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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS FROM 11 DIGNITARIES AS IT CONTINUES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

2 March 2015

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its High-Level Segment, hearing statements from 11 dignitaries who spoke about their concerns regarding the situation in a number of countries and regions around the world and outlined some of their national efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Speaking were Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba; Ditmir Bushati, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania; Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan; Bård Glad Pedersen, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway; Takashi Uto, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; Carlos Ramiro Martinez, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala; Baroness Anelay, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom; Alexandros N. Zenon, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus; Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Hassan al-Saghir, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Libya; and Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Speakers highlighted the persecution of minorities, the rise of ISIL and its ideology of violent extremism, and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine as major violations in 2014. There was an unacceptable implementation gap between the establishment of norms and realities on the ground. Speakers also highlighted the need for the Human Rights Council to work on preventive actions with the constant goal of the peaceful settlement of conflicts. Syria continued to be the world’s most serious humanitarian and security crisis. It was concluded that States had to be willing to deploy the necessary efforts and means to monitor, ensure compliance, and put an end to violations of human rights. All speakers reiterated their resolve to contribute to the fight against terrorism while ensuring at the same time respect for human rights.

At the end of the meeting Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Japan spoke in right of reply.


The next meeting of the Council will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 3 March, when it will hold a high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming, and will then resume the High-Level Segment.


High-Level Segment

BRUNO RODRåGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that the hungry, illiterate and children who died of preventable diseases should be allowed to have a say in the Human Rights Council. A serious debate was necessary about the loss of credibility of political institutions, loss of trust in electoral systems, manipulation of media and political corruption, in particular in some developed countries. It was worrying that some of the principal western economies had the lowest levels of labour unions, and that some of them had not ratified key international labour conventions. Cuba also expressed concern over the democratization of information in cyberspace. Changes in the doctrines of security and national defence of some countries and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had provoked the destruction of States and nations, and given rise to grave threats to regional and international peace. Cuba upheld the right of the Palestinian people to have their own State within the pre-1967 borders, and urged the General Assembly to approve Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations. It condemned international sanctions against Venezuela, as well as external action that created a climate of insecurity in that country. Cuba would continue engaging in genuine international cooperation in order to promote and protect human rights without any selectivity and politicization. To that end Cuba would continue to share its experiences and provide aid, such as free ophthalmological operations for 3.4 million people from 34 countries, and the fight against the Ebola virus in Africa.

DITMIR BUSHATI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania, said that Albania’s membership to the Human Rights Council was recognition of the efforts and improvements that had been made in the country over the past decades. Albania stood strongly in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, and was concerned about setbacks on this issue, including with regards to capital punishment of juvenile offenders. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and its devastating effects on children, had to serve as a wake-up call for the international community. Gender equality was also a priority for Albania, and it was committed to strengthen its domestic mechanisms to empower women. Albania was committed to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, the elderly, children, as well as other marginalized groups. Albania was in addition committed to collaborating with the Council’s mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review. The Minister reiterated Albania’s commitment to combat ISIS, and expressed concerns about the situations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya and Ukraine.

BARNABA MARIAL BENJAMIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, said that the issue of human rights was of grave concern in South Sudan. The Government was fully committed to restoring lasting peace and reconciliation in the country, with the participation of political parties, women’s groups, church leaders, and international and regional partners. Peace discussions were under way to resolve any outstanding issues. Amnesty was granted to all those waging war against the State; a unilateral declaration of ceasefire was issued, as well as an order to protect former detainees. South Sudan appealed to the Human Rights Council for support in technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights. South Sudan was enhancing cooperation with its neighbour Sudan, and it was cooperating with the African Union Commission on Human Rights in order to carry out investigations into allegations of all human rights violations. The Government also cultivated a culture of non-reprisals, and it allowed the formation of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission as an independent institution for the promotion, monitoring and protection of human rights. However, the Government held a view that proposing a human rights rapporteur for South Sudan was ill advised at this stage because it would sour the relationship and aggravate the situation with respect to the challenges faced by such a young country. There should be fairness and respect for some cultural differences in the way countries were scrutinized in their application of human rights standards.

BÅRD GLAD PEDERSEN, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that 2014 had been a bleak year for human rights in which many were looking to this Council for concrete action. Faced with violence and extremism, the world must stand by the values that extremists were seeking to destroy: diversity, openness and participation. The world must uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, protect minorities, fight against all discrimination, and oppose any attempts to invoke so-called traditional or religious values to justify discrimination. Freedom of expression was the foundation on which all other democratic rights and freedoms rested and the world must react and respond when it was challenged. There was an unacceptable implementation gap between the establishment of norms and the realities on the ground; all must stand up against coordinated efforts by some States to undermine the work of the Human Rights Council. The resolutions adopted by this Council addressing the grave and ongoing human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Belarus, Syria and Eritrea bore strong witnesses to the scope of the challenge. An increasing number of States such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Ethiopia were introducing national legislation to restrict the legitimate activities of civil society, and this was a matter of great concern.

TAKASHI UTO, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, expressed concerns about deaths resulting from terrorism, and strongly condemned the murder of two Japanese citizens by ISIS. Japan would continue to do its utmost to combat terrorism everywhere. Japan supported freedom of the press and considered that journalists should not be punished for expressing their views. Japan welcomed that the conclusions of the United Nations commission of inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been endorsed by the Security Council, and urged the country to cooperate with the United Nations. Japan was providing extended humanitarian assistance to protect the most vulnerable throughout the world. On Ukraine, Japan called on all parties to respect the agreement made in Minsk the month before. As for Myanmar, Japan would continue its assistance and cooperation to encourage changes there. Japan was committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and would continue supporting the international community’s efforts to combat violence against women, including during armed conflicts. In addition, Japan would continue working for the elimination of discrimination against persons with leprosy and their family members.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, stated that the Human Rights Council needed to work on preventive actions with the constant goal of the peaceful settlement of conflicts. Guatemala continued to work on three main areas: 1) peace, security and justice; 2) rural development and malnutrition; and 3) the promotion of competitiveness and taxation. It also aimed to emphasize the prevention of crime and factors that provoked criminality. In 2014 the National Prevention of Violence and Crime Policy (2014-2034) had been adopted, promoting public safety and peaceful coexistence, and replacing the paradigm of repression by one of prevention of crime and violence. Guatemala had also cleaned up and professionalized the police force, ensuring that the police carried out their exercises with respect towards the freedom of individuals. In 2014 Guatemala had gotten the highest score on the hunger and nutrition index, thanks to the Government’s investment in health, water and sanitation. Guatemala would continue to cooperate with the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms. Referring to a press release that had been issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the right to food, the Deputy Minister regretted that it had been made without relevant information from the Government and before a pending resolution before the Court. Guatemala continued to fight against drug trafficking and would be submitting, during this session, a draft resolution in this regard. Regarding indigenous peoples, Guatemala had created an office in March 2014, coordinated by the President, in order to formulate political and legal reforms for indigenous peoples.

BARONESS ANELAY, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, said that the last twelve months had highlighted the scale of the global challenges confronting all: the persecution of minorities around the world, the rise of ISIL and its abhorrent ideology of violent extremism, and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of east Ukraine. The positive global response to the challenge of sexual violence in conflict had shown that intractable challenges could be taken on. Modern slavery was a brutal crime which knew no boundaries and did not discriminate on gender, age, creed, culture or race. It was impossible to know the true scale of modern slavery; the United Nations estimated 21 million people were trapped in slavery today, representing a sickening global industry worth $ 150 billion a year. It was a hidden crime and most victims suffered in silence, and the United Kingdom urged all States to join in taking up the fight against this heinous practice around the world. Syria continued to be the world’s most serious humanitarian and security crisis; the members of the Council must agree on a resolution to extend the commission of inquiry and enable this essential inquiry to continue and show Syrian people that they had not been forgotten. The United Kingdom remained deeply concerned about human rights abuses in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, and Burma, and called on all parties in Ukraine to fully implement their commitments under the Minsk agreement.

ALEXANDROS N. ZENON, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, stated that people around the world were increasingly turning to the Human Rights Council to defend their rights, dignity and freedom. The Council was in many ways a victim of its own success, as its scope and workload had been growing almost exponentially over the past few years. The question was how to enhance and improve its effectiveness and efficiency with the same budget. Regarding the situation in Cyprus, Mr. Zenon stated that Cyprus remained convinced of the importance of the Annual Report, which, in line with its mandate, would record the violations of human rights that resulted from the Turkish invasion in 1974, and the continuing occupation. Resuming negotiations remained an absolute priority for the Government, which aimed at ending the military occupation and reunifying the island. Regarding the savagery committed by Da’ash in Iraq and Syria, the international community should respond promptly and effectively. Cyprus reiterated its resolve to contribute to the fight against terrorism while ensuring at the same time respect for human rights. Cyprus was also concerned about the severe situation in Syria, which was one of the most serious humanitarian crises in recent decades. Regarding Ukraine, Cyprus commended the initiative which brought about the Minsk agreement of 12 February and called upon all parties to refrain from actions that would jeopardize the fragile ceasefire.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said that the Council was created nine years ago with the main purpose of effectively addressing human rights violations and asked whether the Council had succeeded in meeting challenges in the field of human rights and if its prevention mechanisms worked appropriately. The human rights situation in the annexed Crimea was that of serious systematic violations affecting mostly Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians. The application of Russia’s laws in contravention of United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/262 had serious human rights implications, including the arrests and detention of Crimean Tatar activists, forced displacement of over 10,000 Crimean Tatars to mainland Ukraine, and violations of the right to freedom of worship of Muslims and those belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Acts carried out in Crimea since its occupation by Russia constituted a pattern of racial discrimination on the basis of ethnic distinction. More than 6,000 deaths, more than 500,000 injured and over a million internally displaced persons – this was the human toll paid by Ukraine for Russia’s intervention.

HASSAN AL-SAGHIR, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Libya, said that the present Government wished to overcome tensions among the different components of Libya’s society. Unfortunately people were still suffering the consequences of past policies. The weakness of the army and police force also posed a problem. Libya faced challenges of organized crime, migration and other risks and could not act alone against them. The recent terrorist acts showed the incapacity of the State to deal with these acts on its own. The political crisis had worsened the situation in Libya and military attacks had resulted. One of the worst attacks was the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas. Hospitals were also targeted. There had been acts of torture and execution on the basis of tribal or religious affiliations. Libya condemned all these acts, stating that they had to be punished. In conclusion, Mr. Al-Saghir asked the international community to support Libya in overcoming the political and security crises which were beyond the capacity of the Government alone. This support would have to be united and coordinated, in order to uphold Libya’s territorial integrity. Political and security support was needed in order for Libya to move forward on human rights. The improvement of the security situation would have a positive effect on the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country.

PETER MAURER, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that in most of the contexts discussed during the session, the International Committee of the Red Cross witnessed the effects of war on people and that many of the issues on the agenda of the Council were core to the Red Cross’s activity. The reality of conflicts today was a catalogue of inhumanity and the way armed conflict was evolving – more in number, longer in duration and broader regional impact – and was generating more suffering and increasing vulnerabilities. Violence and destruction were steadily swelling the flows of refugees and internally displaced persons. Humanity was being openly challenged by the mediatised display of the inhumane treatment of prisoners and hostages, which required a decisive response, without stigmatization, to the culture of unlimited violence. Turning humanity into action called for genuine political commitment, for going beyond the law and integrating the relevant norms into an operational framework so that they became part of the real life of people. States must be willing to deploy the necessary efforts and means to monitor, ensure compliance and put an end to violations of the law when they occurred. It was their responsibility to develop the capacities to examine the causes and consequences of violence and to prevent its recurrence; it was up to them to put in place accountability mechanisms and to exert responsible self-restraint when using force.

Right of Reply

Syria, speaking in a right of reply, pointed to the devastating role of the United States in the Middle East and double standards in the application of international human rights standards. Syria highlighted the brutal treatment by Israel of Syrian refugees in the Golan Heights, in particular the treatment of Syrian refugees in Israeli hospitals. Syria also responded to the statements made by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, noting that they sponsored terrorism. Syria appealed to the Human Rights Council to prevent their actions.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, rejected allegations made by a number of delegations today, which were politically motivated and had nothing to do with human rights. The report of the commission of inquiry was based on false information. The United States had no legitimacy to raise human rights issues in other countries, considering its domestic human rights record. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called for accountability for human rights violations and war crimes perpetrated by the United States and its allies. It also rejected Japan’s calls for the adoption of a new resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which would be based on false allegations.

Saudi Arabia, speaking in a right of reply, said in response to comments made by Norway that it did not accept interference in its domestic affairs, which violated the principle of the State’s sovereignty. The legal system in Saudi Arabia fully respected human rights in conformity with Sharia law. With regard to the statement made by Syria, this did not even deserve an answer, Saudi Arabia said.

Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply to comments made by Norway, said that allegations of harassment of civil society were baseless. The Ethiopian proclamation was based on best practices from many countries and Ethiopia rejected Norway’s allegations.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said the report of the commission of inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was based on the testimony of numerous witnesses and the resolution concerning that country was a reflection of the concern of the international community. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should listen to this concern and respond to it.

Syria, speaking in a second right of reply in response to what the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia had said, said that the financial power of Saudi Arabia should not make them forget the human rights situation in the country. Syria pointed to the fact that women could not drive cars, and there were problems in Saudi Arabia with education and the right to freedom of religion and opinion.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Japan had no right to give lectures on human rights since it had itself failed to acknowledge its past crimes against humanity. Japan should better abandon its hostile policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and should instead present a resolution on its own past crimes.

Saudi Arabia, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected comments just made by Syria pretending that it was at the forefront of combatting terrorism. The Syrian regime was responsible for the death of over 200,000 civilians and the displacement of many more. ISIS would never have existed without encouragement by the Syrian regime.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that it was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to concerns by the international community. Regarding issues of the past, Japan said that peace, democracy and respect for human rights were at the heart of Japanese society.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that the situation in Ukraine gave rise to serious concerns. Russia expressed hope that the many crimes against civilians in Mariupol, Odessa and other cities would be investigated. Russia called upon Ukraine to fully implement the Minsk agreement of 12 February.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC15/011E