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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue on counter-terrorism and on cultural rights

MIDDAY

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights Defenders and on Torture

  The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity.  The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that his last report to the Council looked at some of the thematic issues tackled during the mandate and summarised the activities undertaken, while also making recommendations for structural change to the United Nations counter terrorism architecture.  In light of recent developments in the United States, Mr. Emmerson said he felt compelled to draw attention to the need to secure the accountability of public officials who had engaged in gross human rights violations in the course of State-sanctioned counter-terrorism operations, and stressed that the international community should never turn a blind eye to torture. 

Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presenting her thematic report on fundamentalism, extremism and cultural rights, said rising tides of fundamentalism and extremism represented major threats to human rights, including cultural rights worldwide.  The report mapped how such fundamentalism and extremism undermined the enjoyment of cultural rights, noting that common themes included a focus on “purity” and policing of “honour” and “modesty”, stifling artistic expression, and limiting the enjoyment of women’s human rights.  Fundamentalism and extremism were human rights issues, and the defence of cultural rights required tackling fundamentalism and extremism, she stressed.  The Special Rapporteur also presented a report on her visit to Cyprus.

Cyprus spoke as a concerned country.

In the discussion on counter-terrorism, delegates agreed that the nature of terrorism was constantly evolving and that human rights must be central to counter-terrorism efforts.  There were indeed strong grounds to review the traditional State-centric approach to accountability of terrorist organizations in light of international human rights law, said one speaker.  Another speaker noted that the discussion on the international institutional counter-terrorism infrastructure should not take place in the Human Rights Council, but in other appropriate fora.  The Special Rapporteur was asked which advice he would give his successor on how to retain human rights at the heart of counter-terrorism efforts.

On cultural rights, speakers welcomed the approach by the Special Rapporteur to the serious consequences of extremism and fundamentalism on cultural rights, which was based on the universality of human rights and cooperation with all stakeholders.  They condemned all acts of violence motivated by extremism, and noted the need to establish mechanisms to ensure remedy to victims.  One speaker noted that the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights went beyond her mandate in linking extremism and fundamentalism, and cultural rights. 

Speaking in the discussion were the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sierra Leone, Greece, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Algeria, United Kingdom, Israel, Brazil, Russia, Qatar, Council of Europe, Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela, Netherlands, Belgium, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, China, Egypt, Italy, and Libya.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights defenders and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which started on Thursday, 2 March.  The presentation of reports and summary of the first part of the interactive dialogue can be accessed here.

Speakers stressed that the work of human rights defenders could help strengthen both Government efficiency and trust in public institutions, and expressed concern about violence and discrimination against human rights defenders in many parts of the world.  They welcomed the recommendations on national practices for creating a safe environment for human rights defenders, and stressed that the Special Rapporteur was an indispensable international mechanism for their protection.  Some speakers noted that the definition of the role of human rights defenders, their responsibilities and obligations under national laws seemed to be ambiguous.

On torture, delegates warned of the increased use of coercive interrogation techniques, prolonged solitary confinement and restrictive regimes, often linked with the prevention or eradication of violent extremism.  A speaker stressed that research had confirmed for the first time that torture prevention worked and it showed which measures were the most effective ones to reduce torture and ill-treatment.  Reducing reliance on confession-based evidence in criminal proceedings had also been found to have a positive impact on preventing abuse.  The Special Rapporteur was asked to update the Council on the development of universal guidelines for non-coercive interviewing.

In his concluding remarks, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, warned that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was doomed to fail if human rights defenders were not protected.  In addition to continuing to work with the States which were developing national laws and mechanisms on the protection of human rights defenders, Mr. Forst would also engage with businesses on issues concerning the protection of human rights defenders, including in the framework of the Guiding Principles for Businesses and Human Rights. 

Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in concluding remarks, reiterated that the development of a protocol on non-coercive interviewing was a very important initiative, and that this issue was at the core of the mandate; the question remained how much the mandate could do in starting up the formal process.  Mr. Melzer urged States, civil society and other stakeholders to resist, with all strength and all determination, all tempts to reinstate torture, the practice that, alongside genocide and slavery, was absolutely prohibited.

Taking the floor in the clustered interactive dialogue were Ukraine, Tunisia, Albania, Syria, International Committee of the Red Cross, Canada, Ghana, Indonesia, Latvia, Uruguay and Venezuela. 

Also speaking were the following civil society organizations: the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale, Alsalam Foundation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Foundation Danielle Miterrand France Libertés, Indian Council of South America, Human Rights House Foundation, International Service for Human Rights, World Organisation against Torture, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Peace Bridges International Switzerland, Association for the Prevention of Torture, and Lawyer’s Watch Canada.

The Council will at 3 p.m. start a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. 

The clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and in the field of cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity will resume on Monday, 6 March.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders and on Torture
 
Ukraine condemned the shameful practices of the Russian authorities that illegally detained, sentenced, tortured and ill-treated Ukrainian citizens as hostages of its aggressive policies against Ukraine.   It called on the Special Rapporteur to carefully monitor the situation of human rights defenders in the occupied Crimea.  Tunisia favoured the recommendations on national practices for creating a safe environment for human rights defenders.  It opposed all forms of torture in line with Tunisian Constitution.  Albania urged all States to enable a safe environment for human rights defenders, especially women defenders.  As for torture, it asked the Special Rapporteur for an update on the proposal to develop universal guidelines on investigative interviewing.  Syria noted that the definition of the role of human rights defenders, their responsibilities and obligations under national laws seemed to be ambiguous.  It was important that Special Rapporteurs did not overstep the mandates they were given.  International Committee of the Red Cross warned of the increased use of coercive interrogation techniques, prolonged solitary confinement and restrictive regimes, often linked with the prevention or eradication of violent extremism.   Canada noted that the work of human rights defenders could help strengthen both Government efficiency and trust in public institutions.  Canada asked the Special Rapporteur to further elaborate on the suggestion to designate focal points to monitor the situation of human rights defenders. 

Ghana said that as a country that had benefitted immensely from the work of human rights defenders, Ghana had instituted a Human Rights Defenders’ award scheme to honour individuals who made it their duty to defend and promote fundamental human rights.  Indonesia asked the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to elaborate on his future plans, as well as the methods of work in fulfilling his mandate.  Indonesia asked the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to elaborate on how they could empower the capacity of Member States to support human rights defenders.  Latvia asked about possible synergies between the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and the mandate of the recently-appointed focal point in responding to cases of reprisals and impunity more effectively.  Uruguay asked the Special Rapporteur how he would cooperate with the Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights on intimidation and reprisals.  Given the challenging context facing human rights defenders, Uruguay supported the extension of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.   Venezuela said it held particular esteem for social movements and people working to uphold human rights. However, it was worried that some had worked to destabilise certain governments under the cover of human rights.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions noted that reprisals and threats against human rights defenders had to be condemned and investigated, and perpetrators had to be brought to justice.  The Special Rapporteur was an indispensable international mechanism for their protection.  Conectas Direitos Humanos, in a joint statement, raised the issue of the care and respect for persons in custody and the conditions of detention and excessive policy custody, as well as the levels of mass incarceration.  OCAPROCE International drew attention to Mauritania, which adopted a law in 2015 on the prevention and elimination of torture.  It welcomed Mauritania’s significant efforts to bring its legislation in line with international standards.   Alsalam Foundation spoke about the deterioration of the human rights situation and the ongoing campaign against civil society in Bahrain.  It supported the Special Rapporteur’s proposal to examine the use of force outside places of detention.   East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project underlined the risk faced by human rights defenders working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues, and on women and environmental defenders, in particular in Tanzania.  It also expressed concern over the increased use of torture, including in Ethiopia.  Asian Legal Resource Centre brought attention to the increasingly deteriorating situation of human rights defenders in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Thailand, where they were faced with arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention and false criminal charges.

Foundation Danielle Miterrand France Libertés regretted that Morocco continued to harass Sahrawi defenders operating in Western Sahara, and called for human rights defenders in the territory to be given a fair trial in accordance with international humanitarian law.  Indian Council of South America called upon the Human Rights Council and States to create a working group to address human rights violations against human rights defenders.  Human Rights House Foundation called for the release of a blogger and photojournalist in Azerbaijan.  His treatment was emblematic of tactics used in Azerbaijan to silence human rights defenders.  International Service for Human Rights called on States to strongly support the renewal of the Special Representative’s mandate and asked him to share examples of the positive role that business may have played in helping to protect them.  World Organisation against Torture called for systematic screening to identify human rights defenders who had suffered trauma so that they could seek treatment.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s choice of Turkey as the first country mission because torture in Turkey had long been reported as endemic, but individual cases went widely unreported and were not investigated.  Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos warned that impunity for reprisals against human rights defenders in Mexico and discrediting their work had become widespread.  As for torture, it was still a widely used practice in Mexico.   Peace Bridges International Switzerland drew attention to the alarming cases of murder of human rights defenders in Latin America, notably the murder of indigenous human rights defenders in Mexico.  There was a lack of integrative protection measures for defenders in Mexico.  Association for the Prevention of Torture noted that research had confirmed for the first time that torture prevention worked and it showed which measures were the most effective ones to reduce torture and ill-treatment.  Reducing reliance on confession-based evidence in criminal proceedings had also been found to have a positive impact on preventing abuse.  Lawyer’s Watch Canada asked for an update on States’ adoption of the model law for the protection of defenders developed by an international network of defenders and civil society organizations, referred to in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders and on Torture

MICHEL FORST, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, in his closing remarks, warned that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was doomed to fail if human rights defenders were not protected.  Mr. Forst thanked Honduras for the invitation to visit and urged States to implement the guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders, and also guidelines on business and human rights and how businesses could protect human rights defenders.  With regards to his work on the role of businesses in human rights defenders protection, the Special Rapporteur reaffirmed that he would work with as many stakeholders as possible, including with the Working Group on Businesses and Human Rights, and would engage directly with many companies.  Mr. Forst would continue to work with those States which were developing national laws and mechanisms on the protection of human rights defenders.  Additionally, the Special Rapporteur would address the issue of communications, making use of the newly established database on communications, and strengthening follow-up on communications, including in cooperation with national human rights institutions.   

NILS MELZER, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in his concluding remarks, clarified that the official report and recommendations following the visit to Turkey would be submitted to the thirty-seventh session of the Council.  With regards to the process of developing a protocol on non-coercive interviewing, it was a very important initiative which was at the core of the mandate, but the question remained how much the mandate could do in starting up the formal process.  It was not possible to involve all States in each expert consultation conducted by the mandate, but it was possible to develop a questionnaire on each issue and circulate it to States, said the Special Rapporteur.  There was a serious question of resources at the disposal of the mandate, which currently only had one collaborator, and this was not enough for the volume of work.  After centuries of atrocities, torture had been absolutely prohibited, together with other unacceptable practices such as genocide and slavery.  The Special Rapporteur appealed to States and civil society and other stakeholders to resist, with all their strength and all determination, to all attempts to reinstate torture. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism (A/HRC/34/61).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (A/HRC/34/56).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights – mission to Cyprus (A/HRC/34/56/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights

BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, presenting his final annual report to the Council as Special Rapporteur, said the report looked at some of the thematic issues tackled during the mandate and summarised the activities undertaken, while also making recommendations for structural change to the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture.   In light of recent developments in the United States, he felt compelled to draw attention to the need to secure the accountability of public officials who had engaged in gross human rights violations in the course of State-sanctioned counter-terrorism operations.  The international community should never turn a blind eye to torture.  If it did, the potential to re-introduce those methods lay around like a loaded gun, waiting to be wielded by the next unprincipled and short-sighted leader who had failed to grasp the lessons of the past.  To hear President Trump glibly extolling the virtues of torture as a weapon in the fight against terrorism was enough to make his blood run cold.   If one of the most powerful nations in the world was once again prepared to abandon the world’s collective values on the pretext of defending them, then one was left to wonder whether anything at all had been achieved in the past 15 years.

During the course of his tenure, the nature of international terrorism had changed beyond recognition, Mr. Emmerson continued.  Over the past six years, the number of extremist and terrorist organizations centred in the Middle East and North Africa had proliferated and their modes of operation had developed.  The purely security-based approach to tackling international terrorism had been an abject failure, and non-State armed groups had come to represent the greatest global threat to the twin goals of the United Nations: the protection of international peace and security and the promotion of human rights.  However, the gravity, scale and urgency of the threat was not matched by the piecemeal institutional arrangements of the Organization.  There was no single body responsible for all aspects of counter-terrorism strategy.  At the same time, the absence of a systematic and substantial human rights element in the Security Council’s implementation machinery and the relative weight placed on human rights as against counter-terrorism and security policy were issues that needed to be addressed.  There was simply insufficient emphasis on human rights protection in the United Nations counter-terrorism acquis.  Delivering a coherent and comprehensive response to the security and human rights challenges posed by international terrorism could not be effectively addressed through the present patchwork of institutions.   He called for the reform of the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture and the establishment of a single, co-ordinating body that put the protection of human rights at the very heart of the Organization’s counter-terrorism strategy.

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presented her first country report on her visit to Cyprus and her second thematic report to the Council on fundamentalism, extremism and cultural rights.  Regarding her visit to Cyprus, she said the purpose of the visit was to identify good practices and possible obstacles to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Noting that restrictions had been imposed by the Turkish Cypriot authorities on access to religious sites, she said access to cultural heritage should not be considered a bargaining chip, as it was a cultural right.  The destruction of cultural heritage in Cyprus continued not only in the form of attacks but also misuse and neglect.  All stakeholders in Cyprus needed to work together to ensure that culture built bridges rather than walls.  Across the island, there was a lack of adequate consultation regarding the meaning of cultural heritage sites, their restoration and future use.  Noting that there had been drastic cuts, she said that even in a context of financial difficulties, culture should be recognized as a core sector.  Her recommendations to Cyprus included, among others, to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Her recommendations to the Turkish Cypriot authorities included to develop strategies to protect cultural heritage sites, including from vandalism and neglect.

Turning to her thematic report, she said rising tides of fundamentalism and extremism represented major threats to human rights, including cultural rights worldwide.  Her report mapped how such fundamentalism and extremism undermined the enjoyment of cultural rights, noting that common themes included a focus on “purity” and policing of “honour” and “modesty”, stifling artistic expression, and limiting the enjoyment of women’s human rights.  Fundamentalism had emerged out of all the world’s major religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, and others.  No religion was inherently fundamentalist.  Fundamentalism and extremism were human rights issues, and the defence of cultural rights required tackling fundamentalism and extremism.  Arts, education, science and culture were not luxuries, they were among the best ways to fight fundamentalism and extremism.  The international community faced a multi-directional global avalanche of hate which called for an urgent global riposte.  The culture of human rights and basic decency had to be built and rebuilt, through effective, thoughtful, international law-abiding global action, within a universal human rights framework.  

Statement by Concerned Country

Cyprus, speaking as a concerned country, expressed dismay with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights with regards to the Constitution, saying that this was outside of the mandate, and was also unwise in the current context of highly important political negotiations which might end decades of conflict.  Cyprus reiterated the obligation of the United Nations mandate holders to uphold international human rights law and international humanitarian law under all circumstances, and to use the United Nations terminology, the language of its resolutions, and consider judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.  The report omitted any responsibility of Turkey for the violation of cultural rights and destruction of cultural heritage in the occupied territory since 1974.  The report further grossly neglected to address the issue of Turkish settlers, noting that settlements of occupied territories were prohibited by international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
 
European Union said terrorism and the violent extremism feeding it were among the greatest threats that the international community faced, and asked for criteria which could help clarify the distinction between terrorism and armed conflict.  Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned terrorism in all its manifestations, and reaffirmed support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, calling on all relevant stakeholders to work together to combat violent extremism.  Sierra Leone said that respect for cultural diversity was a value that States had to strive to uphold, and underscored the importance of the role of women in that respect.  Greece highlighted that the report of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights did not focus on the origin of the issues, and regretted references made to the so-called authorities of the occupied part of Cyprus.  France said combatting terrorism was a priority for States, and the international community needed to uphold human rights and attack the root causes of terrorism, asking the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights what means she could use to promote the exercise of freedom of thought.  Bosnia and Herzegovina said respect for human rights was imperative in combatting terrorism, and emphasized that in modern conflicts it could be difficult to draw the line between an act of terrorism and a war crime.

Algeria welcomed the approach by the Special Rapporteur towards the serious consequences of extremism and fundamentalism on cultural rights which was based on the universality of human rights and cooperation with all stakeholders.  Algeria reiterated its unwavering rejection of terrorism in all its forms and denominations.  United Kingdom agreed that the nature of terrorism was constantly evolving and that human rights must be central to counter-terrorism efforts, and asked the Special Rapporteur how human rights could remain at the heart of counter-terrorism efforts.  Israel was confronted with a double challenge, of mitigating the negative effect of terrorism on Israeli civilians, and maintaining the highest standards in its fight against those responsible for terror, and reassured the Council that, as a haven of Western values in the midst of the region where human rights were too often trodden upon, it employed the highest standards in its fight against terrorism. 

Brazil shared the concerns regarding the need to respect the right to privacy and remained deeply concerned about extra-territorial mass surveillance.  There were indeed strong grounds to review the traditional State-centric approach to accountability of terrorist organizations in light of international human rights law.  Russia said that the discussion of the international institutional counter-terrorism infrastructure should not take place in the Human Rights Council, but in other appropriate fora and stressed the central role of States in this regard.  The Special Rapporteur on cultural rights went beyond her mandate in linking extremism and fundamentalism, and cultural rights.  Qatar agreed that a purely security approach to fighting terrorism was not sufficient and at times even counterproductive, and that the adequate approach must look into economic, social and security dimensions and address root causes of terrorism.

Council of Europe said that due to the aggressive efforts of Da’esh to recruit fighters, it was working on elaborating a binding legal instrument to fight such recruitment, namely the Riga Protocol.  A new convention to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property would contribute to the fight against financing of terrorism.   Switzerland emphasized the importance of upholding cultural rights and combatting terrorism.  It was unacceptable to criminalize as terrorism those acts that were not prohibited under international humanitarian law.  Mexico underlined the importance of cultural activities that promoted equality.  There was a need to ensure that any public governance was not based on ethnic, racial and other stereotypes.  Mexico was deeply concerned by discrimination against migrants because it could encourage extremism.  Venezuela noted that in many cases the fight against terrorism had been misused to undermine the sovereignty of States.  As for cultural rights, Venezuela guaranteed restoring and preserving of cultural heritage, including the principle of equality of cultures.  Netherlands stated that it was especially important that counter-terrorist measures complied with human rights standards.  Coordination in the office of the new Under-Secretary-General was necessary.   Belgium fully supported the call for better mainstreaming of human rights in counter-terrorist measures, which placed considerable pressure on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms. 

Cuba said much remained to be done in the area of protecting human rights while countering terrorism, and restated support for the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, noting that Cuba would be submitting a draft resolution on that subject.  Ecuador highlighted the positive obligation of due diligence that all States had, also noting that the fight against terrorism and violent extremism needed to go beyond a security-based approach.  Peru said terrorism and fundamentalism were responsible for many human rights violations during a period of conflict in the country, leading to people abandoning their traditional lands, which was an attack on those groups’ cultural rights.  China said the global counterterrorism landscape was undergoing changes, and the international community should comprehensively implement United Nations Security Council resolutions.  Egypt said that contradictions in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism were worrisome, and invited him to look at the text of the relevant resolutions.  Egypt welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, noting that the spread of extremism required a strong response from the international community.  Italy said cultural rights were a critical component of human rights, and education was crucial to protect cultural heritage.  Culture was an important component of identity and cultural cohesion.  Libya welcomed the focus on the impact of extremism and fundamentalism on cultural rights and condemned all acts of violence motivated by extremism.  There was a need to establish mechanisms to ensure remedy to victims.

Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on Counter-terrorism and on Cultural Rights

BEN EMMERSOM, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, explained how the new United Nations counter-terrorism architecture would work.  Reforms were meant to ensure greater protection and centrality of human rights in all United Nations counter-terrorism mechanisms.  He disagreed with the delegation of the Russian Federation that the Human Rights Council was not the right forum for such discussions.  On the contrary, the Council was the right place for such discussions because human rights should form the main element of States’ counter-terrorist measures.  Victims of terrorism should be at the centre of attention.  As for the question on how to move forward in distinction between terrorism and armed conflict, Mr. Emmerson explained that in the context of an armed conflict, the acts of belligerents which were in conformity with international law should not be labelled as terrorist acts.  In Syria the disproportionate use of force was justified as part of counter-terrorist combat. 

KARIMA BENNOUNE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, explained that mentioning ethnic and linguistic rights in Cyprus was entirely within her mandate.  Her job was to be objective and listen to the cultural rights of all.  She said she tried not to make recommendations on political issues, rather those pertaining to her mandate.  In the spirit of friendship and cooperation, she expressed hope that she would be able to continue her work in Cyprus and she regretted that the Government of Cyprus did not accept some of her recommendations.   Ms. Bennoune commended statements on gender dimension and diversity which were of critical importance for her current report.  One of the recommendations was to lift reservations on eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.  She advocated the promotion of the culture of enlightenment, freedom of religion and expression, and she called on all States to work towards that goal.  The rising tide of fundamentalism and extremism all over the world was one of the greatest threats to cultural rights.   Accordingly, it was important to establish exchange programmes to promote cultural diversity. 

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For use of the information media; not an official record