18 March 2014
The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, during which speakers raised allegations of human rights violations in countries and regions around the world and reiterated the Council’s responsibility to address all situations of concern.
Speakers in the general debate also highlighted concerns about child recruitment, early marriages, outbreaks of ethnic and sectarian violence, kidnapping of journalists and human rights activists, the blocking of independent media, and legislation against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in a number of countries, among others.
Taking floor in the general debate were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Montenegro, United States, France, Indonesia, Germany, Algeria, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Cuba, Russia, Japan, Italy, Venezuela, Ireland, Nicaragua (on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA), Austria, China, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Iran, Ecuador, Australia, Belgium, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Canada, Belarus, Netherlands, Georgia, Bolivia, Sudan, Myanmar, and Azerbaijan.
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Human Rights Law Centre; Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; Human Rights Watch; European Centre for Law and Justice; Indian Council of South America; Amnesty International; Edmund Rice International Limited; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale; Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grand Lacs; Centre Europe-Tiers Monde; Baha’i International Community; Human Rights House Foundation; COC Nederland: International Lesbian and Gay Association; World Environment and Resource Council; Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment; Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute; Centre for Inquiry; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Alsalam Foundation; Women’s Human Rights International Association; Minority Rights Group; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Associacion Civil; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran; Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy; International Buddhist Relief Organization; United Schools International; United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation; World Barua Organization; International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism; International Muslim Women’s Union; Liberation; Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development; International Humanist and Ethical Union; UN Watch; France Libertes: Fondation Danielle Mitterand (joint statement); Society Studies Centre; International Education Development; International Buddhist Foundation; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme; Franciscans International; Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations (joint statement); Union of Arab Jurists; Commission to Study the Organization of Peace; Canners International Permanent Committee; International Association for Democracy in Africa; Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik; Touro Law Centre; Agence Internationale pour le Développement; Le Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut; Syriac Universal Alliance; Vivekananda Sevakendra-O-Sishu Uddyan; General Arab Women Federation; World Muslim Congress; Society for Threatened Peoples; Press Emblem Campaign; and the International Institute for Peace.
At the end of the meeting, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, Eritrea, China, Japan, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Armenia, Mauritania, Cuba, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Algeria spoke in right of reply.
The Council will resume its work on Wednesday, 19 March, at 9 a.m., when it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the right of minorities, hear the presentation of the report of the Forum on Minority Issues, and then hold a general debate on its subsidiary bodies.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned violations against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which may constitute crimes against humanity. It called on the Government of Myanmar to conduct a credible investigation into the allegations, to allow full access of humanitarian assistance to the affected communities, and to reform the Citizenship Act of 1982 by granting full citizenship to Rohingya Muslims. It was also noted that the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had proposed the organization of an international symposium on the relationship between Muslims and Buddhists.
Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, condemned grave human rights situations in Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and said positive signals in Iran had yet to translate into real improvement. They strongly condemned the unprovoked violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and called on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops and de-escalate the crisis. The European Union also raised situations of concern in South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as cases of severe repression of human rights defenders in China.
Montenegro, speaking about Syria, stressed the urgency for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2139, saying that the Government of Syria bore primary responsibility for ending restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid, which had led to starvation and malnutrition within the civilian population. Montenegro commended the Government of Myanmar for progressive steps taken, including to greater press freedom. More work needed to be done to promote the rule of law, and the establishment of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights country office within Myanmar would be beneficial.
United States said that Cuba continued to silence peaceful voices and China continued to practice illegal detentions and enforced disappearances of activists and continued to censor the Internet and religious freedom. In Venezuela, arbitrary detention and the use of force against protestors, and the shutdown of the media and the internet, were endangering human rights. In Darfur and the Blue Nile states, violence continued to lead to human rights violations and casualties. The United States also expressed concerns about the situation in Turkmenistan, Russia and Egypt, among other countries.
France condemned the serious violations of the sovereignty of Ukraine and called on the international community to reject the referendum and on Russia to bring about a peaceful solution for the crisis. France called for the cessation of attacks on civilians in Syria and for the respect of humanitarian norms. In Iran, the level of human rights violations remained alarming, and freedom of opinion, expression and religions were regularly flouted. France also recalled its concern about the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that perpetrators should be brought to justice.
Indonesia stressed the principle of non-selectivity and impartiality in addressing country situations. An appropriate way to deal with the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the full involvement of all parties should be found. All parties in the Syrian conflict should allow prompt access to humanitarian aid, and the ongoing peace process must be supported. Positive developments in Myanmar should be recognized and the country should be given time to progress its democratic agenda. The increased engagement of the Iranian Government with the international community was noted and encouraged.
Germany expressed concern about reports of kidnapping of journalists and human rights activists, the blocking of independent media and the barring of independent international observers, inter alia Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic from the Crimean region in Ukraine. Human rights violations in Belarus, Sri Lanka, China and the very grave situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were also raised. Germany said the draft Iraq law for the Shiite community that would lower the marital age of girls to nine years and ban women from leaving their home without their husband’s consent should never be enacted.
Algeria remained concerned about repeated human rights violations in Western Sahara, a conflict with a political dimension covered by the General Assembly and at the Security Council, and a humanitarian dimension addressed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, to which many countries contributed through bilateral aid. There remained the fact that the human rights dimension had not been satisfactorily dealt with. Violations occurred daily and Algeria reiterated its view that the Council and its mechanisms should take up this question.
Czech Republic remained concerned about Syria, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as Myanmar, despite its recognition of recent positive developments there. Crimea faced the risk of violent conflict. The Czech Republic called on Russia to withdraw its forces in accordance with international law and regretted limitations on freedoms of expressions as well as the situation of minorities in China. While welcoming the improved situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the delegation reiterated concerns about the prevalence of sexual violence and about situations in South Sudan and Libya, among other countries.
United Kingdom believed that the crisis in Ukraine should be resolved peacefully, based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as on the strict adherence to international law. The United Kingdom was appalled by the situation in Syria and reiterated calls to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. The international community could no longer ignore the appalling human rights violations committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the lack of progress on human rights in Iran, as well as concerns about the situations in Burma, Sudan, South Sudan and China.
Cuba regretted that at every Council session the United States and other European countries read out long lists of countries cited for human rights violations as if the Council was an inquisitorial trial. The United States was trying to deflect attention from its own human rights violations around the world, such as the assassination by drones of civilians, the rights of prisoners in the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo Bay and the illegal blockade of Cuba. Criticism was being levelled at Venezuela but it was countries of the Global North that were assisting the right-wing fascists causing the unrest there.
Russia said the people of Ukraine had always been and remained brothers of Russia. The crisis was not between Moscow and Kiev, it was caused by the coming to power of radical nationalist elements, including members of a political party accused by the European Union in 2012 of being racist, and members of a Neo-Nazi party who were calling for the liquidation of Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Russia was bothered by the positions of its European colleagues who despite their own history had made it possible for those radical nationalists to take power in Ukraine.
Japan said the crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea demanded action by the international community, and this session it would submit a joint resolution, with the European Union, on the situation. The abduction issue of Japanese citizens was a high priority; as the abductees and their families were ageing it was imperative the issue was resolved without delay. Japan called for an immediate end to the violence in Syria and under its ‘proactive contribution to peace’ principle pledged to contribute through humanitarian assistance and political dialogue. Japan also expressed deep concern about the worsening of the religious conflict and the human rights and security situation in the Central African Republic.
Italy said that in several countries, outbreaks of ethnic and sectarian violence were jeopardising people’s safety and endangering regional stability. Italy expressed concerns about the situation in South Sudan, reiterated great concerns at the developments in Ukraine and said that, consistent with the European Union, it considered illegal the referendum held on 16 March and would not recognise its outcome. Italy urged Russia not to annex Crimea and to immediately stop all military activities in Ukraine. A political solution was still possible and diplomatic challenges must remain open.
Venezuela rejected the selective approach, violating the principle on non-intervention in domestic affairs, deployed against countries in the South. Agenda 4 could not be hijacked to attack in a selective manner sovereign States. Some of these imperialist powers pointed out with no justification that some rights were violated in Venezuela. The Government was attempting to build a society where the rights of all were respected. The United States carried out the arbitrary detention and torture of thousands without regard for due process.
Ireland welcomed the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to investigate cases of human rights violations during the last months. The rights of all citizens, including Crimea and persons belonging to minorities, should be fully respected and protected. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine should be also fully respected. Ireland also expressed concerns about violence in South Sudan and in the Central African Republic, freedom of assembly and association in Bahrain and legislation against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in a number of countries, including Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.
Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA), expressed unequivocal support for the people of Venezuela who were victims of a strategy by the political right aimed at destabilizing the country and provoking a breakdown in society. The Alliance regretted the deaths of Venezuelan citizens caused by the actions of the political right to discredit at an international level the Bolivarian revolution, and extended its condolences to their families. The Alliance supported President Nicolas Moros in his efforts to stabilize the situation and bring about a return to peace.
Austria said the harrowing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be referred to the International Criminal Court, as should widespread violations in Syria by both the Government and opposition groups. In Eritrea there were serious concerns over the incommunicado detention of prisoners and their alleged torture, dire prison conditions and the lack of free speech. Eritrea was called on to allow entry to the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. The human rights situations in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Myanmar and Uganda were also raised.
China said the path chosen by each country on how it sought to protect human rights should be respected. China was very concerned by politicization and double-standards in the Council. It was incredible that certain countries were very keen on ‘naming and shaming’ and interfering in the human rights situation of other countries, which damaged the basis for cooperation. The representatives of the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and others ignored the huge progress in human rights achieved in China and made groundless accusations against it. The United States and its allies were engaged in large-scale eavesdropping programmes which seriously violated the right to privacy of many people.
Norway was deeply concerned about the deteriorating conditions of freedom of speech and assembly in Crimea. Concerning the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Norway called on all parties to respect their human rights obligations and to implement confidence building measures in support of the peace process. In Uganda the anti-homosexuality laws violated a number of fundamental rights protected by its constitution and international commitments. Norway also expressed worries about the serious security and the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Central African Republic.
Denmark called for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine with respect for its territorial integrity and strongly urged South Sudan to live up to its responsibility to protect its population from atrocities. The perpetrators of human rights violations in the Central African Republic must be held accountable and humanitarian access must be ensured. Denmark was deeply concerned about the situations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Iran and with Israel’s illegal settlement activity on Palestinian lands.
Spain was alarmed by the situation in the Central African Republic and added its voice to call on South Sudan to respect the rights of its citizens. The situation of human rights defenders in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the violence against women there was of particular concern. Steps must be taken to ensure respect for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Iran and Eritrea should ensure the respect for human rights of their citizens.
Switzerland said that more needed to be done to protect children from early marriages in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Yemen and said that child recruitment was on the increase in the Central African Republic and in several other countries. In South Sudan the parties to the conflict continued with arbitrary executions and violations of international humanitarian law. Switzerland was extremely concerned about the grave and systematic human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and called for the referral of this situation to the International Criminal Court.
Iran said European Union Member States were often unwilling to tackle human rights violations against Roma, Muslim minorities and migrants. The human rights record of the United States was poor, and it had unprecedented levels of rights abuses, such as its use of illegal or secret detention facilities, including Guantanamo Bay, and use of armed drones which indiscriminately claimed the lives of civilians. Iran also regretted that the situation of indigenous peoples in Canada remained a serious issue of concern.
Ecuador said the poor history record of the United States on human rights issues was well known, including its continued application of the death penalty, the use of drones without due process, continued impunity for its invasion of Iraq and the use of doctrines such as the ‘global war against terrorism’ as justification for its actions and an attempt to set itself above the Charter of the United Nations. The United States now had an historic opportunity to change its policy course and fight for the respect of human rights.
Australia urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. All parties to the Syrian conflict, and particularly the Syrian regime, must take steps to end the violence against civilians and remove obstacles to humanitarian aid. Steps taken by the Iranian Government to improve human rights were noted, but the sharp rise in executions, torture of prisoners and continued civil and political rights restrictions were a concern. Australia also spoke about human rights violations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Belgium expressed serious concern about the situation in Ukraine and hoped for a peaceful solution which would respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and about grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In South Sudan, flagrant and massive violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law had been seen since December 2013. In Venezuela, there was significant use of violence and all parties should show restraint.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that human rights abuses such as xenophobia, sexual abuses, discrimination against minorities and others prevailed in western countries and yet they and the United States continued to behave as human rights judges by introducing country-specific resolutions. Japan had committed heinous crimes against humanity in the past which it should admit and settle.
Canada strongly condemned Russia’s actions in the Crimea and said it would not recognize any referendum there under current conditions. Canada was concerned about the situations in the Central African Republic, where one million persons were displaced, the appalling human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the prosecution of journalists in Sri Lanka. Early marriages and the constraints on religious freedoms in many countries deserved the attention of the Council, Canada said.
Belarus said traditionally Western countries tried to bring up human rights violations in developing countries, but it believed the human rights situations in so-called ‘developed’ countries was hardly much better. The situation of migrants in Italy and Greece was nothing other than inhumane. Global violations of the right to non-interference were a hallmark of the United States. The rise of Neo-Nazis in countries including Greece, Poland and Estonia was also a concern. The situation of the Roma in countries including Czech Republic, Romania and Finland were also deeply concerning.
Netherlands remained deeply concerned about severe human rights violations in Eritrea, including prolonged military service, impunity and severe maltreatment of prisoners. Eritrea was urged to grant the request of the Special Rapporteur to visit the country. The need for accountability of widespread human rights violations in South Sudan was underlined. The lack of progress in human rights in Iran, despite positive developments in nuclear negotiations, was regretted. It was hoped that the new international dynamics would stimulate more positive actions by the Iranian authorities such as the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh last September.
Georgia fully supported the European Union position on Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Georgia did not recognize the recent referendum in Crimea which was illegal. The international community was called upon to use all available instruments to stop the secession of Crimea by Russia. In Georgia, there was no sign of progress in the Geneva International Discussions and the occupying power renewed its activities as soon as the Sochi Olympic Games concluded, including installation of an illegal border fence. Russian occupying forces must withdraw from Georgia’s territory, the speaker said, adding that the current situation in Georgia’s regions required immediate international attention.
Bolivia reiterated full support to the people and the Government of Venezuela and regretted the use of double standards which some countries were trying to drive in this Council as a cover to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. Venezuela would be able to find a lasting solution to the crisis through its own efforts.
Sudan said it had made considerable progress in the promotion and protection of human rights, adding that acts of aggression perpetuated in Darfur were efforts to stop the Government from promoting peace and security in the country. Countries calling attention to the human rights situation in Sudan should also mention the activities of non-State armed groups because they threatened lives and infrastructure in Sudan.
Myanmar truly believed that human rights should be addressed through dialogue and in a fair manner, with objectivity and neutrality as guiding principles. Cultural and historic specifics of a country should be taken into consideration when raising human rights issues therein. Country-specific mandates on Myanmar in the Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly were no longer necessary.
Azerbaijan said that international human rights law defined the obligations of States to act in a certain way, adding that the occupation of more than 40 per cent of its territory by Armenia, including in Nagorny Karabakh, represented one of the major obstacles to the promotion and protection of human rights. In the course of its illegal occupation, Armenia had committed numerous human rights violations against citizens of Azerbaijan, including killings, torture and extra-judicial killings.
Human Rights Law Centre was deeply concerned by the treatment by Australia of Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees. Historically, the vast majority of Sri Lankans arriving in Australia had been found to be refugees. Australia had also forcibly returned 1,100 Sri Lankans since October 2012 and did not adequately monitor their safe return.
Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that following South Sudan’s descent into violent conflict in December 2013, non-governmental organizations had documented targeted killings of civilians, sexual violence, torture and the use of child soldiers. The Council should urge all parties to the conflict to observe the cessation of hostilities agreement and ensure the protection of civilians.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that in Bahrain gross human rights violations continued to be committed on a daily basis and most violations had gone unpunished. The highest authorities were called upon to immediately release all prisoners of conscience. The massacre of civilians in Egypt was also strongly condemned.
Human Rights Watch condemned the intensified attacks against civil society actors in Sri Lanka and expressed concern about the brutal response to protests in Venezuela, where impunity for political violence continued. Countries using armed drones for targeted attacks still did not provide adequate justification for their use and the Council should ensure adherence to human rights principles in those lethal attacks.
European Centre for Law and Justice said that in Iran religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i and Christians, were demonised by clerics and authorities; many were in detention on national security charges, and were prosecuted for community-based activities.
Indian Council of South America said there were attempts to discredit organizations which supported indigenous peoples who protested against misuse of their lands. If western countries wanted to address the right to self-determination they should look at the situation of indigenous peoples and at Hawaii and Alaska.
Amnesty International said that Egypt’s security forces were getting away with murder. On 13 August 2013, security forces used unnecessary force. Over 150 protesters died at the hands of the security forces that day and 600 persons died across Egypt in the days after. Not one member of the security forces had faced sanction, criminal investigation or charge.
Edmund Rice International Limited, in a joint statement, addressed the current human rights situation in Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers. The conditions of the detention facilities were manifestly inadequate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, after two visits to the detention centre, had concluded that the detention was arbitrary.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers drew the Council’s attention to the Obama administration’s treatment of whistle blowers. They played a fundamental role in promoting human rights and democracy. The protection of national security secrets should not be used to intimidate the press into silence.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale said that violence against women remained a serious issue, especially in armed conflict. The Kashmiri women were suffering the brunt of the conflict and many rape cases were not investigated, leaving the victims to believe that abuses were being committed with impunity.
Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grand Lacs said that human rights violations were perpetuated in the Tinduf camp resulting in suffering of the population. Camps had become prisons where movement was limited. Algeria and the Polisario militias insisted to make of the camps secret areas where access would not be allowed.
Centre Europe-Tiers Monde was concerned about the inconsistent implementation of anti-terrorist legislation and said that in Chile nothing was done to ensure the rights of the Mapuche people, especially their right to water and ancestral land. Mapuche were maintained as second-class citizens without a voice in political decision-making.
Baha’i International Community said that Iranian Baha’i continued to face injustice in every aspect of their lives and even children were not spared. Despite all this persecution, they were still exerting all efforts in order to contribute their share to the betterment of their community, and of Iran.
Human Rights House Foundation said that since 9 November 2013 Ukraine had lived through human rights violations unseen in Eastern Europe for the last decades. Abductions of journalists and activists had taken place. The Government of Ukraine was called upon to draw up a plan for the investigation of violations since 9 November.
COC Netherlands, in a joint statement, said that in recent months alarming trends of States passing deeply worrying legislation that restricted freedom of expression and criminalized civil society organizations working on sexual and gender issues had been seen. Surely, whatever their differences, it could be agreed that violence on any ground was wrong.
World Environment and Resource Council expressed concern about the upsurge of jihadism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and said that the war on terror could not be won by military means. The mainstream narrative of terrorism and jihadism must be fought appropriately. The United Kingdom was the country that recognized this, but the British Muslims did not show any sign of reflection and understanding that this was the war to be fought within Islam.
Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment said that the principle of sustainable development must be integrated into socio-economic goals. In Iran there was a need to decrease its environmental degradation. Iran must integrate environmental planning in development and promote city energy consumption standards.
Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute said that Saudi Arabia had not made efforts to promote human rights so far. The use of capital punishment was high, the human rights of migrants were violated, the new counter-terrorism law granted high power to the central authority, and the rights of religious minorities were violated. A country that was a member of this Council ought to have a much better situation of human rights.
Centre for Inquiry said that one of the most hostile nations for religious minorities in the world was Pakistan. Pakistan continued to violate many of its citizens’ rights to freedom of religion or belief. Sectarian violence was chronic in the country. How States treated their minorities was not only a question of rights, but also of civilization.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that freedom of religion and belief was a fundamental human right. Shi’a minorities in many countries were deprived of their rights and faced numerous problems and abuses, such as in Saudi Arabia. In Bahrain, they were the majority, but politically they were deemed a minority and prevented from any political activities.
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation was deeply concerned about the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and joined the recommendation to ask the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. On Syria, CIVICUS was supporting a campaign to raise awareness of the bloodshed and commit to inclusive peace talks.
Alsalam Foundation said that in Bahrain the human rights situation was deteriorating and torture, arbitrary detention and the restrictions on freedom of expression and on work of human rights defenders continued. The case of human rights in Bahrain was urgent and Bahrain should release all political prisoners.
Women’s Human Rights International Association was concerned about the situation in Iran where the Government had carried out 150 executions this year, many in public hangings and many under the pretext of drug-related offences. Conditions in prisons continued to be very harsh, particularly for prisoners of conscience. The Government of Iraq prohibited the entry into Camp Liberty of medicines.
Minority Rights Groups said that certain religious minorities in Egypt were still not legally recognized regardless of constitutional provisions and this was the case of the Baha’i. The sectarian violence continued with impunity and Copts in Egypt faced arson and destruction of their churches. The rise of hate speech and hate crimes against religious minorities remained a prominent issue in the post-revolutionary context.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation said that the situation of conscientious objectors in Eritrea had not improved despite the numerous recommendations received by international human rights bodies to this effect. The regime committed massive violations of human rights in the specific pursuit of those persons.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) expressed concern over the very common use of lethal force by police in South America, including Brazil, Argentina and Peru. It was necessary that States across the continent seriously considered strategies for ending political impunity and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that human rights defenders were increasingly subject to harassment, imprisonment, torture, incarceration and reprisals in most Gulf countries. Almost any form of dissent against official policy had been criminalized through laws fundamentally contradicting international human rights standards.
Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran noted that Iran’s legislation framework did not provide an adequate response to supply the freedom of speech. The Institute supported continuous dialogue between Iranian religious scholars and western experts on human rights, as well as holding training courses for civil rights activists and Iranian independent intellectuals.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the Dalit population in India continued to suffer from caste discrimination, which was institutionalised and much more pervasive than religious discrimination because of its religious base. The existence of the caste system provided a solid basis for the rise of fascism. The Centre also referred to incidents targeting Dalit individuals and called on the Council to urge India to take action.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that caste discrimination was more pernicious than religious discrimination because of its religious basis. Investigations were pending and cases were closed under the influence of dominant caste people or for political reasons, and the acquittal rates for violations against Dalit individuals were high and only few convictions were enforced.
United Schools International addressed the ongoing brutalisation of the people of Baluchistan by Pakistani authorities, responding in past occasions with armed force and increasingly targeted attacks and disappearances of leaders and activists. Mass graves had been recently discovered and the population suspected that disappeared individuals had ended in these graves. Some 18,000 persons remained missing and security forces continued to operate with impunity.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that the barbarity of the Pakistani establishment in Balochistan intensified as the army’s scorch and burn operations continued. The threat to Balochi human rights became more acute and imminent because of the protection provided by the Pakistani army to Chinese firms set to exploit and ravage Baloch natural resources.
World Barua Organization drew attention to the plight of non-Hindu minorities and low caste Hindus and said that since the independence of India in 1947 the discrimination of minorities became the modus operandi of the ruling majority of Hindus. The role of minorities in the national development and governance process was marginal and their role was denied.
International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism called on the Human Rights Council to ensure the safety of three human rights defenders recently detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act in Sri Lanka. The Human Rights Council had the lives and rights of human rights defenders in its hands and States were obliged to respect human rights and should lead the struggle to make this world humane.
International Muslim Women’s Union noted that women’s and children’s rights were being violated in the India-occupied Kashmir. Women in Kashmir were continuously harassed, the most recent example being of harassment of a female doctor by a local minister. Nonetheless, women of Kashmir maintained their hope for a country equal and just for all.
Liberation said that the destructive policy of the Government of India had divided people along ethnic and caste lines. Since India’s independence, resources had been drained out of the State of Assam towards other regions in India. Wrong policies in the name of development had led to destruction and exacerbated relations between different groups.
Comite International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (CIRAC) stated that religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan had been systematically targeted either to be converted or forced to leave their native areas, including their properties. The construction of mega projects had caused environmental disasters in areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in a joint statement, said that the human rights situation in Iraq had been dire since the illegal invasion of the county in 2003, for which accountability and reparation had not occurred. The situation had deteriorated and exacerbated since December 2013. An independent international committee should be established to inquire after the situation.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said the ethnic cleansing of Muslim communities was part of a larger tragedy unfolding in the Central African Republic. The Foundation screamed loudest calls for all merciful humankind to save the lives of those innocents; a massacre of the innocent Muslims was taking place in the Central African Republic as the world looked the other way.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that it had now been 22 months that the Saudi intellectual and editor of a liberal website, Raif Badawi, had been sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a website that undermined general security and ridiculed Islamic religious figures. It was regrettable that new cases of free thinkers being threatened had to be reported at each Council session.
United Nations Watch drew the Council’s attention to the human rights situation in China, in particular, of human right activists imprisoned in solitary confinement. United Nations Watch also described the Chinese Government’s persecution of activists working on this issue, such as failing to deliver letters or forbidding relatives of imprisoned activists from visiting them, and called on the Council to urge China to release prisoners of conscience.
France Libertes, in a joint statement, said that it was unbelievable that Sri Lanka despite being under the spotlight had recently arrested and detained two prominent human rights activists as they visited family relatives. Impunity in Sri Lanka had led to an ever-increasing list of serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. France Libertes urged the Council to consider immediate action.
Society Studies Centre expressed deep concern at the grave and organized violations of human rights taking place in the Central African Republic where bloodshed and terrorization of innocent citizens continued in contradiction of the principles and standards of international law, in particular the freedom of religion. The Centre called on the Council to issue resolutions to immediately stop the cycle of violence and prevent similar incidents in the future and on the international community to provide assistance.
International Education Development said that genocide and mass atrocities had been ongoing against the Tamils in Sri Lanka long before the end to the armed conflict had put it in the spotlight, and now all were suffering the burden of preventing the genocide from occurring. It was unimaginable that the Government of Sri Lanka would independently and impartially investigate the human rights violations that had occurred during the armed conflict.
International Buddhist Foundation said that country-specific resolutions only resulted in deepening mistrust and created a barrier in mutual understanding and cooperation. Attempts to highlight Sri Lanka as an emblematic failure of the United Nations by some actors overstepped the borders and the Foundation believed that the Council could make use of its reporting mechanism to establish a healthy dialogue and set aside naming and shaming.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme said that the situation in the Central African Republic continued apace and action of the international community was needed to stop a humanitarian crisis from exploding and destabilizing the region. Other situations of concern included South Sudan, Eritrea, Libya, Northern Mali, and the risk of violence for African countries planning elections in 2014.
Franciscans International expressed deep concerns on the continuous human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Two non-governmental organization colleagues were arrested on Sunday, 16 March 2014 by the Terrorism Investigation Division Officials in Killinochi in the north of the country. The Government was urged to immediately release them and comply with international human rights law.
Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations said it had decided to refrain from making its statement under Item 7 and to do so under Item 4. The Board urged all countries represented here to ignore Item 7 which stood as the most blatant example of the Council’s selectivity espoused by each and every country during the preparatory discussions leading to the creation of the Council.
Union of Arab Jurists said that it was satisfied to read in the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria a mention of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by non-state armed groups. However, the report had not mentioned that these were financed, armed and sponsored by international and regional powers.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace reiterated that minority religious rights could only be preserved in a truly democratic environment. Nations which claimed to be democracies but whose constitutional and legal institutions were geared to discriminating against minorities could not be called democracies and Pakistan was one nation that fell into this category. Over the last 65 years there had been a steady decline in religious tolerance. Religious persecution, be it overt or discreet, was emerging with increasing frequency.
Canners International Permanent Committee referred to the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil minority in the northern and eastern islands was facing annihilation at the hands of the Sinhalese-dominated government, with support from Sinhalese politicians across the political spectrum who sought the support of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. These acts, underpinned by intent, clearly fell within the definition of genocide stipulated by the 1948 Convention on Genocide. The Sri Lankan Government had created an environment of fear and involuntary disappearances continued.
International Association for Democracy in Africa said women were essential elements of peace and security across the world; they brought democracy from the home to political decision making without hidden agendas. Restrictions on women’s rights were rising around the world, but the condition of minority women was even worse in Pakistan. Dalit women were also targeted for sexual violence by the Muslim community. Christian women were also subjected to human rights violations. The Association called on the Council to express concern and to protect all women.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the election of a new President in Iran nine months ago had brought about new hope, but the human rights situation had seen nothing but degradation so far, and the harassment of civil society continued. Human rights violations in Iran should be the concern of the international community and not only on nuclear issues.
Touro Law Centre said that the credibility of this Human Rights Council was undermined by accepting as members countries engaged in gross and systematic violations of human rights. Russia was one of those countries, and Ukrainians were not its only victims. Russia must be immediately suspended from the Council.
Agence Internationale pour le Developpement condemned the violation of human rights by Polisario leaders in the Tinduf camps and the repeated refusal of the Polisario Front acting with the support of Algeria to carry out a census of the camp population. The refugees suffered human rights violations and limitation of freedom of movement which turned the camps into open-air prisons.
Le Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut said she was a Tamil victim that lost her husband at the hands of the Sri Lankan army. The genocide was still going on. Victims were disappointed with the resolutions tabled at the Council session after session that failed to address the genocide.
Syriac Universal Alliance said that for the survival of the native Aramean Christians of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon, it was crucial for both the Aramean people and for peace, stability, and ethno-religious diversity of these countries that they stayed in the lands of their ancestors. This ancient people continued to be abandoned and neglected by the international community.
Vivekananda Sevakendra-O-Sishu Uddyan said that following the genocidal war on the island, many Tamils still remained unaccounted for in Sri Lanka. The Tamil culture was being destroyed day by day by the State and this could be read in several reports.
General Arab Women Federation said that foreign fighters had invaded Syria, looting villages and causing displacement. These fighters were destroying the public infrastructure and hospital and health centres, and many governorates now lacked hospitals. The restrictions imposed on the Syrian people had prevented their access to basic necessities, increasing poverty, hunger and social problems affecting them. The Federation said control must be established on the border to prevent terrorist and extremist armed groups from entering.
World Muslim Congress said that many human rights situations that occurred before the establishment of the Council were seldom tackled with a mandate. The Congress called on the Council to seek justice in those cases, such as in Indian occupied Kashmir, where occupying Indian troops were wreaking the lives of innocent Kashmiris and as a result over 100,000 people had been killed. Despite the available evidence, perpetrators of extra-judicial killings had not been held accountable.
Society for Threatened Peoples condemned the use of public security legislation against ethnic minorities and expressed concern at the violation of freedom of assembly in minority areas, often on the pretext of public security as also documented by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. The Society urged the Council to ensure the protection of the freedom of association and to ensure that domestic legislation was not misused.
Press Emblem Campaign said that 2013 had been the deadliest year for many media workers. Seventy per cent of the victims had been killed in conflict zones or in violent unrest. Twenty-four media workers had already been killed in 2014. The Press Emblem Campaign was particularly concerned by the situation of media workers and journalists in conflict zones. Impunity fuelled violence and violations of human rights.
International Institute for Peace said that there was increased global concern about what the future held for Afghanistan. It was highly significant that leading generals from the United Kingdom and United States had warned that a drastic reduction in the number of troops left behind would see all progress unravel.
Right of Reply
Sri Lanka, speaking in a right of reply with regards to a statement made on the arrest and detention of Ms. Jeyakumari and of Mr. Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen, said that Gobi, or K.P Selvanayagam was actively involved in reviving the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) through regrouping LTTE cadres and recruiting unemployed local youth with the intention of using them for acts of terrorism. Ms. Jeyakumari was placed under arrest on suspicion of aiding and abetting Gobi in his activities. Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen were held in connection with the aforesaid investigation into attempts to revive the LTTE.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that the United States once again brought the practice of interventionism and aggression against Venezuela, portraying the current situation as general chaos, while it was the case of pockets of violence. Very few terrorist groups tried to erode this solid democracy that had the support of the population. The United States had the darkest record in human rights history: over 300 armed drone attacks, hundreds arbitrarily detained, prisoners tortured in Guantanamo, and hundreds in solitary confinement.
Ukraine, speaking in a right of reply, thanked the delegations that supported Ukraine today and said that Crimea was an integral part of the country and that Russia should stop flagrant violations of human rights in occupied Crimea. Because of rampant fear and insecurity, many chose to leave Crimea and today Russia was blatantly distorting the facts to justify its military intervention there.
Iran, speaking in a right of reply, said it was responding to inaccurate and unsubstantiated allegations made about Iran. Capital punishment was solely applicable to the most serious crimes including murder, drug trafficking and terrorism. Such crimes were tried with extreme care and in adequate court sessions. As Iran was adjacent to one of the world’s largest heroin and opium routes such sentencing was understandable. The rights of followers of different sects, including Baha’i, were respected and their organization of and participation in ceremonies did not lead to prosecution. Iran respected the rights of its citizens in principle and the Baha’i were not an exception to that rule.
Eritrea, speaking in a right of reply, said it was deeply dismayed by the usual statements made by Greece on behalf of the European Union, the United States, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands and other countries. Their allegations about the use of torture, detention of people for expressing their views and restrictions on freedom of expression and belief had now become rhetoric. Eritrea continued to object to the appointment of any country-specific mandate holder because it negated the role of the concerned State, defied impartiality and politicized human rights issues.
China, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Chinese people enjoyed the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution, and they exercised this right in accordance with the rule of law and without violating the rights of other people. The Government was facilitating the economic and social development of ethnic and religious minorities and protected their traditional knowledge and languages; the Uyghur minority was thus no different from the other 56 minorities in the country.
Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said that the numbers mentioned by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on the issues of the past were totally groundless. Japan had expressed sincere remorse for the issues of the past and apologized to the nations that had suffered. It had continued its efforts since the end of World War II to build a just international order and was recognized as a peace-loving throughout the world.
Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, said it was totally unfair to say the Egyptian Government restricted the rights of peaceful assembly and association and used excessive force against protestors. Egypt rejected any sort of international intervention aimed at addressing issues dealt with exclusively by the Egyptian judiciary. It also reconfirmed the Egyptian Government’s commitment to engage positively with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office concerning the establishment of the OHCHR Regional Office for North Africa in Cairo.
Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply, spoke with regard to the statements of Greece on behalf of the European Union, and the United States to give a correct picture of the situation on the ground. At its last Universal Periodic Review Turkmenistan had fully accepted 166 of 183 recommendations, and had drawn up a road map to implement them. The constitution guaranteed the rights of citizens to freedom of opinion and expression as well as access to information, as did the law on mass media adopted in December 2012.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected politically motivated allegations by a number of countries that themselves had been waging wars in other countries under the pretext of the war on terror. The Western countries had never raised their own human rights records and were well advised to correct their own faults in the human rights field. Japan should not be allowed to address this Council because it had never issued a sincere apology for its past wrongdoings.
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that the distortion of the reality by Azerbaijan was an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from its own violations of the ceasefire agreement. Azerbaijan had been firing on villages in Nagorny Karabakh since January 2014 and its armed forces had violated the ceasefire agreement 2,750 times. Azerbaijan should take full responsibility for the daily violations of the ceasefire agreement.
Mauritania, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement of the International Humanist and Ethical Union regarding the detention of a certain Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, who now may face the death penalty, said that there could be no talk of a death penalty without a court sentence, as he had not yet been convicted. Mr. Mohamed published an article on the internet against the Prophet Mohammed. He was arrested to protect him from people who wanted to attack him for his blasphemy, and under the laws of the country.
Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, said the United States did not have the slightest moral authority to put itself forward on issues of human rights. It had carried out killings with drones and lethal technology. It used social and racial profiling in the carrying out of the death penalty and had made lethal errors. It committed arbitrary detention and used torture and forced feeding in cases of hunger strike. It had spent millions of dollars on clandestine operations against Cuba.
Morocco, speaking in a right of reply, said that Algeria continued to use Morocco as a scapegoat for the situation there, while it was Algeria which had set up and financed the Polisario. Moroccan Sahara was open to visitors and Algeria might do the same, but it was doubtful because the Special Rapporteur on torture had been waiting for a visit there for over 10 years. The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression should be paying the visit there after the recent death of a human rights defender.
Uzbekistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that the statements concerning the human rights situation in Uzbekistan did not reflect the reality. Uzbekistan had a strong legislative base to ensure freedoms and rights and to ensure the functioning of institutions in accordance with the rule of law. In order to strengthen the rule of law, Uzbekistan had introduced in 2008 habeas corpus and had abolished the death penalty. Currently, it was establishing its national preventive mechanism against torture.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply in response to Armenia’s accusations, referred to resolutions by the United Nations Security Council, the General Assembly and the Council of Europe reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, condemning the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces. The political agenda of Armenia would not be realised and the delegation urged Armenia to engage in a constructive political process.
Algeria, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement put forward by Morocco, said Algeria would leave it to the Council to assess the statement. Morocco had no lesson for anyone and the Moroccan ambassador was in fact allergic to any references to Western Sahara and only a few days ago had claimed that Algerian diplomats were schizophrenic. Moroccan newspapers had recently documented human rights violations in the country. Every day violations took placed against the inhabitants of the territories occupied by Morocco.
Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, responded to the statement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by saying it had already set out its position on the issues raised, and would not repeat it. Japan regretted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to the concerns raised by the international community, including States and civil society, and urged it to address them in a complete and constructive manner.
Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, spoke in response to accusations by Azerbaijan, which itself had released full-scale war against Armenia by shelling its towns and villages and organizing the killing of citizens, and who everyday violated their ceasefire in border villages. Armenia emphasized the importance of keeping to the 1994 and 1995 ceasefire agreements between the States, as well as the withdrawal of snipers and contributions to confidence-building measures. Instead of blaming Armenia, Azerbaijan should focus on the numerous human rights violations in its own country.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply in response to Japan, said that the more that Japan tried to avoid its crimes, the more the public would inquire into the truth about Japan. Japan’s claim that rape during war was not a war crime nor a crime against humanity revealed the Japanese position. The delegation urged Japan to accept responsibility for its crimes and to apologise and compensate the victims, also ensuring those responsible were held accountable to ensure no repetition.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply in response to the Armenian delegation, said that the war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territory had had an impact on civilians, in particular on the situation of internally displaced people. The separatist organizations established by Armenia in the territory of Azerbaijan had been challenged on several occasions and were not recognised by any State.
For use of the information media; not an official record