Council Observes International Women’s Day
7 March 2014
The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its interactive dialogue with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on her annual report. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council observed International Women’s Day, which is commemorated on 8 March.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Pillay noted the overwhelming support for most of the work on which she reported and said she was encouraged. Concerning transparency on the functional review of the Office of the High Commissioner, the report would be completed in 2014 and would highlight a number of areas for improvement. The Office was working on several processes that would allow it to streamline efforts and to produce the necessary information to improve its organizational structure and to align its work on norms and standards with protection work at the country level. The Office had to be strengthened both in New York and Geneva, as in the field, in order to enhance its effectiveness and synergy.
In the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner, speakers welcomed the annual report which they found balanced, candid and which offered a comprehensive overview of modern challenges faced by countries around the world. Speakers appreciated participatory approaches and cooperation with civil society organizations and commended the work on combating all forms of discrimination, women’s rights and the rights of migrants in particular. While insisting on the importance of the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and of maintaining budget rules to ensure appropriate funding of the Office, some were concerned about the over-stretched capacity of the Office to carry out all mandated tasks and asked the High Commissioner to carefully examine its budgetary and management situation and to prioritize its work.
The situation in Ukraine had to be resolved by political dialogue and with respect to the rights of citizens. Speakers agreed that an independent inquiry on human rights violations was needed to establish the facts in order to solve the current crisis. Delegations shared the High Commissioner’s concerns about the situation in Syria. Some speakers supported the call by the High Commissioner to set up an independent international investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses by both sides in Sri Lanka, and welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Some speakers were deeply concerned about atrocities committed in South Sudan by both parties to the conflict and the lack of accountability in Egypt.
The interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner started on 6 March and the summary can be found here.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Romania, Pakistan, Belgium, Czech Republic, Mali, Uganda, Belarus, Montenegro, Spain, Egypt, Albania, United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Morocco, Kuwait, Austria, Thailand, Armenia, Tunisia, France, Malaysia, Botswana, Ireland, Indonesia, Algeria, Republic of Congo, Viet Nam, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Niger, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Nigeria, Guinea, and Nepal.
Also taking the floor were the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and the following non-governmental organizations: European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation, Centre for Inquiry, France Libertes: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand (joint statement), CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch, Conectas, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, International Harm Reduction Association, United Nations Watch, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination , International Buddhist Foundation, Reporters without Borders, Südwind and International Gay and Lesbian Human Right Commission, in a joint statement.
Concerning International Women’s Day, Ms. Pillay noted improvements in the fields of political representation, access to education and the economic situation for women but expressed concern that many women continued to be deprived of their rights. One third of women experienced gender violence in their lives and gender equality was yet to be achieved.
Michael Møller, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted the achievements that had been made since the Beijing Declaration on the rights of women and said that it was a sad reality that most women still faced inequality and violence.
Maria Ciobanu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking on behalf of the Group of Women Ambassadors in Geneva, said that studies and experience showed that when women and girls were able to exercise the full range of their rights, communities and societies had greater stability and prosperity.
At the end of the meeting, Egypt, China, Iraq, Morocco and Algeria spoke in right of reply.
The Human Rights Council is today holding a full day of meetings. At 1 p.m., it will convene a high-level panel on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide. In the afternoon the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng.
Statements made on Occasion of International Women’s Day (8 March)
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on the occasion of International Women’s Day, noted improvements in the fields of political representation, access to education and the economic situation for women. She expressed concern, however, that many women continued to be deprived of their rights. According to the World Health Organization, one third of women experienced gender violence in their lives. Gender equality was yet to be achieved. The post-2015 was the opportunity to achieve a framework that truly promoted and protected women’s rights.
MICHEL MOLLER, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that achievements had been made since the Beijing Declaration on the rights of women. It was a sad reality though that most women still faced inequality and violence. On International Women’s Day and every day, the United Nations would work to promote the rights of women and gender equality.
MARIA CIOBANU, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking on behalf of the Group of Women Ambassadors in Geneva, said that now was the time to raise awareness and call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women and girls who had played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Studies and experience showed that when women and girls were able to exercise the full range of their rights, communities and societies had greater stability and prosperity. Important barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goals remained as women still suffered discrimination in access to education, work, and participation in decision making and in government.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Pakistan believed that only the application of cooperative approaches in a non-selective and non-discriminatory manner could help achieve progress in the field of human rights. It was vital that all activities by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were transparent, including regarding its budget, and State-initiated. It was the moral duty of each State to ensure that counter-terrorism did not lead to human rights violations.
Belgium insisted on the importance of the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and of maintaining budget rules to ensure appropriate funding of the Office. The situation in Ukraine had to be resolved by political dialogue and with respect to the rights of citizens. Belgium welcomed the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Belgium also commended the efforts by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to combat gender violence, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Czech Republic reiterated its full support for the work and expertise of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and was encouraged by its participatory approaches and cooperation with civil society organizations. The Czech Republic remained concerned about crackdowns on civil society everywhere in the world. It reiterated its disappointment at the lack of cooperation by Egypt and Myanmar on the opening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ field offices there. The Czech Republic also welcomed the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Mali welcomed the efforts by the High Commissioner to combat discrimination and exclusion and shared her vision with respect to the promotion of economic and social rights and the right to development. Mali also welcomed the initiatives to better integrate the rights of migrants, expressed gratitude for the remarkable support it had received during the recent crisis, and reiterated its commitment to the strengthening of human rights in its territory.
Uganda welcomed the creation of the database to combat discrimination and the strengthening of women’s access to justice that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had undertaken. The post-2015 development framework must reflect a human rights approach and the publication of “realising the right to development” was a step in the right direction. Uganda stressed that the Office must abide by its mandate and intensify its efforts at ending discrimination against and abuse of older persons.
El Salvador mentioned the ongoing work in the country concerning women, children and older persons and stressed the importance of synergies between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations bodies. The issue of migration and the violation of migrants’ human rights was linked to the denial of economic, social and cultural rights.
Ecuador welcomed the annual report and highlighted the commitment of the High Commissioner to the implementation of the Durban Plan of Action to put an end to racism and gender hatred. It also supported the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, migrants, and on the question of the death penalty. Ecuador was concerned about human rights violations while countering terrorism.
New Zealand joined others in expressing deep concerns about the situation in Ukraine, and urged the Russian Federation to respect the rights of Ukraine’s citizens and to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. New Zealand welcomed progress achieved in the field of women’s rights and equality in Egypt. It called on Egypt to ensure that civil society organizations and journalists could work without interference, and believed Egypt was ready to host a regional office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Belarus expressed satisfaction with its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This was illustrated for example by the launch of a technical project on human trafficking in cooperation with the Office and with the support of the Russian Federation. Belarus regretted however that the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were often unbalanced and did not address the situation in Western States enough.
Montenegro commended the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for working to increase cooperation within the United Nations system on the issues of gender equality and women’s rights. Montenegro stressed the importance of the international community remaining actively engaged in ensuring humanitarian aid and the protection of civilians in countries in conflict and in assisting States in pursuing accountability and redress for victims.
Spain called for rapid progress in opening of the High Commissioner’s field offices in Rangoon and Cairo which would be essential in tackling human rights challenges in those areas. Spain paid close attention to the situation on the maritime borders and pushed for immigration policies which would ensure the full protection of migrants’ rights, and develop the principle of solidarity and shared responsibility within the European Union. In closing, Spain asked the High Commissioner to comment on qualities and values her successor should have.
Egypt said it was undergoing a critical phase in its democratic transformation and continued to build state institutions through respect for human rights. Egypt paid close attention to women, children, and persons with disabilities and indicated that, in its efforts to combat impunity, a fact-finding commission had been set up to investigate the events of June 2013. Egypt shared the High Commissioner’s concerns about the situation in Syria and asked her to share her view about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Albania expressed deep gratitude for the work carried out by the High Commissioner during her mandate and thanked her in particular for the close and constructive cooperation with all Member States, Albania included. Albania supported the Secretary-General’s “Rights Up Front” Plan of Action and considered that the High Commissioner had an important role to play with regard to the successful implementation of that plan on the ground. Albania appreciated the persistence of the High Commissioner and her campaign to ban the practice of the death penalty and for organizing a high-level activity in June 2013 in New York to discuss this delicate issue.
United Kingdom said, on Sri Lanka, that it supported the High Commissioner’s call for the Council to act on the findings of her report and to set up an independent international investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses on both sides. Without such an investigation, lasting reconciliation would be difficult to achieve. The United Kingdom had concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt and condemned all acts of violence, including the disproportionate use of force against protestors during the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution.
Sri Lanka said that while the High Commissioner’s report acknowledged the strong pressure brought upon the Office of the High Commissioner’s resources by the increase in new mandated activities, it reiterated its call for greater transparency and greater allocation of funds from the regular budget. Regrettably, the misplaced attention paid to the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel report, which was neither endorsed by the intergovernmental process nor based on credible sources and information, could only be construed as yet another attempt to politicize the situation of Sri Lanka in the Council.
United Arabs Emirates appreciated the cooperative approach by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and welcomed her work on combatting discrimination. The United Arab Emirates agreed with the annual report that the fight against poverty and the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights deserved improvements. The United Arabs Emirates was concerned about violence against Muslims in Myanmar, the situation in Syria, and violations of the rights of Palestinians, including their right to self-determination.
Maldives underlined the Office of the High Commissioner’s importance in supporting States’ implementation of recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review. Maldives was committed to endorsing gender equality and mainstreaming women’s participation in public life. Maldives urged the international community to continue monitoring deteriorating situations in the Central African Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Morocco underlined the importance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights working in full independence and impartiality. It welcomed the Office’s efforts in the field of racial discrimination and racism, as well as in promoting the right to development and combating poverty. The right to development would need to be integrated in the post-2015 agenda.
Kuwait said that the increase in the demands for assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner represented a challenge given the already stretched resources. States should increase their financial contributions to enable the High Commissioner to fulfil her mandate. Kuwait strongly condemned the human rights violations against the brotherly people of Syria and expressed deep concern about the suffering of civilians due to non-compliance of the Syrian authorities with the United Nations mechanisms.
Austria said that many challenges remained to the promotion and protection of human rights and the report of the High Commissioner pointed at the stark example of the serious human rights violations that occurred in Sri Lanka. Austria welcomed the “Rights Up Front” Plan of Action that emphasized the centrality of human rights and the need to be more proactive in preventing and addressing human rights violations. Austria supported the broad field presence of the Office and called on the Governments of Egypt and Myanmar to make good on their promises to host regional offices.
Thailand was concerned about the over-stretched capacity of the Office to carry out all mandated tasks and asked the High Commissioner to carefully examine its budgetary and management situation and to prioritize its work. Sustainable development was high on the agenda for Thailand who emphasized that States should emphasize the principles of inclusiveness, equity and equality and put people at the centre of development strategies to close socio-economic gaps and create more resilient societies.
Armenia said that discrimination on the basis of racial, national or ethnic origin remained among the most serious human rights violations in the world. In that regard, the creation of a database on practical means to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was a very important and welcome initiative. Armenia agreed that the Universal Periodic Review process had become one of the main features of the United Nations Human Rights machinery since the establishment of the Human Rights Council.
Tunisia thanked the High Commissioner for her efforts in the protection and promotion of human rights all over the world. Tunisia highlighted the work of the office of the High Commissioner in Tunisia in support of the country, with a view to helping it foster democratic values. It called on the High Commissioner and the Council to continue to provide support for migrants and particularly irregular migrants that had fallen victims to smugglers and human trafficking networks.
France commended the High Commissioner for her ongoing and courageous commitment to human rights. France shared the priorities that had guided actions of the Office in 2013. The Office was encouraged to continue actions on the ground by opening new offices in Egypt and Myanmar. Combating all forms of discrimination was essential. France was gravely concerned by the recent adoption of several laws targeting individuals because of the sexual orientation. In Sri Lanka, combating impunity was a precondition for reconciliation.
Malaysia welcomed the priority given by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to address violence against women and girls. Malaysia continued to undertake measures to foster gender equality. It noted the Office’s advocacy on the question of the death penalty, but believed that this had to be seen not as a human rights issue, but rather as a domestic one, which fell onto the sovereign rights of States to choose their own legal systems. The Malaysian legal framework provided strict safeguards that were in line with the requirements as stipulated in various international instruments that addressed the issue.
Botswana underlined the importance of the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and noted the difficult conditions in which its personnel had to work. Botswana welcomed the commitment of Egypt to host a regional office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Women still faced violence and discrimination, sometimes rooted in local traditions. Botswana noted concerns about the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and condemned violence based on sex orientation and gender identity.
Ireland said that the negative consequences of failing to prevent serious human rights violations were evident and therefore welcomed the “Rights Up Front” initiative by the Secretary-General. Ireland was pleased that the General Assembly had recently agreed on a draft resolution on strengthening the treaty body system. Ireland also welcomed the Office’s advocacy on the need to put human rights at the heart of the post 2015 framework. Finally, Ireland welcomed that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had made the widening of the democratic space a stand-alone thematic priority.
Indonesia encouraged the High Commissioner to address the right to development and the role of human rights in the post-2015 development agenda. Jakarta had been chosen to host workshops on discrimination with the Office of the High Commissioner. Indonesia expressed concern and regret about human rights violations committed in Palestine and drew attention to this issue. Indonesia reiterated its commitment to transform human rights obligations into action through a number of national and regional measures, and expressed recognition for the work of the High Commissioner and her endeavours.
Algeria said that concerning economic and social rights, including the right to development, it believed that these rights promoted cohesion and stability and the Council should show greater interest in development. Algeria intended to continue policies in the area of capacity building and was participating in negotiations underway on the post-2015 development agenda. The consequences of the financial and economic crises required efforts and Algeria expressed support for the work of the High Commissioner to place human rights at the heart of humanitarian issues.
Republic of Congo said that building a world of peace, equality and human rights for all was a collective duty for members of the human family and efforts should not be spared in the implementation of the “Rights Up Front” plan. Tacking issues of governance and respect for all human rights was acute given the emergence of new pockets of tension. The Republic of Congo appreciated the attention given to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, notably in the context of peaceful protests and the fight against discrimination.
Viet Nam thanked the High Commissioner for the succinct presentation of her annual report and paid tribute to her tremendous efforts and noteworthy contributions in the past few years. Today, the international community had to deal with challenges in the protection and promotion of human rights, such as the economic and financial crisis, poverty and epidemics, among others. It was crucial that Governments should grant the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all people without discrimination. It was the primary responsibility of States to promote and protect the fundamental rights of their people.
Sierra Leone welcomed the report of the High Commissioner, a report that was balanced and candid and offered a comprehensive overview of modern challenges faced by countries around the world. The activities of the Office were commendable. Particularly applauded was the Office’s work in addressing development. Sierra Leone commended the focus on a more integrated approach in the United Nations’ response to situations of human rights violations. It was important to support initiatives that sought to promulgate measures that would improve the lives of women, particularly those living in rural areas.
Switzerland said it believed that in Ukraine an independent inquiry on human rights violations was needed to establish the facts in order to solve the current crisis. Switzerland supported recommendations in the report on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, in particular those aiming at establishing an international inquiry mechanism. Switzerland welcomed that civil society strengthening had become a new priority, but it was concerned to see the noose tightening around civil society in various parts of the world.
Niger welcomed the work by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including on the issues of the rights of migrants and human rights in conflict zones. Niger had strengthened its national human rights institution, and would engage constructively with the next Universal Periodic Review. Niger underlined the need for adequate resources for countries to implement human rights standards, and emphasised the importance of including the right to development in the post-2015 agenda.
Iceland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed concerns about the situation in Egypt, including the lack of respect for freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the right to peaceful assembly. There was a need for accountability in Egypt, Iceland said, and therefore the establishment of a Fact Finding Commission was welcomed. It demanded that the Egyptian authorities ensured that the next elections would be held in a fair and transparent manner and under international observation. Iceland finally encouraged Egypt to continue its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Nigeria was deeply concerned about the continuing bloodshed in the Central African Republic and about the situation in Syria. Nigeria was equally disturbed by the conflict in South Sudan. Racial discrimination and xenophobia had continued to constitute barriers to the full enjoyment of rights, and Nigeria demanded that all States make efforts in this area. Nigeria demanded that States refrain from making statements regarding the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Guinea commended the High Commissioner for her report and welcomed her commitment to the right to development. Guinea had re-established stability and constitutional order while protecting rights and freedoms and the support of the Office had contributed to these efforts. International assistance was important to consolidate progress. Guinea highlighted in particular the area of security reform for future work.
Nepal underscored the need to breathe life into the post-2015 development effort with the principles of universal human rights, equity and sustainability. Nepal welcomed the advancement of a human rights approach to migration by the Office of the High Commissioner. As a country undergoing a historical transformation, Nepal believed in ending impunity through the effective enforcement of all possible measures, including the wider observance of the rule of law.
International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights said that the universality of human rights and the principle of non-discrimination had been central to the leadership of the High Commissioner and commended her work on discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. The International Coordinating Committee strongly supported the High Commissioner’s advocacy for the integration of human rights into the United Nations system and welcomed the “Rights Up Front” initiative.
European Region of International Lesbian and Gay Federation commended the High Commissioner for her leadership in solidifying the Office’s commitment to ending violence, discrimination, stigma and abuse on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, and thanked her for highlighting this as a key issue in her annual report. These were urgent human rights concerns.
Centre for Inquiry said that amongst the many forms of human rights violations mentioned by the High Commissioner in her excellent report were those against individuals based on their sexual orientation. There was a clear line between promoting the human rights of homosexuals and promoting homosexuality. The Council was set up to ensure the former.
France Libertes Fondation Danielle Mitterrand greatly appreciated the words spoken by the High Commissioner last September about the Camp Ashraf massacre. Five months after the massacre there was no evidence that any investigation had been conducted by the Government of Iraq as no report had been published on the issue. The relevant Council’s Special Procedures were called upon to conduct a complete and full investigation into the 1 September massacre.
Civicus welcomed the efforts by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to mainstream human rights in all United Nations activities, and emphasised the importance of its independence. Civicus believed human rights had to be included in the post-2015 agenda. It shared the High Commissioner’s concerns about Sri Lanka’s ongoing harassment of political dissent, and demanded that the Council reiterate at this session that civil society was vital to the healthy functioning of democracy.
Human Rights Watch was concerned that Egypt had not yet proceeded to investigate the killing of over 100 persons from the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, and demanded that those responsible be held accountable. The Fact Finding Commission appointed did not appear to have the necessary competences. Human Rights Watch was also deeply concerned about atrocities committed in South Sudan by both parties to the conflict.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales demanded that the Human Rights Council enhance its work on protecting human rights in the context of social protests. It regretted that combatting terrorism was often used as a pretext to criminalise peaceful protests, and demanded that the activities of the police forces, including the use of lethal weapons, be strictly controlled.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations wondered if the High Commissioner would be ready to lead a diplomatic effort to help stop the undermining of Palestinian rights. The Movement was convinced that her personal leadership could restore the legitimacy of the Council in this respect. Concerning the preparations for a Decade for People of Africa Descent, could the High Commissioner continue to work to ensure that people of African descent remained on the agenda.
International Service for Human Rights said that human right defenders played a crucial role in combating all forms of discrimination and regretted the passage of laws in Russia, Nigeria and Uganda, which effectively criminalised the work of defenders who advocated for lesbian, gay, and transsexual equality. The International Service expressed concerns about patterns of attacks against human rights defenders.
Human Rights House Foundation said that an unprecedented crisis was unfolding in Ukraine, with a large number of persons injured or disappeared. There was now an urgent need to establish responsibility by the armed forces for human rights violations. Civil society needed to work to document the cases and the Foundation welcomed the contribution of the Office of the High Commissioner and her activities in the context of this crisis.
Amnesty International was concerned that no credible investigation had been conducted into allegations of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Amnesty International demanded that the international community ensure that proper investigations were conducted in Sri Lanka, and demanded that the Government stop its reprisals against dissidents.
Harm Reduction International regretted that Viet Nam and Iran sentenced persons to death for drug related crimes, and was deeply concerned about the lack of reaction by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, which collaborated with both those countries.
United Nations Watch said that the time had come for an international investigation into allegations of crimes in Sri Lanka. It also called for investigations on allegations of human rights violations in Ukraine and Venezuela. United Nations Watch expressed concerns about cases of activists being held for their opinions solely.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that 11 years after the invasion of Iraq no justice had been found by those who died or were displaced and this situation affected human rights at all levels. While the international community had condemned the invasion, the people of Iraq were still waiting for an apology and redress.
International Buddhist Foundation said that executions were inconsistent with Buddhist conduct of self-restraint and abstinence from all forms of violence and capital punishment should be expunged from national laws. The Foundation drew attention to the situation in Sri Lanka and warned against efforts to kindle anti-religious acts as a tool to intimidate and a threat to intervene.
Reporters without Borders shared concerns about the broadly formulated national counter-terrorism legislation to curb legitimate activity and looked forward to a report from the High Commissioner on her Office’s actions to address the challenges raised by mass surveillance and the right to privacy in the digital age.
Südwind and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in a joint statement, appreciated the High Commissioner’s decision to highlight the issue of combating discrimination against sexual minorities in her report. The status of the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender people in every country was a strong indicator of the overall human rights situation in the country.
Concluding Remarks by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
NAVI PILLAY, High Commissioner for Human Rights, in closing remarks, noted the overwhelming support for most of the work on which she reported and said she was encouraged. Concerning transparency on the functional review of the Office of the High Commissioner, the report would be completed in 2014, highlighting a number of areas for improvement. The Office was working on several processes that would allow it to streamline efforts and to produce the necessary information to improve its organizational structure and to align its work on norms and standards with protection work at the country level. Belarus had complained that the High Commissioner did not address human rights situations in Western countries during her visits there and Ms. Pillay noted that press statements were issued after all her visits and some following visits to Western countries raised worrisome issues such as the treatment of migrants, including migrants at sea, the impact of austerity measures, the rise of right-wing parties and xenophobia, and the rights of minorities, including the Roma. Concerning the “Rights Up Front” initiative, the plan contained critical recommendations for the United Nations system and also placed important expectations on the Office and the need to become better at early deployment.
The Office had to be strengthened both in New York and Geneva, as in the field, in order to enhance its effectiveness and synergy. On a proposal to strengthen support for peacekeeping missions and to offer support in critical situations, where quick action could have preventive effects, Ms. Pillay called for support for this initiative at the General Assembly. Ms. Pillay also provided an update on the efforts to open a regional office in Cairo and called on Egypt to expedite the negotiations to this end. Ms. Pillay welcomed the contribution and cooperation from non-governmental organizations, as well as their participation in the Council. Concerning reprisals, Ms. Pillay said she focused attention on civil society issues, widening the democratic space for discussions. The High Commissioner also expressed concerns about reprisals targeting human rights defenders as well as those cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Ms. Pillay mentioned that teams had been deployed in a number of crises, including, most recently to Ukraine; and hoped that the support that Council members had expressed would be matched in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee and encouraged States to rise above politics and to focus on the victims of violations.
Right of Reply
Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, said that there were some who did not understand the situation in Egypt where some armed groups were trying to create disorder and derail the democracy process. Some statements made in the Council today did not reflect the true efforts by the Government to plan the road ahead. The new constitution enshrined new rights. Egypt refused any form of international intervention in its legal system of which the independence of the judiciary was one of the most important principles.
China, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected groundless accusations that human rights defenders were prosecuted in China. The Government had solicited views of non-governmental organizations and the wider public while preparing its Universal Periodic Review report. The arrest of one human rights defender was due to him instigating trouble and had nothing to do with the Universal Periodic Review.
Iraq, speaking in a right of reply, said that it fulfilled its commitments and that all former camps had been transferred to new ones where all guarantees were enforced. The Iraqi Government had never carried out hostile activities against residents of any camp. Iraq was desirous of establishing a friendly relationship with Iran, and could therefore not host any organization hostile to its neighbour. Finally, the Government was doing its utmost to protect its people from terrorism.
Morocco, speaking in a right of reply in response to Algeria regretting that the situation of Western Sahara was not in the High Commissioner’s report, said that Algeria was systematic in using disproportionate force against police officers. Activists and minorities in Algeria had their rights violated. Many human rights non-governmental organizations had deplored the lack of freedom of expression in Algeria, and the Special Rapporteur on Enforced Disappearances was not allowed to visit the country.
Algeria, speaking in a right of reply, said the situation of human rights in Algeria was improving in a significant manner and it was sad to hear such accusations from a neighbouring country. Algeria had never invaded anyone or occupied another country. Algeria had a dynamic and democratic society. Governmental policies would continue to promote transparency. Issues in the Council should be dealt with in the relevant context. As part of its protection pillar, Algeria called on the Council to monitor the situation in Western Sahara.
Morocco, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the report of the Special Rapporteur never said that Western Sahara was closed and the more visits there were, the more the situation was likely to improve. Every year the Council reflected on this situation and recommendations made to Morocco were implemented. Morocco was proud to be referred to in the report as a country setting an example. In Algeria there was so much to be done before the country could accuse others, in particular the violations suffered by civilians and repression against the Algerian population.
Algeria, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Algeria seriously invited the Moroccan delegation to stop stigmatising Algeria. Algeria was a free, transparent, open and democratic country. This was the truth and the last time Algeria would take the floor on this issue. Algeria would continue with its work on the protection of human rights around the world and in Western Sahara.
For use of the information media; not an official record