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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO SRI LANKA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, YEMEN AND CAMBODIA
25 September 2013

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights present updates and country reports on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen and Cambodia under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.    

Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, provided an oral update on Sri Lanka on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She said the majority of the persons who had been internally displaced at the end of the armed conflict had now returned or been resettled.  The High Commissioner had heard complaints about the continuing high levels of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, and about the rule of law and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka being undermined and eroded.

Turning to the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and the activities of her office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ms. Pansieri said that sexual violence remained a major concern, both in terms of its scope and its systematic nature, particularly in the east.  The Government’s efforts to fight impunity, improve prison conditions and establish its national human rights commission were encouraging.
 
Concerning the report on the situation of human rights in Yemen, Ms. Pansieri said that further steps were necessary to ensure the sustainability of efforts to address past and chronic violations.  Children continued to be recruited both by the armed forces and by armed groups, while there were frequent tribal road blockades and persistent sabotaging of electricity, oil and gas infrastructure,  

The Deputy High Commissioner said that the report on Cambodia showed that there had been considerable progress in prison reform, and the capacity of lawyers had been strengthened through joint activities with the Bar Association.  With assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner, Cambodia’s interaction with the international human rights mechanisms had improved and the country was preparing for its second review under the Universal Periodic Review.

The Deputy High Commissioner also briefly presented the report on the Central African Republic, but it was considered in an interactive dialogue in the previous meeting and a summary of the proceedings can be found here.

Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka and Yemen spoke as concerned countries.

Cambodia said that progress had been made with regard to critical issues such as land and judicial reform.  With the assistance of the High Commissioner’s Office, a lawyers’ code of conduct had been put in place.  Cambodia acknowledged shortcomings and limited capacity in cross-cutting issues of human rights.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo said it had taken various measures to improve the administration of justice and to combat impunity.  Trials were organized against perpetrators of grave human rights violations.  The resurgence of the conflict in the east, the poverty of the population and the limited national budget were major constraints to implement human rights.

Sri Lanka said that the report was not objective but the outcome of a politicized process.  Last Saturday free and fair elections had taken place in three major Sri Lankan provinces, which demonstrated that democracy was functioning in the country.  Work remained to be done to complete the ongoing reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, but positive steps had been taken to address the issue of accountability.

Yemen said that after a long conflict Yemen had responded to the call for national reconciliation and an office of the High Commissioner was opened in the country.  The most urgent issues were detained persons as a result of the revolution and Yemen was pursuing a rights-based approach to justice.  Despite the challenges faced, Yemen was moving forward in pursuit of human rights by drafting laws that would address such issues as human trafficking.

The Human Rights Council will reconvene on Thursday, 26 September at 10 a.m. to hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.  The Council will then start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/24/32).

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights and the activities of her Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (A/HRC/24/33).

The Council has before it the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Yemen (A/HRC/24/34).

Presentation of the Reports on Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen and Cambodia

FLAVIA PANSIERI, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, began by providing an oral update on Sri Lanka on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The majority of the persons who had been internally displaced at the end of the armed conflict had now returned or been resettled, although thousands of persons displaced before 2008-2009 were still awaiting return.  Also, the military presence in the north remained considerable.  One welcome development was the separation of the police from the Ministry of Defence under a new Ministry of Law and Order.  Regrettably, the High Commissioner had detected no new or comprehensive effort independently or credibly to investigate the allegations which had been of concern to the Council.  The High Commissioner had heard complaints about the continuing high levels of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, and about the rule of law and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka being undermined and eroded.

Turning to the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights and the activities of her office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ms. Pansieri said that sexual violence remained a major concern, both in terms of its scope and its systematic nature, particularly in the east.  Impunity generally remained widespread, even if some progress had been made in that respect.  The fight against impunity required strengthening legislation on international crimes.  There was renewed fighting around Goma, where civil society representatives continued to be intimidated and subjected to death threats, arbitrary arrests and other violations, both by State agents and armed groups.  Despite all that, the Government’s efforts to fight impunity, improve prison conditions, and establish its national human rights commission were encouraging.
 
Concerning the report on the situation of human rights in Yemen, Ms. Pansieri said that further steps were necessary to ensure the sustainability of efforts to address past and chronic violations, including the adoption of the Law on Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation.  Peaceful protests were often suppressed, particularly in southern Yemen, with reported arrests, injuries or deaths.  Children continued to be recruited both by the armed forces and by armed groups, while there were frequent tribal road blockades and persistent sabotaging of electricity, oil and gas infrastructure.  

Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights, Ms. Pansieri said that cooperation had deepened with a number of key Government counterparts, most notably the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and the Ministry of Justice.  There had been considerable progress in prison reform, and the capacity of lawyers had been strengthened through joint activities with the Bar Association.  With assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner, Cambodia’s interaction with the international human rights mechanisms had improved and the country was preparing for its second review under the Universal Periodic Review.  It was hoped that Cambodia would proceed with the reform of its key institutions.

Statements by the Concerned Countries

Cambodia, speaking as a concerned country, said in additional comments to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report that progress had been made on critical issues such as land and judicial reform.  With the assistance of the High Commissioner’s Office, a lawyers’ code of conduct had been put in place.  Seminars and training in human rights awareness had been held throughout the country at educational institutions and elsewhere.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been ratified with the assistance of the Office.  Ninety-one recommendations from the first cycle of Cambodia’s Universal Periodic Review had been taken up and the Office had provided follow-up assistance on these.  Cambodia acknowledged shortcomings and limited capacity in cross-cutting issues of human rights.  Cambodia therefore remained committed to constructive partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

WIVINE MUMBA MATIPA, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that notwithstanding its limited budget and the constraints faced in the eastern part of the country, the Government was continuing its efforts to promote all human rights.  Various measures had been taken to improve the administration of justice and to combat impunity.  Trials were organized against perpetrators of grave human rights violations.  The resurgence of the conflict in the east, the poverty of the population and the limited national budget were major constraints to the implementation of all human rights.  Armed groups were responsible for the extrajudicial executions and the acts of intimidation of human rights defenders.  The report made affirmations that were not backed up by facts, as there were no indications on the identity of the perpetrators.  It would be incorrect to say, as the report did, that most cases of rapes were not investigated.  The report also blamed State agents for using forced labour in the exploitation of natural resources and did not mention that illicit exploitation was one of the causes of the ongoing war in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo appealed to the international community to help it in the fight against the armed groups, which undermined the rights of women and children in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, said that it had lodged a complaint because the copy of the High Commissioner’s oral report on Sri Lanka had been made available late last night, thus leaving very little time to Sri Lanka to prepare its response.  Sri Lanka said that the report was not objective but the outcome of a politicized process.  Last Saturday free and fair elections had taken place in three major Sri Lankan provinces, which demonstrated that democracy was functioning in the country.  Holding an election to provide the people of the north with the right to elect their own administration was a victory for the current Government, which would continue to work with all provincial councils in the country.  Work remained to be done to complete the ongoing reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, but positive steps had been taken to address the issue of accountability.  Sri Lanka deplored all acts of violence against women and girls, and remained fully committed to protecting human rights defenders from intimidation and harassment.  Technical cooperation must complement the ongoing reconciliation process but without duplicating existing mechanisms and processes.  Rejecting claims that the human rights situation in the country had deteriorated, Sri Lanka stressed that it needed to be encouraged, not impeded.   

HOUDA ALI ABDELLATIF ALBAN, Minister of Human Rights of Yemen, said that after a long conflict Yemen had responded to the call for national reconciliation and an office of the High Commissioner was opened in the country.  The activities of the office reflected the priorities of the national consensus Government.  The most urgent issues were detained persons as a result of the revolution and Yemen was pursuing a rights-based approach to justice.  Yemen had agreed to set up a national human rights institution and a fund for compensating past victims of human rights violations.  Yemen had decided to pursue land reform under terms of the transitional institutions.  The present Government had issued a public apology to past victims of human rights violations.  Despite the challenges faced, Yemen was moving forward in pursuit of human rights by drafting laws that would address such issues as human trafficking.  Yemen highly appreciated the technical assistance offered by States, United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations such as the Danish Refugee Council.  The rights of women and children continued to improve as their protection formed part of the Government’s activities.  Terrorism was being curtailed by Yemen’s human rights obligations.  In its next Universal Periodic Review, Yemen would discuss its commitment to human rights further.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/125E


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