13 March 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning concluded the general debate on its subsidiary bodies and mechanisms, including on the report of the Forum on Minority Issues and on the studies submitted by the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee pursuant to Council mandates.
Some speakers brought attention to the challenges faced by minorities in post-conflict situations and highlighted the importance of special measures for promoting genuine equality in the political process. Minorities should take an active role in advocating for their rights, as enshrined in the Declaration on Minorities. Violations of minority rights in a number of countries were highlighted. Regarding the study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on traditional values, some speakers said that the concept of traditional values did not have a legal basis. Giving legal force to the concept of traditional values opened the door to a dangerous framework that could be invoked by States and non-State actors to justify human rights violations. Other speakers were deeply concerned by the use of traditional values to justify the marginalization of minorities and their deprivation of fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially in the case of women.
Speaking during the general debate were Liberation, Reporteurs Sans Frontières International, Human Rights Advocates, Human Rights House Foundation, International Buddhist Relief Organization, World Barua Organization, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, International Commission of Jurists, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Japanese Worker’s Committee for Human Rights, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale, Indian Council of South America, International Association of Schools of Social Work, North South XXI, International Muslim Women’s Union, China Society for Human Rights Studies and United Nations Watch.
China and Cuba spoke in right of reply.
A summary of the presentation of the report and recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues, the studies of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and the first part of the general debate can be found here.
The Council will resume its work at noon today, 13 March, to hold a panel discussion on the impact of corruption on human rights. In the afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council will consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Czech Republic, Argentina and Gabon.
The Council has before it the Recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its fifth session: implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities: identifying positive practices and opportunities (27 and 28 November 2012) (A/HRC/22/60)
The Council has before it the Final study of the Advisory Committee on the promotion of human rights of the urban poor: strategies and best practices (A/HRC/22/61).
The Council has before it the Interim report of the Advisory Committee on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking - Note by the secretariat (A/HRC/22/70).
The Council has before it a report on the Study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind (A/HRC/22/71).
The Council has before it the Final study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on rural women and the right to food (A/HRC/22/72).
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Liberation said that the study of the Advisory Committee addressed the need to understand the values of dignity, freedom and responsibility as a means of safeguarding human rights. However, Liberation strongly believed and recommended that efforts should be put in place to ensure that such values were implemented on the ground. As in the case of Yemen, people remained deprived due to the absence of Charter-based mechanisms on the ground.
Reporteurs Sans Frontieres International said that the Independent Expert on minority issues had emphasised that the right to media was vital for the preservation and transmission of the culture of minority communities. Unfortunately, this was too often viewed by many Governments as a threat to their sovereignty or security and it was too often brutally repressed.
Human Rights Advocates drew attention to the challenges faced by minorities in post-conflict situations and highlighted the importance of special measures for promoting genuine equality in the political process. How did the Independent Expert intend to address the particular issues facing minorities living in States emerging from conflict, regarding their right to political participation?
Human Rights House Foundation said that the concept of traditional values did not have a legal basis. States advocating for traditional values aimed at raising their own cultural norms above international law. Giving legal force to the concept of traditional values opened the door to a dangerous framework that could be invoked by States and non-State actors to justify human rights violations.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that minorities, such as Sikhs, Buddhist, Christians, Dalits and Tribal communities, were overburdened and had suffered rather chronically, as compared to the elite counterpart of the ruling class Hindus. The situation of minority communities had reached a stage where they needed the immediate help of the Council to preserve their human rights.
World Barua Organization was concerned about the continued exposure of religious minorities in Bangladesh to activities stemming from Islamic fundamentalist groups of the majority Islamic population, including violence and victimisation. The level of protection provided by Bangladesh was not sufficient to guarantee the security and well-being of all its citizens. Bangladesh should bring all responsible to trial and ban such groups from its territory.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy asserted that development with language, culture and identity was a practice that indigenous peoples in India had long upheld and demanded, which meant that throughout the development process indigenous peoples’ rights were recognised. In India, development had come at a price for indigenous peoples. The core values of indigenous peoples were necessary if the urgent threats of the global economic crisis and climate change were to be overcome.
Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament said that language rights for ethnic minority groups were included in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other instruments. It was highly expected by most ethnic minorities in China that they would learn not only learn the Chinese language but also other languages, including English.
International Commission of Jurists said that, throughout the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies, it should be recalled that traditional values often posed obstacles to the advancement of human rights. Emphasis should always be on the implementation of international human rights law, regardless of tradition and culture, and the Council must reject efforts to introduce the language of traditional values into the framework of human rights.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists was deeply concerned by the use of traditional values to justify the marginalization of minorities and their deprivation of fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially in the case of women. Concerned States should enact legislation to ensure the protection of these groups and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women should visit such States.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said that the reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner concerning Sri Lanka mirrored the current situation in the country and underlined concerns about reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.
Japanese Worker’s Committee for Human Rights spoke about a new discriminatory policy against Korean children in Japan, who could not enjoy tuition free high school education. The Government did not recognize Korean schools as regular schools and imposed institutional discrimination such as their exclusion from financial support.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale said that minorities should take an active role in advocating for their rights, as enshrined in the Declaration on Minorities. In India minority communities faced several problems; they were not able to integrate properly in the Hindu-dominated society and the upward trend in the rise of Hindu fundamentalism had raised questions about Indian secularism.
Indian Council of South America said that it was important to implement paragraph 308 of the final study on treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. With regards to human rights bodies and mechanisms, the Council needed to create a working group at the Advisory Committee. Implementing such a mechanism would eradicate politicisation or selectivity in the implementation of rights at all levels.
International Association of Schools of Social Work said that the 115-year occupation of Hawaii by the United States, its cumulative violations and the outright fraud of the United States portraying itself as a champion of human rights, was not only appalling but criminal. All human rights were rooted in the right to self-determination. The International Association of Schools of Social Work called on the Council to restore the right to self-determination as a priority on its agenda, and to support the efforts of Alaska and Hawaii toward self-determination.
North South XXI directed the Minority Forum’s attention to the policies adopted by Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia, where the position of minorities in society had been enhanced by ensuring they were enshrined in law, if possible in the constitution, and through public investment in public services and cash transfers to the poorest. North South XXI welcomed the Forum’s emphasis on education and dialogue as a means of fostering the integration of minorities.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that minority groups in all regions continued to face high levels of poverty, discrimination and marginalization. Economic progress in India had not had a positive impact on minorities. Muslims, the largest religious minority in the country, were economically the most backward community, had the lowest employment rate, and there were hardly any incentives for a modern education.
China Society for Human Rights Studies said that education played a key role in the advancement of minorities in their countries. China had taken special measures to promote the education of ethnic minorities and had established classes for ethnic students. Those positive examples should be shared with other countries.
United Nations Watch said that, in order to promote peace, the international community did not need more resolutions but needed to act with resolution. United Nations Watch was concerned to see the attention and resources of the Human Rights Council diverted from urgent country situations to deal with a declaration on the right to peace.
Rights of Reply
China, speaking in a right of reply, firmly rejected the groundless allegations against the freedom of press in China. The Government protected the freedom of expression of people from all ethnic groups, including the Uyghur ethnic group, and gave full play to the monitoring role of the press and the public in general. Chinese media had the right to report freely but, like in any country under the rule of law, it had to work within the framework of the Constitution and in accordance to the law. China hoped that the relevant non-governmental organization would look at China’s freedom of press objectively and would stop making unwarranted charges against it.
Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the unfounded allegations made by United Nations Watch, lacking in credibility and legitimacy, in reference to Cuba as a country that violated human rights. The non-governmental organization was financed by the United States and had openly maintained a media war against Cuba. Cuba had the right to invoke and defend the right to peace as a way of standing up to the wars of conquest and plundering that had been waged by Western countries, as a result of which a myriad of lives had been lost. The right to peace was fundamental and it had to be defended and protected.
For use of the information media; not an official record