HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS FROM 25 DIGNITARIES IN HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT
5 March 2014
The Human Rights Council continued its High-level Segment today in meetings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., hearing statements from 25 dignitaries from Honduras, Benin, Belgium, Lesotho, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Algeria, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Georgia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uzbekistan, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Spain, Germany, Mongolia, Finland and Zambia.
Speaking were Mireya Agüero de Corrales, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras; Valentin Djenontin-Agossou, Minister of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights of Benin; Didier Reynders, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium; Haae Phoofolo, Minister of Law, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs of Lesotho; G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka; Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia; Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria; Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia; Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe; Yun Byung-se, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Maria do Rosário Nunes, Minister of the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of Brazil; Lía Limón García, Vice-Minister for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Mexico; Maia Panjikidze, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia; Ebun Strasser-King, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone; Yacoubu Hamadou, Minister for Human Rights and the Consolidation of Democracy, in charge of the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Togo; Sakina Binti Selemani, Vice-Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Akmal Saidov, Minister and Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan; Saleh Elmarghani, Minister of Justice of Libya; Hisham Badr, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs and International Security of Egypt; Aichetou Mint M'Haiham, Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Civil Society of Mauritania; Gonzalo de Benito Secades, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain; Christoph Straesser, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany; Damba Gankhuyag, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia; Peter Stenlund, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Finland; and Musa Mwenya, Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice of Zambia.
During the meeting, speakers expressed concern about the situation in Syria. Support was expressed for the Security Council’s resolution on humanitarian assistance to Syria, as well as the hope that it would open ways to significant political progress in the Geneva talks. A call was made for a political dialogue between all parties in Syria as the only credible path towards ending the conflict there. A speaker commended the African Group’s constructiveness in convening in January 2014 a special session of the Council on the situation in the Central African Republic and called on all parties to implement the resolution adopted. Concerning Ukraine, the de-escalation of tensions was an immediate priority and only dialogue could offer the way forward for the people of Ukraine. The international community was called upon to assist the new authorities there in investigating atrocities and bringing those responsible to justice.
Respect for human rights was imperative in all contexts, not only in conflicts or democratic transitions, but also in democracies, including in mature ones. Human rights must be at the heart of all State-building exercises and mainstreamed in all policies of States being put in place. One speaker expressed deep concern that the lack of financial independence of the Office of the High Commissioner led to the erosion of independence in its overall functioning and disproportionate attention to country-specific actions of the Council which selectively targeted some countries, while other human rights situations warranted more urgent and immediate attention. Speakers also reiterated the importance of the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism. Some delegations expressed concerns about the politicisation of human rights and the imposition of particular views and norms on others, reiterating the importance of ensuring respect for cultural diversity and sovereignty while promoting international cooperation
The High-level Segment opened on Monday, 3 March and will conclude on Thursday, 6 March.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council will hold a high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty.
MIREYA AGUERO DE CORRALES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, said that this session of the Human Rights Council was an opportunity for Honduras to reaffirm its commitment to human rights, which was its first priority. Significant progress had been made in recent years in legislation, social affairs and strengthening of human rights institutions, while comprehensive social protection and childhood policies were in place and were firmly grounded in human rights, equality, inclusion, gender and multiculturality. The President’s Roadmap for Better Life was built on the pillars of the eradication of violence, massive job creation and human development, reduction of inequalities and social protection. Honduras believed that dialogue and cooperation within the human rights system were crucial; it had extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures and considered the Universal Periodic Review of primary importance.
Migrants, regardless of their status, must be considered full rights-holders and Honduras had adopted a law on migrants and their families and had promulgated a law on human trafficking. Early and child marriages must be at the heart of the agenda and discussions of this forum. Honduras had made significant progress to improve the situation of persons with disabilities and to ensure their full enjoyment of rights; for example, the fundamental education law guaranteed their access to an inclusive education system. States, by definition, must have a humanist dimension, stressed Ms. De Corrales, and this meant that all its activities must be done for the protection and development of human rights.
VALENTIN DJENONTIN-AGOSSOU, Minister of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights of Benin, reiterated Benin’s ongoing support for efforts towards strengthening the work of the Council. Benin was fully part of the new international process for the protection of rights through universally recognised and accepted values. Benin had presented its second Universal Periodic Review which had been adopted at the Council’s twenty-second session. In terms of civil and political rights, Benin had been revising its electoral legislation, which had served as the basis for its 2011 elections, making it possible for all citizens of voting age to register freely; the lack of birth certificates for some citizens would also be addressed.
Benin had abolished the death penalty and would play an active role in the high-level discussion panel on this topic to be held by the Council this afternoon. In the African context, Benin had offered to organise the first African conference on the abolition and moratorium of the death penalty in July 2014. The Government had been working to promote the freedom of the press and associations and was identifying challenges. Concerning economic, social and cultural rights, Mr. Djenontin-Agossou indicated that a number of strategic reforms were underway, including in areas such as finance, ports and telecommunications, the establishment of new factories, agriculture and food security, as well as education. A universal health insurance programme was also being implemented to ensure the well-being of Benin’s population.
DIDIER REYNDERS, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, expressed grave concern about the ongoing human rights violations in Ukraine and stressed the need for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to ensure that there was no impunity. The de-escalation of tensions was an immediate priority and only dialogue could offer the way forward for the people of Ukraine. Stressing the importance of human rights for Belgium foreign policy, Mr. Reynders said that there were attempts to introduce a relative notion of human rights on the pretext of their incompatibility with traditions or because they were a part of a Western agenda. Refusing universality of human rights was to introduce racist notions to a concept that was close to the human heart. Respect for human rights was imperative in all contexts, not only in conflicts or democratic transitions, but also in democracies, including in mature ones.
Human rights must be at the heart of all state-building exercises and mainstreamed in all policies of States being put in place. Belgium congratulated Tunisia on the adoption of the new constitution which it hoped would be an example for the region, particularly with regard to equality between women and men. Human rights in crisis situations allowed for protection of the vulnerable and alleviated suffering of victims. Having a victim-oriented approach also meant fighting against impunity and ensuring that those responsible for human rights violations were prosecuted. Belgium hoped that the Human Rights Council would not become a victim of its own success and that it would not use up the limited resources of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for an excessive number of debates that sometimes had no future.
HAAE PHOOFOLO, Minister of Law, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs of Lesotho, said that the Council gathered today to reaffirm its commitment to universal dignity in an opportune moment to take stock of achievements, shortcomings and challenges. The best interests of the child remained at the core of Lesotho’s agenda and the Government had enacted a comprehensive children’s protection and welfare act in 2011, which prohibited cruel or inhumane punishment and ensured protection against torture and degrading treatment; new management regulations for schools and guides on implementation had also been distributed. A children’s court had also been launched to provide a favourable environment when dealing with children in conflict and affected by the law.
Lesotho was dedicated to achieving the principles of gender-equality and non-discrimination, its report under the Convention on the elimination of discrimination against women had been presented in 2011 and it was in the process of implementing the recommendations. Gender-based violence was on the increase and remained a challenge but the Government had taken measures, such as capacity building training sessions for child and gender protection units and other key stakeholders. Additional efforts included the creation of an office on corruption and economic offences, a national anti-corruption strategy, correctional institutions, and a national human rights policy. Mr. Phoofolo commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner and pledged Lesotho’s continued support.
G. L. PEIRIS, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, expressed deep concern that the lack of financial independence of the Office of the High Commissioner had led to the erosion of its independence in its overall functioning and the disproportionate attention to country-specific actions of the Council, which selectively targeted some countries, while other human rights situations warranted more urgent and immediate attention. Notwithstanding its non-recognition of the country-specific action taken by this Council against Sri Lanka without basis, Sri Lanka had continued its cooperation with the international human rights system and had made progress in the establishment of the domestic reconciliation mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and the implementation of the National Plan of Action.
Measures included the appointment of the Commission on Disappearances in August 2013 which so far had received nearly 16,000 complaints and had all its hearings open to the public. Ninety-six per cent of the areas identified for demining had been cleared as of December 2013, which had paved the way for the resettlement of internally displaced persons. There was zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse of women and children and Sri Lanka had taken concrete action in all reported cases where security forces personnel had been involved. The Government categorically rejected the High Commissioner’s report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka which was selective and arbitrary and also reiterated its rejection of resolution 22/1 on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.
EDGARS RINKEVICS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, reiterated his country’s commitment to continue supporting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including with voluntary contributions, and to preserve its independence and integrity. He regretted that gross human rights violations had recently taken place in Ukraine, and called on the international community to assist the new authorities there in investigating atrocities and bringing those responsible to justice. Latvia condemned in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s military invasion of Ukraine under the false pretext of defending human and national minorities’ rights.
Mr. Rinkevics commended the African Group’s constructiveness in convening in January 2014 a special session of the Council on the situation in the Central African Republic, and called on all parties to implement the resolution adopted. Latvia remained deeply concerned about the situation in Syria, and hoped the second peace conference would bring results. The Minister then underlined the importance of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and announced that Latvia aspired to become a member of the Human Rights Council for the term 2015-2017. Finally, he expressed Latvia’s commitment to women’s empowerment, the protection of human rights defenders and freedom of expression on the internet.
RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said that the people of Algeria would elect their new President on April 17 and that this important event would be an opportunity to deepen the achievements of the constitution, the democratic process, the rule of law and social justice. The world today required increasingly more cooperation and coordination to confront uncertainties created by geopolitical turmoil, climate change and the consequences of economic and financial crises. Algeria congratulated Tunisia on the adoption of its new constitution, welcomed the progress made in stabilizing the situation in Mali and called on the international community to provide rapid assistance to the Central African Republic.
Mr. Lamamra expressed hope that resolution 2139 of the United Nations Security Council on humanitarian assistance to Syria would also open ways to significant political progress in the Geneva talks and encouraged the Human Rights Council to closely follow the Secretary-General’s recommendations concerning the human rights of the people of the Western Sahara. Algeria had made significant progress in promoting the situation of women and had started the process to lift its reservations on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Measures were being taken to criminalize in the Penal Code racial discrimination and Algeria would also continue to observe a moratorium on the death penalty.
EDWARD NALBANDIAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said the Council had addressed many questions in attempts to respond to the situation of gross violations of human rights in various parts of the world. The Secretary-General’s Five Year Action Agenda drew special attention to the issue of prevention. Implementation of this agenda allowed the international community to address the issue of prevention at a global level through the regular assessment of possible risks. One of such risks that led to the most dangerous consequences was the propaganda of hatred on racial, ethnic or religious grounds, often accompanied with aggressive and bellicose rhetoric. The South Caucus region had and was witnessing such risks.
The universality and indivisibility of human rights were often spoken about. All human rights were equally important and had to be equally protected. In this context, Armenia mentioned the right to self-determination. That inalienable right belonged, inter alia, to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Syria, Armenia welcomed the adoption by the Security Council of the resolution about the urgent need to increase humanitarian aid access in Syria and called for an immediate end of attacks against civilians and for the siege of populated areas to be lifted. All efforts towards a peaceful solution of the crisis were welcomed. Armenia had already received over 10,000 refugees from Syria, and the Government was trying to do its best to assist them.
EMMERSON MNANGAGWA, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe, said that a lot of development in the area of human rights had taken place in Zimbabwe over the past year. Zimbabweans overwhelmingly voted for a new Constitution which included guarantees for the protection of all human rights. Elections that took place in July 2013 were declared free and fair by international observers. Zimbabwe therefore rejected accusations by its detractors and condemned the continued imposition of illegal sanctions by Western countries. Zimbabwe had undertaken a series of initiatives to enhance the protection of human rights, such as Zimbabwe’s Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation. Zimbabwe had also enhanced its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms and had recently ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Minister expressed support to efforts by the African Union to restore peace and security in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. He called for a political dialogue between all parties in Syria as the only credible path towards ending the conflict there. He then condemned the economic embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba, which violated the basic rights of the Cuban people. He recalled Zimbabwe’s opposition to the principle of country specific mandates, which tended to be politicised. Mr. Mnangagwa welcomed the fact that the Council would at this session discuss the topics of the prevention of genocide and the death penalty. He recalled that although the new Constitution of Zimbabwe still permitted death sentences for men over 21 who committed murder, the last execution had been carried out over 10 years ago.
YUN BYUNG-SE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said that the Government of the Republic of Korea had set out the “happiness of the global village” as one of its core foreign policy objectives and it was committed to help shape a world where human dignity and human rights were respected, and the quality of life was improved for all the people in the world. Threats against life and liberty and discrimination and violence were still prevailing in places such as Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the international community should make continued efforts to end the culture of impunity and ensure accountability. The continuing degradation of the human rights situation in Syria despite the attention accorded to this country by the Human Rights Council since 2011 was frustrating.
Grave, widespread and systematic human rights violations were being committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as concluded by the Commission of Inquiry; it was now time for the international community to begin to effectively follow up on the recommendations to improve the human rights situation in this country. Sexual violence in armed conflict was still perpetrated in various places around the world which was attributable to the culture of impunity and the failure to ensure accountability. The victims of wartime sexual slavery drafted by the Japanese imperial armed forces, the so-called “comfort women”, was an unresolved human rights issue; the Republic of Korea called on Japan to accept its governmental responsibility, take responsible measures and educate current and future generations.
MARIA DO ROSARIO NUNES, Minister of the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of Brazil, said that the unilateral action of States to collect data by intervening or intercepting communications incurred extreme violations of human rights, including of privacy, and this had to be stopped. A Right to Privacy Bill was being considered in Brazil’s legislative body. Focusing on immediate concerns, like the fight against hunger and addressing human rights that expanded to all areas of Government engagement in Brazil, this had led to vulnerable segments being recognized and the rights of those groups being recognized and defended. A comprehensive approach to human rights was needed. It should abide by structural changes and reforms that took human rights as the critical spinal cord that they were.
The National Development Bill had guaranteed the right to work. Brazil had the lowest rate of unemployment in its history and it had broadened access to education. Promoting human rights only became worthwhile when it was approached inter generationally and in a comprehensive manner. Brazil defended the priorities given to children in guaranteeing human rights and in protection policies. Actions aimed at eradicating child labour and sexual exploitation, violence against children and teenagers had to be institutionalized in State policies in all countries. Brazil sought to protect people with disabilities, to encourage their autonomy and to give them access to the development of their capacities.
LÍA LIMÓN GARCÍA, Vice-Minister for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said that the Human Rights Council must be a forum for dialogue and cooperation which would bring about the implementation of international standards and strengthen national policies and institutions. It was therefore necessary to continue the promotion of human rights of people who suffered discrimination on different grounds, and that was why Mexico would continue to propose initiatives for the benefits of women, persons with disabilities, migrants and minorities. Mexico had made tangible progress in the promotion and protection of human rights, and 2013 had been a decisive year, a year of major reforms that recognized and expanded the new generation of human rights.
Mexico had established the National System of Care for Victims as the highest institution in the field, responsible for establishing and monitoring the programmes and actions to support victims. There was a law to prevent trafficking in women and the efforts were ongoing to put in place for the first time, a national programme to combat trafficking in women. The President was committed that all State action must comply with constitutional rights and that there must the maximum respect of human rights. All legislative and institutional changes would be enshrined in the national human rights programme that would soon be rolled out and would have targets, indicators and an independent evaluation mechanism.
MAIA PANJIKIDZE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, paid tribute to all the victims of the recent tragic events in Ukraine and expressed the deepest of condolences to their families. Georgia supported the territorial integrity, sovereignty, political independence and democratic future of Ukraine. Today they were witnessing a flagrant violation of international law and its fundamental principles by a Human Rights Council Member State, after it waged a military aggression against another sovereign Member State in defiance of its international commitments. Georgia called upon Russia to stop the aggression and engage in a constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian leadership through international mediation.
Georgia condemned the violence against civilians in Syria and believed that the protection of civilians must be the highest priority for each Government and the entire international community. With regard to the situation in the Central African Republic and Mali, the Parliament of Georgia had approved the decision to participate in the European Union-led mission in the Central African Republic by deploying one light infantry company to Bangui. Georgia contributed to the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali and stood ready to donate equipment for the development of the Malian Armed Forces within the framework of the EUTM-Mali. Deep concern was expressed over the critical situation in two of Georgia’s regions currently under Russian occupation, the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
EBUN STRASSER-KING, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, commended the High Commissioner for her hard work and outstanding leadership and was pleased to report that the United Nations integrated peacebuilding office in Sierra Leone would successfully complete its mandate at the end of the current session. Sierra Leone had submitted its Universal Periodic Review report in 2011 and had accepted 126 out of 129 recommendations. Sierra Leone would continue to contribute to the ongoing work of the Council, Special Procedures and other treaty bodies. It was important for countries to respect cultural practices and sensitivities. Amid serious human rights challenges, the Council was the purveyor of human rights norms and had proven its vital role in finding solutions.
Ms. Strasser-King welcomed the nomination of the new independent expert on the Central African Republic and commended the efforts of the African Union and the United Nations multidimensional integrated mission to Mali for their work in the Central African Republic and Mali. Sierra Leone had developed policies and worked with stakeholders to fight poverty and improve access to healthcare, and it appreciated support from civil society. Ms. Strasser-King welcomed respect for territorial sovereignty in the context of conflict resolution efforts in Africa and recalled that Sierra Leone had ratified the majority of human rights instruments, many of whose provisions had been included in the 1991 Constitution. She spoke about Sierra Leone’s efforts in promoting economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, enhancing women’s participation, and addressing violence against women, the rights of children and access to education.
YACOUBU HAMADOU, Minister for Human Rights and the Consolidation of Democracy, in charge of the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Togo, said maintaining peace and security in the world was a priority for Togo. It shared deep concern over the ongoing grave violations of human rights in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan and in Ukraine. A solemn appeal was made to the various protagonists so that a peaceful political solution would be found for these crises. The recent history of Togo was marked by a socio-political crisis. However, since 2005, a political dialogue had been established with the entire political class. The Head of State had established a major objective that was the reconciliation of the daughters and sons of Togo. A truth, justice and reconciliation commission had been set up.
The protection of the physical and moral integrity of the individual was of major concern to Togo. Togo had ratified the majority of international instruments in the area of human rights, in particular the Convention Against Torture and its Protocol, and had set up a National Human Rights Commission to play the role of a national mechanism for preventing torture. Primary education was now free of charge and compulsory until the age of 15. On health, the Government of Togo had executed plans for the development of the health system with the establishment of strategies specific to certain subjects such as malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, and community interventions, among others.
SAKINA BINTI SELEMANI, Vice-Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had just restored the integrity of its territory having recovered the areas controlled by armed groups and thanked the international community for its effective support manifested by the support provided by the intervention brigade of the United Nations Stabilization Mission to the Government’s armed forces. It was hoped that the intervention brigade of the Stabilization Mission would continue to provide support in this new phase of the peace building process. In order to pave the way for long-term stability, a new amnesty law had been promulgated by parliament. This law however did not intend to promote impunity as demonstrated by the exclusion of international crimes and clear provisions concerning recidivism.
Despite the deadly conflict, the human rights situation had been characterised by significant steps forward. The 2006 Constitution enshrined more than 50 articles to human rights and other legislation and regulatory acts ensured their implementation. The main international instruments had been ratified by Parliament, including, more recently, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. Among other measures, Ms. Selemani referred to the establishment of an inclusive dialogue framework, reform of the national electoral commission, the promulgation of a child protection code and an action plan to prevent their recruitment by armed groups, and measures to address sexual violence and for the protection of women’s rights.
AKMAL SAIDOV, Minister and Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, recalled that this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and said that 2014 was proclaimed in Uzbekistan the Year of the Healthy Child, with the participation of the United Nations Development Programme and other United Nations agencies. Uzbekistan had achieved considerable results in the realisation and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals despite the economic crisis in the country, and the State budget kept an important social orientation. Maternal and infant mortality had decreased and life expectancy had increased. He underlined the importance of human rights, equality and sustainability being at the heart of the post-2015 agenda.
Mr. Saidov also underlined the fundamental role played by civil society for the promotion of human rights, including their cooperation with United Nations mechanisms. Uzbekistan was currently considering reforms on social partnership, the judiciary, strengthening the rule of law, and on the liberalisation of the penitentiary system. It had abolished the death penalty and supported the United Nations moratorium. The Minister then gave examples on Uzbekistan’s continued cooperation and engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures and treaty bodies. Finally, he underlined the importance of the realisation of the right to water and opposed the construction of huge hydropower facilities without endorsement by the affected countries and deep consideration of the ecological, social, economic and human impacts of such projects.
SALEH ELMARGHANI, Minister of Justice of Libya, reiterated Libya’s appreciation and gratitude for the supportive position of the United Nations, particularly throughout Libya’s struggle against dictatorship and violations of human rights by the former regime. It also wished to pay tribute to the international community and friendly States for providing political and technical support to complete the transitional process and the adoption of the Constitution. The new Libya would be a State based on prosperity, democracy and the rule of law. Libya emphasised the importance of promoting the role of civil society in spreading the human rights culture, and paid tribute to the cooperation shown by international human rights organizations, which was highly appreciated.
Despite the security challenges faced by the country as a result of the dictatorship, the Libyan authorities had taken several important steps in the field of human rights and the rule of law. Libyans were looking forward to the adoption of the Constitution that would reflect the ambitions of the Libyan people in light of grave challenges. With regards to the security situation and the widespread presence of weapons in Libya, some important steps had been taken regarding the banning of weapons and explosives. On violations related to detention, the situation was improving although it still left much to be desired. Libya was working hard to integrate women in public life and stressed the importance of women’s participation in civil society.
HISHAM BADR, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs and International Security of Egypt, reiterated Egypt’s commitment to human rights and democracy as the reflection of the legitimate demands of its people. Egypt faced huge challenges and opportunities and, since 2011, had witnessed radical social changes. The Egyptian people were the engine of change and the first defenders of rights and freedoms. Democracy should be achieved through popular political determination which did not admit the intervention of external visions: the Egyptian people had the inalienable right to realise their vision for a future and to redress past shortcomings, Egyptians who had come to the streets would not allow any impediment to the democratic path which was clear in the wide participation by all groups, including women and the elderly, in recent elections.
Egypt had adopted a new Constitution that reflected the aspirations of the Egyptian people and which addressed, among others, guarantees for the right of expression, the prevention of torture, and 45 unprecedented new articles protecting human rights. The Government looked forward to working with all parties within the framework of the law and that refrained from using violence. Mr. Badr expressed concerns about the situation in the Palestinian territories under occupation; the ongoing conflict in Syria; discrimination, xenophobia and racism, including the situation of Muslim populations; and the problem of double standards and politicisation in the work of the Council. Member States should not seek to impose their views and legal standards and should respect cultural diversity.
AICHETOU MINT M'HAIHAM, Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Civil Society of Mauritania, said that Mauritania was on the path of constructive change to strengthen democracy, combat all kinds of human trafficking and fight poverty. This had been characterised also by comprehensively addressing the humanitarian situation in Mauritania, and putting an end to harmful practices that were incompatible with human rights. The Government had adopted an ambitious project to enhance the role of civil society, increase access to health and education services and improve the judiciary, and had put an end to the harassment of journalists and opened the media sector.
Mauritania was deeply involved in combatting trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery. It had also established a national human rights institution that was in compliance with the Paris Principles. The Commissioner said Mauritania had ratified important international human rights instruments, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances. Mauritania also accepted visits from Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and had presented many reports to the treaty bodies in Geneva.
GONZALO DE BENITO SECADES, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, reiterated Spain’s commitment to human rights at national and international levels. Spain had shared information about measures undertaken to address the consequences of the economic and financial crisis affecting many countries, including painful adjustment measures that Spain was in the process of undertaking but which had been designed to have the smallest possible impact on the rights of affected individuals. Spain had overcome the crisis and fiscal measures would be taken to favour of low income and affected groups. During these years of austerity, Spain had maintained its commitment to human rights and continued to support the work of the Office of the High Commissioner.
Spain’s commitment was articulated around key foreign policy and human rights priorities, including a campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, the rights of persons with disabilities, gender discrimination and violence against women, the right to water and sanitation, business and human rights, and the situation of human rights defenders. The Deputy Minister reiterated Spain’s full support for the treaty bodies. Spain’s commitments to human rights was a component of its trust in the multilateral system and the United Nations and, for this reason, Spain presented its candidacy to the Security Council every decade. He hoped that Spain’s experience in the Human Rights Council would prove fruitful in case it was elected to the Security Council in October.
CHRISTOPH STRAESSER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, regretted that many human rights violations were still occurring everywhere in the world, and insisted on the importance for and capacity of the Human Rights Council to address those situations. Commissions of Inquiry were good instruments that had well contributed to put violations in Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the spotlight. The Commissions’ work would in the future serve as a basis for holding perpetrators accountable. Mr. Straesser announced that a debate on the right to privacy would be held at the September 2014 session of the Human Rights Council.
It was important for the Human Rights Council to take up new challenges, such as the right to water as well as of the prohibition of discrimination or violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons. The Commissioner expressed concerns about harassment and reprisals against human rights defenders, including those who engaged with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and urged all countries to repeal disproportionate barriers imposed on the right to freedom of expression. Germany had played an active part in the activities of the Council and it was grateful to all delegations that had engaged constructively to put the Council’s mandate into reality.
DAMBA GANKHUYAG, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, stressed that greater international cooperation was needed to ensure the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all and that the principles of non-selectivity, practicality, timeliness and effectiveness were of crucial importance in situations of human rights violations. Mongolia had adopted the national specific ninth Millennium Development Goal on strengthening human rights and fostering democratic governance, which clearly demonstrated the centrality of human rights in development planning. Strong measures had been carried out to suffocate corruption, which together with zero-tolerance policy, had improved Mongolia’s ranking in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International.
The moratorium on the death penalty had been in place since 2009 and with the entry into force of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in June 2013, the domestic legislation was being amended to eliminate capital punishment de jure. Mr. Gankhuyag commended the dedicated work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office and expressed strong support for the full independence and integrity of her mandate. Mongolia had decided to make its first voluntary financial contribution to the Office and the Fund for Indigenous People and said that it was important for Member States to make a joint investment to ensure adequate resources for the Office to implement its mandate.
PETER STENLUND, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Finland, expressed Finland’s deep concerns about the current situation in Ukraine, and demanded that the situation there be solved peacefully and in full respect of human rights and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The perpetrators of human rights violations during the past week had to be held accountable and the rights of minorities had to be respected. In Syria, gross human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity were still being committed, and perpetrators also had to be held accountable. It was regrettable that the United Nations Security Council still had not referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Grave human rights violations occurred in many other countries, which was why Finland supported strong United Nations mechanisms to address those.
Finland underlined the importance of United Nations mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review and the treaty bodies, and called on all States to ratify all international human rights conventions. Finland was committed to integrating a human rights and gender equality based approach to the post-2015 agenda. Attention must be paid to ensure that women, children, youth and groups that were particularly vulnerable to marginalization, such as persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, were included in the development agenda and could contribute to it in a meaningful way. The Secretary of State insisted on the importance of access to education for minorities and vulnerable persons, and announced that Finland had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the establishment of a complaint procedure.
MUSA MWENYA, Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice of Zambia, said that Zambia continued to be the epitome of peace and political stability in Africa and continued to live in peace despite tribal, racial and national diversity. The rule of law underpinned democracy and the observance of human rights and the Government was currently engaged in the constitution review process which would hopefully ensure that it reflected the aspiration and will of all the people of Zambia. Institutional structures and a legal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights had been put in place and the Government continued to strive to ensure that the process of ratification of international instruments was carried progressively and in conformity with national development interests.
There were challenges in ensuring access to justice for all as large numbers of citizens were still unable to access justice when they needed it. Access to justice remained a priority and extensive legal and justice reform was ongoing. The Government had intensified efforts to eliminate early marriages and had criminalized sex with girls below the age of 16. Zambia recognized that poverty was an impediment to the full enjoyment of human rights; it had in place the national social protection strategy and a number of social assistance programmes to improve the standard of living of the poorest households. The economy was one of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and the challenge was the translation of those lofty statistics into better living standards for the people.
For use of the information media; not an official record