HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON THEMATIC REPORTS BY SECRETARY-GENERAL AND HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Concludes Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner for Human Rights on her Annual Report
4 March 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning heard the presentation of thematic reports by the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and held a general debate on the reports. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on her annual report.
Marcia Kran, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented 18 reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, which dealt with issues ranging from the composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the operations of the Special Funds for victims of torture, to the normative framework of women’s rights, work and employment of persons with disabilities, democracy and rule of law, rights of minorities, the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, harmonizing the treaty body system, and the protection of human rights in the contexts of combating terrorism and peaceful protests.
In the general debate speakers said that, concerning the report on the right of the child to the highest standards of health, it was unacceptable that 6.9 million children under the age of five died every year and that most of those deaths were preventable. Concerning the report on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, delegations noted the obligation of States to ensure that any measures taken complied with international law, particularly the protection of refugees, the right to a fair trial and the absolute protection against torture. Concerning the report on the composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, several delegations noted that there were no specific targets and deadlines to address existing imbalances in the geographical distribution of the staff and that more needed to be done to ensure that the composition of the Office was representative of the world.
Speakers agreed that the study on common challenges facing States trying to secure democracy and the rule of law made it clear that democracy, human rights and the rule of law enjoyed a symbiotic relationship within a system of governance. Securing democracy was more than words on a page and a democratic society could not fully realize its potential until benefits were accessible and enjoyed by all, including members of marginalized and vulnerable groups. Democracy was not just about organizing elections, but also implied existence of the rule of law for both those governing and those governed; it was about equality between all citizens, and about eliminating all forms of discrimination and eradicating extreme poverty.
The following delegations spoke in the general debate: Ireland on behalf of the European Union, United States, Peru, India, Philippines, Romania, Gabon on behalf of the African Group, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Cuba, Djibouti, Iceland and Malta.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, North-South XXI, United Nations Watch, Union of Arab Jurists, World Environment and Resources Council, Liberation, Amnesty International, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Commission to the Study of the Organization of Peace, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’Homme, African Technology Development Link, Centre for Inquiry, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Advocates, Indian Council of South America, International Associations of Schools of Social Work and Eurasian Harm Reduction Network.
The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her annual report which she presented to the Council on Thursday, 28 February in the afternoon. A summary of her comments can be found here.
In her closing remarks Ms. Pillay said that she took seriously into consideration the areas of concern which had been bought to her attention. The High Commissioner reiterated her concern about the lack of meaningful progress in accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka and welcomed the Council’s engagement in monitoring domestic processes regarding accountability. Ms. Pillay agreed that the post-2015 agenda should be global and applicable to all, consistent with all human rights, and it should promote active participation in its design and implementation.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights were Angola, Austria, Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, Montenegro, Turkey, Iran, Switzerland and Belarus.
The International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights also took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples, North South XXI, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Liberation, World Muslim Congress, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, European Union of Public Relations, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, World Federation of Democratic Youth, International Service for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace and British Humanist Association in joint statement.
In its midday meeting the Council will hear the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, followed by a clustered interactive dialogue.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her Annual Report
Angola said that the fight against impunity, poverty and discrimination against women was a crucial aspect of the work of building a state of law, democracy and sustainable economic and social development. Angola welcomed the initiatives about integrating the human rights dimension in the context of humanitarian crises and the transition from emergency to development. Taking into account challenges in the area of migration, Angola welcomed the elaboration of guidelines on human rights at international borders, as well as a publication on the rights of migrants.
Austria said that despite historic progress, many challenges remained. Austria fully endorsed the renewed calls for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Impunity for serious human rights violations was not acceptable. Austria also appreciated activities in Mali, both the deployment of a human rights advisor to the United Nations country team and the Office’s fact-finding team to investigate human rights violations in the north. Furthermore, the Officer of the High Commissioner could make a significant contribution to the on-going reform process in Myanmar.
Republic of Moldova said that the increasing pressure on the Office should be properly dealt with, if the world wanted to strengthen the third pillar upon which the United Nations was founded. While making common efforts to address existing challenges of a financial nature, including through gradually putting in place a framework for sustainable resourcing, the full preservation of the independence of the High Commissioner and her Office should be ensured. The Republic of Moldova firmly believed that no protection gaps should be allowed to exist, including with regards to certain regions that were not, temporarily, under the control of the legitimate constitutional authorities.
Nigeria noted with grave concern the perpetration of racial discrimination and hate speech in many countries and called on their leadership to do more to put a stop to this. Acknowledging the progress made in addressing violence against women, Nigeria said that the battle was far from won and called on all nations to remain engaged on this issue. Nigeria urged the High Commissioner to intensify her engagement on migrants’ rights and urged greater commitment of resources towards building a rights-based approach to combating human trafficking.
Montenegro said that the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights were Montenegro’s priorities as empowering women was complementary to empowering the society as a whole. Montenegro expressed its appreciation for the prompt attention by the High Commissioner to ongoing issues including Syria and Mali and asked what steps were being taken to address the concerns the High Commissioner had expressed in her report about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The Universal Periodic Review process continued to demonstrate a great potential in highlighting the position of those most vulnerable in societies.
Turkey said that a non-negligible part of the world’s problems stemmed in part from lack of attention to human rights. Discrimination was a top issue that all must deal with in this context. Violence and discrimination against immigrants, migrant workers in particularly, was a serious challenge and they should be perceived as additional contributors of talent, hard work and ingenuity. Turkey would continue to study the work of the High Commissioner in the area of combating violence against women and agreed that the Office and the Council were doing an effective job at dealing with human rights crises around the world.
Iran shared the deep concern over the rise in criminal and social violence, as well as organized crime that increasingly affected the rights of large sections of societies around the world. Iran encouraged the consideration of the impact of illegal narcotics in fuelling violence and its relation to organized crime. Iran strongly believed that the Office should focus on concepts which enjoyed universal consensus and in that regard it re-emphasized its strong reservation on the Office of the High Commissioner’s publication on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Switzerland said that respect for the rule of law and the fight against impunity were essential. Switzerland welcomed the fact that in 2012 the High Commissioner had published a report on sexual and gender identity. Sexual violence continued to be a danger for too many women. Both authorities and individuals had to be mobilized to combat that scourge. Switzerland welcomed the invitation of the President of Myanmar to open a bureau in country. The treaty bodies were at the very heart of the international human rights system and they had to be strengthened.
Belarus said Belarus would be implementing with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights a project on trafficking in human beings. It drew attention to the continued geographic unbalance in the work of the Office of the High Commissioner. Attention was still being mainly given to countries of the South, while human rights violations in established democracies were being overlooked. The fact that the Office fully depended on funding provided by the European Union and United States practically paralysed its work and Belarus proposed that the Office launch the idea that funds be provided from the main United Nations budget.
International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in a video message noted that an increasing number of States was recognizing the important role played by national human rights institutions. They were a natural partner of the High Commissioner and her Office, with which they cooperated on a number of issues, including the establishment and strengthening of effective and independent national human rights institutions with broad mandates and core functions in line with the Paris Principles.
European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation said that tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender equality was crucial and an urgent human rights concern as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons continued to face criminal sanctions, killings, rape and other forms of violence in many countries. The resistance to recognize those issues as human rights violations highlighted how important it was that they were addressed by the High Commissioner.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples suggested that the High Commissioner added a section dedicated to the non-self-governing or disputed territories in her efforts to combat discrimination. The violations of fundamental freedoms and the rights of the Sahrawi people must not be forgotten and that was why the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara should include human rights monitoring.
North South XXI said it was disappointing that the High Commissioner did not register the impact of climate change on human rights as one of her priorities despite the fact that several States and countless non-governmental organizations had called climate change the greatest threat to human rights in this century. The violations of human rights due to the illegal use of force should be considered a priority.
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that the Tibetan refugee community had faced constant arrests, imprisonment and harassment by the Nepalese authorities that regularly disrupted Tibetan gatherings. It was disappointing that the human rights situation faced by Chinese, Mongolians, Uyghurs and Tibetans were not raised in the annual report presentation.
Liberation said that the failure of the High Commissioner in meeting human rights mainstreaming within the work of United Nations bodies had left the door open for the Secretary-General and the Security Council to violate the first article in the two international covenants considered as jus cogens by their indirect support to the occupation of Yemen over the South and by neglecting the re-establishment of Democratic Yemen.
World Muslim Congress said 2012 had been yet another year of great challenges in which the High Commissioner had successfully engaged States and other partners to overcome them. Despite the improvements in combating impunity, there were still too many people who were responsible for gross human rights violations. The High Commissioner had ignored one human rights situation marked by impunity, which was the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation shared the concern of the human rights community about the scarcity of funds for the fulfilment of the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner and called on the Secretary-General to ensure more equal distribution of resources within the United Nations. The involvement of the Office was crucial to ensure the inclusion of a human rights perspective in the new people-centred post-2012 sustainable development agenda.
European Union of Public Relations said that in 1947 the partition of India and the conflict with the newly created state of Pakistan had left the Jammu and Kashmir under the Pakistani occupation, in which a deliberate policy of allowing terrorist extremist organizations from Pakistan had been followed. Not a day went by in the region without the sectarian violence claiming victims, and the people of Gilgit and Baltistan were yet to enjoy their right to determine their destiny.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation welcomed the increasing use of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of serious violations, and urged the Council to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law which had occurred in Sri Lanka at the end of the civil war. Any action of the Council that fell short of a credible international investigation would lead to irrevocable damaged being inflicted on the Tamil population.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that the Office of the High Commissioner had played a key role in promoting human rights, but regretted that her Office had not joined in the global condemnation of the execution of Afzal Guru by the Indian Government on 9 February. It had been widely recognized that Afzal Guru had not been provided with adequate legal assistance, and following his execution the people of Kashmir had taken to the streets to protest through peaceful gatherings.
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, in a joint statement, said that the situation in Sri Lanka was deteriorating with suppression of free speech and the loss of any democratic space. Journalists continued to live and work in fear of reprisals in the country and human rights defenders were attacked. Increased responsibility and accountability within the United Nations system was an encouraging development, but efforts needed to be stepped up to have crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka investigated by an independent body.
World Federation of Democratic Youth, in a joint statement, expressed concern that the report of the High Commissioner had absolutely ignored the serious and chronic human rights situation in Western Sahara and said this was a serious omission. It was time for the Council to seriously consider dispatching an ad-hoc mission to Western Sahara to investigate the deteriorating situation before it was too late.
International Service for Human Rights said that the time had come for the Council to take a strong and principled stand in favour of equality and against homophobia and intolerance. The International Service for Human Rights also strongly supported recommendations to strengthen protections against reprisals for human rights defenders who cooperated with treaty bodies, as well as those to enhance accessibility to treaty bodies, particularly to non-governmental organizations.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies referred to the human rights situation of women in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. It called on the Office of the High Commissioner, relevant Special Procedures and United Nations Member States to take action to protect the role of women in transitional periods and to speak out strongly and regularly when women were targeted for simply exercising their rights as citizens and human beings.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that the phrase “kill and dump” had become synonymous with the latest chapter in the history of Baluchistan which had been struggling to secure its political and economic rights since the creation of Pakistan. The Human Rights Council had sent a fact-finding mission to Baluchistan. However, the people were still to enjoy respite from the aggression of the Pakistani State.
British Humanist Association, in joint statement, welcomed the expert workshop convened by the High Commissioner on combating discrimination and incitement to racial and religious hate, in particular hate speech. All States should accept and implement the Rabat Plan of Action as it would go a long way in diffusing tensions between those feeling obliged to protect religion and those feeling obliged to protect human rights.
Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that she had taken seriously into consideration the areas of concern which had been bought to her attention. Her Office would prepare a practical guide to support the integration of human rights practices into laws. Concerning Sri Lanka, the report on that country would be discussed before the Council. Ms. Pillay said that she remained concerned about the lack of meaningful progress in terms of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and she welcomed the Council’s engagement in monitoring domestic processes regarding accountability.
Regarding the question of the post-2015 agenda, Ms. Pillay agreed that the agenda should be global and applicable to all, consistent with all human rights, and it should promote active participation in its design and implementation. She had attended a workshop on inequalities hosted by Denmark and Ghana, and her Office had prepared a flagship publication on the concept of accountability illustrating how accountability mechanisms could support the development of the post-2015 agenda.
Concerning the issue of racial discrimination, Ms. Pillay said that her Office had compiled a set of practical guidelines for the development of action plans on racial discrimination. She was particularly concerned about gender discrimination, on which several activities had been organized by her Office, including a cyber-seminar on racism and human rights, while an event on racism and sport, particularly football, was underway. In conclusion, Ms. Pillay said that she appreciated very much the careful attention which her annual report had received and the pertinent suggestions put forward concerning work that remained to be carried out by her Office.
The Council has before it the Addendum - Report on the expert workshops on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred (A/HRC/22/17/Add.4)
The Council has before it the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - Note by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/22/19)
The Council has before it the Conclusions and recommendations of the special procedures - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/22/20)
The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on measures taken to implement resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of, harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system (A/HRC/22/21 and A/HRC/22/21/Corr.1)
The Council has before it a report on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - Note by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/22/22)
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the seminar on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights - Note by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/22/23)
The Council has before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/22/24 and A/HRC/22/24/Corr.1)
The Council has before it the Thematic study on the work and employment of persons with disabilities - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/25 and A/HRC/22/25/Corr.1)
The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/HRC/22/26)
The Council has before it a report on the Rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities -Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/27)
The Council has before it a report on Effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/28)
The Council has before it the Study on common challenges facing States in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/29)
The Council has before it a report on the Implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 19/37 on the rights of the child - Note by the secretariat (A/HRC/22/30)
The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (A/HRC/22/31 and A/HRC/22/31/Corr.1)
The Council has before it a report on the Activities to support efforts by States to strengthen their judiciary system and administration of justice - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/32, A/HRC/22/32/Corr.1, and A/HRC/22/32/Corr.2)
The Council has before it the Summary of the Human Rights Council panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/22/34)
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the international workshop on enhancing cooperation between United Nations and regional mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights - Note by the secretariat (A/HRC/22/68)
The Council has before it the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the composition of the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/69)
Presentation of the Thematic Reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights
MARCIA KRAN, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the thematic reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the report of the High Commissioner on the composition of the staff of the Office highlighted the successful results of continuing efforts to expand the geographical diversity of the Office. The Secretary-General’s note provided updated information on the status of the Special Fund established under Article 26 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and informed about the 2012 project cycle and the 2013 call for applications to the Special Fund. The Secretary-General’s report on the conclusions and recommendations of the special procedures drew attention to the output of special procedures which was an invaluable source of information and expertise. The report of the Secretary-General on measures taken to implement resolution 9/8 and obstacles to its implementation, including recommendations for further improving the effectiveness of harmonizing and reforming the treaty body system, highlighted the most recent developments in this regard. The Secretary-General’s report on operations of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture covered the activities as well as the management of the Fund during 2012 and outlined the main financial challenges. The report of the Secretary-General on the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights addressed the normative framework of women’s rights and also mapped developments and activities relevant to the promotion and protection of women’s rights within the United Nations treaty bodies, special procedures, and the Office. The thematic study on the work and employment of persons with disabilities analysed relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and highlighted good practices.
The report of the High Commissioner on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism raised a number of specific concerns related to due process and the right to a fair trial in this context. The report of the High Commissioner on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities covered activities undertaken by the Office during 2012. The report of the High Commissioner on effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests concluded that an adequate legal framework was required. The study on common challenges facing States in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective concluded that securing democracy was a continuous exercise and that challenges to democracy and the rule of law could arise in both settled democracies and States transitioning towards democracy. The report of the High Commissioner on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health concluded that despite progress, child health remained a significant concern throughout the world, and described the main health issues that required attention. The report of the High Commissioner on the activities to support efforts by States to strengthen their judiciary system and administration of justice concluded that strengthening States’ judiciary system and ensuring a fair and efficient administration of justice was a common concern among the United Nations and regional organizations. The summary of the panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperated with the United Nations and representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights condemned such actions in the strongest terms. All were urged to carefully study the recommendations put forward by the panelists and participants.
General Discussion on the Thematic Reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, took note of the thematic study on work and employment of persons with disabilities and said that the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 had identified eight main areas of action, including employment. With regard to the High Commissioner’s report on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, States must ensure that any measures taken complied with international law, particularly the protection of refugees, the right to a fair trial and the absolute protection against torture. On the rights of the child, the European Union said it was unacceptable that 6.9 million children under the age of five died every year and that most of those deaths were preventable.
United States thanked the High Commissioner for her study on common challenges facing States trying to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective. Securing democracy was more than words on a page and democratic society could not fully realize its potential until benefits were accessible and enjoyed by all, including members of marginalized and vulnerable groups. The United States also welcomed the thematic study on the work and employment of persons with disabilities and encouraged the High Commissioner to continue dialogue on this important issue.
Peru said concerning the study on human rights, democracy and the rule of law that this work must be ongoing and must pre-empt the causes threatening the exercise of strengthening and consolidating democracy. Peru agreed that democracy was not just about organizing elections, but also implied existence of the rule of law for both those governing and those governed; it was about equality between all citizens, about eliminating all forms of discrimination and eradicating extreme poverty. This study was a valuable contribution to develop further the relationship between democracy, the rule of law and good governance.
India appreciated the efforts of the High Commissioner to ensure geographical diversity and gender balance in her Office, but noted with concern that there were no specific targets and deadlines to address existing imbalances in the geographical distribution of the staff. India asked the High Commissioner to share information about specific plans and deadlines and to explain why several Western European countries which currently represented 47 per cent of staff at the High Commissioner’s Office for Human Rights featured on the list of under-represented countries.
Philippines said that while democracy was universal, nevertheless diversity in democratic mechanisms should be recognized, and welcomed the High Commissioner’s assertion that democracy was vital for the promotion of human rights. The Philippines adhered to the rule of law and to the rigorous implementation of good governance and respect for human rights. It expressed concern at the shrinking of resources to support treaty bodies while treaty body mandates were expanding, and said it was important to increase resources allocated to treaty bodies.
Romania welcomed the study on the common challenges facing States in their effort to secure democracy, because it made it clear that democracy, human rights, and the rule of law enjoyed a symbiotic relationship within a system of governance. Romania also commended the High Commissioner on having a study drafted on the situation of human rights in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova. Romania appreciated the report of the Secretary-General on the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights, with emphasis on the promotion of women’s rights.
Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group welcomed efforts taken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the promotion of gender equality and praised measures taken by the High Commissioner to improve the geographical representation in the secretariat, particularly that of African countries despite increasing budgetary constraints. The Secretariat was encouraged to pay particular attention to this issue and to continue its policy of geographical diversity. It was also interested in knowing how staff rotation functioned.
Libya paid tribute to the great support that the United Nations and specialized agencies continued to provide it with, in all fields. The High Commissioner was invited to pay a visit to Libya to witness the situation on the ground. It was also hoped that such a visit by the High Commissioner would help strengthen the direct and fruitful cooperation and allow for more progress on the strengthening of human rights and the rule of law in the country.
Algeria said that it believed that it was up to a State to strike the balance of human rights in the context of peaceful protests and the imperative to ensure security and order. Algeria supported the conclusion in the report on democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective. On the assistance of the international community to democratization, it should be carried out in agreement with the countries concerned and not imposed. The mentioning of Algeria in the report on persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities was not necessary.
Morocco said concerning the report on democracy and the rule of law that human rights and the rule of law were two pillars of democracy. Morocco was continuing its bold reforms begun a decade ago and was considered by many external partners as a model for the region. Morocco had made a decision to widen and open the scope of freedoms and had made advances in transitional justice. The Rabat Action Plan on the prohibition of incitement to hatred was a historic document containing a number of recommendations to law makers and magistrates to develop provisions dealing with the prohibition of hate speech.
Cuba noted that the report on democracy and the rule of law, while mentioning different approaches to democracy, focused on only one model of democracy as a model that would fit all, and emphasized that there was no single model of democracy and that democracy did not belong to one country or region. There was still a lot to be done to correct the current situation concerning the composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner, including establishing deadlines and timetables, particularly with regard to managerial posts to ensure that the Office was truly universal and representative of the world.
Iceland commended the efforts on promoting gender equality and women’s rights, particularly combating violence against women, and urged the High Commissioner to continue to focus on integrating a gender perspective within other human rights mechanisms. Iceland fully supported all efforts to abolish discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Iceland was concerned about the decision of Israel to refrain from its Universal Periodic Review which undermined this important mechanism and reiterated the call of the High Commissioner on Israel to resume its cooperation with the Human Rights Council.
Malta said that paragraph 94 of the High Commissioner’s report on the right of the child to health recommended that barriers to sexual and reproductive health services be removed, and noted with concern that abortion could also be termed as “sexual and reproductive health services”. The termination of a pregnancy through induced abortion was illegal according to the Maltese Criminal Code, and any recommendation on sexual and reproductive health and rights should not create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health services.
Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, in a joint statement, said that the High Commissioner’s report failed to make explicit the crucial role of the social determinants of health which created inequalities in the availability, accessibility, and affordability of healthcare for all children. The implementation of the right to development was essential for the fulfillment of the right to health. States should address the social determinants of health and should establish a post-2015 agenda which would help to remove structural and societal obstacles to global health.
North-South XXI said that it encouraged the High Commissioner to pay closer attention to issues relating to climate change and their link to human rights, and noted that it still had not received a response from the High Commissioner’s Office to the concerns which it had expressed. It therefore requested information from the High Commissioner about her intention to deal with this important issue, and stressed that the Council could not afford to be timid about addressing the threat posed to human rights by climate change.
United Nations Watch wondered whether the United Nations was doing its part to end impunity, and whether it had promoted impunity when it re-elected Syria last week to a senior post on a committee, when it elected Sudan as a member of the Economic and Social Council, and when it elected Pakistan as a member of the Human Rights Council.
Union of Arab Jurists raised concern about the violation of all basic human rights in Iraq. It had hoped that the High Commissioner would have further focused on these violations. The ten years of occupation had caused immense damage. Official bodies had failed to investigate human rights violations although it was part of their mandate. There was a duty to restore human rights in Iraq.
World Environment and Resources Council highlighted the suffering of children in situations of conflict, who were faced with lasting psychological impacts on top of any physical trauma. Countries recovering from war often lacked mechanisms to address the problems faced by children. It was deeply troubled that despite debates on the issue, States continued to allow groups to deprive children of their rights.
Liberation said that it was important for the United Nations Security Council to fully adhere to international law and basic rule of law and to ensure legitimacy of its actions. Unfortunately, the Security Council had failed to enable the people of South Yemen to restore their independent State in accordance with jus cogens and went towards imposing the will of the lords of war in the North.
Amnesty International welcomed the report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka and agreed that the attention of the Human Rights Council to accountability and reconciliation had provided space to discuss human rights. It was clear that the Government was unwilling to secure justice in the protracted armed conflict and continued reports of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, underscored the need to address impunity.
International Association for Democracy in Africa said that the situation in Afghanistan would continue to affect the state of democracy in the region for years to come, as there was a concerted effort spearheaded by the United States to bring power to the Taliban, who were ousted in 2001. The promise to the Afghani people, made by the Karzai Government, that they would be spared the horrors of the Taliban regime must be respected.
Commission to the Study of the Organization of Peace said that nations whose system favoured one religion over another could not be called democracies. States which created an environment where specific faiths were seen as illegitimate were also not democratic. Democracy could only take root in States allowing freedom of religion and freedom of belief, and a democratic polity could not exist in societies where political leaders who tried to protect the rights of minorities were slaughtered with impunity.
Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’Homme regretted that the international community had proved incapable of halting the bloody violence in Syria, which was ongoing, and had also failed to stop the activities of terrorist organizations in the north of Mali. It urged governments to take action to lift the budgetary restrictions imposed on the High Commissioner’s Office which stopped it from fulfilling its mandate. Vigilance on discrimination against minorities should be increased.
African Technology Development Link welcomed the emphasis which had been placed on the role of education. 2012 and 2013 were momentous years as both India and Bangladesh were going to the polls, while Afghanistan was making efforts to move along the path of peace and progress. Efforts to address human rights abuses, past and present, should be stepped up. It was imperative that Bangladesh allocate a budget to education and bring to justice those who were responsible for crimes.
Centre for Inquiry said that anti-discrimination laws, while desperately needed, would do little to reduce the massive discrimination that still existed in many countries without the political will to implement them and without education at all levels of society. One of the countries that received the assistance of the High Commissioner in this regard was Mauritania, where slavery was persistent. The plight of modern-day slaves must be addressed by the Human Rights Council.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies spoke about the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik expressed regret that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights lacked the budget to support the growth of the Office. Those suffering human rights violations in Iran were waiting for the visit by the High Commissioner since the invitation extended to her by the Government. Ms. Pillay had paid appropriate attention to the situation of migrants in her report, but more attention should be given to asylum seekers by both the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that as the Arab region continued to witness ongoing waves of mass protests calling for democracy and fundamental rights, human rights violations continued to occur in the context of peaceful protests. Such violations took the form of restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly in many Arab countries. The problem existed both in legislation and in practice. Assembly laws enacted or currently being drafted in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain fell short of international standards and were in need of major reform.
Human Rights Watch said that for many months Malians had suffered grave abuses from all sides and Islamist groups had tried to enforce Sharia law through beatings, amputations, killings, and the destruction of religious landmarks in the country. Bahrain’s failure to release political prisoners or hold accountable high officials responsible for torture, and its campaign to silence human rights defenders exposed the Government’s lack of genuine will to carry out promised reforms and to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry.
Human Rights Advocates said that migrants were particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. The recent trend worldwide toward prison privatization had disproportionately impacted the rights of immigrants, as private prisons were increasingly being used as immigrant detention centres in many countries. An immigration removal centre in the United Kingdom had been accused of contributing to the death of a Pakistani asylum seeker after he had suffered a heart attack. The matter of prison privatization needed urgent consideration by the Council.
Indian Council of South America requested that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights examine the treatment of indigenous peoples and the grave human rights violations against them, including the right of self-determination and crimes against humanity and genocide. Canada had unilaterally imported the Marshal Trilogy from the United States in 1888. Treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination refused to exercise their mandate concerning the transmission of petitions in accordance with Article 15.
International Associations of Schools of Social Work said that in 2006 human rights groups from Hawaii had submitted a report on the situation in Hawaii to the Human Rights Committee that enumerated the violations committed by the United States since the 1893 unprovoked and unjustified invasion and subsequent seizure of the Hawaiian Islands; and called on the Council to bring an end to injustices and abuses caused to the peoples of Alaska and Hawaii by urging that, under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Article 15, petitions were transmitted to the appropriate United Nations bodies.
Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, in a joint statement, said that millions suffered from human rights violations and abuses in the context of law-enforcement activities against drug-related offenses, including the denial of health services, detention and abuse in detention centres, and the execution of people for drug offenses. Human rights violations and abuses in the context of the war on drugs constituted an issue of human rights concern and the United Nations mechanisms had been slow to respond; and these violations could not be addressed while the war on drugs was a part of the United Nations system.
For use of the information media; not an official record