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


3 March 2015

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its High-Level Segment, hearing statements from 30 dignitaries who spoke about their concerns regarding the situation in a number of countries and regions around the world and outlined some of their national policies for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Speaking were Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany; Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria; Sebastian Kurz, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria; Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon; Mohammed Bello Adoke, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria; Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Aichetou Mint M'Haiham, Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action of Mauritania; Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia; Carlos Alfredo Castaneda Magaña, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador; Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland; Mbarka Bouaida, Minister Delegate to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco; Peter Stenlund, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Finland; Roksanda Ninčić, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia; Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Viet Nam; Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, State Secretary for European Integration of Montenegro; Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; Delcy Eloína Rodríguez Gómez, Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela; Utoni Nujoma, Minister of Justice of Namibia; Ri Su Yong, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Gebran Bassil, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon; Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa;  Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union and Vice-President of the European Commission; Martin Lidegaard, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark; Henry Okello Oryem, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda; Ignacio Ybáñez, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs  of Spain; Cho Tae-yul, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Abdulla Abdullatif Abdulla, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain; Juan Carlos Alurralde, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia; and Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of The Commonwealth.

Speakers highlighted the scourge of terrorism and the need to address it, stressing in particular the gross violations of international humanitarian law, human rights and dignity by extremist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIL, but also the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation in Rwanda, Al Shabab in Somalia, and Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups in Libya and the Maghreb region.  These acts were unacceptable and necessitated urgent and decisive action from the international community.  It was also considered important to address systematic violations and abuses, and to hold to account those who were responsible.  Speakers underlined the importance of the fight against impunity, the inadmissibility of the death penalty, the indivisibility and interdependency of human rights and the need for a more holistic, non-selective approach to human rights that included economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development.

Many speakers emphasized the importance of freedom of expression, and in particular of freedom of the press.  In this respect, they condemned the attacks on journalists, and called against religious intolerance, warning against Islamophonia and anti-Semitism.  Women’s and children’s rights, especially in the context of conflict situations, were also highlighted, and the use of child soldiers as well as sexual abuse of women in conflict were condemned.  The rights of minorities, refugees and migrants were likewise emphasized.  Focus was made on the post-2015 development agenda and the issues that needed to be addressed with more attention, including poverty eradication, climate change, sustainable development and peace-building.  Speakers commended the work of the Human Rights Council and vowed to improve the protection and implementation of human rights nationally, as well as internationally.

At the end of the meeting Turkey, Russian Federation, Japan, Azerbaijan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, Republic of Korea and Myanmar spoke in right of reply.

The next meeting of the Council will be held at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 March, when it will resume the High-Level Segment.  At 3 p.m., the Council will hold a high-level panel on the question of the death penalty.

High-Level Segment

FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, reflected on the suffering of people in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and the Central African Republic.  In every one of those conflicts the right to life and physical integrity was endangered.  Those human rights infringements should be addressed in the Human Rights Council.  Securing peace and security was a crucial task since violations of human rights were not only the outcome of conflict, but also the cause of conflict.  Respect for human rights was a practical way of conflict prevention.  The fight for peace and security would never be complete without looking into human rights violations.  Stability per se was not a bad thing, but it was bad when it served to violate human rights.  Stability by way of coercion was not acceptable.  Given the interdependence of peace and security on one hand, and of human rights on the other hand, links between different bodies of the United Nations, as well as outside the United Nations system should be reinforced.  Armed non-state actors, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, committed major human rights violations.  The violence committed by them required determined action, but it was also necessary to understand how their ideology and thinking came to existence.  The underlying root causes of extremism needed to be addressed.  Nevertheless, there was hope because countless young people stood up to human rights violations, in spite of the challenges and risks.  The Human Rights Council should allow civil society actors to speak up and take part in its work. 

RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said that Algeria was taking part in the global effort to fulfil human rights: it regularly submitted reports to the human rights treaty bodies and had good interaction with the Special Procedures.  Substantial progress had been made in broadening the space for human rights through a series of economic, social and institutional reforms, while recent laws criminalizing violence against women and children and protecting divorced women were worth noting.  The strengthening of human rights for all citizens, those living in the highlands, in the centre and the far south, was an aspiration of the Government.  Since July 2014, Algeria had been deeply involved in the mediation of the conflict in Mali, which had led to the signing of a peace and reconciliation agreement.  Algeria was doing its best to bring together the parties in Libya in order to discuss an inclusive political agreement that would favour the unity and territorial integrity of the country; terrorist groups were excluded from those efforts.  The conflict in Western Sahara was deepening and Algeria was concerned about the increasing influx of refugees.  The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) no longer had a human rights mechanism and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should put in place independent monitoring of human rights in the Western Sahara.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, said that the stories of brutal crimes committed by ISIL showed complete disrespect for human dignity and human rights.  Times were getting worse for minorities.  Ethnic and religious minorities were under threat not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in Crimea which had been illegally annexed by Russia.  Among those who were targeted in Crimea were not only Crimeans and Tatars, but leaders of the Orthodox Church as well as human rights activists.  This was known thanks to the United Nations Monitoring Mission which documented abuses by all parties in Ukraine.  There was one group that always paid the highest price when speaking of discrimination: women and girls, who were targets of mass kidnappings and sexual violence in Syria and Northern Nigeria.  In November, Austria had organized a symposium on this issue.  With regards to the recent attacks in European cities, these illustrated that a clear response was needed, emphasizing more human rights not less.  Austria was redoubling its efforts to protect freedom of expression and free independent media and journalists.  In conclusion, Mr. Kurz underlined Austria’s clear and definite opposition to all forms of the death penalty.  This was a troubling setback to goals of the complete abolition of the death penalty.  Concerning criminal justice in Saudi Arabia and the case of Raif Badawi, Mr. Kurz recognized that his flogging had been stopped.  He warned, however, that corporal punishment was clearly a setback in human rights.  Austria would continue to promote human rights at the national and international levels.

PIERRE MOUKOKO MBONJO, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, informed the Council about the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram against his country, which had caused massive human rights violations.  The attacks were marked by unspeakable violence and cruelty.  Boko Haram mobilized a great number of young and fanaticized soldiers.  The consequences of the attacks were of a humanitarian and socio-economic nature.  A massive influx of refugees from Nigeria had occurred, whereas agricultural production had declined as farmers had to flee their land.  The Government had deployed military forces to protect civilians in the affected areas, and had taken legislative measures to prevent and eradicate terrorism.  The threat against Cameroon by Boko Haram was a terrorist one, with an obvious global nature.  The situation therefore called for a global response.  International mobilization was needed to combat Boko Haram, in addition to the deployment by the African Union of the Multinational Joint Task Force with military headquarters in Ndjamena in Chad.  The African Union was preparing to submit to the United Nations Security Council a draft resolution to reinforce the said regional efforts.  Due to the conflict in the Central African Republic and an influx of more than 250,000 refugees from that country, Cameroon also called on the Human Rights Council to help, and it counted on the international community to support its efforts against Boko Haram.

MOHAMMED BELLO ADOKE, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria, said that it had become obvious that enduring solutions to conflicts could only be achieved by certain actions and with shared responsibilities by States.  Nigeria’s experience in combatting terrorism and the insurgency perpetrated by the Boko Haram Sect in north-eastern Nigeria and its common borders with Chad, Niger, and Cameroun, clearly demonstrated the relevance and potency of international cooperation and solidarity in tackling this scourge.  Since the insurgency had begun, close to 650,000 Nigerians had been internally displaced in the north-eastern part of Nigeria and another one million had become refugees in neighbouring Cameroun, Chad, and Niger.  This situation posed a grave humanitarian situation in the affected areas, including in neighbouring countries.  Mr. Adoke commended the recent successes achieved by the security forces and the increased level of cooperation at regional and sub-regional levels that had raised a multi-national force of 8,700 involving Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin by the African Union.  This initiative had been supported by global partners and offered valuable lessons for the global community. The need for increased financial and material support for the multi-national force as well as for the internally displaced persons and refugees was stressed.  Mr. Adoke reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the work of the Council and to the post-2015 development agenda, and ensured that the Federal Government would continue to pursue a human rights-based model of governance.

LUBOMĺR ZAORÁLEK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic, said that civilians bore the brunt of today’s conflicts.  Women, children and the elderly were the most affected by conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.  Apart from the heavy toll conflicts took on civilians, they were also a life threat to regional and international security and stability.  The conflict in Ukraine threatened to jeopardize reconciliation and achievements in Europe since the end of the Cold War.  The Minsk agreements had to be respected by all the parties and human rights violations had to be investigated.  Conditions had to be created for the enjoyment of human rights, whereas the duty to respect the rights of others had to underpin international cooperation.  Terrorism was not only a security threat.  Above all, it threatened to tear the ties that bound all together in their societies.  To win over violent extremism, they must continue their normal lives and not give in to simplistic accusations of any religious or national groups.  Fear must never lead them to give up their freedoms, such as freedom of speech or religion and belief.  The Czech Republic would continue to raise the questions that it saw as the corner stones of human rights.  These included equal and effective participation of citizens in political and public affairs.  The way a society heard the voice of marginalized or disadvantaged members showed the real strength of the society.  In 2015 the Council would continue to hear most distressing reports of human rights violations and abuses.  At the same time, the Council must remain true to the ideal of human rights and bring hope to those suffering.  Its task was to raise the hope that there were remedies for human rights violations and abuses, and that those responsible would be held accountable. 

AICHETOU MINT M’HAIHAM, Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Civil Society of Mauritania, said that those who watched closely the situation of human rights in Mauritania could notice the great transformation that had taken place in recent years, thanks to the important steps taken in this area, which formed a favourable climate for the exercise of the various rights and freedoms.  The use of democracy, including openness, consultation and dialogue, as well as dealing positively with international human rights mechanisms, were a clear indication of  the method and the will that had been adopted under President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.  In the past period, Mauritania’s attention had mainly focused on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and on the promotion of the achievements in the field of infrastructure in general, with priority given to the sectors of health care and education for all, mother and child care within the family, and the promotion of women, as well as of people with special needs.  The area of individual and collective freedoms had also known a quantum leap, with the expansion of the right for demonstration, assembly and association.  The Prime Minister had recently taken a number of important steps for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the adoption of a road map that was proposed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on modern forms of slavery.  Concerning the prevention of torture, the Government had approved a draft law establishing a national mechanism for the prevention of torture. 

EDWARD NALBANDIAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, stated that it was of particular significance to address this session of the Human Rights Council, as this year marked the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.  In recent years, the Council had expanded the thematic scope of its work to respond to gross violations of human rights in various parts of the world, drawing attention to the issues of protection of the most vulnerable groups.  The protection of religious and ethnic minorities required the urgent attention and actions of the international community due to massive human rights violations perpetrated by terrorist groups.  He highlighted the crime against civilization that was perpetrated by ISIS militants who smashed the 2,700 year old statues in the Mosul museum; this was an appalling reminder of earlier similar barbaric acts of destruction such as those of the Bamian Budda’s statues, the Mausoleums of Timbuktu, and the thousands of Medieval Armenian cross-stones in Nakhijevan.  Intolerance towards the values of civilization belonging to others had to be resolutely denounced by the international community.  Armenia unequivocally condemned the atrocities and violence committed by ISIS, Al Nusra and other terrorist groups and called upon the international community to take firm action against this new scourge.  In this regard Armenia strongly supported the full implementation of the appropriate United Nations Security Council resolutions.  The destruction by terrorists of the Saint Martyrs Armenian Church in the Syrian town of Deir el-Zor was a symbolic link between past and present crimes against humanity.  Armenia commended the role of the Human Rights Council in mainstreaming the obligations of States emanating from the Genocide Convention into a systematic protection of human rights.  In this respect, Armenia had this year again initiated a resolution on the prevention of genocide.  There was a growing consensus of the international community that genocide prevention required constant attention and the best efforts. 

CARLOS ALFREDO CASTANEDA MAGAÑA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said that ever since the peace agreements of 1992, the protection of human rights had become a State policy containing the priorities of El Salvador’s society.  The Government was deeply committed to human rights.  Its five-year development plan had been drawn up from a human rights approach, with broad citizen consultation including those who live abroad, in order to render it more inclusive and sustainable.  It aimed to combat poverty, exclusion and social injustice, with a gender equity and human rights approach.  El Salvador had recently ratified major instruments such as the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty, as well as the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding a communications procedure.  Progress had also been made in the internal legal framework and institutions had been created to uphold human rights.  This represented an important step forward.  Regarding the current conflicts, El Salvador stressed the requirement for countries to solve serious problems such as poverty, exclusion and intolerance.  It was only by attacking these underlying and structural causes and their consequences that conflict could be resolved.  In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, El Salvador had enacted many initiatives, including the adoption of laws and the establishment of institutions.  There was still a lot of progress to be made, however, such as diminishing the disparities between girls and boys in school as well as ethnic disparities. 

HENRYKA MOŚCICKA-DENDYS, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, said the human rights community was experiencing difficult circumstances.  Extremist ideologies led to confrontations among peoples.  Poland remained deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and atrocities against civilians committed in Nigeria.  Poland called upon the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine’s integrity and abide by the Minsk agreements.  Killings, torture, summary executions and persecution remained widespread in territories controlled by armed groups in eastern Ukraine.  The situation in Crimea remained a concern, including the situation of minorities and of freedom of expression there.  Freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to infringe on other human rights, including freedom of religion.  The culture of dialogue had to prevail.  One could not ignore the events that recently took place in Paris and Copenhagen.  Terrorism contributed to fuelling tensions between communities.  Poland was deeply troubled about violence targeting members of religious minorities, including Christians, in many places.  Finally, Poland attached great importance to the right of freedom of assembly and to the work of human rights defenders, and called for the repealing of laws restricting the activities of civil society organizations.  

MBARKA BOUAIDA, Minister Delegate to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco, reiterated her country’s commitment to collaborate with the Council on the promotion and protection of human rights and countering terrorism.  Morocco had a national strategy for human rights, which had resulted in a number of initiatives targeting vulnerable groups, including women, children and persons with disabilities.  Morocco had completed a national dialogue on reforming its justice system in conformity with its international obligations.  Morocco also had a policy of regularization of irregular migrants.  A national dialogue on civil society engagement had been carried out as well.  Institutional reforms had had a real impact on promoting human rights, including in the Western Sahara region, where economic growth had allowed improvements for the people there.  Morocco was committed to initiate new instruments to protect and promote human rights throughout all of its territory.  Morocco had recently acceded to the second protocol to the Convention against Torture, and the Government was collaborating openly with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.  Morocco was committed to constructively engage with the Universal Periodic Review and had taken initiatives for following-up on recommendations.  Morocco was engaged in regional cooperation on several issues, including the rights of persons of African descent, water and sanitation and security in the Sahel region. 

PETER STENLUND, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said that in Europe, just a few hours flight from Geneva, the people of Ukraine were continuing to pay a heavy price for the conflict in the eastern part of their country.  The growing number of internally displaced persons in Ukraine was of great concern to Finland.  The human rights situation in Crimea including the situation of the Tatars was worrying.  Finland expected to see a genuine commitment to the ceasefire agreement in Minsk.  All heavy weapons had to be withdrawn immediately.  Ukraine had to do its utmost to proceed with its internal reforms.  Finland condemned the actions by ISIL/Da’ash and Boko Haram.  Human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law had to be respected when fighting terrorism.  Crimes against humanity and war crimes had been committed by the Government in Syria and all those responsible had to be held accountable; there was no room for impunity. The murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov last Friday was a loss to democracy.  A prompt investigation into his murder was necessary.  Those responsible had to be held accountable.  Freedom of expression was one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, as were freedom of religion and belief.  The boundaries of this freedom had to be as wide as possible.  At the same time there should be no tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.  There was continuous harassment of human rights defenders in the world.  To support the work of human rights defenders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland had published guidelines on their protection. 

ROKSANDA NINČIĆ, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that challenges to human rights protection continued: the rise of terrorism, religious intolerance, hate speech, restrictions to freedom of expression, enforced displacement, and consequences of climate change clearly showed the need for enhanced global cooperation.  Serbia was continuing to strengthen its institutional framework to enable greater respect of human rights and in October last year it had adopted an action plan for the implementation of the anti-discrimination strategy, the first systematic framework for the protection of vulnerable groups.  The rights of national minorities continued to be at the top of the human rights agenda and direct elections for the National Minorities Council had been held last October.  The region was still burdened with the problem of missing persons; special attention had been given to the cases of missing persons in connection with alleged organ trafficking in Kosovo and Metohija.  Serbia was still the country with the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Europe; additional effort was needed, especially political will, to ensure their return to countries in the region.  During its upcoming chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Serbia would prioritize, among others, the protection of journalists and of national minorities, national human rights institutions, displacement and religious dialogue.

NGUYEN QUOC CUONG, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said the Human Rights Council had significantly helped to raise the international community’s awareness on human rights issues and that allowed response to situations of concern all over the world.  Viet Nam had actively played its role with the highest responsibility as a member of the Council, constantly promoting dialogue and seeking consensus.  Viet Nam called on the Council to strengthen its cooperation with southern countries, and to allocate more resources to the protection and promotion of the rights of the most vulnerable.  Human Rights had a close link with other issues such as peace, security and development.  Viet Nam believed that the post-2015 agenda had to be comprehensive and would continue to take an active part in this process.  Viet Nam had achieved progress in the field of human rights, which had been widely recognized during its Universal Periodic Review.  Viet Nam had ratified the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities just a month ago.  Much more needed to be done, and the current priority for Viet Nam was to improve its legal system and the implementation of its new constitutional provisions.  Viet Nam looked forward to continued international cooperation and support in that regard, and would continue to constructively engage with the Human Rights Council in a spirit of dialogue and transparency.

ALEKSANDAR ANDRIJA PEJOVIĆ, State Secretary for European Integration of Montenegro, said that Montenegro had shown its commitment to the preservation of fundamental rights and freedoms and had no doubts that all countries must undertake efforts to end conflicts, investigate all crimes and bring those responsible to justice.  Montenegro strongly condemned the recent brutal crimes committed by ISIS and expressed serious concern that the bloody conflict in Syria continued, despite the calls of the international community for peace.  Montenegro welcomed the recent ceasefire agreement for Ukraine and was convinced that a peaceful solution was in the best interest of the citizens of this country.  Montenegro continued to call for the abolition of the death penalty and would continue to address all forms of discrimination, and call for the improvement of the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  The Universal Periodic Review remained a key mechanism of the Council and all States should constructively cooperate with it.  The backbone of the credibility of the Human Rights Council was its inclusiveness; as a platform which brought together different stakeholders, the Council was in a position to respond impartially to human rights challenges in all parts of the world.

IAYD AMEEN MADANI, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the roots of the rise of violent extremism could be found in the inheritance of previous historical events: two world wars, the Cold War, colonization, globalization, the ideologies of nihilism, the defeat of liberation movements and the birth of the overwhelming state apparatus, the growth of arms trade, a sense of triumphalism and end of history, and an intellectual malaise that took over the Muslim world.  Accusing religion of being the source of extreme violence and terror was an abyss that would drown all.  The position of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was to deal with an increasingly Islamophobic world.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation had worked in the past decade to introduce specific United Nations resolutions to combat the defamation of religions, including in March 2011 a resolution on combating religious intolerance, stereotyping, stigmatization and discriminating at the Human Rights Council (Resolution 16/18).  That renewed commitment to freedom of religion also led to the so-called Istanbul Process, which aimed at following up on the implementation of Resolution 16/18.  Expert meetings were held within that framework in order to develop a better understanding of stakeholders’ different perspectives.  Combating religious-based violence and discrimination also had to become a priority for the entire international community, and not just the Human Rights Council.

DELCY ELOÍNA RODRÍGUEZ GÓMEZ, Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, emphasized the role played by her country in promoting human rights not only domestically but also at the regional and international levels.  Over the last 16 years and since the arrival of President Chavez at the Head of the State, Venezuela had become a leader in protecting human rights, ensuring inclusion and eradicating poverty.  Access to education and health was available for the population.  Active political participation of the people was guaranteed by the constitution.  Venezuela’s current President had a humble worker’s background.  International institutions had acknowledged and recognized Venezuela’s efforts to eradicate hunger.  The facts and numbers spoke for themselves.  Dark forces with imperial ambitions were trying to undermine Venezuela’s achievements.  The coercive means that they used led to the destruction of the lives of millions of people around the world.  A safer world free of violence required that the Human Rights Council be free of politicization, selectivity and double standards.  Venezuela stood beside the people of Palestine against the policies of Israel.  The Minister also called for an end to the illegal embargo on Cuba, and regretted that double standard characterized the Council’s response to the current events in Syria.  

UTONI NUJOMA, Minister of Justice of Namibia, expressed deep concern about the acts of terrorism perpetrated by various groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab and said that their acts of brutality and senseless violence against innocent people must be collectively rejected.  The situation in the Great Lakes region, particularly in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was worrisome; the situation in South Sudan should be resolved through dialogue.  Namibia expressed support for the implementation of Agenda 2063, Africa’s blueprint for sustainable development and a focus on consolidating peace and security.  Condemning in the strongest terms the attacks by ISIL and other groups in the Middle East, Namibia appealed to the international community to work together to cut off the supply lines for those groups and so disable their operations.  Referring to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Minister said that it was easy to see that 15 years into twenty-first century, foreign occupation was still alive and posed a serious challenge to the United Nations and humanity at large.  The world should not lose sight of the adverse impact of climate change, which had become all too real for countries such as Namibia, while other threats such as the Ebola Virus Disease should galvanize Africa and the international community to work together to improve public health systems and respond quickly and efficiently to such crises.

RI SUNG YONG, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that last year the Human Rights Council had forcibly adopted a resolution on alleged widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in order to cause an international controversy.  The evidence of the alleged human rights violations was false, thus proving that the resolution was politically motivated.  The countries hostile to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and their followers pursued a biased approach towards the actual human rights situation in the country and were not interested in the truth.  Although the past 25 years had been challenging for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the socialist system was nonetheless getting stronger because it was people-centred.  If indeed human rights violations had been widespread in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, then that system would have not been supported by the popular masses.  If the allegations of widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea persisted, then it would be necessary to question the concept of human rights of those who put forth such allegations.  Human rights issues should not be abused for political purposes, or used to bring down social and political systems of certain countries.  The United Nations was often misused by certain powers to pursue their political goals, in contravention to the principle of impartiality.  The practices of selectivity and double standards hurt international cooperation.

GEBRAN BASSIL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said that Lebanon was a symbol of diversity, dialogue and harmony between all when the world was confronted with great challenges.  Human rights were considered values that were fully part of Lebanon’s culture.  Lebanon had always translated its principles into action.  It had prepared its second report to the Universal Periodic Review and had issued an open invitation to Special Procedures of the Council.  Lebanon was currently facing tremendous challenges and was at the heart of a war against ISIL at all levels.  Lebanon had taken initiatives to prevent the recruitment of young persons by ISIL.  Lebanon was also dealing with the high number of Syrian refugees, and respected their rights despites its limited capacities.  Lebanon’s success in addressing the situation of refugees relied on additional support from the international community.  Israel was violating on a daily basis Lebanon’s sovereignty, despite international calls on it to stop.  Lebanon would establish a national committee in charge of preparing reports due by Lebanon consistent with its international human rights obligations.  There had been atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, including killings, slavery and sexual violence, as well as cultural cleansing and destruction of cultural heritage.  In light of this situation, could the international community not do more to ensure accountability and protect civilians?  Was it enough simply to document these events?  The Palestinian cause had become a permanent challenge for the achievement of justice and the protection of human rights, the Minister said, before reiterating Lebanon’s position in favour of a State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that in light of the defining process of the post-2015 development agenda,  the international community should be mindful of the unfinished work of the Millennium Development Goals, such as the eradication of poverty, the creation of decent jobs, and addressing income inequalities.  It was therefore imperative for the Human Rights Council to give priority to all human rights, ensuring a balance between civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It was critical that the Human Rights Council be seen as an independent mechanism for the entrenchment of a human rights culture throughout the world.  The Council should remain a credible arbiter and deal with all human rights concerns in a balanced manner.  The International Decade for People of African Descent, which began on 1 January 2015, provided an opportunity to combat racism and support the follow-up mechanisms of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  Likewise, more had to be done to ensure the empowerment of women, including equal remuneration for equal work done.  There was a direct link between the emancipation and empowerment of women and the eradication of poverty.  South Africa was committed to building a diverse society and it condemned discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, culture and sexual orientation.  South Africa reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for their right to self-determination.

MAHENDRA BAHADUR PANDEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, called for a holistic approach to human rights.  Nepal was making all-out efforts to come out of the protracted phase of transition and to institutionalize the democratic gains through the promulgation of a constitution by the Constituent Assembly.  Nepal had given top priority to human rights issues, which were enshrined as the cornerstone of their interim constitution. Measures had been adopted for the protection and empowerment of the disadvantaged and economically weaker segments of the population, in particular women, madhesis, and dalits.  There was also concern about the interests and rights of Nepalese migrant workers, and relevant laws and policies had been implemented in that respect.  Nepal believed that it was necessary to pursue the human rights agenda along with the socio-economic development imperatives.  The focus had to be on ensuring a life of dignity based on both democratic rights and adequate fulfilment of basic needs.  The Government was committed to addressing the gaps of human rights violation cases from the conflict era, and to providing justice to the victims of the conflict.  A Truth and Reconciliation Commission had recently been established, as well as a Commission on the Investigation of Disappeared Persons in order to establish the truth regarding these cases and bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as addressing the needs of the victims and paving the way for reconciliation.  Nepal had established various human rights institutions in the country, including the National Human Rights Commission, the National Foundation for the Development of Indigenous Nationalities, the National Women’s Commission and the National Dalit Commission.  Nepal was committed to the fight against impunity and to implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union and Vice-President of the European Commission, said that the human toll of the conflict in Ukraine was immense, with almost 6,000 people killed.  It was important to address the systematic violations and abuses which had been documented there, including the persecution and intimidation of the Crimean Tatar community.  She called for full and unrestricted access for international human rights actors to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol.  The European Union encouraged both parties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and refrain from decisions which would undermine the prospect of peace and the two-State solution, including the continued expansion of settlements which was illegal under international law.  Atrocities by ISIL in Iraq and Syria and grave violations perpetrated by the Assad regime could not go unpunished.  Impunity and the disaffection and alienation it created fuelled extremism.  It was important to address the root causes of violent extremism through fighting marginalization, discrimination and intolerance, and advocating equality.  Concerns were expressed about acts of intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and other media actors.  This required a firm and resolute response which also had to be accompanied with dialogue, education and respect for freedom of religion.  The High Representative reiterated the European Union’s firm stand in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, and said that resuming executions was not an appropriate answer to acts of terrorism.  Europe faced challenges too.  The loss of migrants’ lives in the Mediterranean had to end, and deeper cooperation amongst European Union’s Member States was being promoted to find political and operational solutions preventing any further tragedies.  
MARTIN LIDEGAARD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said that the work of the Human Rights Council had to be carried out in solidarity with, and with a constant focus on the victims of human rights violations all around the world.  The United Nations represented the world’s best chance to steer the unruly future into a better place for the world’s growing population, and the Human Rights Council played an increasingly vital role.  The Council was operating in a changing world where the usual understanding of a human rights violator had shifted because non-state actors had become increasingly dominant.  The examples of the so-called Islamic State and Boko Haram testified to that.  The violence and gross violations of international humanitarian law, human rights and human dignity committed by those actors should not go unpunished. They were not above the rule of law.  Although the Human Rights Council was often criticised for internal disagreements between States, its strength lay precisely in its diverse composition, which reflected the global political landscape, including global disagreements.  It was from that diverse composition that the Council drew its credibility.  It was a place where difficult issues were discussed and solutions found.  The steadfast insistence on fundamental values was the strongest weapon against terrorism.  The international community should insist on the rule of law, mutual understanding and human compassion even in the darkest hour.

HENRY OKELLO ORYEM, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, reaffirmed the commitment of Uganda to the protection and promotion of human rights, and stressed the need to address human rights issues not only from the perspective of civil and political rights but including economic, social and cultural rights.  Africa and the rest of the international community were confronted with the serious challenge of fighting human rights violations of varying form and magnitude.  In the Great Lakes Region, Uganda was engaged in neutralizing the remnants of terrorist groups that had afflicted heavy suffering.  These groups included the Lord’s Resistance Army  and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which took sanctuary in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan, as well as Al Shabab in Somalia.  In Libya and the Maghreb region, there was a dangerous surge of Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups, while Nigeria was engaged with Boko Haram.  Beyond Africa, the Islamic State terrorists remained a serious threat in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries.  Uganda appealed to the Human Rights Council to intensify political support against the threat posed by these groups to regional and international peace and security, as well as the enjoyment of human rights.  The issues that needed attention from the international community included a focus on poverty eradication in the post-2015 development agenda, as well as climate change, economic development, population growth, sustainable development and resource management to avoid the exacerbation of poverty.  Uganda continued to strengthen institutional, legal and administrative frameworks for the protection and promotion of human rights, through legal and institutional reform and national strategic documents and action plans.

IGNACIO YBÁÑEZ, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain, recalled its Universal Periodic Review that had taken place last month, which was a very gratifying experience; Spain was now studying more than 120 recommendations it had received in this process.  Bringing into question the principle of the universality of human rights contributed to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people around the world and, looking at the world today, it seemed that this principle was not being implemented.  The progress made in the realization of human rights must be protected and societies must be reminded that the universality of human rights placed the human being at the centre of  endeavours.  Spain had been a victim of terrorism and said with pride that it was able to address it in accordance with the letter of the law.  The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played a key role in constructing societies of human rights, and that was why the High Commissioner and his Office must enjoy full support of the international community and independence in the exercise of their function.  Spain supported the Office’s presence on the ground because it played a key role in the prevention of future crises, and in that vein Spain welcomed the announcement made by the High Commissioner of the upcoming reorganization and extension of field presences.

CHO TAE-YUL, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, regretted rampant human rights violations in all corners of the world.  In order for the United Nations to overcome those challenges it had to retrace its steps back to the spirit of humanism.  First of all, Member States should double their efforts to eradicate the practice of impunity towards human rights violations and secure accountability.  A human rights-centred approach should be adopted in addressing crises, such as armed conflicts, the Ebola epidemic and natural disasters.  Secondly, further efforts should be made to mainstream human rights across the whole spectrum of the United Nations activities.  Thirdly, more work needed to be done to enhance the efficiency of the management of the Human Rights Council.  As for the commission of inquiry on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, an objective and independent study had been conducted and had revealed the existence of grave, systematic and widespread human rights violations, and that many of them constituted crimes against humanity.  The Security Council had adopted the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on its formal agenda and decided to remain seized of the issue.  Hope was expressed that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would no longer ignore the plight of its people, and that it would cooperate with international organizations in that respect.  It was important to inform the families that were separated when the Korean Peninsula was divided 70 years ago about the whereabouts of their loved ones.  With respect to the investigation into the victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army, punishment for the perpetrators and compensation and apologies to the victims, the Government of the Republic of Korea expressed hope that Japan would heed those calls.

ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that the Arab region faced many challenges.  In Bahrain, scattered groups conducted acts of violence.  Reports showed increased targeting of civilians, including bombings.  Although security forces had shown restraint, these actions required a strong response by the State.  These acts were a provocation of the right to freedom of speech and had nothing to do with political demands.  After long discussions with the Office of the Human Rights Council, an agreement had been reached to strengthen technical cooperation to Bahrain, and a team had started its activities in Bahrain the year before.  A new cooperation programme in the field of the Office of the High Commissioner had also been adopted, and would cover stakeholders such as members of the national human rights institution of Bahrain and members of civil society.  Bahrain was also committed to continue its cooperation with Special Procedures, treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.  Bahrain cooperated with civil society organizations, and had for example accepted visits by representatives of Amnesty International. 

JUAN CARLOS ALURRALDE, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, said that Bolivia had many experiences to share in seeking a dignified life in harmony with nature.  Climate change was the crisis that threatened life on this planet; the world would adopt a new international instrument in Paris this year, to guarantee the survival of the planet Earth.  Bolivia was concerned about the failure of previous negotiations, and was organizing the World Summit of People for Climate Change which would ensure that the voices of people were heard in Paris.  Bolivia had included those who previously did not have a voice in the preparation of new laws, for example the law on participation and oversight, the law against racism and all forms of discrimination, or the law which guaranteed women a life free of violence.  More than 2 million people had emerged from poverty in Bolivia, and the Millennium Development Goals on access to safe drinking water had already been achieved.  Challenges remained in access to justice, which was an area of concern.  Gaps between rich and poor and between the countries in the North and in the South had increased in the world, and the emerging conflicts seemed to have no end because of the lack of political will.  Bolivia could not understand how people who had suffered atrocities during World War II became cruel oppressors of others and why the world had failed to stop the human rights violations that were being committed in the Gaza Strip for so many years.

KAMALESH SHARMA, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said that the Commonwealth focused on the effective and durable implementation of accepted Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  It also worked with parliamentarians in sharing best practices to strengthen their contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights within their remits of law-making.  It had begun working on a comparative publication of practices across the Commonwealth on the appointment procedures of chairs and commissioners of national human rights institutions.  At their meeting in 2013 heads of government of the Commonwealth had decided to continue to address child, early and forced marriage, and to continue strengthening the capacities of national protection mechanisms in order to eliminate that form of violence against women.  As the threats of radicalism and extremism were growing, the Commonwealth emphasized the need to promote tolerance, respect, understanding, moderation and religious freedom.  The positive belief in the intrinsic right to rich and multiple identities to triumph over the reductionist and singular ones would be important in this century.  The Commonwealth continued to benefit from the insights of Special Rapporteurs and Expert Mechanisms, particularly in the area of health, human rights defenders, sexual violence in conflict, indigenous peoples, and the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and the guarantees of non-recurrence.  The Commonwealth regarded young people as vital assets who needed to be empowered to realize their potential and contribute fully to all facets of national development, which was why the Commonwealth theme in 2015 was “A Young Commonwealth”.

Right of Reply

Turkey, speaking in a right of reply in response to a reference made by the Armenian delegation about events of 1915, rejected allegations of genocide, which was a very specific and serious crime, precisely defined in international law.  The term genocide should not be used lightly, especially since there was no consensus regarding the events of 1915.  Turkey sincerely desired to reach peaceful relations with Armenia. 

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply in response to comments made by several European delegations, regretted that there were misconceptions regarding the origins of the violence in Ukraine.  The Russian Federation was prepared to offer its help to Ukraine to exit the conflict that had arisen after the illegitimate coup d’état there, and to implement the Minsk agreement.  Crimea had made the choice to join the Russian Federation, and Crimean Tatars were in a much better situation now than they had ever been under Ukrainian authority. 

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, reiterated its position on the resolution of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  In response to a statement by the Republic of Korea, Japan said that it was deeply attached to combatting violence against women and had made efforts to provide remedy to former comfort women.  Japan hoped its efforts would be appreciated. 

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply in response to Armenia’s representative, blamed Armenia for misrepresenting historical realities.   Speaking of the persecution of Azeris by Armenian authorities known as the Khojaly tragedy during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1992, Azerbaijan stated that Armenia had no legal ground to speak of genocide, as it was responsible for the Khojaly genocide.  The European Court of Human Rights had qualified these as acts of particular gravity, which could amount to war crimes.  An Armenian official had admitted Armenia’s implication in the  perpetration of these acts.  Armenia also had no right to speak on the destruction of cultural monuments, which it had also perpetrated against Azerbaijan.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, strongly denounced the provocative statement made earlier today by the delegation of the Republic of Korea.  The report of the commission of inquiry was based on lies and false facts.  The Republic of Korea, together with the United States had engaged in human rights rackets against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to divert the attention of the world public away from themselves.  Human rights violations were systematic and pervasive in the Republic of Korea, including suppression of citizens seeking the truth about the Ferry Liner “Sewol” disaster, the world record number of suicides, torture of prisoners and child abuse.  People in the Republic of Korea were becoming victims for criticizing their government or praising the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The authorities there had also provided since 1945 over one million Korean women as sexual slaves to United States’ military bases.    

Qatar, speaking in a right of reply, objected to the statement made by Denmark on the alleged bad conditions for migrant workers in Qatar.  The Government of Denmark had  neglected to mention that there existed problems with the protection of human rights in their own country, such as racial discrimination.  The Government of Denmark also failed to take into account developments in the protection of human rights in Qatar.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that the Republic of Korea could not ignore the plight of people in that country, as evidenced in the report of the commission of inquiry, which was based on the statements of numerous victims.  The Republic of Korea called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately stop all human rights abuses against its own people.  As for the use of comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army, the Republic of Korea objected to the Japanese statement that those women were not forced to become sexual slaves.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statements made by Belgium and Denmark with respect to the state of human rights in Bahrain, said Bahrain was devoted to the protection of human rights, and the alleged arbitrary arrests of Internet activists were actually linked to acts of terrorism.  They were arrested because they had acted against peace and security in the country.  Bahrain also denied infringing upon religious freedom.

Myanmar, speaking in a right of reply, addressed the statements of Denmark and the OSCE.  Myanmar had conducted a project that granted citizenship to 2,000 people.  This process was vital in order to ensure that long-term plans could be implemented.  Freedom of movement was not restricted for those whose citizenship status was clear.  However for those whose citizenship status was not clear, they needed travel permits.  The second project “Rainflower” was being conducted and individuals were welcome to apply for citizenship. 

Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, advised the “South Korean” delegation to be ashamed for enticing conflict and for closing down prison camps.  It advised “South Korea” to mind its own business.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply in response to the Republic of Korea, stated that Japan did not intend to review the results of the fact-finding study.  The efforts of the Asia Women’s Fund, and the apology, had been with a view to offering comfort from a moral ground.  Compensation had been provided through the San Francisco Treaty.  Over the last 70 years and since the Second World War, Japan had consistently pursued a peace-loving path, embracing the rule of law, democracy and human rights, and democratization around world.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, said that allegations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not deserve an answer, and encouraged it to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms.  In response to Japan, the Republic of Korea reiterated that the issue of comfort women had not been resolved. 

For use of the information media; not an official record