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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE ON HIGH COMMISSIONER’S ORAL UPDATE AND COUNTRY REPORTS AND ORAL UPDATES OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE OFFICE BY THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

27 February 2020

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its general debate on the oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and country reports and oral updates by the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the general debate, speakers emphasized that the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council was determined primarily by its 47 members and how they respected human rights. They called on all Council members to take that responsibility seriously, and strongly opposed any attempts to downplay or undermine the Council’s important role in respecting human rights. Speakers highlighted an increasing trend of bringing criminal charges against human rights defenders, and limiting their freedom of expression and association, thus gravely obstructing their ability to cooperate with the United Nations system. Delegations noted that bad governance, corruption and the lack of rule of law led to the erosion of human rights. The development of capacity building through the strengthening of national mechanisms was therefore crucial. They referred to country situations, especially those in conflict, where severe human rights abuses continued with impunity. Some speakers observed that the High Commissioner was ill advised in some of her reports and that she was not informed by real and up-to-date evidence.

Speaking in the discussion were Croatia on behalf of the European Union; Morocco on behalf of a group of countries; Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement; Luxembourg on behalf of the Group of Friends of the International Criminal Court in Geneva; Timor Leste on behalf of a group of countries; Australia on behalf of a group of countries; Switzerland on behalf of a group of countries; Rwanda on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect; Switzerland on behalf of a group of countries; United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries; China on behalf of a group of countries; Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Marshall Islands on behalf of a group of countries; Pakistan; Czech Republic; Germany; Brazil; Qatar; Australia; Libya; Mexico; India; Bangladesh; Namibia; Philippines; Japan; Burkina Faso; Italy; Chile; Netherlands; Uruguay; Spain; Venezuela; Nigeria; Cameroon; Ukraine; Nepal; Peru; Armenia; Slovakia; Denmark; Sudan; Canada; Switzerland; Egypt; Slovenia; Cuba; Finland; Belarus; Liechtenstein; Portugal; Botswana; South Africa; Ecuador; Zambia; Hungary; Costa Rica; Jordan; Saudi Arabia; El Salvador; Tunisia; Morocco; Ireland; Montenegro; Myanmar; Azerbaijan; Greece; Russian Federation; Syria; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Turkey; Norway; Thailand; Sweden; Algeria; Maldives; Paraguay; Bolivia; Luxembourg; Jamaica; China; Ethiopia; United Kingdom; Belgium; Georgia; Organization of American States; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Mongolia; Malta; Viet Nam; Iceland; Chad; Cambodia; Iraq; and France.

The Council started the general debate in its morning meeting and the presentation of reports by the High Commissioner and the general debate can be found here.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV.

The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 28 February 2020, to conclude its general debate. It will then hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

General Debate on the Oral Update of the High Commissioner and Country Reports and Updates by the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner

Croatia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged Iraq to protect protestors and end attacks on human rights defenders, regretted the abuse of women and girls in Yemen, and called on Viet Nam and Cambodia to allow credible democratic opposition movements. The European Union called on the Venezuelan Government to allow a permanent presence of the High Commissioner’s Office in the country. All parties in Nicaragua should engage in dialogue, and Sri Lanka should re-establish civil society. The European Union was concerned about violence in Cameroon, the killing of human rights defenders in Guatemala, and violence in Colombia against human rights defenders.

Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of 26 countries that supported the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Morocco, said Morocco was committed to constructive, voluntary and detailed interaction with the United Nations human rights system, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner and the Special Procedures. A technical mission had been undertaken in the Sahara province with a view to strengthening institutional capacity. The issue of the Sahara was a political dispute dealt with in the Security Council. The Security Council had not raised any concerns about the situation of human rights in the Sahara.

Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, shared the High Commissioner’s concerns about severe acts of multiple forms of discrimination in many regions, widespread violations of economic and social rights, violations of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism, and attacks motivated by stereotypes and hatred of many kinds. Global human rights challenges were on the rise around the world. The Non-Aligned Movement believed that the High Commissioner must bear in mind existing challenges and national contexts and circumstances of Member States, when interacting with them.

Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the International Criminal Court, reiterated that the Court had played a key role in upholding human rights, and constituted an essential part of the international multilateral order. As such States should protect the independence and integrity of the International Criminal Court to ensure its continued effective functioning. The Group of Friends called on all those who had not yet done so to become parties to the Rome Statute.

Timor Leste, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that the obstruction of a real referendum on Western Sahara was the real hindrance to the protection of human rights there. The occupying force was perpetrating numerous abuses against human rights defenders and journalists, of which the world knew nothing. The group of countries expressed serious concern about human rights violations in the refugee camp administered by the Polissario Front.

Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. The group of countries affirmed the important role of the Council in the prevention of human rights abuses across the world. All countries should support the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights financially and morally, and they should oppose any acts of harassment and intimidation against those who wanted to speak up against human rights violations.

Switzerland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, shared the High Commissioner’s deep concern about the current military escalation in northwestern Syria. Renewed hostilities had dramatically aggravated an already unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in and around the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. After almost 10 years, there was still no peace in Syria. On the contrary, the continued military hostilities led once again to mass displacement and humanitarian mayhem.

Rwanda, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, emphasized the crucial role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council in the prevention of atrocity crimes. Geneva-based mechanisms were of particular importance in upholding the responsibility to protect. Technical assistance and capacity building could form a key aspect for building social resilience, and were of long-lasting importance for preventing atrocity situations. However, the international community needed to better utilize the data collected by those mechanisms.

Switzerland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that all around the world people had been raising their voices and demonstrating to advance their human rights. In many instances public protests had been met with repression, including disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, arbitrary arrests, and detention of protesters. States were called upon to facilitate such protests by providing protestors with access to public space and by protecting them, without discrimination, against any form of violence.

United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that in 2015 Sri Lanka had co-sponsored resolution 30/01. From 2015, important steps were taken by Sri Lanka and significant progress was achieved in institution building, including the Office for Missing Persons. The group echoed the High Commissioner’s concern about the increased harassment of human rights defenders and independent media. The group was concerned about the fact that the Government had changed its approach to resolution 30/01

China, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, commended the High Commissioner for underscoring the importance of dialogue. The group hoped that the High Commissioner would continue to be the voice of developing States. The Council had to avoid politicization, naming and shaming, and double standards. It was important to consider ways to advance international governance mechanisms as well as the right to development and poverty eradication. It was equally important to invest more resources in fighting terrorism and extremism as well as to promote the rights of migrant children.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged the Council to gear up its efforts to address human rights violations in long-running conflicts. The Office of the High Commissioner’s publication of data on enterprises involved in activities related to Israeli settlements was welcomed. Further support was needed for securing justice for the Rohingya. The human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir remained concerning. The plight of Azerbaijani displaced persons and refugees resulting from the Armenian aggression was deeply distressing.

Marshall Islands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that in furtherance of the aims of the Council, as set out in its founding document resolution 60/251, the group of countries would commit to a number of pledges. These included cooperating in good faith with the Council, engaging in its work in a spirit of self-reflection, avoiding procedural tactics to block genuine debate, contributing to both technical assistance and capacity building work, and working with civil society in relation to their engagement with the Council.

Pakistan raised the dire human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where eight million citizens were subjected to abuses by one million military and paramilitary forces. Pakistan regretted that India was moving ahead with its planned land grab of the occupied territory, and called on the Council to take action. Pakistan urged the Council to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations from two reports on Jammu and Kashmir, in particular the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry.

Czech Republic welcomed the focus on new topics, such as climate change and challenges linked to the development of digital technologies. The Czech Republic thanked the High Commissioner for her various country reports and highlighted the issue of indefinite military service in Eritrea, and ongoing violence in Yemen. It regretted the decision of Sri Lanka to withdraw its co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1.

Germany called for an immediate end to the violence in Cameroon; it remained concerned about the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia and reiterated the need to establish a permanent presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country. Germany called on Sri Lanka to respect the requirements of resolution 30/1. It remained concerned about enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan and asked the Government to provide information on the fate of the victims.

Brazil regretted that the High Commissioner was so ill-advised about Brazil, noting that she was not informed by real and up-to-date evidence. There was no rollback on policies to protect the environment, much less indigenous peoples’ rights. President Bolsonaro had recently established the Amazon Council, with powers to propose and monitor public policies for the region, and to coordinate the fight against illicit acts in Amazon, particularly illegal deforestation.

Qatar said violations of human rights against Qatari nations had continued and measures should be taken to put an end to them. Israel’s continuous violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people deserved the full attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. There should be a regular update of business activities in the Israeli settlements. Qatar also drew attention to the situation in Syria and Libya.

Australia was deeply concerned about persistent reports of human rights abuses in Cameroon. It urged Sri Lanka to reconsider withdrawal from co-sponsorship of the Council resolution 30/1, and regretted the excessive use of force by Chile and Hong Kong in responding to recent protests. Australia was deeply concerned about the detention of journalists and protestors, and the targeting of civil society activists in Egypt, as well as about limits to freedom of assembly, association and expression in Zimbabwe. It also voiced concern about restrictions on civil and political rights in Cambodia, Bahrain, Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia.

Libya stressed its commitment to respect human rights, noting that the current session of the Human Rights Council coincided with numerous challenges to human rights across the world. Libya, too, was currently experiencing serious challenges to its social cohesion, peace and security. The Government of National Accord had implemented laws to ensure peace and security, but those efforts were undermined by terrorist activities.

Mexico was convinced that the cooperation of States with the Office of the High Commissioner was crucial to well-balanced reporting. Concern was raised over reduction of civil space and arbitrary detention in Venezuela. The serious economic situation was driving people to flee across the region. In Nicaragua, there was progress towards reconciliation. Nicaragua was urged to investigate impartially events leading to protests in 2018. Hope was expressed that both Venezuela and Nicaragua would cooperate with the Office of High Commissioner.

India took the opportunity to inform that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was fast returning to normalcy, despite serious provocations made by one country to derail this process through active support to terrorist groups. Security forces had exercised maximum restraint. India was committed to reduce statelessness and had recently enacted legislative measures to address historical grievances of a group of persecuted persons to ensure they enjoyed full rights as citizens of India.

Bangladesh thanked the High Commissioner for lauding Bangladesh for receiving the displaced Rohingya with limited national resources. Bangladesh had made its judiciary fully independent by amending existing laws, and policy measures had been taken to ensure access to justice to all. The Government maintained a zero tolerance policy to any form of extra-judicial activities by law enforcement agencies. Digital Security Act 2018 had been enacted to curb cybercrimes.

Namibia said that the report on Iran highlighted the impact of unilaterally imposed sanctions on the exercise of economic and social rights in Iran. States that used unilateral coercive measures as a foreign policy tool were called upon to reconsider this. Lack of reporting about the Western Sahara was concerning, as it was treated as non-existent, as if the people of Western Sahara were not entitled to human rights. The High Commissioner was urged to visit Western Sahara and provide regular updates to the Council.

Philippines agreed that the challenge of the coronavirus needed effective public health measures guided by a human rights framework. An emphasis on technical cooperation and practicable and actionable solutions should underpin the Council’s work. The Philippines was committed to its ongoing engagement with the Council and the United Nations system in Manila, strongly supported by a human rights advisor from the Office of the High Commissioner who fully enjoyed the cooperation of the Government.

Japan was concerned about the human rights violations reported in Venezuela, and hoped the fact-finding mission could contribute to an improvement in the country’s human rights situation. Japan would engage in a bilateral dialogue with Iran to help improve the human rights situation there, and would continue to cooperate with other countries to contain the spread of COVID-19. Japan remained distressed at reports of the unjust treatment of people of east Asian origin because of the virus.

Burkina Faso reiterated its support for the High Commissioner’s mandate, and appreciated the variety of technical support, which it had benefitted from. In addition, Burkina Faso was involved in combatting terrorism in the region, as part of its contribution to the Joint Forces of the G5 in the Sahel, which provided members with early warning of terrorist activities. The deep-rooted causes of terrorism needed to be tackled, and therefore the Government had established a number of social development programmes, in parallel with military measures.

Italy reflected that the world faced two new challenges to human rights, the impact of climate change and the impact of new digital technologies. A meaningful engagement was needed to cope with the challenges of climate change, which were well known. Digital technologies allowed all to access information, however, when not regulated with a human rights based approach, they could be harmful. That was why States should cooperate to address them.

Chile stressed the importance of the High Commissioner’s work as it informed the Human Rights Council about human rights challenges. Chile also underlined the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building to address those challenges. Chile upheld the rule of law and separation of powers, as well as a holistic policy on transparency and freedom of opinion. Chile encouraged the High Commissioner and her Office to continue carrying out her work in an independent and objective fashion, and in a cooperative spirit.

Netherlands emphasized that the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council was determined primarily by its 47 members and how they respected human rights. It thus called on all members to take that responsibility seriously, and it strongly opposed any attempts to downplay or undermine the Council’s important role in respecting human rights. The Netherlands stressed that the international community needed an independent and impartial High Commissioner and pledged that it would continue to support her in her work.

Uruguay reminded that in many Latin American countries human rights defenders faced multiple risks and were victims of unacceptable intimidation and repression. There was an increasing trend of bringing criminal charges against them, and limiting their freedom of expression and association, thus gravely obstructing their ability to cooperate with the United Nations system. Uruguay also expressed concern about the increased dissemination of discriminatory discourses and hate campaigns against vulnerable groups.

Spain reiterated the importance of having a permanent office of the High Commissioner in Venezuela, expressing concern about the harassment of members of the National Assembly. Spain was equally worried about the situation in Nicaragua where there was a deadlock in the political crisis. Lastly, it was deeply concerned about the attacks on human rights defenders worldwide, especially in Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala.

Venezuela said that the mandate given to the Office of the High Commissioner was envisaged in a spirit of dialogue, in full compliance with the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. There was an aim to politicize this mandate when it came to States from the south. This had already led to the downfall of the Human Rights Commission. Such mandates promoted the submission of reports and oral updates which would then spark terrible media campaigns against countries of the southern hemisphere.

Nigeria agreed that Nigeria had been confronted by the menace of terrorism and local conflicts. The Government had continued its fight against terrorism with more vigour and had recorded tremendous success. Other security challenges included farmers’ clashes, kidnapping for ransom, and gender-based violence. Nigerian security forces were regularly trained on the basic principles of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. As a multi-ethnic society, great importance was attached to the need to ensure unity.

Cameroon said that orchestrated disinformation of certain mainstream media and social networks and different activists had forgotten that Cameroon was able to resolve its own problems in line with the rule of law. President Paul Biya had organized the national grand dialogue, and regions of northwest and southwest Cameroon had been granted a special status. The Government had been able to deal with the roots of the crisis. Other measures included the promotion of bilingualism and decentralization.

Ukraine said that the human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine had reported on grave violations of human rights on the territory of Crimea and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Over 14,000 people were killed, 27,000 wounded and there were over 1.4 million internally displaced persons. Over 3.4 million people needed humanitarian assistance this year. Because of the Russian ongoing aggression, conflict-affected areas had already become the most contaminated by landmines in the world, according to the United Nations.

Nepal commended the High Commissioner’s emphasis on attacking the roots causes of inequality, such as climate change and migration. Domestically, Nepal had committed to take forwarded the transitional justice process through two independent commissions – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappearances. Nepal regarded its consultations with civil society, particularly the victims of conflict, as essential elements of a transitional justice programme.

Peru expressed alarm at the deterioration of human rights in Nicaragua, including the continuation of the violation of rights to freedom of expression, assembly, journalists, and of an independent judiciary. They called on Nicaragua to remedy these abuses of human rights. Peru was fully committed to engaging constructively to bring an end to such abuses. They asked the Office of the High Commissioner what reforms needed to be made in Peru to bring about an end to human rights abuses.

Armenia said recent developments showed that digital technologies presented new opportunities, but also new challenges to maintaining human rights. In the Middle East, brutal crimes and deliberate destruction of cultural sites showed that terrorism was also an attack on human rights. Additionally, Armenia regretted the acts of discrimination towards persons of east Asian origin, resulting from COVID19. In Cyprus, Armenia was concerned about the preservation of Christian sites, especially Armenian orthodox ones, in the occupied parts of the island.

Slovakia reiterated its support for the work of the High Commissioner, and stated that building trust and engaging stakeholders was the best way to act globally. Slovakia said that abuses of human rights were often warning signs of emerging conflict. Slovakia asked the High Commissioner how the Council could better promote broad cooperation to confront complex issues.

Denmark noted that holding political leaders accountable required efforts to safeguard, amongst others, the rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, association, assembly, religion or belief. Those were challenges in many parts of the world, namely in Burundi, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Lack of accountability and the rule of law was often intensified in countries of conflict, such as Libya and Yemen, where human rights abuses were committed with impunity.

Sudan said that it was determined to strengthen cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and would continue cooperation with human rights mechanisms. As a member of the Council, Sudan would work to promote the principles of human rights. For Sudan, the re-establishment of peace was a top priority. Despite the challenges it was facing, Sudan was working to strengthen its legislative framework, to combat impunity, and to promote the role of women.

Canada applauded the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Member States to strengthen the rule of law, end impunity and ensure accountability, and promote goals at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Development. At the same time, Canada was disappointed by Sri Lanka’s decision to change its approach to resolution 30/1, noting that it was important to work together to advance reconciliation and accountability.

Switzerland thanked the High Commissioner for her contribution to the protection of the rights of women, who played a key role in the fight against discrimination and inequalities, and in the promotion of justice and accountability. Women often faced threats linked to their gender and were exposed to stigmatization in their communities. Switzerland noted the important role of women in countries such as Colombia, Argentina and Sudan.

Egypt said that there were some erroneous facts about Egypt in the High Commissioner’s update, including reference to the death penalty. In a meeting with the High Commissioner last week, Egypt had explained that there were safeguards in place. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression were guaranteed by the law and the Constitution, and Egypt abided by the rule of law. The number of detained persons in the report was also wrong.

Slovenia extended Slovenia’s respect to medical teams around the world that were tackling the coronavirus. A health crisis of such dimensions was an opportunity for the international community to depend on collaboration, including by applying a human rights approach. It was important for the Council to build on important contributions to the enjoyment of a healthy environment such as the Green New Deal by the European Union and measurable action for haze-free sustainable land management in southeast Asia.

Cuba urged the High Commissioner to continue to promote inclusive dialogue and cooperation that had been underpinning the work of the Council. Cuba recalled that the item 2 existed to analyze the work of the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner. Cuba strongly supported Nicaragua and Venezuela and condemned economic sanctions and other forms of unilateral coercion measures.

Finland welcomed the report on the Rohingya and encouraged Myanmar to continue reforming its education system. The use of the death penalty in Iran was deeply concerning. Violence against human rights defenders last November had to be investigated. A strong call was reiterated to end the conflict in Yemen. The Government of Eritrea was called upon to cooperate with Special Procedures, and its readiness to engage in a dialogue on human rights was welcomed.

Belarus noted that the eradication of poverty was a problem faced by many developing countries. Poverty was a driver of crime, intolerance and extremism that led to violations of human rights. The geographic scope and list of countries in the High Commissioner’s reports showed an imbalance in the approach of the Office to monitoring human rights situations. Some countries were repeated under several items which did not help create an atmosphere of respectful dialogue.

Liechtenstein expressed concern about the systematic discrimination against Muslims in several south east Asian countries. It regretted Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from the sponsorship of resolution 30/1. It also expressed concern about attacks on human rights defenders, noting that a vivid and active civil society was critical for the enjoyment of human rights.

Portugal welcomed the publication of the database requested in resolution 31/36, noting that all mandates entrusted to the High Commissioner by the Human Rights Council had to be fulfilled without exceptions. During the current session, Portugal would actively promote a human rights-based approach to mental health, and it would present together with Brazil a resolution on that topic. It was high time to end stigma, discrimination and violence in the field of mental health.

Botswana said that the world was reminded on a daily basis of the toll exerted on civilians, including children, who continued to bear the greatest brunt of conflict. It appreciated the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on governance issues, migration, climate change, justice, development, and the rights of displaced persons, including through strengthening institutions of governance and judicial bodies.

Zambia applauded the efforts of the High Commissioner in ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights. Despite the efforts made, the threats to human rights from climate change, migration and from emerging digital technologies remained a global concern. Zambia was committed to continuing to support the work of the Council in addressing these challenges.

South Africa shared the concerns of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the extent of human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. A solution should be found to lift the blockade, and alleviate the suffering of the civilian population. South Africa also shared concern about the situation in South Sudan, and called for an end to the violence targeting vulnerable groups.

Ecuador reiterated its condemnation of human rights abuses wherever they occurred around the world. The visit of the Office of the High Commissioner to investigate the flare up of violence in October 2019 occurred at the express invitation of the Government. Ecuador had taken note of its recommendations and was taking steps to address them. In this regard, Ecuador reiterated that the violence was unprecedented, and was directed against members of the police, public buildings, and public infrastructure.

Hungary fully shared the High Commissioner’s concern regarding the increasing number of human rights violations committed by State and non-State actors around the world. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tackling the severe impacts of climate change, and new patterns of violence required co-operation across borders, sectors and generations. Hungary invited all States to work together to face these challenges.

Costa Rica was sad and frustrated about the worsening situation in Nicaragua, as there was no dialogue nor desire by Nicaragua to cooperate with the United Nations human rights system or with Inter-American one. The recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner were more relevant than ever. Nicaraguans were facing arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression. Costa Rica urged the authorities in Nicaragua to release all detained persons, particularly women who were detained during demonstrations.

Jordan underscored that the best way to tackle human rights violations was through a constructive dialogue. Palestinians had the undeniable right to create a sovereign State based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. This was in line with international law, including the Arab peace initiative. Jordan constantly reminded the High Commissioner of the need to implement the Council’s resolutions, so that more could be done to advance human rights on regional, national and international levels.

Saudi Arabia took note of the oral update by the High Commissioner. Arrests in Saudi Arabia were not linked to the enjoyment of human rights; they were linked to the fact that persons had breached the law. Free and fair trials were ensured, but activists were not above the law. As for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia had done everything to ensure that legal safeguards were in place during the trial.

El Salvador reiterated the importance that El Salvador attached to the universality of human rights and the work of the Council. Recent social and political events in February 2020 were described which concerned the adoption of security measures in Parliament. The Government fully respected the division of powers. Measures taken to defend human rights had to be adjusted to local specificities and national contexts.

Tunisia underscored that challenges to human rights around the world would only be solved if the international community could diffuse crises and find political solutions to conflicts. Some steps would restore the faith in the international community, such as the publication of the list of businesses active in the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The role of young people, and of human rights defenders had to be strengthened.

Morocco recalled that it had inaugurated a new model of development, and that it had established a national commission to fight trafficking in persons, as well as a preventive mechanism against torture. It had also strengthened its laws on women’s rights. At the international level, Morocco had joined consensus on a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on the fight against hate speech and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue. It would continue to contribute to the building of the international human rights architecture.

Ireland was struck by the deeply troubling fact that the most basic individual freedoms were attacked all over the world, particularly by ever-growing pressure on civil society space and human rights defenders. The global community needed to do better to protect human rights for all. The 2030 Agenda provided the framework to pursue positive solutions to the challenges.

Montenegro reiterated its support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noting that the lack of sufficient financial resources remained a serious challenge. It called for the strengthening of prevention and early warning mechanisms as an effective and important tool. Each Member State had to provide access to the Office and Special Procedures.

Myanmar took note of the Council’s report on Myanmar, and said it expected the Council to strike a balance and avoid a confrontational approach. The attacks in northern Rakhine were deplorable, and all perpetrators must be brought to account. Objectivity and non-selectivity were important to prevent the politicization of the Council’s work. The Universal Periodic Review process remained the best solution to address human rights abuses. Since Myanmar was still undergoing the transition to democracy, the report should make allowances for this.

Azerbaijan said that the massive displacement of persons around the world continued to pose challenges to human rights. Azerbaijan reiterated its call to the United Nations to take a principled stance to ensure the human rights of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons and refugees. Azerbaijan welcomed the High Commissioner’s focus on environmental protection and noted that it maintained low levels of air pollution, as noted by the Special Rapporteur.

Greece noted the report’s findings on the human rights situation in Cyprus. However, Greece stressed that the report failed to address the root causes of the problem, namely the responsibility of the occupying power for perpetrating abuses. Massive illegal settlements had led to the displacement of internally displaced persons, and the persistent denial by Turkey of the rights of more than 200,000 Greek-Cypriots inhibited their enjoyment of human rights.

Russian Federation stressed that it was important for the Council to maintain a dialogue with Member States. Quality exchanges with States were important. However, the late and poor implementation by the Council’s staff gave rise to operational challenges. The setting of unacceptably short deadlines for States to respond to reports was problematic. Due to such short deadlines, Russia had not been able to respond to all of the country reports, where it was referenced.

Syria condemned Israeli systematic human rights violations in occupied Palestinian territories and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and hoped that the release of the Office of the High Commissioner’s database of companies operating in Israeli settlements would contribute to curbing Israeli colonial settlements. Syria rejected allegations of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Idlib province as attempts to distort its efforts in the fight against terrorism. The Syrian Government had defined humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians to safe areas.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea believed that the Council often deviated from the principles of objectivity and non-bias, lacking correct reflection on the real situation in countries, and in most cases, reports cited unverified information. Attempts to interfere and pressure sovereign States under the pretext of human rights as seen in the case of Iran, Venezuela and Nicaragua were concerning. When dealing with country situations, the Office had to pay more attention to the explanations of the countries concerned.

Turkey said it had been pursuing simultaneous fights against multiple terrorist organizations operating within its territory and along its borders. All allegations cited against Turkey vis-à-vis Cyprus were categorically rejected. The report made a link between the so-called division of the island and difficulties faced on the implementation of international human rights standards throughout the island. The problem stemmed from the Greek Cypriot administration’s reluctance to cooperate with the Turkish Cypriot side.

Norway said that Colombia was one of the world’s most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. The Colombian Government’s effort to tackle the cycle of violence was acknowledged. Corruption and impunity in Guatemala and Honduras were concerning and these countries had to strengthen the protection of human rights. The report on Sri Lanka was welcomed. Some progress had been made in promoting reconciliation and accountability in line with resolution 30/01.

Thailand reaffirmed its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights for all, including strengthening democratic values and political pluralism. Thailand was committed to carrying out the twin implementation of human rights obligations and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It welcomed the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on Human Rights, and expressed hope that human rights would remain high on the agenda of the United Nations.

Sweden expressed concern about the situation of human rights in Nicaragua, noting that meaningful national dialogue was a precondition for a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis. Sweden voiced hope that the peace agreement with Ethiopia would improve human rights in Eritrea. It expected Sri Lanka to build on the progress made in recent years to advance human rights. Finally, Sweden voiced concern about the continued human rights violations in Yemen.

Algeria praised the involvement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its principle of leaving no one behind. Algeria was mobilized to achieve those objectives and it was a leader in Africa in terms of the human development index. Furthermore, Algeria was making progress in terms of democratic values. On 12 December 2019, it had held pluralistic democratic elections.

Maldives stressed that human trafficking was a multidimensional threat that deprived people of their human rights and freedoms. The Government of Maldives thus gave high priority to combat trafficking in persons, and it had adopted the Maldives National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan 2020-2022. As a small-island developing State, Maldives also prioritized the protection of the environment and dealing with climate change.

Paraguay stated that bad governance, corruption and the lack of rule of law led to the erosion of human rights. The development of capacity building through the strengthening of national mechanisms was therefore crucial. Paraguay also reiterated its concern about the serious situation of human rights in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and urged the authorities in those countries to implement without delay the recommendations made to them.

Bolivia shared the concerns that climate change was a global threat and believed it was imperative that the international system stepped up its work to address this. Bolivia placed great importance on upholding civil and political rights. It was in the process of recovering democracy and upcoming elections on 3 May would take place without undermining the right to free protest. Bolivia reaffirmed its commitment to uphold human rights.

Luxembourg praised the update on the situation in Sudan and urged the Government to continue its work. The example showed what was possible when the legitimate demands of citizens were upheld, and reforms to ensure the rule of law were implemented. Luxemburg was particularly sensitive to the situation in the Sahel, and praised the work of the Joint Forces of the G5 in the Sahel in combatting terrorism and tackling its root causes. Luxembourg also welcomed the Chinese authorities’ decision to allow a visit by the Office of the High Commissioner to Xinjiang Province.

Jamaica commended the High Commissioner for her report, and her valuable work to promote human rights around the world. Jamaica was a signatory to nine core international human rights treaties, and the Government had continued to implement a range of measures to strengthen the legislative and institutional framework for human rights protection.

China stressed that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should refrain from the politicization of its work, and should focus on providing capacity building and technical assistance to countries. China looked forward to welcoming the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Xinjiang province this year for a constructive dialogue. China commended Sri Lanka for addressing the human rights situation in the country and encouraged it to continue its progress.

Ethiopia was undertaking measures towards the promotion and protection of human rights. Strengthening institutions and revitalizing legislative frameworks were priorities for the Government. Ethiopia was working with the regional human rights office on matters such as the Sustainable Development Goals, humanitarian action and the protection of civic space. Constructive engagement would help Ethiopia in its efforts to uphold its obligations under different international instruments.

United Kingdom said that in Hong Kong, rebuilding confidence in police accountability was essential. The protection of civilians in Cameroon and human rights abuses there were concerning. The United Kingdom supported Israel’s right to self-defense and condemned indiscriminate rocket fire. It was concerned about the restriction of civil liberties in Turkey. In Iraq, security forces’ use of live fire against protesters had resulted in 600 deaths. The Sri Lankan Government’s change of approach to resolution 30/1 was concerning.

Belgium shared concerns by different delegations on detention conditions in Xinjang in China. The law on the national register of India was concerning and the authorities were called upon to avoid discrimination. In Colombia, over 107 human rights defenders were killed in 2019 and the Government was urged to end the cycle of violence. Saudi Arabia was congratulated for reforming legislation on women. The Governments of Iraq, Cameroon, Honduras and Kazakhstan were reminded that freedom of assembly was a fundamental right.

Georgia noted that despite calls from the international community, the situation in Venezuela continued to deteriorate. Extrajudicial killings by the Special Action Forces and overall violence, especially against political leaders, continued in Venezuela. The regime threatened the process of free and fair elections. The situation in Nicaragua was also concerning as the rights to freedom of opinion continued to be violated and there were ongoing physical attacks on journalists and media outlets.

Organization of American States said that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had been closely looking into the grave situation of human rights in Nicaragua. Since 2018 it had documented different phases of the reduction of civil society space, and it had observed that the situation had not changed. There were severe limitations to freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic stated that it was fully committed to its obligations under the core human rights treaties and Optional Protocols to which it was party. Speaking of the situation in Xinjiang, Lao People’s Democratic Republic was of the view that China had undertaken the right policies and measures in solving the issue to maintain peace and social order, which were fundamental for socio-economic development.

Mongolia reminded that it had adopted revised laws on the national human rights commission and the national mechanism for the prevention of torture. It had also begun working on business and human rights, expecting to publish the first report in 2021. Mongolia also requested that its technical assistance be extended until 2022.

Malta welcomed the focus of the High Commissioner on inequalities and discrimination during the first year of her tenure. It also shared her assessment that the international community needed to effectively address climate threats and to implement the principle of intergenerational equity that the Paris Agreement laid out. Malta underlined that human rights applied to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and it called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Viet Nam reiterated that the protection of human rights had always been a priority. Laws on freedom of speech, expression and assembly were all core to the country’s constitution. Viet Nam was disappointed by the statement made by the European Union regarding the situation in Viet Nam, especially as they had recently held constructive talks. Superficial statements harmed the constructive dialogue on human rights.

Iceland shared the High Commissioner’s concerns over increasing attacks on freedoms around the world. In Iran, Egypt, Guinea, Hong Kong and elsewhere, Governments must refrain from using disproportionate force on legitimate protestors. Iceland regretted Sri Lanka’s decision to move away from the requirements it had agreed to in resolution 30/1.

Chad reaffirmed its commitment to the work of the Council, and the need to respect the principles of international law. It welcomed the decision of China to invite a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Xinjiang province to discuss developments there. This visit should be held in a spirit of constructive dialogue and one that respected national sovereignty.

Cambodia noted with dismay that the High Commissioner’s report on Cambodia ignored the realities on the ground. Cambodia was home to 6,000 registered non-governmental organizations and had an open civic space. The rule of law was ensured and all citizens were equally treated before the law regardless of their background or religion. Cambodia was signatory to many core treaties of the United Nations, and last year it undertook its third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

Iraq shared the High Commissioner’s hopes for Iraq to find solutions to some pertinent threats, including terrorism and extremism. People in Iraq had been unhappy with services and their living standards and it was all leading to terrible reactions, including damage of property and violence against law enforcement agencies. Investigations had been launched and some police officers had been brought to justice in Iraq. Others had resigned due to the public pressure.

France was running for membership in the Council for the 2021-2023 period with three priorities: women’s rights, protection of human rights defenders, and access to information. Dialogue was the only viable solution in Cameroon and the situation in Cambodia was concerning as there had been constant shrinking of civic space. The repression in Nicaragua was concerning. Constant human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory were alarming and France reiterated its support to a two-State solution.


For use of the information media; not an official record


HRC20.0012E


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