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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOMES OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OF SIERRA LEONE AND SINGAPORE

Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
24 June 2016

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Sierra Leone and Singapore.  It also concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms. 

Mohamed Gibril Sesay, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said that Sierra Leone had received 208 recommendations during its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, which related to a range of issues, including the rule of law, gender equality, women’s empowerment, religious tolerance, freedom of expression, and child protection, of which Sierra Leone had accepted 177.  Those recommendations would be implemented in a challenging post-Ebola context, economic challenges, limited fiscal space, the introduction of a new Constitution and elections.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed Sierra Leone’s constructive engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process, as well as with other United Nations human rights mechanisms.  They congratulated Sierra Leone for its progress in the field of human rights, particularly with regard to combatting impunity, protecting freedom of information and ensuring women and children’s protection, and called for the continuation of international assistance and support to the country.  Sierra Leone was urged to fight family violence and the exploitation of children and girls in mining zones, and called on the Government to lift a ban on pregnant girls in mainstream schools. 

Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Togo, United Nations Women, United Nations Children Fund, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, China, Cuba, and Ethiopia took the floor.

International Service for Human Rights, Save the Children International, CIVICUS, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme and Amnesty International also spoke. 

The Human Rights Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Sierra Leone. 

Foo Kok Jwee, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed Singapore’s commitment to build a strong nation and a fair, democratic and inclusive society, and said that the Government had supported recommendations complementing its ongoing efforts in that regard.  It did not, however, support recommendations that were predicated on unfounded assertions, that were not appropriate in its national context, or related to the ratification of international human rights treaties. 

During the ensuing dialogue, States commended Singapore for its efforts in favour of an inclusive society, social cohesion and multiculturalism.  Non-governmental organizations raised concerns at Singapore’s continued refusal to address issues already raised during its first review, particularly with regard to the use of the death penalty, the ratification of additional international human rights treaties, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Speaking were Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Qatar, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan and Philippines.

Also speaking were International Service for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human rights Leagues, Franciscans International, International Lesbian and Gay Association in a joint statement, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Action Canada for Population and Development, Human Rights Watch, Association of Women for Action and Research, Singapore Council of Women’s Organization and Amnesty International.

The Human Rights Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Singapore.   

The Council then concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, hearing representative of non-governmental organizations calling for strengthened cooperation with Special Procedure mandate holders, for stronger election mechanisms to ensure that Council Members upheld the highest standards of human rights, and for the creation of new mechanisms to address several issues or situations of concern.  Speakers also raised concerns about restrictions, harassment and reprisals against those seeking to collaborate with human rights bodies and mechanisms.  The debate started on Thursday, 23 June, and a summary can be read here

Speaking in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms were the following non-governmental organizations: International Muslim Women’s Union, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, International Service for Human Rights, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Centre for Human Rights Peace Advocacy, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in a joint statement, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Alsalam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII in a joint statement, Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, World Muslim Congress, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, CIVICUS, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables at aux droits de l’homme, United Nations Watch, World Barua Organization, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, Liberation, Sudwind, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Prahar, Association Burkinabé pour la Survie de l’Enfance, Association des Etudiants Tamouls de France, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Indian Council of South America, Fundacion Latinomaericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, and American Association of Jurists. 

The Council will reconvene on Monday, 27 June at 9.30 a.m., to hold a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, followed by a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. 

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Sierra Leone

MOHAMED GIBRIL SESAY, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said that Sierra Leone had received 208 recommendations during its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, which related to a range of issues, including the rule of law, gender equality, women’s empowerment, religious tolerance, freedom of expression, and child protection, of which Sierra Leone had accepted 177.  Those recommendations would be implemented in a challenging post-Ebola context, the economic challenge due to the fall in prices of the major exports, limited fiscal space for the Government, the introduction of a new Constitution, and presidential and parliamentary elections, said Mr. Sesay.

Sierra Leone was actively pursuing the review of its Constitution to bring it in line with international human rights standards and to meet the general democratic aspirations of its people, and it continued to pursue a robust anti-corruption strategy.  The Government would ensure that discrimination of any class of citizens was prohibited in the upcoming Constitutional review and would also continue to promote a robust reform agenda of the justice system, in which the support of the international community was welcome.  The consultation of local stakeholders on a clear and definitive policy on harmful traditional practices would be undertaken, with a view to ensure that no citizen was deprived of the right to associate or freely participate in their culture.  The Ministry of Justice was currently consulting stakeholders with a view to review, repeal and amend legislation such as the Public Order Act (1965) that compromised the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.  The Ebola epidemic had ravaged not only the lives of the people but also the foundations of its economy and building a resilient health sector was a priority in the post Ebola Recovery Programme.  Sierra Leone was looking forward to learning from other countries in this regard.

Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone said it had been established to promote and protect human rights and had become fully operational in 2007.  The Commission noted that the Government had ratified a number of conventions and optional protocols, including International Labour Organization Conventions number 138 and 182, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Human rights had been affected by the Ebola outbreak, such as the right to education.  Concerns also remained in areas ranging from the provision of clean and safe drinking water to the removal of the seditious libel provisions in the Public Order Act of 1965.  The Government needed to remain committed to taking concrete steps toward strengthening democracy, promoting peace and fulfilling the human rights of all Sierra Leoneans by adopting laws, policies and actions for their welfare.  

Pakistan expressed appreciation for the constructive engagement of Sierra Leone with the United Nations human rights machinery, and recommended the adoption of the country’s Universal Periodic Review with consensus.

Singapore commended Sierra Leone for its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and encouraged it to stay the course in strengthening the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

South Africa welcomed the positive developments in Sierra Leone as well as the country’s positive strides in the promotion and protection of human rights, adding that it was encouraging to hear of policies and initiatives on improving access to justice and human rights.

Togo commended measures taken by Sierra Leone to implement recommendations of its first Universal Periodic Review, and thanked the country for accepting the majority of recommendations, calling on the international community to make support available to Sierra Leone.
 
United Nations Women commended the progress on the Constitutional review process and encouraged Sierra Leone to ensure that the new Constitution was engendered, which would improve the lives of women and girls and facilitate the incorporation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  This review process was also an opportunity to develop gender inclusive policies, including adopting a quota on the representation of women in politics.

United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the intention to draw up a comprehensive strategy to eliminate harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation and teenage pregnancies, which were the main child protection concerns in Sierra Leone.  The United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the recent launch of the Ebola Recovery Plan, particularly in light of the devastating impact that the epidemic had had on the lives of children, and also welcomed the establishment of the Office of the Monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals Benchmarks and other human rights obligations of Sierra Leone.

Venezuela said that despite the limiting economic situation and the challenges thrown by the Ebola epidemic, Sierra Leone had made great strides in the strengthening of the human rights situation in the country.  Sierra Leone should continue to strengthen its social inclusion policy for the benefit of all its people.

Zimbabwe said that in view of the evident commitment of Sierra Leone to the promotion and protection of human rights, Zimbabwe had no hesitation in calling for the adoption of the report. 

Albania commended the National Ebola Recovery Plan under which the Government had provided free education to Ebola orphans and young people, and free health care to the affected population.  Albania welcomed the commitment to implement a zero tolerance policy to sexual violence, which had been recommended by Albania.

Algeria commended the work Sierra Leone had done to eradicate Ebola and for the progress in human rights, including eradicating poverty, adopting strategies on prosperity, and improving the rights of women.  Algeria encouraged Sierra Leone to counter certain adverse traditional practices, in particular female genital mutilation.

Angola commended Sierra Leone for accepting a large number of recommendations, as well as the fact that Sierra Leone was a party to nine international human rights treaties.  It encouraged Sierra Leone to amend its Constitution to put it in line with these treaties. 

Botswana welcomed the adoption by Sierra Leone of the Access to Information Act and the Sexual Offense Act, as well as national policies to combat gender based violence. 

Burundi welcomed Sierra Leone’s measures to improve the rights of children, including the national policy to protect children.  It also commended Sierra Leone’s efforts for healthcare protection, as well as the country’s full cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms. 

China commended Sierra Leone’s progress on poverty reduction, the protection of minorities and the strengthening of the rule of law.  It called for strengthened support and capacity building to Sierra Leone for its implementation of accepted resolutions. 

Cuba welcomed progress achieved despite challenges faced, in particular the Ebola epidemic.  It highlighted progress in legislative reforms, as well as in the protection of the person.  Cuba urged the international community to continue supporting Sierra Leone. 

Ethiopia welcomed the acceptance by Sierra Leone of its recommendation to improve socio-economic conditions with a view to improve the human rights situation.  It particularly welcomed Sierra Leone’s commitment to ensure accountability for crimes perpetrated during the civil war period. 

International Service for Human Rights noted that Sierra Leone was the second country in Africa to adopt a law on freedom of information and encouraged other African countries to follow suit.  That initiative would improve the situation for human rights defenders.

Save the Children International, in a joint statement, welcomed the Universal Periodic Review and in particular the recommendations relating to children’s rights, including the establishment of a national children’s commission.  Ministries aimed at addressing violence against children should have sufficient technical resources to carry out their responsibilities toward children.

CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation commended Sierra Leone for its leadership in protecting civil society and its sponsorship of resolutions on protecting civil society space.  However, concern was expressed about threats to human rights defenders reporting on the accountability of government officials.  

Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme welcomed Sierra Leone’s commitment to international human rights standards; the country had come a long way, including the eradication of the use of child soldiers.  Many years of civil war had wreaked havoc on the economy.  Sierra Leone was urged to fight family violence and the exploitation of children and girls in mining zones.  

Amnesty International welcomed Sierra Leone’s steps toward abolishing the death penalty.  Sierra Leone was called on to lift a ban on pregnant girls in mainstream schools, as it risked destroying their future opportunities.  Regret was expressed that Sierra Leone had rejected guaranteeing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons; the country was called on to reconsider its position on those recommendations.

The President of the Council noted that out of 208 received recommendations, 177 enjoyed Sierra Leone’s support, while 31 were noted.

Concluding Remarks by Sierra Leone

MOHAMED GIBRIL SESAY, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said that Sierra Leone would take note of the remarks made during the dialogue, including teenage pregnancies, education of pregnant girls, female genital mutilation, and the death penalty, and confirmed that those were the issues on which Sierra Leone was already engaged.  Mr. Sesay thanked those who had noted the progress made by the Government in improving the human rights situation and those who urged it to do better to improve human rights promotion and protection.  Sierra Leone was in a very difficult post-Ebola context, but its resolve and commitment to human rights were unshaken.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Sierra Leone.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Singapore

FOO KOK JWEE, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed Singapore’s commitment to build a strong nation and a fair and democratic society, where citizens were protected against any threat or discrimination.  With this in mind, the Government had carefully reviewed the 236 recommendations received by Singapore, and decided to support 116 of these.  It did not support recommendations that were predicated on unfounded assertions, inaccurate assumptions or erroneous information, including a handful of recommendations related to freedoms of expression, association and assembly.  In addition, it did not accept recommendations that were not appropriate in its national context, including on issues such as capital punishment, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and national security.  About a quarter of the recommendations that Singapore did not support in full related to the ratification of international human rights treaties.  Singapore took its treaty obligations seriously, and actively reviewed its position on human rights treaties.  However, in order not to prejudge the outcome of the Review process, it did not commit itself to accede to or ratify treaties ahead of review.  Singapore supported recommendations that complemented its ongoing efforts to build a fair and inclusive society.  

Cuba said that Singapore had implemented numerous polices to safeguard social harmony, noting that the country’s multiracial society required a pragmatic approach regarding upholding the rights of its citizens.  Singapore was invited to continue to take a future-oriented approach in order to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea commended Singapore for its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.  The dialogue with Singapore had been an opportunity for the furtherance of human rights; Singapore’s acceptance of many recommendations was welcomed.

Egypt welcomed Singapore’s decision to accept Egypt’s recommendation on combatting trafficking in women and children, and noted that Singapore was a multicultural country, commending it for being a success story from the developing world.

Ethiopia noted with appreciation that Singapore had accepted recommendations to continue to preserve social harmony and intensify fighting radicalism at an early stage.  The country was commended for its continued commitment toward building a fair and inclusive society.

Qatar noted that Singapore had accepted recommendations that went toward the building of a harmonious society, which included two recommendations made by Qatar.  The country was encouraged to maintain its commitment to ensure access to education for persons with disabilities.

India welcomed the delegation of Singapore and expressed thanks for the report, commending the country for the constructive manner in which the report was prepared.  It was encouraging to note that Singapore had accepted so many recommendations.

Indonesia welcomed the efforts of Singapore in advancing human rights and in particular the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the acceptance of the recommendation to complete accession to the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Iran appreciated the detailed information that Singapore had provided on the implementation of accepted recommendations and the efforts to build a fair and inclusive society through policies such as supporting low-income people.

Kyrgyzstan noted with satisfaction the implementation of measures to enhance social protection and preserve social harmony and welcomed the acceptance of the recommendation to complete the accession to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and to take additional measures to protect child victims of violence.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic noted with satisfaction that Singapore had improved its system of social protection and urged it to take forward a whole-of-Government and whole-of-society approach to human rights.

Malaysia noted the efforts of Singapore to implement policies that improved social protection and the policies on the support of low-income people.  Singapore should consider favourably the recommendation to establish an independent national human rights institution.

Maldives appreciated the constructive engagement of Singapore with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  Maldives welcomed the commitment to provide health, education and employment opportunities to persons with disabilities, the commitment to gender equality and empowerment of women, and the efforts to build a fair and inclusive society.

Morocco thanked Singapore for accepting the two recommendations made by Morocco, and welcomed efforts by Singapore to ensure an inclusive society through pragmatic solutions .  It supported the adoption of the outcome report. 

Myanmar commended Singapore’s constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and welcomed its efforts in favour of social harmony and an inclusive society.  Myanmar supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Singapore. 

Oman highlighted Singapore’s commitment to promote and protect human rights on the basis of the relevant international instrument.  It recommended the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome. 

Pakistan welcomed the fact that Singapore had implemented many policies to enhance social inclusion and protect social harmony.  It encouraged it to continue to adopt a forward-looking approach to human rights, and to implement agreed recommendations. 

Philippines acknowledged progress by Singapore in the field of human rights, including for the protection of migrants’ rights and to promote an inclusive society.  It particularly welcomed the adhesion by Singapore to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 

International Service for Human Rights said it remained concerned about challenges facing individuals seeking to express views, noting that access to information was a critical tool for society.  Concerns were expressed about the harassment of defenders, including those collaborating with the United Nations, merely for expressing political opinions online.

International Commission of Jurists said that despite more than 30 recommendations to abolish the death penalty, Singapore maintained its intention to carry out executions.  Singapore was urged to abolish the death penalty.  The country was also called on to review recommendations addressing restrictions on online expression.

International Federation for Human rights Leagues expressed disappointment that people exercising their right to freedom of expression faced threats, noting that bloggers in Singapore were subjected to intense police investigations.  That was a violation of international human rights standards.

Franciscans International commended Singapore’s efforts in combatting trafficking, yet expressed concern about the reluctance of the Government to guarantee the protection of migrant workers.  Singapore should ensure the punishment and prosecution of persons involved in trafficking, and improve the transparency of the hiring process for foreign workers.

International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement, said that 11 recommendations had referred to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and expressed disappointment that the Government continued to deny institutionalized discrimination.  That had consequences for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Singapore. 

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, in a joint statement, expressed alarm at Singapore’s rejection of numerous recommendations, including key recommendations on freedom of expression.  Regret was also expressed that the Government had simply noted recommendations on censorship of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender content in the media. 

Action Canada for Population and Development said that Singapore had received many recommendations calling for a reform of the law criminalizing homosexuality and regretted that the Government only noted them.  In addition to the law, other dispositions which discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons remained.

Human Rights Watch said that major human rights issues raised during the review of Singapore had already been raised during its first review in 2011, including the continuing use of the death penalty, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, criminalization of consensual relationships between men, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of association and assembly.

Association of Women for Action and Research said that women’s rights were not sufficiently promoted in Singapore, and called for explicit Constitutional prohibition of gender discrimination, the investigation into the chronic under-reporting of sexual violence, including against minors, and clear and equal housing policies. 

Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations welcomed the recommendations that Singapore accepted with regard to the aging society, the rights of women, and trafficking in persons, and looked forward to a transparent mechanism for the monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations. 

Amnesty International deeply regretted the decision by Singapore to resume executions, and said that on 20 May a Malaysian national had been executed in haste just hours after the appeal deadline.  Amnesty International called upon Singapore to abolish the death penalty.  Amnesty International also called upon Singapore to take measures to enhance the freedom of expression, assembly and association.

The President of the Council noted that out of 236 received recommendations, 116 enjoyed Singapore’s support, 19 were noted, and additional clarifications had been provided on one recommendation, indicating which parts had been accepted and which part had been noted.

Concluding Remarks by Singapore

FOO KOK JWEE, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said in concluding remarks that his Government’s goal was to ensure that its policies and programmes continued to produce good outcomes for its citizens and to surmount challenges it faced, including terrorism, the future of work, a rapidly aging society, meeting the aspirations of its citizens, maintaining social cohesion, and sustaining a virtuous cycle of good politics and good policies.  While Singapore was not a party to a number of human rights treaties, its policies were already fully and largely consistent with their objectives.  Singapore had implemented major policies and programmes to ensure that it continued to be economically competitive while remaining inclusive.  The Permanent Representative said that he was, however, fully aware that Singapore’s principles of governance, the way it cared for citizens, protected human rights and preserved social harmony, may also not fully conform to how other societies had organized themselves.  Every country should be given the time and space to deal with its own development and advance human rights in its own way, taking into account its unique and evolving social and cultural context. 

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Singapore.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

International Muslim Women’s Union said that the right to life was the fountain from which all other human rights sprang, but hundreds of Kashmiri youths were languishing in jails in India.  No one was concerned about that conflict.  Even drinking water was not provided to prisoners. 

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee expressed concern about the repression of journalists and human rights defenders.  Government agencies harassed activists in Indian-occupied Kashmir, where local human rights activists were often questioned by police.  Individual cases of alleged violations of human rights were enumerated.

International Service for Human Rights called on existing and incoming members of the Council to draw more attention to situations requiring its focus.  A good place to start was the joint communications report, which showed attacks on human rights defenders.  The Council was urged to remind Burundi, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and many others of their human rights obligations.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada underlined that the reviewed mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should include closer cooperation with the mandate on business and human rights, especially because the rights of indigenous people were often violated in the context of business operations, in particular extractive industries. 

Centre for Human Rights Peace Advocacy said it was highly regrettable that the Indian Government had not made any efforts in implementing justice for Sikh victims from 1984, except admitting that it had not been the massacre of Sikhs but the genocide of Sikhs in Punjab, Delhi and all over in India.

BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, in a joint statement with, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man drew the attention of the Council to the abuse by State-owned enterprises in Palestine.  Ownership of all West Bank water supply systems had been transferred to the Israeli national water company Mekorot, which extracted water from the Palestinian sources and ensured copious supply for Israeli settlements.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain was concerned about the legitimacy of the Council as some of its Members did not uphold basic human rights standards, including cases in Saudi Arabia of arbitrary detentions, executions and corporal punishment.  The Council should consider strengthened criteria for membership. 

Alsalam Foundation expressed concerns about Bahrain’s failure to collaborate with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.  Bahrain had also imposed travel bans on persons willing to travel to Geneva to collaborate with the Council, including human rights defenders, representatives of trade unions and families of victims.  Bahrain should lift restrictions on civil society organizations. 

Iraqi Development Organization referred to systematic human rights violations in some of the Council’s Member States, including restrictions on freedom of expression, intimidation and violation of cultural rights.  These countries should not be able to remain Council Members.  The Council should review the mechanisms for the election of Members, and should impose sanctions on concerned countries. 

Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, in a joint statement with, Center for Global Nonkilling welcomed the initiative of Cuba for a declaration on the right to peace, calling for it to be meaningful, consensual and relevant, as it might have a significant impact on the lives of people.  Peace was a precondition for the respect of all human rights, including the right to development, and the violation of any human rights was a threat to peace. 

Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos said that Western Sahara was one of the few non-self-governing territories of the world, and that Western Sahara was rich in resources yet its people were suffering hunger.  The occupying authorities were exploiting the natural resources and riches.  The Moroccan merchant navy was making use of Western Sahara’s fisheries. 

World Muslim Congress expressed serious concern that human rights defenders in occupied Kashmir were frequently under attack by Indian forces and restricted from cooperating with United Nations mandate holders.  At least ten journalists and six lawyers had been killed in occupied Kashmir during the last few years.  The Human Rights Council was urged to take immediate steps to end such violations of human rights.

International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations spoke about the harassment of journalists, and  human rights defenders and their families in Indian-occupied Kashmir.  The Government of India used restrictive laws to limit freedom of expression online and had more than 600 human rights defenders in detention.

CIVICUS – The World Alliance for Citizens’ Participation drew the attention of the Council to a human rights situation on which the Council had remained largely silent, notably the violent repression by Ethiopia of peaceful protests by students in Oromo in 2015, during which thousands had been arbitrarily arrested and hundreds summarily killed. 

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme welcomed the Office of the High Commissioner’s programme of work to address abuses and violations of human rights in the context of corporate activities.  States must fulfil their obligations and ensure access to remedies to victims of human rights violations by businesses, in particular indigenous peoples whose rights were violated by transnational corporations.

Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables at aux droits de l’homme referred to the United Nations Guidelines on Business and Human Rights, and regretted that these Guidelines were being ignored by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.  Saudi Arabia was upholding the line defended by terrorist groups in Yemen.

United Nations Watch referred to political prisoners in a number of countries, including in Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation and Venezuela, and recalled that Member States of the Council had a duty to uphold the highest standards of human rights.  It also appealed to all Member States of the Council to honour their obligations under international human rights law and release all political prisoners to mark the tenth anniversary of the Council. 

World Barua Organization referred to the heat in the state of Maharashtra in India, and explained that the Government was depriving the population there of water, as it channelling it to other areas with large industrial projects.  It asked the Government of India to take steps to restrict the use of water by companies.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, in a joint statement, said human rights violations impacted development efforts.  Bahrain used to have a much better economic situation, but with increased human rights violations, the economic situation had deteriorated.  The commitment of countries to international human rights instruments would create an enabling environment which would lead to better living standards.

Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique said structural genocide had been conducted on Tamils, but not a single individual had been brought to justice for genocide against Tamils.  The Government continued to act with impunity.  Sri Lanka had become a failed State.  The Council should consider referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court and not support any domestic mechanism.

Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul said Special Procedures were a vital United Nations tool.  With regard to the situation of Tamils in north-east Sri Lanka, there was no change in the underlying structural genocide which was being carried out in the homeland of Tamils.  The world should carefully watch what was happening to stateless nations which were being subjected to genocide.  

China NGO Network for International Exchanges said in China, various autonomous counties had been established to ensure the protection of minority rights, which also enjoyed preferential policies to support their socio-economic development.  Efforts were in place to protect their cultural heritage and minority and ethnic languages.

Liberation, speaking about the rights of indigenous people in some states in Manipur and in Jammu and Kashmir who were still under the Indian occupation, said that India had contracted dams in those provinces without previous consultations with the indigenous peoples.  The Council should urge India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik expressed regret that Iran had not responded to communications by the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression concerning the situation of arbitrary detention, denial of due process and fair trial, and also denial of medical care to Dr. Mohammad Hossein Rafiee-Fannod, who was 72 years old.

Arab Commission for Human Rights said that Israel was pillaging natural resources within occupied territories, in particular food resources, land and water, in order to support occupation.  The political situation in many regions was difficult in terms of respect of human rights and the laws that should ensure the enjoyment by the Palestinians of their natural resources were trampled upon.

Prahar expressed concerns about violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of River-interlinking and dam projects in Assam and the north east region of India.  These projects would indeed have devastating effects on agricultural lands, national parks and sanctuaries, as well as on indigenous peoples and biodiversity. 

Association Burkinabé pour la Survie de l’Enfance referred to the genocidal war conducted by Sri Lankan military forces in May 2009.  Without justice and an equitable political solution addressing the root causes of the conflict, there would not be permanent peace in the island.  Sri Lanka had to accept mediation and negotiations had to be based on the Oslo Declaration of 5 December 2002. 

Association des Etudiants Tamouls de France referred to war crimes in Sri Lanka in 2009, when more than 147,000 Tamil civilians had been killed or disappeared.  It recalled international calls for accountability, and regretted that not a single individual had been prosecuted yet for these crimes.  The genocide against the Tamil people was continuing with the change of Government.  

Society for Development and Community Empowerment said that Tamil victims had been prevented from testifying before the Special Rapporteurs who had visited the country recently.  The Sri Lankan Government maintained a draconian prevention of terrorism act which was exclusively used against Tamils.

Indian Council of South America drew the Council’s attention to mining and oil projects in the Amazon Basin, which was a fragile ecosystem.  Major projects there could give rise to problems related to the human rights of forest inhabitants.  The European Union and the World Bank were financing projects there.

Fundacion Latinomaericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social said there was collusion in Venezuela to distort the economy through inflation and artificial cutting off of supplies.  That was done to deny the population basic necessities and give rise to social conflict.  Concern was expressed at the work of international civil servants.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association underscored the importance of engagement with Special Procedures.  India was helping the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who were stealing the indigenous land in Manipur.  Also in this province, there were thousands of people who had been living in displacement because of dam construction by India.

American Association of Jurists said that even though the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were an important step toward the respect of human rights by corporations, it was time to step up efforts and hold them accountable for human rights violations and damages to the environment.  Impunity must not be the rule.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC16/092E