GENEVA (25 June 2019) - The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on the update of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During the meeting, two dignitaries took the floor.
Aierken Tuniyazi, Member of the Standing Committee of CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee and Vice Governor of Xinjiang People's Government, China, underscoring that he was an ethnic Uygur, said that by setting up vocational education and training centres in accordance with the law, the Government aimed to educate and save those who had been influenced by religious extremism and committed minor legal offences. After more than two years, these centres, which provided free education, had scored remarkable achievements in Xinjiang: trainees had gradually broken away from the spiritual control of terrorism and extremism, gained access to modern knowledge, and enhanced their employability.
Cecep Herawan, Deputy Minister for Information and Public Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that the potential negative impact of the usage of digital technology to the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights was one of the emerging challenges that should not be overlooked. There were also situations where basic rights continued to be denied, especially in Palestine, the independence of which Indonesia supported. And yet, there were reasons to remain optimistic. Countries had engaged more in dialogue, and governments had implemented systematic policies and strategies to promote respect for human rights, linking them with the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Participating in the general debate were the following States: Angola (on behalf of the African Group); Australia; Bahrain; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China (on behalf of a group of countries and on his own behalf); Croatia; Cuba; Cuba (on behalf of a group of countries); Czech Republic; Egypt; European Union; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Morocco (on behalf of a group of countries); Nepal; Netherlands (on behalf of a group of countries); Nigeria; Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC and on his own behalf); Peru (on behalf of a group of countries); Philippines; Qatar; Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group and on his own behalf); Senegal; Slovenia; South Africa (on behalf of a group of countries and on his own behalf); Spain; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Thailand (on behalf of the ASEAN); Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom; Uruguay (on behalf of a group of countries); and Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement).
The following members of civil society also took the floor: American Association of Jurists (in a joint statement with Habitat International Coalition, Asociación Española para el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples – MRAP, and International Fellowship of Reconciliation); Human Rights Watch ; Franciscans International (in a joint statement with International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development); World Evangelical Alliance; Physicians for Human Rights; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development(in a joint statement with Franciscans International and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues); International Commission of Jurists; International Service for Human Rights; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; Amnesty International; Human Rights Council of Australia, Inc.; Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Économique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Alsalam Foundation; Ingenieurs du Monde; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Minority Rights Group; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; Article 19 - International Centre against Censorship, The; Il Cenacolo; International Council of Russian Compatriots ; Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI; World Jewish Congress; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM); Sikh Human Rights Group;"Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud (C.D.P-C.E.N.S); Federation of Cuban Women; Mexican Commission of Defense and Promotion of the Human Rights; World Organisation Against Torture (in a joint statement with Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance); United Nations Watch; African Development Association; Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture; International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations; iuventum e.V.; Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule; Burkina Association for Survival of Childhood; International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; World Muslim Congress; China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS); International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas; and International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today. Next, it will conclude its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and will then start its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.
Statements by Dignitaries
Aierken Tuniyazi, Member of the Standing Committee of CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee and Vice Governor of Xinjiang People's Government, China, underscoring that he was an ethnic Uygur, recalled that Xinjiang was an inseparable part of China and a multi-ethnic region where various religions coexisted. The Xinjiang people of all ethnic groups were united as closely as the seeds of a pomegranate. Freedom of religious belief was protected by law in Xinjiang, and ethnic minority languages were widely used in judicature, administration, education, press and publication, radio and television, and the Internet. The rights of women, children, older people and persons with disabilities were fully respected and protected by law. Despite progress, Xinjiang was confronted with severe challenges, as it had suffered enormously from ethnic separatism, violent terrorism, and religious extremism. By setting up vocational education and training centres in accordance with the law, the Government aimed to educate and save those who had been influenced by religious extremism and committed minor legal offences. After more than two years, these centres, which provided free education, had scored remarkable achievements in Xinjiang: trainees had gradually broken away from the spiritual control of terrorism and extremism, gained access to modern knowledge, and enhanced their employability. Certain countries, non-governmental organizations and media outlets ignored Xinjiang’s progress with regard to social stability and human rights. When Xinjiang suffered from rampant violent terrorism, they were indifferent. And yet, when its people began living a harmonious and peaceful life, they put on a hypocritical face and made wanton remarks and inflammatory statements, said Mr. Tuniyazi, pledging to promote sustained development of Xinjiang’s human rights undertakings.
Cecep Herawan, Deputy Minister for Information and Public Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that the potential negative impact of the usage of digital technology to the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights was one of the emerging challenges that should not be overlooked. There were also situations where basic rights continued to be denied, especially in Palestine, the independence of which Indonesia supported. And yet, there were reasons to remain optimistic. Countries had engaged more in dialogue, and governments had implemented systematic policies and strategies to promote respect for human rights, linking them with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. To contribute positively to the betterment of human rights, the international community must work together to address the aforementioned challenges, through multilateralism, genuine cooperation and constructive engagement with relevant actors. The Human Rights Council should serve as the main platform to address human rights issues, Mr. Herawan stated, welcoming the Council’s commitment to be more accountable in the digital era. Further, the international community had to “walk the talk”, as human rights should not be merely a slogan. Indonesia was highly committed to advancing and protecting human rights. At home, inclusive engagement with national human rights institutions and civil society on various human rights topics was being strengthened. The Indonesian Government shared experiences with relevant human rights actors, including local governments. In the region, Indonesia continued to play a leading role in advancing human rights and addressing humanitarian issues. It provided humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and, at the global level, it pursued triangular south-south cooperation. He asked those present to support Indonesia’s candidacy to the Council for the 2020-2022 term.
General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Update
Speakers raised myriad topics in response to the High Commissioner’s update. Some noted that ongoing armed conflicts and humanitarian crises had shown little sign of settlement. It was important to focus on all rights while respecting cultural differences. It was regrettable that the High Commissioner’s report did not examine the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Some pointed out that the Office of the High Commissioner was not granted access to Western Sahara and urged it to resume technical visits. Commending the High Commissioner for promoting dialogue, others underscored the importance of multilateralism and stressed the need to avoid politicizing the human rights agenda and eschew double standards. The situation of migrants in Africa required viable solutions that addressed the root causes of the problem. Some speakers, rejecting attempts to impose values upon countries under the pretext of the universality of human rights, called for the centring of the human rights debate on poverty and under-development. It was regrettable that there was still an imbalance in the geographical representation in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; additional efforts to address this situation were necessary. Where early warning signs were being identified, timely action must be carried out in line with the Charter of the United Nations, some said, calling for the realization of the responsibility to protect. The severe crisis in Venezuela could only be solved through free, fair and internationally-supervised presidential elections, but the transition to democracy must be led by Venezuelans themselves. It was important for the Human Rights Council to preserve its credibility by preventing groups with interests from abusing the Council and its mechanisms to advance their self-serving political agenda. India’s policy failures had undermined the rights of the people of Kashmir, and the United Nations had a key role to play in the resolution of this conflict.
Digital technology was transforming all sectors, and generating new and serious concerns, including the invasion of privacy, the spread of misinformation, and the infiltration of critical infrastructure through cyber-attacks. The authorities in Sudan were urged to stop the human rights violations and grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The international mechanisms put in place to counter terrorism should be reinforced, as should be international cooperation aiming to monitor the whereabouts of terrorists. References to the investigation on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in international fora were out of place and detrimental to the investigation, as it was still ongoing. Those who had been condemned to death in Iraq did not find themselves in that situation because they had exercised their human rights, but rather because they were dangerous criminals responsible for the death of several people, and had confessed their crimes. Could the High Commissioner elaborate on its cooperation with other United Nations bodies? How could the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ prevention mandate be better integrated with the work of the Security Council and other United Nations bodies?
While some speakers called for a credible political dialogue to address the root causes of conflict in Cameroon, others assured that no Cameroon national was being detained in the country for having taken part in political or democratic activities. It was important to respect each country’s chosen path of development. The situation in Hong Kong was an internal matter and foreign interference was unwarranted. No solution would be found in Syria if the presence of terrorist groups and their responsibility and link to foreign entities was not acknowledged. The spike in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide should be a source of worry for all, as Jews had unfortunately been “the canary in the coal mine”, namely the first group to be attacked only to be followed by others. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should pursue a more balanced approach by strictly observing the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, non-politicization, non-interference, mutual respect and cooperation.
Some speakers said that it would be relevant to discuss the arbitrary application of unilateral and coercive measures that violated international law. Some urged the High Commissioner to report on the human rights situation in Western Sahara at each session of the Council. The Council should turn its attention to the plight of migrant children and minorities who were detained in preoccupying conditions around the world. It was concerning that Sri Lanka demonstrated a lack of will to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty, according to some. Others stressed that the Government had to establish an inter-religious council aimed at raising awareness and solidarity, building peace and promoting reconciliation among all communities. Attempts to prevent the return of foreign terrorist fighters to source countries only shifted the burden to other countries. For the sake of collective security, it was essential that countries of origin repatriated their nationals.
Urging the Council to take the appropriate measures, non-governmental organizations expressed deep concerns about, inter alia, the use of trials without due process in terrorism-related cases; extrajudicial executions, unlawful deaths and police killings conducted in pursuit of State policy; arbitrary detention of minorities and the related denials of rights to freedoms and privacy; the criminalization of solidarity with migrants; the detention of migrant children; threats, violence, and hostility towards asylum seekers; the treatment of children of members of terrorist organizations such as Islamic State which did not meet the standard of the best interest of the child; the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters; death penalty sentences handed down against children; and actions on the part of States that pretended to address hate speech but in reality targeted dissenting opinions.
For use of the information media; not an official record