COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND GENERAL DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES AND MECHANISMS
21 September 2011
The Human Rights Council today held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It held a general debate on its agenda item dealing with human rights bodies and mechanisms: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Complaint Procedure, and Special Procedures. The Council also continued its interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, in concluding remarks, thanked all parties for expressing support for his mandate. The issue of the extracting industry was one of utmost importance, as indigenous people themselves highlighted. Responding to the question of Denmark, Mr. Anaya said that the Ruggie framework and the principles laid out by him were highly relevant for his work as they provided a common ground of understanding based on which more specific elements could be developed. Turning to the question about procedures for consulting with indigenous people, Mr. Anaya said it was important that States had appropriate procedures in place. Experience showed that outcomes and implications were otherwise often uncertain.
Wilton Littlechild, Member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that if a formalized consultation process for indigenous peoples were to be implemented than it should include free, prior and informed consent. Finland, Bolivia, Peru and Chile had all highlighted the important role of indigenous participation. Mr. Littlechild said the way forward in extractive industries was to focus on the participation of indigenous peoples. Concerning the European Union’s question on the forthcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Littlechild stressed the need for participation in advance of that conference. Indigenous women should have equal participation in all decision making and Mr. Littlechild noted there was considerable work to be done on this issue.
In the interactive dialogue, speakers said that the work of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supported national work on indigenous issues. Support was expressed for the Expert Mechanism’s study on indigenous people and the right to participate in decision making which highlighted the importance that indigenous people’s views were heard. The analysis of extractive operations within or near the territory of indigenous peoples from a human rights perspective was an important step in the process of sensibilisation and awareness of the negative effects these had had in the past of indigenous peoples, particularly given the close link between these peoples with their land and natural resources. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not an end in itself but a new stage for obtaining the rights of millions of indigenous peoples around the world thereby allowing them to maintain their own cultural practices and religious and spiritual beliefs.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Colombia, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,
Chile, Australia, Brazil, United States, Uruguay, Russian Federation, Cuba, Canada, China, Paraguay, Panama, Ecuador, Germany, Ethiopia and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Defensoria del Peru, France Liberte, International Association of Schools of Social Work, International Committee for the Indians of America, Vivat International, International Indian Treaty Council, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action on behalf of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Saami Council, and Indian Law Resource Centre.
The interactive dialogue on indigenous peoples started on 20 September and a summary can be found in press release HRC/11/118.
In the general debate on its agenda item dealing with human rights bodies and mechanisms: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Complaint Procedure, and Special Procedures, speakers said Special Procedures were one of the most important tools of the Human Rights Council. Field visits gave valuable insight. Significant encouragement of cooperation between States and the mandate holders was necessary. The free and unhindered contact between individuals and mandate holders was an essential part of the process and speakers echoed the call of the High Commissioner for States to stop the unacceptable practice of reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations. They noted with satisfaction the number of standing invitations made during the Universal Periodic Review to the Special Procedures. This being said, speakers stressed again that this commitment must be followed through by timely responses to Special Procedures and they invited all States to continue to cooperate with Special Procedure mandate holders and promote an open dialogue in the performance of their tasks. Civil society and human rights institutions were essential partners to promote human rights on the ground and it was vital to ensure the security of those who cooperated with mandate holders.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Poland on behalf of the European Union, Latvia in a joint statement, Norway, and the Republic of Moldova. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Syriac Universal Alliance, Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, Indian Council of South America, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Network of Women’s Non Governmental Organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, France Liberte Foundation Danielle Mitterrand, Colombian Commission of Jurists, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Indian Council of Education, International Institute for Non-Aligned studies, Incomindious, Earth Justice/Commission of International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Liberation, and Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme.
In the interactive dialogue on the report of High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus, speakers said that in spite of some steps taken lately by the Belarusian authorities – in particular the recent release of several political prisoners – the human rights situation in the country remained characterized by ongoing and systematic repression and widespread human rights violations. The Belarusian authorities were urged to cooperate fully with the Special Procedures and all Human Rights Council and other multilateral and regional human rights mechanisms. Other speakers said that the situation of human rights in Belarus did not require a reaction from the international community and the Council. The recent resolution by the Council on Belarus had been counterproductive and politicized. No country was free from violations of human rights and existing problems needed to be discussed. However, this discussion had to take place on an equal footing and with respect. The Universal Periodic Review was the right context for this dialogue and Belarus had gone through the review last year.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on Belarus were the European Union, Russian Federation, Norway, Cuba, Hungary, India, United States, Pakistan, Lithuania, Mexico, Germany, China, France, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Venezuela, Iran, Canada, Sweden, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Philippines and the United Kingdom.
The interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Belarus started on 20 September and a summary can be found in press release HRC/11/117. The interactive dialogue will be continued at a future meeting of the Council.
The Human Rights Council is today holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. This afternoon, it will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Somalia, Seychelles and Solomon Islands.
Interactive Dialogue on Indigenous Issues
ALVARO ENRIQUE AYALA MELENDEZ (Colombia) said that Colombia had advanced legislation which recognized the rights of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples made up 3.4 per cent of Colombia’s population and efforts to ensure the protection of their rights prioritized the recognition of their territory, protected through the establishment of reservations across the territory of Colombia. A different focus which recognized the right of people affected by violence was also in place. Among other measures, roundtables with indigenous people at the local level addressing issues of security and protection had been scheduled. The promotion and protection of rights of indigenous people must be accompanied by changes in their daily lives; therefore there were efforts to improve access to health services and increase the number of indigenous people under health insurance coverage, eventually aiming at universal coverage. In order to maintain cultural diversity, legislation on languages aimed at protecting indigenous languages in Colombia and implementing educational programmes; in this regard, the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 had become part of the constitution of Colombia and regulated consultations with indigenous people.
EDGARDO TORO CARRENO (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) said the Special Rapporteur in his report said he aimed to create a minimum common understanding of the content and scope of the rights of indigenous peoples. In this respect, the Venezuelan State, in dealing with the rights of indigenous peoples, had moved forward in all of its processes. In the report on the fourth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there was the final study on good practices. Venezuela had participated actively in the session and Venezuela’s goal was to continue to support this work. Venezuela as a State party to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples gave special protection to the rights of those peoples. Venezuela was concerned with settling a historic debt owed to its original peoples.
VICENTE ZERAN (Chile) said that the work of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supported national work on these issues. Chile noted that on 26 November 2010, the regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had carried out in Santiago, Chile a training session on the various United Nations mechanisms dealing with indigenous peoples. Chile said that participation was critical for indigenous people. Concerning extractive industries and their impacts on indigenous peoples, Chile recommended that this should be taken up in a broad context, extending the concept into the field of corporate social responsibility in order to find a common ground of understanding between various actors. Chile noted the situation of hunger strikers among the Rapa Nui people and said there was now a situation of normalcy on the island which had provided an opportunity to engage in dialogue on a wide range of issues impacting the Rapa Nui. Chile reiterated its commitment to work with the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
RUTH STONE (Australia) said that the Expert Mechanism’s study on indigenous people and the right to participate in decision making highlighted the importance that indigenous people’s views were heard. Australia was pleased to announce that it would contribute 100,000 dollars to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, in addition to funding provided through the Australian Human Rights Commission. Australia acknowledged the important work undertaken by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Australia had contributed to his questionnaire on natural resource extraction and development project on or near indigenous territories. The Special Rapporteur would present a specific set of guidelines or principles by 2013. Australia asked the Expert Mechanism to comment on ways to ensure the participation of indigenous women in decision making. Australia's native title and land rights regimes gave indigenous people the right to negotiate with mining companies on access to their lands. In this context, Australia asked the Special Rapporteur on ways to further ensure such negotiations provided sustainable and significant benefits to traditional owners.
JOAO G. DE ALMEIDA (Brazil) said that 13 per cent of Brazil’s territory constituted indigenous land. In cases where hydraulic energy potentials or resources were found in indigenous land, the related energetic potentials and resources could only take place with authorization of the national congress. The principle of consultation was incorporated into the constitutional order of Brazil since 1988 and was reinforced with the ratification of ILO convention 169 and Brazil’s vote on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Consultation processes should aim not only at informing but also to allow these populations to impact on the decisions made. Peoples should receive information sensible to their cultural context and to their technical knowledge. A number of projects had been altered, suspended or even cancelled after consultation with affected indigenous communities. The Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant consultation with indigenous peoples resulted in the reduction eight times of the originally planned flooded area and avoiding the subtraction of indigenous land.
AMIRA FOUAD (United States) said the United States had invited Special Rapporteur Anaya to visit the United States early next year and looked forward to the chance to continue a cooperative relationship with the Special Rapporteur. The United States assured the Special Rapporteur that it had not responded to one of his communications because of an administrative oversight and would be responding promptly. The United States supported the sustainable development of energy and mineral resources, including renewable resources and was proud that tribes participated in and benefited from natural resources development as beneficial owners of the resources and as regulators. Generally speaking, tribes were beneficial owners of surface and subsurface natural resources within Indian Country, including timber, energy and mineral resources. Regarding indigenous rights in the context of extractive processes, the United States invited Member States to review major federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal process that was socially inclusive of all groups and under which tribes were more than just a constituency but part of a larger process that addressed historical and cultural concerns.
FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay) said that the analysis of extractive operations within or near the territory of indigenous peoples from a human rights perspective was an important step in the process of sensibilisation and awareness of the negative effects these had had in the past of indigenous peoples, particularly given the close link between these peoples with their land and natural resources. Uruguay supported resolution 17/4 in which the Council approved the guiding principles for companies and human rights. These principles should continue to improve norms and practices in order to achieve tangible results for peoples and communities. Uruguay shared the view of the Special Rapporteur that there was a growing awareness and acceptance concerning responsibilities on this regard. This realization, that a common normative framework and institutional safeguards were necessary when it came to the extraction of natural resources, was important. Uruguay agreed that this objective could be achieved through concrete principles that allowed actors to comply with international norms concerning the protection of rights of indigenous peoples. Dialogue among stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, governments and companies was crucial in order to make progress in the establishment of these guidelines.
ALEXEY AKZHIGITOV (Russian Federation) said the Expert Mechanism and the Special Rapporteur had different approaches to the issue of the participation of indigenous peoples and that the approaches complemented each other. The participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that affected them was given great attention in Russia. The topic chosen by the Special Rapporteur was topical and complicated. Russia supported the conclusion on the need for dialogue between government business and indigenous peoples. Russia sought information on advanced practices in this area to promote dialogue.
YUMIRKA FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not an end in itself but a new stage for obtaining the rights of millions of indigenous people around the world, thereby allowing them to maintain their own cultural practices and religious and spiritual beliefs. There were few countries that recognized the right of indigenous people to land as Cuba did and furthermore the Government of Cuba defended the right of all peoples, including indigenous peoples, to be different. For centuries indigenous peoples had suffered from racism and were stripped of their land and resources. In Cuba, the process of colonization had nearly wiped out the native population. The United Nations had important work to do in improving the rights of indigenous peoples and Cuba would continue to cooperate with all Member States on this important issue.
LORRAINE ANDERSON (Canada) welcomed the new members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Canadian Dr. Wilton Littlechild, and thanked the Expert Mechanism for their ongoing work. Canada noted the release of the final report by the Expert Mechanisms of the study on indigenous peoples and their participation on decision making. Canada welcomed the opportunity to make a submission in 2010 and a statement concerning this study in July. Canada appreciated the inclusion of examples of good practices highlighted in this report. It looked forward to participating in this afternoon’s panel on the role of language and culture in promoting and protecting the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples and to continuing to work with the Expert Mechanism on indigenous rights.
QI QIAOXIQ (China) said indigenous civilizations had profound histories and glorious achievements. Indigenous people were often discriminated against and suffered from slow economic and social development. Often indigenous peoples lived under threat of poverty and diseases. Although China did not have indigenous peoples, China had always supported the protection of indigenous peoples internationally. As a multi-ethnic nation China had a policy of equality and unity and the Chinese Government always endeavoured to promote the rights of ethnic minorities. China was working to improve its laws and to protect the rights of ethnic minorities so that minorities could enjoy the fruits of development. The Chinese Government supported the United Nations in its work to help promote the rights of ethnic minorities. China was ready to strengthen cooperation in this area.
RAUL MARTINEZ (Paraguay) said that cooperation among United Nations bodies and Member States in the area of the rights of indigenous peoples was relevant because it integrated many points of view that could help guide States to tangible results. Paraguay agreed with the idea of a constant, extensive dialogue with Governments, corporations and indigenous peoples and noted that one of the major priorities was to maintain an inclusive dialogue in maintaining the rights of indigenous peoples.
ALBERTO NAVARRO BRIN (Panama) reiterated Paraguay’s open standing invitation for the Special Rapporteur to visit Panama. Concerning the impact of extractive industries on indigenous peoples in Panama and protests in March 2011 by the Ngobe-Bugle peoples concerning such activities, the National Government had adopted measures to restore law and order as a result of these protests. The Government had adopted a strategic development strategy for the seven indigenous peoples in five counties, with a focus on improved indicators for health and an emphasis on poverty. The plan was implemented in the areas of production and food security, bilingual education, health care and infrastructure development. The Government had also reinforced land ownership and land rights of indigenous peoples when they lived outside of their home territory.
ALFONSO MORALES (Ecuador) expressed thanks to the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples for their reports. Ecuador felt that the preparation of these documents was very important since they placed particular stress on the collective rights of indigenous communities and dealt with topical subjects. They also took into account the rights of indigenous communities with regards to the confiscation of ancestral lands. Ecuador had established social investments funds linked to natural resources of indigenous communities, based on surpluses of the oil production and directly invested by the State into the communities. Ecuador had adopted a new management model for oil which enabled coordination between the State, communities and the mining community. A specific proposal to avoid harm from oil extraction, aimed at avoiding environmental and social harms to indigenous communities, including communities which had not yet been contacted, had been presented in various international bodies. Ecuador supported the work undertaken by the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism and encouraged them to continue to promote subjects which were fundamental for the exercise and the guarantee of the rights of indigenous people.
KONRAD SCHARINGER (Germany) said respecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples was a matter that Germany took seriously. Germany supported the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations. Professor Anaya had pointed out that one of the most common barriers to the enjoyment of rights was threats to the traditional lands and resources of indigenous peoples. The German Development Cooperation was engaged on this issue in order to preserve natural land and territories. Germany asked what role could development cooperation play to support the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples. When it came to the question of sustainable advancement of the causes of indigenous peoples, what did the Special Rapporteur see as priority measures?
GIRMA KASSAYE AYEHU (Ethiopia) said although there were no indigenous peoples in its territory, Ethiopia guaranteed the human rights of all people in the country. Concerning the Special Rapporteur’s reference to the dam project, Gilgel Gibe III, Ethiopia said that an impact assessment which had been made of the project in August and it had communicated with the Special Rapporteur confirming that the construction of the dam would not displace any indigenous people in the country.
KSENIA GLEBOVA, of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that indigenous children faced glaring disparities across all human development indicators and a wide gap between legal commitments and the realization of their rights on the ground. Obstacles such as discrimination, marginalization and exclusion often remained the norm in the struggle towards realizing the rights of indigenous children as reflected by their higher mortality and school dropout rates. Despite comparatively higher levels of socio-economic development, indigenous children in developed countries also faced these disparities. As part of its renewed effort on indigenous issues, the United Nations Children’s Fund was proud to participate in the new United Nations Indigenous People’s Partnership. The Partnership was an important opportunity to strengthen the United Nations system in mainstreaming and integrating indigenous peoples’ rights in country level programming, and a crucial tool for accelerating progress towards fulfilling the rights of indigenous children and women. The United Nations Children’s Fund also looked forward to enhancing its support to and collaboration with the Special Rapporteur and other partners in the area of indigenous children’s rights.
KATHARINA ROSE, of Defensoria del Peru, said they were concerned about the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted. Defensoria del Peru had presented a draft law on the rights of indigenous peoples to be consulted. In August 2011 the Consultations Act had been promulgated. This developed the rights and procedures to be taken in development including consultation with indigenous peoples.
The Act represented a new milestone in the relations between the State and indigenous peoples.
JORGE HUENCHULLAN CAYUL, of France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said he was a spokesman for the Mapuche community. Since 1980 the Chilean Government had not consulted the Mapuche people before establishing major eucalyptus and pine plantations in Mapuche territory. This had continued to the present. There were two multinational companies administrating this area. Mapuche demands for land had been declared a crime. In 2006 Mapuche leaders had been subjected to multiple unfounded searches. Two minors had been targeted. The speaker said he had been subject to 15 trials in civilian courts and had never been condemned by Chilean court though he had spent three years in jail. The speaker called for the presence of United Nations observers at the trial of eight members of the Mapuche community in the city of Angul in the South of Chile.
IAN ERLUL, of International Association of Schools of Social Work, said the right to self-determination was a human right. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could not limit rights on self-determination, including the rights of the people of Alaska and Hawaii to self-determination. Poverty among indigenous people existed because of the historical exploitation of their land and resources by colonization. The local people of Alaska and Hawaii continued to be denied their rights to land and the only way to honor this injustice was to recognize the right to self-determination for these people. Alaska must be re-added to the list of non self-governing territories.
LEGBORSI SARO PYAGBARA, of International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (Incomindios Switzerland), said that oil extraction in Nigeria had led to the large-scale degradation and destruction of ecosystems of the indigenous Ognoi people with devastating resultant effects on the Ognoi peoples’ health and subsistence which were closely linked to these ecosystems. The Special Rapporteur’s report also highlighted the large-scale pollution of water and lands and the depletion of local flora and fauna, especially the Mangrove forests. Nigeria should stop the on-going large-scale land grabbing in Ogoniland by the Rivers State Government and establish strategies and develop appropriate measures for the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme Report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland.
ROGER CHO, of VIVAT International, said that Vivat International had taken note of the Special Rapporteur’s report which presented the Kanak Customary Senate as an example of good practice, participation and decision-making. However, that Senate was neither appropriate nor did it represent the different traditional clans. Vivat International, for its part, was currently working on the resolution of conflicts with the aim of re-establishing the balance which had been destabilised by the colonial past. Vivat International, through its strategy of clan auto-identification by a cartography which transcribed orally transmitted truths, aimed to formalize traditional property titles from a legal point of view.
ALBERTO SALDAMANDO, of International Indian Treaty Council, drew attention to the San Francisco Peaks where the use of recycled sewage water was used to extend the ski season.
All local remedies had been exhausted and the International Indian Treaty Council had filed an urgent action with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Navajo Nation had filed its own complaint. Tens of thousands of indigenous individuals’ religious and spiritual lives were being significantly and detrimentally disrupted in favour of the commercial and recreational interests of the few.
LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, also speaking on behalf of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, noted that extractive industries continued to operate around the world without regard for the rights of indigenous peoples. They supported the development of specific guidelines and principles as recommended by the Special Rapporteur aimed at helping States, corporate actors and indigenous peoples to fulfill the responsibilities that arose from international indigenous peoples rights standards.
MATTIAS AHREN, of Saami Council, said the report on the Saami by the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples constituted the first example of a United Nations Special Rapporteur presenting a report not on the situation in a State but on a people living across national borders. How could this report be used as an example of good practice with regard to other indigenous peoples whose territories stretched across national borders and how would the Special Rapporteur expect the Nordic States to go about implementing the recommendations in the report?
BEN SHEELY NAVAHO NATAN, of Indian Law Resource Center, said that the San Francisco Peaks were sacred to the Navajo people who revered them as a single living entity. Navajo culture, religion and history were all rooted in the Sacred Peaks, which surrounded traditional Navajo homeland. In May 2011, construction began to install a water pipeline for manufacturing artificial snow from recycled wastewater as this action would contaminate the soil and vegetation required for Navajo ceremonies and prayers. The Human Rights Council should recommend to the United States that it revoke or suspend the permit issued by the United States Forest Service to use recycled wastewater to produce artificial snow for recreational purposes until an agreement could be achieved between the Navajo Nation and the United States.
James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, thanked all parties for expressing support for his mandate. The issue of the extracting industry was one of utmost importance, as indigenous people themselves highlighted. Responding to the question of Denmark, Mr. Anaya said that the Ruggie framework and the principles laid out by him were highly relevant for his work as they provided a common ground of understanding based on which more specific elements could be developed. Turning to the question about procedures for consulting with indigenous people, Mr. Anaya said it was important that States had appropriate procedures in place. Experience showed that outcomes and implications were otherwise often uncertain. A positive example in this regard was Peru’s new law on consultation, a legislation which had itself been developed in a consultative manner. In concluding, Mr. Anaya thanked all for the confidence placed in him by extending his mandate for another term.
WILTON LITTLECHILD, Member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that if a formalized consultation process for indigenous peoples were to be implemented than it should include free, prior and informed consent. Finland, Bolivia, Peru and Chile had all highlighted the important role of indigenous participation. Mr. Littlechild said the way forward in extractive industries was to focus on the participation of indigenous peoples. Concerning the European Union’s question on the forthcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Littlechild stressed the need for participation in advance of that conference. Indigenous women should have equal participation in all decision making and Mr. Littlechild noted there was considerable work to be done on this issue. The Expert Mechanism was guided by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in all its work, especially its studies on education and implementation. A panel would be held next year on indigenous participation.
The Report on the eighteenth meeting of special rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairs of working groups of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, 27 June to 1 July 2011, (A/HRC/18/41), notes the eighteenth annual meeting of special procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council was held in Geneva from 27 June to 1 July 2011. Mandate holders exchanged views with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the Human Rights Council and the facilitator of the Council review segment on special procedures, and with States. Discussions focused on the independence of the special procedures, harmonization of working methods, the outcome of the Human Rights Council review and measures to enhance the engagement of mandate holders with various stakeholders in order to strengthen their effectiveness. The meeting stressed the importance of increasing regular and extra-budgetary resources for special procedures.
The Final report of the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making: Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (A/HRC/18/42), complements the progress report submitted by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/HRC/EMRIP/2010/2) by focusing on examples of good practices of indigenous peoples’ participation in different levels of decision-making. It also includes Expert Mechanism advice No. 2 (2011): indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making. The present study should be read in conjunction with the progress report.
Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on its fourth session, Geneva, 11 to 15 July 2011, (A/HRC/18/43), says the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples held its fourth session from 11 to 15 July 2011. The Expert Mechanism held a discussion on follow-up to thematic studies and advice and on the final report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making. It also held discussions on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and on proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its eighteenth session. The Expert Mechanism adopted its final report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, as well as a number of proposals.
The Joint communications report of special procedures, (A/HRC/18/51), was requested by Human Rights Council mandate holders to prevent inconsistencies among mandate holders reporting on the same communications to the Council. Also to avoid duplication and rationalize documentation, allow the examination of cross-cutting human rights issues and to strengthen transparency, efficiency, and to reduce documentations and costs.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its work. The European Union would help find the most appropriate ways to address the lack of the Office’s funding.
Special Procedures were one of the most important tools of the Human Rights Council. Field visits gave valuable insight. Significant encouragement of cooperation between States and the mandate holders was necessary. The free and unhindered contact between individuals and mandate holders was an essential part of the process. The European Union echoed the call of the High Commissioner for States to stop the unacceptable practice of reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations. The European Union remained committed to reform of the treaty bodies. The last meeting on reform held in Sion had been helpful on how to deal with the increasing tasks treaty bodies had to perform. One of the appropriate issues was funding of the treaty bodies. The expertise of members needed to be ensured and regulated. Recommendations needed to be given proper attention. The European Union welcomed the appointment of five members of the working group on communications. The European Union was concerned about a number of issues. It was concerned with the notion of traditional value and considered it to be problematic as it proposed issues concerning the universal application of human rights. The European Union was also concerned about comments on the right to food, included the right to land. The European Union was disappointed that there was no recommendation on the reform of the work of the Advisory Committee and whether it was necessary to retain as many experts.
RAIMONDS JANSONS (Latvia), speaking in a joint statement on the Promotion of Universality of the Standing Invitations to all Special Procedures, said that issuing a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council was an unambiguous signal of countries in favour of the cause of human rights. Through this action, all countries associated with this statement expressed their readiness to fully cooperate with the Council and demonstrated their tangible contribution to its strengthening. The standing invitations were also issued by them in recognition of the role that the Special Procedures had played, and would continue to play, in the fulfilment of the Council’s mandate. They welcomed the action of those countries which had extended standing invitations recently, bringing the total number of countries to 88 and further strengthening the cross-regional nature of this initiative. The associated countries noted with satisfaction the number of standing invitations made during the Universal Periodic Review. This being said, they stressed again that this commitment must be followed through by timely responses to Special Procedures. They invited all States to continue to cooperate with Special Procedure mandate holders and promote an open dialogue in the performance of their tasks.
CLAIRE HUBERT (Norway), in a joint statement, welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with representatives of the United Nations bodies presented by the High Commissioner, which included information concerning past reprisals against people who had cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights. This was an issue that should be high on the agenda, despite diverging opinions on individual cases. The Council had previously unanimously rejected any act of intimidation or reprisal against people who had collaborated with the United Nations and the Council in the field of human rights. The report contained a number of recommendations on how to address this issue, including the recommendation that the Council should ensure that States investigated acts of intimidation or reprisal. The Hungarian delegation had presented a draft decision to allocate part of the general debate on this issue of cooperation. While the format for the annual discussion on this topic could be further debated, this issue should receive favourable response from delegations.
VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) said the Republic of Moldova was in favour of improving cooperation between States and Special Procedures. The Republic of Moldova welcomed efforts of the Special Procedures to take advantage of cooperation with States by visits, research and contacts with individuals. The Republic of Moldova recognized the importance of Special Procedures. The Republic of Moldova supported improved communication between and with Special Procedures. It was up to the State to provide follow up to the visit. Civil society and human rights institutions were essential partners to promote human rights on the ground. It was vital to ensure the security of those who cooperated with mandate holders. The Republic of Moldova reiterated support for the concluding document of the Human Rights Council that rejected any reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations mechanisms and organizations. It was important to ensure there was equitable financing. It was necessary to ensure transparency so the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was not threatened. The Republic of Moldova welcomed the determination and personal commitment of the High Commissioner to the process of strengthening Special Procedures.
BASIL OEZKAYA, of Syriac Universal Alliance, drew the Council’s attention to the precarious situation of the indigenous Aramean or Syriac people. Only 3,000 Arameans were left in Southeast Turkey, while their number had halved down to 500,000 in Iraq since 2003. Syriac Universal Alliance failed to see Turkey’s desire to appreciate its Armenian, Greek and Aramean citizens and their endangered cultural heritage. In Iraq, Arameans had suffered majorly from the implementation of an outright call for genocide. The United Nations Mission in Iraq should therefore expand its current mandate to focus on security measures in Aramean Christian populated areas. The international community must act now.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said they were deeply concerned about the plans to build the Belo Monte dam complex on the Xingu River in the Amazon in violation of the human rights of indigenous people. The six kilometre dam would threaten the survival of a number of indigenous groups and could make some 30,000 people homeless. Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik therefore supported the demands of the indigenous people of the Xingu that the Brazilian Government immediately stop the plans to build the Belo Monte dam complex. Instead, it should implement domestic legislation and international agreements on protecting human rights and the environment and invest in energy efficiency and alternative energy sources to meet the country’s legitimate energy needs.
TOMAS CONDORI, of Indian Council of South America, said that the Indian Council of South America had contributed to the Declaration on Indigenous People and criticized its non-binding nature. Indigenous communities in the Bolivian Amazon were suffering from the lack of international protection and the violation of their right to self-determination, enshrined in the constitution of Bolivia. They had embarked on a march to protest against the building of a highway that would cause harm to the environment and their territory; however, they faced pressure groups and had been smeared and criminalized by the Government and the police had been ordered to halt the march.
NATALIA DELGADO, of Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, welcomed the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the indigenous people to Argentina. The Permanent Assembly for Human Rights expressed concerns about the situation of indigenous people, who were subjected to persecution and discrimination and faced groups promoting the expansion of soy cultivation and mining. There were reports of activities by police carrying out attacks against communities with the acquiescence of local authorities, which had been communicated to the Special Rapporteur concerning these events. A lawyer representing 150 families of farmers from the Wichi community had also been arrested. It was essential to follow up on activities and achievements in Argentina.
HAMIDREZA AFRASHTCH, of Network of Women’s Non Governmental Organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said people in occupied Palestine and Bahrain were suffering from the violation of their rights. People in Palestine had been subject to violations of their rights, suffering from a lack of equality and justice and sustainable peace. For the root causes of human rights abuses to be addressed, it was necessary to review the current management of world affairs that was being conducted by the victorious countries of the Second World War.
JULIO AVELLA GARCIA, of France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said one of France Liberte’s concerns related to trading standards and international law and ethics as well as the legal responsibly of States. France Liberte recommended work on a convention based on the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights. France Liberte stressed paragraph 78 of the right to the land. France Liberte called for full respect of the ethnic tribal and religious peoples. France Liberte commended the efforts of the States and peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa to promote mechanisms and communications regarding the rights of indigenous peoples.
ANA MARIA RODRIGUEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said the Colombian Commission of Jurists agreed with the Special Rapporteur that natural resource extraction projects were among the major sources of the abuse of indigenous peoples’ rights. Colombia was a clear example of this; the many mining projects were not only hindering indigenous people’s free determination, they also increased the risk of cultural or physical extermination. At the occasion of his visit in 2009, the Special Rapporteur had pointed to the need to harmonize economic public policies with the individual and collective rights of indigenous people. Some two years after his visit, the legal recognition of the indigenous territories was still insufficient and about 90 per cent of the indigenous people lacked sufficient land.
CATHERINE ESTILLORE, of International Buddhist Relief Organization, said that extraction operations could jeopardize the survival of indigenous groups. Power projects in north-eastern India had displaced hundreds of families and drawn criticism. Despite opposition, the Government of India had not consulted the indigenous communities and had not provided them with compensation or livelihood alternatives. The dam project was perceived by the indigenous people as a colonial project. International Buddhist Relief Organization invited the Special Rapporteur to collect first-hand information on the ground.
Mr. A. S. KOHLI, of Indian Council of Education, said that the right of indigenous people to participate in decision making had been recognized in various international legal instruments. Indigenous people often did not participate in political parties. The effective participation of indigenous people was conditioned by power and its relationship with indigenous community. Governments should provide means to ensure participation at the national level; but minority and indigenous representatives belonging to mainstream parties were not always able to defend minority and indigenous interests effectively. The Indian Council of Education welcomed the report of the Expert Mechanisms and noted the focus on good practices of participation.
SUJAY DHAWAN, of International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, said that the development process had to ensure both the material and social progress of individual, groups and communities. Mere economic or material improvements in the lives of peoples could not be termed all round development. It was unfortunate that in some countries education in the name of religion or national identity had been used to impart attitudes of hatred and discrimination between communities and groups. The forthcoming 2011 Social Forum to take place from 3 to 5 October in Geneva would focus on the promotion and effective realization of the right to development and would certainly take these issues into consideration.
LEGBORSI SARO PYAGBARA, of International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (Incomindios Switzerland), said in June this year 1,000 hectares of farm land had been seized by the Nigerian Government. Free prior and informed consent was not sought. Three persons had died when the police opened fire on an indigenous peoples’ protest. Incomindious called on States, especially Nigeria, to implement the recommendations of the treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review and stop the ongoing land grabbing.
ALMIR SURUI, of Earth Justice, in a joint statement with Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, said logging industries were destroying the trees and killing the birds. These industries were threatening the indigenous peoples. The Paiter Surui were proof of this. For some time they had suffered from the illegal activities of logging industries who stole trees and threatened leaders with death. These industries conducted the expulsion of people from their own territories and any indigenous leader who confronted them would find themselves victims of threats of death and slander. The indigenous peoples of Brazil were threatened by the development of the so-called PAC (The Programme of Development Acceleration).
ANATAR SINGH SEKHON, of Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, said that the Centre was present to draw the Council’s attention to the plight of indigenous people subjected to State-sponsored crimes in post-independent India. The 1996-1998 ethnic cleansing, the 2007 Beltola incident and the 2010 forced eviction were classic examples of State-sponsored crimes against indigenous people. Such crimes must come to an end and the Government should recognize indigenous people in the “Schedule Tribe” list. The Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy urged the Special Rapporteur to seek information from the Indian Government and to visit the country to assess the situation in the North-East for himself.
LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, in a joint statement with World Peace Council, said that the Indian Movement had argued that the new mechanism for indigenous people should be more open, able to hear the views of the victims and have more innovative powers. The Expert Mechanism needed a mandate to receive and treat complaints on grave and systematic violations of the rights of indigenous people and present recommendations to the Council. And yet the Ambassadors of Bolivia, Guatemala and Brazil had done away with all substantive proposals of the informal group and the contributions of indigenous organizations. Study after study was being produced, and new experts were being appointed every year. Yet international instruments were interpreted erroneously. The Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru urged the Council to reformulate the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Representative of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement, regretted that by the time of publication of the report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations many States had not replied to communications regarding allegations contained in the report. Even since the completion of this report there had been fresh allegations of reprisals. The Council should devote sufficient time and attention to the report and the Cairo Institute welcomed Hungary’s initiative towards dedicating an annual discussion to the subject. The Council had an essential role to play in preventing negative consequences for those whose input the United Nations human rights system depended on to function effectively.
Ms. ROAZA, of Liberation, said the right to identity which was an important right. The culture and language of indigenous populations were necessary to promote a feeling of well-being. Liberation asked the Special Rapporteur on indigenous people to visit the area.
ABDEL BAGI, of North South XXI, said the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh were one of the most deprived in the world who did not fully enjoy their human rights, including the right to public services. In Bangladesh indigenous peoples were determined as Bengalis, however the indigenous people of Bangladesh were not a unified group. The Human Rights Council should persuade Bangladesh to end the undemocratic measures that infringed on the indigenous people of the country.
The Representative of Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme, said since the adoption of the Declaration on Indigenous People in 2007, economic, social and fundamental basic rights had improved in many countries in the world, including Africa and Latin America. However, the world economic and financial crisis had not given opportunities to indigenous people. The Sindhi language had been marginalized to such an extent that its survival was under threat and Sindhi schools were systematically shut down throughout the province. The indigenous peoples in the Congo and other countries of Africa were living in poverty and illiteracy, especially women and children. Transnational companies exploited their forests and natural resources with conspiracies with local corrupt political leaders.
Interactive Dialogue on Report of High Commissioner for Human Rights on Situation of Human Rights in Belarus
ANNE KOISTINEN (European Union) said that in spite of some steps taken lately by the Belarusian authorities – in particular the recent release of several political prisoners – the human rights situation in the country remained characterized by ongoing and systematic repression and widespread human rights violations. The European Union condemned the authorities’ brutal handling of peaceful protests in June and July, where several hundred people had been arrested, mistreated and convicted on fabricated charges, and called upon Belarus to henceforth respect their citizens’ right to peacefully express their views and concerns. The European Union was seriously concerned by the detention of a prominent human rights defender. It also regretted the continuous refusal of the authorities to grant legal status to independent human rights organizations in the country. The European Union also condemned the two executions carried out in July 2011 and urged Belarus to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its complete abolition. The European Union urged the Belarusian authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Procedures and all Human Rights Council and other multilateral and regional human rights mechanisms.
VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said that the situation of human rights in Belarus did not require a reaction from the international community and the Council. The recent resolution by the Council on Belarus had been counterproductive and politicized. No country was free from violations of human rights and existing problems needed to be discussed. However, this discussion had to take place on an equal footing and with respect. The Universal Periodic Review was the right context for this dialogue and Belarus had gone through the review last year. The Office of the High Commissioner ignored this fact despite the fact that Belarus had adopted a number of subsequent recommendations. Belarus had shown a positive attitude and placing Belarus as a situation requiring the attention of the Council was bewildering. The events in Minsk were not innocuous but an attempt to seize power by force. Against this background it was shocking that the use of force against protesters in many Western countries was going unnoticed. The information in the report was biased and many of its sources had not being disclosed. It was time to abandon such unilateral and politicized approaches to human rights.
STEFFEN KONGSTAD (Norway) said that the situation in Belarus continued to give cause for grave concern. While some of those detained following the demonstrations after the presidential election last December were released, numerous people remained in detention and Norway called on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners. Norway regretted Belarus’ failure to cooperate on the implementation of the so-called Moscow Mechanism in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as this was a useful tool of cooperation and dialogue. Belarus was the only European country that continued to carry out death penalties, with two new executions this summer. Norway urged the Belarusian authorities to put an immediate end to the use of capital punishment. The Belarusian authorities should end the policy of self-isolation, harassment of peaceful protesters, imprisonment of political opponents, and renewed executions.
JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA ROMAN (Cuba) said that Cuba had always objected to approaches which selectively targeted developing countries and had nothing to do with the new work culture that the Human Rights Council needed if it was to succeed. With the creation of the Council, there had been a possibility to foster genuine collaboration regarding human rights. Nonetheless, some were persisting in imposing dialogues such as this, which did not take into account the information provided by Belarus. These parties should not count on Cuba, which would not associate itself with selective and manipulative attempts. What really lay behind this was an intention to establish a negative general opinion which would make it possible to re-establish a mandate against Belarus, which had been discontinued in 2007. Cuba rejected such practices and warned of the negative consequences of imposing politicized approaches.
ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary) welcomed this interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Belarus, which allowed for a public discussion on the serious deficiencies with regards to the elementary norms of democracy in a European country and possible ways to address them. Despite a number of positive steps such as the invitation to the High Commissioner and the release of certain political prisoners, Hungary continued to be concerned about the ongoing and uncorrected violations in Belarus. Hungary believed that the issue had to be kept on the agenda of the Council until there was a substantial improvement of the human rights situation. Hungary deeply regretted that the Government of Belarus had not changed its attitude towards civil society activists and representatives of the opposition. Many political prisoners were still behind bars and human rights defenders continued to be harassed and detained. Close cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Belarus would be beneficial. The Office and the relevant human rights mechanisms had the necessary experience and expertise to identify areas where urgent steps needed to be taken if there was a genuine will to cooperate. Finally Hungary asked the High Commissioner, on the basis of the information available, which issues should Belarus urgently address and what more could the Council do to help in this respect.
GLORIA GANGTE (India) said that India noted that the report of the High Commissioner on Belarus acknowledged the cooperation displayed by the Permanent Mission of Belarus in Geneva to meet with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the constructive manner in which the Government of Belarus had engaged in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Council. It was encouraging to learn that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus had issued an invitation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the country, which again reflected the Government’s intention to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had no office in Belarus, the collection and verification of information on the human rights situation in the country had been challenging. The report acknowledged that significant sources of information could have come from secondary sources and some of the allegations had remained unverified. India was of the view that the pattern of violations of human rights in Belarus noted in the High Commissioner’s report necessitated a more detailed examination, corroborated by substantiated evidence and verification of the alleged violations.
EMILY NARKIS (United States) said that the United States was deeply disappointed that the Government of Belarus had failed to take steps to meet its human rights obligations since the last session of the Council. The Government of Belarus continued to routinely suppress the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. It had ignored the resolution adopted by the Council in June, just as it had ignored similar resolutions by other international bodies. The human rights situation in the country had deteriorated sharply since the 2010 elections, which had failed to meet international standards. The Government had initiated a wide-ranging crackdown against the political opposition, civil society activities, independent unions and media during the post-election period. Security forces had detained hundreds of peaceful demonstrators and authorities harassed and raided the offices of dozens of non-governmental groups, seizing documents and equipment.
SAEED SARWAR (Pakistan) took note of the report on Belarus and of the statement presented by the delegation of Belarus. Pakistan reiterated that the work of the Council should be carried out in respect of the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, and cooperation; these principles had been established when the Council was constituted and States should adhere to these principles during the work of the Council.
JONAS RUDALEVICIUS (Lithuania) said Lithuania condemned the use of violence against peaceful protestors and the arbitrary arrest of presidential candidates, opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society representatives, as well as ensuing detention and harassment of the opposition, independent media and civil society on political grounds. Lithuania was particularly concerned about the detention of the human rights activist and leader of the Human Rights Center Viasna, Alexander Bialiatski. This case had shown that international legal cooperation instruments could be used by the authorities of Belarus for politically motivated persecution. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should consider the situation of political prisoners in Belarus in the report to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session.
JUAN JOSE GOMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said that the human rights situation in Belarus had deteriorated markedly since the presidential elections in 2010. Generally speaking Mexico was disturbed by the lack of democratic opportunities and the resulting limitations of the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mexico was particularly concerned about complaints regarding restrictions on the work of journalists, activists and human rights defenders. This was compounded by reports of torture and abuse of detainees, as well as the problems faced by lawyers defending activists deprived of liberty. Mexico urged Belarus to guarantee the full independence of the judiciary, both in terms of legislation and in practice, and invited the Government to cooperate with the Human Rights Council to ensure the protection and promotion of Belarusian citizens.
KONRAD SCHARINGER (Germany) said Germany remained gravely concerned with the human rights situation in Belarus. Despite the Council resolution 17/24 and numerous efforts to engage Belarus, improvements in its human rights conditions had not been seen. Rather, alarming reports of the Government’s ongoing violations of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media continued unabated. Belarus must end repressions. Belarus was failing its international commitments in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations by refusing independent organs or bodies to monitor the human rights situation in the country. The disregard and serious violations of human rights must end. Germany called upon Belarus to abolish the death penalty, to end the harassment of human rights defenders and insisted that the Government of Belarus put an end to politically motivated persecution. Germany urged Belarus to restore immediately the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Minsk, to allow independent monitoring and to cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms in order to improve the situation. The human rights situation was grave and there had been no improvement. The international community could not tolerate this, further action was necessary.
XIA JING GE (China) said China had consistently stood for cooperation and dialogue to address human rights and said it was against exerting pressure on specific countries at the Human Rights Council. Belarus had taken significant measures to improve human rights in the country and the economic living situation of its people. The international community should address the human rights situation in Belarus in a fair and apolitical manner.
JACQUES PELLET (France) said that France remained very concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus. There had been no improvement since the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights situation in the country in June 2007. France firmly condemned the arrest of Alès Bialiatski, President of Viasna and Vice-President of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues in August. This arbitrary arrest had shown that the Belarusian authorities continued their systematic repression of civil society. The pardon recently given to a number of political prisoners was an encouraging signal, but it did not mask the authorities’ willingness to maintain a constant pressure on civil society. France called on Belarus to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and to allow a technical mission to visit the territory.
GEORGE KOCHARIAN (Armenia) said that Armenia took note of the report. It was Armenia’s understanding that the success of initiatives depended on the context through which it was agreed and the coordination with the concerned country. Armenia expressed satisfaction concerning the fact that Belarus had invited the High Commissioner and had shown the intention to cooperate. Furthermore, Armenia noted improvements to the human rights situation made in the context of the Universal Periodic Review.
RASHAD SHIRINOV (Azerbaijan) said that Belarus had regularly cooperated with the existing human rights mechanisms of the United Nations through the submission of the periodical reports and country visits. Azerbaijan welcomed the move by the Government of Belarus to extend a standing invitation to eight Special Procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council. Belarus had updated and informed the Office of the High Commissioner, mandate holders and Member States on the recent developments in the country. Azerbaijan believed that the current spirit of cooperation and collaboration between Belarus and the human rights mechanisms of the Human Rights Council should continue in the future as well.
ENOS MAFEMBA (Zimbabwe) said that Zimbabwe took this opportunity to reiterate that country-specific resolutions and mandates were outdated, unhelpful, usually biased, politicized and very subjective. Zimbabwe was satisfied that Belarus had shown a keen interest in fully continuing collaboration with the High Commissioner and her Office by using the universally agreed Universal Periodic Review, one of the best tools. The naming and shaming of some countries was confrontational because Belarus, like other well-meaning nations, took the protection and promotion of human rights seriously. The Council should therefore be the centre pivot in upholding the cooperative spirit and dialogue in the field of human rights for the sharing of best practices that further enhanced human rights.
YANNICK MINISIER (Belgium) said that since the adoption of the resolution on Belarus in June the situation in the country had not improved, as the arrest of Ales Bialatski and his lawyer attested. These arrests constituted violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Belarus had ratified. In its interventions during the sixteenth and seventeenth sessions of the Council, Belgium had expressed regret concerning human rights violations in Belarus, including the arbitrary arrests, the brutality and acts of violence by police, and torture, among others. The situation was of particular concern in the European continent since it deprived the Belarusian population from freedom and prosperity. Belgium remained concerned about the situation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscious and called on Belarus to respect its obligations, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Belgium called upon Belarus to abolish the death penalty, since it remained the only country in Eurasia to practice it. If the Government continued to impose this penalty despite its declaration before the Universal Periodic Review in September 2010, Belgium demanded that the minimum standards were respected.
FELIX PENA RAMOS (Venezuela) said that Venezuela had excellent political and commercial relations with Belarus which brought benefits to both countries. Belarus had guaranteed the rights to legal defense and due process for those accused of violating the law. The Human Rights Council could not become a further mechanism seeking to use multilateralism to damage a particular country, as in the case of Belarus with threats of economic sanctions. Attempts by the Western powers to foster at any price a change in the political system could not be allowed and the Council should comply with its mandate to protect human rights in all countries with the principles of universality, indivisibility and international cooperation.
SYED MOHAMMAD REZA SAJJADI (Iran) said that the outcome of biased, non objective and politically-motivated country specific resolutions would not help the real solution on the ground and was counter productive. Iran commended Belarus for expressing its interest in continuing cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the context of Universal Periodic Review recommendations, which was extensively strengthened in a number of areas after the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights assessment visit to the Country in 2009. Iran believed the establishment of an independent national human rights mechanism could assist the Government in the elaboration and implementation of its human rights policies. Iran encouraged the Government to full implement the announced reforms and commitments. Iran believed the international community should recognize steps already taken to implement those commitments.
ALISON LECLAIRE CHRISTIE (Canada) noted with concern that the human rights situation in Belarus had not improved since the adoption of resolution 17/14. The crackdown against the political opposition and civil society continued and the Belarusian Government appeared to have no intention to abide by internationally recognized human rights obligations. A recent wave of silent protest provoked the regime to pass another law which required official permission for any gathering that carried out action or inaction intended as a form of public expression of socio-political attitudes. Belarus had failed to do anything to restore the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Minsk as called for in resolution 17/24 and several high-level representatives had been denied entry. The international community must ensure that it closely followed developments in Belarus and took every possible step to persuade its Government to respect international human rights obligations. Canada asked the High Commissioner on her view on concrete and coordinated actions that the international community could undertake to persuade Belarus to refrain from cracking down on the opposition to encourage respect for freedom of expression and association, and to release human rights defenders arrested on politically motivated charges. Canada would continue to support the resolution 17/24 and in concert with other like-minded governments, urged Belarus to implement all its provisions.
JAN KNUTSSON (Sweden) said it was regrettable that Belarus had decided not to cooperate with the High Commissioner and asked what new information the High Commissioner had on the case of Ales Byalyatski, the Chair of Human Rights Centre Viasna and how could the Council ensure that similar situations be avoided in the future ? Sweden asked if it was more common that Internet sites like Facebook were closed down or blocked in Belarus today than before the new law from last year and was there a negative trend in the country regarding freedom of expression on the Internet? Concerning the so-called silent protests that occurred during spring and summer and the regime’s efforts to stop them, what information was available on attempts by the Government to stop these kinds of protests, by for example, introducing new legislation.
HEMRA AMANNAZAROV (Turkmenistan) said Turkmenistan appreciated Belarus’ decision to accept 75 of the 93 recommendations made by United Nations Member States after the Universal Periodic Review in May 2010. Turkmenistan applauded Belarus’ decision to work closely with international institutions on democracy and human rights and provide them with information regarding the events following the presidential elections on 19 December 2010.
YERLAN ALIMBAYEV (Kazakhstan) said the report was prepared on the basis of secondary sources due to no reply from Belarus to the proposal of the Office of the High Commissioner to visit the country in order to assess the human rights situation. Kazakhstan encouraged the preparation of a balanced and unprejudiced report. While assessing the situation in the country, the results of the Universal Periodic Review, which Belarus witnessed in May last year, should be taken into account. Kazakhstan believed that in accepting most of the recommendations of the Council, Belarus had shown its openness for making more effective steps towards maintaining and protecting human rights.
EVAN P. GARCIA (Philippines) said that concerning human rights issues due process must be respected and domestic courts and legislation should be allowed to take their course without external influence and pressure. The Government of Belarus had shown that it had responded to the issues raised by the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and had cooperated with all mechanisms of the Council, including accepting many of the recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review. The Philippines said that consideration of the situation in Belarus in this manner in the Human Rights Council was not the best way forward.
IAN DUDDY (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom remained deeply concerned about the continuing detention of eight political prisoners and the recent detention of Ales Byalyatski and the recent implication that criminal charges would be brought against his deputy Valentsin Sefanovich. The United Kingdom called on Belarus to place a moratorium on the death penalty that would open up the route to eventual membership of the Council of Europe. The United Kingdom called on Belarus to meet its obligations and to immediately release all political prisoners. The United Kingdom asked whether the High Commissioner believed an independent mechanism of this Council could be helpful in bringing about improvements in the situation of human rights in Belarus.
For use of the information media; not an official record