The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, heard the presentation of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Georgia, and held a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.
Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, highlighted that in crucial areas, such as transitional justice and peace, steps had been taken in the right direction, but the security situation had taken an alarming turn with dramatic consequences on civilians. The authorities needed to step up efforts against impunity and find out who was responsible for the murder of human rights defenders and teachers. The promulgation of rules and procedures of the Special Criminal Court marked the beginning of trials. The Government planned to initiate national consultations to create a mandated Commission for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Reconciliation. However, the situation of human rights was determined by the armed groups.
Speaking as the concerned country, the Central African Republic stated that it was still concerned about the slow implementation of recommendations, which jeopardized the restoration of the State. It needed to put in place serious programmes to put an end to the crisis. The Government was pleased with the holistic approach proposed by the Independent Expert, which was in favour of reconciliation and against impunity. The international community had the obligation to help the Central African Republic judge those responsible for international human rights violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In the interactive dialogue, speakers acknowledged that the challenges faced by the Central African Republic were huge and they firmly condemned all acts of violence. They urged all actors to pursue the path of true dialogue and called for the inclusion of women in the peace and reconciliation process. Speakers expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation, which affected the civilian population, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, in a climate of impunity. Speakers welcomed the efforts of the African Union with its Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation as a regional approach to resolve the conflict, noting that international efforts should be bolstered to ensure transitional justice.
Speaking were Togo on behalf of African Group, European Union, United Nations Children’s Fund, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, China, Sudan, Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Germany, Mozambique, and Algeria.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities (in a joint statement with World Evangelical Alliance), Catholic International Education Office, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Federation of ACAT Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture , Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme and Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development.
Presenting the report of the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia pursuant to resolution 37/40, Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the report gave an overview of the technical cooperation provided by the Office of the High Commissioner’s Senior Human Rights Advisor based in Tbilisi and highlighted key areas of assistance provided which included improving access to justice, preventing torture and ill-treatment, combatting discrimination, combatting domestic violence, promoting gender equality, and addressing unsafe conditions of work. Resolution 37/40 reiterated the call for the Office of the High Commission to be granted access to Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
Speaking as the concerned country, Georgia said the Russian occupation remained the main contributor to the human rights violations. The local population faced many challenges, including artificial barbed wire barriers, the closure of crossing points, and the restriction of the freedom of movement, which eroded the security situation. The people in occupied territories were deprived of education, healthcare, agricultural lands, religion and other liberties and illegal detentions and kidnappings worsened the effects. Georgians were subject to ethnic discrimination, they were forced to register as foreign citizens in their homes and change their last names. Ethnically targeted violence was evident in both regions.
In the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, speakers noted that technical cooperation and capacity building were the most effective, non-politicized, impartial and objective tool at the disposal of the Council to prevent human rights abuses. With the consent of States, technical assistance and capacity building could play a pivotal role in the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights. They contributed to a quantitative and qualitative change in human rights situations. Speakers acknowledged the importance of the services provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and welcomed the satisfactory results in improving the human rights situation in a number of countries. They called on the High Commissioner to draw on good practices and to continue with genuine cooperation and dialogue with countries. Any provision of technical assistance had to feed into the principles of objectivity and non-politicization.
Speaking in the general debate were Togo on behalf of African Group, Tunisia on behalf of Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Australia on behalf of a group of countries, Ukraine on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of European Union, Bhutan on behalf of a group of countries, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Niger on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of a group of countries, Cuba on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Togo, Egypt, Mongolia, Japan, China, Tunisia, Cuba, Hungary, Ukraine, Australia, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Iceland, Afghanistan, Estonia, Lithuania, France, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Finland, Russian Federation, Sweden, Latvia, Sudan, Montenegro, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Romania, Algeria, Tuvalu, Belarus, Poland, Syria, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Niger, Bulgaria, Bahamas, Gambia, Honduras, Morocco, and Thailand.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization, Ius Primi Viri International Association, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Al Zubair Charity Foundation, Global Welfare Association, International Buddhist Relief Organisation , Human Rights Now, World Evangelical Alliance (in a joint statement with Assyrian Aid Society – Iraq), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Sikh Human Rights Group, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Liberation, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Iraqi Development Organization, Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Prahar, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, VAAGDHARA, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme, African Green Foundation International, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP), International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Tourner la page, Association Thendral, Tamil Uzhagam, ABC Tamil Oli, Association culturelle des Tamouls en France, International Solidarity for Africa, Action of Human Movement (AHM), L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Zero Poor in Africa, Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule, International-Lawyers.Org, Freedom House (in a joint statement Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Front Line, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders), Africa Culture International and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia.
Peru, Rwanda and Venezuela spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will resume its work today at 3 p.m. when it will start taking action on decisions and resolutions before it concludes its thirty-ninth session on Friday, 28 September.
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic
The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/39/70)
Presentation of Report by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic
MARIE-THERESE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic, said that in crucial areas like transitional justice and peace, the Central African Republic had taken steps in the right direction, but the security situation had taken an alarming turn with dramatic consequences on civilians. She was outraged by the murder of human rights defenders and teachers by armed groups that had not yet been identified. The Central African Republic needed to step up the fight against impunity to find out who was accountable for those odious crimes. The promulgation and publication of rules and procedures of the Special Criminal Court marked the beginning of trials in that respect. She also took note of the recent criminal court session that studied 15 cases, including 32 people accused of sexual violence against women and minors. There was also a High Court in Bossangoa now. Regarding justice for minors, they needed alternatives to detention. Justice for minors also needed to fall in line with international standards. She urged everyone to fund the Special Criminal Court in the long term, which would guarantee its ability to protect victims.
There were huge challenges facing the courts, particularly with regard to witness protection. Member States were urged to contribute to the victim fund of those courts. One of the findings was also the need for a national transitional justice strategy.
On a positive note, Ms. Bocoum found local pilot strategies that had emerged with key government players. Yet even with those positive steps, victims and people in the Central African Republic were suffering from a lack of consultation at all levels, their voices in the peace process had to be heard as well as the government and armed groups in negotiations facilitated by the African Initiative Panel. She stressed that the Central African Republic should be able to write its own history and its own truth, and the necessary conditions needed to be created so witnesses could come forward. She took note of the Government’s good intentions to initiate national consultations to create a mandated Commission for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Reconciliation. However, the situation of human rights in the country was written by the armed groups. The situation did seem to be improving, although there were still sporadic clashes between groups. She deplored the cases of sexual violence and cruel treatment that still had no justice. There were serious violations of children’s rights which continued with their recruitment, murder and mutilation. It was also imperative to preserve the rights of Central African women. The investigation of allegations of sexual exploitation ensured the Government’s steps to explore this. On another positive note, she had recently learned of the Government’s intention to allocate a budget to the human rights institution. If armed groups were sincere in ceasing hostilities, that meant there could be real economic opportunities with a favourable government transition. She reiterated that citizens of the Central African Republic did not want to hear about impunity. There should be an end to violence and lasting peace.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Central African Republic, speaking as the concerned country, said the Central African Republic was still concerned about the slow implementation of recommendations, which jeopardized the restoration of the State. It was a question of finding solutions to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, of which their country was victim. They needed to put in place serious programmes to put an end to the crisis. They were pleased at the holistic approach issued forth by Ms. Bocoum: yes to reconciliation but no to impunity. They needed to move to tangible actions and results, and the international community needed to take this on as well. International organizations deployed in the Central African Republic needed to thwart the violent outbreaks, which affected many innocent people, children in particular. Peace and justice were complementary. The international community had the obligation to help the Central African Republic judge those responsible for international human rights violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes committed within their borders. The country had a wish to restore the true rule of law in the future and it was only together that those goals could be met and the people that had suffered so much could have a better future.
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, was concerned over persistent murders committed by armed groups. All groups were called on to lay down their weapons and join the peace and national reconciliation process, and the international community must support the process. European Union was concerned about the worsening security situation and the increase of attacks against civilians and humanitarian staff. The Government had to work on disarming armed groups in order to achieve lasting peace. United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the ratification by the Central African Republic of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. More than 1.3 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 13,000 children liberated by armed groups in 2014 were still in need of reintegration programmes.
France said that the report reiterated the importance of the fight against impunity for transitional justice to achieve peace and reconciliation. The authorities were called on to fully involve civil society, particularly young people and women in the peace process. Netherlands noted the improvements such as the redeployment of Central African armed forces and recent training of police officers, but overall the report painted a grim picture. The period after July 2017 was marked by a surge of violence and it was crucial that the fighting came to an end. Switzerland called on all parties to respect their international obligations. The increase in the number of child soldiers recruited in 2017 and attacks on medical infrastructure, schools and humanitarian actors were deplorable.
Spain appreciated the cooperation of the Central African Republic with the Independent Expert, but was concerned about the abuses committed by all parties to the conflict, which affected the civilian population, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, in a climate of impunity. Spain called for the bolstering of international efforts to ensure transitional justice. China supported the efforts of the Central African Republic for peace and reconstruction, and condemned attacks against peacekeeping forces. China expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic and pledged its support in that respect. Sudan commended efforts by the Government of the Central African Republic to improve the human rights situation despite challenges. Sudan was ready to provide technical assistance to the Central African Republic and called on the international community to support efforts for lasting peace.
Belgium acknowledged that the challenges faced by the Central African Republic were huge and firmly condemned all acts of violence. Belgium urged all actors to pursue the path of true dialogue and called for the inclusion of women in the peace and reconciliation process. Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the initiatives taken by the authorities of the Central African Republic to resolve the crisis. Despite the progress made, major challenges remained when it came to national reconciliation, stability and peace. United Kingdom remained deeply concerned about the reported increase in human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, particularly against women and children. It deplored the continued use of hate speech, incitement to violence and a resurgence of attacks against religious leaders.
Germany said that in a number of places in the Central African Republic, the situation was much worse than in July 2017. Germany welcomed the efforts of the African Union and its Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation as a regional approach to resolve the conflict, as well as the creation of Special Criminal Court in Bangui. Mozambique appreciated steps taken in the Central African Republic concerning transitional justice, the appointment of the members of the National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as the launch of the African Union’s Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in July 2017. Algeria commended the progress with regard to the establishment of an institutional framework for human rights. National reconciliation had to be established and all constructive efforts to put an end to the violence were welcomed.
Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities, in a joint statement with World Evangelical Alliance, welcomed the carrying out of a study on the management of natural resources, highlighting the link between the extraction of resources and violence. The Bangui Forum recommendations were welcomed, particularly on transitional justice. Catholic International Education Office said that many Catholic schools had had to close in the Central African Republic, depriving children of their right to education. Despite the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, serious violations against children persisted. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that targeting civilians based on their ethnicity was alarming. The Government of the Central African Republic was called on to ensure that perpetrators of such attacks were brought to justice and the international community was urged to support the establishment of a functional criminal justice system.
International Federation of ACAT Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture said that the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission had still not gotten off the ground in the Central African Republic despite the pilot programme launched in 2017. The Federation encouraged the Government to pursue and step up efforts to combat impunity and set up transitional justice mechanisms. Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme said that since the last report by the Independent Expert, the security situation had improved, thanks to the involvement of several international and regional actors. However, the organization was concerned about peace and security in certain regions where armed groups spread terror with impunity. Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development noted that in one year, the situation in the Central African Republic had deteriorated with the proliferation of armed groups. The context brought out the need for authorities to strengthen civilian aid, and support for local men, women and children and civil society to contribute to peace negotiations was critical.
MARIE-THERESE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, thanked all the speakers for their questions and comments. She noted that there had been a lot of violence in the Central African Republic since the start of the mandate. Children should be treated as children. The absence of schools meant that they were left to their own devices and were easy prey to armed groups. It was important that there were now programmes for such children, but it was still necessary to gather relevant data on children in conflict with the law. The Central African Republic needed advice and counseling in that respect. The sub-regional aspect of the conflict required a sub-regional approach to the problem of recruitment of children, in cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States. The Government intended to provide a budget to address those problems, but it also needed technical capacity building for its human rights commission.
Ms. Bocoum reiterated the need for coherent strategic programming regarding transitional justice and reconciliation, and for complementary measures in other sectors, such as institutional reform, in order to avoid the re-occurrence of conflict. The Government had truly committed itself to that task, but the question was whether it had the relevant capacities. There was also a need for more outreach to the population. As for the inclusion of women and youth in national and local consultations, there had been no follow-up to the national consultations held in Bangui at the local level, Ms. Bocoum reminded. If there was discord between what had been agreed and what the population wanted, there would be mistrust. On addressing impunity, the Independent Expert said that it could be achieved through complementary measures that combatted crime. It was necessary to bolster the police and army forces, and also to deploy and roll out magistrates and judges throughout the country, particularly in far-flung regions. Everyone talked about the importance of combatting impunity. The work of the Special Criminal Court was, thus, crucial. There was a need for alternative justice measures for minors who had not committed serious crimes. Responding to the question about possible Government measures to best implement recommendations, Ms. Bocoum underlined the proper follow-up to recommendations.
The Council has before it the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Cooperation with Georgia (A/HRC/39/44)
Presentation of Report on Cooperation with Georgia
GEORGETTE GAGNON, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was pleased to present the report of the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia, pursuant to resolution 37/40. Pursuant to this resolution, the Deputy High Commissioner had presented an oral update on this subject at the Council’s session in June. The report gave an overview of the technical cooperation provided by the Office of the High Commissioner’s Senior Human Rights Advisor based in Tbilisi and highlighted key areas of assistance provided which included: improving access to justice, preventing torture and ill-treatment, combatting discrimination, combatting domestic violence, promoting gender equality and addressing unsafe conditions of work. Two recent developments were noted after the finalization of the report. In July, Parliament had adopted the law on State inspectors who could investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by law-enforcement agencies. Also in July, the Constitutional Court had declared as unconstitutional several provisions of national legislation granting privileges to the Georgian Orthodox Church. The High Commissioner welcomed both steps and was ready to further assist the authorities. The Government of Georgia had good cooperation with the Special Procedures and the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity was currently visiting the country.
Ms. Gagnon said that resolution 37/40 reiterated the call for the Office of the High Commissioner to be granted access to Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Due to continued lack of access, the report presented was based on information available to the High Commissioner’s Office and referred to some findings of Independent Experts Thomas Hammarberg and Magdalena Grono in their report on human rights in Abkhazia in 2017. The Office encouraged the conduct of a comparable baseline assessment concerning the human rights situation in South Ossetia. Legacy of past conflicts continued to affect people in South Ossetia. The report provided an update on increasing restrictions on freedom of movement and how it affected health, education and property. The importance of impartial and credible information on the human rights situation in South Ossetia was reiterated so the call to access to both regions was repeated.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Georgia, speaking as the concerned country, said the Russian occupation remained the main contributor to the human rights and humanitarian situation. The local population faced many challenges, including artificial barbed wire barriers, the closure of crossing points and the restriction of the freedom of movement, which eroded the security situation. The people in occupied territories were deprived of education, healthcare, agricultural lands, religion and other liberties; illegal detentions and kidnappings worsened the effects. Georgians were subject to ethnic discrimination, they were forced to register as foreign citizens in their homes and change their last names. Ethnically targeted violence was evident in Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. There was a call for the immediate creation of international security mechanisms and human rights monitors to those areas. The European Union monitoring mission, which was the last mission of its sort in the region, was not allowed to enter those occupied territories. The occupying power also denied entry to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Georgia urged the occupying power to allow the Office access to monitor the grave human rights situation in those regions. Georgia spared no efforts and was determined to improve the lives of those living in the occupied territories. Georgia wished to pursue constructive solutions to the occupation and they had a new package of peace initiatives to create additional opportunities across the occupied and non-occupied lines, based on depoliticized approaches and confidence building. Georgia appreciated the support of the international community and hoped Russia would implement its international obligations, including the August ceasefire agreement.
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed the importance of the services provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in terms of technical assistance and capacity building. The African Group welcomed the satisfactory results in improving the human rights situation in a number of countries, and called on the High Commissioner to draw on good practices and to continue with genuine cooperation and dialogue with countries. Any provision of technical assistance had to feed into the principles of objectivity and non-politicization.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reaffirmed that Arab countries faced major challenges and difficulties in various fields, which was why they needed technical assistance to enable them to honour their human rights commitments. The Arab Group affirmed its efforts to provide relevant assistance, and noted that it was necessary to strengthen partnership, knowledge sharing, and the sharing of best practices. The national mandates should be based on national needs.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noted that technical cooperation and capacity building were the most effective, non-politicized, impartial and objective tool at the disposal of the Council to prevent human rights abuses. With the consent of States, technical cooperation could play a pivotal role in the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could be achieved by following a transparent, credible and non-politicized programme for technical cooperation.
Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded that islands in the Pacific were home to many persons with disabilities, who made up about 15 per cent of the population. They faced stigma, discrimination and exclusion, and were among the poorest and most marginalized in their communities. Over the past decade, Pacific Islands Forum leaders had strengthened their commitments to tackle barriers faced by persons with disabilities. Technical cooperation and capacity building were key to achieving an inclusive Blue Pacific Ocean continent where no one was left behind.
Ukraine, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the human rights monitoring mission deployed in Ukraine since March 2014 had been continually denied access to the occupied Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol which were reaffirmed by General Assembly resolution 68/262 as an integral part of Ukraine. The last thematic report of the Office of the High Commissioner had demonstrated Russia’s continuing non-cooperation with the Office and its failure as the occupying power to respect international human rights law.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the technical cooperation provided to Georgia and acknowledged the progress made. It was concerning that there was no progress in granting access to the Office of the High Commissioner to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and that both regions were facing growing restrictions on freedom of movement. The death in custody of Archil Tatunashvili in Tskhinvali in February 2018 and other unresolved cases of alleged unlawful death or killing had to be addressed.
Bhutan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said they spoke on behalf of Afghanistan and Bhutan as beneficiaries of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund. The training programme would continue until November and there was the opportunity to exchange experiences with The Gambia, Niger and Tuvalu who were also the beneficiaries of the Trust Fund. Donors were asked to continue with their support to the Trust Fund for continued training programmes.
Denmark, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that technical cooperation and capacity building could make a real difference in integrating human rights in national policies and frameworks. They could also play an important role in ensuring that the Sustainable Development Goals were implemented in accordance with States’ human rights obligations. The promotion of human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were interrelated and mutually reinforcing.
Niger, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed their gratitude to donor countries, which allowed them to participate in this session of the Council, realized after a week of training. Their countries, although they were least developed countries and small island developing States, could comply with international human rights standards. Education and exchange of best practises were crucial in expanding human rights and they encouraged all countries to contribute to the trust fund for least developed countries and small island developing States.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, believed that by focusing on technical cooperation and capacity building, any diversion towards polarization, confrontation and politicization of the Council could be overcome. In the context of human rights, there could not be a “one size fits all policy” and the group of countries underlined that the Universal Periodic Review was a mechanism that helped in understanding the human rights challenges of any country.
Cuba, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reiterated the need to unconditionally respect the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system. The group of countries demanded full respect for the sovereignty of Venezuela in accordance with the universal principles of non-interference in its internal affairs. For those reasons, they did not support the draft resolution “promotion and protection of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Germany emphasized its full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Germany urged the authorities in de facto control of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to cooperate fully with international human rights institutions, expressed their concern about the growing isolation in those territories, and welcomed Georgia’s readiness to facilitate ties between people as a basis for further conflict resolution efforts.
Togo said that in Central African Republic, abuses of human rights attributable to different armed groups persisted. The Central African Republic was urged to restore the State’s authority and protect civilians. In Somalia, progressive improvement of human rights was welcomed as well as the end of public executions of those sentenced to death. The international community was invited to step up its cooperation with Somalia. In Sudan, the Government’s desire to cooperate with the international community was welcomed.
Egypt stressed that technical cooperation and capacity building, based on the expressed needs of the country, were the best mechanisms for the improvement of cultural, political and socio-economic rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action underscored the need for increasing technical cooperation. International cooperation, peace and development were the most important pillar.
Mongolia commended the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner in technical cooperation and capacity building and informed the Council of a project Mongolia was implementing with the support of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance. The project would establish a national preventive mechanism, develop a national strategy to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and carry out relevant advocacy and training activities.
Japan noted there had been no progress in granting access to the Office of the High Commissioner and international human rights mechanisms to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and this was deeply concerning. The adoption of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2018-2020 in Georgia demonstrated that the Government was committed to democracy and the rule of law. Japan hoped that technical assistance to Georgia would continue.
China emphasized that technical assistance and capacity building were a very important part of supporting human rights internationally. However, China noted that this assistance needed to be done with the consent of the country concerned in order to promote human rights, and called on the Council to attach priority to this. China believed that assistance needed to occur while observing the national sovereignty of the country concerned. The Council must not interfere in domestic affairs using the pretext of capacity building and it must not politicize human rights.
Tunisia restated its commitment to continue its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed appreciation for the efforts deployed by the Office by opening an office in Tunisia. Transitional justice was a priority for Tunisia as well as the reform of its judicial system and penitentiary system, and combatting discrimination against women, extremism and radicalization. Tunisia also restated its attachment to the principle that cooperation should be based on impartiality, partnership, and constructive dialogue.
Cuba said that item 10 together with the Universal Periodic Review represented the hope to deal with human rights in a spirit of dialogue and respect. However, Cuba regretted that the actions of some jeopardized the credibility of this issue. Cuba lamented the use of the general debate to promote highly politicised agendas which had nothing to do with technical assistance in the area of human rights. Technical assistance needed to be done on the express request of the receiving State. Cuba also highlighted the right of any Member State to end cooperation when it felt it was no longer necessary.
Hungary acknowledged the vital importance of technical assistance and capacity building in improving human rights. Hungary regretted that there were countless places where people suffered from intolerance on a daily basis because of their race, colour, gender, age or their sexual orientation. Cooperation under item 10 was a vital tool for the Human Rights Council to fight this phenomenon. Regarding Yemen, Hungary called for the granting of humanitarian access to the country, and called for the ending of impunity and prosecution of all those responsible for violence.
Ukraine said that on the tenth anniversary of the Russian military aggression against Georgia, Ukraine reaffirmed their staunch support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Ukraine stated again that Russia bore full responsibility for the precarious humanitarian situation in the occupied territories and called on the international community to stand united and demand that Russia implement its international commitments.
Australia noted the constructive engagement in Côte d’Ivoire with facilitated access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which contrasted starkly with the unaddressed situations in Cameroon and Nicaragua where they had received reports of grave human rights violations. As witnessed in Venezuela, a collective unwillingness to address a situation early risked escalation to a full-blown crisis. Failure to act should not be an option.
Venezuela said technical assistance and capacity building were designed to improve the human rights situation through dialogue. They should not be used to target developing countries and should seek out effective solutions to help the most disadvantaged areas of the population. Social inclusion policies like education, health and security were necessary to ensure dignified standards. Only with non-interference could progress be made, without which double-standards and selectivity would be promoted.
United Kingdom noted their joint statement delivered two years ago, “A race to the top”, which underlined that the Council needed to respond to deteriorating situations around the world. More needed to be done to realise that vision, said the United Kingdom, noting that an example of a country tapping into support was Georgia. They also welcomed the democratic outcome of Presidential elections in Maldives.
Iceland encouraged the Government of Georgia to prioritize the promotion of gender equality, welcoming work done so far in that regard. Iceland echoed the concern of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the state of human rights in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was not acceptable that no access to the Office had been granted as the few reports coming out of those areas seemed to point to serious human rights issues.
Afghanistan said that technical cooperation and capacity building provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stood among effective approaches to help States improve their human rights situation, and stressed that the Office’s prevention mandate was better implemented through technical cooperation. A beneficiary of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund, Afghanistan highly appreciated the assistance provided.
Estonia, noting that it had been 10 years since Russia’s large-scale military invasion of Georgia, said that the continued violations of principles of international law by Russia gave rise to deep concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied territories of Georgia. Estonia welcomed further information on the investigation into the circumstances of the tragic deaths of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkozoria and David Basharuli.
Lithuania appreciated the work of the Office of the High Commissioner in assisting Georgia to promote human rights on the ground, and recalled that this year marked the tenth anniversary of the Russian military aggression against this country, which had resulted in Georgia’s de facto loss of control over 20 per cent of its territory. Lithuania had imposed travel restrictions on persons in Georgian Parliament-approved “Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list” of sanctioned individuals, which included individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Georgia’s occupied regions.
France called for the extension of the Council’s mechanism established to document human rights violations in Yemen, stressing that a consensus must be found to extend the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts. France also urged the extension of the mandate on the Central African Republic and on Sudan, and called upon Mali and Libya to continue their cooperation with the Council, and on the Myanmar authorities to restore cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.
Indonesia emphasized the essential role of technical cooperation and capacity building in the promotion and protection of human rights, and expressed concern at the growing attempts of States to derail this agenda item from its main objective. Indonesia was also concerned by the increasing trend of treating the Council’s agenda items in a hierarchical manner, and called for technical assistance and capacity building to be provided according to the priorities identified by the State concerned.
India called on the Council and its mechanisms to focus on enabling Member States to develop the necessary national institutions and capacities through rendering appropriate technical assistance upon request, and emphasized that the best way to promote and protect human rights was by strengthening national mechanisms. India underlined that any discussions under agenda item 10 should not be used as a proxy for agenda item 4, and be used to list violations and name and shame countries.
Malaysia emphasized that technical cooperation and capacity building were the right and effective approaches to the promotion and protection of human rights, which held real potential for delivering far-reaching and long-term positive impacts worldwide. Malaysia underlined the importance that the Council’s deliberations under item 10 not be marred by a counterproductive politicization and naming and shaming of countries. Instead, the dialogue must be the order of the day, Malaysia emphasized.
Finland expressed its support for an open and active civil society as a way to promote human rights, sustainable development, peace and security. Finland emphasized the need to support human rights defenders, who were often threatened, intimidated and harassed, and highlighted how in humanitarian situations, civil society and human rights defenders often found their space further restricted by armed actors. The crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders in Cambodia was an issue of concern.
Russia considered it inacceptable that technical assistance was being used to address political issues, stressing that such an approach did not forge dialogue, but only served to further discredit the Council as constructive proposals were not being put forward. In Ukraine, Russia urged for a greater focus on the grave human rights violations and called upon Kiev to solve its problems. Russia stressed, in reference to other statements on Crimea and Sevastopol, that “we are a united and indivisible State”.
Sweden reiterated the need to stand up for a rules-based international order, human rights and Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called on Russia to implement the European Union-mediated ceasefire agreement of August 2008. Russia should further withdraw its troops and allow access to the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia for the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and other international monitoring missions.
Latvia deeply regretted the lack of progress in granting access to the occupied regions of Georgia for the Office of the High Commission and other international and regional monitors. Alarmed by human rights violations in those regions, Latvia reiterated the call for an immediate, unconditional, and unimpeded access for human rights mechanisms, both regional and international, and also reiterated Latvia’s unwavering support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
Sudan believed that technical assistance should be a part of the international cooperation, while international mechanisms must respect the sovereignty of States. Technical cooperation should cover all aspects of human rights, said Sudan, expressing frustration that it remained covered by Council’s item 10 and had still received no assistance in that regard. This issue must be addressed.
Montenegro welcomed the continuous cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Georgia, and Georgia’s strong commitment to improving the human rights protection system. Montenegro welcomed the establishment of the independent institution to investigate alleged violence by law-enforcement agents and the bill on the State inspector, and regretted that access had not been granted to the Office of the High Commissioner to Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea strongly opposed politicization, selectivity, and double standards in the field of human rights, and rejected any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a State. Item 10 had to focus on strengthening the national capacity of countries for the promotion of human rights. The recent attempts against Venezuela in the Council were purported to interfere in its internal affairs and disturb its democratic stability with falsified information.
Romania expressed its appreciation for the cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner and Georgia pursuant to resolution 37/40, and deplored the lack of access for the Office of the High Commissioner to the two regions. The restrictions on the freedom of movement, the right to education, and the right to health were only a few human rights violations that had to be stopped immediately, added Romania, noting that impartial investigations should be conducted to ensure accountability.
Algeria welcomed the quality of services provided under technical assistance and capacity building and remarked that, regardless of their needs, all States faced everyday challenges in the realization of human rights of its citizens. Financial support should be granted to developing countries and the Council had to focus on the right to development and on socio-economic rights. Algeria stressed the importance of upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter, especially the non-interference in the internal affairs of States.
Tuvalu appreciated the continued support and financial contribution of States to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund, which allowed Tuvalu to attend the meetings of the Human Rights Council. Expressing concern over the impact of climate change on the human rights of the Tuvaluans and the existence of Tuvalu as a sovereign State, Tuvalu called upon the international community to assist it in combatting the severe impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Belarus emphasized that technical assistance and capacity building were vital in the promotion and protection of human rights. Belarus underlined that technical cooperation should be granted upon the request of the receiving State, and in line with the effective implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, and emphasized that country-specific mandates politicised technical assistance and international cooperation.
Poland took note with appreciation of the latest report on Georgia, and commended this country for its constructive and ongoing cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the efforts to advance and promote human rights. Poland was concerned about the human rights situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, strongly condemned all human rights violations there, and urged all stakeholders to improve the human rights situation in these occupied regions.
Syria emphasized that technical assistance should be used to help bolster a country’s capacity and its legal systems for the promotion and protection of human rights. Syria emphasized that capacity building should be provided at the request of the concerned State and called on the Human Rights Council to redefine its priorities and guard against technical assistance under its agenda item 10 being used to control States and interfere in their internal affairs.
Norway remained concerned about the human rights situation in Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, especially as the restrictions on the freedom of movement exacerbated the isolation and vulnerability of the local population. Norway called upon the de facto authorities to remove the obstacles to the freedom of movement and fully cooperate in the investigation of alleged crimes and human rights violations, and reiterated the call for unhindered access of human rights and humanitarian actors.
Philippines asked for a moment of silence to mourn the passing of Viet Nam’s President and extended condolences to the Government and the people of Viet Nam.
Republic of Moldova appreciated the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in drafting the third national action plan on human rights 2018-2022, which provided, inter alia, for the establishment by the end of 2018, of a High-level National Human Rights Council. The assistance by the Office was critical in supporting this institutional shift. The Republic of Moldova shared concerns about the human rights violations in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and regretted the repeated denial of access for the Office and other human rights mechanisms.
Niger said the Inter-Ministerial Committee to draft reports to human rights treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review had been set up in 2017, supported by a permanent secretariat under the Ministry of Justice. The Committee had focused efforts to the submission of the State’s reports to the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights on the Child. It was essential for the Inter-Ministerial Committee to benefit from technical assistance and capacity building.
Bulgaria highly valued the key role of technical assistance and capacity building for the integration of human rights and fundamental freedoms in national legislation, instructional frameworks and policies. Bulgaria reiterated its full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but remained concerned about the continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where access for international monitoring mechanisms must be provided.
Bahamas commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supporting the functioning of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund, and reiterated that all human rights were universal and indivisible and must be achieved in a manner that left no one behind. The Bahamas highlighted that technical assistance and capacity building contributed to reducing inequalities and could act as indispensable complements to States’ own efforts.
The Gambia expressed its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and solicited technical assistance and capacity building opportunities to implement the recommendations it had received from the Working Group on enforced disappearances so that they could be achieved, particularly in the training of investigators, the fight against corruption and asset tracing.
Honduras emphasized that technical cooperation and capacity building were some of the Council’s most effective tools to promote and protect human rights on the ground, and reaffirmed that those should be provided in consultation with the receiving States, based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue. Honduras highlighted its work on improving gender equality, stressing that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda could only be achieved through the promotion of gender equality.
Morocco supported efforts made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, and stressed that the agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building was a fundamental pillar in this work, through which technical support and assistance were being provided to many countries around the world. Morocco emphasized that any discussion under this agenda items should be free from any politicization.
Thailand emphasized that international cooperation was indispensable in supporting national efforts to promote and protect human rights, and underlined that it should not be limited to technical assistance and capacity building programmes. Thailand urged the Council to provide greater space for an open and meaningful dialogue among States, United Nations agencies and other stakeholders, especially those on the ground.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that in Sudan, peace was prevailing and armed confrontations, including inter-tribal clashes, had completely stopped. The stability was due to several factors, including the renewal of the ceasefire by the Government, and the launching of the Government’s campaign to collect of arms from civilians, which reduced crimes and enforced the rule of law. That was why the Special Procedure mandate on Sudan should come to an end, and the country should be supported in taking its responsibilities towards its citizens.
Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization said that the technical assistance for the promotion of human rights by civil society organizations in Sudan had not been received. The speaker noted positive steps, including the legislation to facilitate humanitarian access to the affective areas and the establishment of a modern and independent judicial system based on the common law, as well as national policy to empower women especially in rural areas.
Ius Primi Viri International Association drew attention to the violations committed against the Yemeni civilians by the Houthis, in particularly women and children, including by launching missiles on cities. In those attacks, many migrants and refugees had been wounded. Victims were not able to receive justice as human rights mechanisms could not properly record abuses, the speaker said, and stressed the impunity of those armed groups.
International Lesbian and Gay Association reminded that India had recently repealed laws criminalizing same-sex relations, while Cuba had allowed same-sex marriages. In Chile, Indonesia, and California in the United States, similar legal developments had taken place. The non-governmental organization expressed hope that the momentum would be kept.
Al Zubair Charity Foundation noted that during the visit to Sudan, an archbishop had said that the media did not report on the freedom of religion or belief in that country, noting that over 200 churches and ecclesiastical schools had been established there. The non-governmental organization called on the Human Rights Council to no longer apply a Special Procedure mandate on Sudan.
Global Welfare Association reminded that the Human Rights Council was providing technical assistance to Sri Lanka to promote the reconciliation between the Tamils and Sinhalese, and said that in the northern province, where the Tamils dominated, children of lower caste were not permitted to attend school, while the lower caste Tamils were not permitted to enter temples attended by the higher caste Tamils.
International Buddhist Relief Organization underlined that the resolution of the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka had been adopted without a debate. Noting that the United States, which was the sponsor of the resolution, had withdrawn from the Council on the allegations of political bias, the non-governmental organization stressed that the resolution should be withdrawn as well, and underlined that Sri Lankan soldiers had defeated terrorists.
Human Rights Now expressed concern about the effectiveness of technical assistance to address negative human rights impacts, noting that despite the technical assistance provided by Japan, land grabbing continued in Cambodia by the Government, military, and powerful companies. There should be a strategic review of technical assistance and capacity building provided to States, to ensure that they effectively prevented and addressed human rights violations, including land grabbing.
World Evangelical Alliance, in a joint statement with Assyrian Aid Society - Iraq, drew the Council’s attention to the situation of civilians in northern Iraq and the Iraqi border areas with Turkey, including the situation of Christian minorities in those areas. The ongoing hostilities between the Turkish army and the PKK were a source of instability affecting the livelihood of civilians and the enjoyment of human rights, and hindered the return of internally displaced persons, including Assyrian Christians, in Iraq.
Human Rights Watch expressed its dismay at the campaign of misinformation waged by the Saudi-led coalition in an attempt to discredit the work of the Independent Expert. Human Rights Watch drew the Council’s attention to a coalition airstrike which took place last month, killing at least 26 children and wounding more than 20. Human Rights Watch urged Member States not to turn their backs on Yemeni civilians, or abandon them to their fate.
Amnesty International expressed its deep concern for the situation in Yemen, particularly the suffering of the Yemeni people, and the enormous scale of impunity. Amnesty International urged the Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on Yemen, given that the situation in Yemen was worse than it had been last year. Amnesty International also called on the Council to renew the mandate of the Group of Independent Experts and allow it to expand and build on its previous reporting.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues expressed concern about the results of recent riots in Haiti following a decision to increase the price of oil products. It highlighted the need to follow up on technical assistance that had been mandated by the Council. The Council was called upon to urge the Haitian Government to provide an update at the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building on its efforts. The International Federation for Human Rights Leagues called on Haitian authorities to counter corruption at all levels.
Sikh Human Rights Group raised a question of relevance to European countries and asked for the development of technical assistance in that regard. They quoted paragraph 67 of the Durban Declaration and noted that some European States had a rigid interpretation of that statement. They called upon the Office to set up a country working group to help countries like France when it came to security but also in recognizing the cultural rights of the Sikh community.
Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said technical assistance was critical for countries facing grave human rights situations. The establishment of measures to handle peaceful protest situations was needed as there was a rise in their suppression or complete neglect of their occurrence. In India, both oppression and neglect were applicable with the State Government failing to address the issue. All States facing such problems should receive technical assistance in that regard.
Liberation requested that the Council conduct more discussions on the situation in India, which required technical assistance. The mines and dams in Manipur were harming the indigenous people there. Health problems were an issue. The mining exploration committee was corrupt and had no respect for the local environment nor the natural resources. The indigenous people were becoming an endangered race. Liberation demanded technical assistance for India to preserve the rights of its native people.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee congratulated the Council for progress made in technical cooperation. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided technical cooperation at the international level. Technical assistance was the responsibility of all States to realise human rights but India was not taking much initiative in that regard. They also noted that fundamentalist factions that targeted indigenous peoples had increased recently.
Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, in a joint statement, thanked the Human Rights Council for its support to civilian victims. The report on Yemen was disappointing because of its selectivity and gaps. Many crimes committed by militias had been ignored. The fate of victims in southern Yemen could not be found in the report of the Group of Eminent Experts. The organization called on the Council to report on those statistics.
Guinea Medical Mutual Association drew the Council’s attention to the ongoing persecution of human rights activists and dissidents in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on social networks. Those countries used powerful surveillance mechanisms. The organization thus called on the Council to make the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain commit to not persecuting dissenters.
Society for Development and Community Empowerment noted that the only visible development on resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka was the establishment of the Office for Missing Persons. However, the families of the disappeared persons felt that minimal consultations had been carried out with them. Despite fears, many families were coming forward to discover their loved ones in mass graves. They were sceptical of the activities of the Office for Missing Persons.
Iraqi Development Organization reminded the Council that human rights mechanisms tasked with the investigation of human rights violations in Yemen had failed to respect the principle of impartiality, leaving millions of Yemenis without an opportunity to be heard and receive redress. The coalition members had blocked previous resolutions on the creation of international independent mechanisms. The organization called for the extension of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts.
Alsalam Foundation expressed its concern over the poor human rights situation in Bahrain, and called attention to the importance of technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals as a vehicle for improving this situation. Alsalam called on Bahrain to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, halt impunity, and improve transparency and accountability.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc drew the Council’s attention to Bahrain’s systemic refusal to cooperate with the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council or the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly concerning the need for an independent and accountable human rights institution. It called upon Bahrain to work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to address systematic human rights violations.
Prahar emphasized that capacity building and technical assistance should be utilized to engage in healthy discussion on human rights. Prahar also recognized that the Council was becoming more efficient in its implementation of these principles. India required greater technical assistance and capacity building. Prahar expressed concern that India was miserably failing in protecting the culture of its indigenous people.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence recognized the importance of technical assistance as a way of moving forward on human rights. However, the organization regretted that international cooperation had not brought peace to the Yemeni people. It asked the Council to pay greater attention to this man-made catastrophe and put an end to the human rights violations in Yemen. The first step to ending these human rights abuses was halting all military attacks, followed by multilateral international efforts to establish peace among all sides in Yemen.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik emphasized that at least 6,500 civilians had been directly killed by the air strikes of the coalition in Yemen. The extent of human rights violations in Yemen was alarming and it included extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape and recruitment of children. Those responsible had to be brought to justice. The organization expressed hope that an international peace conference could be organized in the near future with the participation of all relevant parties.
VAAGDHARA asked the Human Rights Council to assist the Indian Government to fight against caste-based discrimination. Caste-based discrimination affected more than 260 million people across the globe. The discrimination fell under the mandate of the Committee against Racial Discrimination. Was it possible for a human being to decide about her race or family descent? Why did untouchability still prevail in India?
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation noted that Sri Lanka was moving extremely slowly in achieving peace, stability and reconciliation. Its Office for Missing Persons was ineffective. The Government of Sri Lanka had not been able to redirect its resources to capacity building, and the organization suggested that it pay more attention to that issue.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme noted that technical assistance had to contribute to a quantitative and qualitative change in human rights situations. In Sudan, it remained concerned about the ongoing cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights while harassment of civil society activists, journalists, and peaceful demonstrators continued. Free and transparent elections should be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It expressed concern about the continued extermination of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and it called for the resolution of the crisis in Yemen.
Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture noted the responsibility of the Government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates for serious human rights violations, and said that “we cannot avert our eyes and not see the war crimes.”. There must be no impunity, so the Council should provide technical assistance and capacity-building for human rights defenders in Yemen, in particular those who played an important role in investigating and documenting human rights violations.
Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme drew attention to the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building to mainstream human rights in national policies. It urged the Moroccan Government to support Sahrawi people in their desire for national independence. Morocco was called upon to support refugees and provide technical assistance to all internally displaced people.
African Green Foundation International welcomed that the Council was continuing to monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. However, it drew attention to the fact that the human rights of Tamils were under attack as a result of their own caste system. African Green Foundation expressed concern that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka had not improved, and called on the Council to provide the Sri Lankan Government with technical assistance to study the Tamil caste system.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP) drew attention to the worrying issue in Egypt of politicized executions. Many people sentenced to death had not been given a fair trial, and there were 56 definitive convictions and death sentences that could be enforced at any time. The organization underlined that the international community had stated that the justice system in Egypt was not following due process. It urged the Council to intervene and broker a stay of execution with Egyptian authorities.
International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) drew attention to the millions of people in Yemen who were victims of atrocities, including forced disappearances. It urged the Council to strengthen capacity buildings with regard to implementing the Security Council’s recommendations on Yemen to end the war and the longstanding humanitarian crisis. It called on the Council to investigate the main root causes of this situation and encouraged continuing international dialogue.
Tourner La Page called the attention of the Human Rights Council to the prolonged hearings of detained persons in Sri Lanka. It called on the Council to set up an office in Sri Lanka as part of its technical assistance and capacity building programme to ensure the protection of detainees.
Association Thendral stated that Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission had issued directives to protect the rights of detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but nothing had been done to address the issue of political prisoners detained for lengthy periods under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Tamil Uzhagam reminded that Tamil women and children in Sri Lanka had been denied protection for seeking asylum under Australia’s fast-track assessment and prospects for deportation were likely. The root cause of the Tamil refugee flow from Sri Lanka was not the civil war, but the anti-Tamil racist persecution. Sri Lanka had one of the highest rates of gender-based violence worldwide, so it was natural for Tamil women to seek asylum in Australia.
ABC Tamil Oli recalled that recent reports had exposed the real situation in Sri Lanka’s judicial system regarding the treatment of Tamil returnees. A five-year travel ban had been imposed on Tamils. Sri Lanka had used excessive force against the Tamils during the civil war. The organization called on the Council to establish an office in Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of returnees.
Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France noted that the Tamils of Sri Lanka urgently needed the Council to provide technical assistance to protect their right to life and peace until they had the right to self-determination. The Government of Sri Lanka had committed genocide against Tamils, but paradoxically, the Swiss Government had allowed a former Sri Lankan military official responsible for the genocide of Tamils to be present at the Human Rights Council.
International Solidarity for Africa underlined that Tamil people had great respect for the Buddhist religion. Despite this, the Tamil people had been subjected to a campaign of hatred and heritage genocide in the northeast by the Sinhalese Buddhist authorities. This genocidal project was being sponsored by the State.
Action of Human Movement (AHM) highlighted the loss of faith in the Office of Missing Persons by the families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka, who had repeatedly expressed concerns about the work undertaken by this Office. The organization drew attention to the mothers of the disappeared who had been protesting the Office of Missing Persons for nearly 600 days.
L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie drew attention to the families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka who had been protesting for nearly 600 days, calling for accountability and justice. These families had lost faith in the Office of Missing Persons due to the failed commissions of the past. It noted that the families feared working with the Office of Missing Persons without international intervention or international experts monitoring the process.
Association des Etudians Tamouls de France noted with concern the ongoing human rights situation in the north-east of Sri Lanka. Ten years after the war’s conclusion, the Sri Lankan Government was condemned for largely ignoring the north-east region of the country. The Council must provide technical assistance to end the military presence in the historic Tamil region, and protect the Tamil people from all genocidal projects, as well as support a referendum for the Tamil right to self-determination.
Zero Poor in Africa said it appreciated the technical assistance and capacity building challenges undertaken by the Human Rights Council. However, it regretted that actions had been taken based on incorrect and biased information. Zero Poor in Africa condemned some serious flaws in the Office of the High Commissioner’s investigation on Sri Lanka report, particularly its failure to recognize the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organization. It urged the Council to launch an investigation into the funding of terrorism.
Jeunesse Étudiante Tamoule drew attention to the Office for Missing Persons in Sri Lanka and the fact that families of disappeared persons were not willing to participate in consultations with that office due to Sri Lanka’s history of failed and corruption commissions for enforced disappearances. There were signs that the Government wanted to sidestep the issue of accountability altogether.
International-Lawyers.org called on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians. It reminded of the United Nations Security Council resolutions which demanded the end to the conflict and the end to arming of armed groups. The organization applauded the continued United Nations peace efforts but asked them to avoid sending mixed messages.
Freedom House, in a joint statement Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Front Line, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, noted that Cambodia had not been responsive to the recommendations of United Nations human rights experts. While acknowledging the recent release of political activists, the organization was concerned about the powers to limit the freedom of expression online. Civil society and trade unions found themselves increasingly affected by self-censorship.
Africa Culture International warned that every year some 2.5 million victims, mainly women and children, were recruited for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced work and begging worldwide. It was vital to struggle for justice for those victims, whose fundamental rights were not respected.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia acknowledged the recent presidential elections in Maldives and the announcement of the results. The Government was called to respect the wishes of the people and ensure a peaceful transfer of power. In the last seven years, freedoms of assembly, association and expression had greatly suffered due to repressive legislation. The Government was urged to seek the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner
Right of Reply
Peru, speaking in a right of reply on behalf of 11 countries in the region, which had issued a statement on Venezuela, answered to the ambassador of Cuba. A point of order could have been raised when the Ambassador was speaking, as the statement had nothing to do with agenda item 10, but the countries believed that all human rights had to be discussed. Cuba’s statement was rejected, since the initiative was not designed to undermine the sovereignty of Venezuela nor was it interfering in internal affairs.
Rwanda, speaking in a right of reply, strongly objected to the assertion by Association Dunenyo that at the root of challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo was Rwanda’s alleged 20-year-long occupation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The speaker had to educate himself on the history of the Great Lakes Region before delivering statements which were factually incorrect. Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo shared a common border and historical ties and enjoyed cordial relations and Rwanda supported the Government in addressing common challenges. Such support would not be undermined by conspiracy theorists.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Ambassador of Cuba had spoken on behalf of a dozen countries who rejected the resolution on Venezuela, which was seeking to interfere in internal affairs. That statement was made under the rules of procedures.
For use of the information media; not an official record