27 March 2014
The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building, including on reports on Afghanistan, Libya, Guinea, Somalia and the Central African Republic. The Council also adopted its Universal Periodic Review outcome of Israel.
Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports to the Council on Wednesday, 26 March in the afternoon and a summary of her presentation is available here.
Guinea, Afghanistan, Libya, Central African Republic and Somalia spoke as concerned countries.
During the general debate speakers reaffirmed States’ primary responsibility for the promotion of human rights and that technical assistance and capacity building should be provided in line with their priorities and upon their requests, with respect for their sovereignty and situation. Speakers recognised capacity-building efforts, particularly in countries undergoing exceptional or transitional stages. Human rights challenges were to be met through technical assistance and capacity building as provided in the institution-building package. Among other challenges, resources were not commensurate with expectations. Speakers also thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for its continued support and efforts in this field.
Speaking during the general debate were Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, Greece on behalf of the European Union, Yemen on behalf of the Arab Group, United States, France, Ireland, Morocco, Algeria, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Switzerland, Morocco, Australia, Sudan, Thailand, Council of Europe, and Togo.
Alsalam Foundation, United Nations Watch, and Association of World Citizens also took the floor.
The Human Rights Council then considered the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Israel.
Baudelaire Ndong Ella, the President of the Human Rights Council, said that in a letter dated 13 March, the Ambassador of Israel informed the Council of a strike in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and requested the postponement of the adoption of its outcome document. The Council had then decided that an additional delay would be granted. On 24 March, the Israeli authorities had indicated that the strike was still ongoing and clarified the Government’s position in light of recommendations made during the Review. The Council then formally proceeded to review of the outcome document of Israel, with the President saying that the review would be conducted in the absence of the delegation but on the basis of a letter that would be read out.
The letter said that Israel had carefully reviewed the 237 recommendations received during its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, held on 29 October 2013. Following the Working Group’s report, relevant Government Ministries, as well as civil society organizations were consulted in the process of drafting the replies to each of the observations and recommendations received. As a result, Israel had been able to support 105 recommendations, either in whole or in part. Unfortunately, due to an on-going labour strike in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its representatives would not be able to participate in the scheduled dialogue with the Council and to present its views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies. Israel apologized for the inconvenience and renewed assurance of its highest consideration.
On the basis of information provided, the President said that 54 recommendations had enjoyed the support of the State under review and all other recommendations were noted.
During the discussion, speakers regretted that Israel had been unable to send a delegation to participate in the discussion and some delegations deplored the continuation of human rights violations in the occupied territories, such as the expansion of illegal settlements, detentions and torture. Delegations noted that previous recommendations had not been implemented and that all recommendations concerning the State of Palestine had been rejected. Speakers called on Israel to protect the rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Others pointed out that, given the strike, Israel’s absence could not be characterised as a failure to cooperate with the Council. Speakers encouraged Israel to address the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to adopt recommendations, including those on solitary confinement for children in military detention, women’s rights and the rights of migrants.
Speaking in the discussion were Pakistan, Syria, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, and Montenegro.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Touro Law Centre, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq, Amnesty International, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and United Nations Watch.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Israel.
The Council at noon will start to take action on draft resolutions and decisions.
Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the reports of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General under the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building on Wednesday, 26 March in the afternoon, and a summary of her presentation can be seen here.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Guinea, speaking as a concerned country, said that progress had been highlighted but challenges also pointed out. Guinea was fully aware of the challenges it faced and it would continue to put efforts into forging a democratic society that respected human rights. The Government, despite difficult circumstances, had carried out various activities to promote and protect human rights. On extrajudicial executions, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it was important to acknowledge that despite efforts to overhaul and reform the security sector, these violations did occur. The sombre practice persisted and often took the guise of disproportionate use of force in response to public demonstrations and Guinea intended to tackle this.
On sexual violence and gender-based violence, the adoption of the law against female genital mutilation made it clear that the Government had made and continued to make huge efforts. In the past, violence, particularly against women, had not been focused on, but this had changed. The Ministry for Human Rights and Public Affairs had sketched out a huge educational awareness campaign on violence against women, rolled out on the ground. The Criminal Code and the Military Justice Code were being reviewed and would be amended to ensure that justice was fair and equitable. On impunity, Guinea would make further efforts to combat this and ensure that victims obtained justice. Things had changed since 2009, although not as much as they could have. An appeal was made for critical assistance from Guinea’s partners and the international community.
Afghanistan, speaking as a concerned country, said that it was committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of its citizens and this dedication was apparent in its national report to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. Afghanistan had established a foundation for a free, pluralistic and democratic society over the last decade, which had brought several tangible achievements and one of these was the election. Afghanistan would hold its third presidential and second provincial council elections on 5 April 2014, which would determine the future of stability and democracy in the country. The Government had invited international observers to monitor the process of fair and free elections. Unfortunately, insecurity and conflict often resulted in civilian casualties, which remained a prime concern for the Government.
The majority of civilian casualties had resulted from anti-government terrorist attacks. On its part and in order to prevent civilian casualties, the Government had tasked the Afghan National Security Forces to have a constant dialogue with the residents of the conflict areas to better differentiate the anti-government elements from civilians. The Government had also directed its concerned authorities to consider the suggestions and observations made by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders while decision making. The Government had continued its effort to bring an end to mistreatment and all types of violence against women and children. It was determined to protect and preserve achievements and keen to build up hope that the nation would witness further great improvement in the field of human rights.
Libya, speaking as a concerned country, said that the ongoing transitional period was difficult and that, because of the rampant misuse of arms, there was a need to urgently reinforce the police and army institutions; once security returned, Libya would secure its borders and address trans-border criminality and drug trade. Those challenges could not be addressed alone and Libya needed the help of friendly States in the region and internationally. Libya encouraged its civil society to constructively engage in resolving differences that prevailed in the country. Libya had passed the law that would see the establishment of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with human rights violations committed by the past regime; the law guaranteed the right to due process and fair trials to perpetrators. Libya had also criminalized torture and enforced disappearances, and had set up reforms to improve human rights protection in places of deprivation of liberty. Another law recognized victims of sexual violence in the conflict as victims of war and ensured appropriate support and redress.
Central African Republic, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed the concern of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international community and said that the many challenges the country faced could be addressed thanks to those concerns. The Central African Republic did not have resources to implement its own policies and needed the help of the international community in strengthening its infrastructure and institutions. Several of the challenges had already been addressed, notably security, the humanitarian situation and governance; still, the State had existed in name only since December 2013 and did not have any of the State attributes. What was it that the international community wanted from the Central African Republic: if it wanted to help, it should do so and follow words by actions, otherwise the country would disappear?
Somalia, speaking as a concerned country called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to discharge its mandate in Somalia in a more coherent and consistent manner. Somalia expressed gratitude to its international partners, including the European Union and its Member States, for their tireless efforts and cooperation in the country.
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed that States had the primary responsibility in the promotion of human rights and that technical assistance and capacity building needed to be provided in line with their priorities and upon their requests. The African Group called upon the international community to assist the Central African Republic and to support Somalia in the harmonization of its post-transition human rights road map, the new deal compact, the national stabilization plan and the decent work programme.
Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the swift deployment of the United Nations human rights monitoring mission to Ukraine to help establish the facts surrounding human rights violations and commended the readiness of Ukraine to cooperate fully in the efforts to pursue an inclusive national process that respected the rights of national minorities, to investigate human rights violations, to ensure free and fair elections, and to advance constitutional reform. The European Union recognized the serious security, political and economic challenges facing Libya after four decades of misrule and remained gravely concerned about the extreme insecurity and ongoing human rights violations in the Central African Republic.
Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, was grateful for efforts made to improve the capacities of countries, particularly those going through exceptional or transitional stages. Human rights challenges were to be met through technical assistance and capacity building when needed and this was in the heart of the mandate of the Council as provided in the institution-building package. However, this goal was facing many obstacles, including resources that were not commensurate with expectations.
United States thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for its continued support of human rights units within peacekeeping missions around the world. These helped prevent human rights violations and abuses by establishing early warning mechanisms, advocating on behalf of communities, and providing advice and support to local governments on institutional reform and capacity building. The Office of the High Commissioner was urged to enhance its financial support for human rights units within United Nations missions.
France welcomed the active participation of the authorities of the Central African Republic. The challenges in protecting human rights remained immense. The positive involvement of Mali was also welcomed, as well as the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert. France welcomed the decision of Haiti to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert which could only help it face its considerable challenges in the human rights area. It welcomed the progress made in Myanmar in the area of democracy, human rights and national reconciliation.
Ireland said an important aspect of the work of the High Commissioner and her Office was the strengthening of civil society actors. Ireland believed that civil society should play an important role in the expeditious implementation of the post-transition human rights road map in Somalia. As Afghanistan continued its efforts to address serious human rights challenges, Ireland urged the Government to ensure that the work of its national human rights institution continued without being undermined. Ireland commended Ukraine’s commitment to investigate human rights violations.
Morocco commended the Libyan authorities for their efforts at national reconciliation and the decree to provide psychological and legal assistance for victims of sexual violence. Morocco would present a resolution, along with Libya, on technical assistance and called on the international community to continue to assist the Libyan people. Concerning Somalia, Morocco was pleased that the security situation had progressively improved. Morocco welcomed the firm commitment of the Somali authorities to establish a propitious framework for development.
Algeria said that the difficult transition in Libya required support to overcome the ongoing challenges. Algeria welcomed the measures to strengthen national mechanisms for human rights such as the National Council for Civil Liberties. The implementation of the recommendations made by the High Commissioner in her report needed the support of the international community.
United Kingdom underscored the need to implement the recommendations made by Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference, particularly those that related to human rights in the new constitution and legislation, which was essential in the light of significant human rights violations in the country. Haiti should further protect members of vulnerable groups and increase efforts to strengthen the rule of law and ensure access to justice for all. In Somalia, the stabilisation of the liberated areas was needed to ensure that the success was not reversed.
China said that the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights was with the Governments of countries. Governments and their people should choose their suitable mode and path of development. Assistance should be provided on the basis of consent of those countries with respect for their sovereignty and situation. China took note of the report on Afghanistan and achievements in 2013, and appreciated the efforts made by the Government.
Italy said that the first important international event hosted by the new Italian Government was the ministerial conference on Libya that reaffirmed the priority that Italy and the international community attached to the transition of this friendly country and the stabilization of the whole region. The final documents contained firm commitments on security, justice and the rule of law to guide Libya. Human rights in Libya were deeply affected by the transition process.
Switzerland, speaking on behalf of the Francophone Group, endorsed the findings of the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire stating that forging a democratic State was something to be achieved in the long term, and encouraged Côte d’Ivoire to continue efforts to tackle impunity and foster national reconciliation. The Francophone Group supported the Independent Expert on Haiti and his recommendation for Haiti to focus on the five key aspects identified, and believed that these had to be the priority. The authorities of Haiti were urged to implement these five key aspects.
Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, recalled that two years ago the Council had adopted resolution 19/26 concerning the establishment of a voluntary technical assistance trust fund for least developed States. The group of countries urged all States, developed and developing, to contribute to the new trust fund, thereby demonstrating the international community’s commitment to universality.
Australia said that Afghanistan needed to be vigilant in building on the human rights gains of the last decade. Australia acknowledged the progress made in strengthening frameworks on women’s rights, with the passing of the 2009 law on the elimination of violence against women. The political, security, and economic transition in Afghanistan created an opportunity for a strong Afghan Government leadership in human rights.
Sudan thanked the High Commissioner for her reports and noted the scope and nature of the challenges faced in the field of human rights; therefore, efforts should be stepped up to assist the affected countries. Sudan reiterated the importance of support and assistance in order for these countries to continue to make efforts in the field of human rights.
Thailand appreciated the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the ground and in constructive engagement of States concerned to promote and protect human rights, but expressed concern that with increasing requests for assistance and expectations for States to fully implement their human rights obligations, adequate resources to support technical assistance activities remained a challenge. All stakeholders should step up efforts to provide further financial support in this regard.
Council of Europe said it had recently launched an Action Plan for cooperation with Georgia which focused on the reform of the judiciary and penitentiary system, independence and professionalism of the media, and the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups. The Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova would bring the legislation, institutions and practice in line with European standards through the implementation of the Strategy for Justice Sector Reform and the National Human Rights Action Plan.
Togo noted with satisfaction the great strides in the promotion and protection of human rights in Guinea, including the adoption of the national security policy, the code of military justice and the establishment of the military court. Togo welcomed the efforts to improve conditions of detention, the fight against violence against women including early marriages, sexual violence, and female genital mutilation, which affected 96 per cent of women and girls.
Alsalam Foundation highlighted several areas of technical inadequacy of human rights mechanisms in Bahrain which merited the Council’s attention. As detailed in previous statements during the session, the effective status of human rights in Bahrain was dire. Due to the persistent human rights challenges facing Bahrain, it was believed that further technical assistance was required.
United Nations Watch said an important question was whether Governments that had had or were still having serious human rights problems were capable of making effective use of external assistance, except for the most technical of purposes. It was also fair to ask which country human rights situations were most efficiently defined and addressed under a framework that described itself in merely technical terms.
Association of World Citizens highlighted challenges in the area of public health for countries like Haiti and others. The main challenges constituted the privatisation of medical services and the costly procedures, such as purified water for dialyses.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Israel
BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council, said that in a letter dated 13 March the Ambassador of Israel had said that there was a strike in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had asked for the postponement of the adoption of its outcome document. The Council had then decided that an additional delay would be granted. In a letter dated 14 March, the President of the Council had indicated that the review would be postponed until today. In line with existing practices, several different options had also been proposed, should the strike continue. On 24 March the Israeli authorities sent a letter indicating that the strike was still ongoing and clarified the Government’s position in light of recommendations made during the Review. The Council would now formally begin the review of the outcome document of Israel. As required to do on several occasions in the past, the review would be conducted in the absence of the delegation but on the basis of a letter that would be read out.
The letter from the Israeli authorities said that the State of Israel had carefully reviewed the 237 recommendations received during its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, held on 29 October 2013. Israel was deeply committed to the Universal Periodic Review. Following the Working Group’s report, relevant Government Ministries, as well as civil society organizations were consulted in the process of drafting the replies to each of the observations and recommendations received. As a result, Israel had been able to support 105 recommendations, either in whole or in part. Unfortunately, due to an on-going labour strike in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its representatives would not be able to participate in the scheduled dialogue with the Council and to present its views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies. Israel apologized for the inconvenience and renewed assurance of its highest consideration.
On the basis of information provided, the President said that 54 recommendations had enjoyed the support of the State under review and all other recommendations were noted.
Pakistan deeply regretted that Israel still had not implemented recommendations made in the first cycle of its Universal Periodic Review, and that Israel rejected all recommendations referring to the “State of Palestine”. Pakistan called upon Israel to protect the rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Syria regretted that Israel had rejected any opportunity to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review. Considering its unwillingness to implement binding United Nations Security Council resolutions, it seemed clear that Israel would not implement recommendations made to it during its Review.
United Kingdom said that absence due to a strike could not be characterized as non-cooperation by Israel. The United Kingdom was concerned about the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and encouraged Israel to adopt recommendations to end solitary confinement for children in military detention.
United States commended Israel for its strong human rights record and democratic values. The United States encouraged Israel to implement recommendations related to women’s rights and the rights of migrants. The United States was concerned that some States made recommendations to Israel that fell outside the scope of the mandate of the Council.
Venezuela expressed disappointment at the unwillingness of Israel to desist from ongoing human rights violations and called on Israel to put an end to its illegal occupation in Palestine and the Syrian Golan. Venezuela called on Israel to stop the building of illegal settlements and the destruction of Palestinian property, as well as illegal detentions and torture.
Canada said that despite the bias often expressed against Israel in the Council, Israel had a lot to contribute to the Council. Israel had accepted a number of recommendations, including those made by Canada regarding the rights of women and the situation of persons with disabilities.
Cuba regretted the excuses presented by Israel and said they showed Israel’s disdain for the Council. Cuba regretted that Israel had not accepted the majority of the recommendations, including calls to put an end to the illegal occupation of territories in Palestine and the Syrian Golan, as well as those concerning illegal settlements.
Egypt was disappointed by the lack of an interactive dialogue and was not surprised that Israel had rejected the recommendations related to the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories, as well as ongoing human rights violations taking place therein. Egypt called on Israel to stop violations of religious sites and the practice of illegal settlements.
Montenegro strongly welcomed the Government of Israel’s readiness and commitment to continue to engage positively with the Universal Periodic Review. Montenegro wished Israel every success in addressing challenges in the field of human rights and encouraged its efforts towards the full implementation of accepted recommendations.
Touro Law Centre, the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust said that this event was entitled a Universal Periodic Review so that the Council could claim to apply the same rules to Israel as every other State, but just three days ago the Council had spent 6 hours condemning Israel as the agenda included Israel-bashing at every session.
International Commission of Jurists called on Israel to accept and implement recommendations to abide by international humanitarian and international human rights law, and fully implement recommendations for thorough and impartial investigations into all allegations of violations committed in the context of the prolonged occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues regretted Israel’s absence in the room today. It was deeply concerned about activities of business enterprises in Israeli settlements located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel had failed to prevent, stop, investigate and prosecute ongoing pillaging in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in fact actively assisted in this.
Human Rights Watch said that Israel had failed to hold military personnel accountable for human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel continued to build new settlements on a different regime than the one imposed on Palestinians. Human Rights Watch was concerned about the arbitrary detention of Palestinians and asylum seekers.
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, said that Israeli soldiers had shot a kid last week, and continued to use excessive force against Palestinians. House demolitions and settlements had more than doubled in the last eight months. The continuation of these practices, together with Israel’s persistent non-cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review, was in clear defiance of international law.
Amnesty International was concerned that Israel’s national report omitted any reference to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where rules of international humanitarian and human rights law applied. Amnesty International urged Israel to ensure accountability for killings by the Israeli military, cease houses demolitions and forced evictions and reform its asylum procedures.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists commended Israel’s decision to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review. The criticism of non-cooperation by Israel was politicized. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was important, but should not be the only focus of Israel’s review, as the human rights situation within Israel was also important to consider.
United Nations Watch called on Israel to pay attention to recommendations concerning the status of women in all communities, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, fighting against manifestations of religious intolerance, and thoroughly investigating religious hatred. The report addressed the issue of the Council’s selective and politicised treatment of Israel. It was time for the Council to uphold equality and universality.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Israel.
For use of the information media; not an official record