8 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this morning held its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his annual report and oral update, which addressed numerous human rights situations and challenges across the world.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein presented his annual report and oral update on Wednesday, 7 March, and a summary can be read here.
During the discussion, speakers reiterated concerns over reprisals targeting the Special Procedures of the Council, the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and civil society actors who cooperated with the Council and its mandates, and with the United Nations more generally. They also reminded of the shrinking space for civil society worldwide, namely attacks and intimidation against civil activists, journalists, and opposition politicians. Speakers called on the High Commissioner and members of the Council bureau to take urgent action to address States who engaged in reprisals against civil society and the United Nations mandate holders and staff. Some speakers noted that as International Women’s Day was celebrated, the Council had a rightful place to ensure that the rights of women and girls were not trampled upon, but treasured and protected. Many challenges had to be tackled with respect to the rise of hate speech, religious intolerance and extremism, and xenophobic and racist acts. Speakers, thus, supported the High Commissioner’s call for a more humane treatment of migrants, who needed to be protected from torture, sexual violence and other grave violations. Some speakers regretted the deeply politicized nature of the Council, noting that it was where reform was most desperately needed.
Speaking were Finland on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Timor-Leste on behalf of a group of countries, Australia on behalf of a group of countries, Peru on behalf of the Lima Group, Rwanda on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Morocco, Liechtenstein, Germany, Israel, Kuwait, Montenegro, Finland, Venezuela, Brazil, Pakistan, Belgium, Egypt, Senegal, Canada, Switzerland, Tunisia, Spain, Libya, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Czechia, United States, South Africa, Honduras, Austria, Hungary, Australia, Chile, Cuba, Bahrain, France, China, Qatar, Syria, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Netherlands, Angola, India, Greece, Russian Federation, Iraq, Mexico, Japan, Iran, Costa Rica, Ukraine, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Jordan, Thailand, Georgia, Botswana, Sweden, Uganda, Bolivia, Maldives, Slovenia, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Italy, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Ecuador, Fiji, Ireland and El Salvador.
The Council will resume its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner today at 3 p.m.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his Annual Report and Oral Update
Finland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to reflect on progress made and remaining challenges related to achieving substantive gender equality. While legislative, policy and other measures which had been undertaken to reduce equality gaps were commended, much remained to be done to address discrimination against women with disabilities who faced a heightened risk of violence.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, was concerned that armed conflicts and unsettled disputes had increased in the last year. As a result, massive human displacement amounted to 65 million people, out of which 22.5 million were refugees and half of those were children. Efforts of the Secretary-General and the Human Rights Commissioner in relation to migrants were welcomed.
European Union was alarmed at the ever-worsening crisis in Yemen, marked by besiegement of populated areas, restrictions on humanitarian access, and indiscriminate targeting of civilians. In Gabon, continued allegations of serious human rights violations since the 2016 presidential elections were concerning. In Viet Nam, arrests, detentions and sentencing of citizens were noted with concern.
Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said members of the Arab Group had committed themselves to the promotion of human rights, including the right to development, United Nations discussions or objective discussions elsewhere, without any politicization. Palestinian people were supported and their right to an independent sovereign State with East Jerusalem as its capital. A political solution to the situation in Syria that upheld its sovereignty was needed.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, commended the report of the High Commissioner on his activities carried out in the latest reporting period. They welcomed his cooperation with the various actors in each country and the treatment of various situations that affected all human rights, as well as the emphasis on the fight against discrimination and the strengthening of the democratic state. They also appreciated the joint work that had begun with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with regard to the protection of human rights defenders.
Timor Leste, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, were deeply concerned about the Saharawi people who lived under occupation in the Kingdom of Morocco. Their right to development was highly hindered. The group called upon the High Commissioner to resume the visit by the technical mission to Western Sahara which was supposed to take place every six months. The Polisario Front was the only representative of the people of Western Sahara recognized by the General Assembly.
Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, regretted that international human rights law continued to be breached and was particularly concerned that the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and Iran continued to be applied to persons who were juveniles at the time of their offence. It condemned the use of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Egypt and remained deeply concerned about the ongoing reports of extra-judicial killings associated with the so-called “war on drugs” in the Philippines, and about the imprisonment and mistreatment of peaceful protestors in Bahrain.
Peru, speaking on behalf of the Lima Group, reiterated their concern for the rapid and progressive deterioration of the situation in Venezuela, where there had been a rupture of the democratic order, with serious implications for human rights. In a statement dated 13 February, the Lima Group had rejected the call for elections initially scheduled for 22 April, due to the inability of carrying them out under democratic, transparent and credible conditions, with the participation of all political actors, and with international observers and meeting international standards.
Rwanda, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, drew attention to the necessity of the establishment of a system of alert in order to prevent genocide and mass atrocities, including through strengthening resilience and capacity building. It urged the Human Rights Council to strengthen its cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s Office for the prevention of genocide, to implement preventive measures in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights whose report depicted the world in a realistic way. The African Group shared his view that the life and work of President Mandela should inspire and assist the international community in bolstering human rights. The recent attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso highlighted the scourge of terrorism which threatened the very existence of States. Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that they had been fully engaged with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote human rights, including in the West Sahara region. In 2015, Morocco had hosted a technical mission of the Office, which had allowed for having various discussions in the country. Following the visit by the technical mission, the United Nations Security Council had not expressed any concern whatsoever about the human rights situation in West Sahara.
Liechtenstein stressed the need for the High Commissioner and his staff to carry out his mandate unhindered and independently. It was of great concern that Burundi threatened members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Liechtenstein was also concerned about the continued vilification of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, and about the refusal of the authorities of Myanmar to cooperate with the High Commissioner.
Germany voiced concern about the shrinking space for civil society worldwide. In Pakistan, civil activists and journalists suffered from intimidation and harassment by Government authorities, while in the Maldives, journalists, opposition politicians and human rights defenders were among the main victims of the recent crackdown. Germany also expressed concern about enforced disappearances of the people arrested as early as the 1990s in Turkmenistan, and about the targeting of opposition members and their families in Bangladesh.
Israel pointed out to the deeply politicized nature of the Council, noting it was where reform was most desperately needed. Putting the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the same basket did a disservice to the many victims of human rights violations that relied on the Office for assistance. If objectivity and impartiality were indeed the fundamental principles guiding the work of the High Commissioner and his Office, it was incumbent upon them to take extra care not to turn a blind eye when the Council treaded on those very principles.
Kuwait appreciated the leading role of the High Commissioner and fully supported his mandate. It was aware of his relentless efforts to accord all people equal standing before the law. Unfortunately, 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, millions of people were still deprived of their freedom. Kuwait rejected attempts by some to impose their own values, which were not in line with Islamic values, under the pretext of human rights. It also welcomed the adoption of the resolution on Eastern Ghouta by the Human Rights Council.
Montenegro highly appreciated the High Commissioner’s comprehensive and constructive approach, adding that it remained a strong supporter of his work. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Montenegro added its voice to women’s rights, including support for their sexual and reproductive rights. It was also committed to preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, and against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
Finland remained a staunch supporter of the High Commissioner’s mandate and applauded the High Commissioner for being bold and even handed. All States were called on to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and the Council’s membership had a special duty to lead by example. Sincere hope was expressed that all members of the Council, including Venezuela and Burundi, would cooperate with the Special Procedures.
Venezuela said that a historic declaration had been signed by a group of countries, including Venezuela, calling for the building of a new international order that would be universal and multipolar, unlike the current trends. Unilateral coercive measures and sanctions against Venezuela impacted the life and development of the Venezuelan people.
Brazil shared the High Commissioner’s concerns about human rights violations in the context of ongoing crises and protracted conflicts and believed that preventive strategies had to be embedded in the United Nations system. Long-term and collective initiatives to support countries that requested assistance had to be undertaken, to build the necessary resilience to overcome the drivers of human rights violations.
Pakistan shared the High Commissioner’s concern over continuing conflicts across the globe. Over the past four decades, Pakistan had hosted the largest number of refugees due to the protracted refugee situation. Assistance to refugee hosting countries had to be increased. The report of the High Commissioner raised the issue of abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir and the plight of Kashmiri people had only increased in the meantime.
Belgium underscored its attachment to the independence of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and shared concerns about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Burundi and South Sudan, it was concerned about the climate of hatred. As for Turkey, it was concerned about the increase of cases of torture. It deplored the restrictions imposed on civil society space and multiple attacks on human rights defenders in China, Bahrain, Egypt and Venezuela.
Egypt referred to some mistakes in the High Commissioner’s report on Egypt, which undermined the integrity of the electoral process without reliable information. That was unacceptable. The electoral process was supervised by the National Electoral Committee, and only two candidates had not been allowed to stand for election as they had not met the conditions. Egypt rejected activities and incitement to rise against the Government under the guise of human rights. States had the right to impose restrictions when there was incitement to violence and hatred. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should confirm the veracity of certain allegations.
Senegal noted that the High Commissioner’s report pointed out that much remained to be done, in particular with respect to the suffering of children, the sick, elderly, and persons with disabilities. Many challenges had to be tackled with respect to the rise of hate speech, religious intolerance and extremism, and xenophobic and racist acts. Senegal, thus, supported the High Commissioner’s call for a more humane treatment of migrants, who needed to be protected from torture, sexual violence and other grave violations.
Canada firmly supported the High Commissioner’s call that all humans shared fundamental sameness and thus should enjoy equal universal and inalienable human rights. It agreed that the diversity celebrated by Nelson Mandela should engender inclusion, not be the grounds for exclusion. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had made a significant contribution to promoting and protecting human rights, the High Commissioner’s report had underscored that the world’s efforts were far from complete.
Switzerland said that the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria were staggering, despite the United Nations Security Council resolution 2401. Switzerland appealed to all parties to invest in a credible manner in the peace process. The first step in this direction would be the implementation of a national ceasefire. This was vital and urgent in order to protect the civilian population. Switzerland was also concerned about the English speaking communities in Cameroon and was ready to support this country in bilingualism.
Tunisia thanked the High Commissioner and his team for the update, noting that he played an increasing role as the international community faced increasing challenges. It was important to tackle these issues through dialogue and consensus, as partners. The seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an appeal to strengthen the endeavours and ensure that human rights were protected across the world. Cooperation and openness between States was essential in the face of extremism and violence.
Spain was grateful to the High Commissioner for his report to the Council, and reiterated its belief that his Office had to be impartial. In light of various situations where human rights were undermined, Spain emphasized the important role played by civil society. Spain was following various situations around the world and believed that Syria and Myanmar required urgent attention from the international community. Venezuela required the organization of transparent elections and the participation of all political parties. The issues in Spain regarding Catalonia were still pending in the courts.
Libya said that information in the High Commissioner’s report should come from credible sources and not only the media. Libya was not a country of origin or destination of migrants but a transit county, and as such was a victim of trafficking. The report did not take note of the Abidjan summit in 2017 which had called for synergy to find a solution through development projects.
Philippines said that although the High Commissioner had noted reports of repression in the Philippines, the country had a strong and functioning legal and judicial system where clear and specific charges were filed and litigated against individuals. The delegation sought to dispel the fears expressed by the High Commissioner and assured him of their solid foundation for the respect of human rights.
Saudi Arabia took note of the High Commissioner’s report which welcomed the Royal decree on the independence of women. Saudi Arabia was going through a period of socio-economic progress as well as the promotion of human and women’s rights, in line with the 2030 vision of the Kingdom. The situation in Syria had entered a new phase of turbulence. As for the right to self-determination of Palestinians, all activities concerning Israeli settlements were rejected.
Czechia said that the annual report of the High Commissioner had shown the breadth of activities undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner to promote human rights in many parts of the world. Serious threats to democracy and the rule of law were mentioned by the High commissioner, and it was no wonder that the High Commissioner was facing big challenges in his work.
United States reiterated concerns over reprisals targeting the Special Procedures of the Council, the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and civil society actors who cooperated with the Council and its mandates, and with the United Nations more generally. That was a disturbing trend and the United States called on the High Commissioner and members of the Council bureau to take urgent action to address States who engaged in reprisals.
South Africa noted that as International Women’s Day was celebrated, the Council had a rightful place to ensure that the rights of women and girls were not trampled upon, but treasured and protected. It encouraged the High Commissioner to find innovative ways of engaging with Governments so as to enlist their cooperation. Such an approach would unlock the desired opportunities to address human rights violations and abuses. It was not enough to present a catalogue of fault lines, considering that there were requirements that could be applied in achieving desired goals, including respect for regional processes.
Honduras reiterated support for the independence of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It reminded of the interdependence and universality of all human rights, and stated its firm commitment to the protection of human rights defenders and eradicating impunity. It had created a special investigative unit to deal with the cases of human rights defenders. Remembering the murder of human rights defenders Berta Caceres, Honduras said that it would receive the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in May 2018 to discuss technical assistance and further strengthen its human rights framework
Austria voiced its full support for the work of the High Commissioner, and shared its concern about the most urgent situations in Syria and Myanmar, but also in other countries and regions. Journalists and human rights defenders were under threat, and Austria called on all countries to protect them from reprisals. Referring to the High Commissioner’s comments about Austria in his report, Austria emphasized that the rule of law and a functioning parliament were enshrined in its national Constitution, including freedom of religion and assembly.
Hungary reminded this august body that the prevention of human rights violations fell clearly within the mandate of the Council, including under agenda item 2. It could be achieved through continuous dialogue and cooperation between its Member States. Although defusing situations before they turned violent was one of the most important tasks of the Council, this body was less and less capable of fulfilling its preventive role.
Australia regretted that international human rights law continued to be breached. It was particularly concerned about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the use of torture on detainees in Egypt, and the war on drugs in the Philippines. It condemned in the strongest terms the ongoing human rights violations in Venezuela, including the excessive use of force by State security services, arbitrary detention of political opponents, and the targeting of protestors. It was concerned about the imprisonment of peaceful protestors in Bahrain.
Chile was grateful for the presentation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Whatever the causes of these violations, the world had to take action and ensure that these actions were implemented. In commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Human Rights Council needed to adopt preventability as a principle of work. Chile was concerned about the High Commissioner’s report on the setbacks that women experienced in the enjoyment of their human rights.
Cuba encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to double its efforts in the areas of racism, racial intolerance and xenophobia, and to emphasize the need for development. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals must become a reality. Cuba proclaimed its strong support for Venezuela, and condemned the unilateral measures and interference which threatened peace and destabilized that country. The focus of dialogue and cooperation had to prevail if all rights were to be protected in the world.
Bahrain agreed that the interactive dialogue was highly important and should not be subjected to politicization. The information provided in the report on Bahrain was not precise or true. Bahrain was aware that some parties wanted to undermine the human rights achievements of Bahrain, but although there had been some fanatical extremism, Bahrain did not limit freedom of expression or association.
France thanked the High Commissioner for his commitment throughout his mandate in favour of the promotion of human rights. In countries destroyed by conflict, the rule of law and civil rights were in danger. For that reason, France was determined to support the Office of the High Commissioner in defending the universality of human rights, fighting against impunity and strengthening the protection of human rights defenders.
China said that Chinese people had chosen their human rights development path in their national circumstances. Citizens enjoyed protection and freedoms and everyone was equal before the law. China firmly believed that the High Commissioner should observe the rules in the United Nations Charter instead of frequently naming and blaming States. Hope was expressed that the Human Rights Commissioner would conduct his work objectively.
Qatar said that grave violations had been committed by the Syrian Government which had been using terrorist groups to stay in power and applying their military plans to starve children and displace people. The database of companies involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented in the report was welcomed. What role would the High Commissioner play when it came to the violations of four countries implementing a blockade against Qatar?
Syria stated that the High Commissioner still insisted on preaching to States, giving them lessons, attacking them, and overstepping his mandate. Syria urged him to respect the sovereignty of States. He continued to adopt politically motivated ideas, and fabricated statements about Syria that were devoid of the minimum of objectivity. The terrorists continued to indiscriminately shell Eastern Ghouta. The Syrian Government had provided a safe passage for civilians. The High Commissioner should investigate the human rights violations in Raqqa.
Ethiopia appreciated the recognition of the High Commissioner of the measures taken by the Government of Ethiopia. As for the reinstatement of the state of emergency, the aim was to restore law and order in the country while continuing the wide-ranging political and democratic reforms that the Government had already started to undertake. Ethiopia reminded the High Commissioner that the Government had established a task force on human rights violations. Responding to the concerns of the European Union, it noted that the Government had made those responsible for the excessive use of force accountable.
Ukraine noted that any country and any authority should be reminded of the necessity to uphold universally recognized rights and freedoms. International justice was indispensable and Ukraine would continue to refer to every international court and tribunal to request protection of the basic rights of the Ukrainian people that had been blatantly violated by one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the Russian Federation. Ukraine sought justice and accountability, while the Russian Federation continued to demonstrate disregard for its obligations under international law.
Netherlands stressed that at the time when human rights were under increasing pressure worldwide, the international community needed an independent High Commissioner who was willing to speak out when needed. During the term of the High Commissioner, the Council had become increasingly active and relevant, as evidenced in the establishment of numerous independent mechanisms. The credibility and effectiveness of the Council was determined primarily by its 47 members and how they led by example.
Angola said the period under review was marked by conflicts and humanitarian crises, of which civilians remained the main victims. There were more than 65 million displaced people, including 22 million refugees, half of whom were children, not to mention the persecution of minorities and vulnerable groups. Angola welcomed the support provided to States for the establishment of national mechanisms for the preparation of monitoring reports and the implementation of human rights recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review.
India found that the report of the High Commissioner did not adequately reflect the situation in India. Selective and tendentious statements on human rights issues only served to undermine the credibility of the approach. The Indian Constitution prohibited discrimination on the grounds of religious, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. In reference to Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism was the most fundamental violation of human rights.
Greece would continue to advocate in favour of the independence of the High Commissioner and his Office. Its advocacy and the need for international support to its work was more relevant than ever with the emergence of leaders and regimes defying democracy and the primacy of human rights. Greece believed that this independence was all the more important given the crises occurring around the world. For the past three years now, Greece had been at the forefront of receiving large numbers of refugees and migrants.
Russia said the High Commissioner had to establish a normal working relation between his Office and States. Once again a list of politicized offenders had been heard. It was strange that on the one hand the High Commissioner positioned himself as a human rights defender, and on the other, he allowed interference in national election processes of States. Such actions had a negative impact on the entire work of the Human Rights Council, undermining its work. The High Commissioner had proclaimed civil and political rights as absolute rights, to the detriment of economic, social and cultural rights. Iraq accepted that it had been going through an exceptional situation due to terrorism, and stated that capital punishment had been only applied when conditions under the Constitution had been fulfilled. The international community had to provide assistance for trials of crimes committed by Daesh. Though the issue was mentioned in the report, full cooperation with the United Nations parties was being conducted in the area of forced disappearances.
Mexico was conscious of the challenges it had concerning human rights, as already mentioned in the high-level segment, and was willing to improve its track record through cooperation with international human rights instruments. Concerning migrants, all measures undertaken provided for safe, orderly and regular migration and policies would be further improved.
Japan expressed its respect for the highly active approach that the High Commissioner had taken to date. Since there was no improvement whatsoever in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s human rights situation, Japan intended, with the European Union, to again submit to the Council a draft proposal on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Remarks by the High Commissioner
ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted International Women’s Day, adding that many challenges to women’s rights remained across the world. He thanked all those delegations that had recognized the outstanding work of his Office. As for the companies engaged in commercial activities in the occupied Palestinian territory that refused to cooperate with the Office, the High Commissioner said that once all the companies had been contacted, the Office would provide the names of companies engaged in commercial activities in the occupied Palestinian territory. Turning to reprisals against those who cooperated with the Special Procedures, High Commissioner Zeid recalled that the President of the Philippines had recently threatened the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings in very crude language. Instead of attacking the messenger, States should address the concerns raised by mandate holders to improve the situation on the ground. The annual report of the Secretary-General on reprisals presented to the Council in September 2017 contained many worrying tendencies. It referred to more States than ever. The High Commissioner noted that people-centred development was important for win-win results and progress in human rights protection. What really mattered, however, was that those lofty words were matched by lofty deeds. As for the coercive measures against Qatar, High Commissioner Zeid reminded that a technical mission had been undertaken upon the request of the Government of Qatar. His Office was following up with all those concerned countries to mitigate the negative effects of the coercive measures.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his Annual Report and Oral Update
Iran said that while it took note of the report of the High Commissioner, it was of the view that the continued methodology of a naming and shaming approach added nothing but fuel to the fire of the malignant polarization process in the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner should ensure a dialogue-based approach and support improved cooperation. The High Commissioner had made unfounded allegations by referring to certain developments in Iran, which did not correspond to the very basic facts on the ground.
Costa Rica said in spite of the global system for the protection of human rights, atrocities continued to happen. Many rights and freedoms did not have the same value for everyone. There were those that questioned the universality of human rights. Humanity was wise in writing down the ideals that were common among all nations and peoples, but failed to ensure dignity and equality for everyone. Costa Rica recognized the candid way in which the Office conducted its work, in an effort to try to prevent the same atrocities from being repeating.
Lithuania was alarmed by the increase in the number of attacks on civic space, especially against human rights defenders and journalists, which had been evident during the reporting period. It was of upmost importance to give voice to civil society, uphold the safety of human rights defenders, and ensure freedom of the media. Lithuania appreciated the efforts of the Office and in particular, the establishment by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea strongly regretted the references thereof in the report, which were based on fabricated information. These were a manifestation of extreme politicization and remained contradictory to the principles of impartiality and objectivity, which, if continued, would jeopardize the credibility of the Human Rights Council. It rejected politicization and allegations made against it by some countries within the Human Rights Council, which were hostile forces that attempted to eliminate the country under the guise of human rights.
Jordan appreciated the capacity building and cooperation efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with countries, including Jordan. Israel’s unilateral measures in the occupied Palestinian territory flouted international humanitarian law and the two-State solution. It was high time to find a political solution for the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Jordan condemned the massacres of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and called for their return home. Turning to International Women’s Day, Jordan highlighted the need to build on what had been achieved so far in terms of women’s rights.
Thailand stated that the Government of Thailand had declared human rights as its national agenda and it would put forth best efforts to ensure that human rights were mainstreamed in all national endeavours, and as a driving force for sustainable development. The Government was open to the inclusive participation of all stakeholders in public affairs, especially on issues concerning the well-being of its people.
Georgia welcomed the intention of the High Commissioner to attribute special attention to the issue of access to international human rights mechanisms. It remained concerned about the repeated denial of access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Procedures to the occupied regions of Georgia. The human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia was more alarming than ever, namely the demolition of houses, deprivation of medical services, access to property, and banning education in the native language.
Botswana said that as the international community was marking International Women’s Day, due recognition should be given to the struggles, achievements and challenges of women everywhere in their quest for equality, justice and freedom. Referring to the silencing of dissent and demonstrations, Botswana noted that the attacks on human rights defenders, denial of humanitarian access and lack of accountability represented a disturbing trend that could only lead to the widening of impunity.
Sweden commended the early response of the Office of the High Commissioner to evolving crises and for dispatching of teams to all corners of the globe, giving the international community the opportunity to act in defence of universal human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner conducted crucial in-country activities to bring human rights concerns to the attention of Member States.
Uganda said that the plight of migrants remained an issue of concern, thus welcoming the High Commissioner’s attention to this matter in his report. The Office of the High Commissioner was encouraged to explore mechanisms on building regional and bilateral initiatives for migrants’ protection.
Bolivia said that the mandate of the High Commissioner had to be discharged while respecting national sovereignty. The report was not prepared in a constructive light; it weakened the credibility of sources and instilled selective discipline. Instead, the principles of cooperation, genuine dialogue and strengthening capacities of States were needed. Support to Venezuela was extended in the face of persistent political pressures.
Maldives noted that observations on Maldives in the report were factually incorrect. The state of emergency did not restrict the freedom of expression or the media, the Supreme Court of Maldives had issued an order for the executive to immediately release nine individuals, and the decree only temporarily suspended those fundamental rights which could be legally restricted under the Constitution.
Slovenia joined the High Commissioner in standing up for women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights. It remained concerned over increasingly regressive trends in this area. It stressed its full support to women’s rights movements, from those who had attributed to raising this issue to prominence in the past, as well as to those whose courage to speak on abuse and sexual exploitation of women was more recent.
Algeria denounced the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law imposed by Israel on the Palestinians. It called upon the Human Rights Council to pay particular importance to Western Sahara, taking into account that the human rights component had not been included in the High Commissioner’s Mission in Western Sahara. It further suggested that the reports of these visits be included in the reports to the Secretary-General.
Sudan reaffirmed its continued cooperation with the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. There was a need to work with and respect the principles of non-selectivity and non-politicization. The non-respect of these, and the use of double standards would undermine the work of the Council and render it ineffective. The report on Sudan had been based on sporadic events in Darfur which was highly instable. Sudan hosted more than 1 million refugees from neighbouring countries.
Turkey said on the night of 15-16 July 2016, Turkey had been trampled by one of the most serious attacks on its constitutional order by Fethullah Gülen. Following this, effective domestic remedies had been put in place, in line with the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Over the course of the last two years, Turkey had cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights but had witnessed a biased approach led by the principle of defamation. It did not, therefore, expect the report to be balanced. Turkey used its legitimate rights enshrined under the United Nations Charter against terrorist organizations and did its utmost to avoid civilian harm.
Afghanistan said terrorism was the bloodiest crime in humanity, and should be prevented by all means. Afghanistan valued the efforts in the field of counter-terrorism and welcomed the study on its effects on human rights and challenges on preventing this scourge. Madrassas were the breeding ground of terrorism. Afghanistan urged the Council to conduct a study on the impact of madrassas on terrorism. The Government was committed to hold an election in the planned time frame.
Italy warned that human progress might be reversible if the international community did not stay vigilant about its social and political achievements. The Human Rights Council and its mechanisms were extraordinary tools to help all in protecting those achievements. Italy was appalled by the acute humanitarian crisis and by the systematic and gross violations of human rights in many parts of the world, starting with Syria.
Nigeria, responding to the High Commissioner’s comment about the arrest of some Cameroonians in its territory, reiterating that it was a sovereign nation and that it did not and could not permit the use of its territory for any activities capable of destabilizing another State. Nigeria had not acted in any manner other than that which conduced to a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Cameroon.
United Kingdom expressed concern about post-violence in Honduras, and about reports of violations and abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was extremely concerned about the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and it urged Thailand to deliver credible, inclusive elections in line with international standards. It further expressed concern about restrictions on freedom of expression in Viet Nam and the Philippines, and about recent inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka.
Ecuador stated that it was trying to become more participative, including various segments of the society in discussions with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating citizens in the Buen Vivir (Good Living) plan, and achieving economic balance and establishing a solid economy in the long term.
Fiji was honoured to have hosted the High Commissioner on his first visit to Fiji last month, allowing for frank discussion with State intuitions, national human rights institutions and civil society. The High Commissioner had highlighted the synergy between climate change and human rights and how those impacted the lives of Fijian people, which was important for Fiji as President of COP23.
Ireland applauded the High Commissioner for his candid update to the Council and his independent mandate, as many issues highlighted were also priorities for Ireland. What concrete recommendations did the High Commissioner have to Member States to improve the communication of public and youth engagement with fundamental human rights as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
El Salvador said that the philosophy of the United Nations had been supported by different resolutions, each determining characteristics of human rights standards such as equal application and interdependence. The reports of the High Commissioner had to have a solution-based approach and establish cooperation mechanisms and suggestions for technical assistance. The report on human rights involved social, political and cultural reality in the country and it had to be verified from numerous sources.
For use of the information media; not an official record