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Human Rights Council Condemns and Strongly Rejects Any Manifestation of Religious Hatred, Including Recent Public Acts of Desecration of the Holy Quran

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12 July 2023
Delivered by:

High Commissioner for Human Rights Says Russian Federation’s Senseless War on Ukraine Continues to Generate Severe Violations of Human Rights

Council Holds Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Human Rights in the Central African Republic, and Concludes Enhanced Dialogue on Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building in the Field of Human Rights

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted a resolution in which it condemned and strongly rejected any advocacy and manifestation of religious hatred, including the recent public and premedicated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran.  The Council also held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, started an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine, and concluded an enhanced interactive dialogue on technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights. 

With a vote of 28 in favour, 12 against and 7 abstentions, the Council adopted the resolution entitled “Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.  The resolution underscored the need for holding those responsible to account in a manner consistent with obligations of States arising from international human rights law.  It also called upon States to adopt national laws, policies and law enforcement frameworks that address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and to take immediate steps to ensure accountability.

The Council requested the High Commissioner to present at its fifty-fourth session an oral update on the various drivers, root causes and human rights impacts of religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.  It also decided to organise an interactive panel discussion of experts at its fifty-fifth session to identify drivers and root-causes and human rights impacts of desecration of sacred books, and places of worship as well as religious symbols as a manifestation of religious hatred which could constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. 

The Council started an interactive dialogue with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on Ukraine.  Mr. Türk said the Russian Federation’s senseless war on Ukraine continued to generate severe and far-reaching violations of human rights.  More than 9,000 civilians, including over 500 children, had been killed since the war began on 24 February 2022, with the real figures likely to be much higher. 

The Vice-President of the said Russia had informed that it would speak in the context of the discussion.

Ukraine, speaking as a country concerned, said the situation in Ukraine once again pointed to the drastic human rights ramifications of the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against the people of Ukraine.  For almost 16 months, Russian aggression and terror had been destroying not just buildings, but fundamental human rights, including the most important one – the right to life.

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers said Russia’s brutal, unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression continued to cause immense suffering in Ukraine with far-reaching negative consequences across the world.  They reiterated their resolute condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which constituted a manifest violation of the United Nations Charter.  A number of speakers said they opposed any attempts to manipulate the Human Rights Council into interfering into the internal affairs of other States for political reasons.  The root cause of the current situation in Ukraine stemmed from the policies of the United States and the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whilst ignoring the legitimate security demands of Russia. 

Speaking in the discussion on Ukraine were the European Union, Finland on behalf of a group of countries, Venezuela on behalf of a group of countries, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Lithuania, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Sovereign Order of Malta, Spain, Luxembourg, United States, Belgium, Canada, Malta, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Türkiye, North Macedonia, Venezuela, Austria, Greece, Slovakia, China, Switzerland, Republic of Moldova, Albania, Georgia, Romania, Montenegro and Poland.

The Council held an interactive dialogue with Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.  Mr. Agbetse said the situation of security in the Central African Republic was not calm.  To achieve the objective of restoring State authority throughout the national territory, efforts by technical and financial partners to strengthen the capacity of the army and police should focus on the formation of a disciplined, equipped, deployed army and police with a command capable of planning, conducting, and monitoring operations.  The United Nations Country Team in the Central African Republic needed to focus their efforts on supporting the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the country. 

Central African Republic, speaking as a country concerned, said the Government had made significant progress in promoting and protecting human rights, but there were recurrent and significant challenges: armed groups, despite reduced nuisance capacity due to the efforts of the internal defence forces and bilateral allies, had increased their murderous attacks not only on the armed forces but also on the innocent civilian population.  The Government was making an urgent appeal for international solidarity to support it to ensure that refugees had access to territory, asylum, protection, and multi-sectoral assistance; and to facilitate the re-installation of refugees far from frontier areas to areas that were better able to support them. 

In the discussion, some speakers said the security, humanitarian, and human rights situation in the Central African Republic remained deeply worrying.  Armed groups were responsible for attacks and grave abuses against civilians.  The revival of the peace process was essential to silence the guns.  Some speakers welcomed the tangible efforts made by the Central African authorities to restore peace and stability, in particular the recent political developments, including the announcement of the holding of a constitutional referendum at the end of July. 

Speaking in the discussion on the Central African Republic were Norway on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, European Union, Portugal, Egypt, Luxembourg, France, United States, United Kingdom, Gabon, Venezuela, Cameroon, China, Senegal, Sudan, Mali, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Russian Federation.

Also speaking were Human Rights Research League, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme.

The Council also concluded its enhanced interactive dialogue on technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights.

Christian Salazar Volkmann, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in concluding remarks, said it was important to strengthen the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the ground, as there was a need to work directly with the counterpart to be effective and build trust.  On funding, and how to ensure more access to funding, the United Nations cooperation frameworks were again the key entry points. 

Yvette Stevens, Universal Rights Group Africa, in concluding remarks, said there was a clear commitment from all participants on the need to support and participate in capacity building and technical cooperation.  These manifestations had to come out in terms of increased funding for the Office to be able to fulfil its function.  She encouraged the Office to come up with an indicative budget of what they would need - this would help, as countries would contribute towards that target. 

In the discussion, some speakers said technical cooperation and capacity building played a critical role in supporting States to meet their international human rights obligations.  The current underfunding of technical cooperation and capacity building needed to be reversed by mobilising adequate resources to enhance the whole human rights pillar of the United Nations system, and also through complying with international official development assistance commitments.

Speaking in the discussion on technical cooperation were Switzerland, Australia, Syria, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Togo.

Also speaking were Maloca Internationale, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organisation, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Legal Analysis and Research Public Union, and Rajasthan Samgrah Kalyan Sansthan.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-third regular session can be found here.

The Council will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine.  It will also hear the presentation of the oral update of the High Commissioner on Georgia.  The Council will then start to take action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Action on a Draft Resolution on Countering Religious Hatred Constituting Incitement to Discrimination, Hostility or Violence

The urgent debate on the alarming rise in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred as manifested by recurrent desecration of the Holy Quran in some European and other countries started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here

Resolution

In a resolution (A/HRC/53/L.23) on Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, adopted by a vote of 28 in favour, 12 against and 7 abstentions (as orally revised), the Council condemns and strongly rejects any advocacy and manifestation of religious hatred, including the recent public and premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran, and underscores the need for holding those responsible to account in a manner consistent with obligations of States arising from international human rights law; and calls upon States to adopt national laws, policies and law enforcement frameworks that address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and to take immediate steps to ensure accountability.

The Council urges the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, and treaty bodies within their respective mandates, to speak out against advocacy of religious hatred and to formulate recommendations on addressing this phenomenon; requests the High Commissioner to present at its fifty-fourth session an oral update on the various drivers, root causes and human rights impacts of religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, highlighting gaps in existing national, legal, policy and law enforcement frameworks, to be followed by an interactive dialogue; decides to organise an interactive panel discussion of experts at its fifty-fifth session to identify drivers and root-causes and human rights impacts of desecration of sacred books, and places of worship as well as religious symbols as a manifestation of religious hatred which could constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. 

 

The results of the Vote were as follows:

In favour (28): Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Against (12): Belgium, Costa Rica, Czechia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Romania, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (7): Benin, Chile, Georgia, Honduras, Mexico, Nepal and Paraguay.

 

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building in the Field of Human Rights

The enhanced interactive dialogue on technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights started on 11 July and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

In the discussion, some speakers welcomed the emphasis of the report entitled “A way forward to improve technical cooperation and capacity building in the field of human rights” on the importance of a holistic approach to technical cooperation, as well as the mutual reinforcement of sustainable development and human rights in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  While approaching the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the future of society was being undermined by multiple crises that revealed how far the international community needed to go to fulfil the aspirations enshrined in the Declaration.  To advance in that direction, technical cooperation and capacity building were key and needed to be enhanced.  The United Nations, especially the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also played a critical role.  It was clearer than ever that human rights formed the cornerstone of development, peace and security. 

A number of speakers said technical cooperation and capacity building played a critical role in supporting States to meet their international human rights obligations.  There was no doubt about the importance of technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in contributing to the resilience of countries.  Many least developed countries and small island developing States required assistance to participate in the Council’s work.  United Nations technical support was also vital to non-governmental organizations, strengthening their capacities, expanding their reach, and enabling them to make a meaningful impact in their areas of work.

One speaker recognised that the key challenge lay in underfunding.  While the Human Rights Council had a role to play in this regard, it was also the collective responsibility of all entities of the United Nations system.  The current underfunding of technical cooperation and capacity building needed to be reversed by mobilising adequate resources to enhance the whole human rights pillar of the United Nations system, and also through complying with international official development assistance commitments.

Some speakers said to make the best use of limited resources, it was essential that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continued collaboration with the wider United Nations system.  The Office was encouraged to focus on its preventive mandate as identified in its management plan, including through the implementation of the measures contained in Human Rights Council resolution 45/31.  Such initiatives should promote coherence among the different domains of global and national public policies, by aligning them and putting human rights obligations at the centre.  Coherence should also be pursued within the United Nations system by improving coordination of the United Nations bodies, to strengthen synergies and avoid duplication.  The engagement of rights holders and human rights defenders needed to be prioritised by promoting their empowerment, protecting civic space, and ensuring inclusive and participatory processes in all stages of technical cooperation programmes.

Concluding Remarks

CHRISTIAN SALAZAR VOLKMANN, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, thanked the Council for its widespread support for technical cooperation and the contributions made to the different countries.  On complementarity and cooperation between stakeholders, it was clear that the overall entry points on cooperation within the United Nations system were the country-common assessment and the United Nations sustainable development frameworks which guided the technical cooperation with the host Government and technical partners: this was a key matter to mobilise resources within the United Nations system and ensure cooperation.  It was important to strengthen the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the ground, as there was a need to work directly with the counterpart to be effective and build trust. 

On funding, and how to ensure more access to funding, the United Nations cooperation frameworks were again the key entry points.  The Office would like to engage more in joint programming with other organizations on the ground.  There was a need for more resources - some programmes were in a financial crisis at this moment and needed to be stabilised.  The Office needed more, but had to do better with what it had, having realistic outcomes and good project developments.  There were a number of resolutions where the Council could just attach more requests for technical cooperation programmes which could translate into more funding for technical cooperation on the ground. 

YVETTE STEVENS, Universal Rights Group Africa, said there had been a very lively debate, and one thing was clear: there was a clear commitment from all participants on the need to support and participate in capacity building and technical cooperation.  These manifestations had to come out in terms of increased funding for the Office to be able to fulfil its function.  She encouraged the Office to come up with an indicative budget of what they would need - this would help, as countries would contribute towards that target. 

The capacity of the Office to have technical advisors in each country would not be increased substantially given the global economic situation, so the Office should maintain a roster of experts who could be deployed short-term to countries.  The pledge for the Sustainable Development Goals was that no one was to be left behind - this showed the human rights dimension of the Goals.  It was the goal of all to ensure that no one was left behind, and technical cooperation and capacity building were important in this regard: they were investments in prevention - without prevention, costs rose.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Presentation

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said the security situation in the Central African Republic was not calm.  Since April, the Coalition of Patriots for Change armed groups had stepped up attacks on Central African Armed Forces positions, particularly in the prefectures of Haute-Kotto, Ouaka and Mbomou, resulting in soldiers being wounded and deaths.  Insecurity increased the population's dependence on humanitarian aid, and represented an obstacle to the investigations of the criminal sessions of the Courts of Appeal, the Special Criminal Court and the effective deployment of operations throughout the national territory. 

Mr. Agbetse called on the Central African authorities to show a resolute commitment to the implementation of the Rwanda road map and the peace agreement, particularly with regard to the disbandment of armed groups and their disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.  In June, a report was published which alleged nationwide massacres, torture and rape by Russian bilateral forces.  In the same month, a preliminary investigation within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic revealed that 11 members of the Tanzanian contingent allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of four victims.  It was important to ensure that the continuous training, command and control of deployed troops was not further discredited by this scourge on the work of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic.  It was imperative that every effort be made to ensure access to justice for victims and that Tanzania initiate, in good faith, the necessary investigations to ensure that the perpetrators were duly prosecuted. 

Mr. Agbetse said that in April, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic documented seven cases of conflict-related sexual violence affecting five girls and three women.  Many girls were forced to drop out of school due to threats from armed groups, their parents preferring to flee with them into the bush or to remote villages.  As for early marriages, many girls still in school had been forced to marry members of armed groups and traders.  Between May and June, the departure of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and Russian bilateral forces from Sikikédé left the population at the mercy of fighters of the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic and the Party for the Central African National Rally who attacked the city causing the death of four civilians, including an 8-year-old girl.  At least ten women were raped. 

Between 25 April and 30 June, 13,824 Sudanese refugees were registered; the international community needed to support humanitarian operations with funding from the initial $465 million Humanitarian Response Plan approved in February 2023 and the May 2023 Supplementary Response Plan, to tailor the response to the impacts of the Sudanese conflict.  On 31 May, the Head of State announced the holding of a constitutional referendum and convened by decree the electorate for 30 July, a political decision which could have repercussions on human rights and the humanitarian situation.  The process of local elections, which were currently suspended, remained a crucial instrument for the restoration of State authority, including to address disparities in terms of State presence in the territories.  They needed be reprogrammed as soon as possible.

Mr. Agbetse said that in order to achieve the objective of restoring State authority throughout the national territory, efforts by technical and financial partners to strengthen the capacity of the army and police should focus on the formation of a disciplined, equipped, deployed army and police with a command capable of planning, conducting, and monitoring operations; technical and logistical support from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic peacekeepers to the army trained and deployed for regular joint patrols and air support; and the reconstruction of infrastructure. 

The United Nations Country Team in the Central African Republic needed to focus efforts on supporting the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the country.  For the Central African Republic to comply with its international obligations under the international human rights instruments that it had ratified, the efforts of technical and financial partners should support the country to strengthen the operational capacities of the National Committee for the drafting of State reports and follow-up of recommendations of monitoring mechanisms, so that it accompanied the State for the next reviews by the Universal Periodic Review at its forty-fifth session in January 2024.  It was also important to support the National Commission on Human Rights and other national institutions,

Statement by Country Concerned

Central African Republic said the Government had made significant progress in promoting and protecting human rights, but there were recurrent and significant challenges: armed groups, despite reduced nuisance capacity due to the efforts of the internal defence forces and bilateral allies, had increased their murderous attacks not only on the armed forces but also on the innocent civilian population.  However, the armed forces were incapacitating these enemies of peace, and the Government was carrying out investigations in order to determine who was guilty of perpetrating these acts and bring them to justice.  The atmosphere of violence had continued to affect areas, including Darfur, and there had been a continual stream of refugees – the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic had established a temporary basis that did offer them a certain amount of protection.  However, given its remote location, it was limited in what it could offer.  The zone was difficult to access due to poor roads and security conditions. 

Because of the situation, and in coordination with national and local authorities, partners were re-locating these people, identifying the urgent needs for food, water and shelter, guaranteeing minimum survival conditions.  Logistical challenges remained significant.  To ensure these weakened people gained necessary assistance in time, the only means was by air, which entailed high costs.  This all resulted in increased humanitarian needs, meaning that humanitarian services needed to review their frameworks.  The Government was making an urgent appeal for international solidarity to support it to ensure that refugees had access to territory, asylum, protection, and multi-sectoral assistance; and to facilitate the re-installation of refugees far from frontier areas to areas where it was better able to support them.  The mobilisation of States was necessary to obtain these objectives: the Central African Republic more than ever needed the solidarity of the international community to meet this combination of crises that could lead to human rights violations.

Discussion

In the discussion, some speakers said the security, humanitarian, and human rights situation in the Central African Republic remained deeply worrying.  Armed groups were responsible for attacks and grave abuses against civilians.  It was even more alarming that the majority of human rights violations were reportedly committed by State agents.  Speakers were particularly worried about the grave violations and abuses committed against children.  Half of the population in the Central African Republic required lifesaving assistance, and the escalation in neighbouring Sudan was worsening the situation.  Rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access needed to be guaranteed in line with humanitarian principles.  The Government of the Central African Republic should investigate all incidents and hold perpetrators accountable.

Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by armed groups, the Central African defence and security forces and the Wagner Group remained numerous.  Some speakers said they were particularly concerned by the ongoing presence of the Wagner Group and called on the Government to ensure that all State-aligned security actors complied with international humanitarian and human rights law and that all perpetrators of violations were held to account.  The withdrawal of the Wagner Group was an indispensable condition for any prospect of lasting peace.  Wherever the Wagner Group acted, it was accompanied by abuses, predation and plundering of resources: in a word, all attacks on the dignity of the human person and on the sovereignty of States.  The persistence of sexual violence and violence against children, including forced recruitment, was highly concerning.

A number of speakers said the revival of the peace process was essential to silence the guns.  The African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the countries of the region needed to remain key actors in this area.  Transparent democratic processes were crucial to the Central African Republic’s future stability and had to be ensured.  Local elections, which had been postponed in favour of the constitutional referendum, would have been an opportunity to bring democracy closer to communities and citizens.  Authorities were encouraged to ensure that upcoming elections, including the constitutional referendum, were held in a free and inclusive manner.  Speakers commended the continued work of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic, and of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, which was essential for the recognition of victims and the prospect of lasting peace.

Some speakers welcomed the tangible efforts made by the Central African authorities to restore peace and stability, in particular the recent political developments, including the announcement of the holding of a constitutional referendum at the end of July.  The Central African Republic needed to seize the opportunity offered by this important political event, which marked a commitment towards a definitive return to peace.  The signing of the Khartoum agreement in February 2019 was welcomed.  The Central African Republic had also made progress in establishing the National Human Rights Commission, in accordance with the Paris Principles.  Speakers encouraged the Central African authorities to continue their efforts to promote social cohesion and recommended that the international community continue to provide assistance.

Among questions addressed to the Independent Expert were: what were the most urgent measures to be undertaken to ensure adequate protection of children in the Central African Republic?  What consequences would the impact of the crisis in Sudan have on the situation in the Central African Republic?  Were the conditions in place for the constitutional referendum to be held in an inclusive, free and transparent manner?  Given that the situation in the Central African Republic continued to deteriorate, how could the international community help ensure the long-term viability of the Peace Agreement?

Concluding Remarks

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said there were concerns which had been raised, particularly by the European Union, about the crisis in the Central African Republic.  The influx of refugees had exacerbated the crisis, as did the repatriation of Central African Republic citizens.  The budget was not enough to cover the needs: it was important for the international community and the countries that funded humanitarian operations to free up additional resources.  There was also the issue of asylum applications, and how those were dealt with, and the issue of food security, which was due to the disruption of trade flows.  Primary necessities and staples came from neighbouring countries, but these flows had been broken.  Prices had increased.  Trade was being disrupted and something needed to be done about this as soon as possible. 

On the constitutional referendum, the Independent Expert thought if certain steps were not taken, and the discourse of threat and hate continued, there could be a risk of human rights violations.  The campaign period started next week: constitutional governance needed to be strengthened, and attempts should be made at reconciliation in order to ensure peace.  There could be some dissidents who were against the referendum, but they had to be allowed to express themselves without being threatened with reprisals against them and their families.  It was difficult to examine these reforms, and they required further discussion.  The peace agreement had to go through the African Union and the Security Council.  Those who had signed it were still creating terror, and the Security Council had to take steps to ensure that those people would be held responsible for their actions.  The political will to end the conflict had to be strengthened and boosted.

Interactive Dialogue on the Oral Presentation of the High Commissioner on the Findings of the Periodic Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine and the Interim Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in the Temporarily Occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine

Reports

The Council has before it the periodic report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Detention of civilians in the context of the armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine: 24 February 2022 – 23 May 2023 (A/HRC/53/CRP.3).

It also has before it the report of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, on the Situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine (A/HRC/53/64).

Presentation

VOLKER TÜRK, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Russian Federation’s senseless war on Ukraine continued to generate severe and far-reaching violations of human rights.  More than 9,000 civilians, including over 500 children, had been killed since the war began on 24 February 2022, with the real figures likely to be much higher.  The report A/HRC/53/CRP.3 examined the situation of civilians detained in the context of the war, and had documented the arbitrary detention of more than 900 individual civilians, including eight children, between 24 February 2022 and 23 May 2023.  The Russian Federation gave no access to places of detention; however, the Office was able to interview 178 detainees after their release.  In total, 864 of the cases documented were perpetrated by the Russian Federation.  The summary execution of 77 civilians while they were arbitrarily detained by the Russian Federation was also documented. 

Over 90 per cent of detainees held by the Russian Federation who were interviewed said they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment by Russian security personnel.  Mr. Türk said his Office was given extensive and unimpeded access to places of detention under the control of the Ukrainian authorities and had documented 75 cases of arbitrary detention.  Ukrainian personnel in unofficial places of detention had sometimes engaged in torture or ill-treatment, including sexual violence, mostly involving threats.  It was particularly concerning that the so-called “law on collaboration activities” adopted in March 2022 criminalised a wide range of conduct and had led to cases of arbitrary detention.

The Secretary-General’s report A/HRC/53/64 outlined human rights violations in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as Russian-occupied areas of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.  From 1 July to 31 December 2022, the Office had documented 60 arbitrary arrests in these areas by Russian security personnel, as well as enforced disappearances and torture.  Russian officials had announced that 2,500 men from Crimea were conscripted during the reporting period.  Also during the reporting period, the Office collected information about 23 residents who were arrested by Russian security forces and transferred across the Administrative Boundary Line to Crimea, reportedly handcuffed and blindfolded.  The Office had verified 16 cases where courts convicted Ukrainian citizens following proceedings that disregarded fair trial guarantees. 

Mr. Türk was not aware of any ongoing investigations by the Russian Federation in relation to the acts perpetrated by its forces in Ukraine against civilians.  It was concerning that the Russian Federation recently adopted a federal law that would potentially exempt the perpetrators of international criminal offences committed in occupied regions of Ukraine from criminal liability.  In Ukraine, while numerous proceedings had been initiated, Mr. Türk was not aware of any completed criminal investigations of Ukrainian personnel against Russian prisoners.  It was welcomed that Ukraine had created a mechanism to compensate victims of conflict-related arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance.  The issues outlined in the reports were harmful to the human rights of Ukrainians and needed be addressed with urgency.  There was only one solution: that all those with influence on the situation work to ensure a just peace, in line with the United Nations Charter and international law.

Statement by Country Concerned

The Vice-President of the Council said the Russian Federation had informed that it would take the floor in the context of the discussion.

Ukraine said the situation in Ukraine once again pointed to the drastic human rights ramifications of the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against the people of Ukraine.  For almost 16 months, Russian aggression and terror had been destroying not just buildings, but fundamental human rights, including the most important one – the right to life.  As of today, Russia had killed at least 494 children and injured more than 1,000 girls and boys, as well as abductions.  Russia’s recent destruction of the Kakhovka Dam affected Ukraine’s economy, agriculture, cultural heritage, and the lives and livelihoods of the people.  Today, Russia was making other threats, including a radiation incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that might have catastrophic consequences for the lives of millions of people across the world.  The Secretary-General’s mid-term report showed clearly that the international community should not lose sight of the situation of human rights in Crimea.

Ukraine had taken note of the information on the alleged violations from the Ukrainian side and of the recommendations in the reports, which would be closely examined.  Unfortunately, the officially documented atrocities by Russia were only a tiny part of all Russia’s crimes in Ukraine.  As confirmed in the reports, international human rights and humanitarian mechanisms had been consistently denied access to the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russia.  More must be done to ensure the return of Ukrainian children, prisoners of war, civilians, and political prisoners.  It was high time for the international system to fix problems and put the perpetrators where they should be: on the court bench.  Ukraine continued to work to establish special tribunals to try Russian war criminals.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said Russia’s brutal, unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression continued to cause immense suffering in Ukraine with far-reaching negative consequences across the world, and reiterated their resolute condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which constituted a manifest violation of the United Nations Charter.  Every day, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine resulted in massive suffering of civilians, including in illegally annexed Crimea.  The price they paid was beyond comprehension.  Accountability for all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as well as for the crime of aggression, was key for bringing justice for victims and preventing further violations.

The report documented numerous cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, ill-treatment, and summary executions committed by Russia, some speakers said.  The numbers clearly underscored Russia’s blatant disregard for international human rights and international humanitarian law, and emphasised the need to ensure accountability for the grave violations of international law committed in connection with Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.  Russia must immediately halt the filtration processes and enforced disappearances often related to detention.  The Ukrainian children deported by force to Russia must be returned.  The only way ahead was an end to the war.

Some speakers were particularly troubled by the report’s findings of arbitrary detention of civilians, deportation of conflict-related detainees, enforced disappearance, and the use of widespread torture and ill-treatment.  Russia was urged to put an end to attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, to respect its obligations under international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, and to release all those arbitrarily detained.  With regards to the de facto security detentions by the Russian Federation in the occupied territories of Ukraine that failed to take into account international humanitarian law safeguards, and as such constituted arbitrary detention, speakers feared that the failure to ensure due process and guarantees to protect civilians actively led to enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence.

Violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be recognised and addressed, while access to justice, fair trial rights, and accountability should be prioritised to ensure that victims of violations found effective remedies and perpetrators were held accountable: the recently adopted Ljubljana-The Hague Convention could contribute to these efforts.

Impunity was not an option, many speakers said.  No country was above international human rights and international humanitarian law.  Perpetrators of blatant violations of international law would be held accountable.  Russia must provide the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with unconditional and unimpeded access to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.  Ukraine was encouraged to continue its full cooperation with the Office. 

The advice provided by the monitoring mission to the Government throughout the years had proven instrumental for Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen human rights protection and to foster access to justice domestically.  The objective and focused reporting of the monitoring mission had furthermore advanced accountability for human rights violations.  Its continued presence was critical.  Investigating all human rights violations was key to ensure accountability and justice for victims: the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and all independent monitoring mechanisms must be granted full and unfettered access to the entire territory of Ukraine.

Some speakers said the violations committed by Ukraine were of growing concern, and the Ukrainian authorities should make significant efforts to resolve human rights violations in all spheres of public life in the country, ensuring respect for the right to personal freedom and personal inviolability, as well as freedom of expression.  Ukraine must comply with international human rights obligations and ensure the respect for the human rights of all citizens, regardless of gender, age, and nationality. 

A number of speakers said they opposed any attempts to manipulate the Human Rights Council into interfering into the internal affairs of other States for political reasons.  The root cause of the current situation in Ukraine stemmed from the policies of the United States and the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whilst ignoring the legitimate security demands of Russia.  The anti-Russia efforts to demonise that country had nothing to do with the genuine promotion and protection of human rights.  The Council should not tolerate the politicisation and instrumentalisation of human rights to suit the agendas of certain States.

One speaker said the Human Rights Council was designed to address the human rights situations in various countries, with their agreement and genuine dialogue and cooperation, and today’s initiative went beyond that parameter, paving the way for the politicisation of the work.  Initiatives based on politicisation, selectivity and double standards made no contribution to the protection of human rights, nor did they bring any benefits to vulnerable groups. 

Among questions raised were: could the High Commissioner address the growing evidence of sexual and gender-based violence being used as a broader military tactic by Russia against prisoners of war and civilians in detention; how to ensure effective psycho-social support for survivors of Russian atrocities; how to mitigate the negative effects on human rights resulting from attacks on civilian infrastructure; what could be done by the Office to ensure it had access to the temporarily-occupied territory of Crimea; could the High Commissioner elaborate on the complementarity of the work of his Office with the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other impartial humanitarian organizations to carry out the duties incumbent on the protecting powers as outlined in the Geneva Conventions; when did the High Commissioner think that he would gain access to all territories in Ukraine, including the occupied territories; and how could the international community support the thousands of civilians arbitrarily detained in Russia?

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2023/07/le-conseil-adopte-une-resolution-sur-la-lutte-contre-la-haine

 

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