17 March 2017
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review and concluded the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
In the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers noted that the Universal Periodic Review had proven to be one of the most important successes of the Council, as it allowed honest and constructive engagement by States in a transparent, objective and non-selective manner. Adequate attention should be given to enhancing States’ management of follow-up and implementation through national coordination structures and inclusive approaches. Several delegates appreciated the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in this regard, and stressed the importance of ensuring an active role for national human rights institutions and civil society.
A concern was raised that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was deflecting the attention from human rights situations that required Council’s immediate attention, noting that the mechanism was supposed to be a sword for fighting human rights abuses and not States’ shield for their neglect of human rights.
Taking part in the discussion were Cuba on behalf of a like-minded group, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Iraq on behalf of the Arab Group, Malta on behalf of the European Union, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries, Switzerland, China, Venezuela, Georgia, Iraq, Tunisia, Belgium, Sierra Leone, Montenegro, Iran, Malaysia, Morocco and Israel.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: UPR Info, Connectais Direitos Humanos, Rencontre Africaine Pour la Defense des Droits de l'Homme, International Educational Development, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Al-Salam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Indian Council of South America, United Nations Watch, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procés équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Fundacion Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Tourner la page, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, World Muslim Congress, and Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas.
Brazil spoke in right of reply.
The Council also concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms which it started on Wednesday, 15 March. The summary of the statements already delivered can be found here.
In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers underscored the importance of engagement with the Special Procedures, and raised concern about the situation of minorities in a range of countries. A speaker reminded States that children had the right to participate in public decision-making and that they could bring new insights that could help States address policy, financial and discriminatory barriers that prevented millions of children from accessing quality health, nutrition, education, protection and social protection services. Another speaker noted that the key barrier to the participation of women in public and political life in a number of countries was early marriage.
Speaking were International Muslim Women’s Union, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Save the Children International (joint statement), L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Advocates for Human Rights, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Alsalam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization (joint statement), Asian Legal Resource Centre, Indian Council of South America, ANAJA (L’Eternel a répondu), World Barua Organization, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Liberation, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, United Nations Watch, Tourner la page, Alliance Creative Community Project, Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme, and International Career Support Association.
The Council will meet on Monday, 20 March at 9 a.m., to hold an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, hear the presentation of reports of the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and then hold a general debate on the subject.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
International Muslim Women’s Union referred to the human rights situation in Kashmir and argued there was a conflict due to killing machines. Women of Kashmir had been targeted during the current uprising, and they were facing great losses because they were playing a great role in the freedom movement. The use of pellets had injured protesters on a number of occasions.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that minorities in Pakistan were disproportionately affected by violence and sometimes directly targeted, suffering especially because of their precarious position. Violence and intimidation had been running high in Pakistan in recent years, and emigration by middle-class Christians had increased. Since 2006, there had been increasing attacks on the Ahmadis.
European Union of Public Relations urged all States to combat torture against civilians and prisoners. The Pakistani Government had not taken action against terrorists responsible for the deaths of civilians. The reports of the monstrosities running madrasas were often highlighted in the media. The Government had to ensure that violence committed against human rights defenders was stopped.
Canners International Permanent Committee stated that the protection of human rights was the core factor for a functioning society. In Iran, the human rights situation was deeply concerning for minorities who faced oppression. The treatment of the Bahá’í showed Iran’s true treatment of its minorities. In Pakistan, people in Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir were denied their rights.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies said that minorities faced discrimination on a daily basis in all walks of life in Iran, and they also faced assimilation. Minorities suffered political under-representation, while the authorities encouraged land confiscation and forced migration of minorities. Minorities also faced difficulties in Pakistan.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology stated that human rights, democracy and rule of law were the pillars of modern societies, which ensured the protection of individuals from the actions of States. ISIS in Iraq and Syria was diametrically opposite to democracy. The human rights regime had to be established in the region.
Save the Children International, in a joint statement with International Detention Coalition; and Child Rights Connect, reminded States that children, who represented 30 per cent of the world’s population, had the right to participate in public decision-making. Children brought new insights that could help States address policy, financial and discriminatory barriers that prevented millions of children from accessing quality health, nutrition, education, protection and social protection services.
L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie underscored the importance of engagement with the Special Procedures, and said that in Sri Lanka, Tamil civil society organizations could not participate because of the armed conflict in the north-east of the country. A structural genocide was being carried out against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Association des étudiants tamouls de France said that torture was routinely used in Sri Lanka, and the Government of Sri Lanka controlled the north of the country with complete impunity. The Government had made no progress on investigations into extrajudicial killings, and there was continued use of administrative detention. The exclusive victims were the Tamils.
Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique noted that the United Nations Human Rights Council had failed to protect the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The United Nations Panel of Experts report had put the death toll at a minimum of 40,000. Justice for the Tamil genocide had not been done. There was a full-scale structural genocide taking place after the United Nations mechanisms on the ground had failed to recognize the situation.
Advocates for Human Rights welcomed the report on youth participation, and said that the barriers faced by young women in Morocco were obvious. Underage marriage was one issue, and judges often cursorily issued permission for young women to marry. Specific factors that impeded young women’s participation should be studied.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain welcomed the work of the Special Procedures and was concerned by some States’ failure to engage with human rights mechanisms. Bahrain lacked any will to cooperate with any of the United Nations’ mechanisms, refusing to accept any special procedures mandate holders.
Alsalam Foundation drew attention to the worrying trend by some States to opt for reprisals against human rights defenders, and called on the Council to punish those States. Bahrain had seen an uptake in the number of reprisals against persons participating in the Council sessions. Bahrain had increased the number of travel bans on civil society activists.
Iraqi Development Organization, in a joint statement, directed the attention of the Council to its membership mechanism. The same Gulf Cooperation Council States that were members of the Council were also part of the Saudi-led coalition that launched air strikes against Yemen, deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure and imposing the blockade of humanitarian aid, resulting the death of 63,000 children.
Asian Legal Resource Centre said that mandate holders should be able to promptly act. However, they experienced lack of financial and human resources to follow-up on the cases reported. When complaints were not promptly acted upon, it created a discouraging effect. The Centre called on Member States to contribute sufficient resources for the investigation cases of human rights violations.
Indian Council of South America shared the concern of indigenous people of the Andes on the promulgation of the general law on coca in Bolivia which authorised an increase in coca crops.
ANAJA (L’Eternel a répondu) said that in Sri Lanka, there were testimonies about sex slavery by the military and wondered why something that was not tolerated when committed by ISIS, was tolerated when committed by Sri Lanka against the Tamils. There ought to be an international tribunal for the crime of genocide in Sri Lanka.
World Barua Organization called the attention of the Human Rights Council to the suffering and discrimination of nomadic tribes of an inferior caste in India, who were landless and illiterate. The policies of India contributed to the further impoverishment of that group.
Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights said that it was important to protect the human rights of young people after disasters. The situation of youth in Fukushima was of concern, as people had been told that they had to return to their homes or lose housing subsidies, despite lingering concerns over radiation in their former neighbourhoods.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture stated that it was imperative to name the countries who did not cooperate with the mechanisms of human rights. Countries which had violated human rights brought harm to themselves. The human rights mechanisms had failed to put an end to violations of the human rights of human rights defenders.
Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue said that the report of the Rapporteur on the rule of law was very important, and in Yemen, human rights violations were occurring under the Houthis and under the hands of those who had toppled the legitimate Government. In Syria, youth had engaged in a revolution against torture and repression, and hundreds of thousands had been detained since.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik highlighted the primary responsibility of States to protect the rights of minorities. Nevertheless, in many countries, instead of protecting minorities, the State was one of the perpetrators of violence against them. It drew attention to the persecution of the people Balochistan in Pakistan.
Liberation drew attention to the numerous attacks on and persecution of Christian minorities in India. They were no longer welcome and had to fear for their survival at the hands of Hindu vigilante thugs who had the Government’s backing. Liberation urged the Council to play its role and come to the rescue of the Christian minorities in India.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation noted that the transnational corporations’ cooperation with the Moroccan Government undermined the struggle for self-determination of the Saharawi people. Many of those companies showed complete disregard of basic principles of corporate social responsibility, and refused to hear the legitimate objections of the people of the occupied territory.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme requested the Council to pay more attention to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which had a record of human rights violations, such as the right to expression and the right to assembly. In a number of countries, the exercise of those rights became a crime which could be punished by the death penalty.
United Nations Watch regretted that there were Governments which tried to silence human rights defenders, and requested the Council to comment on the leaked information that the Chinese authorities routinely asked, weeks in advance, whether certain human rights defenders would participate in the Council. Was it a standard practice for the United Nations to confirm the names of human rights defenders to Governments?
Tourner la page said that the Council failed to protect the Tamils from genocide in Sri Lanka, in which 40,000 civilians had been killed, according to the United Nations reports. The justice for the genocide of the Tamils was being denied. At the moment, a full-scale structural genocide of Elam Tamils was being committed in the north-east of the island.
Society for the Development and Community Empowerment said that disappearance cases remained unresolved in Sri Lanka, and commissions established after the pogroms had never resulted in any punishment of any perpetrators. Militarisation was part of a scheme to continue genocide against the Tamil people. The Swiss Embassy’s policy of blocking Tamils from attending the Human Rights Council was also questioned.
World Muslim Congress said that human rights defenders and journalists who did not follow the Government’s policy line in Kashmir were harassed on one pretext or another. They were often subjected to torture and forced to put forward the viewpoint of the occupation authority. The Government of India’s unwillingness to allow special procedures mandate holders spoke of India’s arrogant attitude to human rights.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle noted that the Human Rights Council had adopted a landmark resolution on human rights defenders, yet defenders were still facing obstacles in the Middle East and North Africa, where they were subjected to enforced disappearances. The Council should monitor the implementation of the resolution.
Alliance Creative Community Project voiced concern that external forces had interfered into internal affairs of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and that the opposition had tried to take power despite the fact it had lost elections in December 2016. It called on the Council to stop those external forces and to allow the citizens to decide on their own.
Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme drew attention to the killings of innocent civilians in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, especially of children. It urged the Council to provide civilians there with protection from the brutalities they were experiencing.
International Career Support Association noted the suffering of Japanese minorities in the United States due to the placing of statues of Korean comfort women in public places. Where were the statues of comfort women abused by the United States soldiers in Viet Nam?
General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review
Cuba, speaking on behalf of a Like-Minded Group, noted that the Universal Periodic Review had proven to be one of the most important successes of the Council as it allowed for honest and constructive engagement by States in a transparent, objective and non-selective manner. The Universal Periodic Review should continue to be conducted in a manner free from confrontation and politicization.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, recalled that the Universal Periodic Review should be conducted in an objective, constructive and non-politicized manner. Adequate attention should be given to enhancing States’ management of follow-up and implementation through national coordination structures and inclusive approaches. Greater efforts should be made to provide necessary technical assistance to requesting States.
Iraq, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the importance of the Universal Periodic Review in promoting human rights. The Arab Group commended the contribution of that mechanism to the protection of human rights worldwide. In order to achieve the aims of that mechanism, Member States should submit a reasonable number of recommendations, taking into consideration regional, cultural and religious specificities of the countries under review.
Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union remained strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review, which was a cooperation mechanism with the potential to make a real difference on the ground. Looking toward the third cycle, States were encouraged to strengthen their focus on the implementation of previously accepted recommendations. The European Union acknowledged the importance of providing technical assistance in view of the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations and appreciated the support provided by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in that regard.
United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that the Universal Periodic Review represented a combination of international cooperation among States as well as national ownership. The beginning of the third cycle meant it was time to focus on the sustainable implementation of recommendations. Many recommendations remained imprecise, and States under review had a responsibility to provide a clear response to each recommendation. Technical assistance was important to help States implement recommendations.
Switzerland noted that the Universal Periodic Review was an essential instrument for the promotion of human rights. Additional efforts would be needed to follow-up the implementation of recommendations. The participation of civil society was essential. The international community should not rest on its laurels; good practices included formulating quantifiable recommendations and following up on the recommendations.
China said that the review of human rights situations in States under the Universal Periodic Review process was global and equal, and expressed hope that the process would continue to promote dialogue among nations. It was necessary to adhere to the principles of objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicization, combine universality and specificity of human rights, and fully respect the reality of States in the review process.
Venezuela stated that the Universal Periodic Review was the Council’s most important mechanism, which demonstrated its effectiveness in the promotion and protection of human rights. It was a mechanism which enabled an exchange of good practices on the basis of dialogue and cooperation, the key pillars of the Council. Its success came from the fact that it guaranteed universality of the review, which was guided by the principles of non-selectivity and equality of all States.
Georgia attached particular importance to the implementation of the accepted recommendations and had put in place a mechanism for the follow-up, in addition to joining the Group of Friends for Monitoring and Follow-Up. In Georgia, it was the Parliament which was entrusted with the reporting on the implementation of the recommendations. Georgia welcomed the practice of voluntary mid-term reports.
Iraq stated that it was committed to the Universal Periodic Review as one of the most successful mechanisms of the Council to fight human rights violations everywhere. That mechanism provided an environment that allowed countries to be measured on an equal footing and to compare and exchange experiences. The Universal Periodic Review should follow international human rights law and avoid politicization.
Tunisia stressed the importance of the Universal Periodic Review, adding that it was preparing to submit its third cycle report. All stakeholders were taking part in the preparation of that report. A national commission for the drafting of Universal Periodic Review reports had been established and also tasked to enhance the interactive participation of civil society.
Belgium reiterated its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review as an essential mechanism for the promotion of human rights. In order to improve the implementation of recommendations, it was useful for Member States to have relevant guidelines. It was crucial for States to have recommendations published online well in advance.
Russian Federation welcomed the fact that all States had been through the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. A gage for the effectiveness was the voluntary cooperation of States. The international community needed to continue unswervingly and prevent the Universal Periodic Review from becoming a tribunal for short-term interests. During the third cycle, it was important to focus on how effective States had been in implementing recommendations.
Sierra Leone stressed the need for technical assistance to countries which had the political will but lacked the technical or financial capacity to implement Universal Periodic Review recommendations. While many States had acceded to human rights instruments and passed legislation as a result of the Universal Periodic Review, it was more challenging to enforce it, particularly where traditional practices meant awareness-raising was necessary.
Montenegro said it was of utmost importance to stress that the Universal Periodic Review was the most important mechanism, and it had assumed a central role in the United Nations human rights system. Interactive capacities of the Universal Periodic Review had to be strengthened. Involvement of all segments of society, particularly civil society and national human rights institutions, should be supported.
Iran stressed that the Universal Periodic Review should be carried out with the full involvement of the country under review. It should reject selectivity and avoid manipulation, preserve its universality and avoid any double standards and selective approaches. Iran called for strengthening the Universal Periodic Review mechanism by cooperation and recognition of its universality.
Malaysia viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an essential mechanism for the improvement of human rights and encouraged voluntary contribution rather than imposed changes. Every country was given an opportunity to share its good examples and practices, and each State was equal to others. Malaysia welcomed the initiative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on training and support for the setting up of national mechanisms on reporting and follow-up.
Morocco said that in the run up to the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, there was no denying the success of the mechanism. Morocco urged all to protect its constructive and cooperative character. It was essential to improve the effectiveness of the mechanism, and avoid redundancy in the formulation of recommendations which must be kept at a reasonable number and also be realistic. Morocco had adopted a mechanism for the follow-up of the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted.
Israel said it had embarked on an inclusive national consultation process as part of the third cycle of its Universal Periodic Review, bringing together Government officials, civil society and academia. The first roundtable on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people had taken place in January 2017, while the second roundtable would focus on the rights of Israeli citizens of Ethiopian origin. Israel’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review stood in stark contrast to its mistreatment in the Council.
UPR Info regretted that 14 countries that had submitted reports in the first cycle had not submitted their reports in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. It strongly encouraged States to report on recommendations early and not wait for the mid-term report. The Universal Periodic Review was only one part of the process. The other part was the actual implementation of recommendations.
Conectas Direitos Humanos voiced hope that the new Universal Periodic Review cycle of Brazil would bring positive changes on the ground. Civil society had submitted more than 50 reports to the Government of Brazil. The organization urged the Government to secure the transparent review of the final version of report before it was sent to the United Nations.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said the end of the second cycle was an opportunity to review good practices surrounding the Universal Periodic Review. There should be strengthened cooperation between treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review process. Financing the voluntary fund for the Universal Periodic Review was falling short.
International Educational Development, Inc. questioned the efficacy of the Universal Periodic Review in setting international human rights standards, given the time constraints. The process was more ceremonial than substantive. States had a great deal of time between review and States could ignore promises made in earlier reviews. In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the situation of the Hmong people warranted red alerts.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said Israel had established a brutal occupation of Palestine and all efforts of the international community to affect the situation were undermined by Israel’s lack of cooperation. Israel failed to cooperate with human rights mechanisms. Institutionalized discrimination affected all walks of life for Palestinians.
American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said that Bahrain to date had failed to meaningfully implement the recommendations it had accepted, including to reform its criminal justice system, curb the use of torture, and protect fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and association.
Al-Salam Foundation said that Bahrain had failed to implement its recommendations and the situation of human rights had deteriorated even more since mid-2016, with increased use of torture and the death penalty. The Government had started amending the Constitution which would allow civilians to be tried by military courts, and it was arresting activists.
Iraqi Development Organization directed the attention of the Council to the disregard of the exiled Government of Yemen of the recommendations it had accepted and said that the human rights of citizens of Yemen were being violated by military operations of the Saudi-led coalition, and the sanctions imposed on the country. One child under the age of five was dying every minute of malnutrition.
Indian Council of South America noted that if the United States would like to be open, transparent and forthright about the promotion of the rights of peoples, then it would accept Pakistan’s recommendation to allow for both the Constitutional obligation to send Alaska and Hawaii to the Decolonization Committee, and to allow a referendum for those to determine their status and relationship with the United Status.
United Nations Watch voiced concern that the existence of the agenda item on the Universal Periodic Review had been used as an excuse to neglect discussions under the agenda item on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention. The Universal Periodic Review was supposed to be a sword for fighting human rights abuses and not States’ shield for their neglect of human rights.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture warned of the abuses of human rights under the pretext of counter-terrorist measures. It noted that various Arab States had rejected the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Human rights defenders had lost confidence in the process. Steps needed to be taken to effectively combat human rights abuses.
Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue said the Universal Periodic Review was one of the outstanding successes of the Human Rights Council, as it showed the international dynamism based on dialogue. There was a need to involve legislative powers in the Universal Periodic Review. On the procedural level, some countries used the term “noted” about some recommendations which did not reflect the State position.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said it was reassuring that both cycles of the Universal Periodic Review had been completed with the participation of all countries, but regrettably some countries had found the mechanism more helpful than others. It was of no use to accept some recommendations and take small steps where there was no real change happening on the ground. Recommending countries were responsible for following up on recommendations.
Conseil International pour le soutien à des procés équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said the Government of Bahrain had failed to comply with its obligations and had flouted the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. The Government of Bahrain was called on to draft a time frame for the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. All political prisoners should be released and the Government of Bahrain should respect international human rights standards.
Fundacion Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social said that the recommendations made to Venezuela had broadened social progress. In Venezuela, there was full and free access to information and media, including online. Only peace and dialogue would ensure equality of one and all.
Tourner la page spoke about the genocide of Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government and said that 80 per cent of the Tamil land had not been returned to them, while individuals were prosecuted under the protection of terrorism act. Sri Lanka must provide a full list of detained persons, and ensure access to them.
Association des étudiants tamouls de France said that Sri Lanka had rejected the recommendations related to strengthening the transitional justice process, and reparations to victims of human rights violations, which would contribute to the process of national reconciliation. Sri Lanka should accede to the Rome Statute and end impunity for human rights violations, while a strong victim protection act must be made operational.
World Muslim Congress said that during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, India had been handed over 172 recommendations out of which 71 had come from United Nations human rights mechanisms. During the last four years, however, India had not taken a single step forward. The legislative process was lingering.
Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas welcomed the fact that Venezuela had accepted the majority of the recommendations. Participatory democracy in Venezuela was clear proof of the respect of civil and political rights in the country. The Venezuelan people had been consulted in the process of drafting the national human rights plan 2016-2020.
Right of Reply
Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said that it had always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Universal Periodic Review, which was a process in which all Member States were subject to equal treatment. In the process of the preparation of its national report, Brazil’s civil society’s views had been taken into consideration. The consultation process had also included public hearings of minority groups. Brazil was looking forward to a constructive dialogue within the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
For use of the information media; not an official record