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

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES MINORITY ISSUES AND HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON ITS SUBSIDIARY BODIES

Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Hears Presentation of the Recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its Sixth Session
19 March 2014

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, heard the presentation of the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its sixth session, and held a general debate on its subsidiary human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Ms. Izsák, introducing her report, updated the Council on the full range of her activities, including two official country visits to Cameroon and Nigeria, and an informal visit to Malaysia.  The attention on the rights of linguistic minorities continued and Ms. Izsak said she had identified positive practice for the protection and promotion of their rights.  The report focused on the need to give greater and systematic attention to disadvantaged minorities who constituted hundreds of millions of the poorest and most socially and economically marginalized and excluded people globally.  Greater attention should be given to disadvantaged minorities in the post-2015 development agenda because of the relationship between inequality, discrimination and poverty.

Cameroon spoke as a concerned country.

During the interactive dialogue, speakers thanked the Independent Expert for her efforts to increase the visibility of minorities and expressed interest on the practical guide and compilation of effective practices to be published in 2014.  Minority groups in all regions continued to face high and disproportionate levels of poverty, discrimination and marginalization, which had a severe impact on their rights and opportunities.  Delegations also stressed the importance of consulting with and involving minorities when addressing these issues, as well as the inclusion of minority issues in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.  Speakers also expressed concern about instances of multiple or intersecting discrimination and marginalisation affecting some minorities, as well as the need of national efforts to address their situation. 

The following delegations took the floor during the interactive dialogue: Estonia, Austria, Russia, Egypt, China, Switzerland, Bulgaria, United States, Hungary, Nigeria, Iraq, Serbia, Thailand, United Nations Children’s Fund, Australia, Indonesia, Ukraine, Iran, Viet Nam, and Romania.

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were also Centre for Reproductive Rights, Minority Rights Group, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, World Environment and Resources Council, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Buddhist Relief Association, and China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture.

Ms. Izsák also presented the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its sixth session, saying that the event had resulted in useful recommendations.  Noting the importance of protecting religious minorities was recognised by international law.  Violations of the rights of religious minorities included administrative barriers and other obstacles.  Religious minorities had described conditions of structural vulnerability which could lead to multiple forms of discrimination, and a gender perspective was also required in order to recognise multiple forms of discrimination. 

During the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers addressed a wide number of issues, including, the important role played by the Special Procedures and the need to ensure the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Speakers also referred to the General Assembly’s treaty body strengthening process.  Several delegations underscored the important and legitimate role played by civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights, and the United Nations human rights system, and expressed deep concerns about reprisals taken against human rights defenders.

Delegations also addressed the Universal Periodic Review, technical assistance and capacity building, as well as concerns about violations of the code of conduct for Special Procedure mandate holders.  Speakers welcomed the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues, noting the importance of ensuring the protection of minorities, including their right to political and economic participation, access to health and education, and referred to national efforts in this area. 

Speaking in the general debate were: Greece on behalf of the European Union, Costa Rica on behalf of Chile, Honduras, Peru and Uruguay, Botswana on behalf of a group of countries, Ireland, Morocco, Cuba, Pakistan, South Africa, Russia, China, Sierra Leone, Austria, Italy, Norway, Sri Lanka, Council of Europe, Iran, Hungary, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor during the general debate: International Service for Human Rights, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, China Society for Human Rights Studies, Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute, and Alsalam Foundation.

Speaking in right of reply under this agenda item were Russia, Algeria and China.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  At noon, the Council will hold its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities.  This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council will consider and adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Saudi Arabia, Senegal and China.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák (A/HRC/25/56).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák on her Mission to Cameroon (A/HRC/25/56/Add.1).

Presentation by the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

RITA IZSAK, Independent Expert on Minority Issues, updated the Council on the full range of her activities, including two official country visits to Cameroon and Nigeria, and an informal visit to Malaysia.  The sixth session of the Forum on Minority Issues in November 2013 had focused on guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities and had produced an important set of recommendations.  The attention on the rights of linguistic minorities continued and Ms. Izsak said she had identified positive practice for the protection and promotion of their rights.  The report focused on the need to give greater and systematic attention to disadvantaged minorities who constituted hundreds of millions of the poorest and most socially and economically marginalized and excluded people globally.  There were compelling arguments for giving greater attention to disadvantaged minorities in the post-2015 development agenda because the relationship between inequality, discrimination and poverty and its impact on disadvantaged minority groups should not be ignored or underestimated.  The report contained key recommendations, including the establishment of specific targets for States on the inclusion of minorities and creating specific indicators upon which to measure progress.

The visit to Cameroon had taken place in September 2013 and to Nigeria in March 2014.  It had been frequently said that Cameroon was “Africa in miniature” and with more than 250 ethnic groups and many more languages spoken, it was evident that the diversity in the country was valued.  Cameroon was a positive example of managing a highly diverse society in the Central and West African region where many countries were increasingly fragile and where ethnic and religious cleavages were rising to an alarming level.  The challenges faced by hunter-gatherer and Mbororo pastoralist communities, among the poorest in Cameroon, included access to land, its ownership and use; delivery of education and health care to populations living nomadic lifestyles; and the impact of development projects and the loss of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  The decline in the use of some of the country’s many mother-tongue languages was cause for concern, and initiatives to record and maintain these languages alongside French and English were welcome.

Statement by a Concerned Country

Cameroon, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed the field visit carried out by the Independent Expert.  Cameroon had taken careful note of her balanced report and recalled that the Government’s efforts to protect minorities’ rights had been considered by the Council on different occasions.  Further attention would be paid to this issue going forward.  Cameroon would continue to study the remarks and recommendations of the Independent Expert, would continue the dialogue with target groups, and called on partners to continue to support these efforts.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

Austria said that although the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to Minorities stated that States should consider appropriate measures so that persons belonging to minorities may participate fully in the economic progress and development in their country, many minority groups in all regions continued to face high and disproportionate levels of poverty, discrimination and marginalization, which had a severe impact on their rights and opportunities.  Estonia highly appreciated the activity of the Independent Expert in the field of linguistic minorities, especially the attention paid to minority communities and their language heritage, and looked forward to the practical guide and a compilation of effective practices to be public in 2014.  However, more should be done at the global level, especially in raising awareness of linguistic diversity as a common richness. 

European Union said the report stated that the Independent Expert had consulted and would continue to consult widely on giving due consideration to the inclusion of minority issues in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.  Could more information be given on this and on possible follow-up activities?  On the need for effective and targeted policies to address the economic and social exclusion of persons belonging to minorities, could examples of good practice be shared?  China said that it was in favour of the view that the post-2015 development agenda should accord greater attention to difficulties faced by minority groups.  China attached importance to ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities.  The political rights of ethnic minorities had been guaranteed.  The economic rights of ethnic minorities had also been guaranteed. Investments had been stepped up in ethnic regions and tax benefits had been granted to these areas. 

Russia welcomed the heightened attention paid to the situation of religious minorities.  Russia thoroughly supported activities to protect the rights of linguistic minorities.  Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups.  Russia was concerned by steps taken in Estonia in this regard, as well as in Ukraine.  There was alarm at the call to prevent the use of Russian in Ukraine, which was spoken by almost half of the country.  Egypt expressed resentment regarding what was mentioned in the report concerning Egypt and categorically rejected the reference to Egypt as a place of unrest and conflict, putting it on equal footing with another country in the region which was indeed facing a clear domestic conflict, and also the misleading statement that the situation was having far-reaching implications for the minorities’ rights and security.  Egypt was not sure where exactly the Independent Expert extracted information.

Switzerland said that the report clearly demonstrated why minorities needed to be given greater attention in the post-2015 global development agenda and said that this must be a development priority.  A rights-based approach must be the basis for the process of development.  Switzerland asked about next steps concerning the participation of minorities in the definition of the global development agenda.  Bulgaria said that its legislation did not provide a specific definition of religious minorities and noted that freedom of religion was enshrined in its constitution.  It was an obligation of the State to provide the environment in which every person could exercise their religious beliefs.  Incitement to hatred was prohibited by law and Bulgaria asked about the positive actions that States could take to protect the rights of religious minorities. 

United States was deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine, especially in Crimea, and expressed strong support to the efforts of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in arranging monitoring visits to Ukraine to clarify the situation regarding ethnic and linguistic minorities.  There were credible reports of suppressive actions against pro-Kyiv Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars.  The United States asked about the recommendations on the situation of minorities in Crimea and what were the plans to address them.  Hungary noted the Independent Expert’s priorities such as the focus on linguistic and religious minorities, conflict prevention, the role of minorities in public life and others, and asked how those would be achieved.  In light of frequent attacks against religious minorities all over the world, Hungary agreed that the United Nations should be more attentive to their security.  The Independent Expert should closely cooperate with the United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, including its larger context. 

Nigeria expressed appreciation for the Independent Expert’s visit to Nigeria which had provided her with a better understanding of the contending human rights issues in Nigeria which were often exaggerated or misrepresented.  Minority issues were central to the promotion and protection of human rights and the committee of nations must work in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to eliminate all inequalities and so safeguard basic freedoms.  Iraq stressed that the Iraqi people were subject to actions of various terrorist groups that had affected all the population and sectors of life.  The references to the situation in Iraq contained in the report lacked precision as it had been based on information provided by a non-governmental organization and Iraq hoped that future reports would be based on reliable sources.

Serbia commended the Independent Expert for her report and for giving visibility to minorities.  Governmental institutions, including the National Minority Council, counted with mandates for the protection of minorities in Serbia, including religious minorities, and Serbia was committed to maintaining existing standards and improving the institutional framework.  The promotion and protection of the rights of Roma people continued to be high on the agenda.  Thailand shared the view that dialogue and the participation of minorities was necessary to identify the real cause of discrimination.  Governments should ensure the effective implementation of the relevant laws and enhance understanding by law enforcement agencies.  Thailand had implemented policies, in particular to address social protection for minorities and their access to healthcare and education.

United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the report on minority issues and noted that progress had been made since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but children continued to face intersecting forms of discrimination and deprivation.  More should be done to obtain disaggregated data and track inequalities to assess progress in realising children’s right.  The post-2015 agenda should identify the most vulnerable children and address the root causes of situations of inequality, discrimination and marginalisation.  Australia said it was a multicultural country with an estimated population of 22 million people, with more than 300 ancestries, who spoke many languages, including indigenous languages.  Australia was committed to address disparity faced by indigenous Australians and recognised the importance of disaggregated data, and its approach to multicultural access and equity aimed to ensure that all Australians received equitable access to services regardless of cultural or linguistic background.

Indonesia noted the importance of the implementation of non-discrimination, inclusivity and participatory policies and programmes; and the need to ensure that pro-active steps were taken so that development programmes reached the remote and secluded areas where local communities lived.  Indonesia asked the Independent Expert what practical steps could be taken to ensure inclusive development programmes in multi-religious, and multi-ethnic communities.  Ukraine recalled that international experts, including the United Nations system, had indicated that there was no credible evidence of violations of the rights of the  Russian minority in Ukraine.  The new Government of Ukraine had unequivocally stated its reinvigorated adherence to the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities according to the highest international standards, and quoted data in this regard.  Ukraine asked for the Independent Expert’s opinion on what measures could be taken to protect the Ukrainian, Crimean Tartar and other groups in Crimea, whose rights were being violated under the Russian occupation.

Viet Nam said that as a developing country, Viet Nam faced many challenges in the course of protecting and promoting the rights of ethnic minority people.  The Government spared no efforts in seeking effective solutions to better protect and promote the rights of minority communities in all domains.  It devoted special attention to the preservation and development of ethnic minority culture and language heritage.  Romania said that the report highlighted key issues that had to be addressed to deliver the rights of minority persons.  It agreed that often people belonging to minority groups were trapped, sometimes for generations, in poverty, were marginalized or excluded.  Romania enquired as to what the Independent Expert’s thematic priorities would be.

Minority Rights Group said that minorities often faced higher rates of poverty, ill-health and under-development than the rest of the population and it was high time for the community of States to tackle this reality.  Discussions surrounding the new development goals constituted a unique opportunity to make sure that this time minorities would not be left behind.  Centre for Environmental and Management Studies believed that only the existence of genuine democracy could protect the rights of minorities.  There was respect for nation States as they were constantly engaged in difficult tasks of dealing with security, economic issues and natural disasters among others.  However, many, including democratic nation States, did not always do enough to protect the rights of minorities.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy drew attention to the Buddhist minority community in India, whose rights were being stamped on by fundamentalists.  On 8 July 2013 nine blasts had hit the Maha Boddhi Vihar, Buddha Gaya Shrine.  The Holy Boddhi Tree was also targeted.  Yet, the culprits were not punished.  An appeal was made to the Council to intervene in this matter.  Centre for Reproductive Rights said that despite the commitment to the Millennium Development Goal to ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015, this target was unlikely to be achieved because it failed to take into account the particular barriers that minority women faced in exercising their reproductive rights. 

World Environment and Resources Council said that some South Asian States allowed religious extremists to play a dominant position.  Pakistan had one of the worst records of violating the human rights of minorities, while in Bangladesh, the Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities lived in perpetual fear from attacks by extremists groups.  International Buddhist Relief Association said that in India the Hindu were wiping out the cultural heritage of the Buddhist minority and ignored their cultural rights.  The Council should intervene in the matter and protect the cultural rights and heritage of the Buddhist minority.  China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture said that the Chinese Government had attached great importance to safeguarding the rights of Tibetan people to use their language.  It had passed legislation to support the use of Tibetan language which had become the first digitized minority language in China, thus allowing the people who only read Tibetan to use computers and access information from the Internet.

Closing Remarks by the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

RITA IZSAK, Independent Expert on Minority Issues, in her concluding remarks said that there had been examples of good practice from a number of States to include minorities in development planning, and stressed the importance of having in place policies, legislation and institutions for the participation of minorities.  The next steps concerning the post-2015 global development agenda would include the monitoring of national consultations and national development plans to ensure that minorities were consulted and included as partners, and to ensure that their issues were part of those plans.  The Independent Expert was also preparing research on Universal Periodic Review recommendations concerning national, ethnic, religious or language minorities which would demonstrate the impact this process had on the situation of minorities.  Ms. Izsak expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and said she was exploring the possibility of a country visit soon and said that she was in contact with the official authorities and the relevant members of civil society.

Documentation

The Council has before it the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its sixth session: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities (26 and 27 November 2013) (A/HRC/25/66).

Presentation of the Recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its Sixth Session

RITA IZSÁK, Independent Expert on Minority Issues, presenting the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues at its sixth session, thanked participants for their valuable contributions and said that the event had resulted in useful recommendations.  The importance of protecting religious minorities was recognised by international law.  The Declaration on the Right of Persons belonging to Minorities established specific provisions concerning the practice of religion and established a wider set of rights concerning full participation.  Violations of the rights of religious minorities included administrative barriers and other obstacles.  Religious minorities had described conditions of structural vulnerability which could lead to multiple forms of discrimination.  A gender perspective was also required in order to recognise multiple forms of discrimination.  Ms. Izsák was proud of this broad set of recommendations, as well as the participatory process through which they had been developed.  These measures not only protected minorities but also strengthened society.

The recommendations addressed many issues addressed by participants during the Forum and covered a wide range of communities of belief or religious groups.  The Forum recognised, among others: the need for special measures addressing the inequality faced by some communities; the implementation of international standards in domestic legislation, States were called not to exercise any undue influence including the appointment of religious leaders or concerning places of worship; the inclusion of religious minorities in consultative and decision making bodies; and creating places for discussions and exchanges concerning religious issues.  States should ensure that the national educational environment provided a welcoming and non-discriminatory environment.  Students should be able to both practice their religion as well as learn about other religions in an enabling environment.  Other recommendations also addressed questions concerning the protection and security of religious minorities as well as inter-faith dialogue.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms of the Council

Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was against any attempts to micromanage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The European Union thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights for her efforts to facilitate the multi-stakeholder consultations on treaty body strengthening.  The challenges were urgent.  The Special Procedures constituted one of the most important mechanisms of the Human Rights Council for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of Chile, Honduras, Peru and Uruguay, said that the Council was backed by various important mandates to promote and protect human rights, such as the Special Procedures.  The recent efforts undertaken by mandate holders to jointly coordinate their activities to limit duplication were welcomed.  Ways to support the mandate holders in the face of new challenges had to be examined.  Having mandate holders present two reports per year, one in Geneva and one in New York, could be considered.

Botswana, speaking on behalf of a Group of Countries, underscored the important and legitimate role played by civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law, as well as in promoting and advancing the principles of the United Nations Charter.  There was deep concern that there were still many incidents of reprisals against individuals or groups seeking to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms.  Reprisals were never acceptable and the issue posed serious challenges to the United Nations system and its human rights mechanisms.

Ireland said that the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review was an opportunity to assess the success of the process and welcomed the establishment of the trust fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building for the participation of least developed and small island countries.  Ireland strongly supported the implementation of resolution 24/24 to ensure strong and collective action to denounce reprisals, defend the voice of civil society, and protect those targeted for cooperating with the United Nations.

Morocco said that the protection of national minorities was an integral part of the international human rights protection framework, adding that, like the international community, Morocco was greatly concerned by the worsening of the situation of minorities in Algeria.  Algeria continued to violate the rights of minorities in its territory, to discriminate against them, and to ignore the rights enshrined in fundamental human rights treaties.

Cuba was concerned by the differentiated approach in providing support and resources to the Special Procedures and urged the Office of the High Commissioner to ensure a balanced approach in this regard.  Despite the existence of the Code of Conduct for Special Procedure mandate holders, the Council witnessed their constant violation.  There was a need to put an end to the practice of haste reporting and meddling in affairs that were the exclusive competence of States.

Pakistan said that in a globalised world where societies were marked by religious diversity, guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities was of paramount importance for peaceful coexistence.  Initiatives relating to inter-religious and inter-faith dialogue should be as inclusive as possible.  Concerning domestic anti-discrimination legislation, Pakistan believed that normative standards in the form of soft law should be evolved by the international community as a foundation for legislation at the national level. 

Russia said that more attention should be paid to religious minorities, as their interaction provided the basis for peace in a society.  Russia was a multi-religious country.  It was important not only to combat all forms of discrimination, but also to implement measures to protect minorities in order to protect minorities and their rights.  States should also engage in consultations with representatives from minority groups.

China said multiple faiths should be able to carry out dialogues and increase their mutual understanding.  The protection of minority groups should not be misinterpreted as the protection of extremism or the violation of rights in the name of religion, nor for violating States’ sovereignty.  In the context to the treaty body strengthening process, China hoped that on the basis of constructive cooperation, mandate holders would be able to provide useful recommendations concerning the implementation of treaties.

Austria said that given the rising hostility, discrimination and attacks against members of religious minorities, this discussion was very timely.  Austria welcomed the recommendations contained in the report and appreciated that the use of the term ‘religious minorities’ used in the report encompassed a broad range of religious or belief communities, traditional and non-traditional as well as recently established faith or belief groups that sought protection of their rights under minority rights standards.  How could the recommendations best be followed-up?

Italy found the focus on guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities particularly timely.  Increasing violence worldwide against religious minorities constituted serious human rights violations and a threat to regional and international security.  Italy reminded that religious pluralism had to be reckoned as a powerful driver for social and economic progress.  It had been shown that those countries that chose the integration of religious minorities grew and prospered, while those that chose intolerance were likely to decline.

Norway said it would be presenting a resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.  The Special Rapporteur’s report called on States to take steps to create a safe and stable environment for human rights defenders and also addressed a huge implementation gap between normative standards achieved in the United Nations and the reality on the ground.  Norway was deeply concerned by many incidents of reprisals against those that did or sought to cooperate with the United Nations.  These should be more effectively addressed.

Sri Lanka said it was a home to several ethnic and religious communities whose rights were firmly entrenched in the constitution.  Sri Lanka was mindful of the many challenges after a three-decade long conflict and was seeking to promote religious tolerance and inter-communal understanding and to address grievances and grant redress to those whose rights had been violated on ethnic or religious grounds.  There was also an increasing number of Tamil and Muslim women in the public service and serving in key Government institutions.

Council of Europe said that its Venice Commission, the most original institution which acted as an advisory body on constitutional matters, would prepare two expert opinions in the context of the crisis in Ukraine: on the constitutionality of the referendum to become a constituent territory of Russia; and on the compatibility with international law of the draft Federal Constitutional Law of the Russian Federation and the creation of a new subject of Russia in its composition. 

Iran took note of the recommendations of the Forum on Minority Issues and said that promoting the status of minorities in Iran had always been its priority.  They enjoyed economic, social and cultural rights.  Iran was working on improving their political participation.  Unfortunately, the Forum’s recommendations had defined any new-born belief as a religion and this expanded borderless interpretation of religion might jeopardise social stability and cause unprecedented religious clashes.

Hungary believed that the Forum on Minority Issues provided a unique international platform to discuss wide ranging and topical questions with regard to minorities.  Hungary would recommend, for the theme of the next forum, to focus on managing diversity with the view of preventing crisis situations.  Hungary regretted that measures of reprisal had led to the death of a human right defender, arrested and detained last October prior to participating in the participation of the Universal Periodic Review.  Reprisals undermined the effective working of the United Nations system.

Organization of the Islamic Conference said that protecting the rights and identities of religious minorities should be the primary responsibility of States, including access to education, health and economic and political opportunities.  However, international cooperation was important for ensuring the fulfilment of these rights.  Concerning non-discriminatory access and involvement in political rights, these were important aspects of the full realisation of minorities’ rights.  What major challenges prevented the inclusion of minority issues in national policies?

International Service for Human Rights said that the voices of many defenders were silenced because of reprisals against human rights defenders.  The case of a Chinese human right defender arrested and denied the necessary medical care, after seeking to cooperate with the Council’s Universal Periodic Review, had been documented.  The current response to reprisal was inadequate and the Service welcomed the commitment of some States to take swift action.  The Council should publicly denounce instances of reprisals and ensure redress. 

International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism  shared the good news of the release by the Sri Lankan authorities of the Sri Lankan human rights defenders spoken of yesterday.  Appreciation was expressed to all those that had joined in the call to release them.  Their arrest and detention had illustrated the difficult situation of work on defending minorities. 

Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights raised the current situation of hate crimes against minorities in Japan.  In the 2012 Universal Periodic Review several countries had recommended that Japan adopt a Hate Crime Act.  However, Japan had not taken any measures to prevent hate crime and hate speech, saying that it was freedom of expression.

China Society for Human Rights Studies said that in 2013 it was gratifying to see that the Chinese ethnic minorities’ political participation remained high and that the social and economic performance of the ethnic regions was terrific.  However, it had also been noticed that there were still many economic inequalities and lack of social coordination in some ethnic regions.

Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute said that the general principle of the protection of the rights of minorities was a question to which to date there was no answer.  The defence of the right of minorities must not become a tool for political ends and the Institute warned against any form of violence and terrorism on the pretext of the protection of minorities.

Alsalam Foundation was concerned about the failure of the Government of Bahrain to engage with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and its failure to support independent human rights organizations and mechanisms domestically.  The national human rights institution set up in 2008 had failed to become a credible body for defending human rights and continued to lack accreditation due to its failure to achieve independence.

Right of Reply

Russia, speaking in a right of reply, said that there were no violations of minority rights in Crimea and that the referendum had been held in accordance with international standards.  There was no truth to statements that minorities, including Tatars, were being prosecuted.  The Government of Crimea guaranteed the protection of the rights of its Tatar population and other minorities.

Algeria, speaking in a right of reply, said that Morocco had referred to Algeria and to matters that had nothing to do with the agenda item.  Each and every time that the delegation dealt with human rights violations in Saharawi territories, Morocco mixed things up.  Surprising allegations, moreover, were put forward.  Algeria reminded the Council of the political and opinion prisoners being held in Morocco.  Before looking at problems in Algeria, maybe Morocco should deal with its own problems.

China, speaking in a right of reply, responded to some non-governmental organizations that had arbitrarily interpreted cooperation with United Nations procedures and made groundless accusations against China, and these were rejected. In September last year, Cao Sun Ly, detained by the police under criminal offences, had been entitled to a lawyer and medical care had been guaranteed. On 14 March, Cao Sun Ly’s illness had been acute, and caused malfunction of various organs of which she had died despite efforts to save her.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC14/037E