenship verification was a prerequisite for resettlement.  As for the freedom of movement, despite security constraints it was facilitated and even those without citizenship could travel under temporary travel certificates.  With respect to access to basic services, access to education and health had improved significantly, including for Muslims.  In order to benefit communities in the Rakhine State, a central committee and four working committees had been established to ensure the successful realization of peace, stability and economic development. 
 
General Debate on the Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
 
Latvia, speaking on behalf of 32 countries, expressed deep concerns about the human rights and humanitarian situations in Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, including repeated denial of access to international monitors, reports of kidnappings, illegal detentions, and continued ethnic discrimination.  Latvia noted with profound concern the continued unacceptable process of “borderization”, and reiterated its strong support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 
 
Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged the Government of Sri Lanka to fully comply with the commitments it had made within the Human Rights Council, including those related to reconciliation, justice and accountability, and urged it to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act as a matter of priority.  The European Union was still concerned about the situation of minorities in Myanmar and underlined that tackling the challenges of Rakhine, including the situation of the Rohingya, would require inclusive development and solving the citizenship issue in a non-discriminatory manner. 
 
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged the Government of Myanmar to ensure the full enjoyment of the human rights of the Rohingyas and to take measures to restore their citizenship, remove policies targeting them in Rakhine State, and launch a comprehensive reconciliation process.  The Government should facilitate the return of Rohingyas and other internally displaced persons to their places of origin in safety and dignity, and provide and allow them easy access to humanitarian assistance. 
 
Marshal Islands, speaking on behalf of a Group of States, called for more contributions from the partners to ensure the continued participation of small island developing States and least developed countries in the work of the Human Rights Council.  Climate change posed an existential threat which significantly impeded the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly the right to life and the right to live in one’s country. 
 
Germany welcomed the progress made by Sri Lanka, including in drafting a new constitution, and encouraged it to tackle the remaining tasks of truth, reconciliation and guarantees of non-recurrence.  Germany expressed concern about ongoing violence in Yemen and underlined the importance of an independent international investigation of potential breaches of human rights in order to ensure full transparency and accountability.
 
Switzerland was concerned about the tense climate heightened by incitement to hate and violence in Myanmar and welcomed the improvements of the human rights situation in Rakhine State.  Sri Lanka should take immediate steps to ensure the full return of land, release prisoners and review the Protection of Witnesses Act, and should develop in a transparent manner a global reconciliation strategy. 
 
Russian Federation welcomed the efforts of Sri Lanka in the area of national reconciliation and noted new measures adopted by Colombo.  A constructive approach testified to the country’s willingness to solve the problems.  Concerning international technical assistance, Sri Lanka must determine, without outside pressure, what assistance it needed and in which areas.  The process of national reconciliation must be carried out by Sri Lankans.
 
United Kingdom welcomed the Sri Lankan Government’s continuing determination to address the legacy of conflict through the implementation of resolution 30/1.  It welcomed progress the country had made, for instance in initiating a process of constitutional reform, but much remained to be done, such as repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act as soon as possible.  Regarding Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in “Burma”, the Government of that country was urged to engage with the High Commissioner and his Office.
 
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia welcomed the progress achieved by Sri Lanka in the constitutional reform process.  The Government was encouraged to accelerate credible investigations and seek justice regarding the violations of human rights, with appropriate forms of international support and involvement in accordance with the relevant paragraphs of resolution 30/1.  The Government was further urged to advance the processes of accountability and reconciliation.
 
Viet Nam said that the ongoing reconciliation in Myanmar had arrived at a significant stage.  The engagement and dialogue based on principles of international law was promising, notwithstanding the challenges ahead.  It highlighted the importance of intensified efforts of all parties, and thus called on the Government of Myanmar and the international community to continue working closely with regional countries in order to achieve an inclusive national dialogue. 
 
Saudi Arabia noted that the international community was witnessing a new stage of systematic violations against Muslims worldwide.  It denounced human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims.  It was deplorable that they had to flee their own country and undergo various kinds of violations, such as citizenship and cultural heritage deprivation.  It urged the Council to make Myanmar respect its international obligations, and asked the High Commissioner to follow up on the promises made by the new Government of Myanmar.
 
Republic of Korea appreciated the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to conform to the expectations of the international community, such as the decision to ratify the Convention against Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  As for Myanmar, it appreciated the efforts of the Government to engage with the international community with respect to the current human rights issues.
 
Ghana welcomed the fact that Sri Lanka had extended an invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders, as well as steps taken to ratify and implement key human rights instruments.  Ghana remained concerned that the Government had not yet addressed issues related to the release of land and detainees, the revision of the Prevention of Torture Act and the witness protection laws.  It urged the Government of Sri Lanka to bring all perpetrators to justice. 
 
Thailand welcomed efforts by Myanmar to address migration issues, and informed that Thailand had provided support and assistance in that regard.  The international community should continue to provide development cooperation to Rakhine State, in cooperation with the Government of Myanmar. 
 
Turkey welcomed the new Government of Myanmar’s commitment to address the situation in Rakhine State as a matter of priority.  Upholding human dignity for all and avoiding dehumanizing any group should guide these efforts.  In this regard, the Government should give due consideration to the recommendations presented in the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report.  Turkey stood ready to assist Myanmar in these endeavours. 
 
Norway noted with appreciation Sri Lankan officials’ announcement last week of seriously considering the abolition of the death penalty in the new constitution.  All initiatives for reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka should continue to be based on inclusive consultations with victims, civil society and the general population.  On Myanmar, Norway agreed with the assessments conveyed by the European Union and expressed concern about the situation in Rakhine.
 
Japan stressed the importance of ensuring that the Government’s initiatives were carried out with the involvement of the people of Sri Lanka, and noted Japan’s readiness to extend continuous support toward reconciliation, including through technical cooperation by a Japanese former international judge.  Regarding Myanmar, Japan shared the international community’s concern on the situation in ethnic minority areas.  It was essential that the international community continued to lend support for reform efforts. 
 
Iceland concurred with the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner on the situation regarding the “oPt” and in Israel, and deplored any violence against civilians without regard to who was the perpetrator.  The core of the problem was the occupation which had just entered its fiftieth anniversary.  Iceland called on Israel to abide fully by its obligations according to international humanitarian and human rights law and for both parties to refrain from any violence.
 
United States encouraged Sri Lanka to continue making tangible steps in fulfilling their commitments reflected in resolution 30/1 and elsewhere to credible justice, accountability and reconciliation.  It shared concern about the spike in violent extremist attacks against vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, and about limitations on peaceful assembly, expression and political activism in Bahrain.
 
Australia welcomed Sri Lanka’s commitment to implement last September’s resolution and recognized its positive engagement with the United Nations, establishment of an Office of Missing Persons and some progress on land releases.  It welcomed Myanmar’s commitment to engage constructively with the United Nations on ongoing human rights issues.  However, the situation in Rakhine State remained of serious concern.
 
Pakistan appreciated the strong and positive commitment of Sri Lanka for the promotion and protection of all human rights.  Its openness and willingness to discuss all matters had been amply shown during the High Commissioner’s visit.  It welcomed the specific actions taken by the Government and Pakistan understood that that path was not easy and that it required time, patience and resources. 
 
Denmark welcomed Sri Lanka’s determination in moving forward on the path to reconciliation, justice and human rights, as well as its increased cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.  Denmark urged the Government to stay firm on this path by ensuring a solid and credible justice process with effective witness protection and support from the international community.  Protecting human rights, especially in the north and east of Sri Lanka, was central in this post-conflict context. 
 
Canada welcomed Sri Lanka’s initial steps towards reconciliation and accountability.  More, however, remained to be accomplished, including the establishment of a credible and independent monitoring mechanism allowing for meaningful international involvement.  Canada welcomed the historic elections and transition in Myanmar, and encouraged the adoption of a comprehensive strategy addressing discrimination and violence against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. 
 
New Zealand commended Myanmar’s release of political prisoners as well as its prioritization of peace and reconciliation.  It was important that the new Government ensured that human rights issues were addressed as a matter of priority, and that steps were taken to promote reconciliation between and within religious communities.  New Zealand commended Sri Lanka’s constructive approach towards reconciliation and accountability, and encouraged it to implement related mechanisms in a credible, effective and achievable way.  
 
Estonia noted the positive steps taken by Sri Lanka toward reconciliation, and urged the country to further promote it on an institutional level.  The Government of Sri Lanka was encouraged to maximise the involvement of civil society in the current consultation process to ensure meaningful input into the design of transitional justice mechanisms.  It was further urged to address human rights violations, including sexual violence, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. 
 
Ireland said that given its own national history, Ireland knew reconciliation could take time.  The Sri Lankan Government was urged to ensure the inclusive implementation of commitments under resolution 30/1, and also to repeal the terrorism act.  Thanks were expressed to the High Commissioner for his report on Rohingya Muslims; human rights violations identified in the report were cause for concern.
 
Azerbaijan said that the rights of people still suffering from the armed conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan were a matter of serious concern.  Significant efforts were needed to address the situation of displaced people, which included about 800,000 Azerbaijani internally displaced persons.  Azerbaijan reiterated its strong support for the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Georgia, within its internationally recognized borders.
 
International Commission of Jurists in a joint statement with International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); Franciscans International; and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, called on Myanmar to repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law and to develop a citizenship plan based on non-discrimination, to reject the Rakhine State Action Plan in its current form, to repeal laws that discriminated against ethnic and religious minorities, to diligently prosecute all acts of violence fuelled by discrimination and hate speech, and to improve the basic living conditions for the Rohingya and Arakanese in Rakhine State.
 
International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, noted the slow progress in returning land in Sri Lanka, failure to facilitate the security sector reform, the continuing culture of impunity and surveillance, the existence of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, harassment of Tamils returning home, the delay in releasing political prisoners, and the failure to initiate a public campaign to support the transitional justice process.  
 
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation stated that Sri Lanka kept buying time by promising action which never got initiated.  The deadlines had to be closely monitored by the international community to ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka was not simply using them to deflect international pressure.  It was concerning that the Government was sending mixed messages regarding the involvement of international judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and investigators.
 
Society for Development and Community Empowerment expressed concerns about abuses against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and about the situation of Tamil refugees, issues which were not appropriately addressed in the draft Human Rights Council resolution.  Failing to address racial discrimination against Tamils would perpetuate the situation and the genocidal risk they faced. 
 
Prahar welcomed the fact that Myanmar had ratified core international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and commended its constructive participation in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.  The Council should engage with the Government of Myanmar through technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights. 
 
Association Bharati Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul said that the Government of Sri Lanka had backtracked from its commitment to include international judges in its accountability efforts.  Furthermore, violations continued in Sri Lanka, including land grabbing and arbitrary arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.  On the political solution front, the Government kept on insisting that the solution would be within a unitary State, in continuation of the past.
 
Minority Rights Group said that military abuses against ethnic Ta’ang, Kachin and Shan communities in northern “Burma” had left a stain on the country’s much-lauded democratic transition.  Reports of torture, forced labour, theft and destruction of property should be fully investigated.  The persecution of “Burma’s” stateless Rohingya minority also needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
 
Right of Reply
 
Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, said it was compelled to speak in response to statements made earlier today with respect to the Republic of Crimea, which was a territory of the Russian Federation.  Crimean Tatars had equal rights with all others on the peninsula.  It was only now that Kiev had become an active supporter of their rights.  The Russian Federation had done much to improve the situation in the Crimea; the piteous situation in the Crimea was due to the water and other supply blockades carried out by Ukraine.

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