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Human Rights Council
29 September 2016
GENEVA (29 September 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights.
The summary of the start of the general debate on 28 September, including the presentation of the Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in Cambodia and of the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in Yemen, and the statements of Cambodia and Yemen as the concerned countries, can be found here.
In this morning’s discussion, delegations underlined the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building in order to promote and protect human rights, noting that such assistance should be provided in consultation with the concerned States and in line with their specific needs. It was thus of great importance for the international community to maintain a non-political, non-polarized and non-confrontational position towards countries reviewed under item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building. Regrettably, the actions of some countries had jeopardized the credibility of item 10 and made it resemble item 4 in order to promote their own political agendas in the name of technical assistance and capacity building.
Speaking were Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Georgia on behalf of 46 countries, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Singapore on behalf of 20 countries of the Like-Minded Group, Netherlands on behalf of a group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, Sudan on behalf of a group of countries, Paraguay on behalf of a group of countries, Cuba on behalf of a group of countries, Nicaragua on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of more than 40 countries, Germany, Maldives, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, France, Cuba, Netherlands, China, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Qatar, Venezuela, Thailand, Fiji, Pakistan, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Spain, United Nations Children’s Fund, United States, Egypt, Honduras, Kuwait, Sudan, Ireland, New Zealand, Bahrain, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Jordan, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Syria, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Azerbaijan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Libya.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Jssor Youth Organization, Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Association of World Citizens, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Al Zubair Charitable Foundation, Save the Children International, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux droits de l’homme, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Tourner la page, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Amnesty International, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Liberation, World Barua Organization, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Iraqi Development Organization, Prahar, Indian Council of South America, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, International-Lawyers.org, United Nations Watch, International Catholic Child Bureau, World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development, Sudanese Women General Union, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, and Transparency International.
Cambodia, Paraguay, Venezuela and Maldives spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will reconvene today at 2 p.m., to start taking action on decisions and resolutions, before it concludes its regular thirty-third session on Friday, 30 September.
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, was deeply concerned about the crisis in Yemen and the gravity of alleged human rights violations there, and about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cambodia. It also followed the human rights developments in Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Ukraine. The European Union strongly supported the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in providing technical assistance and capacity building to promote human rights as they were essential elements for the integration of fundamental freedoms in national policies and frameworks.
Georgia, speaking on behalf of group of 46 countries, expressed deep concern over the repeated refusals to give the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights access to Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia by those who controlled them. It was of utmost importance to assist international monitors in conducting objective and independent reporting on the situation on the ground.
Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said there was justification for establishing a commission of inquiry on Yemen because the international community had done a good job so far. Ensuring accountability for human rights violations was important and the Gulf Cooperation Council invited the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to cooperate with the Yemeni National Commission and provide it with technical assistance. The Gulf Cooperation Council invited the international community to step up its financial support to Yemen’s legitimate institutions.
Singapore, speaking on behalf of 20 countries of the Like-Minded Group, underlined that technical assistance and capacity building remained essential for the promotion of human rights, in consultation with Member States. Experience had shown that no model could be translated into different country contexts and technical assistance had to be tailored to the needs of States. The group called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give more consideration to dialogue with States in that regard.
Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, said that widespread human rights abuses often served as early warning signs of crimes against humanity and the like. It was the responsibility of States to take steps against atrocity crimes. The Human Rights Council had a key role in supporting technical assistance in the prevention of atrocity crimes, which required sustained efforts to build the resilience of societies.
Sudan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the fact that countries such as Sudan, Mali, and Yemen were having serious problems. Libya was suffering from a situation of conflict. Arab countries were providing requisite assistance, and were convinced of the great need to support cooperation and bolster technical assistance, inviting the international community to find a single solution for Yemen.
Paraguay, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reiterated that group’s commitment to assist, within the framework of international law, to ensuring that Venezuelans fully enjoyed their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The disposition of the Holy See to contribute to facilitating dialogue was welcomed. Concern was expressed at reports of repression of the voices of the opposition and excessive force used against peaceful protesters and journalists.
Cuba, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, called for respect for the sovereignty of Venezuela, in recognition of the right to choose one’s own political system, and expressed support for the Government of Venezuela in ensuring the democratic institutions of the country’s functioning. An appeal was made to all responsible members of the international community to refrain from manifestations of interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, denounced that Venezuela had been a victim of an unprecedented media campaign, which aimed to disregard and hide the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution. Those who promoted that campaign used human rights in a selective and political manner as an excuse to create conditions to destabilize the participative democracy in Venezuela. The Group demanded full respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty.
South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized that States were primarily responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights. The African Group reiterated that the promotion of human rights should be based on cooperation and genuine dialogue with the State concerned. It expressed concern about the continued decrease in the funding of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation, and it encouraged States and other donors to contribute to the Fund.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reminded that every country had its human rights challenges and their varying levels of development determined their capacity to address those challenges. It was thus of great importance for the international community to maintain a non-political, non-polarizing and non-confrontational position towards countries reviewed under the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.
United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of more than 40 countries, said that the Council had the mandate to protect human rights around the world and prevent serious human rights violations from happening. Over the past 10 years there had been many examples of positive engagement of countries with the Council and its mechanisms. However, with the increased workload, it was hard to find time to examine the evidence and develop a mechanism to effectively identify positive practices. Reacting to grave human rights violations around the world was but one part of the Council’s mandate.
Germany was gravely concerned about the ongoing crisis in Yemen, especially by the humanitarian situation of children, and strongly supported the High Commissioner’s call for an independent investigation of alleged violations, which should be examined preferably through an independent international commission, which should work towards an impartial assessment of violations and abuses of international law by all parties, in close cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Maldives continued to recognize the valuable support of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to least developed countries and small island developing States, which facilitated universal representation in the last Council’s session, and so symbolically recognized the inherent value of small States in discussions of global governance. Technical assistance and capacity building played a vital role in ensuring the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by ensuring the participation of all, in a holistic way.
Russian Federation said that technical assistance and institutional capacity building should be the main focus of the activities of the United Nations human rights work. That applied to intergovernmental bodies and also expert bodies. A separate role should be played by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. The situation was intolerable when developing countries’ requests went unanswered for years. Attempts to politicize the area under discussion were worrying.
Saudi Arabia said that comments had been presented on the report of the High Commissioner, and that hopes had been high that these comments would be taken into account regarding the targeting of civilians in Yemen. A better level of cooperation on the part of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was also hoped for with the National Commission of Inquiry. “Putsch-ists” had taken over Yemen, they were called on to respect relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
France said that the human rights situations in Libya and Iraq were of great concern, as was the deterioration of the human rights situation in Yemen; all parties were called on to respect international law. Concern was also expressed over the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia and Mali. The importance of the fight against impunity in Guinea was also noted, as was the situation in Ukraine and Cambodia.
Cuba reminded that the establishment of agenda item 10 had opened a new avenue for the promotion of human rights through technical assistance and capacity building. Regrettably, the actions of some had jeopardized the credibility of this agenda item and made to resemble agenda item 4 for raising political agendas. That had been seen in the case of Venezuela. Many countries were meddling into the internal affairs of Venezuela, and Cuba would continue to oppose such attempts and to support the Constitutional President Nicolas Maduro.
Netherlands commended the significant steps taken by the Central African Republic to restore peace and stability. Nevertheless, the Netherlands remained concerned about the ongoing human rights violations and continued impunity in that country, and it called on the Government to operationalize the Special Criminal Court. It was also concerned about the grave human rights abuses in Yemen and supported the establishment of an international investigative body. It called attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
China stated that the international community should provide constructive assistance to specific needs of the States concerned. It opposed the politicization of human rights and interference into States’ internal affairs in the name of technical assistance and capacity building. The international community should facilitate the sustainable economic development of the countries concerned and respect their chosen path of development.
Switzerland praised the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to collect reliable and objective information about the situation in Yemen and present them in a balanced manner. Switzerland was alarmed over the proliferation of attacks against health units, which could be considered war crimes. The quest for a lasting political solution was vital to end the violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law and Switzerland encouraged all parties to resume political dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations Special Envoy.
United Arab Emirates said that the efforts to reach a political solution in Yemen had not been successful because of hostilities by the deposed Government and the Houthis. The United Arab Emirates expressed support for Yemen’s National Commission of Inquiry and urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to increase its cooperation with the country. The United Arab Emirates would continue to provide humanitarian assistance for Yemen, to the tune of $ 1.1 billion which would be spent across a number of key sectors.
United Kingdom was very concerned about the impact of the armed conflict in Yemen, particularly on children and on civilian property, and fully supported the efforts of the United Nations to bring about a political solution. It urged Bangladesh to increase engagement with human rights mechanisms and ensure the protection for civil society and the media. The rising death toll associated with the war on drugs in the Philippines and the plans to reinstate the death penalty were of concern; the United Kingdom urged respect for the rule of law and cooperation with the international human rights system.
Bolivia rejected the politicization of agenda item 10 of the Human Rights Council, which aimed to strengthen technical cooperation. The moral double standards shown by some countries were rejected. Venezuela had shown the world its ability to solve differences in compliance with the principle of sovereignty. Bolivia warned against economic sabotage of Venezuela and guarded against violence and destabilization of that country.
Ecuador said that there should be support to countries requiring assistance, but for some time agenda item 10 had been undermined by the introduction of issues which belonged under item four. Dialogue underway in Venezuela was encouraged, and Venezuelans should sovereignly and freely arrive at a solution.
Paraguay said that if the international community submitted itself to international legislation in the area of human rights, that did not mean any infringement of sovereignty. Paraguay was not afraid of hearing in the Human Rights Council expressions of what the country’s needs were, because otherwise such cooperation would not be possible. All should ask themselves whether detailed reports from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights were intervention when countries regularly submitted themselves to the Universal Periodic Review.
Qatar noted that it was quite clear that the Houthi coup was the main cause for the deterioration of security, and economic and living conditions in Yemen. The supporters of the coup had refused to sign the roadmap of the United Nations. It was necessary to end the coup and restore the rule of law. The Yemeni National Commission’s report on human rights violations demonstrated its commitment to its mandate, despite challenges. Qatar thus called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the National Commission with all the necessary assistance.
Venezuela stressed that the statement authored by the United States and circulated by Paraguay constituted a brazen interference into the internal affairs of Venezuela, which had been chosen as a new imperial target. The general debate on agenda item 10 politicized the work of the Council. It was unbelievable that the signatories of the interventionist statement had used item 10, especially when that item represented a space to promote technical cooperation and capacity building in the promotion of human rights.
Thailand noted that the international community needed to reaffirm its commitment to strengthening technical cooperation and dialogue at international, regional and bilateral levels. States should share their visions and views on how to make technical cooperation more efficient, based on a consultative approach and with the consent of concerned States.
Fiji said that mutual trust between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the State receiving technical assistance was vital to reaching an effective, sustainable and peaceful outcome. It was crucial to understand the political history of receiving States and carefully listen to them when considering the extension of special mandates.
Pakistan said that technical assistance and capacity building were the most effective, non-politicized, impartial and objective preventative tools at the disposal of the Council to prevent human rights abuses and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms across the world. They must be tailored to countries’ specific circumstances and aim at complementing national mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Brazil said that monitoring initiatives, performed in a fact-finding manner and developed in a cooperative framework, could help States come to terms with their challenges. The international human rights system should be able to act cooperatively and prescriptively; it should be able to deter violations from escalating and to prevent them from occurring. Dialogue and cooperation were necessary to achieve this balance.
Canada said that technical assistance and capacity building remained invaluable tools to promote respect for human rights. Canada welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on Somalia, and supported the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic. All parties to the conflict in Libya were urged to comply with international law, and concern was expressed over the shrinking political and democratic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Australia welcomed Myanmar’s efforts for national reconciliation, and congratulated the Central African Republic on its commitment to demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of armed groups. Concern was expressed at the human rights situation in Yemen, and Australia condemned the violations and abuses of human rights reported in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. The Sudanese Government’s steps toward a more inclusive Sudan were noted.
Turkey expressed support for the traditional Human Rights Council resolutions on the enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity-building. Turning to the situation in Yemen, Turkey noted that the civilian population was still paying a heavy toll due to the conflict. Meaningful cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the National Independent Commission of Inquiry would pave the way for effective fighting against impunity.
Spain recognized that technical cooperation and capacity building were the bedrock of the Council’s work. Spain recognized the progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but remained concerned about the escalation of violence in Kinshasa. It commended the cooperation of the Central African Republic with the Independent Expert and stressed the importance of fighting impunity. Spain was concerned about the serious human rights violations in Yemen and called on all parties to allow unhindered access to fact-finding missions. In Somalia, Spain welcomed political stabilization, but condemned sexual violence and the lack of access to justice in that respect.
United Nations Children’s Fund noted that the magnitude of the crisis in Yemen had reached catastrophic proportions. The human cost of the conflict was staggering as more than 10,000 people had been killed since March 2015, out of which at least 1,188 were children. Another casualty of the war was education. More than 350,000 children were unable to attend school, whereas at least 168 schools had been attacked by parties to the conflict.
United States expressed deep concern about the loss of life, damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of humanitarian assistance in Yemen. It noted that the implementation of the peace accord in Colombia could significantly improve respect for human rights by reducing violence against civilians. It urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to work with the Government of Honduras and civil society to strengthen the justice system, and it looked forward to working with the new Government of Myanmar to address human rights issues.
Egypt called upon the High Commissioner to provide technical assistance to Yemen so that human rights violations could be properly investigated. The report of the High Commissioner on Yemen was not very vocal on technical assistance and capacity building and it was essential that all national legal remedies were exhausted before international measures were taken. The people in Yemen must be trained in investigating human rights violations.
Honduras said that States had the primary responsibility for protecting human rights and it was imperative to have a steadfast political commitment for the protection of human rights. The international community also had a responsibility to protect human rights which it could do only through cooperation and dialogue, which would benefit everyone and would leave no one behind. The international community must treat human rights holistically, fairly and equally, with respect for the specificities of each State.
Kuwait said that the National Commission of Inquiry in Yemen required technical assistance and urged the international community to step up humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should provide technical assistance for the building of legitimate institutions in Yemen. All assistance to Yemen must be based on dialogue with the country and the relevant United Nations resolutions.
Sudan expressed concern at human rights issues being used for political agendas, which resulted in States being humiliated and having their sovereignty violated. The Human Rights Council should stay away from favouritism. Reports of the Independent Experts provided for the supplying of technical assistance. The reports of these Independent Experts relied on unreliable sources, but Sudan continued to cooperate with human rights mechanisms.
Ireland called for the Government of Cambodia to renew the Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed concern about infringements of the right to freedom of expression. The deepening humanitarian situation in Yemen was also of concern. The Government was called on to continue to work with the Office, and the Council was urged to adopt a resolution that reflected the gravity of the human rights situation in Yemen.
New Zealand expressed deep concern about the situation in Yemen, noting that civilian casualties in the conflict were deeply worrying. New Zealand was bitterly disappointed about attacks on hospitals in Yemen. Journalists, humanitarian workers, and human rights defenders needed protection, and particular concern was expressed over allegations of the use of landmines by pro-Houthi forces and the use of cluster munitions by the Coalition. Close attention would continue to be paid to that issue.
Bahrain noted that the provision of technical assistance in the field of human rights required consultation with the concerned countries. Bahrain welcomed the first report of the National Commission of Inquiry in Yemen, adding that no new international body should be created in that country. It sought a peaceful solution for the country, recalling the Gulf Initiative. Bahrain supported initiatives of the Special Envoy and those who supported the coup should stop destabilizing the country.
Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. It was important to give more visibility to item 10 and measures implemented by States. The Council would benefit from sharing best practices. This agenda item should be used to give thought on how to improve technical assistance and capacity building, with the participation of civil society.
Jordan voiced its serious concern over the humanitarian situation in Yemen, adding that it was important to pursue efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. It commended the efforts of the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations. It was thus important to strengthen technical assistance for that body so that it could continue its mandate.
Ukraine was concerned about the problems with humanitarian assistance to the population in Yemen and the involvement of children in the armed conflict in which thousands of civilians had been killed. Ukraine supported the High Commissioner’s proposal to create an independent international commission to objectively and comprehensively investigate human rights violations in Yemen.
Nicaragua said that the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building was aimed at encouraging the capacity of States to promote and protect human rights, for which the agreement of the concerned countries was essential. It was necessary that country-specific resolutions conformed with the guiding principles of the Council and it was inappropriate to use the protection of human rights as a pretext to impinge on the sovereignty of States, motivated by political agendas.
Syria said that technical cooperation and advice were tools to help States build their capacities to comply with their human rights obligations. Those should be provided at the request of State, be purely technical in nature, and not be used to control the States. Syria expressed its support for Venezuela and its Constitution, stressed the need to respect its sovereignty, and called upon all to refrain from interfering in its internal affairs.
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf said that note had been taken of the report of the High Commissioner on Yemen. The idea was to uphold the law and target impunity, which had been done in the framework of respect for international norms. A commission on Yemen was not seen as necessary. The Houthi militia was trying to undermine peace moves. Humanitarian aid was being provided to the people of Yemen.
Azerbaijan commended the work of the Human Rights Council, and attached particular importance to the mechanisms of the Council. Large-scale human rights violations occurred in armed conflicts around the world. Azerbaijan reiterated its support to the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Georgia, within its internationally recognized borders.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea said it opposed politicization and double standards in the field of human rights and opposed interference in the sovereign affairs of States under the cover of human rights. There should be an end to the practice of using human rights to pressure States for sinister purposes. Attempts by the United States to interfere in the affairs of Venezuela under the disguise of human rights were in violation of the United Nations Charter.
Libya stressed the importance of continuing technical assistance and capacity building in the area of human rights. Funding was called for to provide assistance to countries requiring it. The importance of cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the office in Libya was underlined. All displaced persons should be allowed to return to their countries.
Jssor Youth Organization called on the Human Rights Council to speed up the implementation of the resolutions on areas under the control of the popular militias in Iraq and asked that assistance be given to Iraq in order to provide assistance to minorities, and to help the victims of terrorism.
Eastern Sudan Women Development Organization called for the extension of the mandate of all international mechanisms on Sudan, which badly needed technical support. The unilateral coercive measures imposed on Sudan violated the human rights of its people, and the organization called on the international community to lift them.
Arab Commission for Human Rights welcomed the cooperation of the Council with the peaceful revolutionary demands in Yemen. The Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry had to deal with many challenges, particularly in the areas where armed militias were present. It called on the Council to provide technical assistance to promote the work of the Commission.
Human Rights Information and Training Centre drew attention to the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen, including bombings and destruction of civilian areas. Most civilians had perished because of crimes committed by Houthis. There were reports of 60 people who had suffered torture, more than 4,000 who had been imprisoned and many who had disappeared.
Association of World Citizens said that the law on the establishment of the national human rights institution had not yet been adopted by Yemen due to the paralysis of its Parliament. Yemen was in dire need for civil society organizations to report on the widespread human rights violations. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should recommend the establishment of the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles and provide it with technical assistance and capacity building.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that the people of Sudan were subjected to unilateral sanctions on a daily basis, which violated their right to life, health and freedom from famine. The sanctions had affected the supply of medicines and life-saving devices, technological transfers had broken down and the field of agriculture had been affected. Civil society had lost all hope.
Al Zubair Charitable Foundation said that there had been no mention in the report of the Independent Expert on Sudan about the need for international efforts to support Sudan. The current status of the Road Map Agreement, which had been prepared by the African mediator, was reviewed, and it was further noted that human rights violations were limited. The Independent Expert had not mentioned the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights in Sudan.
Save the Children International said that after 18 months of fighting in Yemen, 10 million children were unable to access sufficient food, primary health care, education and other essential services. It was imperative that the international community used its influence to ensure that all parties to the armed conflict acted in compliance with obligations under international laws. A new resolution mandating an investigation was needed to hold those responsible to account.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said that the recommendations of the annual report of the High Commissioner gave a view of the situation in Yemen. There was a humanitarian catastrophe there for civilians. Obstacles faced the Independent National Commission for Inquiry, and a new proposal suggested a new international commission of inquiry, but Saudi Arabia was trying to hinder those efforts. All terrorist Wahabbite ideas should be countered.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies was deeply concerned about the sharp increase in the number of persons killed in Yemen. The ongoing blockade imposed by the Houthis contributed to the deterioration of the situation in the country. The Council had ignored the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an international investigation of human rights abuses in Yemen. The failure to do so would only prolong the suffering of the civilians in Yemen.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers drew attention to the increasing politicization of human rights as a means of meddling in the internal affairs of countries. Ukraine was an example of how the manipulation of human rights hindered their true implementation. How would States provide technical assistance to Ukraine when they only discussed the situation in territories under the control of another country? The same was the case in Venezuela.
International Lesbian and Gay Association commended those States which used recommendations made by the United Nations human rights bodies on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues to help them bring about change. It encouraged Governments to follow the situation in a few places experiencing positive changes due to innovative and often brave action.
Human Rights Watch said that one year ago, the Council had had an opportunity to bring about meaningful scrutiny of the conflict in Yemen, where nearly 9,000 civilians had been killed or injured since March 2015. The Saudi-led coalition was bombing the civilians in Yemen while negotiating the resolution. An international investigation was the only means to bring an impartial scrutiny into the behaviour of the parties to the conflict. This time, no one could say: “We didn’t know.”
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said that for decades, Cambodia had failed to cooperate with technical assistance and capacity building efforts towards an independent judiciary and legal profession and had allowed impunity for the murder of government critics like Kem Ley. This and other examples of non-cooperation illustrated the need for firm and decisive action by the Council to ensure the cooperation of States.
Association des étudiants tamouls de France said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should prioritise the occupied Elam Tamul territory, especially since the international community had failed to protect the Tamil people from genocide by Sri Lanka. The Council should establish a mandate of a Special Rapporteur to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide against the Tamils.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the crisis in Yemen was catastrophic, and urged the Human Rights Council to call on all parties to stop all embargoes, trade restrictions, airstrikes, and other measures hampering the well-being of the Yemeni population. The Council was further urged to bring together all parties to work for unity for the common good.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle expressed concern at human rights abuses in Yemen committed by various powers. Those attacks had affected civilians through the destruction of infrastructure. Children were forced into early marriage and recruited into armed groups. Fundamental freedoms were affected. The United Nations was pursuing a dialogue, and the Council was paying attention to the situation in Yemen, but there was a need to find an effective mechanism for dialogue.
Tourner la page expressed concern that while Sri Lanka made public commitments to cooperate with United Nations bodies, it failed to follow through on those commitments. The resolution presented ignored the call for international investigations into the main crime against the Tamil people. It also ignored the political question which was the root cause of the conflict. An independent international investigation was demanded.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, noted that the perpetuation of the conflict in Yemen was having devastating consequences on the innocent population, including women and children. It urged the Council to fully support the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry established to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against civilians.
Amnesty International reminded that almost 1,500 more civilians had been killed in Yemen in the year since the Council had failed to create an international inquiry into the conflict. Members of the Council had to demonstrate their commitment to securing justice and accountability for the victims of the Yemen conflict.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that trade between countries and development projects were key to improve the living conditions of common people. It was very concerning that that was not the case for Balochistan and its people. The signing of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor in 2015 had not taken into account the interests of the Baloch people.
Liberation requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance and capacity building to countries to address caste-based discrimination which affected some 160 million people. In her report, the Special Rapporteur on minority rights had indicated the countries in which caste-based discrimination occurred, described patterns of discrimination, and provided a set of recommendations, which countries such as India were not able to implement.
World Barua Organization said that the Council should find a way to bring about change on the ground, but not only through decisions and resolutions. Technical assistance was needed to address the problem of scheduled caste discrimination and atrocities in India, including by establishing an Independent Expert on the matter.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that India was restricting the freedom of assembly and association. Peaceful protests of more than 40,000 people in the state of Tripura had been brutally attacked by majority Hindu Bengalese in the presence of State police. Many civilians and human rights defenders who had been assembled for peaceful protests were arrested under the National Security Act.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee expressed grave concern about human rights violations by State armed forces operating under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to which the Indian Government had not responded. The Council was urged to develop guidelines for the Indian Government to protect human rights under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and provide technical assistance to India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Alsalam Foundation expressed concern about Bahrain’s lack of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed shock at Bahrain’s decision to block civil society from engaging with the Council. Bahrain’s cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was vital given the deterioration of the human rights situation, and Bahrain was called on to look to its Universal Periodic Review to pave a path to reform and cooperation.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said oppression had been escalating against civil society in Saudi Arabia, as shown by the execution of Sheikh Nimr. A memo between Saudi Arabia and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had not helped in certain ways. Civil society was not allowed to exercise its role, the human rights situation was deteriorating, and there were severe punishments delivered to human rights defenders and journalists.
Iraqi Development Organization, drew attention to two competing resolutions on the human rights situation in Yemen. The resolution under item 10 by Sudan on behalf of a group of Arab States was deeply flawed. A vote for that resolution would be a vote for an expired, exiled Government lacking popular support. The organizations called on the Council to adopt a resolution that set up an international commission of inquiry on Yemen.
Prahar reminded that many lives had been lost at the hands of State and non-State actors in the north-eastern states of India. The Government of India had decided not to respect the decisions of the international community. The organization thus requested technical assistance for local non-governmental organizations, and for the Government of India in reviewing and repealing the Arms Forces Special Act.
Indian Council of South America stated that the Council needed to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the United States so that it could separate geopolitical interests from its international law obligations. It rejected the so-called attempt by the Department of Interior to address the illegal occupation and violation of the right to self-determination under the discriminative Federal Indian Law policies.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that Saudi Arabia had been able to circumvent the decisions in the United Nations which would have saved Yemen from the throws of war. The Council had missed the opportunity to put together an independent mission of inquiry into the crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Would the international community once again cave in before Saudi Arabia?
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme said that the challenges of Burundi in ensuring accountability were made obvious by the report presented by the group of Independent Experts. Should Burundi be allowed to keep its seat on the Council? Given the situation in the Republic of the Congo, there was a need for an independent inquiry into the human rights situation there. Yemen was going through an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
International-Lawyers.Org spoke about massive human rights violations in Yemen, and three million children left without education because schools had been bombed. Enforced disappearances were being practiced on a large scale. The Council should take effective action to ensure the self-determination of the people of Yemen and to end violations of human rights, including through supporting the National Commission of Inquiry to fulfil its mandate.
United Nations Watch noted that the Council had remained silent despite the fact that the High Commissioner’s report on Yemen had demonstrated that most of the civilian deaths in that country had been the result of Saudi-led bombings. Why were the responsible parties not called for responsibility? Why were there no resolutions and inquiries into the Saudi-led coalition actions?
International Catholic Child Bureau, in a joint statement with International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; and Association Points-Coeur, noted that the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights in Cambodia required equal attention in the framework of advisory services and technical assistance. The role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was to address and assess legal and institutional tools, as well as subsequent practices in the field of child rights.
World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace stated that the human rights situation in Cambodia was still very problematic 25 years after the signing of the Paris Accords. The Khmer people continued to suffer and the organization called on the signatories of the Paris Accords to shoulder their responsibility to safeguard the rights of the Khmer people.
Association Solidarité Internationale pour la Afrique said that the Tamil people were in need of technical assistance and capacity building to assist them in realizing their right to self-determination, which Sri Lanka continued to violate. In 2009, Sri Lanka had undertaken genocidal killings of 146,000 Tamils in short six months, and had failed to consider the legitimate political aspirations of the people.
Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development was alarmed by the human rights situation in Yemen and called upon the Council to protect civilians from the impact of the conflict. Women and children were most affected by human rights and humanitarian violations. The Houthi militias had been carrying out violations for several decades, without ever being held accountable. Journalists were also subjected to human rights violations.
Sudanese Women General Union welcomed the initiative for national dialogue in Sudan in order to ensure peaceful coexistence. The international community should help Sudan and lift the unilateral coercive measures which punished people and not the regime. Technical support provided to the judiciary would support the fight against impunity and all other human rights problems, while the ceasefire would support the return of internally displaced persons.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that in the competition to kill the innocent in Yemen, the coalition forces had earned the first rank; the second rank went to the Houthis popular committees and the army units loyal to former president Saleh; and the third to ISIS and Al-Qaida. Iran had no security concerns or national interests in Yemen, and yet, Iran’s involvement with this war had brought a financial burden to the Iranian people and death and destruction for Yemenis.
Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social expressed concern over the human rights situation of the people of African descent in the United States. It was noted that item 10 could not be used to intervene into countries’ internal affairs and undermine their sovereignty. Peace, security and human rights were the pillars of the United Nations. They were interrelated and reinforced each other. The work of the Council should be led by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.
Transparency International expressed concern over the lack of transparency in Venezuela. Lack of access to food and healthcare had given rise to death. There was a need for international support so that the Venezuelan people could survive the current crisis. Thirty per cent of children in the country had only one meal per day, whereas maternal mortality had increased three fold.
Right of Reply
Cambodia, speaking in a right of reply, said that some of the statements made had not caught up with the positive evolvement of the political situation in Cambodia, since the Prime Minister’s unilateral declaration of the end of political polemic last week. Cambodia did not welcome interference into its internal affairs aiming at aggravating the current situation or destabilizing the Government. Cambodia opposed any hidden agenda which exploited human rights, and served it as a political tool to vilify the reputation of the Government.
Paraguay, speaking in a right of reply, rejected denigrating remarks by Venezuela directed towards its President who was very concerned about all in the society and this had led him to express his worry about the situation of Venezuelan people. It was not acceptable to insult a President for speaking the truth and expressing concern about the suffering of people in neighbouring countries. Paraguay was making this statement for the well-being and happiness of the brotherly people in Venezuela.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that the overwhelming majority of countries had spoken against the politicization of the work of the Council and had demanded that the universal principles of the United Nations Charter be respected. Genuine dialogue and cooperation were fundamental pillars of the Council. The pitiful behaviour by some had taught Venezuela to continue to foster the brotherly bonds with others. Venezuela said yes to sovereignty and independence of nations.
Maldives, speaking in a right of reply, confirmed that it was working with the Commonwealth experts and had requested technical assistance for its national human rights institution to promote and protect human rights in the country. Maldives had requested for many months the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in improving good governance and human rights mechanisms, and to address the political tensions in the country. Strengthening the judiciary and accountability mechanisms was key for the national development, while civil society was a vital partner in ensuring good governance.
For use of the information media; not an official record