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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS

Hears Presentation of Thematic Reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights
20 June 2016

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, after hearing the presentation of thematic reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced 13 thematic reports by the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office, including reports on the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society; on corruption and human rights; on access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses; and a study on the relationship between climate change and the right to health.

During the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, speakers insisted on the necessity to put human rights at the centre of their efforts for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  They underlined the importance of realizing the right to development, which was paramount to the enjoyment of all human rights, and stressed the necessity of addressing the adverse effects of climate change.  Speakers reiterated their commitment to combat and prevent violence and discrimination against women and girls, as well as the importance of ensuring a wide and enabling space for civil society. 
 
Speaking during the general debate were Slovenia on behalf of Austria and Croatia, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Slovenia on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Human Rights of Older Persons, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Costa Rica on behalf of Geneva Pledge, Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, Switzerland on behalf of Poland, Uruguay and Thailand, Norway on behalf of Argentina, Ghana and Russian Federation, Switzerland on behalf of 50 countries, Russian Federation, Philippines, South Africa, China, Cuba, Maldives, Ecuador, Namibia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Bolivia, Morocco, Ireland, United States, Chile, Pakistan, Tunisia, Poland, Peru, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Iraq, Senegal, Greece, Suriname, Iran, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Bahamas, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sudan, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Spain. 

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights in a joint statement, Asia Pacific Forum, Child Rights Connect in a joint statement, World Evangelical Alliance, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Korea Centre for United Nations Human Rights Policy, Alliance Defending Freedom, Foodfirst Information and Action Network, Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, Association Dunenyo, International Muslim Women’s Union, British Humanist Association, Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, International Career Support Association, European Centre for Law and Justice, Mothers Legacy Project, Federation of Cuban Women, Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, American Association of Jurists, Save the Children International, Alsalam Foundation, Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Agence internationale pour le développement, World Muslim Congress, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education in a joint statement, CIVICUS, Centre for Inquiry, Il Cenacolo, Réseau International des Droits Humains, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux droits de l’homme, Sudwind, International Service for Human Rights, World Barua Organization, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Association Burkinabé pour la Survie de l’Enfance and Women’s International Democratic Federation. 

India, Republic of Korea, Armenia, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Azerbaijan spoke in right of reply. 

The Council will resume its work on Tuesday, 21 June at 9.30 a.m., to conclude its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights.  It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women on the activities of the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women - Note by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/32/3).

The Council has before it Improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/19).

The Council has before it Explanatory notes on guidance to improve accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse - addendum to the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/19/Add.1).

The Council has before it a corrigendum to Improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/19/Corr.1).

The Council has before it Practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/20).

The Council has before it Regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms and its contribution to the protection of human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/21).

The Council has before it Best practices of efforts to counter the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of all human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/22).

The Council has before it Relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health - Study of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/23).

The Council has before it  Panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on States' efforts to progressively realize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and related policies, lessons learned and good practices - Summary report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/24).

The Council has before it Panel discussion on the progress and challenges in addressing human rights issues in the context of efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 - Summary report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/32/25).
The Council has before it the  Communications report of Special Procedures (A/HRC/32/53).

Presentation of the Reports

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced 13 thematic reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner.  One report on the contribution of parliaments to the work of the Council would be considered during a panel on 22 June.  Three reports contained summaries of discussions already held on climate change and the right to health, on human rights and HIV/AIDS, and on the incompatibility between democracy and racism.  A report listed practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, and focused on examples that optimized civil society’s transforming potential, including a robust legal framework pertaining to the exercise of freedoms and access to justice, a political environment conducive of civil society, access to information, avenues for the participation by civil society in policy development, and long-term support and resources for civil society.  Presenting the report on best practices to counter the negative impact of corruption on human rights, Ms. Gilmore stressed that anti-corruption activists played an indispensable role to protect public assets from private theft.  The report on the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms clearly showed that gun control led to a dramatic reduction in violent crime.  A report on access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses recommended policy makers to review domestic law and policy regimes, taking into account the particular challenges arising from complex global supply chains, to improve the effectiveness of State-based judicial mechanisms in cases of business-related abuse, and to integrate a guidance in national action plans on business and human rights. 

The Deputy High Commissioner then presented a study on the relationship between climate change and the right to health, which showed that the negative effects of climate change disproportionately affected vulnerable persons and communities.  The study recommended that States integrate policies on health and human rights into their national action plans for climate.  Moving to a report on the activities of the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women, she reiterated the importance of that mechanism and deplored that the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls suffered from unjustifiable and chronic underfunding.  The report on the review of the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contained proposals for the strengthening of the mandate of this body, from increased engagement on these questions at country level to the preparation of a global report annually on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The report on the Operations of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review provided an overview of the support provided to States in their efforts to implement Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  Ms. Gilmore also presented the 2015 activities of the Trust Fund for participation in the Universal Periodic Review, which enabled States’ participation in both their reviews in the working group and in the Universal Periodic Review segment of the Council.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Slovenia, speaking also on behalf of Austria and Croatia, noted that girls continued to suffer disadvantage and exclusion from education systems, and strongly believed that schools must be a safe heaven, including for girls.  Classrooms must not be environments where girls faced exclusion, discrimination and violence.  Education broke cycles of poverty, prevented early and child marriages, and benefited also future generations as educated women were likely to send their children to school.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled the need to make the right to development a reality and address obstacles to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.  The new emerging challenges were increasingly complex and required the enhancement of international cooperation, particularly in the area of human rights, which must be conducted on the basis of the respect of independence and national sovereignty of States.  The Non-Aligned Movement was alarmed by the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the human rights of the populations in a number of countries.

Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends on the human rights of older persons, said that June 15 was the World Elder Abuse Day, which focused the attention of the world to this phenomenon.  Elder abuse, neglect and violence were main problems affecting the elderly around the world.  The data showed that 40 per cent of older persons experienced some form of abuse, and that particularly vulnerable were elderly women and the elderly with disabilities.   Elderly abuse was a global problem that was expected to increase with the world population that was rapidly aging.  It was urgent to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of elder abuse.

Brazil, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed concern about the negative impact that surveillance and interception of communications, as well as the collection of personal data, might have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights, particularly on the right to privacy.  The same rights people had offline also had to be protected online.  It was incumbent on States to respect international human rights obligations, also when they required the disclosure of personal data from third parties, including private companies. 

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the right to development was critical for the realization of all other human rights.  The starting point should be whether international economic and trade policies contributed to the realization of basic rights.  Integrating a robust development perspective in activities for the promotion and protection of human rights would help in achieving the full range of human rights.

Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of Geneva Pledge, said that all were responsible for protecting the earth from climate change, which impeded the enjoyment of human rights.  All States were called on to implement the resolution on “Human Rights and the Environment”, and to facilitate the exchange of expertise and best practices between human rights and climate experts to respond to the adverse effects of climate change and ensure a life of dignity and well-being for all. 

Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, underlined the importance of a human rights-based approach to the use of modern technologies for education.  It was concerned about restrictions on civil society activities in a number of countries, and called on States to create and maintain a safe environment for civil society.  The European Union remained firmly committed to the protection of the rights of women and girls, which was central for achieving all the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The European Union also continued its progress in the field of business and human rights, particularly through a new action plan focusing on access to remedy for the victims. 

Switzerland, speaking on behalf of 50 countries, recalled the historic adoption in December 2015 of the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules), which introduced advanced protection standards.  They had enhanced the rules regarding healthcare for prisoners, and were the first international standard to provide guidance regarding the use of solitary confinement.  The Council had a significant role to play in the promotion, dissemination and practical application of the Mandela Rules, including through its Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review mechanisms.  All States should apply the Mandela Rules, share good practices and offer technical assistance. 

Norway, speaking also on behalf of Argentina, Ghana and Russian Federation, recalled that this session marked the fifth anniversary of the endorsement by the Council of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  The countries welcomed significant progress achieved by States, but recognized that legal and practical barriers to remedies for business-related human rights abuses may leave those aggrieved without effective remedy.  Welcoming the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Accountability and Remedy Project, they explained that a resolution would be tabled at this session aimed at improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses. 

Switzerland believed that the measures to combat corruption must move from their overt focus on criminal law to englobe human rights and that was why it was working to expand the anti-corruption framework so that it was not only limited to bringing criminal proceedings against perpetrators but also to incorporate human rights approaches and consider the victims.  In view of the clampdown on civil society in several regions of the world, Switzerland reminded States that it was their obligations to create conditions conducive to their work, which was vital for promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Russia said that torture, use of civilians as human shields, and the destruction of cultural heritage were only some of the manifestations of extremism and terrorism.  The rights of migrants and national minorities must be protected.  Citizenship was the basic precondition for people to enjoy their human rights and basic freedoms and that was why Russia would be co-sponsoring a resolution on statelessness and citizenship.  The resolution on the protection of the family would help raise the importance of this issue among members of civil society.

Philippines agreed that climate change posed a direct and indirect threat to a range of human rights, including the right to life, right to self-determination and right to development.  The climate change-induced disasters in the country clearly demonstrated how far reaching this problem was and it was alarming to note that the impact was felt most by people in vulnerable groups, and in least developed countries.  States had a responsibility to mitigate climate change and in this regard local, national, regional and international cooperation was crucial.

South Africa said that the report of the High Commissioner on “practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society” raised concerns, and South Africa was not able to support the report’s recommendations.  Regarding a report on “improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses”, clarity was sought on the report’s silence on the obligations of transnational corporations in cases of human rights violations.  Addressing extraterritorial obligations was a missing link in the protection of human rights, which was not adequately reflected in the report.

China said that poverty led to the deprivation of human rights and was a source of environmental degradation.  The 2030 Agenda had made the elimination of poverty its main goal, and China was a promoter of eliminating poverty, seeing development as the only way to lift people out of poverty.  China had ahead of other countries achieved the Millennium Development Goal on halving the number of poor people.  While fighting poverty on the home front, China was also involved in South-South cooperation.  In the next five years, China would finance 600 projects to help developing countries fight poverty.

Cuba said the report on the regulation of civilian acquisition of firearms addressed an issue that had recently been demonstrated, and which was related to the absence of controls, which had violated the right to life of the most vulnerable persons.  With regard to practical recommendations regarding the safety of civil society, Cuba noted the key contribution of active and constructive cooperation in decision-making.  Such action would help foster respect for cooperation and exchange.

Maldives reiterated its full commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights.  The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement remained crucial.  States had an obligation to address the adverse impact of climate change.  Small island states suffered such impact disproportionately.  Advancing women’s rights remained a top priority for Maldives.  The promotion and protection of human rights required respect for the rule of law and justice.  Maldives further believed that human rights education and training could contribute to a culture that respected and valued the rights of all people. 

Ecuador welcomed the report on the regulation of the civilian acquisition of firearms, and underlined the importance of the correlation between the use by civilians of  firearms and insecurity, and invited further reflection on this issue.  The use of firearms also had a negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Ecuador had taken measures to regulate the acquisition and use of firearms by civilians, including licencing measures taking into account the mental health of buyers, as well as the provision of effective remedy for the victims of firearms-related incidents. 

Namibia remained positive that the right to self-determination would be achieved for the thousands of people still living under foreign occupation.  The right to development could not be achieved for them if their fundamental rights and freedoms were not promoted, respected and upheld by the international community.  Namibia reaffirmed its support to the work of Special Procedures of the Council, and called on mandate holders to carry out their mandate without interference, and to ensure that they based their conclusions and recommendations on verified information. 

Kyrgyzstan underlined that Kyrgyzstan strictly followed the recommendations on the creation of favourable conditions for the realization of the potential of civil society and said its 26,000 non-governmental organizations had a legal right to participate in the preparation of national strategies and policies and in monitoring and assessing the implementation of such policies.  Kyrgyzstan strongly supported the cooperation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with representatives of its civil society.

India had a long tradition in the promotion and protection of human rights and was convinced that the core objectives of the Human Rights Council would not be achieved without a consensual understanding of human rights issues and themes it sought to address.  Selective attention would be counterproductive to the common endeavour of promoting human rights and the opinions of even the smallest groups must be taken into consideration. 

Bangladesh said that the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil and political rights and also economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, were at the heart of the institution-building package.  Bangladesh recalled that the General Assembly resolution 60/251, which had created the Council, recognized the universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of human rights and said that the Council must promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without naming and shaming and with cooperation and not coercion.

Ghana said that regarding the report against corruption, the Ghanaian Constitution granted a mandate to fight corruption in the public service.  Because of the importance that Ghana attached to the fight against corruption, the country was party to several international agreements on that matter, including the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption.  Domestically, Ghana had passed various pieces of legislation, such as the Public Procurement Act.

Bolivia welcomed the report on corruption and expressed agreement that the negative consequences of corruption were barriers to the enjoyment of human rights by the most vulnerable groups.  The international community should promote greater cooperation, and a human rights approach to protecting States’ heritage was needed.  Transnational enterprises had obligations, and the international community had a need for enforcement mechanisms. 

Morocco said the participation of women, including in political processes, rested on human rights education.  Morocco had initiated a resolution on that subject within the Council and was undertaking far-reaching work in the political and legislative arenas.  The right to development was the basis for several other rights, including international efforts to fight radicalisation.  Morocco called for all civil and cultural rights to be respected, noting that international cooperation was a crucial element.  Morocco emphasized the importance of the issue of climate change and its impact on human rights.  Collective action was necessary to raise awareness on climate change.

Ireland welcomed the report on the creation of a safe environment for civil society, and agreed that restrictions over civil society space could lead to instability and conflict.  Ireland urged all States to consider applying the good practices described therein.  Ireland fully supported the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and would give due consideration to the related report, particularly in view of the elaboration of Ireland’s national plan on business and human rights. 

United States said democratic progress demanded that all citizens could equally participate in decision-making processes, and expressed deep concerns about restrictions on democratic spaces.  The United States referred to the situation in Nicaragua, and expressed concern that the Government had not yet invited an international electoral observation mission.  Electoral observation was a best practice worldwide, as well as in the United States, which safeguarded democracy and protected citizens’ rights, as well as civil society. 

Chile underlined the important role that Special Procedures could play as early warning mechanisms.  The international community held a responsibility to protect the rights of all people, including migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.  Chile regretted the polarization of the Council, and recalled that, through the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States had agreed that cultural differences could not justify denying the universality of human rights.  Chile was committed to the inclusive realization of the 2030 Agenda for all people. 

Pakistan said that the right to self-determination was an inalienable and universal human right, which was being persistently denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.  They suffered torture, restriction of freedom of movement and expression, sexual violence against women and children, and other human rights violations and abuses.  Addressing those violations would be the first step in resolving this situation in accordance with the United Nations resolution, especially as peace in the region would not be achieved without peace in Jammu and Kashmir and the free and fair plebiscite of its people.

Tunisia agreed with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the key elements to ensure a free and robust civil society, including in creating adequate legal frameworks and allocation of resources.  With regard to the right to participate in decision making processes, Tunisia had created a website which enabled citizens to comment on draft laws well before they were discussed in Parliament.  The new draft law would make such consultations compulsory on all laws, strategies and national plans of action, in all areas.

Poland said that one of the most important issues was civil society space because civil society engagement brought value and their experience shed new light to issues discussed.  Poland drew attention to the importance of freedom of religion and belief, particularly in the current context, and it condemned increasing attacks on people belonging to religious minorities.   Strong support to women’s rights was needed, and Poland would remain active in promoting those rights, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health.

Peru said the workload of the Human Rights Council was insurmountable and that if current trends were maintained, many would have to give up on sleep, asking also whether the world situation for human rights had really worsened so much over the past 10 years of the Council’s existence.  The Human Rights Council should consider whether its way of working was bearing fruit, and whether human rights were really being helped.  Peru called for making more rational use of time so the Council’s work could have a real impact.
 
Sierra Leone called for a careful assessment in each State on their challenges to implement the 2030 Agenda.  Internal issues, such as allocation of resources and corruption were out of the control of individual States.  It was the responsibility of the international community to identify which actions outside the control of States had a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of human rights.  What steps could the Council take to engage relevant actors, such as the World Trade Organization, to sensitize them to the human rights consequences of their work.
 
Costa Rica said human rights were essential when it came to achieving sustainable development, noting that the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda reflected human rights standards that were part of an ambitious framework for development.  Costa Rica further noted the High Commissioner’s report related to firearms, and said that the country had carefully heeded the references to their use and possession by civilians.
 
Iraq explained that its Constitution allowed women to enjoy all rights on an equal footing with men, and presented two national strategies related to the rights of women.  Girls had been subjected to systematic violations by ISIS, a terrorist group that had committed horrendous crimes in violation of all international standards.  Iraq had also taken measures for the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, and would continue its efforts in that regard. 

Senegal underlined the importance of education, but remained concerned about the lack of access to modern technologies in the developing world.  Addressing this digital gap would require international cooperation.  Senegal had decided to cross the digital divide by ensuring that all students had access to the Internet.  Indeed, education represented 40 per cent of the country’s national budget.  Senegal then expressed concerns that millions in the world were deprived of their right to health due to the high cost of medication. 

Greece said that the Council had to continue to follow closely the situation on the ground on both the social and political fronts, and act with the same determination on both fronts, in order to protect the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.  Greece also referred to the rights of persons in vulnerable situations, including children, women, migrants and refugees, persons with disabilities and homeless persons, who faced serious challenges in the enjoyment of their human rights.  

Suriname said that the Council had the potential to play a more dynamic role in the promotion and protection of human rights and the prevention of human rights violations.  Human rights were at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provided a strong political foundation on which to build for the recognition of the right to development.  Human rights violations were warning signs that were often overlooked and it was up to Member States to guarantee that those indicators were taken seriously and were adequately followed up.

Iran said that the necessity for further progress in the recognition and respect of human rights was a justification for international cooperation in the area of human rights.  Iran was deeply disturbed by the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights and their civilian cost and called on the Council to condemn those inhuman measures imposed by certain countries for their political motives.  The right to development must be made a reality for all and all Member States had the responsibility to ensure the implementation of this right at all levels.

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf aimed to strengthen the role of the family and protect all family members.  Family was the core of the society and should be supported by States as the guardians of traditional values recognized by the society and the guardians of cultural identity.  Families today were facing many challenges, such as the change in the structure of the family, poverty, and others, which meant that they needed strong support.

Bahamas welcomed that the Council had achieved universal participation for the first time, and underlined the necessity for the voice of small States to be heard within the Council.  For this reason, Bahamas would seek the Membership of the Council.  Domestically, the Bahamas had adopted policies for the eradication of poverty, for increasing access to education, and for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea underlined the importance of giving more attention to the right to development, and to the right to food.  The Council should address the crime of torture by the United States as a matter of urgency.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea hoped that the European Union would protect human rights in dealing with the migration crisis.  It urged “South Korea” to release abductees and to hold those responsible to account, and to ensure their family reunification. 

Sudan stressed the importance of creating conditions for a vibrant civil society.  Sudan was concerned about the issue of forced labour.  All sectors of the society were involved in an inclusive dialogue on means to strengthen the fight against corruption.  Sudan had also taken measures for the reinsertion of former child soldiers.  Sudan was carrying out these efforts despite measures imposed upon it that were threatening the rights of the most vulnerable. 

Saint Kitts and Nevis expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this session of the Human Rights Council and celebrate its tenth anniversary.  Saint Kitts and Nevis continued to make progress in safeguarding the human rights interests of all peoples, including marginalized groups such as women, children, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  It had made significant advances in its social agenda, reducing poverty and ensuring free and universal education up to the age of 16.

Guyana shared a credo that injustice anywhere was injustice everywhere and, under its new Government, had embarked on a programme of sustainable development, green economy and the restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights.  Those efforts, however, were affected by threats to its security and sovereignty and Guyana stressed that national sovereignty within secured borders was a fundamental human rights which ought to be protected.

Spain hoped that the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ efforts on ensuring redress for victims of violence would significantly influence the development of legislation in many countries.  Spain encouraged States to reflect on the role of arms in domestic violence and to enact legislation to ensure that weapons were not used in the commission of femicide.  Everyone held an obligation to bring an end to reprisals against civil society, including through modifying legislation aimed to silence those whose voices were uncomfortable for the governments and those in power.

ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights, in a joint statement, welcomed efforts by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its report on ensuring accountability and effective remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses.  It encouraged the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights to build on the findings of the Accountability and Remedy Project in the elaboration of a legally-binding instrument on business and human rights. 

Asia Pacific Forum said that torture was a global concern, and called on States to take concrete steps to prevent it, to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to establish national monitoring mechanisms.  National human rights institutions could work with States to uphold their obligations, and the Human Rights Council could play a key role, especially through the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. 

Child Rights Connect in a joint statement with Plan International, Inc.; Save the Children International; Defence for Children International; Make Mothers Matter – MMM., and Franciscans International was concerned that discussions in the Council placing the family at its centre to the detriment of the individual rights of children were contradictory to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Protecting or preserving tradition, culture or religion could never justify violence or violations of the rights of the child.  The Council should acknowledge and respect all forms of families and contexts in order not to discriminate among children. 

World Evangelical Alliance said that over 65 million people had been uprooted and that this week many churches would observe the National Refugee Sunday to call on the common sense of humanity and respect for human dignity.  The exodus of the desperate was not limited to the Middle East and also included people from “North Korea”, Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria and many other countries. 

Friends World Committee for Consultation spoke about children of incarcerated parents and highlighted the initiative in Italy which sought to mitigate some of the damage parental incarceration could do.  It involved a partnership between the Ministry of Justice, the Italian Ombudsman for Childhood and Adolescence and the non-governmental organization Bambinisenzasbarre.  Other States should develop similar initiatives.

Korea Centre for United Nations Human Rights Policy recalled the obligations under the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and said that in the Republic of Korea, a home to many transnational corporations, the rights of workers continued to be violated.  Transnational corporations in the Republic of Korea refused to take their responsibility for industry death and injuries.  All States should expedite their actions on eliminating legal and institutional limitations for the full implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Alliance Defending Freedom was concerned that the domestic laws of many Member States imposed limitations on freedom of opinion and expression.  The Alliance called upon the international community to sufficiently protect this right and called on all States to refrain from the criminalization of any speech apart from that which genuinely and imminently incited violence, and to repeal any laws criminalizing blasphemy and apostasy.

Foodfirst Information and Action Network referred to the report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights titled “improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse”.  The report focused on policy objectives at the level of domestic legal regimes, which, like the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, failed to respond adequately to the need for a common international regulatory framework for the activities of transnational corporations.  

Centre Europe-Tiers Monde in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), said that in his recommendations made to States, the High Commissioner had disregarded transnational corporations’ ability to circumvent legislation by setting up complex structures.  There was no remedy at national levels to prosecute human rights violations committed by transnational corporations.  It was inconceivable that the Human Rights Council would adopt the recommendations in the annex without further scrutiny. 

Association Dunenyo said that the situation in the Southern Sahara had led to increased numbers of refugees, and that countries of the Sahel and Sahara had seen intensive activities in the areas of human trafficking.  People were forced to work without pay and were subjected to slavery.  A report on human rights had noted that Algeria was facing enormous flows of persons subjected to human trafficking.  There was also sexual slavery of young girls.

International Muslim Women’s Union said that during the last two decades, thousands of women had been killed in Jammu and Kashmir, and since 1989, State terrorism had rendered 22,810 women widows, and more than 10,000 had been molested by Indian forces’ personnel.  More than 8,000 Kashmiris had gone missing during the past 27 years.

British Humanist Association welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and said that the situation in Egypt was deteriorating while in Saudi Arabia, public non-Muslim places of worship were not allowed.  All States which had legal codes which mandated the persecution of political dissent and human rights defenders should repeal those laws.

Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos said that in Colombia, the Citizen Security Law ran counter to constitutional rights and said that the State had applied disproportionate use of force to the recent peasant protests in one of the provinces.  There should be an adequate oversight of the proper use of public law forces and the national police should be placed under the Ministry of Interior.

International Career Support Association said that it had passed a resolution to demand that the United Nations withdraw the recommendations submitted to the Japanese Government concerning indigenous people in Okinawa.

European Centre for Law and Justice drew attention to violence against women in the Kenyan Samburu tribes,  where girls were subjected to forced marriages, female genital mutilation, rape and slavery.  However, the perpetrators continued committing those crimes with impunity.  Kenya had an obligation to protect young girls and to ensure that no forced and child marriage had any legal effects.

Mothers Legacy Project spoke about ecological degradation, noting that indigenous peoples and women were most seriously affected by climate change.  Their livelihoods depended on natural resources in the fragile ecosystems they lived in.  It was only a matter of time before all were affected by climate change.  If human rights were priceless, the question was posed why then were the least advantaged people paying the highest price. 

Federation of Cuban Women said that violence against women violated human rights, noting that there was a need for policy strategies.  Cuba had been the first country to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Cuba combatted impunity in the wake of any forms of violence, and combatting violence in families was a priority for Cuban women, with advocacy and gender-based assistance provided also in rural areas.     

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans said that urgent measures were needed for the survival of the Greek Orthodox community of Istanbul.  It was said that during the last 10 years, “top officials of the Republic of Turkey” had admitted there was an anti-minority measure against non-Muslim minorities.  The Government of Turkey was invited to heed the proposals of the Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans’ list of proposals, which included the establishment of a job development centre.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc condemned the deprivation of the citizenship of a cleric and was convinced that this would increase the dispute which might lead to violence, especially since his organization had been banned.  There was also concern about the violation of the right to peaceful assembly and association in Bahrain, with police even opening fire on peaceful protesters.

American Association of Jurists thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the comprehensive study on the relationship between climate change and the right to health, which it would dramatically affect.  By 2050, climate change would cause nine million deaths from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat.  It was the greatest threat to humanity and required global and concerted rights-based mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Save the Children International, on behalf of severals NGOs1, said that although children had the right to be heard and to participate in public processes, they often remained marginalized.  United Nations Member States should guarantee all children’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and ensure that children had access to age-appropriate and timely information that they could understand.  Human rights and civic education should be included in training programmes. 

Alsalam Foundation expressed concerns about the criminalization of freedom of expression in Bahrain, and about arbitrary detention and deprivation of citizenship imposed against human rights activists there.  It referred to an individual case of a human rights defender being arbitrarily held and subjected to a travel ban after his involvement in peaceful protests. 

Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos expressed concerns about the permanent occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, and about the  genocide of the Sahrawi population.  It condemned the persistence of torture and arbitrary detention against civilians, sentenced by military courts in violation of international fair trial standards.  The United Nations should promote the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people. 

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement stated that tens of cases of arbitrary executions were still out of reach of the United Nations mechanisms, especially in the Tindouf Camps.  Concern was expressed over the disappearance of Khalil Ahmed Mahmoud, who had been a member of the leadership circle of the Polisario Front.  It was feared that Mr. Mahmoud had been extra judicially executed.  An urgent appeal ought to be issued to the Algerian Government to reveal his whereabouts. 

World Muslim Congress said that the right to self-determination was enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Unfortunately, people living under subjugation, including those in the occupied Kashmir, could not enjoy such rights.  The Indian army continued to exercise power without any checks, which led to a number of  human rights violations.  The Council was called upon to request that the Indian Government allow the Kashmiri people to exercise their right of self-determination.

International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations noted that the military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir had led to one of the highest incidences of sexual violence by men in uniform in the world.  Up to 10,000 people had been reported disappeared during the last 26 years and the policy was still continuing.  The Council was urged to take the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir seriously and make India accountable for its crimes. 

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the inalienable rights to peaceful assembly, association, and freedom of expression were being continuously and systematically violated by the Pakistani Government and security forces in Balochistan.  Security forces were committing enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Baloch political activists and civilians.  The international community and the Human Rights Council were asked to take notice and stop those human rights violations. 

International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), in a joint statement with Teresian Association; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; and International Federation of University Women, encouraged the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to take into consideration the role of civil society in the provision of education, due to the good impact that had in the realization of a friendly environment for the right to education.  The participation of civil society in education was compatible with quality.

CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation in a joint statement with Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, The; welcomed the High Commissioner’s report on protecting civil society space, and noted the urgent need for an international response to prevent the closing of civic space.  All States were urged to develop action plans to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations, and to support the robust resolution on civil society space at the present session.  States had to utilise human rights mechanisms, including the Council’s Universal Periodic Review, to demonstrate what they were doing to guarantee civic space.

Centre for Inquiry urged States to place considerable focus on protecting the freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly and association in undertaking efforts to combat fundamentalism and intolerance, while also protecting the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities.  It regretted that many Member States sought to punish or censor persons for exercising their rights, or else not protect them from harassment, discrimination or attacks. 

Il Cenacolo raised concern about violations against journalists, with a view to prevent them from disseminating information on human rights violations perpetrated in the Tindouf camp at the hands of the Polisario forces.  It referred to the case of Najem Allal, a singer forced to exile only because he chose to stand against the leaders of the Polisario.  The Council was urged to offer him protection, in accordance with international human rights law, and to hold those responsible to account. 

Réseau International des Droits Humains in a joint statement with Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) said that the participation of a dynamic civil society at the United Nations was essential to raise awareness on potential arising crises.  Granting space to civil society was mandatory.  There was a need for a simplification of the rules in order to allow small non-governmental organizations to be considered positively for consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

Conseil International pour le soutien a des process equitables at aux Droits de l’Homme said that the Saudi authorities were justifying the increasing number of human rights violations by arguing that those arrested were violating Sharia.  Those processed were guided by clerics, who often issued harsh sentences.  The authorities regularly launched campaigns against reformers and human rights campaigners.

Verein Sudwing Entwicklungspolitik stated that even the smallest gatherings were not tolerated in Iran.  Saeed Malekpour, a blogger recently sentenced to death, was only one of the prisoners of conscience.  Perpetrators of the 2014 acid attacks against women in Isfahan had not been arrested yet.  Minimal salaries were not sufficient to bring people over the poverty line.

International Service for Human Rights said that civil society actors could help develop the environment in a sustainable way.  States were adopting policies restricting the work of civil society.  That was exemplified in Pakistan, which was muting the voices of human rights defenders.  Addressing threats which were targeting civil society actors was of paramount importance.  Laws on access to information were often absent, weak or inadequately enforced.  States should guarantee disclosure of information.  

World Barua Organization said that there were serious questions regarding the rights of Dalit women in India, detailing a case where women carrying firewood had been attacked as well as a case in which a girl had been attacked and gang-raped.  As a result of such incidents, the Human Rights Council was under obligation to address situations of gender-based violence in India.

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that religious and cultural factors were used to disregard the rights of women.  Women were often subjected to human rights violations in the name of morality or religion.  The Catholic church had a particularly shameful record, being run exclusively by men and controlling women’s sexual freedom in many regions.  In countries using restrictive Sharia law, rape was often impossible to prove.  The Human Rights Council was called on to recognize that cultural particularities could not be accepted as an argument by Member States seeking to excuse discrimination against women.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, in a joint statement, said that in Bahrain, the authorities had prohibited human rights defenders from coming to the Human Rights Council, adding that many were prosecuted before and after the sessions of the Human Rights Council.  The promotion and protection of human rights should not be a reason to prosecute human rights defenders. 

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about the continuing deterioration of the situation in Palestine, as a result of the occupation by Israel.  It referred to arbitrary detention and executions, as well as restrictions on the freedom of movement.  It was also concerned about allegations of torture by the Iraqi Government and its militias, which was mainly directed at the Sunni minority. 

Commission Africaine des Promoteurs de la Santé et des Droits de l’Homme said that more than 100,000 had been killed in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and referred to the deep sense of fear that those living there felt every day.  It specifically referred to cases of torture and arbitrary detention, and to the molestation of a girl by army men. 

Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique referred to the genocide of the Tamil population by Sri Lankan forces, and to ethnic cleansing forcing the population to take up arms.  The struggle of the Tamils was brought to a bloody end in 2009, with the killing of up to 147,000 Tamils in the most ruthless manner.  Seven years had passed, and sexual violence continued, as women were targeted by systematic abuse, including mass rapes and public humiliation. 

Association Burkinabé pour la Survie de l’Enfance spoke about the situation of Eelam Tamil activists facing genocidal acts under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations of Sri Lanka.  Those acts resulted in arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention without charges, inhumane detention conditions, torture, forced confessions, and further human rights violations.  There had been numerous allegations that the Rajapaksa Government was running secret detention centres. 

Women’s International Democratic Federation said that through its affiliates, the organization worked to create a more inclusive society in line with objective 5 of the 2030  Agenda.  Many possible violations of the human rights of women were listed, including violence in refugee camps and from women’s own families, as well as attacks on women’s mental and physical health.  Together with the protection of all rights of girls and women, accountability for such acts should be ensured.

Right of Reply

India, speaking in a right of reply, said that it was unfortunate that Pakistan had again misled the forum on the status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which was an integral part of India.  What needed to be addressed was Pakistan’s continued illegal occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, where residents were denied the most fundamental of all rights – the right to life.  Terrorism emanating from safe havens in Pakistan had to be addressed effectively and permanently. 

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued making allegations about the group of workers who had voluntarily arrived to the Republic of Korea.  They had had no choice but to escape from their country, in which they had been placed under harsh conditions.  The Republic of Korea requested the international community to pay particular attention to the defection of workers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the hardships they endured.

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, stated that the programmes organized by Azerbaijan from 1989 to 1990 had caused the first mass displacements in the Soviet territories.  That had marked the beginning of the Karabakh conflict.  The peaceful resolution of the conflict was essential for any durable solution.   The return of all displaced persons and the resolution of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh based on the self-determination of the people there were integral parts of any durable solution.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, said that India had made false allegations to divert the international community’s attention to the reality in Jammu and Kashmir.  These territories were not an integral part of India, and continued to be disputed under international law.  Pakistan recalled that hundreds of civilians had died as a result of India’s occupation and State terrorism.  The Kashmir dispute needed to be resolved in accordance with Security Council resolutions. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, said that the evasive and contradictory behaviour of the “South Korean” authorities was disappointing.  “South Korea” remained a source of international concern, given the human rights concerns resulting from its security law.  “South Korea” should disclose all information about the abductees, and punish the perpetrators. 

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said that Azerbaijani people had been forced to leave territories occupied by Armenia, and that Armenia had been conducting targeted attacks against civilians.  This represented a grave violation of international law, in particular the Geneva Conventions.  Azerbaijan had taken appropriate measures to counter Armenia’s use of force.  The international community should condemn Armenia’s blatant violations of international law. 

Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that the human rights record of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke for itself. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected the absurd allegations of “South Korea”, and called upon it once again to address the abduction issue.

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1Joint statement: Save the Children International; Defence for Children International; Centre Europe - Tiers Monde - Europe-Third World Centre; International Catholic Child Bureau; Terre Des Hommes Federation Internationale; Plan International; International Council of Women / Conseil International des Femmes; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Defence for Children International; Child Rights Connect; EuroChild; and Consortium for Street Children, The.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC16/080E