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11 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, hearing from a series of non-governmental organizations on violations of human rights in countries and regions around the world.

The general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention started in previous meetings and a summary can be found here and here.

Taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : United Schools International, Association Dunenyo, Pan African Federation of Agricultural Trade Unions, Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment, African Development Association, Women’s International Democratic Federation, Alliance Creative Community Project, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Il Cenacolo, World Organization Against Torture, International Service for Human Rights, Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Maat for Peace for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, World Muslim Congress, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Disability Association of Tavana, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, International Association of Crafts and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, International Muslim Women’s Union, iuventum e.V., World Environment and Resources Council, Fundación Latino americana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Alsalam Foundation, Association of World Citizens, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, African Heritage Foundation Nigeria, Action of Human Movement, European Centre for Law and Justice, Villages Unis, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Jewish Congress, Women’s Human Rights International Association, Intenational Educational Development, Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, Réseau Unite pour le Developpment de Mauritanie, Synergie Feminine pour la Paix et le Développement Durable, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Edmund Rice International, Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Association Thendral, Association Adala Justice, Action pour la protection des droits de l’homme en Mauritanie, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Mouvement contre le racism et pour l’amitié entre les peoples, Liberation, World Barua Organization, Center for Organization Research and Education, World Peace Council, Human Rights Now, Association pour la Défense des Droits de la Femme Mauritanienne, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, National Secular Society, ABC Tamil Oli, Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, Global Welfare Association, Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, International Career Support Association, United Nations Association of China, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Association Mauritanienne pour la promotion du droit, Association pour le Développement Humain en Mauritanie, Association pour l’Education et la Santé de la Femme et de l’Enfant, Tamil Uzhagam, Guinée Humanitaire, Al Baraem Assocition for Charitable Work, Le Pont, American Association of Jurists, and Iraqi Al-Amal Association.

The following countries spoke in right of reply : Venezuela, Turkey, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Armenia, Lebanon, Japan, Latvia, Iran, Egypt, Brazil, Philippines, Iraq, Rwanda, China, Mauritania, Malaysia and Greece.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV

The Council will next meet at 3 p.m. to conclude hearing from States exercising their right of reply in response to statements made during the general debate. It will then begin an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

Remarks by the Vice-President of the Council on Adjustments in Seating Due to COVID-19

SOCORRO FLORES LIERA, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, reminded of the practice of social distancing that the Human Rights Council was following during the current session due to COVID-19. Since the minimal distance unfortunately could not be applied to the area where civil society representatives were seated in the Assembly Hall, she asked them to move back to room XX to follow the webcast from there and to address the Council from a separate room as shown by the secretariat of the Council.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

The general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention started in previous meetings and a summary can be found here and here.

In the general debate, attention was drawn to the threat that terrorism and its sponsorship posed to human rights, namely in Pakistan where the military establishment adopted a more selective attitude towards promoting, sponsoring and exporting terrorism. False terrorism charges against the Pashtuns and involuntary disappearances in Balochistan in Pakistan due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as well as the enforced disappearances of Sindhis by the Pakistani secret service, were highlighted. Pakistan was promoting religious extremism in Balochistan.

The practice of slavery by the Polisario members in Tindouf camps, where the Saharawi people were banned access to humanitarian aid and subjected to various abuses because of the colour of their skin, was raised. Also highlighted were cases of slavery in Mauritania with the acquiescence of the Government, and an end to enforced disappearances in southern Algeria by the Polisario was demanded. Peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression were hindered in Morocco, and concern was expressed about the occupation of Western Sahara and the failure to conduct a referendum on self-determination.

Other issues raised included the persecution of religious activities in China, and the failure to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities in Iran. Egypt’s violations against human rights defenders, and the arbitrary detention and torture of women human rights defenders who remained in prison in Saudi Arabia, were also highlighted. There was a growing trend of severe restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Bahrain, with the persisting problem of political prisoners. General lawlessness in Nigeria and religiously motivated violence against the Christians was very concerning as Boko Haram continued to kidnap children and force girls to marry their members.

Likewise, attention was called to the enforced disappearances and the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the excessive force used by the police against peaceful protesters in Chile, as well as violence against protesters in Lebanon, Iraq, Guinea and Hong Kong, and the repression of civic freedoms in Nicaragua. The situation of human rights, namely arbitrary detention, in Comoros was also concerning, with prospects of civil war becoming very real. Electoral and post-electoral violence in a number of African countries was equally worrying, including in Guinea and Guinea Bissau, as were political arrests in Rwanda and Somalia.

Highlighted was the disastrous humanitarian situation and grave human rights abuses in Libya, which were exacerbated by foreign involvement and lack of respect for the arms embargo. The terrible crimes committed against the civilians in Yemen, the crime of the century, deserved more attention by the Council. If there was any humanitarian conscience left in the world, it had to be mobilized to stop the murdering of the Yemeni people and to help hold the culprits accountable. Likewise, pressure should be put on the Houthi militias to release detainees and stop using them as human shields. Another issue of concern was the victims of bombing by the Syrian and Turkish armies in Syria, and caravans of civilians fleeing the airstrikes. In this context, greater assistance to humanitarian organizations was demanded.

The brutal economic sanctions imposed by the United States against Venezuela and their punishing impact on the human rights of people there, especially the right to food and health, had led to an increase in maternal mortality and child malnutrition. The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela was escalating. Some drew attention to the institutional impunity for extrajudicial executions in that country, whereas others regretted that the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not mention the attacks on public infrastructure carried out by radical elements of the opposition.

In Latin America, the Bolivian Government had committed numerous human rights violations, especially during the Government of President Evo Morales, while children’s rights were under threat, namely they could legally work from the age of 10.

The Government of India was urged to end the military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and to return the confiscated land to the Kashmiris. The problematic nature of India’s Citizenship Amendment Act was highlighted because it overlooked numerous religious and ethnic groups, especially indigenous people in Assam and Tripura. Also of concern were inter-communal violence in Indian cities, such as New Delhi, the hate speech promoted by the ruling party, discrimination against Dalits, and attempts to forcefully convert Christians to Hinduism.

Other issues raised included serious attacks on social rights and the worsening situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, the situation of the Hmong people in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the harsh repression of the rights of Tibetans in China, the problem of statelessness, especially of children, in South Africa, the rising anti-Semitism with examples cited from Belgium and Spain, and the failure of the United Kingdom to implement its Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

The Council was urged to clearly condemn the unlawful targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by the United States. The Council should also recognize the threat posed by Iran to international peace and security because of its support to various terrorist groups in the Middle East, and because of its call for the destruction of Israel. Attention was drawn to the killing and arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters in Iran in November 2019.

The issue of attacks and intimidation of environmental human rights defenders was raised, as was the precarious situation of children in military occupation. Appreciation was expressed that the United Nations human rights mechanisms were starting to pay more attention to drinking water quality as a human rights indicator.

For use of the information media; not an official record