ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

COUNCIL DISCUSSES COUNTRY REPORTS UNDER AGENDA ITEMS ON ANNUAL REPORT OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND ON TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Discusses Reports on Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan, Guinea and Libya
20 March 2013

The Human Rights Council this morning heard the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights present reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Bolivia, Colombia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and Iran under the agenda item on the annual report of the High Commissioner, and on Afghanistan, Guinea and Libya under the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.

Kyung-wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the country reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner under the agenda item on the annual report of the High Commissioner, said that the report on Guatemala noted that outstanding concerns included impunity, the security situation, the situation of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, and violence against women.  In Bolivia, the right to consultation with indigenous peoples remained a challenge and the reported corruption, lack of access and backlog in justice system, together with deteriorating conditions in prisons were issues of concern.  The report on Colombia said the situation of human rights defenders, the violation of the right to life by security forces, and sexual violence required robust attention. 

Ms. Kang said that in Cyprus, human rights concerns included the right to life and the question of missing persons, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, property rights, freedom of religion and the right to education.  The report on Sri Lanka stated that the Government had failed to build upon the vision of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which had made far-reaching recommendations towards reconciliation and strengthening of the rule of law.  With regards to the report on Iran, the Secretary-General expressed great concern over the significant increase in executions and the intensified crackdown on media professionals, human rights defenders, lawyers and women’s rights activists.

Bolivia, Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Iran, Sri Lanka spoke as concerned countries. 

Bolivia, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed that the report acknowledged the significant progress made, and highlighted legislative progress made such as the adoption of the law against political harassment against women and that a draft law was passed for the definition of the crime of femicide.

Colombia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the peace process launched came on top of actions underway to more efficiently protect human rights.  Colombia faced challenges but it had shown its commitment to advancement in guaranteeing the human rights of the population.

Cyprus, speaking as a concerned country, said that regrettably the persisting division of Cyprus due to the presence of foreign troops continued to constitute an obstacle to the full enjoyment by the whole population of Cyprus of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Guatemala, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report did not adequately assess or report on Government activities to curb organized crime and that it was important to provide information that would enable an objective understanding about the human rights situation in the country. 

Iran, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Iran was absolutely unjustified and unwarranted.  It had neglected to present the large number of positive achievements in the country and suffered from partiality, lack of balance and selectivity.

Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, expressed strong reservations as to the content of the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and the procedure followed in formulating it.  The report had gone beyond the mandate granted under resolution 19/2 and had ventured into making substantive recommendations. 

In the ensuing general debate, speakers said on Bolivia that more efforts were needed to address violence against women.  Despite efforts in Bolivia, the administration of justice continued to be seriously flawed.  With regards to Colombia, efforts to investigate cases of enforced disappearances were insufficient.  On Cyprus, the illegal colonization of the occupied territories by settlers from Turkey continued unabated and this policy violated fundamental instruments of international law.  Another speaker said that the report did not adequately address the issue of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and the barriers which prevented them from enjoying their human rights.  On Iran, one speaker hoped that Council Members would vote in favour of the resolution put before the Council.  The international community should put pressure on Iran to place a moratorium on the death penalty.  On Sri Lanka, some speakers said that the High Commissioner had exceeded her mandate of reporting on the provision of assistance.  The case of Sri Lanka should not set a precedent for any future country situations. 

Speaking in the general debate were Russia on behalf of a group of 14 States, United States, Thailand, Venezuela, China, Norway, United Kingdom, Cuba, Greece, Viet Nam, Belarus, Hungary, Myanmar and Turkey.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Oidhaco Bureau International des Droits Humains- Action Colombie, World Organization Against Torture, Bischofliches Hilfswerk Misereor e. V., Human Rights Watch, Colombia Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Pasumai Thaayagam, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Helios Life Association, Lutheran World Federation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, ACT Alliance-Action by Churches Together, Corporacion para la Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos Reiniciar, and Action Contre la Faim.

Bolivia spoke in a right of reply.

In the presentation of country reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner on Afghanistan, Guinea and Libya, under the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building, Ms. Kang said that the report on Afghanistan highlighted persistent human rights challenges exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict.  Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict.   The re-emergence of armed groups, particularly in the North, was of major concern.  Other issues of concern were the death penalty, executions and violence against women which continued to marginalize women and girls.  The report on Guinea said that it needed to increase its cooperation with the human rights mechanisms and particularly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.  The High Commissioner expressed concern about violence that had erupted in February 2013 over the upcoming elections.  In Libya, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had engaged in assessing the needs for technical cooperation to address the long-standing human rights challenges.  Key priority areas of action included ending conflict-related detention, strengthening the rule of law, moving forward with a comprehensive strategy for transitional justice, and forging a culture of respect for human rights.

Afghanistan, Guinea and Libya spoke as concerned countries.
Afghanistan, speaking as a concerned country, said that its biggest challenge arose from insecurity, which had taken a massive toll on the lives of its people, and blunted its progress in all areas of recovery, reform, development and human rights.  Civilian casualties remained a grave area of concern for the Government. 

Guinea, speaking as a concerned country, said that to successfully meet the challenge of recognizing and enshrining the idea of an equal and free humanity, it was vital to define and have a consistent, coordinated and independent strategy. 

Libya, speaking as a concerned country, said that technical assistance and capacity-building activities had assisted Libya in its efforts to monitor human rights and in the implementation of programmes for the empowerment of women.  National laws had been amended to bring them in line with international human rights instruments. 

In the ensuing general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, speakers expressed support and encouraged Afghanistan in its efforts, while recognizing and expressing concern about the challenges faced in the protection of human rights.  On Guinea, inclusive dialogue and consultation were required to move towards peace, national unity and economic and social progress.  With regards to Libya, the efforts and impressive progress undertaken by the Government were welcomed and the international community was called upon to continue to provide its assistance to Libya to restore respect for human rights.  

Speaking in the general debate were Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Gabon on behalf of the African Group, France on behalf of a group of States, United States, Italy, Switzerland, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, China, Algeria, Norway, United Kingdom, France, Togo and Morocco.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, International Catholic Child Bureau in a joint statement, International Buddhist Foundation, North-South XXI, and Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme.

Nepal spoke in a right of reply.

The Human Rights Council will hold a closed meeting of its Complaint Procedure at 5 p.m. this afternoon.  The next public meeting will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 21 March when the Council will start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Documentation

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the High Commissioner concerning the activities of her office in Guatemala (A/HRC/22/17/Add.1); an addendum to the report of the  High Commissioner concerning the activities of her office in Bolivia (A/HRC/22/17/Add.2); a first corrigendum to the addendum to the report of the High Commissioner concerning the activities of her office in Bolivia (A/HRC/22/17/Add.2/Corr.1); a second corrigendum to the addendum to the report of the  High Commissioner concerning the activities of her office in Bolivia (A/HRC/22/17/Add.2/Corr.2); an addendum to the report of the High Commissioner concerning the situation of human rights in Colombia (A/HRC/22/17/Add.3); and a corrigendum to the report of the High Commissioner concerning the situation of human rights in Colombia (A/HRC/22/17/Add.3/Corr.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the question of human rights in Cyprus (A/HRC/22/18).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/22/38); and an addendum to the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka concerning comments by the State of Sri Lanka on the report (A/HRC/22/38/Add.1).

The Council has before it a Note verbale dated 21 December 2012 from the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the United Nations Office and other international organizations at Geneva addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/22/G/5).

Presentation of the Reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Under Agenda Item Two

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the country reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner, said that the report on Guatemala welcomed the progress made in the fight against impunity.  The investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations committed during the armed conflict continued and resulted in several convictions.  Outstanding concerns included impunity, the security situation, the situation of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, and violence against women. 

In Bolivia, measures taken by the Government had led to a drop in extreme poverty, while important laws had been enacted to protect the rights of refugees, women and persons with disabilities.  More efforts were needed to address violence against women, including criminalization of femicide.  The right to consultation with indigenous peoples remained a challenge and the reported corruption, lack of access and backlog in the justice system, together with deteriorating conditions in prisons, were issues of concern. 

The report on Colombia welcomed the peace process initiated in 2012 as a unique opportunity to improve the lives of the population; this dialogue must address past human rights violations committed by all parties and ensure truth and justice.  The situation of human rights defenders, violation of the right to life by security forces, and sexual violence required robust attention.  There was an urgent need to address violence by illegal groups that emerged after the demobilization of paramilitary groups.

In Cyprus, human rights concerns included the right to life and the question of missing persons, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, property rights, freedom of religion and the right to education.  Addressing the underlying human rights issues and causes should be an increasingly important part of peacekeeping efforts and should underpin the political dialogue for a comprehensive settlement.  The High Commissioner was keen to continue addressing human rights implications of the protracted conflict.

The report on Sri Lanka stated that while significant investments in development and resettlement of a large number of internally displaced persons in the north had been made, much remained to be done regarding reconciliation and accountability.  The Government had failed to build upon the vision of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which had made far-reaching recommendations towards reconciliation and strengthening of the rule of law.  There had been no meaningful steps to address the serious human rights crimes identified by the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability and the High Commissioner remained convinced that an international inquiry was necessary.

The report on Iran reflected the overall patterns and trends in the human rights situation with a focus on the death penalty, torture, lack of due process, women’s rights and religious minorities.  The Secretary-General expressed great concern over the significant increase in executions and the intensified crackdown on media professionals, human rights defenders, lawyers and women’s rights activists.  The report also highlighted economic sanctions and their potential impact on the population.

Statements by the Concerned Countries

Bolivia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the annual report was submitted in the context of a bilateral agreement whereby it voluntary invited the Office of the High Commissioner to set up an office in Bolivia.  Bolivia welcomed that the report acknowledged the significant progress made.  It was important to highlight legislative progress such as the adoption of the law against political harassment against women and that a draft law was passed for the definition of the crime of femicide.  A national housing and population census was carried out and the results would be used to guide relevant policies.  Bolivia had improved living standards in rural areas, including access to drinking water, and it had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Bolivia highlighted the broad participation that heeded its call in December 2012 to join it in a debate that would give space for the voice of indigenous people to be heard. 

Colombia, speaking as a concerned country, said that 2012 was a year of sweeping change for Colombia.  The peace process launched came on top of actions underway to more efficiently protect human rights.  Colombia agreed with the High Commissioner that the process had great transformative potential.  The law on victims and land restitution had yielded results.  More than 150,000 victims had been compensated in 2012.  On the mention of extrajudicial executions, preventive measures had been taken by the State as well as measures to clarify the facts.  Colombia disagreed with the mention of the term “post-mobilisation group” in the report.  Those gangs were criminal organizations that were independent from one another and had no ideology.  Colombia sought to fight against impunity and combat discrimination.  Colombia faced challenges but it had shown its commitment to making advances in guaranteeing the human rights of the population.

Cyprus, speaking as a concerned country, said that regrettably, the persisting division of Cyprus due to the presence of foreign troops continued to constitute an obstacle to the full enjoyment by the whole population of Cyprus of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Cyprus expressed grave concern for the continued deplorable state and risk of destruction of a great number of Christian places of worship and cemeteries, as well as on-going restrictions of the fundamental human right of religious freedom of the enclaved and displaced people in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus.  Any political settlement had to embody practical respect of the individual human rights and such respect must not be contingent on a political settlement.  It was Cyprus’ strong conviction that respect for human rights preceded and superseded politics, that they stood alone as a value in themselves, and that they needed to be cherished and protected.

Guatemala, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report did not adequately assess or report on Government activities to curb organized crime and that it was important to provide information that would enable an objective understanding of the human rights situation in the country.  Guatemala recognized that crimes and human rights violations had occurred during the 36-year-long internal armed conflict and said that in order to bring it to an end, it had been necessary to offer amnesty to all parties.  Guatemala would continue the process of legal reform to bring the full recognition and exercise of rights of indigenous peoples and stressed that it did not criminalize actions of indigenous peoples or human rights defenders.

Iran, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Iran was absolutely unjustified and unwarranted.  His reports should not be abused by a number of Western countries as a political leverage against Member States.  The report was based on the unsubstantiated claims and repeated accusations that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran had made in his report.  It had neglected to present the large number of positive achievements in the country and suffered from partiality, lack of balance and selectivity.  Iran had made considerable progress towards development and the promotion of human rights in law and practice at both national and international levels. 

Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, expressed strong reservations as to the content of the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and the procedure followed in formulating it.  The report had gone beyond the mandate granted under resolution 19/2 and had ventured into making substantive recommendations.  The Government did not recognize the report of the Panel of Experts and requested that all references to it be deleted from the present report.  The report was nothing but a launch pad for a fresh resolution rather than to stay within the bounds of resolution 19/2.  Sri Lanka had never ruled out cooperation with the High Commissioner and had invited her to visit the country since April 2011 to see the remarkable transformation taking place in the day-to-day lives of citizens after the defeat of terrorism in 2009. 
General Debate on the Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Russia, speaking on behalf a group of 14 States, said they were of the view that in the report (A/HRC/22/38) on Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner had exceeded her mandate of reporting on the provision of assistance, by making substantive recommendations and pronouncements, and that the recommendations were of a political nature.  The High Commissioner specifically in paragraph 64 of the report had hastened to prejudge the outcome of Sri Lanka’s ongoing domestic reconciliation process. 

United States hoped that all Council Members would join it in voting in favour of the resolutions before it on Sri Lanka and Iran.  On Mali, the United States was gravely concerned by the escalation of sexual violence against women and girls in the north.  On Afghanistan, it noted with grave concern the widespread practise of torture and mistreatment of detainees by members of the Afghan National Security Forces.  On Guinea, the United States noted the continued use of excessive and often deadly force against demonstrators, despite the Government’s efforts.

Thailand welcomed the efforts and progress made by Sri Lanka and noted that concrete steps had been taken in many areas.  Thailand felt the report itself went beyond the mandate.  The case of Sri Lanka should not set a precedent for any future country situations.  However, Sri Lanka should continue to address alleged violations.  The establishment of necessary mechanisms or institutions to implement the national action plan should be considered to help ensure its effectiveness. 

Venezuela said that it shared the serious alarm and strong objections expressed by Sri Lanka on the report, which went beyond the scope of its mandate and contained information which did not come from validated sources.  Sri Lanka had shown its serious attitude and commitment to the Council by openly providing information, by cooperating with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and by implementing the National Action Plan and the recommendations of the Commission for Reconciliation and Lessons Learnt. 

China welcomed the efforts made by Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Commission for Reconciliation and Lessons Learnt, and noted Sri Lanka’s commitment to enhancing infrastructure and improving the lives of its people.  Sri Lanka was actively engaging with the Universal Periodic Review.  However, the report had not reflected fully and objectively those positive developments, which was a matter of concern.  China called on the international community to allow Sri Lanka the time and space to make further progress.

Norway commended Sri Lanka on achievements in the areas of generating economic development, recovery of the war affected areas, and demining.  Nevertheless, Norway said that there was still important work to be done, particularly regarding reconciliation, accountability, and achieving a political solution acceptable to all communities.  The international community should continue to follow Sri Lanka’s progress and to offer assistance on outstanding issues.  Sri Lanka should increase cooperation with United Nations Special Procedures.

United Kingdom said that ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka, including impunity and impeachment of the Chief Justice, raised serious questions over Sri Lanka’s respect for the rule of law.  The prompt implementation of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission would go a long way in ensuring human rights for all citizens.  Reconciliation was possible only though genuine efforts to ensure accountability for past actions and greater efforts to secure political settlement.

Cuba said that the report on Sri Lanka overstepped the mandate granted in the resolution 19/2 and did not give due credit to Sri Lanka for progress in the process of national reconciliation.  Cuba would continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and would strive to achieve true cooperation with the agreement and consent of the concerned State. 

Greece said that the report on the human rights situation in Cyprus had been requested in 1975 due to violations of the human rights of the Cypriot people as a result of the invasion by Turkey, the continuing occupation by its troops of 37 per cent of the island, and the denial of the right of 200,000 Cypriots to live in their ancestral home.  The illegal colonization of the occupied territories by settlers from Turkey continued unabated and this policy violated fundamental instruments of international law.

Viet Nam said that Sri Lanka’s efforts in healing the hurts from the 30-year conflict should be noteworthy.  Viet Nam shared the view that a constructive approach based on dialogue and genuine assistance was the unique way that the Council should proceed to help Sri Lanka overcome its current difficulties.  Viet Nam reiterated that sustained political determination and vision, national solidarity and greater resources from within, alongside with international cooperation, was even more indispensable.

Belarus believed that resolution 19/2 had been imposed on the Council for political reasons and therefore it did not inspire confidence in the work done by the Office and the Special Procedures in implementing it.  Belarus had hoped to see a different report that would have fostered a true dialogue.  The Office had gone beyond its mandate in the preparation of the report.  Why was it essential to spend time and money when the documents were already in place for Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review?

Hungary, said that despite efforts in Bolivia, the administration of justice continued to be seriously flawed as was demonstrated by the high number of detainees in preventive detention for an extended period of time and without reasonable cause.  Hungary was interested in hearing what kind of follow-up activities the Office was planning to ensure that an appropriate follow-up was given by the Government to recommendations contained in the report. 

Myanmar said that it appreciated the constructive efforts made by Sri Lanka to bring peace and stability to the country, and was pleased to note that Sri Lanka was on the path of reconciliation, leading to a durable solution which would be acceptable to all parties.  Sri Lanka deserved a positive and constructive assessment by the Council in the spirit of objectivity and impartiality.    

Turkey said that the report on Cyprus did not adequately address the issue of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and the barriers which prevented them from enjoying their human rights.  It was striking that the report referred to Turkish Cypriot authorities as “de facto”, which undermined the principle of the equality of the two sides in Cyprus.  The report also failed to refer to the Direct Trade Regulation or mention that the Financial Trade Regulation and the Green Line Regulation could not be properly implemented.

Canada said that Sri Lanka had made commitments on only selected recommendations in its National Action Plan and had taken concrete action on only a few of those.  The Government had not adequately engaged northern political leadership and civil society in an inclusive and consultative reconciliation process, and media personnel still continued to be intimidated and harassed.  Moreover, the Prevention of Terrorism Act continued to restrict fundamental rights.  The recent dismissal of Chief Justice Bandaranayake showed Sri Lanka’s failure to uphold the rule of law.
      
Oidhaco, Bureau International des Droits Humaines – Action Colombie said that in Colombia, impunity was widespread and human rights violations continued on a daily basis.  Efforts to investigate cases of enforced disappearances were insufficient and the International Criminal Court had stated in its latest report that there were reasonable grounds to believe that enforced disappearances constituting crimes against humanity had been committed by the Colombian state organs.

World Organization against Torture was alarmed by the widespread use of torture and ill treatment committed by all armed actors in the Colombian conflict without any measures from the State to prevent and punish this practice.  The prisons were overcrowded and prisoners lacked access to basic services such as health care.  Torture and ill treatment in prisons was on the increase, but was invisible due to the lack of criminal investigations.

Bischofliches Hilfswerk Misereor said that without progress in tackling impunity of perpetrators of violence against human rights defenders, Colombia would continue to be among the most dangerous places to exercise such activities.  Attacks on human rights defenders had doubled, particularly on those championing land reform.  There was a worrying gap between the gravity of the situation and measures taken to address it.

Human Rights Watch said that since the Council adopted its resolution of March 2012 on Sri Lanka the Government had taken no significant steps to investigate numerous and credible abuses of war crimes during the conflict that ended in 2009.  Human Rights Watch urged the Council to establish an international independent investigation to probe all allegations. 

Colombian Commission of Jurists said that it agreed with the High Commissioner that the current peace process had the potential to transform Colombia with regards to its level of respect and the enjoyment of human rights.  Who was better suited to support the process and disseminate the progress achieved than the Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia through its annual report?

Amnesty International, with regards to Colombia, said that efforts to combat impunity had been dealt a serious blow by several legislative measures, including reform of the military justice system, which would give the military greater control over criminal investigations when members of security forces were implicated in human rights violations. 

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada said that attention should be paid to the urgent need to address the loss of democratic space and franchise for the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.  Those areas were traditional Tamil territory and had a unique language and culture.  Sri Lanka, however, was undertaking a campaign against the Tamil in order to silence them.  Sri Lanka’s ruthless programme included increased militarization and land grab.  It was important, therefore, to take steps to ensure accountability in Sri Lanka.  

Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation said that some of the details included in the report on Sri Lanka, particularly those which showed the breakdown of the rule of law and other problems in the administration of justice, were disturbing.  The lack of demilitarization was especially marked in the Tamil areas, where the Tamil were victims of violations which went unchecked.  The international community should play a full role in ensuring genuine accountability and reconciliation through an appropriate investigation of crimes.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the violation of the rights of journalists in Iran had been intensified and that Iran had no intention of changing laws on implementing inhuman practices such as amputation and flogging in public.  Torture of prisoners and amputation were crimes and produced persons with disabilities.  The death sentence was extensively used in the country and there had been a large number of secret executions.  The international community should put pressure on Iran to place a moratorium on the death penalty. 

Helios Life Association said that Sri Lanka today faced a challenging task of reconciliation and warned that any intrusive interference would spark explosive situations of internal tensions, racism and divisions between different ethnicities, bringing more harm then benefit.  The Council should act with balance and forcing a resolution against Sri Lanka was a huge responsibility.

Lutheran World Federation said that Colombia was one of the most unequal countries in the world and much remained to be done to ensure economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.  The peace agreement must address inequalities in order to be sustainable.  There were significant problems in the enjoyment of the right to prior consultation for indigenous peoples and land owning communities.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) echoed the call of the High Commissioner for a credible investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both parties in Sri Lanka.  There was an urgent need to address the immediate requirements of internally displaced persons in the North and East, particularly adequate housing and infrastructure.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation, with regards to Colombia, said that last year the High Commissioner had reported that no significant progress had been made in drafting a bill to regulate the right to conscientious objection to military service and that illegal practices in military recruitment procedures continued without effective control in several cities.  Sadly, there was no mention of either issue in this year’s report.

ACT Alliance- Action by Churches Together, with regards to Colombia, reiterated that reparation should not be limited to economic compensation.  It was especially concerned about the vulnerable situation of leaders who claimed their legitimate right to land restitution, and human rights defenders and their organizations, especially women, which continued to suffer from harassment and stigmatisation.

Corporacion para la Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos Reiniciar, with regards to Colombia, said that the military court system was reformed, despite the serious criticism and warning voiced by the Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia, Special Rapporteurs, and Independent Experts.  There was no objective justification for a soldier tried for common law crimes to be given other treatment than that of other citizens. 

Action contre la faim welcomed the report on Sri Lanka and drew attention to the assassination of 17 of its aid workers in 2006, which amounted to a war crime under international humanitarian law.  The international community should hold all parties to the conflict accountable for serious human rights violations.  Unless a strong resolution was adopted by the Council, the message sent would be that murderers of humanitarian workers could walk free with impunity. 

Colombia said that it wanted to clarify that the number of demobbed combatants were over 53,000, out of whom around 30,000 had been demobbed collectively, and not 80,000.

Right of Reply

Bolivia, speaking in a right of reply, said that it was liaising with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and that it had expressed concerns about the use of mercenaries against the Government.  The recruitment and training of mercenaries by Member States of the United Nations was not acceptable.
 
Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (A/HRC/22/37).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights and the work of her office in Guinea (A/HRC/22/39).

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on assistance for Libya in the field of human rights - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/22/40).

Presentation of the Reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner under Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the country reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner under the agenda item of technical assistance and capacity building, said that the report on Afghanistan highlighted persistent human rights challenges exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict.  Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict; the 2012 report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on the protection of civilians claimed that 2,754 civilians had been killed in that year alone.  The re-emergence of armed groups, particularly in the North, was of major concern.  Torture remained a serious concern in detention facilities and the Commission of Investigation put in place by the President Karzai found that 48 per cent of detainees alleged that they had been tortured.  Other issues of concern were the death penalty, executions and violence against women which continued to marginalize women and girls.

The report on Guinea welcomed the measures towards building the national human rights protection system, particularly the establishment of the Human Rights Ministry.  It also welcomed the measures to tackle impunity for violations of human rights committed during the conflict and noted the slow progress in the implementation.  Guinea needed to increase its cooperation with the human rights mechanisms and particularly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.  The High Commissioner expressed concern about violence that had erupted in February 2013 over the upcoming elections.

In Libya, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had engaged in assessing the needs for technical cooperation to address the long-standing human rights challenges.  Key priority areas of action included ending conflict-related detention, strengthening the rule of law, moving forward with a comprehensive strategy for transitional justice, and forging a culture of respect for human rights.  Libya remained at a critical juncture and in the coming months it would turn a new page and draft a new Constitution that safeguarded equality for all.

Statements by Concerned Countries
 
Afghanistan, speaking as a concerned country, said that its biggest challenge arose from insecurity, which had taken a massive toll on the lives of its people, and blunted its progress in all areas of recovery, reform, development and human rights. Civilian casualties remained a grave area of concern for the Government.  The wider regional dimensions of the terrorist threat and the problem of sanctuaries outside Afghanistan was the biggest challenge that remained unaddressed and as a result, terrorists continued to wage a vicious war against peace and tranquility in the region.  The Government had adopted the National Action Plan for women and it was in the process of developing a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.  In accordance with Article 29 of the Constitution, the Government of Afghanistan opposed the torture and abuse of prisoners as well as arbitrary detention.  After a decade, its education sector had witnessed some significant achievements.  It was made clear that the achievements made such as in the promotion and protection of human rights, including those of Afghan women and girls, would not be compromised.

Guinea, speaking as a concerned country, said that this session allowed an opportunity for Guinea to express its views and display its political resolve to assign human rights their natural full-fledged role in the framework of any endeavour at the democratization of its society.  Guinea was seeking to put the issue of human rights at the heart of its societal endeavours.  To successfully meet the challenge of recognizing and enshrining the idea of an equal and free humanity, it was vital to define and have a consistent, coordinated and independent strategy.  Guinea recognised the acuteness and extent of the imperative goal faced in a fragile and complex societal environment.  Structural work had to be supported by a true education policy of training and awareness-raising, as well as accountability and appropriate sanctions.  The Government was aware of the shortcomings and challenges in the area of human rights, and its effect on Guineans.  Everything would be done to ensure that this situation was improved.  Despite the complex social, political and cultural environment, progress had and would continue to be made.  One of the surest ways of upholding the principles of human rights and making them realities was ensuring the rule of law and combating impunity. 

Libya, speaking as a concerned country, said that technical assistance and capacity-building activities had assisted Libya in its efforts to monitor human rights and in the implementation of programmes for the empowerment of women.  National laws had been amended to bring them in line with international human rights instruments.  Libyans had suffered from an autocratic dictatorship for over 42 years, during which time Libya was governed by the law of the jungle with a total absence of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and rule of law.  Free elections had recently been held for the first time and women had obtained 16 per cent of the 200 seats in the Congress, which was in charge of drawing up a new Constitution.  Much had been done to bring prisons and detention centres under the control of the State and a comprehensive awareness-raising plan for human rights had been devised and would be launched later this year.  During this delicate transitional period human rights violations may still occur but they certainly did not reflect a systematic policy of the country.  A new law was being drawn up to enable transitional justice to deal with the legacy of the new regime and move away from retribution and punishment.   

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building
      
Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that positive developments had taken place in Colombia but several challenges remained.  It called on Yemen to ensure that the death penalty was not used for crimes committed by minors.  Nepal should respect human rights in line with its obligations under international law.  The European Union remained concerned about the challenges which Afghanistan faced in the protection of human rights, and about human rights violations in South Sudan and Libya.  The European Union supported ongoing efforts in Tunisia.   

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that inclusive dialogue and consultation were required to move towards peace, national unity and economic and social progress in Guinea.  The African Group called on Guinea to work in a constructive manner with political parties and civil society for the sake of the reconciliation process and to ensure that elections were held in a transparent environment.  The African Group welcomed efforts undertaken by Libya to protect the democratization process and called upon the international community to continue to provide its assistance to Libya to restore respect for human rights.

France, speaking on behalf of a group of States, called on the Government of Nepal to create conditions to hold free, fair and open elections and ensure that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was free from any political interference.  Nepal should address violence against women and the full implementation of laws prohibiting gender-based violence was essential.  Nepal should also protect vulnerable members of the society, human rights defenders and journalists.

United States applauded Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire for working cooperatively with the Council and said that other States could look at their example to see the benefits of technical cooperation.  The Council considered States under the item of technical cooperation when they were willing to address their human rights challenges and States should then cooperate with the Council and the High Commissioner and engage in discussions about cooperation, as was the case of Sudan.

Italy said that it appreciated the impressive progress made by the new Libya.  Italy encouraged the Libyan authorities to resolutely address the challenges that were still ahead.  Accountability remained a crucial aspect.  All those responsible for grave human rights violations should be brought to justice, regardless of their affiliation.  Italy welcomed and encouraged Afghanistan’s efforts to achieve peace and stability, while recognizing that many obstacles persisted.

Switzerland was alarmed about the situation of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in the east of the country.  Switzerland was particularly concerned over information communicated on the repugnant number of cases of sexual violence.  It condemned all abuse and violations of international law committed by the different participants in the conflict and urged the authorities to combat all forms of impunity.  Switzerland was also worried about the situation of human rights defenders and asked to ensure that they were not subjected to either harassment or repression.

Maldives said it considered the technical cooperation extended by the High Commissioner and the support of donors as invaluable and it was thankful.  With regards to Libya, Maldives called on the international community to continue the technical cooperation extended to it.  Maldives was concerned about the human rights situation in other parts of the world.  Although strengthening of institutions and upholding rule of law was the responsibility of the State, non-state actors could play an important role.

United Arab Emirates noted with satisfaction the promulgation of law in favour of women and efforts undertaken to prevent violence against women, achieve effective transitional justice, and ensure human rights.  The United Arab Emirates said that Afghanistan, despite the significant progress it had made, required humanitarian assistance to put an end to the suffering of the Afghan people, and called upon the international community to help Afghanistan in its efforts to restore justice.

China said that the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights lay with countries themselves.  While providing technical assistance to countries was welcome, nevertheless the consent of the countries concerned should be sought and the specificities and special needs of each country should be taken into account to ensure that technical assistance was effective.  Technical assistance and capacity building should be provided in an impartial and objective manner. 

Algeria commended the provision of technical assistance to Guinea, Libya, Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti, and expressed the hope that measures would continue to be taken to promote national reconciliation and social cohesion.  Algeria reiterated the need that technical assistance be based on the consent and the need of the countries concerned in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue which, it stressed, should always govern the work of the Council.  The allocation of additional financial resources to the budget of the United Nations was necessary.
     
Norway recalled that Guatemala had began the trial of former President Rios Montt and urged the Government to ensure that judges and lawyers were able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals.  Guatemala had shown a willingness to improve the human rights situation in the country and Norway supported the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner in the country, as well as its efforts to contribute to the improvement of human rights in Colombia, including in relation to human rights defenders and trade unionists.  Norway hoped that a peaceful solution to the armed conflict would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation.

United Kingdom welcomed Egypt’s stated commitment to human rights but remained concerned about the lack of progress on women’s rights, freedom of expression and minority rights.  It urged Libya to ensure that human rights were enshrined in the new Constitution and to use technical assistance to make progress in the implementation of reforms.  The United Kingdom requested Yemen to immediately suspend the use of the death penalty against juveniles.  The United Kingdom remained concerned about allegations of human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan and reiterated its support for the national consensus dialogue in Bahrain.

France welcomed the engagement of Guinea in favour of human rights, illustrated by the creation of a Ministry on Human Rights and the integration of human rights in reforms in the security sector.  France was concerned about allegations of human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire and appealed for continued cooperation with the Independent Expert and hoped for the extension of the mandate in June.  France had followed the efforts of Haiti in favour of reinforcing the system of the promotion and protection of human rights but remained concerned about the situation of camps and impunity for human rights violators.  

Togo said that it had taken note of developing events in Guinea and welcomed the measures of the Government to implement recommendations made.  Togo was particularly appreciative of efforts to fight against economic crime.  However, it noted with concern that the persistence of divisions had hindered the impact of the Government’s commitment to reducing poverty and improving the fundamental infrastructure.

Morocco said with regards to Libya that it was delighted to hear that significant strides forward had been made.  It welcomed cooperation with the United Nations and its different human rights mechanisms, including the standing invitation to the High Commissioner to visit the country.  It shared the opinion that the establishment of robust public institutions would not be achieved overnight and would take time.  Morocco and Libya would jointly submit a draft resolution on technical assistance and cooperation on Libya. 

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that there were clear signs that the Afghan Government had not been able to effectively establish the rule of law, secure democratic institutions, ensure the separation of power, and eradicate corruption.  The Council had until now failed to take appropriate action and had to substantially strengthen its involvement in Afghanistan.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that it remained concerned about the human rights situation in Libya, especially with regard to the proliferation of militias committing human rights violations in the name of the revolution.  Those violations should not be granted immunity just because they were presented through the lens of the revolution.  The ongoing legislative process should integrate a human rights based approach, and laws pertaining to freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly should be in conformity with international standards.    

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’Homme said that it had noted racism within the heart of society both before and after the first democratic elections held in Guinea, and condemned all extremist activities and sentiments which constituted a threat to peace and to national and regional cohesion.  It called on all political actors to act in order to save the young democracy, and stressed that it was the responsibility of Guinean authorities to protect diplomats in the country.  It also said that the Libyan authorities should be lobbied for the establishment of a mechanism for the return of small arms.     

International Catholic Child Bureau, in a joint statement, said that the administration of juvenile justice in many countries faced various challenges, including the negative impact of the punitive approach and a lack of quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure, evaluate and monitor progress made.  Technical assistance in the field of the administration of justice should target not only State agents but also the media, the private sector, and community-based leaders and resources that had to engage in the process towards a restorative juvenile justice system.  

International Buddhist Foundation said that there was evidence that Sri Lanka had done what was possible to defend human rights, including the rehabilitation of combatants, and noted the efforts of the Government to resettle displaced persons.  Buddhist norms were entrenched in Sri Lanka’s social fabric and Tamil civilians had been treated with empathy.  Sri Lanka adhered to Buddhist values which were compatible with human rights, despite the suffering undergone.  International Buddhist Foundation noted that several speakers had attempted to vilify and to accuse Sri Lanka and called on the Council to appreciate the measures taken towards the achievement of ethnic harmony.

North-South XXI, while welcoming the technical assistance and capacity building offered by the Office of the High Commissioner, questioned its utility on some circumstances.  The Office had contributed to training of persons working at the Special Tribunal in Iraq and other judicial authorities who had been labelled as some of the most significant human rights abusers by the Council itself.  The same types of efforts were being replicated in Libya.  North-South XXI also reiterated its request for information concerning whether there was an expert on climate change in the local office of the High Commissioner in Maldives.

Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme asked the Council as a representative of the Guinean diaspora to focus its attention on the situation of Guinea.  Guinea had a very permeable border with Mali and was concerned about the spill over of terrorist activities and movements which were destabilising several African countries and which worked through political opposition groups and called for the acquisition of weapons and for people to rise up against the Government.  The Commission Africaine also expressed concern about similar activities carried out by diasporas through the Internet and urged the Council to establish a mandate to investigate this situation. 
 
Right of Reply

Nepal, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement of Ireland on behalf of the European Union and the joint statement made by France on behalf of a group of States, said it was important to provide a clear picture of the situation in Nepal.  The Government was committed to ensuring justice to the victims of the armed conflict through a transitional justice mechanism and to ending gender-based violations.  Women and children were protected, including their rights to justice.  The rights of human rights defenders were also protected.  Nepal reiterated that it remained fully committed to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people.  It expected a higher level of understanding and solidarity from the international community. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/044E