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

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS CLUSTERED INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON EDUCATION, AND ON FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND OF ASSOCIATION

17 June 2016

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, in  the presentation of his report, spoke about the implementation of digital technologies, which should be aimed at strengthening the quality of education.  States should support open licensing frameworks and open educational resources to foster access to digitalized information and documentation without hindrance.  He also spoke of his visit to Fiji. 

Presenting his thematic and country visit reports, Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, stated that his thematic report explored the phenomenon of fundamentalism and its impact on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  He also detailed the outcomes of his visits to Chile and to the Republic of Korea. 

Fiji, Chile, and the Republic of Korea spoke as concerned countries.

During the ensuing discussion, some Member States welcomed the recommendation that States establish oversight mechanisms to deal with fundamentalism restricting assembly and association rights.  Others argued that States had to ensure that the exercise of those rights did not result in social, political or economic disruption.  The Special Rapporteur was also asked about the ways to hold non-State actors legally responsible for actions that violated human rights. 

Regarding the right to education, speakers said that countries should actively cooperate to overcome the digital divide, including in education, and that they should use information and communications technologies to ensure education for all.  Speakers remarked that a number of developing nations still did not enjoy affordable access to digital technologies, which would act as a great equalizer in the education of future generations.

Speaking during the discussion were Dominican Republic on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, European Union, Qatar on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Slovenia on behalf of the Platform on Human Rights Education and Training, Ethiopia on behalf of a group of countries, Russia, Italy, Belgium, India, Portugal, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Egypt, Qatar, Costa Rica, Latvia, Norway, Council of Europe, Tunisia, United States, Iran, Cuba, China, Botswana, United Kingdom, Morocco, Maldives, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Indonesia, Benin, Bahrain, State of Palestine, Mali, Lithuania, Sierra Leone, Niger, Malaysia, Algeria, El Salvador, Pakistan, Togo, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Bangladesh, Australia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Myanmar, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Bolivia, France, Panama, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Paraguay, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, Ireland, Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria and Syria. 

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Freedom Now, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, American Association of Jurists, Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, FIAN International, Iraqi Development Organization, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Aliran Kesedaran Negara National Consciousness Movement, CIVICUS, Human Rights House Foundation, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Liberation, International Service for Human Rights, Association for Progressive Communication, and Federation of Cuban Women. 

The Human Rights Council has a full day of meetings today, and will close the first week of its thirty-second session this afternoon by holding its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practise.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education (A/HRC/32/37). 

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education - mission to Fiji (A/HRC/32/37/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/32/36).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – mission to Chile (A/HRC/32/36/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – mission to the Republic of Korea (A/HRC/32/36/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association - Observations on communications transmitted to Governments and replies received (A/HRC/32/36/Add.3).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – mission to Chile – comments by the State (A/HRC/32/36/Add.4).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – mission to the Republic of Korea – comments by the State (A/HRC/32/36/Add.5).

Presentation of the Reports

KISHORE SINGH, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, noted that the fundamental challenge was to make access to learning and educational resources through the Internet more equal among countries, but also equalizing the ability of countries to deliver such education.  Constraints relating to the cost of infrastructure and maintenance were unaffordable in many developing countries, and were a key factor underlying the “digital divide” referred to in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The use of digital technology risked to create divisions within society.   Without government oversight there was also the risk that marginalization and exclusion in education could increase.  Entitlement to education in terms of universal access was an essential prerequisite for the exercise of the right to education and States had international obligations to provide primary education at no cost.  The implementation of digital technologies should be aimed at strengthening the quality of education.  Technology was not a substitute for quality teachers.  Teachers had to be empowered by technology.  Also, all forms of online education were a supplement to, and not a replacement for, proven pedagogical practices.  Another issue that Mr. Singh underlined was the need to engage in copyright reform to ensure that education was not captured by a few online educators and textbook providers.  Open licensing frameworks and open educational resources should be supported by States to foster access to digitalized information and documentation without hindrance.  In addition, civil society should raise public debate to ensure that education remained a public good and did not become subservient to private profit.

Speaking of his visit to Fiji from 8 to 15 December 2015, Mr. Singh said that Fiji was going through a historic period of transition in the education system and it had launched a national initiative to put an end to ethnic divides.  The compulsory teaching of iTaukei and Hindi at a conversational level in schools was a welcome change as it promoted cultural diversity and mutual respect for each other.  The Government was also embracing an equitable approach aimed at reducing disparities in education, which was necessary for better supporting schools in rural and remote areas which were marginalized and poorly resourced.  Mr. Singh commended the Government of Fiji for having made education free for all, including the provision of free textbooks.  A major challenge remained in improving the standards and quality of education.  The country also had to attach importance to the assessment of students’ educational attainments through a uniform national system.  Public policies in Fiji should address the questions regarding the status of teachers, clearly defining their roles and responsibilities.  The unprecedented increase in financial resources devoted to education was commendable.  But, financing had to be kept in line with human rights obligations and had to be done on an enduring basis.  

MAINA KIAI, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said that assembly and association rights were indispensable to democracy and development, as the glue that brought people together to explore society’s problems and solve them.  He said his thematic report explored the phenomenon of fundamentalism and its impact on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  Fundamentalism could include any movement, not just religious ones, that advocated strict and literal adherence to a set of basic beliefs or principles.  His report discussed four distinct types of fundamentalism: Free market fundamentalism, political fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism and nationalist or cultural fundamentalism.  The report, at its core, was about the struggle between tolerance and intolerance.  The values of pluralism and tolerance were indispensable to any successful and stable democratic State.  Peaceful assembly and association rights were so fundamental, in part because of their crucial role in promoting pluralism.  He detailed the challenges each of the four types of fundamentalism he had identified presented to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noting that regarding political fundamentalism, his report cited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Bahrain, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Oman, and Saudi Arabia as notable examples. 

Turning to country visits, he detailed outcomes of his visits to Chile and to the Republic of Korea.  Chile had made remarkable progress in the past 25 years since its return to democracy, and his main concern regarding the country’s legislative framework related to a decree that turned the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly into a privilege, and whose repeal he urged.  Chile’s labour legislation was another remnant of the dictatorship area, and he noted that the Government had embarked on a reform process that had led to a bill being drafted which would address some of the most pressing issues, including guaranteeing the right to strike.  On his visit to the Republic of Korea, he expressed concern about a procedure for organizers of assemblies, which operated as an authorization regime.  He also noted two tactics the police used to manage assemblies, namely water cannons and bus barricades.  Several concerns were expressed around the challenges facing workers’ ability to freely form, join and operate unions.  The Republic of Korea’s strong democratic credentials meant it could withstand expressions of criticism, including of its policy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, without resorting to suppression of those views and the groups that held them.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Fiji, speaking as a concerned country, was pleased that the visit by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education came at a time when the Government was developing policies to prioritise education, to make it free and compulsory from primary to secondary school, and to ensure that an equal and common citizenry was a part of Fiji’s values and ethos.  The comprehensive reform of the education system addressed a number of areas, including the implementation of the curriculum framework to enhance spiritual, intellectual and physical development, and to strengthen instruction in iTaukei and Hindi as well as in English.  Fiji was working hard to change its divided and ethnically driven past by teaching the children that all were equal in dignity and in rights.  Much work was still required on rural accessibility, the standard of school resources in rural schools, and the inclusion of children with disabilities in all schools, concluded Fiji.

Chile, speaking as a concerned country, highlighted the fruitful cooperation between the authorities and civil society, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and said that Chile had set the bar high in their expectations from human rights, in particular in tackling the legacy of dictatorship and strengthening the basis of democracy.  Chile was taking on the challenge of progressing to a country of vibrant democracy and full enjoyment of human rights for which the space for open debate and tolerance was indispensable.  Adequate institutions had been put in place and there was regular monitoring of the level of enjoyment of human rights by all, including civil society organizations and people of different sexual orientation.  The police had an obligation to provide security and order, manage protests and avoid abuse.  Their strict operational protocols were developed in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Republic of Korea, speaking as a concerned country, said in connection to the report by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association that the Government had exhausted every effort to ensure that its legislation met the international human rights norms and standards, including the revision of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act in 2006 to reflect the recommendations by the International Labour Organization.  Earlier this year, the country had also revised the Assemblies and Demonstrations Act to reflect recommendations by the Special Rapporteur.  The National Police Agency used water cannons on an exceptional basis, only to disperse violent demonstrations, and in accordance with strict guidelines.  The organizers of the demonstrations that turned violent were not held criminally liable for the unlawful activities of the participants.  The Republic of Korea took the rights to the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association seriously and would continue to support the mandate.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue

Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, recognized that education was the most important public good for sustainable development.  As for the freedom of assembly and of association, those rights were key for any democratic society.  European Union asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on his concerns on massive open online courses.  It welcomed the recommendation that States establish oversight mechanisms to deal with fundamentalism restricting assembly and association rights.  Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, attached great importance to education, which required constant development in the digital age.  It worked on opening more digital libraries and it dedicated a substantial percentage of the budget to education.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that education systems and new educational technologies must be constantly assessed.  Social dialogue through the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was essential for maintaining social cohesion, but States must ensure that the exercise of those rights did not result in social, political or economic disruption.  Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Platform on Human Rights Education and Training, said that education must strengthen the respect for human rights and called the attention of States to the guidelines for the integration of human rights education into formal education.  Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of a group of four countries, noted that millions of youth around the world did not have basic literacy skills and asked the Special Rapporteur about the importance of vocational and technical training.  Russia drew attention to the letter by Mr. Kiai which contained an urgent request to grant the ECOSOC status to one of the non-governmental organizations and it was of a great concern that the Special Procedure mandate holder was exercising pressure on the Non-Governmental Organization Committee and States.  Countries should actively cooperate to overcome the digital divide, including in education, and Russia asked what could be done in this regard.  Italy agreed with the Special Rapporteur that measures to fight terrorism might unduly restrict civil society space and fundamental rights and asked about the most constructive and effective ways to support Member States to move from a hard security approach and promote resilience.  Belgium agreed with Mr. Kiai that States which claimed to be fighting terrorism, yet at the same time restricted civil society, were playing with fire and asked him about the ways to hold non-State actors legally responsible for actions that violated human rights.

India expressed strong objection at the Special Rapporteur’s attempt to influence the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Committee and to encourage civil society organizations to violate domestic laws, which seriously undermined the functioning of the United Nations human rights system.  Portugal asked a question about the realization of the right to education of refugees, and in particular those whose higher education was interrupted because of armed conflict.  Czech Republic shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the spread of extremism, and underlined the positive role that freedom of assembly could play in that regard.  Ecuador noted the importance of a human rights approach to new technologies.  It presented its domestic initiatives for the promotion of higher education.  Estonia said that the Internet was accessible to almost everyone in the country, including in schools.  Freedom of assembly was a constitutional right in Estonia.  Egypt underlined the importance of Special Procedures to respect the principle of non-selectivity and objectivity.  It condemned the attempt by some States to impose the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity, which would further divide the work of the Council.  

Qatar supported the conclusion that the international community should use information and communications technologies to ensure education for all, asking how developing countries could benefit from digital education in an effective way.  Costa Rica expressed agreement with the Special Rapporteur’s concerns about fundamentalism, noting that pluralism was the foundation of free societies.  Latvia welcomed the report on the negative effect of fundamentalism, and asked for examples on how law enforcement personnel could ensure the safety of demonstrators, and how States could prevent fundamentalism while remaining pluralistic.  The Special Rapporteur on education was asked for his views on why, despite progress toward digital learning, just a few States had made it part of their digital policy.  Norway said that whether restrictions imposed by fundamentalism were imposed by State or non-State actors, the responsibility for protection lay with the State, and asked for the Special Rapporteur’s thoughts on how the United Nations could contribute to upholding assembly rights in a world where fundamentalism in various forms was a growing threat.  Council of Europe  said that just over one third of its Member States had inclusive educational systems, and noted that the Council of Europe was active in a number of fields, including tackling obstacles to the education of migrants and children.  Tunisia expressed belief that information and communications technologies could play a crucial role regardless of the digital divide that existed, adding that their use should not be linked to the privatization of education.  The report noting the impact of fundamentalism was of particular interest to Tunisia where the Constitution guaranteed the right to strike.

United States agreed that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association promoted broadmindedness, diversity and tolerance and those rights must be protected for everyone.  What were the most critical elements for the protection of the rights to the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association?  Iran shared the concern about the danger of cultural and national extremism and stressed that the realization of the right to development was a key element in the achievement of all human rights, including the right to education.  Cuba regretted that part of the report on the rights of the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was dedicated to disparaging all those political systems that did not meet the views of the Special Rapporteur, who refused to recognize all sides of democracy.  China said that Mr. Kiai’s attack on its political system was in violation of the United Nations Charter and his mandate and was interfering in China’s internal affairs.  Botswana agreed that the digital divide must be bridged in order to ensure the realization of the right to education for all.  Criminalization, threats or use of violence, harassment and prosecution of civil society must be avoided.  United Kingdom agreed with much of the analysis in Mr. Kiai’s report and disagreed with the characterisation of the United Kingdom as a country in which the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was sometimes limited by governing parties.  A robust civil society and respect for human rights were critical in combatting extremism.

Morocco said that the digital revolution was radically changing education, and warned that new technologies should be used as an additional tool rather than a substitute to education.  Maldives said that it had achieved universal primary education, and was committed to bridging the gap in accessing new technologies.  The Constitution guaranteed everyone’s right to freedom of assembly and association, and the country was committed to maintain a safe space for political pluralism.  Georgia shared the view that more needed to be done to understand how some ideas could trigger violent extremism.  Georgia had made it mandatory for all education facilities to use information and communications technologies.  The fundamental right of children to receive education in Georgian language was violated in the occupied areas.  Kyrgyzstan said that Governments and private sectors needed to cooperate to ensure universal access to digital technologies.  The legislation of Kyrgyzstan was fully consistent with international law with regard to the right to peaceful assembly.  Poland asked what were the best practices on raising awareness on the risks of digital communication.  Poland was particularly concerned about restrictions on the activities of civil society organizations, which could result in violent extremism.  Indonesia regretted that the Special Rapporteur seemed not to have deep knowledge about the situation of freedom of assembly in the country.  Indonesia asked how to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing countries, in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Benin recognized the fundamental importance of human rights education and training; taking into account the abuses in digital technologies, Benin asked the Special Rapporteur about targeted recommendations to guarantee the equitable use of information and communication technologies in education.  Bahrain spoke about projects aiming to implement digital education in the country, including the creation of a digital library and 16 schools entirely based on digital education.  State of Palestine said that national fundamentalism could threaten the core of democracy.  Israel continued to clamp down on peaceful demonstrators and protesters opposing Israel’s continuing military occupation.  Mali had in place a system to regulate the humanist mission of education and agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the need to carefully consider the adverse impact of information and communications technologies on the right to education.  Lithuania was deeply concerned about increasing restrictions on civil society and on peaceful assemblies in the context of elections.  Lithuania said religious leaders must make greater effort to foster tolerance in the society, and asked how the international community could support their role in preventing the growth of fundamentalism in all forms?  Sierra Leone remarked that a number of developing nations still did not enjoy affordable access to digital technologies, which would act as a great equalizer in the education of future generations.   Turning to Mr. Kiai, Sierra Leone asked about the steps to take to stop the spread of religious extremism, all the while respecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Niger said that online learning tools had turned knowledge and teaching upside down, and presented domestic initiatives to promote “e-learning”.  Niger underlined the dangers of freedom of assembly being misused for imposing extremist ideologies.  Malaysia said that it continued to invest heavily in education, and took steps to capitalize on new technologies and reduce access gaps, while preventing their possible negative impacts.  Algeria agreed that the State was responsible to ensure that everybody had equal access to quality education, and called for limitations on copyrights to ensure that developing countries could have access to education in the digital era.  It was the obligation of the State to ensure that the exercise of the right to freedom of association did not infringe on the rights of other citizens.  El Salvador said that digital technologies provided huge opportunities for the transmission of knowledge and were considered an essential part of the development of El Salvador.  It referred to its programme entitled “One boy, one girl, one computer” and explained that it had trained 10,000 teachers to ensure that they used computers properly.  Pakistan expressed its commitment to ensuring the right to education, and to combat terrorism through human rights education.  Pakistan asked what role international cooperation could play in bridging the digital divide in the education sector.  Togo said that it had undertaken various initiatives for the implementation of the right to education.  Access to information and communication technologies remained unequal, it said, asking how the international community could help developing countries in bridging the digital gap. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said that the challenges that the digital revolution posed were significant, particularly with regard to quality, affordable and inclusive education, and they must be dealt with from a human rights perspective to ensure that the right to education was fully respected.  Bangladesh said that digital technologies must ensure accessibility, affordability and inclusion of all in public education, and remarked that one of the key challenges in realizing the right to education remained the prohibitive cost of digital technologies.  Australia agreed that it was important to ensure that the use of digital technologies did not undermine the quality of education, access to education, and equality of opportunity in education.  Australia welcomed the timely examination of the positive role that the rights to freedom of assembly and association could play in preventing the spread of extremism and radicalisation.  Venezuela strongly rejected the biased and partisan analysis of the situation in several countries, including Venezuela, contained in the report on the freedom of peaceful assembly.

Ukraine voiced concern over human rights violations in occupied parts of its territory where civil society activists could not operate freely.  They could not exercise their rights to free association and assembly.  Myanmar objected to the usage by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and of association of the term “Rohingya” minority.  It also rejected the Special Rapporteur’s claim that there was Buddhist fundamentalism in Myanmar.  South Africa noted that the use of information technologies provided important benefits for education.  However, assistance in the development of new technologies needed to be provided to developing countries.  South Africa found the Special Rapporteur’s approach to fundamentalism worrisome because it represented a naming and shaming directory.  Sudan stated that it had a plethora of civil associations which worked in step with the Government system.  All peaceful assemblies had to be agreed upon with local authorities.  Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and of assembly to identify good practices for States to manage rallies in the context of fundamentalism.  Bolivia supported democratic and intercultural university education and in 2009, three indigenous universities were opened because Bolivia believed that would preserve indigenous identities, traditional knowledge and skills. 

France said that any limitation on freedom of assembly had to be in compliance with international human rights law.  France’s civic education sought to educate its citizens on shared values.  The use of information technologies in education could be both an advantage and a disadvantage.  France had reservations with regard to limitation on intellectual property rights.  Panama underlined the need to overcome barriers to education, and to ensure that educators became advisors rather than just lecturers.  Burkina Faso said that States should avoid that distance learning become the norm, to the detriment of face to face education.  The general trend toward privatization of education could have a negative impact.  Mexico said that its Constitution made preschool education compulsory, and presented its national strategy for increasing access to digital technology.  What measures could be adopted to prevent the negative impact of the use of new technologies in the education system?  Paraguay said that its Constitution protected the right to freedom of assembly, and asked what the Human Rights Council could do to strengthen this right.  New Zealand said that the right to freedom of assembly played a key role in promoting tolerance, and insisted that States should ensure that no individual was harassed or criminalized for exercising this freedom.  Democracy, tolerance and inclusiveness were indicators for long-term security and stability. 

Saudi Arabia said that the Special Rapporteur had painted the wrong picture of Saudi Arabia, with no regard for cultural specificity and with information gathered from unreliable sources, adding that any attempt to attack Saudi Arabia’s rights or religion was an intervention in the country’s policies.  Viet Nam said that through its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies, the reality of freedom of assembly among others had been illustrated vividly, and asked how the act of selecting and labelling some systems as fundamentalist could not in itself be seen as “fundamentalistic”?  Ireland expressed appreciation for the Special Rapporteurs’ analysis over the years on the development of good practices, and asked them for concrete measures regarding next steps.  Philippines said it viewed people’s organizations as bona fide associations of citizens with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest, and their right to participation at all levels of decision-making was guaranteed.  Ghana said it had a sound policy framework on education at all levels, and a substantial part of the national budget was devoted to education.  Regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of assembly, it was noted that in Ghana, permits were not required for demonstrations, and labour organizations were free.  Nigeria said today’s concern was how to bridge the divide between developed and developing countries when it came to information and communications technologies in education.  It was noted that the Nigerian Constitution guaranteed freedom of assembly, but that right had to be contextualized to ensure peace and order.  Syria welcomed the presence of the Special Rapporteurs, but said that in the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly, paragraph 86 represented “the entire falsity of information” when referring to Syria, and the Special Rapporteur was called on to make a correction to that paragraph and the Secretariat was called on to publish a correction of that content. 

Freedom Now noted that authoritarian regimes continued to muzzle their citizens and imprison independent voices, such as in Mauritania, Ethiopia and Azerbaijan.  It urged States to respect the rights of their citizens to exercise freedom of assembly and of association.  People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy drew attention to the arbitrary ban on protests in the Republic of Korea.  Even though the Government had insisted on having a thorough investigation of cases, the authorities had been very slow in reacting.  American Association of Jurists noted that Western Sahara was the last colony in Africa whose process of decolonization was brutally stopped by the military invasion of Morocco.  There was no way for the Sahrawi civil society to enjoy its right to peaceful manifestation and association.  Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development warned that fundamentalism in several Asian countries had resulted in the use of restrictive actions against defenders of land rights and minorities, such as in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Singapore Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan.  FIAN International raised the issue of the negative impact of the criminalization of the defenders of the rights of peasants on the rights to freedom of association and of assembly, citing examples from Spain and Brazil.  Iraqi Development Organization drew attention to the worsening situation in Saudi Arabia regarding the detention of peaceful demonstrators.  Children remained in prison and were subjected to torture.  The situation of migrant workers was also worsening.  Forced labour was common place.  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies noted that repressive actions to close public space and the crackdown on dissent in Egypt were alarming.  Between 15 and 27 April 2016, at least 1,200 people had been arrested or detained. 

Aliran Kesedaran Negara National Consciousness Movement expressed concerns about restrictions on the freedom of assembly, association and expression in Malaysia, as well as arbitrary arrests of journalists there.  The Government was trying to amend the Criminal Code in that direction.  CIVICUS  remained alarmed at the disproportionate use of force in “South Korea”, and expressed concern over the lack of accountability for the perpetrators of such violence.  All Members of the Council should take steps to implement the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur.  Human Rights House Foundation was concerned about the tendency to demonize human rights defenders in Georgia, and was worried about the restrictions on the activities of civil society in the Russian Federation, as well as similar trends in some European countries.  Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights supported the use of digital technologies, but was very concerned about the lack of quality control, the limitation on the autonomy of teachers, inequality in access, and the application of copyrights.  Liberation referred to the case of the rape and murder of a young student in Rajasthan, and was concerned about unequal access to education there.  International Service for Human Rights expressed concern over human rights activists harassed and detained in Bahrain, and noted that in China, the authorities continued to threaten Tibetan activists.
 
Association for Progressive Communication said that efforts to expand Internet access had to be rights-based, noting that the same rights people had offline also had to be protected online, urging States to support the resolution on the Internet and human rights.  Federation of Cuban Women stated that the international community had to pay attention to information and communications technologies in teaching, urging the Council to review which measures could be relevant vis-à-vis the 2030 Agenda.

Closing Remarks

KISHORE SINGH, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said that the most important issues raised were how to overcome the digital divide, and how the international community could better assess educational systems.  On massive open on-line courses, he said that the huge increase in their number meant that they were accessible to larger numbers of students, but they were no substitute for face-to-face education, which was a universal system.  With regard to overcoming of the digital divide, Mr. Singh said that in most developing countries, laws had not kept up with the development of digital technology; international action on bridging the digital divide should be a priority.  Developing the capacity of people and understanding the impact of Internet access on society was a key area for national policy responses.  Mr. Singh noted that looking into how private companies were making inroads into the global marketplace in education was within the purview of the Council.

MAINA KIAI, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly
and of association
, explained that it was important to get beyond the symptoms of violations and abuses of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; fundamentalism was one of the reasons behind those phenomena.  It was fundamental for people to have a system which would allow them to disagree with mainstream opinions.  Responding to the allegations of his purported lack of information and knowledge, Mr. Kiai noted that it was difficult for States to accuse him in such a way when they never invited him for a visit to their countries.  He expressed hope that certain groups of States would not prevent civil society organizations from getting accreditation at the Human Rights Council.  Mr. Kiai also expressed surprise that he was welcomed by States in New York and then criticized by the very same States in Geneva.  It was better to bring problematic issues up front and put them on the table in order to avoid further complications later.  One of the reasons why terrorism existed was because people were not able to speak up in the first place.  The fact that persons did not agree with Governments did not automatically make them terrorists. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC16/077E