Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Provides Oral Updates on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Eritrea
14 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this morning heard oral updates from Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Eritrea, then began its general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention.
Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Office of the High Commissioner had developed an Accountability Project for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which had foreseen a team of five staff to be based in Geneva and Seoul to establish an information repository. The repository would be the first independent and comprehensive information system on human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Turning to Eritrea, she said the High Commissioner had undertaken a fourth mission to the country in October 2017 where human rights had been discussed with Government officials, civil society organizations, and the United Nations country team.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not present to take the floor as a concerned country.
Eritrea, speaking as a concerned country, said it was committed to protecting the human rights of its citizens and efforts had been taken to address existing challenges. Thus far, four missions of the Office of the High Commissioner had been conducted and Eritrea saw them as a constructive. It was unfortunate that the Human Rights Council had held an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eritrea under the resolution spearheaded by two regional countries whose human rights situations were appalling and whose hostility towards Eritrea was evident.
The Council then began its general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention.
In the general debate, speakers voiced concern over deteriorating human rights situations across the world and called for implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions aimed at addressing various crises. Speakers noted that the persecution and silencing of journalists, political opposition members, and rights defenders remained serious concerns in many countries. They called for democratic principles to be reasserted as a way to ensure electoral process were fair and inclusive. Some speakers condemned the selective, destabilizing approach to human rights issues taken by certain Member States.
Speaking were Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Bulgaria, on behalf of the European Union; United States, on behalf of a group of countries; Slovenia; Germany; Belgium; Switzerland; Spain; United States; Australia; Ukraine; Venezuela; Georgia; United Kingdom; Peru; Japan; Republic of Korea; China; Cuba; Pakistan; Czechia; Norway; Finland; Russian Federation; Canada; Denmark; Israel; France; Iran; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Ireland; Belarus; Iceland; Luxembourg; Azerbaijan; Netherlands; Cambodia; and Eritrea.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights; Baha’i International Community; Family Health Association of Iran; VIVAT International (in joint statement with Franciscans International); International Lesbian and Gay Association; Human Rights Law Centre; Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture; International Services for Human Rights; International Federation of Journalists; British Humanist Association; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; World Evangelical Alliance; Human Rights House Foundation; International Federation Terre des Hommes; Iraqi Development Organization; Song of Cheetah in Desert; International Commission of Jurists; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Alsalam Foundation; Human Rights Watch; Indigenist Missionary Council; France Libertes : Fondation Danielle Mitterrand; World Jewish Congress; Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship; Society for Threatened Peoples; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment; Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims; Franciscans International (in joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; and World Organisation Against Torture); European Union of Public Relations; Canners International Permanent Committee; International Bar Association; Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation; World Organisation Against Torture; Europe-Third World Centre (in joint statement with Friends of the Earth International; International Trade Union Confederation and Institute for Policy Studies); African Regional Agricultural Credit Association; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Center for Environmental and Management Studies; and African Development Association.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At noon, it will continue its general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention.
Presentation of Oral Updates on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Eritrea
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, provided oral updates on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Eritrea, pursuant to resolutions 34/24 and 35/35 of the Council. Concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the resolution aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor human rights violations, particularly those that could amount to crimes against humanity. The Office of the High Commissioner had developed the Accountability Project for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which had foreseen a team of five staff to be based in Geneva and Seoul bringing the legal expertise to establish the information repository. Work had started on the electronic repository, which would be the first independent and comprehensive information system on human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The information collected, including interviews with victims, would constitute a vital building block for the larger accountability project. The recent thaw in relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, evident during the Winter Olympics exchanges, was welcomed. The international’s community had to support a long-term and principled protection approach that improved the situation for the people.
Turning to Eritrea, the Council was informed that since the last update at the Council’s thirty-fifth session, the Office of the High Commissioner had undertaken a fourth mission to the country in October 2017, where human rights had been discussed with Government officials, civil society and the United Nations country team. A series of issues of fundamental importance were raised, including access to justice, ending indefinite national service, and the release of people who were arbitrary detained. Enacting a Constitution under which human rights were protected was essential and the Government said it was still considering a review. Though the resolution requested the Government to provide the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with information on the identity and whereabouts of all detained persons, this information had not been provided. Arbitrary detention was still the norm, affecting thousands of those imprisoned. The findings of the 2016 Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea remained relevant. A call to Eritrea was reiterated to release unlawfully and arbitrarily detained persons. Numerous capacity building activities had taken place, considering the commitments made by Eritrea in the context of its Universal Periodic Review and authorities were invited to participate in regional training on the Universal Periodic Review. The Government had agreed to continue cooperation in the administration of justice and a project proposal was being prepared to bring the justice system in line with international standards.
Statements by the Concerned Countries
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not present in the room to take the floor as a concerned country. Eritrea spoke later as a concerned country.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, strongly condemned the military trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed al-Tamimi by the Israeli forces. A similar plight was faced in Jammu and Kashmir by teenage boys and girls. All human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories were condemnable. The Organization urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish the names of the 216 companies involved in profiting from the illegal construction and growth of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Organization also called upon Myanmar to grant immediate access to all stakeholders.
Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, was deeply concerned about the deterioration of the situation in Cambodia and about the detention and trials of human rights defenders in China. It was highly concerned about the campaign against the use of drugs in the Philippines and called upon Egypt to stop restricting civil society space. It called on Bahrain to maintain its commitments to freedom of speech, and called on Russia to guarantee freedoms of expression, assembly and religious belief. It was seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Turkey and the heightened violence and the continued building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
United States, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, was concerned about the widespread violations of human rights, including the detention and excessive use of force by Iranian authorities on demonstrators who had peacefully protested in December 2017. Violations included torture, and suicide allegedly occurring in the prisons. The group urged Iranian authorities to investigate these deaths and abuses by authorities. They condemned the targeting of dual passport holders, as well as the violations of the freedom of expression and the continued use of the death penalty.
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Alignment Movement, condemned the gross human rights violations in the world and said they must be addressed within the global context through a constructive, non-confrontational and non-politicized way, with the principles of non-selectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of the State, and with respect to sovereignty. Recalling the relevant Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions, the Movement reminded that the Council should consider all human rights in general cooperation and a constructive dialogue, and build an international order based on cultural dignity, universal human rights, and transparency.
Slovenia said it was closely following the dark human rights situation in Syria, calling for full and immediate implementation of Security Council resolution 2401. Attention was also given to the situation in Ukraine. Slovenia noted Burundi’s and Myanmar’s lack of cooperation with United Nations bodies and called on those States to fully cooperate with international organizations. Slovenia also remained concerned about the economic crisis, and its human rights implications, particularly malnutrition among children in Venezuela.
Germany said the detention of journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey was a major concern. Germany remained seriously worried over increasing repression in Egypt, including via the systematic silencing of the media. Germany reiterated concerns over strong pressure being faced by civil society organizations in Russia. Killings and widespread impunity in the Philippines were identified as major concerns. Germany also noted the dismantling of the democratic order in Venezuela, urgently calling on that country to allow for the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid.
Belgium said human rights situations in Burundi and Myanmar were deteriorating. Human rights violations in Syria were horrific and Belgium would continue to pursue mechanisms to prosecute those responsible for serious rights abuses. Libya was facing a future of lawlessness as the human rights situation there continued to deteriorate. Turning to Iran, Belgium said the practice of the death penalty for juveniles was a major concern.
Switzerland reminded Turkey that the declaration of a state of emergency did not release it from its international human rights obligations. The arrest of political opposition members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was troubling. In Venezuela, individual freedoms were being threatened and upcoming elections lacked legitimacy. Venezuela was called upon to promote a democratic space in line with its human rights obligations. Recent developments in Cambodia threatened the legitimacy of its electoral process.
Spain voiced concern over the human rights situations in Syria, Burundi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, South Sudan and Iran. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the growing number of extrajudicial killings and prosecution of human rights defenders, coupled with the humanitarian crisis were concerning. The occupied Palestinian territories were still areas where gross violations of international law occurred.
United States was concerned about the human rights situations in Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Cambodia, South Sudan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In Russia, freedom of association was further curtailed before the upcoming elections and there was evidence of abuses in Chechnya. From Ukraine to Syria and now the United Kingdom, Russia continued to be a force of instability in the world, showing disregard of independent countries.
Australia would remain a pragmatic partner to the Council and States, including countries considered under item 4 as much as possible, advising them to improve their human rights record. There was no progress in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the situation in Iran with no free trials and the death penalty was appalling. A political solution to the Syrian crisis was badly needed and the attempted assassination by Russia in the United Kingdom was condemned.
Ukraine said that human rights organizations had assessed the current climate in Russia as the most oppressive in the history of modern Russia, resembling that of the Soviet totalitarian regime. Four years of illegal occupation of Crimea and parts of Donbas by Russia had been marked by a sharp deterioration of human rights, including abductions and repressive measures that primarily targeted pro-Ukrainian activists and members of the Crimean Tatars.
Venezuela said the Human Rights Council had become politicized and regretted that some powers used it to attack Venezuela. Despite these attacks which aimed to destabilize Venezuela and demonize it to the self-interest of those countries, the Government was building dialogue and peace. States should respect the principles of non-interference, mutual respect and the right to self-determination of peoples. It was unheard of that some States were trying to give lessons of human rights to countries, whereas these had their own shady past.
Georgia remained deeply concerned about the situation in Syria. It supported the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called for his unimpeded access to the country. It was worried that the violations in South Sudan could amount to crimes against humanity. Georgia was concerned about the situation in occupied Crimea, where the local population suffered grave violations of human rights. Ethnic discrimination, torture, ill-treatment and restriction of movement were a few examples of the occupation regime in the Georgian occupied territories.
United Kingdom said the Council and the General Assembly had decried Russia’s violations of international law with alarming regularity. Its behaviour was an affront to all that this body stood for. In Syria, the Council had repeatedly addressed violations carried out or backed by Russia, resulting in thousands of deaths, and untold human suffering. The recent debate on Eastern Ghouta had highlighted Russia’s role in the massive civilians suffering, in flagrant disregard of a unanimous Security Council resolution.
Peru reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, which was a commitment that had been undertaken by all nations of the United Nations. It showed the willingness of the States to respect the enjoyment of human rights by all citizens within their jurisdiction. Peru expressed serious concern about violations of human rights. Human dignity was inherent to victims which made it imperative that States took quick action and found an honest solution for those who were suffering.
Japan said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to pursue its nuclear ambitions in disregard of the human rights situation of its people. The international community must maintain pressure on Pyongyang. Japan called on Pyongyang to sincerely cooperate with the international community, including to resolve abduction issues in the most expeditious manner. Japan placed utmost importance on strengthening the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Republic of Korea welcomed the establishment of the central and independent information and evidence repository in Geneva. This development would help strengthen the capacity to implement relevant recommendations made to address the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Seoul reaffirmed its commitment to cooperating with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
China said it always advocated people-centered approaches to address human rights without prejudice. However, some countries made flagrant accusations against Beijing, in clear contradiction of productive dialogue. China rejected any interference in its judicial sovereignty and voiced concern over racism and violence in the United States. Racism was also on the rise in Europe, including in Germany where hate speech was targeting migrants and refugees.
Cuba called for the rejection of the manipulation of human rights issues. Powerful countries were ignoring serious human rights violations within their own borders. Xenophobia, racism, and intolerance were growing at an alarming rate in many countries. Statements made by the United States regarding Cuba were groundless and only served to politicize the Human Rights Council. Cuba condemned the assassination of African Americans by law enforcement officers and the deportation of minors in the United States.
Pakistan said that extreme nationalism had worrying effects on the human rights of minorities across the globe. A mosque in Berlin had been set on fire, and there had already been 950 anti-Muslim attacks in Germany. India was also plagued by narrow nationalism which would provide for an easy victory in elections. The Council was asked to establish a United Nations fact-finding team to investigate human rights violations and repression in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Statement by Eritrea as a Concerned Country
Eritrea, speaking as a concerned country, said that the Government was committed to protecting the human rights of its citizens and efforts had been invested to address existing challenges. As part of the growing international engagement in 2014, the Office of the High Commissioner was invited to provide technical support to Eritrea in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review. Thus far, four missions from the Office of the High Commissioner had been conducted and Eritrea saw them as a constructive help. However, deep regret was made over some comments expressed by members of the Office of the High Commissioner which did not reflect the partnership.
The Office of the High Commissioner had a vital role to play and assist States in consolidating their capacities by avoiding double standards. Yet, the Office of the High Commissioner continued to focus on political and civil rights. It was unfortunate that the Council had held an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eritrea under the resolution spearheaded by two regional countries whose human rights situations were appalling and whose hostility towards Eritrea was evident. One country was ruled by an ethnic minority under Marshall Law conditions and the other by a family that was notorious for human rights abuses. For the Council to engage in such discussions on Eritrea meant it was being used as an instrument of regional conflict. Could the Office of the High Commissioner explain what had been done to respond to allegations and implications made during the interactive dialogue concerning threats made to the Special Rapporteur?
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Czech Republic deeply regretted the situation in Myanmar and Yemen. In South Sudan, gross human rights violations continued to be committed by all parties to the conflict, and civilians bore the brunt. Peaceful demonstrations in Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo were being clamped down. In Cambodia, the escalating repression of the opposition and civil society was deeply worrisome. Czech Republic reiterated its call on the Philippines to uphold due process of law and expressed its shock at the recent executions of prisoners in Iraq. It urged Iran to ensure the rights to a fair trial.
Norway was deeply concerned about threats on attacks on journalist, artists and human rights defenders and urged Governments to refrain from arbitrary detention. It was extremely concerned about the situation in South Sudan and remained deeply concerned about the situation in Turkey. In Venezuela the situation was critical. Norway reiterated the need for a political solution to the crisis and the respect of institutions upholding human rights and freedoms. It urged the Government of Azerbaijan to allow critical voices and dissent.
Finland said human rights belonged to everyone. All parties must respect Security Council resolution 2401 in Syria demanding the cessation of hostilities. It remained deeply concerned about the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and was alarmed by the possible ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Called on Myanmar to put an end to violence in Rakhine state. Only the Minsk Agreement could bring end to human suffering. Finland called on Venezuela to free all political prisoners and on Egypt to ensure journalists, minorities, and human rights defenders safe space.
Russian Federation said the situation of racial profiling in the United States continued. Adults of African American origin were three times as likely to be convicted and end up in prison. The practice of solitary confinement in prisons remained. The space for journalists and media was shrinking as shown by 12 searches of media and the detention of four journalists in 2017. High profiles of sexual violence against children went unpunished. There was a reduction of social protection for the low income population. Russia had no comment on the United States’ migration policy. In Europe, including in Netherlands and Denmark, xenophobic violations of freedom of religion continued.
Canada said far too many Human Rights Council members bore responsibility for extending human suffering. China continued persecuting religious minorities, a practice incompatible with its international obligations and its own constitution. Canada questioned Beijing’s commitment to the rule of law and called on Russia to promote a safe environment for civil society organizations.
Denmark remained concerned with the shrinking space for civil society organizations in Israel and Palestine. Atrocities in Syria required those responsible for crimes to be held accountable. Denmark called for the release of detainees in Bahrain and reiterated its encouragement for Egypt to provide an enabling environment for civil society actors.
Israel said in Iran minority groups were oppressed and Tehran continued to destabilize the region, including through its involvement in the Syrian conflict. The impact of the conflict on children had been taken up by the Human Rights Council, yet this must be translated into assistance on the ground. Israel called on Palestine to stop glorifying and economically supporting terrorists.
France said wide-scale violations in conflict zones were troubling, particularly in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. France called for an immediate end to hostilities to allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Turning to Venezuela, France said the legitimacy of upcoming elections was seriously threatened. In Russia, Turkey, and China human rights defenders still faced persecution.
Iran warned that nationalism, extremism and Islamophobia were prominent in targeting Roma, Muslims and migrants, as voiced in the High Commissioner’s report and as confirmed by the forced evictions of Roma. The situation of migrants was shocking according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Indefinite incarnation in Guantanamo Bay continued, as well as human rights abuses documented in Canada.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the human rights abuses in the United States had been reaching extreme levels and in the European Union had also been of serious international concern. Japan had to duly accept the State’s legal responsibilities for its past crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery, and make apologies and offer compensation.
Ireland was extremely concerned about the conflict in Yemen and was looking forward to the submission of the report of the group of experts in advance of the September Council session. In Myanmar, the situation in Rakhine state was followed with immense concern. Ireland was staunch supporter of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
Belarus warned against the use of human rights arguments as tools of political pressure. Developing countries were subjected to criticism when instead it was them which needed help the most. Developed countries, however, believed they were immune to the criticism. The Council had to renounce counterproductive practices and promote initiatives aimed at capacity building
Iceland was deeply concerned about the continuing war in Yemen, where civilians payed the biggest price. Those responsible for this calamity were the Houthi and affiliated forces, as well as Saudi Arabia and its Coalition forces, with their constant and relentless airstrikes. Iceland regretted that Israel continued its expansion of illegal settlements and said the precarious existence of many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, was a humanitarian and security concern. It expressed concern over the deterioration of stability and security in South Sudan.
Luxembourg had made an appeal to Syria and its allies to immediately cease their military activities against civilians. These were cases of a fight against terrorism being invoked as an excuse. In other situations around the world, the fight against terrorism allowed governments to clamp down on civic space and made the legitimate expression of freedom of expression or association impossible. The first victims were human rights defenders. The world must work to ensure that the fight against terrorism did not endanger human rights.
Azerbaijan said the number of the internally displaced persons had doubled to almost 41 million since 2000 due to armed conflicts and violence in different parts of the world. While Internal displacement impeded the achievement of development goals, it also forced people to live in vulnerable conditions. Azerbaijan hosted one of the largest internally displaced persons’ populations per capita in the world – above one million. Its sensitivity to this issue was understandable.
Netherlands deplored the horrific violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta. It called on all parties to comply with their international law obligations, and urged them to immediately implement Security Council resolution 2401. It remained deeply concerned about human rights challenges in Myanmar where the safe return of refugees was of immediate and utmost importance. It called on Myanmar to implement recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Rakhine State. The Netherlands was also concerned about the situation of religious minorities in Iran.
Cambodia said some countries shamelessly explored ways and means to interfere in its national affairs. Such approaches only nurtured hostile feelings. Human rights mechanisms were being abused for political gains. Cambodia vehemently opposed politically motivated statements and would welcome positive dialogue in appropriate forums.
Eritrea said the promotion and protection of human rights was one of the main pillars of the United Nations. Eritrea was subjected to a politically motivated, country-specific approach initiated by countries with egregious human rights records. The international community must not allow human rights instruments to be dragged into regional conflicts. Only engagement, dialogue, and cooperation could advance human rights.
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights drew attention to the peaceful demonstration against Chinese rule in Tibet in March 2008. Since then, China had intensified repression and imposed pervasive military and security controls in order to stifle any challenge to its rule. That had been combined with attacks on Tibetan identity and culture, and gross human rights violations, both of civil and political, and of economic, social and cultural rights
Baha’i International Community highlighted the human rights violations against the Baha’i community in Iran, and incitement to hatred against them. They had been prevented from accessing higher education and public-sector employment, seizure of their lands and crops, and revocation of business licenses.
Family Health Association of Iran noted that the people of Yemen had to draw their water from insecure sources, leading to the outbreak of cholera. Due to the lack of access to healthcare, the infant and maternal mortality rate was sky rocketing and malnutrition was spreading among women and children. The international community should act to re-establish the delivery of healthcare services for them, and the establishment of peace in the country.
VIVAT International (in joint statement with Franciscans International), expressed concern about the situation of trafficking of persons and migrant workers from Indonesia. The exploitation and mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers continued, especially of those who came from East Nusa Tenggara Province and who worked in Malaysia. The organization called on the Government of Indonesia to ratify without delay the International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 on domestic workers.
International Lesbian and Gay Association stressed that societies based on exclusion were inevitably unjust, unfair, inefficient and simply wrong. It drew attention to the suppression of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Paraguay, Uganda and Indonesia, noting that each State had to stand up for basic decency and mutual understanding.
Human Rights Law Centre said the Australian Government had professed its concerns about human rights, yet it continued to violate them. About 1,800 innocent migrants, including 150 children were being held by the Australian Government in offshore camps. Time and time this Council had warned that Australia’s cruelty to refugees was wrong. While it could free them, the Australian Government was making the decision not to. Such deliberate cruelty knobbed away on the human rights principles of this Council. The Centre urged the Council to ensure accountability.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said the Lebanese Government had after 10 years taken positive steps to end torture in the country. A law preventing maltreatment and torture had been amended. However, this was not enough. The fact that there was deliberate delay of this human rights mechanism was unacceptable. Delaying such an instrument in places of detention, as well as the deteriorating social and health conditions of the detainees, raised a lot of questions and concerns.
International Services for Human Rights said trumped up charges and due process violations related to “State security” in China could not be accepted as merely the “rule of law.” Arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances had an overall chilling effect on human rights defenders and the enjoyment of the rights which they defended. In Egypt, counter-terrorism measures were used as a cover-up for ongoing human rights violations. It urged the Council to take inspiration from the words of victims.
International Federation of Journalists said he was a senior correspondent with BBC’s Persian service in London and had come to urge the Council to call upon Iran to stop persecuting BBC Persian staff and their family members in Iran. His colleague’s 27-year old sister had been arrested in Tehran and taken to Evin prison. The interrogators had given his colleague an ultimatum. They would release her if she stopped working for the BBC or agreed to spy on others in the BBC for them. His colleague had refused and the Iranian authorities had kept her sister in solitary confinement for 17 days.
British Humanist Association said access to safe legal abortions remained limited across the world. Unsafe abortions now accounted for 13 per cent of maternity deaths worldwide. Abortion legislation in Ireland was having serious negative implications for women’s health. In other countries anti-abortion legislation amounted to gender-based violence.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc said recent statements by the King saying the country was an oasis for human rights had surprised many activists. The organization noted the detention of activists and human rights defenders and asked how such actions represented a human rights oasis. Violations against freedom of expression persisted and the King had to address the situation.
World Evangelical Alliance pointed to increasing government restrictions on freedom of belief. In Algeria, churches were being closed and people were being detained for possession of religious materials. In Nepal, legislation strictly limited religious freedoms and affected the religious freedom of minorities. In India, there were accounts of religiously motivated violence against Christians.
Human Rights House Foundation said anybody could be punished at any time for challenging the authorities in Belarus. Unauthorized gatherings were punished with heavy fines and confiscation of property. The death penalty remained in use and pleas were made for the Government to end the practice. The Foundation called on the Human Rights Council to ensure that Belarus implemented measures to promote and protect rights.
International Federation Terre des Hommes drew attention to the extremely difficult situation of youth from Western Sahara, noting that the third generation of Sahrawis was growing up in the refugee camps in Algeria, or in the territory under Moroccan occupation. It called on the Council to immediately take adequate measures to support the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people.
Iraqi Development Organization highlighted the conditions in the Jau prison in Bahrain, notably the ill-treatment and denial of healthcare to political prisoners. Those men had been targeted for their peaceful political activities and were serving lengthy sentences, including life in prison, where they were subjected to further rights violations. The organization called on the Council to address those violations.
Song of Cheetah in Desert reminded of a project to construct 22 dams and 19 hydraulic power plants on the Tigris River in Iraq, which would cause an environmental catastrophe. The organization called on Turkey to look at the content of the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the decision made by the International Court of Justice on 2 February 2018 regarding the responsibility of a State to compensate for the environmental damages caused in another country.
International Commission of Jurists remained concerned about continued misuse of the law to restrict fundamental freedoms in Thailand. By invoking military orders, criminal defamation laws and sedition-like offences, the Computer-Related Crime Act, and the Public Assembly Act, the legal system had been misused to harass human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, journalists, and victims of human rights violations and their family members.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said while Nigeria’s federal constitution protected the rights of all citizens, regardless of religious, gender, ethnicity and other differences, these rights were often denied to religious minorities in northern and central states. In particular, it remained concerned about the steep rise in attacks by Fulani herder militia on villages in central Nigeria. It called on the Government to do all it could to end the violence by Boko Haram and the Fulani militia, and to end impunity.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia expressed concern over the situation of human rights in several Asian countries where elections were expected this year. It called on the Council to urgently deliberate on Cambodia before June. It was concerned about plans in Malaysia for a new legislation to curb “fake news” ahead of elections. Bangladesh would face elections later this year. Enforced and involuntary disappearance remained a key concern in the country. The current state of emergency in Maldives seriously undermined prospects for a free and fair election later this year.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers said FARC fighter Simon Trinidad had been detained in the United States for 18 years, with irreversible consequences on his health and in utter violation of international standards. Having in mind the ongoing peace process in Colombia, the Association asked the Government of the United States to expedite his repatriation to Colombia and not to place any obstacles. Simon represented part of the peace process in Columbia and should be part of it.
Alsalam Foundation raised its concern of Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, due to which 8 million Yemenis were at risk of malnutrition. There were outbreaks of cholera and outbreaks of diphtheria and malaria were suspected. Saudi Arabia’s blockade amounted to the use of famine as a weapon and constituted a war crime. It called on all states to take action against Saudi Arabia in the Security Council, sanction Mohammed bin Salman as a war criminal, and expel Saudi Arabia from this Council.
Human Rights Watch said that since President Xi Jinping took power in China the organization had documented numerous cases of harassment, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance of activists. China’s posture towards United Nations human rights mechanisms remained troubling. Member States’ unwillingness to issue another joint statement on the situation in China was proof of the pressure that Beijing was exerting.
Indigenist Missionary Council said indigenous populations in Brazil found themselves in a very perilous situation. Violence and evictions were unequivocal proof of abuses against the rights of indigenous communities. Brazilian authorities were implementing legislation to the benefit of corporations and exploiting indigenous lands. Violence against indigenous people in Brazil most be monitored.
France Libertes : Fondation Danielle Mitterrand called on the Human Rights Council to address the plundering of natural resources by Morocco in Western Sahara. It also called on the Council to address the critical situation of Sahrawi political prisoners detained in Moroccan jails. The foundation urged mandate holders to closely monitor the situation of Sahrawi rights defenders in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.
World Jewish Congress expressed deep alarm over Iran’s widespread support of terrorism and abhorrent treatment of women. Iran was exporting violence and playing a destabilizing role across the region. Iran was financing terrorists and held the world record for most executions per capita. The Human Rights Council was not doing enough to condemn Iran. The regime must be held accountable for its heinous crimes.
Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship voiced concern about violations of the right to freedom of expression by States present in the Council room. It deplored Egypt’s decision to seek the death penalty against photojournalist Abou Zeid for covering protests in the country, and the dissolution of the opposition political party in Cambodia. It condemned aggressions against journalists in Mexico, and threats and attacks on human rights defenders in Russia.
Society for Threatened Peoples highlighted gross violations of human rights, including freedom of religion and belief, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. The space for Tibetans to live in dignity and enjoy human values was shrinking, and the State’s interference in religious affairs had reduced space for free practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues was deeply alarmed at the crackdown on civil society in numerous countries, such as in Cambodia where constitutional amendments could lead to further slips towards authoritarianism, or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt where there was backlash against human rights defenders and political activists.
Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment noted that environmental policy was often a sign of progress, but the expansion of environmental deterioration for various reasons, including the continuous wars in the Middle East, had led to adverse effects on the environment. It seemed that none of the international treaties were relevant for some countries.
Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said many people had died of cholera in Yemen and more than 200,000 were infected. Were these numbers not enough to convince the international community that the catastrophic situation in Yemen required an urgent action to address the situation? It called on the Human Rights Council to take practical measures to end the violent armed conflict in Yemen.
Franciscans International (in joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; and World Organisation Against Torture), said the war on drugs in the Philippines had resulted in the death of 12,000 people. It strongly condemned the Government’s placement of the Special Rapporteur on indigenous people’s rights and other individuals on the terrorist list. It was concerned about the attempts to suppress dissent in the Philippines and called on the Government to end all killings associated with the war on drugs and cooperate with the United Nations Special Procedures Mechanisms.
European Union of Public Relations said blasphemy laws in Pakistan were used to inflict violence upon vulnerable minorities. They had been used for personal vendettas and the harassment of communities, and had resulted in a harrowing experience for the Christian community minority. A person who had stated something on WhatsApp was now on death row. The consequences of the blasphemy law were of high concern. It called on the Council to urge Pakistan to immediately repeal these archaic blasphemy laws.
Canners International Permanent Committee said the plight of Christians in Pakistan was a serious issue that demanded attention. The Government had launched a law on online content deemed to be blasphemous. Even though Christians and other religious minorities made up a high number of the population, they were being targeted. On 11 July, the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas had issued a new law to condemn anyone accused of blasphemy. Social discrimination was increasing.
International Bar Association shared concerns over the existence of political prison camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Association found that many rights violations were taking place in detention camps. It called on the authorities to dismantle all political prisons and provide redress for victims. Security concerns must not supersede human rights concerns in the country.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation remained deeply troubled by violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka attacked Rohingya refugees and anti-Muslim violence was witnessed in Sri Lanka. The State was allowing such violence to occur. A culture of impunity had led to the persecution of Rohingya refugees.
World Organization against Torture said Mexicans were tired of violence and impunity. Serious human rights violations were occurring under the pretext of the war on drugs. Hundreds of thousands of families were forced to flee their homes as violence continued to spread across the country. Mexico required the rapid intervention of the Human Rights Council.
Europe-Third World Centre (in joint statement with Friends of the Earth International; International Trade Union Confederation and Institute for Policy Studies), said the modus operandi in Brazil was to open the economy to the desires of multinational corporations. The Government closed human rights offices and social investments were frozen. The judicial branch has been unable to address the countries issues and abuses of due process amounted to political prosecution. Brazil was called upon to rescind all conducts in violation of its constitution.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said that minorities in Pakistan faced human rights abuses and violent religious attacks. The Ahmadis were considered as non-Muslims and were one of the most discriminated minorities in Pakistan. Some two to four million Ahmadis lived in the country. Faith-based hate towards them had been propagated at the highest levels of the Government. The Council had to immediately ask Pakistan to end discrimination against the Ahmadis.
Asian Legal Resource Centre voiced deep concern about the human rights situation in Bangladesh, namely enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture. Most victims were activists of opposition political parties. The highest numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Italy were from Bangladesh. The Government was hiding behind the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies drew attention to rising religious intolerance. In Baluchistan in Pakistan there was a brutal repressive regime. Human rights violations had reached a critical threshold in Baluchistan, including enforced disappearances committed by the military forces, as well as extrajudicial killings and torture. Media and human rights organizations were not given access to Baluchistan.
African Development Association noted that despite positive contributions of migrants to host societies, migration was still a hotly debated topic. Millions of people were compelled to migrate because of security threats. Many northern countries toughened their migration policies and fostered animosity towards migrants.
For use of the information media; not an official record