Human Rights Council begins general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

Hears the Presentation of the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, after hearing the presentation of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of recommendations made by the Group of Independent Experts on Accountability for Human Rights Violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had established the Accountability Project team to collect information relating to suspected crimes against humanity which might have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Data collected supported the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry that there were reasonable grounds for believing that crimes against humanity had been committed, especially detention-related crimes, such as torture, other inhuman acts, enslavement and murder.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not take the floor as the concerned country.

In the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, some speakers drew attention to a systematic emergency at the Human Rights Council, reminding that whenever the Council held interactive dialogues, a number of delegations called into question the legitimacy of its Special Procedures, arguing that they were politicized, selective and subjective. Human rights were universal and not Western-held values. The Universal Periodic Review was not the only means by which the Council could address human rights breaches, especially in the case of emergencies. Other speakers regretted that developed countries continued to lecture developing countries on human rights, without referring to their own human rights problems, such as the rights of migrants. Those countries did not recognize the right to development as a basic human right. They had not managed to get rid of their colonial attitudes, and the basic principles of the United Nations did not seem to concern them either. Some speakers stressed that the right to development was important for the promotion of all other human rights and urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the right to development as a cross-cutting theme in various debates in the Council.

Speaking were Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Romania (on behalf of the European Union), Venezuela (on behalf of a group of countries), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Peru, Denmark, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Australia, Austria, Iceland, Ukraine, Japan, Spain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Israel, Belgium, Canada, Slovenia, Germany, Finland, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, France, Belarus, Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland, Luxembourg, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, Sudan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Norway, Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Baha’i International Community, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Together against the death penalty, Minority Rights Group, Franciscans International (in a joint statement with VIVAT International), Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Canners International Permanent Committee, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, International Commission of Jurists, Africa Culture International, United Schools International, International Service for Human Rights , International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, Indian Council of Education, European Humanist Federation, Human Rights Agency, International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Association Dunenyo , Action internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs , Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Physicians for Human Rights, Family Health Association of Iran, and Edmund Rice International Limited.

Iran, Lebanon, India, China, Venezuela, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, Japan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Georgia and Philippines spoke in right of reply.

The Council will next meet on Wednesday, 13 March, at 9 a.m., when it will continue its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of minorities, and will hear the presentation of reports of the Forum on Minority Issues, the Forum on Democracy and the Rule of Law, and the Social Forum, before starting its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Promoting accountability in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/40/36 ). (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/36

Presentation of Report of the High Commissioner on the Implementation of Recommendations made by the Group of Independent Experts on Accountability for Human Rights Violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of recommendations related to accountability, pursuant to the Council’s resolution 34/24 of March 2017 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Following the oral update presented in March 2018, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had established a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Accountability Project team, led by a high-level international expert, and including international criminal law experts. The team had strengthened monitoring and documentation efforts by collecting information relating to suspected crimes against humanity, which might have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Given the lack of access to the country, various sources were used, including interviews and statements and information collected by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Commission of Inquiry, and other organizations. The team sought to establish evidence that linked alleged crimes with individuals previously responsible for the acts in question, or with commanders and superiors responsible for formulating relevant policies, issuing the orders or failing to exercise proper control, Ms. Gilmore explained.

The team had established a secure electronic repository as a useful investigative tool to generate further reports. The gathered data supported conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry that there were reasonable grounds for believing that crimes against humanity had been committed, especially detention-related crimes, such as torture, other inhuman acts, enslavement and murder. Former detainees who had been interviewed described harsh conditions and widespread malnourishment causing severe health problems. Several interviewees reported cases of prisoners who had died in detention centres from malnutrition, overwork or untreated diseases. Some women were sexually assaulted by guards. The alleged systematic perpetration of crimes in detention centres under the authority of the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of People’s Security supported the inference that such crimes might be committed pursuant to policies formulated at higher levels, the Deputy High Commissioner noted.

The conditions might not yet be in place for the prosecution of such allegations either through a national process or through the creation of an ad hoc tribunal, or a referral to the International Criminal Court. The expert analysis, collection and preservation of information about such serious crimes was a major undertaking, requiring significant resources and time. If the Council extended the mandate of the accountability team, it had to be strengthened, with the aim of continuing to investigate, document, and store securely information pertaining to criminal allegations. Efforts aimed at securing a long-lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula had to integrate human rights, including with regard to accountability, and victims’ rights to justice and remedy, the Deputy High Commissioner insisted. In closing, she noted that the Accountability Project was a unique historic opportunity for the Council to help secure justice in the future in respect of human rights violations.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations Requiring the Council’s Attention

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, insisted that human rights must be addressed within the global context through a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized, and non-selective manner, in line with a dialogue-based approach. The Non-Aligned Movement expressed dismay at all gross and systematic human rights violations. It emphasized the role of the Human Rights Council and its responsibility to consider human rights situations in all countries in the context of the Universal Periodic Review.

Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers. In the Philippines, it remained concerned about the death toll associated with the anti-drug campaign. The European Union reiterated its concern about the increase in death sentences in Egypt, and about the pressure and restrictions on civil society in the Russian Federation. It was also deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel. It furthermore drew attention to the situations of human rights in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Sudan, Pakistan and Turkey.

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed concern about the continued discriminatory practice in the Human Rights Council of targeting resolutions at particular countries. Naming and shaming was an attempt to interfere in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. The group of countries was worried about the growing list of items discussed under the Council’s agenda item 4, which were far removed its mandate and should rather be addressed within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, highlighted the rising xenophobia and intolerance on the basis of religion or belief, especially against Muslims. The right to development was important for the promotion of all other human rights and the Organization urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the right to development as a cross-cutting theme in various debates in the Council. The Organization also drew attention to the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Peru reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights. It expressed a deep concern about the human rights situations around the world mentioned in the reports presented. Peru stressed that preserving human dignity meant that the international community had to show solidarity and make its best and honest efforts to find solutions. It called on the Council to take action to respond to emerging situations in order to protect international human rights law.

Denmark expressed concern about the alarming number of disappearances in Syria and took positive note of the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan. It called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately halt grave human rights violations, and drew attention to the continued use of capital punishment in Iran. Denmark also voiced concern about the grave human rights violations committed by Myanmar’s security forces, and about the advancement of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

United Kingdom called on all parties to address the dire situation in Yemen in line with the Stockholm commitments. In China, the situation in Xinjiang was concerning, including the use of political re-education camps. The United Kingdom called on the Russian Federation to respect all fundamental freedoms. It welcomed Egypt’s announcement of a new High Committee on Human Rights, but it remained concerned about restrictions on freedom of expression. In Venezuela, the United Kingdom highlighted the continuing erosion of human rights.

Czech Republic called attention to the execution of more than 50 persons in Egypt during February 2019, and urged the Egyptian authorities to put a moratorium on the death penalty. Highlighting the deteriorating situation in Xinjiang, the Czech Republic called on the Chinese authorities to end the re-education of minorities. In Nicaragua, it condemned the continued repression of civil society and restrictions of the right to peaceful assembly, whereas in Venezuela it condemned the violence used by the security forces.

Uruguay expressed concern about the human rights violations in many countries highlighted in the High Commissioner’s report. Discrimination against women, multiple discrimination against minors, violence against refugees and migrants, and the disproportionate use of force were all part of that picture. It was the Council’s mandate to react to such situations. The United Nations General Assembly had set up the Council to function on the basis of dialogue and cooperation, which was why Uruguay recommended using mechanisms in countries that accepted them.

Australia deplored the ongoing widespread human rights violations in Syria, including arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture in areas returned to the regime’s control. The Democratic Republic of the Congo should safeguard freedom of media and ensure accountability for violations that had taken place during the electoral period. The suppression of protests in Nicaragua remained deeply troubling. Australia also called for an immediate return to democracy in Venezuela and for the end to the conflict in Yemen.

Austria called for the swift operationalization of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. It voiced concern about the repression of dissenting opinions in Nicaragua through the use of anti-terrorism laws. Austria urged Venezuela to refrain from arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, and to allow access for humanitarian aid. Even though seven million people were at risk of extreme hunger in South Sudan, humanitarian aid workers continued to be detained and killed.

Iceland was concerned about the human rights situation in Venezuela and stated that the people deserved a fresh start after years of devastation under President Maduro. Iceland called for free, fair and democratic elections. Even though it recognized Israel’s right to defend itself within the principle of proportionality, Iceland expressed concern about the use of lethal force against Palestinian civilians, including children.

Ukraine shared concern about the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, where numerous Ukrainians were detained. Five years of illegal occupation of Ukraine by the Russian Federation had led to the abduction, forced imprisonment and torture of civilians. The forced drafting of Crimeans into the Russian army continued. The Russian Federation had captured and mistreated 24 Ukrainian sailors in 2018, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Japan continued to observe the current human rights situation in the Middle East with concern, as well as in Myanmar. As for Latin America, Japan remained concerned about the situation of human rights in Venezuela and in Nicaragua. In the Asia-Pacific region, there remained challenges to democratic consolidation. Japan continued to support the process between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and it called upon all relevant stakeholders to share that approach.

Spain remained concerned about the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, and condemned the building of illegal settlements. Spain acknowledged the legitimate right of Israel to defend itself and criticized Hamas’ actions, calling on all sides to return to dialogue. Spain was also alarmed at the human rights violations in Venezuela and the use of violence by the military, as well as about the situation in Nicaragua.

Cameroon noted that Xinjiang in China had suffered serious threats of terrorism. The international community should staunchly fight against the scourge of terrorism and Cameroon was pleased to see that China had implemented anti-terrorism measures in line with international standards. In accordance with its Constitution, China had stepped up the development of its autonomous regions, including Tibet and Xinjiang. Cameroon also noted that all religions in China were respected and protected by law.

China noted that all ethnic groups in China lived in peace and that ethnic groups were well protected. The measures adopted to combat terrorism in Xinjiang were accepted by all ethnic groups. Certain countries disregarded facts and rudely intervened in China’s internal affairs, in violation of the United Nations Charter. United Kingdom, Australia, and Czech Republic had appalling problems of human rights, but they were never criticized for them. China supported Cameroon’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Cuba regretted that developed countries continued to lecture developing countries on human rights, without referring to their own human rights problems, such as the rights of migrants. Those countries did not recognize the right to development as a basic human right. They had not managed to get rid of their colonial attitudes; otherwise how could one explain no guarantee for maternity protection and equal gender pay. The basic principles of the United Nations did not seem to concern them either.

Pakistan shared the Council’s concerns about the rise of racism, extremism and religious intolerance, especially in India where the ruling party was playing on religious intolerance and sensibilities to destabilize Pakistan. A Pakistani prisoner had been stoned to death while languishing in an Indian prison, and no one had been held accountable. The issue of Kashmir remained a huge concern, and India needed to correct its policy in the region and to honour the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Israel stated that the Human Rights Council continued to sabotage Israel’s right to defend its territory and citizens, while it ignored Hamas’ terrorism. Hezbollah had dug tunnels compromising, Israel’s territorial integrity. The Council was losing credibility as an unbiased body, as it only served to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel.

Belgium called upon Nicaragua to release all prisoners who had been illegally detained for voicing dissident opinions and to guarantee their right to a fair trial. Belgium remained deeply concerned about the violations against children in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it called on all countries to respect international human rights law.

Canada emphasized that no country should not be immune from the scrutiny of the Council, condemning those that had failed to grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Canada condemned the denial of civil and political rights in Venezuela, and the continued violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Chechnya, Russia. It also called on China to adhere to its human rights obligations and to release the Uyghurs and other Muslims who had been arbitrarily detained on the basis of their religion.

Slovenia remained deeply concerned about the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen, particularly of children. It condemned the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Syria, and raised concern about developments in Ukraine, especially in eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Slovenia called on Venezuela to grant access to the country and to fully cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. It also urged Myanmar to quickly operationalize the independent mechanism established by the Council.

Germany called on China, Egypt, Nicaragua, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Venezuela to release and protect all human rights defenders, to stop criminalizing them, and to allow them meaningful access for independent observers. Germany condemned the unlawful mass detention in Xinjiang, China, the disproportionate use of force in Venezuela and Sudan, the increasing use of the death penalty in Egypt, atrocities committed against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community in Chechnya, Russia, the situation of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and unlawful killings in the Philippines.

Finland expressed concern about restrictions on civil society in the Russian Federation, including Chechnya and illegally annexed Crimea. It remained deeply concerned about the indiscriminate attacks on civilians perpetrated by the Syrian regime, and about the continuing arrests and arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia. Finland urged Egypt, Sudan, Nicaragua and Venezuela to respect freedom of expression, assembly and association. It shared concern about the gross human rights abuses committed in Myanmar, and about the existence of political re-education camps in Xinjiang, China.

Russian Federation stated that despite the efforts by the international community and numerous resolutions, the human rights situation in Ukraine was deteriorating. The Ukrainian leadership was working to anchor the principle of discrimination in all spheres of public and political life. They had even tried to decide which Ukrainians were real Orthodox and which were not. The officially stated secular nature of the State apparatus had not prevented the authorities from interfering in the life of the Church.

Netherlands called on all parties to implement the peace agreement in South Sudan, and was concerned about the rise in reported cases of sexual assault. The recent electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had seriously deprived the Congolese citizens of their political rights. Netherlands also expressed concern about the ongoing human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon, and it noted that the situation in Eritrea remained critical, with severe restrictions on freedom of expression.

Republic of Korea was concerned about the serious human rights situation in Syria, including increasing civilian casualties in Idlib. It also regretted the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, particularly the conditions for women and children. The gross human rights violations in Sudan and the use of force against peaceful demonstrators was a cause for deep concern. The Republic of Korea appreciated the steps taken to recruit staff to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul.

France highlighted the continuing suffering of the civilian population in Syria. It noted that in Yemen, the dire humanitarian situation meant that States had to step up their efforts. In Burma, France underlined that those responsible for the crimes committed against the Rohingya had to be held accountable. In China, the situation in Xinjiang was deeply concerning. Finally, France stressed the need to protect human rights defenders, namely in Russia, Iran, Philippines, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Belarus said that the politicization of the Council’s agenda item 4 was progressing from session to session. There was a high level of mistrust in the Council. Some delegations insisted on imposing negative discussions on human rights situations. The efforts to politicize the situation in China were not doing any good; the Government of China guaranteed rights for everyone to live freely. Belarus urged everyone to continue their work in a cooperative manner.

Switzerland was deeply concerned about the number of arrested persons in Venezuela, adding that there was a gross violation of the right to health. It welcomed the fact that China would partially allow visits by certain diplomats and journalists to the Xinjiang re-education centre. Switzerland noted that the situation of civil and political rights in Turkmenistan was worrisome. It was also alarmed at developments in Sudan, including massive arrests of protesters and the excessive use of force.

New Zealand was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Venezuela, namely extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment, the lack of access to justice, and the systematic disregard for democratic processes. New Zealand insisted that a leader who refused humanitarian access to his people was undermining his own legitimacy. New Zealand also called for the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement in Yemen, and it condemned the violence in Gaza in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Ireland welcomed the progress of the peace negotiations in Yemen, but remained concerned about the grave humanitarian crisis and continuing reports of civilian casualties. It called on all parties to engage with the United Nations-led peace process. Ireland also drew attention to the continued expansion of Israeli settlements into the occupied Palestinian territory, and called on Israel to extend the same rights to both its Palestinian and Israeli citizens. It was also concerned about the situation of human rights in South Sudan, Myanmar and Bahrain.

Luxembourg drew attention to a systematic emergency at the Human Rights Council, reminding that whenever the Council held interactive dialogues, a number of delegations called into question the legitimacy of its Special Procedures, arguing that they were politicized, selective and subjective. Luxembourg reiterated that human rights were universal and not Western values. The Universal Periodic Review was not the only means by which the Council could address human rights breaches, especially in the case of emergencies.

Iran stated that the unlawful and illegal imposition of sanctions on Iran and some other nations by the United States was harmful to the lives of civilians. The continued use by the United States of Guantanamo Bay was just the latest example of its Islamophobia and illegal activity. Iran also called attention to Islamophobia and the mistreatment of indigenous peoples in Canada, and to the poverty in the United Kingdom. In France, the yellow vests had been subjected to the excessive use of force by the police.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that it was the human rights situation in countries that often found fault with other countries that needed attention. It drew particular attention to Japan, which had been guilty of committing crimes against humanity, namely sexual slavery. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also asked the Human Rights Council to review the case of reunifying families whose members had come to South Korea in recent years. It called attention to the sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Georgia was alarmed about the situation in Nicaragua, particularly about unlawful arrests and arbitrary detentions. In Venezuela, it called on President Maduro to end the suffering of civilians. Georgia was dismayed at the situation in Ukraine’s Donbass region, and asked Russia to grant access to observers. In Georgia, the region of Abkhazia was suffering human rights abuses, and it underlined the responsibility of the Russian Federation as the occupying power for that situation.

Sudan reiterated that in its work the Human Rights Council should not be selective and should not apply double standards. The current state of emergency in Sudan was in place due to the difficult economic situation, which had been caused by the embargo that had been in place since 1997. The state of emergency would end when the reasons for it disappeared. Sudan had presented its decision to introduce the state of emergency to the United Nations and Parliament had agreed to reduce its duration.

Nicaragua stated that it was committed to a national reconciliation process. Together with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, it had been agreed that the Special Envoy would carry out analysis with all relevant actors. The Government would implement each and every agreement reached. Nicaragua would welcome the suspension of sanctions, which had a very negative impact on the people of Nicaragua.

Bolivia said that the Human Rights Council had to be guided by the principles of universality, non-selectivity and impartiality. It called on all States to avoid distorting the Council’s working methods and thereby human rights. Bolivia noted that China had adopted a system of regional and ethnic autonomy, and that it had stepped up economic efforts in areas where minorities lived, including the region of Xinjiang.

Norway noted that environmental human rights defenders were key partners in advancing the 2030 Agenda and it encouraged the Council to adopt an ambitious resolution on their rights to send a strong message for their protection and support. Norway was concerned about the shrinking civil space in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bahrain. It urged the Venezuelan Government to provide unhindered access for international humanitarian aid and to uphold human rights.

Myanmar stated that confrontation was always highly divisive and urged the Human Rights Council to avoid the application of double standards, selectivity and politicization. Myanmar highlighted the need to make sure that every independent mandate holder strictly adhered to the principles of independence, impartiality and integrity.

Syria supported the statement delivered by Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, opposing the deliberations under agenda item 4. Syria pointed out the instrumentalisation of the Council’s mandate as a means to interfere in sovereign States’ internal affairs under the pretext to protect human rights. Syria called on all to distance the Council from the politicization of debates.

Venezuela condemned attacks on developing States, which were attempts to politicize human rights abuses against sovereign States. It rejected the interference in the affairs of sovereign States, which in some cases led to coups d’etat. Venezuela urged the European Union not to stand with the United States in its opposition to President Maduro. It called on the Council to work on the basis of mutual respect, and non-interference in the affairs of sovereign States.

Baha’i International Community stated that the sole reason for the human rights violations against the Baha’i people in Iran was their belief in the Baha’i faith, including the belief in prosperity for all, and protection of the environment. The organization noted that the religious prejudice of the Iranian Government was blinding. The Government should welcome the positive impact of the Baha’i faith.

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project condemned the Sudanese Government’s use of violence and excessive force against peaceful protesters. It was premature to take Sudan off the Council’s agenda. The organization believed that European States should stop prioritizing containment of refugee flows over the fundamental rights of those people; instead they should address the root causes of migration.

Together against the death penalty informed about the seventh Global Congress against the Death Penalty, which had recently taken place in Brussels, noting that the situation in some countries remained difficult. Egypt had executed a record number of people since the beginning of the year. In Malaysia, although abolition had been announced, it had not happened yet. A dozen United Nations experts had recently signed a joint declaration on the universal nature of the death penalty and the global nature of the fight to abolish it.

Minority Rights Group said that there was an imminent risk of some four million people becoming stateless in the Indian state of Assam. Most of them belonged to linguistic and religious minorities, in particular the Bengali speaking Muslims. The Government of India was preparing a National Register of Citizens, which was a flawed process that discriminated against entire segments of the population, resulting in their exclusion from the register.

Franciscans International, in a joint statement with VIVAT International, expressed concern about the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua in Indonesia. High levels of violence and related human rights violations continued to be reported. Available data suggested that the numbers of extrajudicial killings remained alarming. The ongoing intensive military and police operations had a very negative humanitarian and human rights impact.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture called attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain since 2011. The authorities had been wielding an iron fist to restrict the space for democratic activity. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were being seriously restricted, and many people had been condemned as the result of unfair trials. People had been stripped of their nationality and activists jailed. There had also been extrajudicial killings.

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center reminded that more than 18,000 people were held in prison in Iran in 2018 due to their failure to pay a fine or contractual obligation in contravention of article 11 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That figure included those who had failed to pay the blood money and debts incurred in commercial transactions. The Iranian Government should be urged to stop that practice and to comply with its obligations under the Covenant.

Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development raised several concerns in the Asian region, including the Bangladeshi election in 2017, which had been marred by gross irregularities and where freedom of expression remained severely curtailed. The organization urged the Council to investigate the systematic targeting of journalists in the Philippines. In Cambodia, restrictions on civil space remained a serious concern and the Council needed to ensure the restoration of human rights. In India and Maldives, harassment of human rights defenders and hate speech against minorities remained unchecked.

Human Rights Watch underlined that civic space in Bahrain had continued to shrink as prominent human rights defenders were punished, whilst in Egypt the police systematically used violence to stifle political dissent. Turkey was the world leader in imprisoning journalists, with more than 180 under detention facing terrorism charges. In Cameroon, the authorities responded to protests with violence and extra judicial killings. In the Philippines, extrajudicial killings were prevalent as part of President Duterte’s murderous war on drugs.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide was alarmed at the state of emergency in Sudan, which granted sweeping powers and immunity to its security personnel. The organization urged the Sudanese Government to implement the demands of its citizens. The organization was also concerned about the persecution of Christians in Iran, and their inability to practice their religion in private, and about the sharp rise in mob attacks on Christian and Muslim minorities across India.

Canners International Permanent Committee stated that in 2018, 595 people had been killed in Pakistan in terrorist attacks. Many of the terrorist recruits were the products of extreme Islamic Madrasas, which were allowed to operate at will in the country. Pakistan needed to address the growing wave of terrorism, which was allowed to flourish with impunity. If not addressed, it could lead to a crisis in the country and the wider world.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues voiced concern that anti-terrorism and national security arguments were used by countries to detain human rights defenders. In Egypt, numerous human rights defenders were detained under terrorist related charges. In Turkey, human rights lawyers had been charged with propaganda for terrorist purposes, whereas in China, fabricated charges were used to target labour activists.

Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea reminded that the violations of human rights of women and children continued in South Sudan. Violence had intensified in the last months, taking an unprecedented course. Some 65 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men had been sexually abused. The Human Rights Council and its Member States should recommend an independent investigation into the grave violations of human rights in South Sudan.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada deplored the arbitrary arrest of a lawyer in Iran who had been charged for carrying out her work, including representation of political activists. The handing down of a harsh sentence of 38 years in prison, without the presence of her lawyer, was alarming. The organization urged the Council to call on Iran to provide official clarification on the sentence, which was disproportionate and against Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

International Commission of Jurists said that the situation of the rule of law remained grave in Turkey, whereas in Poland, there was a move to remove one third of the judiciary without due process. The findings by the Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan were worrying, especially with respect to the involvement of the oil industry, and the use of oil revenues by the Government parties.

Africa Culture International sought to eradicate female genital mutilation as it led both to physical and metal trauma, and sometimes to infection, chronic weakness or even death. An estimated 126 million women were subjected to female genital mutilation, in contravention to a resolution ratified by all United Nations Member States in 2013. The organization called for the eradication of that practice by 2030.

United Schools International drew the attention of the Council to Jammu and Kashmir where Pakistan had made the transition from an occupying power to a broker trying to sell Gilgit Baltistan to China. Pakistan continued to cause instability in the region and the people of Jammu and Kashmir feared for their future.

International Service for Human Rights underlined that China should allow access to the international experts and release all individuals held in arbitrary detention. The number of arbitrary detentions in Xinjiang was tragically high, over one million. If the Council were to give China a pass on that issue, it would send the message that economic influence and diplomatic charm offensives were sufficient to delay principled and lifesaving scrutiny.

International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies stated that human rights belonged to all people inhabiting the earth. Such rights were all that was essential to drive the will of humanity. Human rights could not be encroached upon in the name of national security, or any similar pretexts, which Governments chose to suggest. Human rights were a thirst-quenching requirement of all humanity, and must be upheld at all time.

Indian Council of Education reminded that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had outlined the nature of human rights since 1948, and included amongst those civic, cultural and political rights. A large number of people across the world were still being deprived of their human rights. The future of the very rights that the international community had fought for was under threat. Risks came from the effects of climate change, political authoritarianism and migration, amongst others.

European Humanist Federation recalled that many people left their countries after facing persecution for beliefs or non-beliefs, which included atheists, agnostics, rationalists and humanists. Religion and beliefs were one of the five grounds on which people could request asylum or international protection, and the European Union had made it clear that the concept of religion included the holding of non-theistic beliefs. However, in practice asylum claims based on conversion to atheism were not well understood by Government officers in Europe.

Human Rights Agency reminded that it had been four years since Saudi Arabia, the richest Arab country, had been waging a war of aggression against Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries. The number of civilians killed because of the bombings and blockade of the humanitarian aid had been increasing exponentially. Saudi Arabia recruited Sudanese child soldiers belonging to Janjaweed militia from Darfur to fight in Yemen. That had to be condemned by the whole international community, but it was covered by a veil of silence.

International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was concerned about the systematic human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit Baltistan. Pakistan had violated international law as well as United Nations resolutions. Many dams had been constructed in disputed territories, depriving millions of people of their basic needs. Anti-terror laws were used to suffocate freedom of expression.

Association Dunenyo noted that failing to ensure accountability only succeeded in absolving the countries from their responsibility in committing atrocities or in hosting perpetrators. The truth was lost, paving the way for enforced disappearances and abductions. The organization urged the Council to call on Algeria to allow access to the Working Group on enforced disappearances to examine cases in the Tandouf camps.

Action internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs said that the Government of Pakistan was using anti-terror laws to suppress any dissent and to stifle any voices. The Pakistani authorities had restricted travel through blocking of travel documents. The organization asked the Council to take urgent measures and to formulate mechanisms that would investigate the behavior of the Pakistani authorities in Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative congratulated Fiji and the Bahamas on being the first pacific and Caribbean small island states to be elected to the Council. The organization remained concerned about the continuing sorcery accusation related to violence in Papua New Guinea, where there were up to10 reported cases per week, and it urged the Government to enforce the existing laws and prosecute perpetrators. In Vanuatu, the organization was concerned about the reports of violence against women.

The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd reminded that dozens of Palestinian refugees who had fled Syria to Thailand were being threatened with forced return as they overstayed their visas while waiting for their cases to be processed by the United Nations’ Refugee Agency. They were treated as criminals rather than refugees. Serious steps were needed to save one of the world’s most vulnerable refugee populations.

Physicians for Human Rights called attention to those seeking asylum in the United-States and Mexico, who had strong claims and must be heard immediately, for example those fleeing gang violence. Mexico was not a safe holding country and the United States treated the human rights crisis as a security crisis. The organization encouraged the United Nations human rights mechanisms to independently report on the situation.

Family Health Association of Iran, in a joint statement, decried the ongoing war in Yemen, reminding that millions of Yemenis needed assistance, and that mortality rates of women and children were on the increase. Approximately two million children were in need of education. The organization urged the international community and the Human Rights Council to promote peace, and to observe the human rights conditions in the country.

Edmund Rice International raised the ongoing human rights issue in Grenada and reminded that in 1983, the Prime Minster of Grenada had been executed along with eight others. Their remains had never been returned to their families. In 2001, a truth and reconciliation commission had been appointed to uncover the truth behind that and other political murders. To date, a satisfactory answer had not been reached.

Right of Reply

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, said that many absurd claims had been made by the United Kingdom, European Union and Israel, including Israel preaching about human rights. All reports by the United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner testified to the massacre occurring in the occupied territories of Palestine, including shooting at protesters. In the European Union countries, hate speech against migrants and Muslims was rampant. In the United Kingdom, there was a remainder of the colonial belief that a citizen of the United Kingdom should be exempt for responding to any crimes. The United Kingdom and Denmark shed crocodile tears over human rights. They had to stop with such hypocrisy.

Lebanon, speaking in a right of reply, said Israel accused any political party in the region which dared to oppose its policy as being a terrorist. Israel had recently threatened to send Lebanon back to the stone age and there was documentation that it funded terrorist organizations in Syria. All Lebanese political parties were working within the preview of the Lebanese statute book and none of those parties were on the United Nations list of terrorist organizations.

India, speaking in a right of reply, regretted that Pakistan misused the Council for its malicious propaganda. The Council had to examine the illegal occupation by Pakistan of a part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, as the people there were subject to a denial of even their basic rights. Pakistan was known to the international community for harbouring terrorists, forced conversions and blasphemy laws, enforced disappearances, religious intolerance and attacks on Muslim minorities. Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India. The principle of self-determination could not be misused to erode territorial integrity. Pakistan would do well to reform its institutions.

China, speaking in a right of reply, said that a number of countries and non-governmental organizations had made unwarranted accusations against China. In response, China pointed out that in Germany, racism and xenophobia were on the rise, and in France, racial discrimination against migrants and refugees was dire, as it was in Finland and Switzerland. In Canada, indigenous people suffered discrimination. Xinjiang and Tibet were valued economic regions, and all ethnic groups lived there in peace. A number of vocational training centres had been built, but only to combat extremism.

Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that the unfounded allegations waged against it by members of the Human Rights Council were aimed at destabilizing the solid democratic foundation of the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan people had been able to use one of the most reliable computerized voting systems in the world during the elections and the democratic process was guaranteed. Venezuela accused President Trump and his regional lackeys of trying to violently break through the borders of Venezuela under the auspices of humanitarian aid and then setting fire to their own food trucks in order to orchestrate a media frenzy and delegitimize the Maduro Government. Venezuela urged the international community to stand firm and support the principles of the United Nations Charter to guarantee peace for tomorrow. Those who accused Venezuela of systematic human rights violations carried out genocide, racism and xenophobia towards peoples of developing countries.

Turkey, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements by the European Union and other countries, said that as a candidate for the European Union, Turkey gave absolute commitment to universal values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which constituted fundamental pillars of governance in Turkey. Following the heinous coup attempt, Turkey had the right to take measures to stop this existential threat. After the situation started to normalize in Turkey, the state of emergency had been abolished last year. All measures taken by the Government were taken with the aim to reconcile democracy and the rule of law.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, felt compelled to use this right of reply to respond to accusations made by Ukraine, Georgia and other countries. The delegation of Georgia had to be reminded that Russia did not occupy South Ossetia and Abkhazia and had not violated international law. Those two States had for some time been independent and sovereign and Russia and other countries had recognized that. Russia did not close access to Crimea, this was done by countries that voted for the resolution in the General Assembly that had brought that about. If Russia received requests for visits to Crimea or Sevastopol, it would act as it would in response to requests for visits to any other part of the Russian Federation. Russian law applied in those areas and guaranteed fully human rights and fundamental freedoms. The statement from Ukraine on the Russian occupation of Donbas was a lie. The current occupation of this region by armed forces that claimed to be observers was carried out by Ukraine. Ukraine was called on to uphold the Minsk Agreement. The Council had no authority to discuss matters belonging to the sovereignty of a Member State over its territory.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, stated that the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway and the European Union had levelled accusations at Egypt that bore no relevance to the reality. These were politically motivated accusations that poisoned cooperation within the Council. They distracted from real human rights offences, including the persecution of migrants. Arrests in Egypt only occurred when laws were broken, and involved fair trials. Freedom of expression and the media were guaranteed by the law, and the death penalty was only applied in the most serious crimes.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, denied the groundless accusations made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It stated that having humbly accepted the facts of history since World War Two, it had systematically respected human rights and called on other members of the region to do the same. It would not exercise any further right of reply on the matter but did not accept any further accusations.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, stated that the accusations of the Danish and Irish delegations were unfounded and ill-informed. Bahrain confirmed that its Government remained committed to an inclusive and pluralistic society, where crimes which threatened civil society would be punished with due process according to the rule of law. With this in mind Bahrain had embarked on a set of reforms of the criminal justice system and enjoyed continual improvements, enhancing accountability and transparency.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that India continued to spread its lies to distract attention from its own human rights record. The history of the Indian elite was filled with human rights violations. Pakistan’s institutions were striving to improve the lives of its people. In India, a parliamentarian had supporting the rape of a minor girl in a Hindu temple. The Supreme Court had released a committed rapist. India had to address the root causes of problems outlined in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Kashmir. Indian forces killed Kashmiris and blinded them. As for self-determination, Kashmir was the unfinished business of the colonial era, so even the narrow definition applied. India was urged to give peace a chance.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, rejected absurd accusations made by several delegations as politically motivated, and such delegations were advised to look at their own human rights record. Concerning Japanese remarks on the abduction issue, this was rejected as it was resolved many years ago, thanks to the generosity of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Japan was using this issue for its own political purposes. Japan had to apologize for its crimes against humanity, including comfort women and forced drafting of millions of Koreans for slavery.

Ukraine, speaking in a right of reply in response to the right of reply by Russia, reminded the Council of the General Assembly resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and others. One of them called upon the international organizations and specialized agencies of the United Nations, when referring to Crimea in their official documents, to refer to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopol, Ukraine, temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. The serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Donbas and Crimea had been caused solely by the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The Russian Federation continued to use torture and psychological pressure against Ukrainians, in violation of international law.

Georgia, speaking in a right of reply in response to the right of reply of the Russian Federation, stated that the Russian Federation continued to occupy 20 per cent of Georgian sovereign territory. Under this occupation, arbitrary detention, allegations of torture and violations of civil rights were intensified, the murder of Georgian citizens were not investigated, and perpetrators continued to remain at large. As the occupying power, Russia was responsible for ensuring accountability.

India, speaking in a second right of reply, said India was a secular State, focused on safeguarding the rights and liberties of minorities, which was more than could be said for Pakistan. It accused Pakistan of consistently misleading the world about their actions in Kashmir and Jammu, as it had established itself as an occupying power in violation of international law, and continued to support terrorist activities against India, the latest example of which was only last month.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that for the past 70 years, Japan had accepted the facts of history, after the Second World War. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had promised to carry out investigations about abductees, under the agreement. Stakeholders were called to react.

Pakistan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that India was not only doing injustice to people in Kashmir but also to its own founding fathers. India misquoted the Security Council resolution on demilitarization. India was leading on fake news, so Pakistan did not expect an informed response. Pakistan had introduced a liberal visa policy, which was in contrast with the Indian area of Kashmir which had been turned into a concentration camp. India was the biggest propagator of State sponsored terrorism in the world. India was divided on class and religion.

Philippines, speaking in a right to reply, said that great care had been taken to ensure data used in relation to its anti-drug campaign was accurate. The delegation reiterated that the Government had a zero tolerance approach to State actors that violated human rights.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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