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


4 March 2014

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting today continued with its High-level Segment, hearing statements from 20 dignitaries who raised issues on human rights violations in a number of countries and regions and national efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Speaking during the meeting were Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Prime Minister of Vanuatu; Alfonso Nsue Mokuy, Third-Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea; Rui Chancerelle de Machete, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal; Urmas Paet, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia; Dato Sri Anifah Aman, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia; Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa; Linas Linkevicius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania; Juan Jose Garcia, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador; Bandar bin Mohammed Alaiban, Minister and President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia; Lubomir Zaoralek, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Minister for External Relations of Cameroon; Rui Carneiro Mangueira, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Angola; Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Mireille Pettiti, Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco; José Manuel Trullols, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic; Szabolcs Takacs, Deputy State Secretary, Political Director of Hungary; Anwar Mohamad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; Jonas Bering Liisberg, Undersecretary of State for Legal Affairs of Denmark; Roksanda Nincic, Assistant Foreign Minister of Serbia; and Sarah Seawall, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States of America.

During the meeting, many speakers expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and described the current state of affairs as the most serious crisis in Europe in recent years.  They stressed the essential need to maintain peace and stability in the region and to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  Speakers welcomed the approval of the Security Council resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria and hoped that, for the first time, the Council would finally adopt a consensual resolution on this human rights situation, thereby signalling united condemnation of the crisis.  Dignitaries also expressed concern about situations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sri Lanka, Iran, Mali, South Sudan, Kosovo, Myanmar, Nigeria and Uganda.

Commitment to human rights was a legitimate international concern, said one speaker and rejected the use of cultural relativism to cover up human rights violations.  Others drew the attention of the Council to overcrowding in prisons which represented a real and grave humanitarian problem and called upon States to redouble their efforts to improve the general situation concerning detention practices not only in peacetime but also during armed conflict and other situations of violence.

The Council began the High-level Segment of its twenty-fifth regular session on Monday, 3 March, when it heard addresses from the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Swiss Confederation.  A summary of the meeting is available here.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  This afternoon, at 4.30 p.m., the Council will hold a high-level interactive dialogue on the promotion of preventive approaches within the United Nations system.  The Council will resume its High-level Segment on Wednesday, 5 March, at 9 a.m.

High-level Segment

MOANA CARCASSES KALOSIL, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, said Vanuatu had fought for its political independence because it was its God-given right to be free.  Freedom was an inalienable right, a human right.  Vanuatu amplified concerns for human rights in West Papua and about the manner in which the international community had neglected the voices of the Papuan people, whose human rights had been trampled upon and severely suppressed since 1969.  Since the controversial Act of Free Choice in 1969, the Melanesian People of West Papua had been subject to on-going human rights violations committed by the Indonesian security services.

The world had witnessed the litany of tortures, murders, exploitation, rapes, military raids, arbitrary arrests and dividing of civil society through intelligence operations.  The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights concluded that these acts constituted crimes against humanity under Indonesian Law No.26/2000.  Injustice in West Papua was a threat to the principle of justice everywhere in the world.  In a world now so closely connected with innovative technology, there should be no excuses about lack of information on the human rights violations that had plagued the Papuan people for more than 45 years.  It was encouraging that the matter had now reached the European Union Committee on Human Rights.  The Human Rights Council was called upon to consider adopting a resolution to establish a country mandate on the situation of human rights in West Papua. 

ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY, Vice-Prime Minister in Charge of Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, reiterated Equatorial Guinea’s wish to closely cooperate with the United Nations human rights system to ensure a world that was more engaged with sustainable development and the principles of equality and peace.  Equatorial Guinea was a State party to numerous instruments and treaties and the Government endeavoured to implement its obligations and actions derived from these instruments through internal measures.  The Government was establishing programmes and developing projects to ensure a new orientation for social policies and poverty reduction.  An agenda had been established to diversify sources of growth and to ensure that oil exploitation could be industrially transformed as well as the development of fishing, finance and mining sectors, improving the institutional framework and modernising public administration.

Education legislation had removed the State’s monopoly on education and training; the health policy constituted a priority and measures had been taken to improve diagnostic, prevention and access to basic services.  Legislation to promote gender equality and ensure representation and women’s participation had been established.  Social security coverage had been extended to include persons with disabilities and other reforms addressed challenges concerning the prevention of torture and the establishment of several government institutions that constituted a milestone for the protection of human rights.  Additional legislation on trafficking in persons had been adopted.  Despite progress made, support and technical assistance in the field of human rights was still needed, in particular for the drafting of reports and statistics. 

RUI CHANCERELLE DE MACHETE, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal, said that Portugal was following with great concern the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Crimea.  It was essential to maintain peace and stability in the region and to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, fully respecting existing international agreements.  Russia was encouraged to follow a peaceful path, with dialogue, with Ukraine.  Portugal continuously strove to do more and better in order to fully respect its human rights obligations.  The establishment of the Portuguese National Human Rights Committee in 2010 was a milestone.  If elected as a member of the Council, Portugal pledged to work closely with all States and other key stakeholders in order to foster dialogue and cooperation, build bridges and achieve consensus, thus contributing to an effective implementation of human rights norms and standards. 

The unrelenting escalation of violence in Syria required the world’s full attention.  Portugal welcomed the approval of the Security Council resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria and hoped that, for the first time, this Human Rights Council session would finally adopt a consensual resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, thereby signalling united condemnation of the situation in the country.  The deteriorating human rights situation and overall humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic was deeply worrying and warranted utmost attention.  Portugal called on all parties to end the violent attacks against the population and to implement the resolution adopted last January by this Council.  Concern was also expressed about the situation in Guinea-Bissau, where human rights violations and abuses had created a general atmosphere of fear, intimidation and impunity. 

URMAS PAET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said that the situation in Ukraine was critical.  The Crimean peninsula had been invaded by Russian troops and this military action posed a serious threat to European peace and security.  The current state of affairs could be described as the most serious crisis in Europe in recent years.  Russia must stop its military actions and withdraw its armed forces.  Sending troops to a foreign country with invented excuses to allegedly protect its citizens was not the way to protect anyone and the military offensive was a clear violation of international law and was worsening Ukraine’s internal situation.  Ukraine needed international support and the international community should use every tool at its disposal to help Ukraine, first and foremost, reversing the process of deepening tension and promoting de-escalation.  A financial package to help Ukraine should be agreed as soon as possible to address the critical social and economic conditions.

Governments responsible for silencing the voices of their own citizens must understand that sustainable solutions for the future could only be built through free speech.  Estonia was chairing the Freedom Online Coalition, an intergovernmental coalition founded to advance Internet freedom, and would host the fourth annual conference on 28-29 April in Tallinn, noting that ways to protect human rights online had to be found.  Among other issues, Mr. Paet addressed violence against women, the rights of women and girls and international justice.  Estonia also expressed concerns about the situation in Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Finally, Mr. Paet reiterated that Russian’s actions violated the principles of the United Nations Charter as well as basically all of Russia’s international commitments and the importance of ensuring respect for international law in order to avoid a return to a Hobbesian world.

DATO SRI ANIFAH AMAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, reiterated the importance that the Government attached to continue building upon the positive and constructive engagement between Malaysia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  On 31 December 2013, Malaysia had completed its second full term as a Member State of the Council.  The experience had significantly benefitted Malaysia and Malaysians.  Malaysia maintained that rights holders had to pay equal attention to their role as duty bearers and ensure that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms were not at the expense of other rights holders.  Malaysia had undergone its first Universal Periodic Review cycle in 2009, and its second Periodic Review cycle in October 2013.  The preparatory process towards the second Review saw unprecedented levels of engagement between the Government and civil society.  Notable developments had taken place in civil and political rights.

Malaysia had demonstrated its readiness to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, including visits by Special Procedures, most recently the official visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in December 2013.  Malaysia had sought to emphasize values such as tolerance, understanding and mutual respect.   There remained serious human rights concerns that merited the Council’s continued attention, including the suffering of the Palestinian people and the increasingly desperate situation in Syria.  It was worth recalling that widening social economic inequalities arising from the financial and economic crisis continued to negatively impact on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe, more so in developing countries, with the most vulnerable and marginalized bearing the brunt.     

MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that the post-apartheid South Africa would be 20 years old in April 2014 and its struggle had fundamentally been for decolonization and the right to self-determination.  The transformation of South Africa since its freedom would have been meaningless if it had not changed the lives of ordinary South Africans, black and white.  Nelson Mandela had left but his legacy and a vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous South Africa lived on.  More needed to be done to move the country forward in the fight against the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment as manifestations of the enduring legacy of apartheid.  In honouring its global icon, Nelson Mandela, it was imperative that South Africa continued the unfinished business by taking forward his vision of a world free of racism.  The world could not afford to slide back and the Council had the responsibility to ensure that commitments of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance were fulfilled. 

The spirit of Vienna should be the common launching pad for the advancement of the current agenda.  Economic, social and cultural rights must receive equal zeal and dedication as civil and political rights.  It was important that the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was funded through assessed contributions.  Bilateralization of the mandate of the Human Rights Council through earmarked donor funding to the Office must be resisted.  This would ensure less politicization of the work of the Council and enhance its objectivity.  It was saddening that the Council had failed to hold the occupying power accountable for its actions towards the Palestinian people.  With regard to the situation in Sri Lanka, Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane said that it was important to allow the people of Sri Lanka to find each other and find durable solutions for their country.  South Africa deplored the senseless violence that continued unabated in Syria and fully supported the United Nations process, including the Geneva talks, to find a lasting political solution to the crisis.

LINAS LINKEVICIUS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said that in the course of the last several days the invasion and occupation by Russia of parts of the Ukrainian territory had been witnessed.  It clearly exceeded the agreements between Ukraine and Russia.  An open military aggression, as well as military and economic threatening, was a shocking act against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  Such behaviour was condemned and Lithuania called on Russia to immediately stop its actions, de-escalate the situation and start consultation mechanisms foreseen by international law.  The current situation in Crimea could only be addressed through an inclusive internal political process in Ukraine.  Aggression led to some of the most atrocious violations of human rights.  The international community had to act now and not feel sorry later.

For nearly three years unrelenting violence in Syria had been witnessed, resulting in thousands of deaths and vast numbers of wounded, detained and disappeared.  Lithuania expressed full support for the Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and called for all parties to engage.  Violence and lawlessness in the Central African Republic could no longer continue.  The international community was called upon to support national efforts aimed at reconciliation and the re-establishment of the rule of law.  There was no single recipe for improving the human rights situation worldwide.  However, a strong civil society was crucial.  Lithuania remained committed to pursuing respect for the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, essential components of a thriving society.  Lithuania would continue to speak in favour of media freedom and the safety of journalists, and would be further advocating for a safe and enabling environment for civil society to perform their work independently and without any interference. 

JUAN JOSE GARCIA, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said that after the signing of the peace agreement in 1992, the country had to find a way to restore national unity and establish durable peace.  This process of construction of a democratic State after the greatest crisis in its history, which had been based on economic and social inequalities, included the building of institutions such as the ombudsmen, professionalization of the armed forces and the reform of the electoral system.  The main tool was dialogue between political and social forces and it drew its public policy from the point of view of human rights.  El Salvador called on all to make dialogue and negotiations the primary elements to prevent and solve conflicts, and so build foundations for respect of human rights and the rule of law.  Inequality was the structural cause of poverty and the Government had a number of programmes in place, from social pensions, to school feeding, specialized care for abused women and others, all of which were part of the universal social protection system in the country that aimed to fulfil the goals of justice and equality. 

There was a programme for reparation to victims of grave human rights violations that had occurred during the armed conflict and those included measures in health, education, employment and other sectors.  El Salvador was a country which had lived through a civil war and which had been working hard on peace, democracy and human rights.  It was appropriate to recognize efforts and achievements made in preserving international peace and security.  All should strengthen agreements and progress with regard to the Iranian nuclear programme, and parties involved in negotiation of solutions for Syria must take into account the human rights of its population as the principal basis for the speedy solution to this crisis and its victims.  El Salvador would continue to promote legislative measures in the country to ensure that the structure of the State could guarantee a full enjoyment of human rights.

BANDAR BIN MOHAMMED ALIBAN, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said that the Government was determined to establish a fair and effective justice system, based on solid foundations derived from Islamic law.  In the furtherance of human rights to development, the country had worked on mobilizing its financial and economic resources for the benefit of the people, so as to enhance the development process at the national level and enhance the investment environment that would create more jobs and boost economic growth.  The Government of Saudi Arabia reaffirmed the fact that the rights of foreign workers and their families in Saudi Arabia were protected.

The international reports issued about the situation in Syria clearly indicated that crimes against humanity were being witnessed.  Saudi Arabia renewed its call for the immediate and urgent implementation of Security Council resolutions and the relevant Human Rights Council resolutions, as well as for determining the responsibility for crimes against humanity and to transmit them immediately to justice, as well as the withdrawal of all foreign combatants from Syria.  The recent serious events and developments in different parts of the world should not make the international community forget the cause of the Palestinian people who had suffered under occupation for more than six decades, exposed to the worst forms of human rights violations because of the failure to achieve any tangible results in the peace process, and Israel’s continued imposition of the ‘fait accompli’ policy.  Saudi Arabia called on Israel, as an occupying power, to enable the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to access those territories which were part of his mandate. 

LUBOMIR ZAORALEK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, recalled his country’s long tradition of human rights, illustrated by its peaceful transition to democracy.  Recent developments in Ukraine had demonstrated that people could stand and die for their rights.  He was deeply concerned at the disproportionate use of force in Ukraine and demanded that the perpetrators of human rights violations there be held accountable.  The Czech Republic was also gravely concerned about the way Russia interfered in the fragile transition process in Ukraine.  This was a breach of international law and the United Nations Charter and it could spiral into a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.  The Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called on all parties to respect international law. 

Mr. Zaoralek noted the responsibility of non-state actors, including transnational corporations, to respect human rights, in accordance with United Nations guidelines.  He then underlined the specific vulnerability of women and children, both in peace or disaster situations.  Women and children’s access to public services, as well as their involvement in decision processes, had to be guaranteed.  International cooperation and solidarity had to be developed with human rights at their heart.  The Czech Republic was aware that it still faced challenges in the field of human rights, and was ready to engage in open minded discussions on that issue. 

PIERRE MOUKOKO MBONJO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, reiterated the readiness of Cameroon to cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its new President.  Everyone had been greatly concerned about the situation in the northern part of Mali last year and now Cameroon was satisfied about the evolution of the situation in this country and assured it of its full support.  The outbreak of new crises in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, had tempered the optimism that had prevailed in the region.  Those situations once again demonstrated that armed conflicts were accompanied by massive human rights violations and that it was imperative to move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  Cameroon had spared no effort to address the situation in the neighbouring Central African Republic, from which a wave of refugees had arrived, joining those who had found shelter in Cameroon since 2006.  As of February 2014, the number of refugees from the Central African Republic was more than 120,000.  Cameroon appealed to the international community to urgently provide additional resources for refugees present on its soil. 

Cameroon called for the rapid transformation of the International Mission for Support to the Central African Republic into a full-fledged peace force, but highlighted that the major responsibility lay in the hands of the people of this country and particularly its new authorities.   The situation in South Sudan also called for a strong engagement of the international community towards finding solutions to the present crisis which affected this young nation.  Cameroon had always worked in favour of the indivisibility of all human rights, including the right to development.  The situation in poor countries, exacerbated by political and food crises, should be given due consideration by the international community, given their negative impacts on the fundamental rights of peoples.  While discussions were underway for the adoption of the post-2015 development framework, there was a need to reflect on better means of reconciling human rights and the international development programme.

RUI JORGE CARNEIRO MANGUEIRA, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Angola, said that the promotion and protection of human rights represented a permanent challenge for the Government of Angola.  Angola had made great efforts to promote and defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens as human beings, both as individuals and as members of civil society.  In a democratic State, the right to life was a fundamental right that could not be underestimated at any time, or for any reason whatsoever.  Angola considered the death penalty an extreme sentence and a violation of the right to life and to the dignity of human beings, and called on States to consider its abolition as a supreme form of respect and protection of the dignity of the human person. 

Angola underlined the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes, and said that the prevention of human rights violations should merit the attention of all Member States of the Council.  All situations had to be looked at individually, Angola said, in order to avoid unnecessary interventions.  The Angolan constitution guaranteed the rights of its citizens, including the right to asylum and the human rights of migrants.  Angola had indeed always been a country of high migratory flows, and guaranteed refugees’ access to education and health assistance.  Angola recognized that illegal immigration was a phenomenon of concern, and recommended cooperation between countries of origin and countries of transit and host countries to tackle that issue.  Finally, he assured Angola’s commitment to engage constructively during its next review under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. 

PETER MAURER, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that it was important to seek complementarity between actors working in the domain of international humanitarian law and human rights.  The International Committee of the Red Cross was entrusted to seek to establish dialogue with warring parties and its access to victims was based on that dialogue.  It worked in all types of armed conflict situations where conditions of detention required a humanitarian response and where there was a real risk of maltreatment or even disappearances.  The International Committee of the Red Cross was a witness today of a real and grave humanitarian problem of overcrowding in prisons.  Society could have a positive impact on that situation, through its values and institutions.

Regulatory frameworks for detention had to be appropriate and based on international and national laws and norms.  Two initiatives that warranted attention were the revision of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted in 1957; and detention during non-international armed conflict.  Humanitarian problems observed in detention in those situations and scarcity of rules of humanitarian law in that area prompted further research in consultation with States and other relevant bodies to ensure humanitarian law remained practical and relevant.  Real political will and long-term commitment were essential.  States should redouble their efforts to improve the general situation concerning detention practices, not only in peacetime but also during armed conflict and other violent situations.  Much could be done to mitigate the humanitarian impact during crises and thus prevent serious lapses.

MIREILLE PETTITI, Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, said that one way to combat inequality was to mainstream human rights in all policies.  The international community was now drafting the post-2015 development agenda and human rights should be placed at the heart of the agenda.  Monaco spoke about persistent tensions in Mali.  It urged Mali to protect the independence of its magistrates and provide them with the technical resources to allow for in-depth investigations. Monaco also expressed concern about events in the Central African Republic and called upon all stakeholders to break the cycle of reprisals which just fuelled hatred.  Regarding Syria, Monaco welcomed the evacuations from Homs and encouraged all parties to pursue such initiatives.  It regretted that the Geneva Conference on Syria had not been able to achieve a political solution.

The Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea denounced for the first time and in detail, the grave and widespread violations of human rights perpetrated by the regime against its people.  The work of the Commission would be closely followed.  Monaco was particularly concerned by the situation in Ukraine and advocated for a political settlement of the conflict, calling for an establishment of dialogue between the parties, with international cooperation if required.  Monaco believed in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and its universal nature, but it could not deny that preparation required great resources.  The International Organisation of La Francophonie organized seminars that allowed French-speaking States to have a better grasp of the processes, it noted, adding that the next seminar would take place in the Republic of Moldova on 11 and 12 of April. 

JOSE MANUEL TRULLOS, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, said the Dominican Republic was implementing an ambitious programme of migratory reform to provide an integral and inclusive response, in accordance with domestic legislation and institutions, as well as international standards, to address its historical shortcomings.  A roadmap had been established and actions had been undertaken on the basis of two main pillars.  The first concerned the regularization of foreigners in an irregular situation, allowing them, during a certain timeframe, to acquire one of the migratory categories established by the law on the basis of an individual evaluation of cases and in accordance with established requirements.  In the following months the Government expected to normalise the status of 430,000 people.  Priority would be given to irregular migrants who worked and studied in the country.  A Presidential Decree suspended deportations of individuals participating in the plan.

The second pillar concerned a plan of regularisation, now being implemented, to address the cases of persons irregularly inscribed in the civil registry.  There were currently 24,392 persons in the civil registry that had been not been registered with valid documents: a special law had been adopted to address their situation.  Mr. Trullos referred to the ongoing dialogue with Haiti on migratory issues and Haiti’s concerns regarding the legal status of its citizens in the Dominican Republic.  There was no doubt that it was one of the widest initiatives undertaken by the Government in recent decades and an important opportunity to modernise registers and border management and reinforce security.  The Dominican Republic reiterated its disposition to collaborate with the international community in the context of those important processes.  

SZABOLCS TAKÁCS, Deputy State Secretary, Political Director of Hungary, said Hungary was firmly committed to the principle that commitment to human rights could not be an internal matter of a State but was a legitimate international concern.  Human rights were essential to achieving and sustaining development, he said, stressing that universal human rights represented the minimum standard for the preservation of human dignity.  Therefore, Hungary strongly rejected the use of cultural relativism to cover up human rights violations.  With regard to the situation in Ukraine, Hungary called on all parties to engage in dialogue to restore law and order in all territories of the country and to start paving way for free and democratic elections. 

Hungary firmly supported the notion of the responsibility to protect.  As a member of the R2P Core Group it would like to explore the role that the Human Rights Council could play in addressing grievances and thus preventing violence and conflicts.  It was important to highlight that the right to protect strengthened sovereignty rather than undermined it, and should not be mixed up with the concept of humanitarian intervention; the concept of R2P was a preventative and not a reactive one. 

The internet had become an essential tool for people to receive information; it had eliminated State control of information.  Internet freedom was critical to the protection of human rights and freedoms in the future, but it was not necessary to create new principles to govern it.  In closing, Mr. Takacs commended the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office and expressed strong support for Ms. Pillay’s financial and political independence.

ANWAR MOHAMMED GARGASH, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said in a region that had seen the damaging impact of youth unemployment, a painful rise in sectarian conflict and the risk of a regression of women’s rights, the United Arab Emirates stood as a beacon of hope, opportunity and tolerance.  It had a prosperous society and a diverse economy with strong human development and a tolerant, multicultural society in which people of more than 200 different nationalities lived harmoniously together.  The empowerment of women was seen as fundamental for its development as a modern, progressive society.  Due to the large number of foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates, that continued to be a major focus for legislative and executive improvements, but it was acknowledged that more needed to be done.

The Minister of State reaffirmed support for the ongoing democratic process in Egypt and called upon the international community to add its support.  The tragic circumstances in Syria were profoundly saddening, he said.  A clear, united message about the humanitarian crisis had to be sent.  Current efforts to facilitate a two-State solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis were strongly supported.  It was up to Israel to recognise its responsibility to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace.  The region as a whole faced a number of common threats that posed serious challenges to human rights.  In its determination to oppose those pan-regional threats, the United Arab Emirates was committed to maintaining its vision of a society firmly rooted in Arab Muslim values, which valued tolerance and diversity, gave people from all background the opportunity to achieve their aspirations and empowered women to participate fully in social, economic and political life.

JONAS BERING LIISBERG, Under-Secretary of State for Legal Affairs of Denmark, said Denmark hoped the Council would extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Torture for another three years and indicated that Denmark intended to bi-annualize the resolutions on torture submitted here in Geneva as well as in the General Assembly.  Denmark, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco were launching a global initiative for the universal ratification and implementation of the Convention against Torture.  The vision was simple and compelling: they hoped that in 10 years, the fortieth anniversary of the Convention would be celebrated in a room full of signatory States and that torture would be talked about in historic terms and as proof that human rights could be universally and successfully implemented.  Rather than naming and shaming, that objective should be achieved through cooperation, assistance and exchanging experiences among a community of equal nations.  

The Council had a crucial role to play in addressing all forms of discrimination but there was still a long way to go: women still lacked access to resources and participation, and were denied access to sexual and reproductive health.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons continued to be exposed to abuse and discrimination.  Denmark expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, condemning the continued and widespread acts of violence; and expressed alarm at the devastating situation in Syria, where war crimes had been committed by the regime and opposition groups and the regime was guilty of crimes against humanity.  The Under-Secretary of State also addressed the situation in Egypt, Bahrain, South Sudan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the need to ensure safeguards for human rights defenders and civil society.  Denmark was extremely worried by developments in Ukraine.  It condemned the clear violation of international law by the Russian armed forces and called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

ROKSANDA NINCIC, Assistant Foreign Minister of Serbia, reaffirmed Serbia’s continued cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review.  Serbia’s candidature to the European Union had led to reforms for a better protection of human rights in Serbia.  The Assistant Foreign Minister emphasized that the global economic crisis was still affecting in particular the most vulnerable populations: women, children, youth, the elderly, displaced persons and persons with disabilities.  She reaffirmed Serbia’s commitment to contribute, including within the United Nations Economic and Social Council, to the global efforts in the field of development and social inclusion. 

Serbia attached great importance to the rights of minorities, including their right to freely use their own language as a condition for them to enjoy the right to education.  The protection of Roma populations remained a priority in European States, and Serbia had adhered to European Union frameworks on that issue.  Serbia was also committed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons from discrimination and violence.  Involuntary displacement was undoubtedly a global concern.  The number of refugees and internally displaced persons had reduced in the region, however concrete measures by all stakeholders were still needed.  The Assistant Foreign Minister expressed deep concerns about the continued human rights violations against the Serbian minority in Kosovo, which had not reduced despite the long term presence of the international community there. 

SARAH SEWALL, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, United States, reaffirmed the unswerving commitment of the United States to democracy and human rights.  Nowhere was that commitment more immediate than in Ukraine, where for months tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate once again the power of the people to demand more democratic and accountable governance, and in some tragic cases sacrificed their lives in the effort to have their voices heard.  All States should respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the right of the Ukrainian people to shape their own political destiny.  The United States categorically rejected incursions into Ukraine’s sovereign territory.  There was absolutely no evidence of human rights violations of the Russian-speaking minorities and if concerns did emerge, the United States was prepared to work with Russia, the Human Rights Council and other relevant bodies to address them.

The unrest seen today in parts of the Middle East was a toxic outcome not of too much democracy, but of far too little democracy.  Authoritarian rulers promised stability, but what they actually produced was the kind of instability and atrocities now seen in Syria.  The Commission of Inquiry on Syria deserved credit and gratitude for its difficult and painstaking work to expose events that had shocked the conscience of the world.  Some said the litany of suffering was an inevitable consequence of war, but even wars had rules.  The United States commended the leaders of the Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for their thorough, objective and transparent implementation of the mandate.  The Commission’s findings and recommendations were extraordinarily compelling and deserved the full attention of the Council and of all the countries in the United Nations.

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