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Human Rights Council concludes general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention

Human Rights Council 

23 June 2014

Hears Address by Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal
The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the attention of the Council, and heard an address by Luis Campos Ferreira, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal.
Mr. Campos Ferreira said that achieving universal respect of all human rights was Portugal’s first priority and that this was a common and shared goal in the attainment of which all States, civil society and the multilateral human rights system had a key role to play.  Portugal attached the utmost importance to a strong, independent and effective human rights system.  Portugal had been since the beginning a strong supporter of the Human Rights Council, actively participating in its work and hoped to become a member of the Council as of January 2015.  If elected to the Council membership, Portugal would continue to encourage the ratification of human rights treaties and their optional protocols and to promote the creation of national human rights institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles.
In the general debate, speakers raised allegations of human rights violations in countries and regions around the world and reiterated the Council’s responsibility to address all situations of concern.
The following delegations took the floor in the general debate: Myanmar, Malaysia, Ukraine, Armenia, Switzerland, Israel and Iran.
The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Baha’i International Community, International Commission of Jurists, Asian Legal Resources Centre, COC Nederland, World Barua Organization, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, International Movements Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Reporters Without Borders International, United Nations Watch, Action international pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Educational Development, British Humanist Association, Centre for Inquiry, General Arab Women Federation, International Humanist and Ethical Union, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Human Rights Law Centre, Alsalam Foundation, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Freedom House, World Muslim Congress, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Amnesty International, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, International Muslim Women’s Union, Indian Council of South America, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Liberation, Al-khoei Foundation, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, B’nai B’rith, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique, Al Hakim Foundation, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, Espace Afrique International, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Press Emblem Campaign, Union of Arab Jurists, and International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
South Sudan, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Japan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Armenia spoke in right of reply.  
The first part of the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention was held on Friday, 20 June, and a summary can be seen here.
The Human Rights Council during its noon meeting will hear the presentations of the reports of the Advisory Committee, the Social Forum, the Forum on Human Rights and Business and the Working Group on the Rights of Peasants, followed by a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Myanmar said in Rakai state steps had been taken to improve the situation and the police had been providing security cover for the travel of aid workers.  It was important for aid agencies to gain the trust of the population by providing independent and impartial assistance.  As a new democracy, Myanmar needed space and time to strengthen the protection of human rights and it could not accept pressure applied under the pretext of human rights.
Malaysia remained deeply concerned about the new developments in Syria and said that recent bombing and indiscriminate attacks were alarming.  All parties should stop the violence and resume peace negotiations.  More needed to be done to ensure unhindered, safe and speedy delivery of humanitarian aid to the population in need.  Moderation and compromise must be upheld in the peace negotiations.
Ukraine said that the human rights situation in the country remained alarming because of the illegal annexation of the Crimea and the continuing terrorist activities in eastern Ukraine.  The main objective of the President’s peace plan was to stabilize the areas and improve the human rights situation through immediate suspension of the counterterrorist operation, disarmament of illegally armed groups, release of all hostages and amnesty for those who did not commit serious crimes.   
Armenia called the attention of the Human Rights Council to Azerbaijan’s continuing policy of aggression and hostility against Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh.  Since April 2014, Azerbaijani forces had violated the ceasefire on the Line of Contact over 3,000 times.  Azerbaijan continued to reject the proposals of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to withdraw snipers from the line of contact and to elaborate an investigating mechanism for the ceasefire violations.
Switzerland condemned intimidation, harassment and arrest of individuals participating in demonstrations, criticising their governments, or defending human rights.  Switzerland expressed concern about people being arrested in Uzbekistan on fabricated charges; it called on the Bangladeshi authorities to free people arrested during the last elections; and encouraged China to reform the administrative detention system.
Israel recalled that in June 2013 three Jewish youths left their house and never returned, soon after the formation of a unity Palestinian Government with Hamas.  Israel held President Abbas accountable for the safety of the kidnapped teens.  Israel had warned the international community about the danger of the Fatah-Hamas alliance, and continued to strive for peace on the basis of the two State solution so that both peoples could live side by side with security.
Iran said that human rights violations continued to be rampant in the United States and in the United Kingdom, which required more action from the Council.  In Canada, the situation of indigenous peoples and other human rights violations also remained of concern, there were very negative reports on the implementation of the rights of migrants, racial discrimination, and targeting of Muslim communities.  In the Czech Republic the Roma suffered from segregation and discrimination.
Baha’i International Community recalled that in the previous session Iran had claimed that the rights of the Baha’i community were respected.  Days later, bulldozers had destroyed the Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz.  The international community should call on Iran to avoid the desecration of the cemetery and to respect the rights of the Baha’i.
International Commission of Jurists said that judges and prosecutors in Venezuela lacked security of tenure which seriously eroded the independence of the judicial system.  The absence of independent and impartial judicial institutions left victims defenceless, while perpetrators of gross human rights violations enjoyed impunity. 
Asian Legal Resources Centre said in a joint statement that the human rights situation had deteriorated since the coup d’état in Thailand, as evidenced by the curtailing of freedom of expression and opinion, the use of draconian lèse majesté laws and others.  The Human Rights Council should declare the coup illegal and insist that Thailand respect its human rights obligations.
COC Nederland brought the attention of the Human Rights Council to human rights violations against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including in Venezuela, Chile, Namibia and Australia.  The Human Rights Council must adopt a resolution against discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons everywhere and on all grounds.
World Barua Organization said that many violations of human rights in India were being committed by the authorities, including against women, marginalized communities, human rights defenders objecting against development projects and others. 
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that coal mining in the Meghalaya State in India was dangerous and led to environmental degradation.  Several accidents and deaths had taken place there due to the insecure working conditions.  They called on the Council to address this situation before the damage to people and the environment became irremediable. 
International Movements against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism condemned the violence in South Western Sri Lanka which caused the death of three persons and the serious injury of around 80 people.  It was outrageous that the Government had ignored previous appeals and allowed the Bodu Bala Sena to continue committing hate crimes against Muslims and Christians. 
Reporters without Borders International addressed the situation of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea.  In Ethiopia bloggers had been arrested last April and were still held without charges.  In Kazakhstan, journalists had been arrested and online sites criticising the signing of the Eurasia Treaty had been blocked.  When these issues were brought to the Council they were dismissed as politicised attempts to discredit the concerned countries.
United Nations Watch said that if the human rights situation was so horrific in the United States,  United Kingdom and Canada, why was it that so many Iranians along with many others lined up to emigrate to those countries?  The reality today was that Iranian defence lawyers were imprisoned and beaten for defending Iranian  citizens.  When would there be human rights in Iran?
Action international pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs said that in Algeria there were continuing restrictions of freedoms and serious violations of human rights which tried to crush the emancipation movement of Saharawis.  There was a need for an impartial and independent inquiry into these serious violations. 
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation was shocked by the lethargy of the international community when innocent civilians in Syria were living through unspeakable horror and the Security Council had failed to reach consensus to help stop the bloodshed or provide minimum life-saving assistance.  The Council was strongly urged to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry for Eritrea. 
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the Sikhs respected women as daughters, mothers and sisters and also respected women and men equally, as they were equal partners in their lives, society and to make the world a better place to live.  All societies should respect women and make the world a perfect place to live.
International Educational Development was concerned about the Sikh population in Punjab because of the coming to power of a political party which was not likely to respect ethnic and religious minorities.  The international community should closely follow the human rights situation in Punjab to prevent human rights violations that might occur in the future.
British Humanist Association said that religious intolerance and violence affected three quarters of the world population.  In the Central African Republic, the violence continued to escalate with one million persons displaced.  In Myanmar, the relentless Buddhist persecution against Muslims continued in Rakhine state and amounted to crimes against humanity.
Centre for Inquiry recalled that last month Raif Badawi, founder of a Saudi website dedicated to fostering debate on religion and politics had been charged with “insulting Islam” and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.  The Centre called on Saudi Arabia to release Mr. Badawi and to reform its laws to protect freedom of religion and belief and cease the use of corporal punishment.
General Arab Women Federation said that the situation in Syria was getting worse as armed groups denied people their right to subsistence, such as with the destruction of water sources in Aleppo.  Citizens in Aleppo were also deprived of health care because of attacks and shelling targeting clinics and health centres.  The use of water as a tool of genocide should be considered a crime against humanity.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the Tunisian people had hoped that the 14 January revolution would bring them justice and human rights but the Government had failed to fulfil promises.  It was a great shame that there were real failings with regards to investigations into crimes against citizens, who were deprived of their rights and became victims of violence.  The Union hoped to see immediate action.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that the systematic ‘dirty war’ by Pakistan against the Baloch continued unabated and with increasing ferocity.  The autopsies of the bodies found in the mass graves at Tutak showed that the victims were buried alive.  Moreover, the commission formed to investigate this had not even started working.
Human Rights Law Centre said Australian law now required all new maritime arrivals to be transferred to Nauru or Manus in Papua New Guinea, where they were subjected to mandatory and indefinite detention in conditions that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had repeatedly assessed as falling short of international human rights standards.
Alsalam Foundation called attention to the human rights situation in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, specifically highlighting the cases of arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killing of human rights defenders, journalists, and peaceful protesters in those countries.  Both countries were called upon to honour their commitments to prevent arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killing, among others.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that hundreds of citizens were still held in prison in Bahrain for exercising their right to freedom of expression and of association.  In Saudi Arabia, a blogger had been condemned to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for promoting freedom of speech.  In Iran, plain-clothed agents and guards attacked prisoners and subjected them to inhumane treatment.
Freedom House said that the crisis in Ukraine demanded the United Nations to monitor and report on the human rights situation, provide assistance to the Government and facilitate the protection of human rights throughout the country.  It was imperative that the Human Rights Council focus on the human rights implications of the ongoing crisis.
World Muslim Congress said that the pathetic state of human rights in Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir did not show any prospect of improving, mainly because of the continued impunity and the draconian laws in force.  It was important to set up a commission to investigate human rights abuses and release political prisoners.   
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence indicated that Shi’a minorities all over the world had been subjected to repressive and inhumane atrocities.  Just in the last few days, even more Shi’a minority men were sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and more faced dire situations in Pakistan, Bahrain and Malaysia.  Shi’a minorities in these countries were neither protected nor allowed to exercise their religious rights.
Amnesty International said that in South Sudan thousands had died and millions had been displaced in the past months.  The Council had fallen short in its contribution to preventing violations and abuses and to addressing the situation, missing opportunities to establish regular public reporting.  The inauguration of a new President in Egypt did not wipe clean the country’s human rights record, by all accounts torture and ill-treatment were once again rife.
Agence international pour le Developpement updated the Council regarding a recent visit to Tindouf camp in Algeria.  While many challenges remained, they had noted positive achievements made.  Nevertheless, they asked how other organizations had been able to freely circulate in the region and access the camp, while its members had found it so difficult to obtain Algerian visas.
International Muslim Women’s Union said the people of Indian occupied Kashmir had been robbed of all rights by the enactment of draconian laws.  Torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and rape, among others, constituted daily life routine.   The Council had a moral obligation to take note of this human rights situation.
Indian Council of South America called on all States not to use terrorism laws to suppress human rights.  The Government of Chile should not only give political assurances but should stop the use of terrorism laws against the Mapuche.  Bolivia was called upon to continue to address the Tipnis situation and not to ignore it.  
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik was deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and the expansion of chaos to other parts of the region.  There was also concern that comments given by high-ranking Iranian politicians, including Iran’s President, would instigate the Shi’a-Sunni divide and create further tensions in the region. 
Liberation said that the Indian Government was moving to clamp down on freedom of press and association and Green Peace and Amnesty International had already become victims.  There were also fears that the newly elected Government was going to violate the rights of minorities, including Christians and Dalits.
Al-Khoei Foundation said that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was the most brutal and violent terrorist organization in the Middle East, and it had taken over Iraq’s third largest city Mosul.  The situation was of concern not only for the citizens of Mosul, but for Iraq and the Governments in the Middle East and the world.  This murderous terrorist group must be stopped and this could be done by stopping its funding and stifling its propaganda.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droigts de l’homme said that sub-saharan Africa was becoming an incubator of terrorist groups which had no respect for human dignity.  The Council should hold a special session on the situation in South Sudan, and an urgent international conference should be held on the situation in Iraq.  The authorities in Niger should promote dialogue to avoid a new crisis in the country.
B’nai B’rith noted that in April Fatah and Hamas had signed a cooperation agreement leading to the formation of a new Government.  It was vital that the Council responded to the ritual condemnation against Israel, and took a position against Palestinian terrorism.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique, in a joint statement, drew attention to the situation in Tindouf camps in Algeria, including the lawlessness and its impact on women and children, who were largely dependent on humanitarian aid.  The leaders of the Polisario Front misled international public opinion, hiding the lack of freedom and democracy in the camps, and the organization appealed in the Council to save those in the camps.
Al-Hakim Foundation said that tens of thousands of Iraqis had given their lives defending freedom and democracy, recalling the occupation of Mosul by Islamist fighters of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)” and the threat they posed to the region and the world.  They called on the Council to address this challenge to world peace and also called on the international community to support Iraq’s protracted war against terrorism.
Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network said it had to be realised that an important aspect was whether there was an open access to United Nations mechanisms to monitor, especially in chronic human right situations inflicted on Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs for more than six decades now, by the Chinese authorities. 
Espace Afrique International said the recent disappearances of two men from Pakistani occupied Kashmir had once again raised questions over enforced disappearances and serious human rights violations going unchecked in the occupied region.  It was also noted that Pakistan was one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.
Human Rights House Foundation said the authorities of Azerbaijan had to release Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli.  Prosecution against those expressing their opinions had drastically increased.  Azerbaijan was called upon to stop harassing, threatening and punishing human rights defenders, including Leyla Yunis, journalists and bloggers.
Human Rights Watch was gravelly concerned about Uzbekistan’s appalling human rights record, where authorities targeted civil society activists, political opposition figures and independent journalists, and said that the Council should create a dedicated monitoring mechanism on the country.  The situation in Venezuela was the worst seen in the country in years.
Press Emblem Campaign drew attention to the dire situation of journalists in armed confrontations or conflict situations.  In Ukraine, hundreds of incidents against journalists had been recorded since last November and all parties involved in the conflict were responsible for acts of violence against media workers.  In Israel, Palestinian journalists continued to be subjected to harassment and acts of violence by Israeli security forces.
Union of Arab Jurists said that referring Syria to the International Criminal Court did not make any sense as it would only allow terrorist organizations to exist in Iraq and Syria.  The Council should support Syria and its President who worked for peace and security in Syria and the region and should also establish a dedicated mechanism against terrorism.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers, in a joint statement, said that the ongoing epidemic of cholera in Haiti which had killed over 8,500 persons, had been caused by the United Nations reckless disposal of untreated human waste and called on the Council to urge the United Nations to compensate the victims and ensure accountability.

Right of Reply
South Sudan, speaking in a right of reply in response to a joint statement delivered by Belgium during the general debate concerning the alleged deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, said while recognising the negative effects of the ongoing conflict, progress had been made towards peace and reconciliation with the help of the African Union, and consultations were taking place with the support of civil society.  Remaining violations did not entail a deterioration of the situation and the African Union was providing support for the verification of violations.  Concerning accountability, the delegation stressed that those who had committed abuses would be held accountable.  Raising this question in the Council entailed the politicisation of the issue and doubting the African Union’s ability to address the situation and ensure accountability.
Burundi, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement delivered by Belgium, reassured the Council that Burundi would ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, among others, which were guaranteed by the constitution.   Moreover, these rights were exercised on a daily basis and even by those criticising the Government, as all witnesses in Burundi could attest.  The delegation reiterated the transparency enjoyed by its judicial system and  joined the voices which continued to express concern about the politicisation of the Council.

Sri Lanka, speaking in a right of reply in response to a statement by Canada claiming ongoing use of rape and sexual violence by Sri Lankan security forces, said Sri Lanka strongly rejected this claim, which was not substantiated by verifiable data or evidence.  Sri Lanka had an established zero tolerance policy on gender based violence against women and took strong action on reported cases.  The Sri Lankan military continued to provide large scale human rights training to its troops with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements by Spain and Switzerland referring to terrorist violence suffered as of February 2014 by a small radical sector of the coup-oriented opposition in the country, said the competent State institutions with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people had been able to defeat the attempted coup d’état.  Under the façade of alleged peaceful demonstrations, the criminals had created serious offenses against the people and public property.  The international media campaign twisted the truth to try to portray the Government as one that violated human rights. 
Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said that its position on the past events remained unchanged and reminded all that Japan had already expressed deep remorse for the events of World War Two.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea would not be able to cover up its own human rights record by pointing fingers at others.  On a bilateral level, Japan reminded that the issue of property would be addressed in the normalization talks.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea should address all outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction issue.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said it was aware of the actions of Armenia and why it made absurd accusations against Azerbaijan and the Special Procedures.  As the Special Rapporteur on violence against women had stated, the root cause of internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan was the occupation of Nagorny Karabakh; the Republic of Nagorny Karabakh was Azerbaijan’s constitutive part, which Armenia occupied and continued to use for illegal activities such as drug trade.
Egypt, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement delivered by Switzerland, recalled that Egypt took very seriously its responsibility towards human rights because they concerned the Egyptian people, not because of external pressures.  It was unfortunate that Switzerland had raised this issue under item 4.  The Egyptian Constitution guaranteed the protection of the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including public meetings, processions and demonstrations, in accordance with its international obligations.
Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply, refuted the statements made by Switzerland and non-governmental organization (NGOs) speakers, noting that bloggers, journalists and citizens fully enjoyed their human rights, including freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.  The rights of people in detention, such as the right to due process, were also respected and therefore the allegations made by Switzerland and NGOs about Eritrea were unfounded.
Uzbekistan, speaking in a right of reply in response to biased interventions with regards to the human right situation in the country, said these were accusatory in nature and not based on facts.  Uzbekistan had created the necessary institutional and legislative basis to ensure the rights of its civilians.  People were not persecuted on any political basis.  Uzbekistan had taken major steps to ensure the rights of civil society.  It worked closely with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and had adopted a national plan of action on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.
China, speaking in a right of reply in response to accusations made by the European Union, United States, Germany, Czech Republic and Switzerland, said they were groundless and politically motivated.  The facts had shown that the path China had taken had served the fundamental interests of a large sector of its population.  China was a country governed by the rule of law.  Anyone that violated Chinese laws would be dealt with by the judiciary.  The Government attached importance to guaranteeing all the rights of ethnic minorities. 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea , speaking in a right of reply, said that Japan continued to justify past crimes and the human suffering by the war it waged against other countries.  The result of the investigation by the Special Investigation Committee would clearly prove the position of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on the issue of abductions.  Japan should apologise to victims and bring to justice those responsible.
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, strongly rejected the allegations by Azerbaijan and reminded that it was the actions of Azerbaijan that had unleashed the full blown conflict in Nagorny Karabakh in 1994.  The war propaganda against Armenia was being voiced by the highest Azerbaijani authorities in preparation for a new war in Nagorny Karabakh and Armenia called on Azerbaijan to cease its bellicose behaviour.
Japan, speaking in a second right of reply in response to the statement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said Japan had already stated its position concerning events in the past and would not repeat them.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, noted that while the Armenian delegation had claimed to respond to its previous statement, it had actually failed to respond to the question posed by Azerbaijan.  What could Armenia answer about a General Assembly resolution that recognised that Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories, as well as other forms of international condemnation of the illegitimate use of force against Azerbaijan?  Armenia lacked the credibility to give lessons to other delegations.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, said that as already known Japan, during its 40 years of occupation, had committed crimes against humanity, including forced sexual slavery.  However, it had continued to deny its responsibility for past wrongdoing.  It was once again urged to show its determination not to repeat such crimes against humanity.
Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Armenia was not obliged to respond to questions by Azerbaijan.  However, regarding the General Assembly resolution mentioned, it was adopted by 37 Member States.  Azerbaijan tried to distort and keep the situation on the border full of constant tension, and continued to blame Armenia for its own internal failure. 
Statement by the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal
LUIS CAMPOS FERREIRA, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal, said that achieving universal respect of all human rights was Portugal’s first priority and that this was a common and shared goal in the attainment of which all States, civil society and the multilateral human rights system had a key role to play.  Portugal attached the utmost importance to a strong, independent and effective human rights system.  Portugal had been since the beginning a strong supporter of the Human Rights Council, actively participating in its work, and it hoped to become a Member of the Council as of January 2015.  Once a member of the Council, Portugal would promote all realization of human rights and would continue to stand for the abolition of the death penalty.  It would continue to advocate for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and would continue to pursue its commitment to the rights of the child and the rights of women, migrants, persons with disabilities, persons belonging to minorities, and refugees.  If elected to the Council membership, Portugal would continue to encourage the ratification of human rights treaties and their optional protocols and to promote the creation of national human rights institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles.  In closing, Mr. Campos Ferreira said that Portugal would significantly contribute to the work of the Human Rights Council and expressed hope that the present session would decisively contribute to the realization of human rights worldwide.

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