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9 March 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning continued its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

In the discussion speakers underlined the importance of a balanced approach to civil and political rights on the one hand, and to economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, on the other hand. The Council should seriously respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, and adhere to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. They hailed the inclusive and transparent process of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations, noting that the adoption of an international legally binding instrument was an utmost priority for the international community when it came to addressing violations and ending impunity for human rights violations, and providing redress to victims.

Speakers recognized the role and contribution of human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights. It agreed that the adoption of legislation and policies protecting human rights defenders was of vital importance. However, it was also important for States to establish an orderly atmosphere within which various actors could operate to promote and protect human rights. Some speakers regretted that the ever-deeper dividing lines in the Human Rights Council were steadily leading to a decline of its authority. The ingenuine use of the Council discredited the body and undermined the protection and promotion of human rights. Some said that when unfettered freedom of expression was allowed, it could lead to the spread of terrorism and extremism, and incitement of inter-ethnic conflict. It was absolutely vital that the Council was not used for promoting terrorism and extremism.

Some speakers were concerned about torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, particularly while serving arbitrary prison sentences, and dissolution of opposition parties. They also drew attention to the wellbeing of minorities, women’s rights, targeting of atheists, undemocratic election laws, and freedom from torture and ill-treatment among other issues.

Speaking were Egypt, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Nepal, Belgium, Pakistan, United States, United Kingdom, Turkmenistan on behalf of a group of countries, China, Norway, Russian Federation, Namibia, Libya, Guyana, Greece, State of Palestine, Iran, Maldives, Thailand, Netherlands, Uganda, Bolivia, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, Jordan, Council of Europe, Mozambique, Armenia, Tanzania, International Organization for Migration and Morocco.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Graduate Women International (GWI), Conectas Direitos Humanos, Family Health Association of Iran, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum, European Centre for Law and Justice, Life Foundation – Green Ecological Group, VIVAT International, Song of Cheetah in Desert, British Humanist Association, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, World Evangelical Alliance, Al-khoei Foundation, Human Rights House Foundation, Prevention Association of Social Harms, Human Rights Law Centre, Iraqi Development Organization, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights ( in joint statement with Amnesty International), International Youth and Student Movement of the United Nations, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Alsalam Foundation, France Libertes: Foundation Danielle Mitterrand, World Jewish Congress, Society for Threatened Peoples, Il Cenacolo, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, Franciscans International, Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Association Internationale pour l’égalité des Femmes, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Cuban United Nations Association, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, speaking for United Victims of Chevron, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, International Muslim Women’s Union, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, International Association for Democracy in Africa, United Schools International, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Association for Progressive Communications, Make Mothers Matter, Résau International des Droits Humains, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, World Environment and Resources Council, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Institute for Policy Studies, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, World Muslim Congress, Women’s Human Rights International Association, Association d’Entraide Médicale Guinée, Human Rights Advocates, and Japanese Workers’ Committee for Workers Rights.

The general debate started on Thursday, 8 March and a summary can be found here.

The Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude the general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

General Debate on All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

In the framework of the general debate, OMAR MARAWAN, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs of Egypt, informed the Council about the country’s progress in the protection of human rights, noting that the press sector was governed by an independent body. Another law had been implemented to move ahead with the construction of churches, and the Government had launched a programme called “Dignity” for thousands of people, delivering basic commodities and grains, housing, and social security. For the first time a woman had been named to the post of a provincial governor, and some 15 per cent of women were lawmakers. A programme for youth was in place to promote and strengthen their skills as parliamentarians, as well as a national strategy for the fight against corruption. The authorities had set up a national committee for the repatriation of children in an effort to fight trafficking, and a national strategy for the fight against illegal migration. Despite terrorist acts committed in the country, Egypt was determined to fully protect fundamental freedoms.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reiterated its principled position that all human rights and regions should be treated on an equal footing and with equal attention. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation advocated for de-politicization of the Council so that discussions took place in a constructive, non-confrontational, objective and non-selective manner. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had to prioritize the right to development in its annual programme of work, and to ensure the right to self-determination.

Nepal focused on the right to development, which had a profound meaning for developing countries such as Nepal. The right to development provided an integrated, holistic and cohesive framework for achieving inclusive human rights, dignity and equality for all. It was a matter of concern that even 25 years after the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, their promise to realize the universal and inalienable right to development still remained unfulfilled.

Belgium noted that human rights defenders, journalists, and political and civil society actors worked in difficult circumstances, while their work was crucial for the promotion and protection of human rights, and for safeguarding democracy. Belgium was particularly concerned about the shrinking of space for civil society and political actors in the context of elections. In the context of free and fair elections, the role of journalists was also a particularly important one.

Pakistan, said that the right to self-determination was a bedrock principle of the international order, enshrined in all international documents. The plight of the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir continued and crimes perpetrated by the occupation forces had only been enhanced. Since July 2016, 200 people had been killed and 250 women and children blinded by pellet guns so India was urged to allow blinded people to travel abroad to seek aid.

United States was concerned about efforts to inappropriately collectivize human rights, which had been guaranteed to individuals. China’s continued attempts to import domestic political terms into the United Nations context were noted with concern. It was warned that the Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations was detracting from the multi-stakeholder approach enshrined within the United Nations Guiding Principles.

United Kingdom noted the positive signs of media freedom improvements in The Gambia and Ecuador. Freedom House estimated that only 13 per cent of the world’s population had domestic access to a free press. In Maldives broadcasters airing speeches at opposition rallies had been fined and journalists had been pepper-sprayed. Foreign and domestic media in China was routinely censored. Freedom of expression was also an issue in Turkey, Eritrea and Egypt.

Turkmenistan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, underlined their commitment to the protection of human rights and the development of international cooperation in line with United Nations principles. Bolstering economic, social and cultural rights were a key priority in Central Asia, and the work of the regional Office of the High Commissioner in Central Asia was commended.

China said it was confused by the statement of the United States, which used its own values to judge the values of other sovereign States. All countries should establish international relations in line with the principles of impartiality and non-interference, which was in a stark contrast with countries that promoted unilateralism. China noted that freedom of expression was not absolute. The United Kingdom had a serious problem with human rights and it abused civilians in its anti-terrorist campaign, as well as with modern slavery. China would continue to be a constructive contributor to international human rights.

Norway said that it expected its businesses to know and apply the United Nations Guiding Principles, as well as the Guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Sustainable Development Goals would not be reached unless business was conducted in a way that supported those goals. Norway supported the call on business and other actors to urgently and publicly adopt a zero-tolerance approach to the killing of and violent acts against environmental human rights defenders.

Russian Federation emphasized that the ever-deeper dividing lines in the Human Rights Council were steadily leading to a decline of its authority. The ingenuine use of the Council discredited the body and undermined the promotion and protection of human rights. When unfettered freedom of expression was allowed, it could lead to the spread of terrorism and extremism, and incitement of inter-ethnic conflict. It was absolutely vital that the Council was not used for promoting terrorism and extremism.

Namibia noted that the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations represented an important opportunity for a paradigm shift in addressing violations perpetrated by businesses. Transnational corporations and other businesses could not operate in a legal vacuum and they had to be held accountable under international law, which was only possible through the adoption of an international legally binding instrument, which would provide a basis for reparations for victims.

Libya said it was adamant on constructively engaging and respecting human rights. It informed that inter alia, it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this year. As to the right to development, this would definitely promote stability and eradicate poverty, as well as achieve an end to marginalization. The Government had adopted a number of policies and plans in this direction.

Guyana said each of us was born with the right to life in liberty and freedom. Yet those rights were often abused, with growing signs of intolerance, racism and bigotry. As the world heard the horror stories of migrants as slaves, it wondered whether the world was going back. Those given responsibility at the highest level of the international community had the obligation to act. The highest priority was development. Guyana was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, with development as a crucial pillar.

Greece said interdependence was the most important principle of human rights, be they civil and political or economic, social and cultural. Greece advocated a rights based approach to sustainable development with all human rights on an equal footing, and transparency and accountability as principles. Greece was one of the main co-sponsors on several resolutions, covering all these rights, including the resolution on the right to work, and on the protection of cultural heritage, as well as on the safety of journalists.

State of Palestine said a legally binding instrument should emphasize the direct obligations of corporations under international law, and should include language aimed at preventing and addressing the heightened risk of business involvement in abuses in conflict situations, which included situations of foreign occupation. This instrument should be developed to ensure that corporations withdrew from operating in areas where human rights impact assessment and due diligence, and/or credible third-party documentation indicated that their activity threatened to, or currently did, impair the enjoyment of human rights or international humanitarian law.

Iran said that there had still been growing numbers of human rights violations by transnational corporations. Unilateral coercive measures and sanctions had to be prevented and violations of human rights caused by such measures should entail the international responsibility of States and consequently the duty to offer reparations to victims.

Maldives recognized the importance of assuring an environment where the need to engage in a dialogue was vital. The Maldives wished to reiterate the importance of cooperation and consultation with Member States in combatting human rights violations around the world. The Council should not be used unilaterally to achieve countries’ national bilateral interests.

Thailand said that the Working Group had proposed 10 recommendations on how States could embed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in their Sustainable Development Goals. The Council should further promote the two-way interaction between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Netherlands said at times of shrinking civil space worldwide, human rights defenders had been of paramount importance. They served as the guardians of universally recognized rights, representing the voice of marginalized communities. The concern of the Special Rapporteur regarding anti-blasphemy laws was shared and States were urged to facilitate interfaith communication and invest in religious literacy.

Uganda recognized the role and contribution of human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights. It agreed that the adoption of legislation and policies protecting human rights defenders was of vital importance. However, it was also important for States to establish an orderly atmosphere within which various actors could operate to promote and protect human rights. Uganda had adopted regulations to provide further clarity for the operations in that sector.

Bolivia hailed the inclusive and transparent process of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations, led by Ecuador. The adoption of an international legally binding instrument was of utmost priority for the international community when it came to addressing violations and ending impunity for human rights violations, and providing redress to victims. Bolivia also hailed the report on the promotion of democratic and equitable international order.

Algeria welcomed the high quality of work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations and invited all countries to constructively commit to the work of the fourth session. It reiterated support for the Group’s mandate as greater legal and institutional management of the activities of transnational corporations was needed, and because victims needed to have more opportunity for redress.

Sudan underlined the importance of a balanced approach to civil and political rights on the one hand, and to economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, on the other hand. The Council should seriously respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, and adhere to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.

Turkey had set itself the goal of developing women’s life standards and rights; to enhance their participation in politics, decision-making mechanisms and employment; to empower their social status; and to eliminate completely all kinds of violence against women and girls. As such, comprehensive work had been conducted in Turkey, in all fields such as education, health, professional life and political representation in recent years.

Ireland welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, and its focus on women journalists. It also welcomed the report on the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights, which provided a valuable analysis of the linkages between economic, social and cultural rights, and hazards, disasters, crises and conflicts. It appreciated the report on the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

Azerbaijan was of the view that although non-binding, voluntary rules aimed at the protection of human rights had been valuable, they had not been able to ensure access to effective remedy, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situations. Many commercial entities often consciously violated not only the major norms and principles of international law, but often also basic human rights. Some continued to use conflict and post-conflict situations to generate revenue.

Uruguay valued the emphasis placed on the close link between climate change and the migration of persons. The Global Compact on Migration was a priority on the international agenda, especially with regard to challenges related to climate change. It was important to develop an alternative for safe and orderly migration in this direction. Uruguay placed great importance on the rights of displaced people and the protection of migrants.

Jordan reaffirmed its commitment to and respect of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development and informed national perspective. The Council was informed that a study was released last year concerning the marriage of minors among Syrian refugees and instructing to develop a national strategy for this matter.

Council of Europe informed the Council about the work that the Council of Europe had been doing concerning the protection of human rights defenders. A political declaration on the necessity to protect and promote in law and in fact the space of human rights defenders was being prepared, as well as the non-binding legal instrument containing basic legal standards for States aimed at protecting the activities of human rights defenders.

Mozambique recommended that more attention be paid to the reality in developing countries and least developed countries where transnationals and other enterprises though contributing greatly to the economic growth also needed to respect human rights. In Mozambique the Government ensured that the right to development, to property, and to sovereignty over natural resources was being observed.

Armenia presented developments in the legislative framework for the protection of human rights during the last two years in Armenia, in order to put legislation in conformity with international standards. The Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence was signed in 2018.

Tanzania clarified that it was governed by the rule of law in compliance with the Constitution. If there were any restrictions on freedom of expression and media, they were only put in place when those freedoms encroached on the rights of others and when their activities were in contravention with the laws of the country. Tanzania was committed to ensuring access to education and it was one of the few countries providing free primary and secondary education to both boys and girls.

International Organization for Migration warned that if not well planned and managed, migration in its forced forms could have disastrous impacts on the enjoyment of the rights of those moving and the community concerned, as well as on the environment itself, putting migrants and communities in situations of vulnerability. The Global Compact for Migration offered States a historic opportunity to find internationally agreed migration policy solutions based on rights.

Morocco noted that it was fully committed to constructively discuss the issue of migration and it called on other countries to take part in that process. However, its efforts were undermined by Algeria’s forced expulsion of migrants which undermined the human dignity of African migrants and sullied the image of Africa around the world. Algeria was true to itself in those inconsistencies: it wanted to play a hero abroad, but it trampled on human rights at home.

Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture reminded of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon in 2018, noting that the new law on elections was more archaic than the previous one. There was the elimination of quotas for women and denial of access to voting for the youth, thus contravening the national Constitution. That was a step towards a renewed civil war. Lebanon needed a democratic election law.

Graduate Women International (GWI) drew attention to the resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2016 that aimed to bring an end to intolerance of minority groups and to create a more inclusive world. The organization expressed concern about the ongoing intolerance to ideas and beliefs that threatened the advancement of women and girls worldwide. The tendency to impose the view of the majority onto minority groups must end.

Conectas Direitos Humanos drew the Council’s attention to the current federal intervention in course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which was an exceptional instrument authorizing the Federal Government to intervene on specific cases, such as to restore public order. It was a fact that Rio had been facing security issues but the decree endorsed the notion that public security crises must be handled as warfare.

Family Health Association of Iran said racism and discrimination had always been one of the most important problems in human history. Today, these minimum human rights were violated by the Myanmar Government, and the Rohingya Muslims faced the strictest violations of their human rights for being Muslim and for having different ideas. Thousands had been killed, wounded and displaced by the army’s attacks.

Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum said no concrete action had been taken to cleanse the Islamic theology of totalitarianism, xenophobia, intolerance and historical urge to expand the land of Islam through offensive Jihad. Sufi theologians were also votaries of Islamic world domination. Rather than cleansing their theology of traces of political Islam, sections of Sufi Muslims were engaged in what could be called a “Wahabisation of Sufism.”

European Centre for Law and Justice raised the issue of pastor Andrew Brunson, the innocent United States citizen who had been wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey for almost a year and a half and had still not been formally charged with any crime. States were invited to make efforts to secure his release and safe return to the United States.

Life Foundation – Green Ecological Group called on the members of the Council and others to assist Hungary in correcting the discrimination carried out by Hungarian officials who had been violating the rights of thousands by violating the aims of their Constitution and standards on human rights. Hungary was doing so with the Scientologists. The Government of Hungary was recommended to start a fair dialogue with the church and protect the privacy and human rights of Scientologists, Christians and others.

VIVAT International said that recent information from Bosnia and Herzegovina brought some positive developments, however the implementation of the 2030 Agenda had to be strengthened. The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina was urged to uphold the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Song of Cheetah in Desert said that international sanctions in Iran had led to human rights violations and overall decrease of living conditions, impeding the development of modern technology. Environment challenges and the issue of increased pollution were raised, all affecting the decreased life quality of Iranian citizens.

British Humanist Association noted that anti-blasphemy laws often targeted the non-religious in particular. Egyptian lawmakers were considering a bill criminalizing atheism and dictating that the corresponding sentence would be severe. In Malaysia, officials had publicly threatened to hunt down apostates, and in India a man had been murdered for having posted atheistic comments online. Atheists and humanists were severely discriminated against in 85 countries around the world.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc continued to be deeply concerned about torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, particularly while serving arbitrary prison sentences. Opposition parties had been dissolved, with leading members targeted by the authorities. It called on all States, including Bahrain, to end all acts of torture and ill-treatment, particularly against human rights defenders and other political prisoners of conscience, and to release them immediately.

World Evangelical Alliance drew attention to the wellbeing of minorities, reminding that Kazakhstan had reduced freedom of religion, while in Bolivia a draft law on terrorism included a provision that would outlaw sharing beliefs in the public space. The President of Bolivia had stated that the intention was to prevent “destabilization of the country by the political right.” The treatment of minorities was the litmus test for the Sustainable Development Goal no. 16.

Al-khoei Foundation noted that women of Yemen also had rights and that their rights needed to be protected by the international community. As a result of the worst man-made humanitarian catastrophe that had been ongoing for nearly three years, the women of Yemen were bearing the brunt of that catastrophe. If they survived aerial bombardment, they were not safe from extremists who murdered them in cold blood in places, such as Taiz and southern governorates.

Human Rights House Foundation, in a joint statement, said in many countries, non-governmental organizations faced restrictions on access to foreign funding, unnecessary and arbitrary barriers to legal registration, and increased limits placed on their ability to exercise their rights to freedom of association and assembly. The activities on behalf of unregistered organizations in Belarus remained criminalized, and many entailed up to two years in prison.

Prevention Association of Social Harms said children were shockingly falling victims to conflict, they were used as human shields, killed, raped, and forced to marry. They suffered enormously due to lack of access to food and water. The children in Myanmar continued to suffer at the hands of the Myanmar military. At least 500,000 children had been killed, while some estimates said this figure was much higher. It called upon the international society to not remain indifferent to this conflict and to send humanitarian aid.

Human Rights Law Centre said three years ago, the world watched in horror as the Samarco mine dam in Brazil collapsed, killing 20 people and causing massive displacement, destruction and pollution. Tragedies like this were precisely why holding corporations accountable was a crucial part of a State’s human rights obligations. Unfortunately, however, the Australian Government had a dismal record on this front.

Iraqi Development Organization, in a joint statement, brought to the Council’s attention the ongoing systematic economic rights violations in Yemen, where a blockade, imposed by the Coalition that was led by Saudi Arabia, was causing famine to unfold and diseases to spread, taking the lives of 100,000 children in the past two years and starving 18 million people by unlawful implementation of the United Nations Security resolutions 2140 and 2216.

International Commission of Jurists called on States from all regions to engage meaningfully in the important work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations. The discussions during the third session had confirmed the need for an international treaty to fill the existing legal protection gaps. A transparent and broad-based consultation process was needed with clear timelines to prepare a draft treaty.

International Service for Human Rights ( in joint statement with Amnesty International), welcomed the Special Procedures’ latest joint communications report although it provided a troubling picture of attacks against human rights defenders. Among the 71 States listed in the present joint communications report, 21 were Council members, out of which 16 were repeated offenders having failed to reply to two or more communications, and Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru and the United States had failed to respond to four communications.

International Youth and Student Movement of the United Nations informed the Council about the Bureau’s proposal to reduce the debate time, as one of the results of the budget cuts which had been adopted by the General Assembly. The decision of Member States to reject clustering was approved. However, the issue raised the question of the overall functioning of the United Nations with an appropriate budget.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that one of the primary obstacles was the lack of oversight of work of transnational corporations. There was an urgent need to regulate this matter and Ecuador was encouraged to move ahead towards drafting a legally binding instrument and all Member States were called on to contribute to the process.

Alsalam Foundation reminded that four mandates had expressed serious concern about the reprisals against civil activists by Bahrain’s National Security Agency for their human rights work. Despite new complaints of human rights abuses in every communication report since 2011, the Government of Bahrain still failed to work constructively with the Special Procedures. It had denied all mandates access since 2006, despite repeated requests.

France Libertes: Foundation Danielle Mitterrand drew attention to the ill-treatment of Saharawi human rights defenders, particularly those 19 defenders who had been arrested as part of the dismantling of the camp Gdeim Izik in 2010. The organization denounced the colonization of West Sahara, persistent denial of the right to development of the Saharawi people, and illegal exploitation of natural resources by Morocco.

World Jewish Congress warned that despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of genocide, revisionist and negation theories about the Holocaust had been on the rise on social networks. The World Jewish Congress reiterated that Governments needed to regulate such statements strictly in cyber space.

Society for Threatened Peoples drew attention to the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in re-education camps in China. Thousands of Uyghurs had been rounded up throughout 2017 by Chinese authorities for re-education. They had been targeted on account of their ethnicity and in some cases, their connections to people outside China. Those detained in the camps had not been charged with a crime, and had been deprived of a trial and of legal access to legal remedies.

Il Cenacolo referred to the artificial conflict in the Sahara, and the fact that international institutions were supporting the Tindouf camps, where systematic embezzlement of the humanitarian aid occurred. Two principles of international law had to be respected in this regard. One was the separation of humanitarian law and politics, and the other was the unconditional registration of people living in the camps. How could one say that they were dealing with a refugee camp when these people had never been subject to a census?

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, referring to the proposed treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, said the protection from corporate abuse should be an essential element, as should elements of legal liability, access to justice, and legal remedy. Overcoming barriers to access to justice would, inter alia, ensure financial aid, including reversing the burden of proof. Any form of attack, including gender-related attack, should be implemented in the treaty.

Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment was concerned about the issue of launching satellites in orbits that polluted the space environment. None of the five treaties on the right to space referred to the effects on the environment of space debris. It was time for the United Nations to adopt a treaty on this issue.

Franciscans International (in joint statement with Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities and CIDSE), called upon all States to constructively engage with the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, in the drafting of the legally binding instrument. This instrument should include strong language on the State’s obligation to protect human rights defenders working in the context of business activities, and to promptly and independently investigate and punish attacks and intimidation of human rights defenders.

Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII expressed deep concern for the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia who continued to be murdered as well as concern for the advance of neo-paramilitary control in many areas of the country. Despite the efforts of the Colombian Government, it was clear that the Peace Agreements had not yet led to a pacification of the country.

International Association for Equality of women said that in Iran torture was still a common practice according to national law and amputations, eye gorging and flogging were frequently practiced. In December 2017 following a series of mass protests, reliable sources reported that close to 8,000 people had been detained and many had been denied access to lawyers.

European Union of Public Relations said that in Pakistan torture had become a norm, whether it had been for punishment or obtaining information. The national organization of human rights in Pakistan substantiated such findings, stating that law enforcement agencies had been widely utilizing torture, and the Committee against Torture had also highlighted the problem.

Canners International Permanent Committee said that Pakistan hosted the largest refugee population from Afghanistan since the 1970’s and there had been 150 refugee camps across the country. Refugees born to Afghani parents were denied education, children were living in deplorable conditions and Pakistan did not give them any legal status, thus rendering them stateless.

Cuban United Nations Association noted that the issue of foreign debt had given rise to destabilization in both developed and developing countries. Foreign debt was a hindrance to development, leading to incalculable development costs, and keeping developing countries under the dominion of former metropolis.

Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation said it demanded answers about the whereabouts of thousands of disappeared persons in Sri Lanka, following their surrender to the Sri Lankan army. It called on the Council to pressure the Government of Sri Lanka to address their demands and release the lists of those who surrendered, of detainees and of secret detention centres from during and after the armed conflict.

Asian Legal Resource Centre noted that there was a disconnect between the objectives of most of the Asian countries and the human rights community. The majority of Asian States did not have affirmative policies and practices to protect their citizens from human rights abuses. Instead, the perpetrators were provided with impunity by States. The first line of defence had to be national justice mechanisms and the fight against deep-rooted corruption in them.

Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, speaking on behalf of the Union of Victims of Chevron, reminded that it had been waging a judicial battle against the Chevron Corporation for 24 years, and it thanked the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations for its work during the third session. The current international legal system was not sufficient to deal with the crimes committed by corporation, especially when the victims were mostly indigenous peoples and poor peasants.

African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said numerous human rights instruments, including article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, declared that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Yet millions were subjected to torture in Pakistan. The situation was particularly alarming in Baluchistan. The Human Rights Council was urged to send a fact-finding mission to document the abuses in Pakistan.

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies said Pakistan was a State where Islam was the State religion. This gave an upper hand to this religion as opposed to others. The Federal Court had the power to strike down anyone that had violated Sharia law. Laws discriminated against the other religions, and had been influenced by fundamentalist Muslim ideals.

International Muslim Women’s Union said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized that a child grew and developed while in a positive and loving environment. It was deeply concerned about the children subjected to the wars in Palestine and Kashmir. Hundreds of thousands of children had grown up in an atmosphere of war. What they had witnessed had changed their mindset. The Human Rights Council had to take note of this extraordinary situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights noted the alarming rise of arbitrary arrests of Palestinians by the Israeli occupying forces. Throughout the year in 2017, over 6,742 Palestinians had been arrested from the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem and also Palestinians from historic Palestine. In a recent major operation, Israeli occupation forces had intensified their campaign of arrests during the month of December 2017. One fifth of the Palestinian population had been arrested since 1967.

International Association for Democracy in Africa said that violations of human rights in Pakistan posed a particular concern. The use of torture was widespread and violence was regularly used against religious minorities. The Council was reminded of the destruction of five Hindu temples in Karachi.

United Schools International said that the United Nations resolution on Jammu and Kashmir of 1948 obligated Pakistan to withdraw its forces. However, 70 years later, Pakistan still had not adhered to this legally binding agreement. Contrary to the country’s diplomatic rhetoric, vehemently propagated to the international community, it was Pakistan that was denying the fundamental human rights of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities warned that Yemen was facing a continuing coup, which was leading to starvation. Severe health conditions, including the spread of disease and epidemics, had been registered by the World Health Organization which had registered thousands of cases of cholera. Over 50 per cent of medical facilities were not functioning and the presence of militias was making the access further problematic.

Association for Progressive Communications, in joint statement, was gravely concerned about the growing crackdown by States on secure digital communications, including encryption and technologies that enhanced anonymity and confidentiality. Such a crackdown violated States’ human rights obligations. It was reiterated that the Council had recognised the importance of secure and confidential digital communication for human rights.

Make Mothers Matter reminded that among the obstacles faced by women to realize their right to work were various types of discrimination that they faced on the labour market, including the motherhood penalty, and their disproportionate share of unpaid family care work. They performed the larger share of the work essential for the wellbeing of families and society. Taking a lifecycle perspective and facilitating discontinuous career paths for both women and men was key to women’s right to work and their economic empowerment.

Résau International des Droits Humains stated that some countries of Latin America had established mechanisms for the protection of journalists, such as Colombia and Mexico. However, the figures of assassinations, censorship and threats had not diminished. The organization expressed hope that the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would motivate States to reflect upon the adoption of measures to more effectively protect journalists.

International Buddhist Relief Organization reminded that the Sri Lankan forces had defeated terrorists and protected the rights of all citizens. The terrorists had endangered the right to life and recruited children as soldiers. Local elections had been held in the north of the country for the first time in 30 years, and the authorities had embarked on unprecedented economic development. The Human Rights Council should not use human rights to target countries like Sri Lanka.

Commission to Study the Organization of Peace stated that Pakistan continued to violate the rights of vulnerable minorities, such as Christians. Christian women and girls were often abducted, raped and forced to marry Muslim men. The majority of the population of Pakistan was becoming increasingly anti-Christian.

World Environment and Resources Council requested the Council to help Sindhi people and to press upon Pakistan to stop the enforced disappearances, end the human rights violations against Sindhi people, and release all missing Sindhi persons. The Council should set up an official inquiry into the use of enforced disappearances of Sindhi people and urge Pakistan to sign the Convention for the Protection against all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and uphold its duties under the Convention against Torture.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology said religious persecution in Pakistan against Ahmadis was systematic. They were targets of many violent attacks by religious groups. Ahmadi places of worship had also been targeted. Growing religious intolerance was spreading. Ahmadis were banned from using any titles, building mosques, or reciting the Muslim prayer.

Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran said the root causes of the food crisis in Yemen, the Myanmar situation, crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and other conflicts were terrorism. This was why governments around the world continued to crack down on human rights defenders, and journalists and defenders were deprived of their freedoms. It drew the attention of the Council to the mental health of people around the world.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said less than a month ago all passengers and crew on board of an Iranian commercial flight had died after the plane crashed. In the past 20 years over 1,000 people had lost their lives to air disasters in Iran. Even after the nuclear deal, the United States had not kept its promise to end the sanctions on the Iranian commercial airline. The report presented by the Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures showed that it had high costs for the civilian population.

Institute for Policy Studies emphasized the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Transnational Corporations which had successfully brought elements of the treaty to the table for negotiations. The roadmap outlined for the next steps in the preparation of the fourth session was welcomed and the cases of lawsuits in international arbitration in Indonesia were elaborated.

Conseil international pour le soutien a des procès equitables et aux Droits de l’homme said human rights defenders were still facing prosecution worldwide. There were 39 cases of reprisals against civil society actors and human rights defenders. The Council was informed that Kuwait continued to incarcerate human rights defenders.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, speaking about a situation in prisons in Iran, said that electric shocks, sharp force, use of water, and amputation were used regularly. Human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were on hunger strikes and the Council was informed about such practices.

World Muslim Congress said that the media and human rights defenders in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir had walked the razor’s edge for the past 30 years, facing pressures due to intense militarization and arbitrary use of draconian laws. The armed forces had sweeping powers under the law, providing for the detention of persons without trial.

Women’s Human Rights International Association stressed that the families of the political prisoners of the 1989 massacre deserved to know the truth about their loved ones. The Government of Iran had not done anything to undertake an investigation. It called on the Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry about the 1989 massacre.

Association d’Entraide Médicale Guinée recalled that terrorists in Sri Lanka had violated the right to life of all citizens in the country. The terrorists forcefully recruited children as soldiers and used civilians as human shields. Unfortunately, nobody in the Human Rights Council spoke about those acts of terrorism, but only spoke of the ill acts of the Sri Lankan soldiers.

Human Rights Advocates noted that torture was still being used around the world on the most vulnerable groups, without reparations. Many women and girls who were victims of sexual and gender-based violence were excluded from traditional narratives of torture, creating substantial barriers to obtaining necessary reparations. In numerous countries, Governments sought to silence journalists who unveiled such crimes.

Japanese Workers’ Committee for Workers Rights raised some concerns about the issue of comfort women during the Second World War, stating that Japan’s military sexual slavery had not been just a bilateral issue between the Republic of Korea and Japan. It had been practiced throughout the Asia-Pacific region until Japan’s defeat in 1945. Victims were not just Korean, but also Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Indonesian, East Timorese, Papua New Guinean and Dutch.

For use of the information media; not an official record


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