Begins General Debate on the Oral Update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Country Reports of the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
27 February 2020
The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the root causes of the violations and abuses suffered by the Rohingya Muslim minority and other minorities in Myanmar. The High Commissioner then presented her oral update, as well as country reports of the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, followed by a general debate.
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report on the root causes of the violations and abuses suffered by the Rohingya Muslim minority and other minorities in Myanmar, welcomed the engagement and constructive input of the Government of Myanmar in the compilation of the report. She reminded that for over half a century, the policies of Myanmar had discriminated against religious and ethnic minorities. Democratic deficits, entrenched impunity, weak rule of law and the lack of civilian oversight had all contributed to human rights abuses in Myanmar, Ms. Bachelet noted, adding that women and girls were especially impacted as a result of sexual and gender-based violence.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the recent provisional order of the International Court of Justice that called on Myanmar to take emergency measures to protect Rohingya from genocide and prevent destruction of evidence related to genocide. Some speakers said it was clear that accountability efforts at the international level had been fostered by the absence of meaningful prospects for accountability at the domestic level in Myanmar. Others acknowledged Myanmar’s own efforts to investigate violations, including through the Independent Commission of Inquiry, and to look at the causes of violence, noting that Myanmar had a historic opportunity to develop a strong minority right and non-discrimination regime that recognized, protected and fulfilled the rights of all. They called on the international community to act constructively and provide technical assistance as a complement to Myanmar’s efforts to address the situation in Rakhine.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were: Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic Organization for Cooperation, European Union, Germany, Australia, Bangladesh, Liechtenstein, Japan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, France, India, Pakistan, Ecuador, Malaysia, Jordan, Netherlands, Tunisia, Lithuania, Ireland, Egypt, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Greece, Russian Federation, Turkey, Venezuela, Indonesia, Albania, Senegal, China, United Kingdom, Norway, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Gambia.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and World Jewish Congress.
At the beginning of the meeting, the High Commissioner presented her oral update on the work of her Office and its approach to recent human rights developments around the world, under agenda item 2 of the Human Rights Council.
She highlighted the situation in various countries, namely Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Burundi, Syria, Iraq, State of Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, United States, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand, China, European Union, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Poland, and the Russian Federation. Speaking of foreign individuals with suspected ties to ISIS, the High Commissioner noted that unless they were to be prosecuted for recognized crimes, they had to be repatriated to their countries of origin. She also reminded that in many European frontline States, migrants continued to suffer.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights then presented country reports of the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner on the human rights situations in Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran and Sri Lanka, as well as oral updates on Eritrea, Nicaragua, Yemen, and technical cooperation in Venezuela.
Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Cyprus, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Yemen and Sri Lanka spoke as concerned countries. Eritrea announced that it would take the floor later.
Speaking in the general debate were Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, and Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries.
The Council will continue the general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral update, and on the country reports of the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today at 3 p.m.
The Council has before it the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/43/3).
Presentation of the High Commissioner’s Annual Report
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, informed that the update would not deal with human rights situations that were the object of separate statements or reports by the Office of the High Commissioner during this session, namely Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Yemen, as well as the report on ensuring accountability in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Government of Sudan was thanked for its cooperation during the set up of the country office of the Office of the High Commissioner, but the security situation in Darfur remained concerning. In South Sudan, the formation of a revitalized transitional government was a step forward, but three challenges remained for lasting peace: justice – and the Government had to cease to delay the Hybrid Court; intercommunal violence had to be addressed; and restrictions on fundamental freedoms had to be lifted.
In Cameroon, steps were taken by the Government following the National Dialogue in October, including the release of over 400 detainees and new legislation on bilingualism and decentralization, granting special status to the north and south-west regions. An assessment mission by the Office of the High Commissioner found serious human rights violations by security forces and separatist armed elements.
In Sahel countries, particularly Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, attacks by violent extremist groups caused over 4,000 killings in 2019, 500 per cent more than in 2016. There was a plan to open a new country office in Niger this year and to strengthen cooperation with Burkina Faso. In Nigeria, increasing killings by Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Province and other jihadist groups were taking a toll on civilians. In Guinea, recent demonstrations for fair elections had resulted in dozens of deaths. In Burundi, the crackdown on the opposition was alarming.
In Syria, attacks on Idlib, Aleppo and Hama were causing the most massive displacement in the past nine years, following a military offensive launched by the Syrian Government and its allies: nearly a million people had been forced to flee in the past three months. In Iraq, live ammunition was repeatedly used against unarmed protestors, causing 450 deaths since October. In the occupied Palestinian territory, thousands were injured by the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces. In Egypt, there was increasing use of the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia was urged to seize the opportunity of this year’s G20 Summit to demonstrate progress in implementing its international human rights obligations. The High Commissioner called for full transparency in ongoing judicial proceedings regarding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Across many countries, protests were being fuelled by profound inequalities. Violent responses by the security forces could further undermine public confidence in economic and political systems. In Chile and Ecuador, there was a need to ensure accountability for human rights violations in the context of demonstrations. The High Commissioner recently sent a mission to Bolivia as the post-election crisis had resulted in at least 35 deaths and 800 injuries. In Brazil, attacks against human rights defenders were taking place in a context of significant rollbacks of policies to protect the environment and indigenous peoples’ rights. The United States was rolling back environmental protection, including for waterways and wetlands, and restrictive migration policies raised human rights concerns.
In Jammu and Kashmir, 800 people reportedly remained in detention, including political leaders and activists. In India, the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted last December was of great concern and Indians had expressed their opposition. There were reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups. Religious minorities in Pakistan continued to face violence and discrimination in law and practice. In Cambodia, there were continuous reports of acts of intimidation against civil society. Bangladesh was urged to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the National Human Rights Commission.
In Mongolia, the initiative to develop a comprehensive human rights defenders law was welcomed. In Nepal, authorities were urged to build trust in the transitional justice process by consulting victims and civil society. Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the first in Asia, was welcomed. The invitation of the Chinese Government for the High Commissioner’s visit, including Xinjiang, was welcomed. The coronavirus epidemic had set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and east Asian ethnicity.
The leadership demonstrated by the European Union in adopting its Green Deal was welcomed. In Kazakhstan, the President’s plans for legislative and policy changes were noted. The recent statement of the President of Turkmenistan that they would strengthen engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner was welcomed. In Turkey, rights activists and media workers continued to be prosecuted as a result of legislation introduced during and after the state of emergency. In Poland, recently adopted legislation curtailed the independence of judges and lawyers and enabled the dismissal of judges.
In the Russian Federation, new amendments to the 2012 legislation on civil society, known as the “foreign agent law”, would have a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression. Concerning foreign individuals with suspected ties to ISIS, unless they were to be prosecuted for recognized crimes, they had to be repatriated to their countries of origin. In many of Europe’s frontline States, there was an ongoing suffering of migrants. In conclusion, Ms. Bachelet extended her deepest respect to medical teams around the world who were tackling the coronavirus.
The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the root causes of the human rights violations and abuses against the Rohingya Muslim minority and other minorities in Myanmar (A/HRC/43/18).
Presentation of the Report of the High Commissioner on the Root Causes of Human Rights Violations and Abuses against the Rohingya Muslim Minority and Other Minorities in Myanmar
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her Office’s report on Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, noting the Government’s engagement and constructive input in its compilation. She outlined that for over half a century, the policies of Myanmar had discriminated against religious and ethnic minorities. The military had at times targeted civilians as part of their counter insurgency policies. Democratic deficits, entrenched impunity, weak rule of law and the lack of civilian oversight had all contributed to these human rights abuses in Myanmar. Economic interests had also contributed, with women and girls especially impacted as a result of sexual and gender based violence. The upsurge in violence could also be partly attributed to the transition from authoritarian rule. The spread of social media had also enabled extremist movements to propagate hatred and violence, and as such, the High Commissioner urged the Government to build on inter-faith initiatives such as the Panzagar (flower speech) campaign. Civilian oversight of the military and reforms of citizenship laws and the education system could help heal deep divisions. She reiterated the readiness of the United Nations system to assist Myanmar in addressing these issues.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said that since 2016, the present Government had been transforming Myanmar into a democratic federal union in the midst of challenges resulting from decades of armed conflict. Achieving reconciliation was the highest priority and the peace process was gaining momentum with 51 basic principles agreed between the Government and ethnic armed groups. Rakhine was a complex and delicate issue, involving cross-border migration since colonial times. The Government had taken a number of steps to address the issue. It had set up the Central Committee for the Peace and Development in Rakhine state, but the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army terrorist group had made deliberate attempts to derail those efforts, causing mass displacement. Although repatriation had not started, over 300 displaced persons had returned to Rakhine. Concerning accountability, the Independent Commission of Inquiry had submitted its final report to the President of Myanmar, based on interviews with 1,500 witnesses. There was no evidence that killings were committed pursuant to a plan to destroy Muslims or any other community in northern Rakhine.
Speakers expressed concern about the lack of progress to end the grave human rights violations and atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. They welcomed the recent provisional order of the International Court of Justice that called on Myanmar to take emergency measures to protect Rohingya from genocide and prevent the destruction of evidence related to genocide. It was clear that accountability efforts at the international level, before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, as well as the establishment of the Independent International Mechanism, had been fostered by the absence of meaningful prospects for accountability at the domestic level. Speakers urged Myanmar to ensure unhindered access to United Nations agencies, mandate holders and human rights mechanisms, including the Independent Mechanism for Myanmar, to take measures to grant citizenship to Rohingya, to end Islamophobia and hatred against Rohinga and other ethnic minorities, and to stop labelling them as “Bengali immigrants living illegally in Myanmar.
Speakers further urged the Government of Myanmar to ensure full protection and inclusion of all persons in Myanmar through the equitable representation of persons belonging to minorities and the participation of civil society, including women’s groups. They called on all parties of the conflicts in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states to exercise restraint, comply with international law, and work towards peace. They called on Myanmar to create conditions conducive to voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable returns of displaced Rohingya, including through enabling freedom of movement and granting access to services. Some speakers expressed particular concern about the situation of women and girls in minority groups, which was still marked by deeply entrenched inequality, patriarchal attitudes and acceptance of gender-based violence. They wondered how the international community could help Myanmar address those issues.
Delegations welcomed Myanmar’s own efforts to investigate violations, including through the Independent Commission of Inquiry, and to look at the causes of violence, noting that Myanmar had a historic opportunity to develop a strong minority rights and non-discrimination regime that recognized, protected and fulfilled the rights of all. Some underlined the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar to continue promoting coherence in the principled and constructive work of the United Nations system in Myanmar. They supported his call for international and regional support to domestic efforts towards ensuring alignment with international standards and principles. The situation in Rakhine state had several dimensions and a long lasting solution to address that complex situation was through socio-economic development.
Speakers said the report of the High Commissioner rightly underscored the need to address the issue of citizenship as an important factor to alleviate the current plight of the Rohingya. The report also clearly highlighted the complexity of the situation in Myanmar, shedding some light on the possible root causes, including the impact of the country’s colonial legacy. The situation in Rakhine was one of the complex challenges in the democratic transition of Myanmar, which required time to address issues and build trust and harmony among communities. Accordingly, speakers called on the international community to act constructively and provide technical assistance as a complement to Myanmar’s efforts to address the situation in Rakhine.
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in concluding remarks, said a lot of delegations had raised the issue of accountability in Myanmar, and already thanks to the actions of the Council, there had been strong international action to advance the accountability agenda. Proceedings were underway in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and the Independent Investigative Mechanism had been established to collect evidence. Myanmar should cooperate with this international mechanism. Meanwhile, Myanmar was pursuing its own domestic processes, with the Independent Commission of Inquiry recently finalizing its report. It remained to be seen if this led to a full recognition of the truth, genuine criminal justice processes, and proper redress for victims. There had been a few isolated cases where the military had been prosecuted for violations, but the outcomes had not always been complete. In the long-term, Myanmar would benefit from a wider set of transitional justice measures, which could bring institutional reforms and promote reconciliation. Bringing the military under full civilian oversight and control would be essential in this regard. Perhaps the Constitutional reform process could offer some opportunities. Civil society was still restricted and the Government was acting against those promoting human rights. This was seen as a heightened risk during the elections. There was no sympathy towards Rohingya, even among other minorities, and this was seen as a result of a wide disinformation campaign. There was a flower movement within civil society bringing people together. The Government was cooperating to a certain extent concerning the sexual gender violence, but the Independent Commission of Inquiry had completely dismissed this issue. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should be included in the peace process.
The Council has before it an addendum to the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Situation of human rights in Guatemala (A/HRC/43/3/Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Situation of human rights in Honduras (A/HRC/43/3/Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Situation of human rights in Colombia (A/HRC/43/3/Add.3).
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka (A/HRC/43/19).
The Council has before it the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/43/20).
The Council has before it the Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/43/21).
The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the question of human rights in Cyprus (A/HRC/43/22).
Presentation of the Reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner on Yemen, Eritrea, Iran, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced a number of country reports. Regarding the situation in Yemen, she regretted the recent escalation in fighting across several governorates, and reminded that in the first two months of 2020, 74 people had been reported killed, including 43 children and 107 others injured, noting the true figures were likely higher. Hunger, malnutrition, and lack of healthcare were pervasive across Yemen, leading to human rights violations on a mass scale. In addition, child marriage, the closure of schools and the recruitment of child soldiers meant that children were especially affected. She expressed concern that the de facto authorities had refused her representative access to Sana’a, and asked that this be reconsidered. She urged all parties to the conflict to respect international law and protect civilians.
Presenting the report on Eritrea, the High Commissioner noted that despite signing peace agreements and cooperation agreements with Ethiopia and Djibouti respectively, the human rights situation in Eritrea had not tangibly improved, with the Government dominating the civic space. She was troubled by the arrest of opposition figures, as well as those practicing their religious beliefs. The Office of the High Commissioner had repeatedly offered technical assistance on key human rights areas, including strengthening the judiciary, rights of persons with disabilities, and the right to water and sanitation.
Ms. Bachelet, presenting the report on Iran, referred to the section on the death penalty, including for child offenders. Though acknowledging Government efforts to address this, she reiterated calls for a strict prohibition of using the death penalty against child offenders. The High Commissioner highlighted discrimination against human rights defenders, especially women activists, who continued to be punished harshly for peaceful protests. The impact of sanctions on the availability of food, medicine and other services had impacted the most vulnerable in the society. The Government’s commitment to investigating the crack down by security forces during protests in November 2019 had not yet materialized.
Addressing the report on Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner regretted the new Government’s approach, which diverged substantially from that agreed by Sri Lanka under Human Rights Council resolution 30/1. She called on the Government to strengthen those institutions that formed part of the democratic structure, and allowed space for civic society. Renewed reports of surveillance and harassment of journalists were of concern, as were increasing levels of intolerance, especially directed towards Tamil and Muslim minorities.
Presenting the report on Cyprus, she noted that the ongoing division of the island posed an obstacle to the full enjoyment of human rights. Concerns regarding the right to life, missing persons, non-discrimination, and freedom of religion were amongst numerous issues raised. The High Commissioner commended the work of many groups fostering bi-communal cooperation, and urged stronger efforts for mutual dialogue.
The High Commissioner, presenting the report on Nicaragua, noted that human rights violations had not ceased since her last report in September 2019. A deteriorating economic situation and the exodus of Nicaraguans from the country were of grave concern. A regional team dedicated exclusively to Nicaragua had interviewed several hundred witnesses of human rights abuses in the country, and the intimidation of those speaking out. She urged the Government to address the concerns raised, guarantee the safe return of Nicaraguans, and protect media freedoms in the country.
Presenting the report on Colombia, Ms. Bachelet encouraged the Government to implement all aspects of the peace agreement reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. She expressed concern about the ongoing use of the military against social protests, and urged the prosecutor’s office to investigate reports of human rights abuses, especially those of rural and ethnic minority communities.
Discussing the situation in Guatemala, the High Commissioner noted that elections had been held without incident in 2019, however, a setback in judicial independence and the fight against corruption were of concern. High levels of inequality persisted in the country, and she welcomed the Government’s commitment to improve the living conditions of the population. She called for the full respect of rights for indigenous populations, as well as other vulnerable groups.
Presenting the report on Honduras, Ms. Bachelet acknowledged the complex social and political situation in the country, including the economic instability and high levels of displacement, and encouraged the State to guarantee the sustainable reintegration of returnees. She remarked on the high level of violence in prisons, and expressed concern at attacks on human rights defenders, particularly those from indigenous communities.
Focusing on the work of her Office in Venezuela, the High Commissioner noted she would address the human rights situation in the country on 10 March. She valued the access afforded to her Office since the last oral update, and reported on three new visits to detention centres by her Office. She noted the release of some political prisoners in 2020, and called for the release of all political prisoners. Her Office was currently evaluating the implementation of the Letter of Understanding signed with the Government in September 2019.
Statements by the Concerned Countries
Colombia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the National Government and the Office of the High Commissioner had signed an agreement, renewing their mandate after many years. Moreover, explicit reference to the Office of the High Commissioner was made in the final agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The renewed mandate was the result of the openness of the State authorities. The Colombian Government regretted that the report was not more balanced and nuanced. The Office had ignored its duty to make specific proposals to improve the human rights situation. Colombia was open to international scrutiny and was reporting to the Security Council. Colombia had nothing to hide and was subject to scrutiny by and reporting to the Organization of American States. Colombia had improved significantly the exercise of socio-economic rights.
Guatemala, speaking as a concerned country, appreciated the support provided by the Office of the High Commissioner over the past 15 years. The country office had been established in 2005 following an agreement and the current mandate would conclude in 2020. The Government was implementing a national innovation development plan, underpinned by the peace agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Government was undertaking efforts to ensure access to justice, human rights, protection of minorities, environmental protection as well as fight against corruption, so that peaceful coexistence and social stability could be achieved. Guatemala supported human rights defenders. Prevention was considered as essential to human rights protection.
Honduras, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its will to continue cooperating with international human rights mechanisms and complying with international human rights standards. Since 2016, Honduras had fostered measures and positive cooperation between the national human rights mechanism and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had not been reflected in the report. Some substantial aspects were omitted in the report, namely the creation of a new electoral system, the reduction of the murder rate from 86.7 to 41.4 per cent, and the creation of an integral system to fight against corruption and impunity. Honduras repeated its firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and reiterated its policy of open doors to Special Procedures and monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations, including continued cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Cyprus, speaking as a concerned country, noted that it fully supported the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, born out of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey. Regrettably, the report failed to name the “elephant in the room”, namely the responsibility of Turkey in the occupied part of the island. Turkey had effective control over northern Cyprus, and violations committed by the Turkish forces were the responsibility of Turkey. The Government of Cyprus had conveyed that position in its comments on the draft report, but they had not been included in the final version. The report contained no mention of a wider need to grant access to the Turkish archives, including military ones, to resolve the issue of disappeared persons. As for displaced persons, the report failed to state the reason why they had been displaced. Usurpation and illegal sale of their property in northern Cyprus continued. The report also failed to take into account the right to freedom of religion and belief of Greek Cypriots.
Iran, speaking as a concerned country, was determined to continue its endeavours concerning the promotion and protection of human rights. The majority of States demonstrated a clear reluctance when it came to country specific mandates, as they were politicized and confrontational. Political biases produced erroneous reports. The report A/HRC/43/20 was such a case and it failed to show valuable achievements that Iran made in cultural, social and economic fields, which had been acknowledged in Iran’s third national Universal Periodic Review report. The rights of Iranians were affected by the United States sanctions. In November 2019, at least 15 Iranian children with epidermolysis bullosa had died due to lack of medication and equipment, resulting from the United States sanctions. The United States had to be held to account for its actions, which amounted to crimes against humanity.
Nicaragua, speaking as a concerned country, said last year, Nicaragua had rejected the distorted use of the so-called protection of human rights in order to intervene in the affairs of Nicaragua, which from the outset had been overcoming the challenges that it had inherited. Nicaragua denounced the practice of systematic aggression against peoples and nations in the world, ignoring and flouting the United Nations Charter. The aggression of the United States against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua went unpunished. Nicaragua called on the international community to work together and demand that the United States put an end to sanctions and aggressions. The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity continued to work for the restoration of socio-economic, civic and political rights. Nicaragua was one of the top five countries in the world when it came to gender parity. Gender equality was the policy of the State. It was one of the safest countries in the region, allowing for people to live in peace. Despite the economic aggression from abroad, the Government continued to work to alleviate poverty. Nicaragua had one of the most progressive legislations globally when it came to indigenous populations.
Venezuela, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its serious doubts about the methodology used to write country reports. Despite that fact, Venezuela renewed its readiness to carry out dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It had received visits by officials from the High Commissioner’s Office in Geneva who had received full access to detention centres throughout the country and the possibility to discuss freely. Venezuela had nothing to hide. There were no persons detained on political grounds in Venezuela. In December 2019, the Government of Venezuela had reiterated its invitation to two Special Rapporteurs and it was still waiting for a response. The situation in Venezuela was different from that presented by countries led by the United States. The Government of Venezuela was fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, as could be observed by the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Yemen, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the Yemeni Government had always expressed willingness to advance the peace process. However, more than one year and a half after the Stockholm Agreement, peace was far away. The Houthi groups continued to transport weapons through the Al Hodeidah port, thus showing that they were determined to continue war and destruction. Human rights violations perpetrated by the Houthis were numerous, such as kidnapping and torture, shelling of civilians, confiscation of property from political opponents, and stealing of humanitarian assistance. The Yemeni Government had published detailed reports on all those human rights violations. Nevertheless, it did not see any serious condemnation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations agencies. It was necessary to clearly state who was responsible for undermining peace in Yemen.
Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated that Sri Lanka remained committed to engaging with the High Commissioner and her Office. The Government had made clear its position with regard to resolution 30/01 and the decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of resolution 40/1 of March 2019. As for those who expressed disappointment about this decision, despite the Government’s reassurance of its commitment to achieving the goals on accountability and human rights, it was clear that they were privileging a superficial façade, which had failed to deliver for four and a half years. Sri Lanka had consistently refuted the credibility of false and unsubstantiated allegations levelled against Lieutant General Shavendra Silva, the present Commander of Sri Lanka Army. Sri Lanka was committed to achieving sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process.
General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update and on Country Reports and Updates under Agenda Item 2
Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reiterated the importance it attached to keeping and strengthening technical cooperation in the countries that requested it. The African Group noted the challenges in the digital arena, including the increase in hate speech, and agreed that rising nationalism posed a threat. Against the backdrop of recent attacks, the African Group believed States should make a concerted effort to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
Uruguay, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, recognized the Council’s efforts to maintain channels of dialogue with States, and the provision of technical cooperation. In this context, the group of countries called on all States to facilitate a genuine dialogue with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They were concerned that resources assigned to human rights continued to be eroded. This threatened vital work, and limited the capacity of the United Nations.
Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, remained deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The conflict impacted fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to assembly, and disproportionately affected women. The group of countries called on the Council to respond meaningfully to the situation, particularly in the absence of a political solution to the conflict. The group of countries commended the work of the Group of Eminent Experts, and would continue to support their work.
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