Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his Annual Report and Oral Update
8 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the presentation of 18 thematic reports on all human rights by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the report of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights. It then started its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his annual report and oral update.
Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the United Nations Human Rights Office, presented 18 reports, including on economic, social and cultural rights and the 2030 Agenda; the safety of women journalists; the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the Sustainable Development Goals; principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations; conclusions and recommendations of the Special Procedures; the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture; the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; and on strengthening and reforming the treaty body system.
Victor Arturo Cabrera Hidalgo, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, on behalf of the Chair-Rapporteur of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, presented the report on the third session of the Working Group. He reminded that the Working Group was tasked with drafting an international binding instrument to fill a legal gap in international law and to provide fair treatment to victims of transnational corporations. Many stakeholders had joined the process to propose comments and contributions.
In the ensuing general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, States agreed that the challenges in today’s world called for enhanced international cooperation. The realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the right to development were priorities for many States, and this right had to be operationalized with joint and strengthened efforts. States commended the High Commissioner for his report on the scale and impact of humanitarian emergencies on children. They welcomed the principles and guidelines on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. They also agreed that more protection was needed for minority communities’ cultural heritage from intentional destruction, and the engagement of indigenous peoples in international debates on cultural heritage protection. While there remained many challenges and worrying practices around the world, there were increasingly good practices taken. With regard to transnational corporations with respect to human rights, States attached a particular importance to the Working Group. They agreed on the importance of a legally binding instrument in consistence with commitments undertaken by all States in the framework of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Speaking were Ecuador, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, Cyprus on behalf of a group of countries, Ghana on behalf of the Convention Against Torture Initiative, Colombia on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil, Tunisia, Cuba, Ukraine, Mexico and Nigeria.
Earlier in the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on his annual report and oral update. While some States congratulated and praised the High Commissioner for his commendable and unbiased role in the promotion and protection of human rights, and supported the independence and integrity of his mandate and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, others accused him and the Office of double standards and of not standing up to politicization and partiality in the Human Rights Council. There was a clear and growing divide between States which stressed the importance of economic, social and cultural rights, and States which emphasized civil and political rights. This divide was marked by those who called for a higher emphasis on the protection of the right to development, vis-à-vis those who called for strengthening the system to protect and support human rights defenders and civil society and their space.
In concluding remarks, High Commissioner Zeid said he deeply appreciated the recognition given by delegations to the extraordinary work of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner. He affirmed that the current shrinking of civil space was due to intolerant leaders, adding that States had to create a secure environment for human rights defenders. If reprisals occurred, there needed to be strong international advocacy and speaking out. Civil society needed to be provided with practical tools for their work. In conclusion he stated that if he had angered a few Governments during his mandate, it was a compliment that he accepted.
The High Commissioner presented his annual report and oral update on Wednesday, 7 March, and a summary can be read here. The interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner started on Thursday, 8 March in the morning and a summary can be found here.
Speaking in the interactive discussion were Uruguay, Sovereign Order of Malta, Belarus, Poland, Viet Nam, Portugal, Slovakia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Latvia, Armenia, Niger, Cameroon, Korea, Kenya, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries, Cambodia, Zambia, Iceland, Paraguay and Morocco.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) 1; Human Rights Watch; International Service for Human Rights; Comission Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; International Association for Equality of women; Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Inc; and Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship.
Speaking in a right of reply were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkmenistan, India, Maldives, Algeria, China, Philippines, Burundi, Gabon, Pakistan and Morocco.
The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Friday, 9 March, to continue its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his Annual Report and Oral Update
Uruguay welcomed the efficient work of the High Commissioner despite many limitations, and shared the positive and constructive approach to migration, including combatting negative stereotypes. It also commended the High Commissioner’s work on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, noting that his important work was seriously threatened by the latest cuts in budgetary contributions. His mandate was a true example of how human rights should be defended.
Sovereign Order of Malta welcomed the affirmation expressed in the Beirut Declaration on “Faith for Rights” that religions were one of the fundamental sources for the protection of human rights and of the equal dignity of each human being. It called on religious leaders to combat intolerance and hate speech through responsibility sharing with States and local authorities and civil society. Faith could be a powerful tool for building resilience and integrating people on the move into their new environment.
Belarus was very disappointed with the politicized approach to human rights situations. Assessments of human rights situations were based on biased views and yielded only one result: confrontation. The international human rights system had a way to look at human rights in an unbiased manner: the Universal Periodic Review. A major concern was the slant in the interpretation of the role of United Nations bodies. It was necessary to defend the right to development and provide technical assistance to countries. The international community needed to have a constructive agenda to promote equal rights for all.
Poland regretted to have heard some remarks from the High Commissioner regarding the situation in Poland, which were unjust, did not include precise objections, and seemed not to be based on objective grounds. The Polish Government had engaged constructively in a dialogue with relevant international bodies on questions related to changes in Polish legislation. With respect to the judicial reform, it was stressed that the attempt to reorganize the judiciary had been taken up by the parliamentary majority.
Viet Nam saw tremendous challenges in the promotion of human rights but was fully committed to working to provide for the enjoyment of rights for all. Concerning several unfounded claims made by the United Kingdom, Viet Nam said there were no prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam. Genuine dialogue and the principle of objectivity were the best guarantee of the promotion of human rights.
Portugal praised the courageous efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in an increasingly challenging world and concurred with his assessment on worrisome threats on restrictions to freedoms and silencing of opponents. Progress had been made in Portugal in combatting discrimination against Roma persons. The situation in Myanmar pointed out to evidence of ethnic cleansing.
Slovakia fully supported the independence and integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner and his Office as they were indispensable to ensuring impartial and effective scrutiny of a State’s human rights record. The growing trend of bigot discourse carried a lot of concerns in terms of discrimination, and the root causes of intolerance had to be tackled.
Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking about the electoral process and recent demonstrations in Kinshasa, told the Council that the Government regretted that the process had resulted in turbulence. However, the stage was set for the 2018 elections, presidential, national and provincial, to proceed peacefully. The church had to remain neutral, play its role of bringing people together, and avoid pushing people to clashes.
Nepal said the thematic priorities of countering discrimination, integrating human rights in development and the economic sphere, and widening the democratic space, among others, had a significant bearing on the promotion and protection of human rights everywhere. Creating an enabling environment was important for promoting universal respect for human rights. Faithful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and standing true to its promises to “leave no one behind” and “reach the furthest behind first” was of utmost importance.
Latvia said yesterday, the Council had heard of situations where women were suffering. Millions of women continued to face discrimination and suffering. It called on States to promote and protect all rights, including the sexual and reproductive rights of women. Latvia strongly believed in the role of civil society organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights. The violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, through harassment, was unacceptable. Lativa commended the High Commissioner for his strong voice in advocacy and the protection of victims of human rights abuses around the world.
Armenia said 2018 marked the anniversary of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The risk of genocidal acts was still present today in various parts of the world. Armenia hoped that the seventieth anniversary of the Convention would be an important opportunity for States and the international community to strengthen their efforts in the prevention of this crime. Armenia echoed the concern regarding the deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey.
Niger reiterated its congratulations to the High Commissioner for the remarkable work that he had achieved. It welcomed the important place that the Council had devoted to victims of human rights violations, and in particular, of xenophobia. It also welcomed the global project for training law enforcement officers. Nigeria would soon receive three Special Rapporteurs. The crisis situation was continuing to shake the world. Many States were victims of conflict, including Syria and Palestine. Niger reiterated its will to continue its collaboration in conformity with the mandate.
Cameroon regretted the overall tone of the annual report and its clear bias. The report overlooked the efforts of the Government to solve the crisis and the dialogue carried out by the Head of State. The report also overlooked the murder of Cameroon’s security forces and attacks of a band of terrorists that called for secession. The 47 persons recently extradited from Nigeria now awaited trial that would be carried out in line with the principle of fair trial.
Republic of Korea expressed concern that the lessons and teachings of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King were not seized by many politicians on the ground, leading to setbacks in democracy and the rule of law in many parts of the world. It expressed solidarity with the “Me Too” movement and redoubling of efforts for the realization of women’s rights. It took note of the engagement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the United Nations human rights mechanisms in 2017, noting that such opportunities could be further explored to bring about progress in the human rights situation in that country.
Kenya noted that it was a constitutional democracy and that it ran its affairs according to the popularly adopted Constitution, implementing law and legislation. Addressing the High Commissioner’s concern about the independence of the judiciary, it noted that the country’s legal framework provided for the distinct separation of powers. On threats against civil society, the Government legally and administratively had created space for civil society to thrive. However, they had to comply with the laws.
United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded that in June 2017, 34 States had supported a statement on the Maldives that had underlined the importance of allowing activities by opposition parties and the expression of diverse political views, and the need to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The group of countries called on the Maldives to address the deteriorating human rights situation, to end peacefully the state of emergency, to restore all articles of the Constitution, and to free political prisoners.
Cambodia said that unfortunately the High Commissioner, premising on unverified sources, had insubstantially alleged that some measures which had been taken purely to maintain law and order were curtailing freedom of expression. The Government was bound by a duty to enforce law and order, irrespective of individual status or stature. Being human rights defenders, political actors, or journalists did not mean they were immune from prosecution.
Zambia welcomed the High Commissioner’s comprehensive report but was deeply concerned about the continued human rights violations despite efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner. The issue of the protection of human rights was complex and could not be left with the Council alone, for it required the collective responsibility of all Member States of the United Nations.
Iceland said that the High Commissioner had come under attack for his advocacy for human rights, including in this chamber, during this session, therefore requiring strong support for his work and the work of his Office. Iceland was pleased that the High Commissioner had saluted those who stood up for women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights.
Paraguay was building a new plan of action for indigenous people and thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for their support. SIMORE plus was a tool designed for monitoring human rights promotion and protection. Within the Lima Group, Paraguay remained concerned about events unfolding in Venezuela, particularly the decision to unilaterally convene presidential elections, and the Office of the High Commission was urged to follow up closely this situation.
International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)1, highlighted the need to maintain a dialogue with States during the period between the State review and the next periodic report, and to support them in the fulfilment of their obligations. It called on States and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support those practical initiatives and cooperate with civil society.
Morocco reaffirmed its support for the work of the High Commissioner. It rejected the tendentious statements made by Algeria, which continued to talk about bilateral problems with respect to Western Sahara, which was decolonized. Algeria was not in a position to teach Morocco and others any lessons. It should address the crimes being committed in the Tindouf camps, and enforced disappearances. Morocco called on the High Commissioner to pay attention to those issues in Algeria.
Human Rights Watch called for more attention to be paid to the human rights situations in Libya, Cambodia, Turkey and Egypt, and highlighted the disconnect between China’s win-win cooperation and the situation on the ground. Principled leadership did make a difference. Everyone should be delivering meaningful outcomes during the current session of the Human Rights Council.
International Service for Human Rights stressed that there could be no sustainable development without respect for economic, social and cultural rights, and defenders of those rights. States that attacked or failed to protect economic, social and cultural rights’ defenders violated the rights they advocated, and demonstrated a manifest lack of commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Comision Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil thanked the High Commissioner for monitoring the situation in Mexico. The civil society organizations shared concerns about the domestic security law and the presence of Mexican forces in various sectors. The Government did not implement the recommendations from the High Commissioner or from the Special Procedures, and the committee for combatting impunity had not been established.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia echoed concerns on a number of Asian situations identified in the report of the High Commissioner, namely Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The High Commissioner was asked for his thoughts on the role of the Council on justice and accountability in Myanmar. Additionally, what could the Council do in Cambodia? The High Commissioner was urged to elaborate further on the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Sri Lanka.
International Association for Equality of women welcomed the High Commissioner’s concern over the execution of individuals in Iran for crimes committed when they were children. Iran also imprisoned women, allowed for public executions and in essence legalized paedophilia, making a mockery of Iran’s international commitments. This spoke volumes of the human rights situation in Iran.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc welcomed that the High Commissioner had highlighted the sentencing to five years in prison of Nabeel Rajab for tweets criticizing torture in Bahrain’s prisons. The Government was effectively closing off civil society space and political space. Some estimates stated that 70,000 people could be barred from seeking political office or even voting in the upcoming elections.
Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship welcomed the global surge in people standing up and speaking out against gender-based violence, discrimination and harassment. In contrast with that optimism, it shared the concerns of the High Commissioner about increasing authoritarianism and the use by politicians of policies to fan division and intolerance just for the sake of securing their political ambition. That came at the expense of the vulnerable, including their freedom of expression and public participation.
Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
ZEID RA’AD Al HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, deeply appreciated the recognition given by delegations to the extraordinary work of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. On strengthening the role of civil society, the High Commissioner affirmed that the current shrinking of civil space was due to intolerant leaders, adding that States had to create a secure environment for human rights defenders. If reprisals occurred, there needed to be strong international advocacy and speaking out. Civil society needed to be provided with practical tools for their work. The Office would continue to forge space for dialogue between Governments and civil society. As for the comment that the High Commissioner focused on solely listing faults, High Commissioner Zeid emphasized that his annual report had to be read in conjunction with his other reports. On strengthening of the Office’s field work, there was a need for increased access to establish an accurate picture on the ground. Increased resources were also needed. High Commissioner Zeid also called on countries to share publicly and openly what engagement on the ground had been able to achieve.
Turning to the questions by non-governmental organizations, the High Commissioner noted that the international community needed to support the United Nations-led political process in Libya, and to deepen contacts with the authorities about armed groups and violations. As for Myanmar, it was important for the Council to recommend the establishment of an independent inquiry mechanism, given the seriousness of the human rights violations. On Cambodia, dialogue was well merited. As for the Maldives, the continued state of emergency would drastically and negatively affect the tourism industry. He urged the Government to commute all the current death sentences. In Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner’s Office was closely monitoring the situation and the slow pace of enacting the necessary reforms. There should be no impunity with respect to the latest violence. As for Bahrain, the Government should create an enabling environment for human rights activists and should release political prisoners. In conclusion, responding to the Russian Federation, the High Commissioner noted that one of the benefits of being experienced in the work of multilateral mechanisms was to speak to younger colleagues with some wisdom. If he had angered a few Governments during his mandate, it was a compliment that he accepted.
The Council has before it the Report on the third session of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (A/HRC/37/67).
The Council has before it the Reportof the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity (A/HRC/37/18).
The Council has before it Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – Note by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/37/19).
The Council has before it United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture – Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/37/20).
The Council has before it Measures taken to implement Human Rights Council resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system – Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/37/21).
The Council has before it Right to access to justice under article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/25).
The Council has before it Rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities – Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/26).
The Council has before it Summary of the discussions held during the seminar entitled “Exchanging national experiences and practices on the implementation of effective safeguards to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment during police custody and pretrial detention” – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/27).
The Council has before it Summary report on the panel discussion of the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/28).
The Council has before it Intersessional seminar on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/29).
The Council has before it Question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights – Report of the Secretary-General on the role of economic, social and cultural rights in building sustainable and resilient societies for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/HRC/37/30).
The Council has before it Summary of the biennial Human Rights Council panel discussion on unilateral coercive measures and human rights – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/31).
The Council has before it Realization of the right to work- Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/32).
The Council has before it Protecting the rights of the child in humanitarian situations – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/33).
The Council has before it Principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/34).
The Council has before it an addendum to Principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/34/Add.1).
The Council has before it Summary of the panel discussion on human rights, climate change, migrants and persons displaced across international borders – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/35).
The Council has before it Summary of the annual full-day of discussion on women’s human rights – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/36).
The Council has before it Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/37/44).
The Council has before it Conclusions and recommendations of special procedures – Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/37/81).
Presentation of Reports
Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the United Nations Human Rights Office, said that there were 18 reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner concerning a range of thematic issues. Three reports were the basis for separate discussions and six reports summarized panel discussions. Out of the remaining nine, the report on economic, social and cultural rights and the 2030 Agenda focused on the role of economic, social and cultural rights in building sustainable and resilient societies. The report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity focused on the issue of safety of women journalists who disproportionately and routinely faced gender-based violence in the workplace and in the field. The report on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities highlighted recurrent patterns of discrimination and incitement to racial or religious hatred and violence. The next report dealt with the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the Sustainable Development Goals, acknowledging the challenges that States faced in ensuring the right to work. Next was the report on principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. As a co-chair of the Global Migration Group’s working group on human rights and gender equality, the Office of the High Commissioner had developed a set of guidelines on human rights protection, to assist in the development of the Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration. Another report was on conclusions and recommendations of the Special Procedures.
Two reports concerned two funds that the Office of the High Commissioner was managing. The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture was a key tool in fighting torture through providing redress and rehabilitation of victims. The Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture had supported 36 projects since 2012, resulting in legislative, institutional and operational changes. Finally, the report on strengthening and reforming the treaty body system contained comprehensive and updated information on the status of the human rights treaty body system raised in the Council’s resolution 9/8.
VICTOR ARTURO CABRERA HIDALGO, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking on behalf of the Chair-Rapporteur of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, reminded that the Working Group was tasked with drafting an international binding instrument to fill a legal gap in international law and to provide fair treatment to victims of transnational corporations. Many stakeholders had joined the process to propose comments and contributions. The third session of the Working Group had seen the participation of more than 100 various stakeholders. As a sign of transparency and inclusiveness of the process, the entire session had been broadcast by the United Nations webcast. The process had served as an incentive for States to assess adopting binding national laws on transnational corporations, such as a due vigilance law in France, and another one in Indonesia. The voluntary and obligatory parts of respecting human rights by transnational corporations had to be seen as mutually reinforcing. The process towards the binding instrument was not waging a war against business actors; on the contrary, the process aimed to drive a globalization with a human face, and to create a possibility for human rights to reach the areas that the law did not. The Working Group aspired to create an effective legal protection mechanism for human rights, to promote a fairer and more responsible economic competition, and to promote the dignity of people. The Working Group should come to a fourth session in the spirit of constructive cooperation and openness.
General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCES, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, in a video message, referred to the presentation of the report on the third session of the intergovernmental Working Group created by resolution 26/9. The discussion focused on the core document presented by the Ecuadorian Chair, drafted on the basis of debates from the first two sessions and many consultations. The draft element document was favourably welcomed as it offered an excellent basis for discussion. Ecuador believed that its role was of vital importance in facilitating the debate, particularly since there was still consensus to be found. Among the outstanding issues, the situation of women and girls had to play a key role in the responsibilities of companies. Ecuador was committed to a just and transparent process and everyone was invited to participate actively, thus enabling to find creative solutions.
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that challenges in today’s world called for enhanced international cooperation. Countries were called to genuinely cooperate with one another as a selective approach would lead to further fragmentation. The realization of human rights had to consider the national sovereignty of countries.
Togo, speaking on behalf of African Group, said that the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the right to development were priorities of African countries. Due to ineffective national policies and unfavourable international economic conditions, those priorities had been severely hindered. The adoption of a legally binding document on transnational corporations was welcomed.
Mexico, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the principles and guidelines on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. The guidelines constituted a useful tool for the implementation of existing responsibilities towards migrants and were a step forward in the development of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, commended the High Commissioner for his report on the scale and impact of humanitarian emergencies on children, noting that States had to place children at the centre of humanitarian response and assistance. The European Union was committed to preventing and eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. It agreed that ending the culture of impunity for acts of torture was key to achieving systemic change, and underscored the protection of the cultural heritage of minorities from intentional destruction.
Cyprus, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, thanked the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights for having convened a one-day intersessional seminar on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage. The group noted several areas that needed more protection, namely the protection of minority communities’ cultural heritage from intentional destruction, and the engagement of indigenous peoples in international debates on cultural heritage protection. The group called on all countries to continue to engage constructively on the draft resolution on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage.
Ghana, speaking on behalf of the Convention against Torture Initiative, informed that an impressive 162 States had ratified the Convention against Torture, while 33 States had yet to ratify it. There remained many challenges and worrying practices around the world. At the same time, there were more and more good practices taken towards reform each year. The Initiative encouraged States to join the Convention against Torture Initiative Group of Friends which was active both in Geneva and New York.
Colombia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the issue of HIV/AIDS had to be dealt with within the human rights angle, since it brought additional stigma to persons infected with HIV and victimization, deepening people’s vulnerability. For that reason, HIV/AIDS was not merely a health issue. All the members of the Council were invited to contribute to the next session.
Brazil welcomed the presentation of the report and commended the leadership of Ecuador. Efforts aimed at strengthening of the normative framework applicable to the protection of human rights were commended. Working towards a legally binding instrument was consistent with commitments undertaken by all States in the framework of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Tunisia noted that on the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the right to development had to be operationalized. Collective joint efforts had to be made in order to adopt international policies, taking into account all challenges and obstacles in order to achieve sustainable development.
Cuba attached particular importance to the Working Group on transnational corporations and would continue to actively support it in future sessions. A compulsory normative framework in order to ensure accountability and access to justice was imperative. In carrying out their functions, Special Procedure mandate holders must ensure the relevance of their mandates as well as ensure that they complied with the rules of conduct.
Ukraine highly appreciated the contribution of the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures and commended the monitoring mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine. Ukraine continued its path of comprehensive reforms, and the reform of Ukraine’s education system was an important part of this process. The Venice Commission had agreed that the Ukrainian language was one of the crucial components of national identity of the Ukrainian people and a guarantee of its national sovereignty.
Mexico was convinced about the need to promote human rights in the context of business activities. It focused on implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at the national level. These were helpful as they highlighted progress as well as gaps in this direction. Following the report, it was necessary to think deeply into common understandings in the concepts and scope that a legal instrument on this issue would have, including the distinction between transnational corporations and other bodies, the scope, and the supranational body that would follow these legal instruments.
Nigeria was deeply concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation of migrants across the globe, and it strongly condemned the utter disregard for human life demonstrated by traffickers, and the ill-treatment of migrants by some transit and destination countries. Nigeria called for a strong synergy and cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination in order to enhance the promotion and protection of vulnerable migrants, especially women and children.
Right of Reply
Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking in a right of reply in response to the European Union, Belgium and the United Kingdom, noted that they should look objectively on its potential to defend human rights. It reminded that it had agreed to host a United Nations team of investigators with respect to the atrocities committed in the region of Kasai. The Democratic Republic of the Congo upheld its international obligations and had agreed to be assessed through interactive dialogues. In the spirit of openness, it had continued excellent technical cooperation with the FBI and with Sweden to shed light on the murder of two United Nations experts. The Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted the largest United Nations peacekeeping force. Incendiary statements would not lead to a favourable climate before the upcoming elections.
Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply, responded to Germany and asked for reliable information. It had set up cooperation with the United Nations Working Group on enforced disappearances, and it had held regular meetings with representatives of the Working Group. Turkmenistan had presented the information requested by the Working Group.
India, speaking in a right of reply, strongly objected to Pakistan’s misleading references to India’s internal affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. The dubious concern for human rights came from a country that violated human rights in Baluchistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and that used terrorism as a State policy. The real problem in Jammu and Kashmir was terrorism which had consistently received support from Pakistan. Pakistan should end its provision of support to terrorist cells in Jammu and Kashmir, end forced conversions and marriage, stop targeting political dissent, stop torture and enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, and stop sectarian violence and persecution.
Maldives, speaking in a right of reply, said the joint statement directed against it by the European Union and the United Kingdom was unwarranted and destructive, and misrepresented the reality on the ground. The state of emergency had been enacted at the advice of the Security Council to address the security of the Maldivian State. The United Kingdom and the European Union had supported, at that time, the conclusions of the report. Maldives regretted the politicization and subjectivity of the Human Rights Council and condemned the accusations that the Government of the Maldives was not constructive. In the past three years, the country had submitted nine communications and hosted seven Special Rapporteurs. Much work was required to strengthen democracy and foster a climate of human dignity.
Algeria, speaking in a reply of reply, regretted the attack by Morocco and asked why it engaged in disinformation. Algeria’s activities in Western Sahara were in line with international law. In their decision in January, Heads of State and Government of the African Union had called on the Kingdom of Morocco to start negotiations to hold a free and unequitable referendum for the people of Western Sahara. In 2016, the International Court of Justice had judged that Western Sahara was not part of the scope of the fishing agreement between Morocco and the European Union. Morocco’s control over Western Sahara was not recognized by the European Union.
China, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the unjust accusation made by certain non-governmental organizations. China always advocated dialogue and cooperation in the field of human rights, and it fully upheld its people’s rights and freedoms. It was willing to contribute to a healthy development of human rights.
Philippines, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statements of Liechtenstein, Australia and the United Kingdom, invited them to engage with the Philippines in a constructive and genuine dialogue. The Philippines remained open to that kind of engagement. It underlined that the Special Procedure mandate holders should uphold the principles of universality, objectivity and impartiality, and avoid double standards and politicization. Otherwise, the credibility and effectiveness of the Council would be seriously jeopardized. The Philippines’ campaign against drugs aimed to protect human rights. Liechtenstein, Australia and the United Kingdom should discuss the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in their countries, as well as the rights of unborn children.
Burundi, speaking in a right of reply in response to Liechtenstein, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, said Burundi was shocked to hear their accusations. They had given no details or proof of these accusations. Some countries did all they could to tarnish Burundi’s image. It was shocking to hear from Belgium that there were problems with the electoral process in Burundi. There was peace and security everywhere in Burundi.
Gabon, speaking in a right of reply, welcomed the holding of the intensified political dialogue between Gabon and the European Union because the purpose was the reconciliation of the people of Gabon. It was in this spirit that Gabon had held free transparent elections. It reminded its partners in the European Union that the authorities had looked at the presidential violence in 2016.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said India continued distorting historic realities regarding Jammu and Kashmir. The extrajudicial killings of civilians by India in Jammu and Kashmir were unacceptable. India hid the violations perpetrated by its army by blocking 22 social media websites, by not allowing visits, and by other means. Atrocities were being committed in the Indian-occupied territory and not on the Pakistani side. State-sponsored terrorism was ongoing. Thirteen million Kashmiris were being held hostage, and people were slaughtered for eating beef.
Morocco, speaking in a right of reply, regretted that Algeria was taking the position that it did. The Sahara was well integrated in its motherland, Morocco, which was committed to developing its national territory, including the provinces of the south, at all levels. Children of Moroccan Sahara were well integrated and the people of Western Sahara continued to elect their leaders in free elections, unlike those held in prisons in Tindouf camps where there was no respect for international law. Algeria was the guilty party in the dispute over Western Sahara.
Algeria, speaking in a second right of reply, said that violations of human rights in Western Sahara were occurring. Concerning the Tindouf camps, Oxfam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were operating in the camps and none of them had ever mentioned that international law was not being upheld in them. Morocco needed to explain why they were a main exporter of terrorism, drugs and sexual trafficking.
Morocco, in a second right of reply, said that it was clear that Algeria persisted in its belligerent attitude which was a waste of effort given the rejection of Algeria to recognize systematic and serious human rights violations, such as enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, harassment of journalists, and ill-treatment and mass expulsion of African migrants. Algeria continued to pretend that it was concerned about human rights when in fact it used them to pursue the policies that it wanted to pursue. That pretence would not fool anyone in the Council.
1Joint statement: International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); Centre for Civil and Political Rights; Child Rights Connect; Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; International Disability Alliance; International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific and World Organisation Against Torture.
For use of the information media; not an official record