HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON NELSON MANDELA INTERNATIONAL DAY
Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms and on the Universal Periodic Review
21 September 2012
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a panel discussion on Nelson Mandela International Day, after which it concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms and on the Universal Periodic Review.
The panel was opened with the showing of a short film on the life of Nelson Mandela, and an address by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who said that this panel discussion aimed at inspiring individuals across the globe to take action to engrain Nelson Mandela’s values of reconciliation, racial harmony, peace and freedom in the realization of human rights for all.
Ms. Pillay said the life of Nelson Mandela was a true testimony to what could be achieved with strength of character and personal commitment both in the lives of individuals and of nations. In honouring him, the world also had to think of all those who had been arbitrarily detained or denied fair trial, and those who continued to suffer oppression, discrimination and prejudice.
The panellists were Francis Gurry, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization; Jean-Marie Ehozou, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva; and Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa.
Francis Gurry, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said that there were at least two teachings from the life of Nelson Mandela that were relevant for multilateral work: the profound and sophisticated ethic of Ubuntu, and the need to deal with opposites; his life was the best guide on how to deal with the opposition and oppression.
Jean-Marie Ehozou, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that President Mandela was undoubtedly the most influential political prisoner of the twentieth century, and one of the most important African reformers. The values of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction that he promoted must govern common action and policies to protect human rights.
Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, noted that the values of unity and of solidarity were intimately connected with the concept of Ubuntu, often explained as African humanism. The relevance of those values to violence, conflict resolution, race relations, reconciliation, gender equality, and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups spoke for itself and showed what the global economy should be.
In the ensuing discussion delegations stressed the universality and enduring nature of Nelson Mandela’s work which belonged to the whole of humanity and should guide the international community in building a more just, tolerant and democratic world. The continuing relevance of the values he had come to represent, namely peace, reconciliation, non-discrimination and equality, were at the heart of human rights. Speakers further said that many challenges remained in the global struggle to overcome racism, xenophobia and all forms discrimination and intolerance, and that there was a need to enforce intentions through concrete actions.
Speaking in the discussion were Burkina Faso, China in a joint statement, Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Greece, Chile, Morocco, Republic of Congo, Italy, Cuba, United Kingdom, European Union, Austria, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Ireland, Thailand, Portugal, Sweden, Brazil, Finland, Venezuela, United States, Bangladesh, Australia and Algeria. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: North-South XXI, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Association of World Citizens.
The Human Rights Council then concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms in which the following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Verein Sudwind Entwicklungpolitik, Amnesty International, North-South XXI, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, World Environment and Resources Council and Association of World Citizens.
In the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers said that the preparation and the follow up to the Review had a mobilizing effect with a potential to make a difference on the ground. The modalities of the second cycle aimed at striking a better balance between the implementation of the recommendations and the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground, but made it harder for national non-governmental organizations to participate.
Speaking were Cyprus on behalf of the European Union, Russia, Republic of Moldova, China, Malaysia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Kuwait, Sweden, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Morocco and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Universal Periodic Review Info, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Federation of Democratic Youth, Worldwide Organization for Women, Canners International Permanent Committee, International Service for Human Rights, France Libertés: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Commission to Study Organization of Peace, World Muslim Congress, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, International Human rights Association of American Minorities, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Center for Environmental and Management Studies, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Democracy in Africa, Human Rights Law Center, Maryam Ghaemi Educational Charity and World Environment and Resources Council.
The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 September, when it is scheduled to hear the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the fact-finding mission to Gaza and hold a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.
Nelson Mandela International Day Panel
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that today’s panel discussion was aimed at inspiring individuals across the globe to take action to engrain Nelson Mandela’s values of reconciliation, racial harmony, peace and freedom in the realization of human rights for all. The life of Nelson Mandela was a true testimony to what could be achieved with strength of character and personal commitment both in the lives of individuals and of nations. In honouring him, they also had to think of all those who had been arbitrarily detained or denied a fair trial, and those who continued to suffer oppression, discrimination and prejudice. They were not to be forgotten just because they were unknown. Mr. Mandela’s resolute search for truth, justice and reconciliation endeared him to all, including his detractors. As President, Nelson Mandela upheld the ideals and principles which he proclaimed during his trial and incarceration and continued with his philosophy of building bridges across the racial divide.
The most stirring voice to come out of the southern tip of Africa, Nelson Mandela had brought his message of freedom, equality, racial harmony and human dignity to the entire world. The best way to honour him for being such an inspiration was by applying his values and striving to live in a way that respected and enhanced the freedom of others.
Statements by Panellists
FRANCIS GURRY, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said that, while not being an expert in human rights he intended to speak about his experience in multilateral work and the relevance of Nelson Mandela. There were at least two teachings from the life of Nelson Mandela that were relevant for multilateral work, on the one hand, the profound and sophisticated ethic of Ubuntu and, on the other, the need to deal with opposites. Ubuntu had been characterised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the idea that one could not exist as a human being in isolation but through interconnectedness. No man was an island, entire of itself. Each was a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Mr. Gurry referred to John Donne’s poetry and Chinese poetry to underline the universality of the acknowledgement of human interdependence and its importance to addressing the challenges of global society. On the other hand, multilateralism was challenged by its incapacity to deal with opposition and opposites, which was relevant to the work of intellectual property and the difficulty to balance interests and equities in the world of innovation. There was no better guide on how to deal with opposition or the importance of interconnectedness than the life of Nelson Mandela and his own efforts to deal with oppression.
JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that President Mandela was undoubtedly the most influential political prisoner of the twentieth century, and one of the most important African reformers. His long period of detention and his belief in the cause make Mr. Mandela an international human rights symbol. In spite of the popularity of his party, President Mandela had chosen an inclusive and participatory approach, attempting to involve all political forces in South Africa. This approach had given rise to a peaceful and constructive atmosphere and the promotion and protection of human rights. This cult of the other was the cornerstone of all successful negotiations and processes of conflict resolution. Only by understanding the fears and needs of the other could one establish a dialogue which was conducive to the re-establishment of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. President Mandela had also distinguished himself by his fight against poverty, and had compared the injustice of poverty and inequity to apartheid. For him, winning over poverty was not a gesture of charity; it was an act of justice. For President Mandela, the fight against poverty was based on the protection of fundamental human rights, the right to dignity and a decent live. As long as poverty persisted, there was no real freedom.
ANDRIES NEL, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa, said that it was an honour to participate in the panel. The discussion was important, to explore how values of reconciliation, peace, freedom and reconciliation should inform the programmes of United Nations agencies and other international organizations. The values of unity and of solidarity were intimately connected with the concept of Ubuntu, often explained as African humanism. The relevance of those values to violence, conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality, and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups spoke for itself. Their relevance should also be clear to the way in which they managed global governance and what the global economy should be. Inspirational leaders such as Nelson Mandela should be honoured by everyone working in whatever institution, national or multinational, by emulating, living and incorporating in institutional practice the values that guided such leaders.
Burkina Faso said that Nelson Mandela symbolised peace, tolerance and the need to combat racial discrimination. The promotion of values such as multiculturalism constituted an important part of human rights education. China, in a joint statement, commended the decision by the General Assembly to honour Nelson Mandela, who had dedicated an important part of his life to changing the world for the better. The values he stood for should be mainstreamed; they should contribute to international dialogue and the promotion of human rights, including the combat against racism and xenophobia. Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the fact that the Council had taken ownership of Nelson Mandela day through the panel, which provided an opportunity to promote human rights, amidst current challenges such as the persistence of discrimination and xenophobia. Greece said it had been happy to sponsor the resolution and emphasised the importance of the example of Nelson Mandela and continuing to fight against racism and discrimination. Chile stressed the importance of solidarity and diversity, relevant to the Council and multilateral action. The life of Nelson Mandela stood for justice, human dignity and freedom, and it was a source of inspiration during the reconciliation process in Chile.
Morocco said that Nelson Mandela day stressed the universality and enduring nature of his work, which belonged to the whole of humanity and should guide the international community to build a more just, tolerant and democratic world.
Republic of Congo paid tribute to Nelson Mandela and the importance of his work for the defence of fundamental rights and freedoms, and the aspirations and ideas he fought for during his life. Italy was pleased to celebrate the values of reconciliation, peace, freedom and equality which inspired the life of Nelson Mandela and many people around the world. Cuba said that Nelson Mandela’s exemplary life made a unique contribution to bringing down apartheid. His dedication to humanity and conflict resolution constituted an imperishable symbol of resistance against repression and a model for activists around the world. United Kingdom said that it recognized the continuing relevance of values that Nelson Mandela had come to represent, namely peace, reconciliation, non-discrimination and equality, which were placed at the heart of human rights. Despite many advances, there were many challenges in the global struggle to overcome racism, xenophobia and all forms discrimination and intolerance. There was a need to enforce intentions through concrete actions. European Union said that it was important to promote dialogue between Governments, the United Nations and other stakeholders. The fight against discrimination and intolerance was a priority for the European Union. Many global challenges remained, and a multilateral and multi-stakeholder response was required.
Austria said Nelson Mandela’s struggle should serve as an example on how to create an inclusive society and an environment of mutual understanding. To effectively address all forms of intolerance, concerted action was needed at all levels. The media could play an important role. The importance of human rights education was emphasised, and it was a fundamental part of Austrian education policy. Organization of Islamic Cooperation said that the best tribute that could be paid to Nelson Mandela was to heed the messages he voiced and continued to voice. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation shared the idea that dialogue was important and had focused intensively on that. There should be a rapprochement between cultures and religions and strength should be drawn from differences. Ireland said that without reconciliation and efforts to understand the fear and insecurity of others, Nelson Mandela had seen that one could only go so far to ‘overcome fear of bondage, and the bondage of fear’. Ireland asked the panel for its views on how values of tolerance and reconciliation could be harnessed to promote racial equality. Thailand said that it firmly believed that human rights education played a key role in addressing and combating racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Challenges remained and it was vital for Governments to provide effective remedies and ensure victims had access to justice. With courage and determination, there was no reason to give up.
Portugal said that the teachings and guidance that Mandela had given had to be recalled as many times as possible. He represented the final triumph of hope over fear, over inequity, and discrimination and intolerance. His main achievement had been to show that it was possible to make a difference and overcome even what were apparently insurmountable obstacles. Sweden said Nelson Mandela had made an immeasurable contribution to human rights in South Africa and around the world and had realised the importance of accountability. There was a strong need for the kind of leadership that Mandela had provided, with tolerance, compassion, and also justice. The best way to pay tribute to him was to do their own homework, and promote his values. Brazil said that Nelson Mandela International Day inspired people to promote the values shared and exemplified by Nelson Mandela. In the Durban Declaration’s Plan of Action it was clearly stated that inspiration had been drawn from the heroic struggle against the institutionalised system of apartheid in South Africa.
Finland said that the values defended by Nelson Mandela – peace, freedom, racial equality and tolerance – were closely related to mediation. In this regard, Finland emphasized the need for a strengthened role of civil society and women. Finland was committed to making every effort to combat racism and discrimination, both nationally and internationally. Venezuela said that throughout their history, the people of the South had been victims of racism and racial discrimination. Venezuela was concerned that these trends were reappearing, notably in the form of neo-Nazi movements. Venezuela had always fought to eliminate such trends, both nationally and internationally. United States said that in honouring President Mandela’s legacy, there was a need to work together to promote human rights in the twenty-first century. States should lead the fight against intolerance and discrimination of all kinds. Limiting speech was not an effective way to understanding; dialogue had played an important role in ending apartheid.
Bangladesh said that Nelson Mandela was an international icon for promoting a culture of peace, not only for the people of South Africa, but for the whole world. Bangladesh believed that the values that Mr. Mandela represented could strengthen international dialogue. It was time to renew the commitment to uphold justice – not only in words, but also in deeds. Australia said it remained a strong supporter of the Council’s focus on harnessing the human rights system to combat racism. While Aboriginal people continued to suffer the consequences of colonialisation, Australia had recognized the importance of acknowledging historical injustice and reconciliation. Algeria said that Mr. Mandela had devoted his whole life to fight for vulnerable groups and anchor the culture of peace. Algeria was convinced that the holding of this panel would contribute to a constructive dialogue about the ills that continued to face society. This day should be a reminder that more work was needed to combat racial discrimination throughout the world.
North-South XXI said its members, such as Ramsey Clark, had championed Nelson Mandela’s cause to such an extent as to risk arrest by the apartheid authorities in an effort to visit Robben Island while Mr. Mandela had been imprisoned there. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said that human beings were the cure of other human beings, as an African saying had it. Nelson Mandela represented the remedy for South Africa, for the African continent and for the entire world, which was suffering from structural violence. CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that it had been inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision of the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. His work towards reconciliation served as a positive example of healing from past injustices. It was necessarily and timely to reflect on the values of this iconic figure. Association of World Citizens said that the Government established after apartheid had committed itself to making every effort to improve the conditions of children. While a particular focus had been placed on AIDS orphans, according to Mr. Mandela’s wish, the Association hoped that all children could enjoy a new life and opportunities.
FRANCIS GURRY, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, reiterated the relevance of the values reflected in the life of Nelson Mandela to methodological issues in the field of intellectual property. Through international instruments, States were able to reconcile seemingly opposed positions, for example that between the different rights of creators and consumers of intellectual property. Similarly, the question of traditional knowledge and generic resources represented an opportunity for the World Intellectual Property Organization to move from a situation in which the knowledge basis was Western to a knowledge basis that was universal. Mediation as a method of conflict resolution was another important area. In the field of intellectual property where productive assets constituted both the basis of conflicts and of continuing business relations, mediation appeared as a way of conflict resolution in a non-adversarial manner.
JEAN-MARIE EHOZOU, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all speakers who took the floor during the panel and indicated that the values that Nelson Mandela defended during his life should also be the values defended by the African Union and should permeate all its structures. For example, the African Union condemned any political change that was unconstitutional in nature and implemented sanctions accordingly. Furthermore, the African Union offered support to reconciliation through dialogue through several committees of wise persons, individuals who embodied the values of peace, dialogue and reconciliation. These values, associated with the life of Nelson Mandela, should be clearly anchored throughout the continent.
ANDRIES NEL, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa, in concluding remarks expressed gratitude to the Council for having this valuable discussion. In relation to questions posed regarding the effectiveness of bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, the World Intellectual Property Organization and other organizations in combating racism, Mr. Nel thought it was a very complex discussion which there was no hope of doing justice to in the time available. However, he thought that one answer to those questions lay in the infusion of the values of unity and solidarity, or Ubuntu as was alluded to, in policies and practices of those organizations. Human dignity was something multifaceted and entailed the ability to live out political and civil rights, but also depended on the realization of social and economic rights. Nelson Mandela’s concept of a ‘workable dream’ was something that should guide all as they went about work in all sorts of institutions they found themselves in.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Verein Sudwind reiterated the rejection of any acts of reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations and the Council. Verein Sudwind complained that State delegates continued to photograph and make videos of representatives of non-governmental organizations without their permission. It urged the Council to implement mechanisms to prevent members of repressive States from intimidating and harassing non-governmental organization members.
Amnesty International said that many in the Council were concerned about the potential that some States would use this vague concept to justify human rights violations or unwarranted limitations on rights. Members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who performed a protest song calling on the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Vladimir Putin had been tried for making a legitimate peaceful protest and were detained for the expression of their views.
North-South XXI noted that the paper on human rights and international solidarity prepared by the Advisory Committee emphasised equality between all sovereign States and between all peoples, and the equitable sharing of natural resources and the right to peace; and urged States to renew their commitment to protect basic human rights.
Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme welcomed the report of the annual meeting of the mandate holders and the Chairperson of the Working Groups of Special Procedures. Member States should respond positively to requests for visits and ensure that no civil society organization or its members was subjected to reprisal or intimidation for being in touch with Special Procedures or other United Nations human rights mechanisms.
World Environment and Resources Council said that honor killings and harassment by Pakistani forces against natives of Gilgit-Baltistan required immediate attention. Without the help of the international community, the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan could not stop Pakistani illegal settlers from such excesses. Pakistan should withdraw its troops and citizens from the area, thus helping the natives regain dignity and control over their land and resources.
Association of World Citizens said for the past two years Switzerland had been asking non-governmental organizations to pay interns who serviced the United Nations so that they could lead a decent life. The work of these professionals should be recognized. But how could human rights interns be helped to ensure they had financial support?
General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review
Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Universal Periodic Review was not only relevant in Geneva; the preparation and the follow up to the Review had mobilizing effect with a potential to make a difference on the ground. It was a great credit to the process that all States participated in it; the outcome of this process depended not only on the quality of recommendations but also on the commitment to implement them.
Russia stressed that the Universal Periodic Review had proven its value in enabling a non-politicized and constructive dialogue between Member States and it must not be transformed into a tribunal. Shortcomings of the process must be addressed - for example its website - and solutions must be found before the start of the fourteenth session of the Working Group.
Republic of Moldova reiterated its support to the Universal Periodic Review and said that the modalities of the second cycle aimed at striking a better balance between the implementation of the recommendations and the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground. The implementation of the recommendations was a determining factor for the efficacy of this mechanism and reflected the commitment of a State to human rights.
China congratulated those countries whose Universal Periodic Review had been adopted during this Council session and the constructive dialogue and cooperation on human rights issues. China would continue to adhere to the principles of objectivity, transparency, non-selectivity, non-confrontation and non-politicisation and to respect the development path it independently chose. China also reiterated concern regarding the publication of highlights on the Universal Periodic Review discussions by the Office of the High Commissioner without prior consultation with the concerned States.
Malaysia said that the Universal Periodic Review was an important and valuable mechanism in assisting States to assess and evaluate themselves and provided an opportunity for other States to provide their views as to how particular improvements could be made. Malaysia believed that the review should not be abused by States to demean or name or shame each other or to further other agendas. While civil society participation was important, the forum should not be used to make unproven, baseless or unfounded accusations.
Ecuador reiterated concerns regarding the legality of the publication of highlights on the Universal Periodic Review discussions published online by the Office of the High Commissioner. Neither the General Assembly nor the Council had asked the High Commissioner about the elaboration of any documents concerning States’ review process nor had concerned States been consulted. In the case of Ecuador, despite the positive feedback received and publicly noted, the highlights contained a biased and misguiding focus on negative aspects.
Uruguay said that there was a clear international consensus that the Universal Periodic Review had made great progress in strengthening the system for the promotion and protection of human rights. However, without monitoring of compliance, the commitments undertaken by States would simply constitute promises and remain unfulfilled expectations. Uruguay, for its part, had in 2009 accepted all 88 recommendations submitted to it. Uruguay called on the Council members to make every effort to produce interim reports in order to strengthen the Council’s monitoring capacity.
Kuwait said that it paid particular importance to the Universal Periodic Review, which was a motivation for countries to pursue the promotion and protection of human rights and to check the commitments undertaken. Kuwait went through the review in 2010, approving many recommendations and endeavouring to implement them. Some States had recommended that Kuwait strengthen cooperation with treaty bodies, and it had accepted this recommendation.
Sweden said that it was fully aware that ensuring respect for international human rights obligations was a continuous process. Dialogue and regular scrutiny such as the Universal Periodic Review contributed to that work. Sweden’s commitment was also visible through its increased contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Its mid-term report outlined the progress achieved in the implementation of recommendations accepted during the Review in May 2010.
Pakistan reiterated the point regarding documentation for the Universal Periodic Review, that a stand alone submission by a Special Procedure or any United Nations mechanism or entity could not be part of the compilation. Pakistan thanked the Office for the explanation it had been given, that the “misunderstanding” stemmed from “different interpretations” of what constituted an “official document” and that the Office had already established a practice of obtaining such stand alone inputs from United Nations entities. However, Pakistan requested that the explanation be put to it in writing so that it may further be considered.
Republic of Korea said it was continuing its work in a steadfast and earnest manner towards preparing for its own second Review, to be held in October 2012. In preparations, the Government had begun engaging constructively with other various partners and stakeholders and had actively sought to incorporate the interest of many, including those at the grass-roots level.
Brazil said that the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review had been a success and a cooperation mechanism for the promotion and protection human rights, and the second cycle had equally begun positively. Brazil reiterated the concern regarding the publication of Universal Periodic Review highlights by the Office of the High Commissioner that were beyond its role and the universality of coverage and equal treatment to all States should be respected.
Sri Lanka attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review process but noted with concern certain deviations relating to the process. The continued publication of Universal Periodic Review media reports on the countries under review, unilaterally prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner, was selective, subjective and arbitrary and in contravention of the intergovernmental nature of the process.
Morocco welcomed the adoption of Universal Periodic Review reports during the current session and congratulated the President for the modality for the selection of the speakers; nevertheless, it had become harder for national non-governmental organizations to participate. Morocco encouraged all countries to submit voluntary mid-term reports in order to strengthen the implementation of recommendations in follow-up to their review process.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stressed the importance of the mechanism for the enhancement of the protection of persons of concern and said that during the first cycle, more that 1,200 recommendations explicitly referred to issues related to asylum, forced displacement or statelessness in 153 countries. The ultimate value of this mechanism was to be judged by the real change on the ground for the benefit of persons affected by forced displacement or statelessness.
Universal Periodic Review Info in a joint statement was alarmed at the increasingly common practice of States altering or retracting recommendations they had publicly made during the Universal Periodic Review of a country through back-room political trade-offs that lacked any transparency or accountability. This practice went to the heart of the legitimacy of the process and its relevance to civil society and others.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence in a joint statement said that the biggest disease of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was politicization and that was why it must be objective, transparent and impartial. The Council should create a practical mechanism to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of non-governmental organizations.
World Federation of Democratic Youth in a joint statement expressed disappointment with the final report of the Universal Periodic Review on Morocco. It contained false information that the World Federation insisted on bringing to the attention to the Council, including the political status of Western Sahara. States should not use the review to ignore and conceal human rights violations.
Worldwide Organization for Women said that while Bahrain had accepted most Universal Periodic Review recommendations, human rights violations continued as violence was exercised against protesters and many opposition leaders and prisoners of conscience remained detained and had suffered from acts of torture.
Canners International Permanent Committee said that democracy was a form of Government of people from the people and for the people and India had been a successful democratic country because of its people’s moral responsibilities. Youth should be politically educated in order to be able to participate. Important barriers to democracy continued to exist today such as the Khalistani movement.
International Service for Human Rights said that as the Universal Periodic Review moved towards its second cycle, International Service noted obstacles facing it. These could easily be remedied but required firm commitment to the contribution of civil society. There was relatively little attention at the level of the Working Group to the risk that human rights defenders took when engaging in the process. The next session in October would be an opportunity to pay more attention to that.
France Liberté: Fondation Danielle Mitterand was concerned by the situation in the non-self-governed territory of Southern Sahara. That a recommended measure was accepted did not mean that implementation could be ensured, so it was necessary to develop a follow up mechanism to monitor, at any time, the implementation of accepted recommendations. This was important if there was to be an improvement in human rights everywhere in the world.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that the ills of oppression and racial and religious discrimination and tensions existed in both the developed and developing world. It was important that democratic societies had the structure and institutions to tackle those problems and provide a measure of redress to those affected by human rights violations.
World Muslim Congress regretted India’s apparent lack of support for recommendations that security forces should be held accountable for human rights violations. The World Muslim Congress was particularly concerned about the continued application of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. India’s refusal to repeal this act made a complete mockery of the Prime Minister’s announcement about a zero tolerance policy for human rights violations.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said it was delighted by the participation of four African States in this Universal Periodic Review cycle. Given the difficulties that many countries were confronted with, the organization launched a formal appeal to States to renew their funding. It also pleaded for the establishment of a programme of voluntary evaluation to render more effective the follow-up on accepted recommendations. In this endeavor, particular attention should be paid to countries in transition and conflict-affected countries.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that the Indian Government had only partially accepted the recommendations made to it. It was anguishing that India had failed to comprehensively address the recommendations calling for an end to impunity and repealing of laws which had led to widespread human rights violations, including disappearances and nameless mass graves. India was asked, through this forum, to enact laws on the prevention of torture and to repeal draconian laws.
OCAPROCE International said that India’s rejection of recommendations for repealing and reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was one of its most grave concerns, and it asked the Government through the Council to reconsider its position on this recommendation and repeal the law, as it was in contravention of international human rights instruments.
Centre for Environmental Management Studies said that it was well recognised that India’s Constitution of 1942 was much ahead of many democracies in granting rights to women. India had the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women in the world. However, there was a mismatch between the ideals of the social and cultural awakening and the reality on the ground, especially in rural areas.
CIVICUS said that there was inconsistency with the Review process in Bahrain where civil society was not consulted on the report, and its voice went unheard. It wished to let the Council know that it had felt intimidated by the Government delegation present and had been harassed within the United Nations building itself. It asked for the Council’s commitment so that the next four years of the process in the case of Bahrain would not be wasted.
International Democracy in Africa said that India was serving as a model not only in the region but for the whole world. India was not a nation sunk in gloom and the spirit of India needed to be understood and acknowledged. It had managed to build democratic institutions at all levels, from villages to cities. The civil control of all state institutions was a pillar guarding democracy in this country.
Human Rights Law Centre said that a number of recommendations had been made during the Universal Periodic Review of Australia concerning its refugee and asylum seeker policy. Australia had enacted the Migration Legislation Amendment Act in August that provided for asylum seekers arriving by boat, including unaccompanied children, to be taken to a third country for processing, which raised serious issues as to compliance with international treaties to which Australia was a party.
Maryam Ghaemi Educational Charity believed that at the end of the first round of the Universal Periodic Review, it was evident that the adoption of other mechanisms by the international community, such as country reports, had not yet had a chance to test its practicality. Non-governmental organizations could fulfil a monitoring role in the Universal Periodic Review process through preparation of their reports.
World Environment and Resources Council said that it was an often repeated criticism that the Indian Government only benefited a small part of its people, which did not include the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, more people at the bottom of the pyramid were demanding their share. While recent actions of the Indian justice system were significant indications that India was sensitive about human rights abuses, developed countries must realize that the Millennium Development Goals would not be achieved unless they were achieved in India.
ERIC TISTOUNET, Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in response to comments about the informal media highlights on the Universal Periodic Review, said that following the discussion last June and fears that the place where the notes had been placed on the website could lead people to assume that these were official documents, which they were not, the notes had been withdrawn from there. While he was prepared to discuss this matter, it was important to maintain the practice of making available informal media highlights from a point of view of transparency.
For use of the information media; not an official record