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HUMAN RIGHT COUNCIL STARTS GENERAL DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS REQUIRING THE COUNCIL’S ATTENTION

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Presents Oral Update on Eritrea
15 June 2017

The Human Rights Council this afternoon started its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention after hearing an oral update by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on cooperation between Eritrea and the Office on the situation of human rights in that country. 

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Government of Eritrea and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had discussed organizing a workshop to strengthen the administration of justice, in accordance with the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and with the Strategic Partnership Agreement 2017-2021 between the United Nations and Eritrea.  The two sides had reached an agreement on the objectives of the proposed workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police and prison officials, and planned on implementing relevant actions next month.  They had also agreed that during the next country visit scheduled in July 2017, the Office would meet with the Government counterparts to discuss human rights concerns.  Concrete improvement in the situation of human rights should be achieved through those activities.  The Office would establish a presence in Eritrea with a full mandate.  While the Office engagement had continued, the situation on the ground had, unfortunately, not seen significant changes. 

Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, said that its partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had been growing and expanding.  It noted that every country faced challenges and that human rights concerns should be addressed through dialogue.  Politicized discussion was counter-productive, and the Universal Periodic Review provided a meaningful forum.  Eritrea had stepped up its efforts to implement Universal Periodic Review recommendations, and it had invited some thematic Special Rapporteurs to visit the country.  In conclusion, Eritrea rejected politically motivated country resolutions which had been ongoing for the last five years.

The Council then began its general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention.

In the debate speakers regretted that human rights situations that required the Council’s attention remained prevalent in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, among other regions, referring to a number of specific country situations.  They noted that in performing its functions the Council should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation.  It should seek to avoid politicization and explore opportunities for dialogue.  Consultations on country-specific resolutions had to be carried out in a transparent, inclusive and open manner.  Some speakers rejected country-specific mandates and unilateral coercive measures against sovereign States because they negatively impacted the normal lives of citizens. 

Speaking were Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Belgium, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Slovenia, Netherlands, Ecuador, Georgia, Republic of Korea, Bolivia, China, Switzerland, Cuba, Venezuela, Maldives, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Spain, Czechia, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Norway, France, Syria, Iran, Israel, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iceland, Ukraine, Ireland, Armenia, Sudan, and Azerbaijan. 

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Baha’i International Community, African Regional Credit Association, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, World Council of Arameans, Human Rights House Foundation, International Lesbian and Gay Association, PEN International, and British Humanist Association. 

The following delegations took the floor in a right of reply: Pakistan, China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Bahrain, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Pakistan, and Syria.
                                                                                          
The Council will next meet on Friday, 16 June, at 10 a.m. to continue the general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Summary report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the high-level panel discussion on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/35/15).

Oral Update on the Cooperation between Eritrea and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

KATE GILMORE, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Government of Eritrea and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had discussed organizing a workshop to strengthen the administration of justice, in accordance with the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and with the Strategic Partnership Agreement 2017-2021 between the United Nations and Eritrea.  The two sides had reached an agreement on the objectives of the proposed workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police and prison officials, and planned on implementing relevant actions next month.  They had also agreed that during the next country visit scheduled in July 2017, the Office would meet with the Government counterparts to discuss human rights concerns.  Concrete improvement in the situation of human rights should be achieved through those activities.  The Office would establish a presence in Eritrea with a full mandate.  A human rights advisor had been deployed to Eritrea in May 2017 and would assist with the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  The Office welcomed the Government’s commitment to work with it, and it called on the Government to reconsider those Universal Periodic Review recommendations it had decided not to accept.  The Office underscored that without meaningful implementation of those recommendations there would be no improvement for the people of Eritrea.  The implementation should be a transparent, inclusive and participatory process at the national level, with the participation of civil society.  The Office called on the Government to create an environment for civil society in which they would be able to operate without fear and intimidation.  Government officials had taken regional training of trainers in Nairobi in March 2017, which was aimed at increasing their skills on treaty reporting. 

While the Office engagement had continued, the situation on the ground had, unfortunately, not seen significant changes in the state of human rights.  Continuous reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, and limitations on civil society and the media.  The limitation on freedom of movement in the country had made it difficult for the Office to verify all alleged human rights violations.  There was no information on the number of detainees, their identity, and whereabouts.  The Office urged the Government to immediately release detainees and to fully respect their right to a fair trial.  Ms. Gilmore was especially concerned about the lack of progress in addressing the concerns of the Commission of Inquiry, notably impunity and lack of accountability for past and ongoing violations.  She regretted that for the fifth year the Government had refused access to the country to the mandate holder.  She expressed hope that Eritrea’s increased engagement with the international community would translate into concrete human rights improvements for the people of Eritrea, and that accountability for human rights violations would be strengthened. 

Statement by the Concerned Country

Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, said the partnership between Eritrea and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had been growing and expanding.  Eritrea was committed to the success of that partnership.  Every country faced challenges, and human rights concerns should be addressed through dialogue.  Politicized discussion was counter-productive, and the Universal Periodic Review provided a meaningful forum.  Eritrea had stepped up its efforts to implement Universal Periodic Review recommendations, and a report on that was being prepared.  The 2016-17 Plan of Action was now in implementation.  Eritrea had also invited some thematic Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, but was awaiting a response.  Eritrea and the United Nations had embarked on a strategic partnership cooperation framework signed last year.  Double standards were a growing trend and a worry, which undermined international institutions.  Eritrea rejected politically motivated country resolutions which had been ongoing for the last five years in the Council.

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

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said all human rights, in particular the right to development, were universal, inalienable, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and that human rights issues must be addressed within the global context through a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized and non-selective dialogue-based approach.  The Non-Aligned Movement expressed its deep concern over the continuation and the proliferation of the practice of selective adoption of country–specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council, which was a tool that exploited human rights for political purposes.

Belgium said the Human Rights Council needed to strengthen efforts to re-establish the rule of law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The authorities needed to protect the people in Sudan, and Belgium deplored the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Burundi and appealed to the Government to take necessary measures and ensure cooperation with international mechanisms.  There was a worrying upswing in barriers to freedom of expression, particularly in the Middle East.

United States remained concerned about the human rights situations in Syria, Myanmar, Belarus, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the regions of Ukraine not under government control.  The United States were deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention, excessive sentencing and torture that Iran imposed on human rights defenders and minorities.  Gross human rights violations and abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including summary executions and enslavement, were extremely worrisome.  The United States condemned the suppression of protests in Venezuela and the use of military courts to try civilians.

United Kingdom expressed deep concerns about the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea since Russia’s illegal annexation.  The killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Chechnya was unacceptable.  The United Kingdom strongly condemned last week’s terrorist attack in Iran and remained concerned about the death penalty in that country.  It deplored the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding that the detention of journalists and human rights defenders in Egypt was particularly worrisome. 

Germany was concerned about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and the violations of human rights in South Sudan.  Germany was deeply concerned by reports about the targeted persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya.  Germany feared that the increasing repression against civil society in Egypt might contribute to radicalisation and undermine the stability in the country.  Germany remained deeply worried about widespread human rights abuses in China, especially in Tibet and neighbouring regions.

Japan regretted that human rights situations that required the Council’s attention remained prevalent not only in Syria, but also in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.  The human rights situation in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, including the issue of abductions, had to be jointly addressed by the international community.  Japan called on that country to listen sincerely to the repeated concern from the international community, and to cooperate with relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Brazil noted that in performing its functions the Council should be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation.  It should seek to avoid politicization and explore opportunities for dialogue.  Consultations on country-specific resolutions had to be carried out in a transparent, inclusive and open manner.  The country concerned should be heard and its positions duly considered.

Slovenia said that the Council should act in due course in cases of widespread and systematic human rights abuses.  It reiterated its concern about the human rights situation in Syria.  In Belarus it opposed the use of the death penalty and called on the Government to establish a moratorium on capital punishment.  Slovenia was deeply concerned about the human rights situations in occupied eastern Ukraine, Burundi, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Netherlands was appalled at atrocities and human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan, and remained deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen, condemning the harassment and detention of journalists.  Violence and human rights abuses in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were also of concern, as was the Government of Burundi’s suspension of its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Horrific human rights violations continued on a daily basis in Syria.

Ecuador said in spite of initiatives and proposals to leave no one behind, societies were being affected both in the south and north by challenges to many aspects of human rights.  More efforts were required to place universality and primacy of human rights above other concerns and to ensure that the exercise of human rights was embraced at all levels of society.  The right to development should not be overlooked, especially by countries which had great historical responsibility for the imbalances of the world.

Georgia expressed deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria, and was also concerned about the situation of human rights in Burundi, which should cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry.  Georgia called on Venezuela to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.  The situation in eastern parts of Ukraine was also looked at with alarm, and there was a need for full compliance with the Minsk agreements by Moscow.

Republic of Korea urged the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate the reported mass killings in Kasai and to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In South Sudan, it called for a stop to targeting of civilians, particularly of women and children.  It commended the Central African Republic for having taken measures to initiate transitional justice.  It remained concerned about systematic, widespread and grave human rights abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Bolivia said that improving human rights would not come by using the Council for unacceptable purposes and by singling out countries that did not pose a threat to the world.  The international community should not engage in a selective and politicized approach in the field of human rights.  Bolivia was a pacifist State that promoted fair development, cooperation and multiculturalism.

China noted that discussions under item 4 should be held in line with the principles of objectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation.  Unfortunately, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany attacked other countries, staining the Council’s work.  Their own human rights records did not look good, with xenophobia and violence against refugees and migrants increasing.  They turned a blind eye to their own problems while criticizing others. 

Switzerland deplored the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and Iran.  In Nigeria, Switzerland deplored that crimes were punished by the death penalty in various states.  In China, despite the reduced scope of the number of crimes punished by the death penalty, there was still a high number of executions for crimes that were not always grave.  Increasing repression against civil society in Mexico was particularly worrisome.  Switzerland was worried that the new law on non-governmental organizations in Egypt would further narrow the operative space for these organizations.

Cuba objected to the poor practice of selectivity and politicization by the Human Rights Council and regretted the use of human rights as a punitive approach on specific countries.  It was of utmost importance to adopt a non-discriminatory approach on human rights issues.  Cuba reiterated its appeal for the respect of sovereignty in Venezuela and the right of the Venezuelan people to build a social system based on the principles of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Venezuela deplored that the Human Rights Council had become a platform to harass certain countries.  The north American empire had a long history of non-respect for human rights and frequently demonized the regime of Venezuela.  Prisoners in Venezuela were often politicians who had committed crimes.  Human rights were being used to undermine the Venezuelan Government.  The principles of mutual respect and self-determination of people should be respected.

Maldives expressed concern about the human rights situation around the world and condemned the illegal actions, constant provocations and human rights violations by Israel.  It was disheartening to see that children continued to be the most vulnerable group in the horrific violence in Syria.  Full respect for the promotion and protection of human rights was essential to achieving lasting peace.  Maldives remained committed to supporting the international community in taking action to resolve crises in war-torn countries.

Nicaragua said it rejected double standards, the lack of objectivity, the attempt to instrumentalize the Council through selective mandates, and the politicization of its mechanisms against legitimate governments.  Resolutions adopted under agenda item 4 must adhere to the principles of universality, impartiality and objectivity.  Venezuela was once again the victim of violence and destruction caused by extremist groups that practiced terrorism and the destabilization of the legitimate Government.

Pakistan said the violations of human rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir required the urgent attention of the Human Rights Council.  Young Kashmiris were being injured and blinded, and those were crimes against humanity.  India had banned the media to prevent news reaching the outside world.  The brutality was being criticized in parliaments around the world.  The people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir had lost faith in India.

Russian Federation regretted that the geographic and thematic imbalance was a trend in the work of the Council, with criticism focused on developing countries.  The United States was trying to spread its laws to other countries.  The fact that the Guantanamo prison existed was a disgrace in itself.  Xenophobia and mistreatment of refugees and migrants was on the rise in Australia, Canada, United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Spain voiced its concern over the human rights situations in Syria, Belarus, Eritrea, Burundi and the province of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It reminded of the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel, regretting the continued construction of Israeli settlements and forced displacement of the Palestinian population.  It also called against the use of the death penalty and it condemned barbaric atrocities by terrorist groups. 

Czechia voiced alarm over the use of deadly force by the police against protesters in Venezuela, and about increasing restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Chechnya.  It urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop systematic human rights abuses.  It was shocked by the discovery of mass graves in the Kasai province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

HRC25_10        Denmark was concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people.  It stressed the importance of unhindered work of civil society in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.  It reiterated its call for the release of all arbitrarily detained persons in Bahrain and encouraged Egypt to take further steps to provide for an enabling environment for civil society.  The man-made humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan must come to an end.

Australia highlighted that the human rights situation in Syria remained catastrophic.  Atrocities included torture, extrajudicial executions and siege.  There was no evidence of any improvement in the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Government should adopt the recommendations of the report of the Commission on Inquiry.  Australia encouraged Burundi to remain committed to the peace process and to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties. 

Canada was committed to combatting discrimination targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities and was concerned about the situation in the Russian Federation and Chechnya in that regard.  Canada was concerned by the mounting scale of human suffering in conflicts in south Sudan and Yemen, where allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses must be investigated and perpetrators held to account.  It remained deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Norway expressed concern about the shrinking space for civil society, and about the situation for women in many countries.  Saudi Arabia and Iran should create enabling environments for human rights defenders.  Diminishing space for civil society in Egypt was also of concern.  In Venezuela, the Government should respect the separation of powers, and Norway also remained deeply concerned at the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

France said human rights violations were rampant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  International law should be respected in Yemen and the shrinking civil society space in Turkey, Russia, China and Venezuela was of concern.  Egypt’s challenges confronting terrorism were known.  France was also concerned at the rise of violence and intimidation against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Syria said the United Nations Charter had stressed the importance of strengthening human rights without distinction, but some sides continued to make use of the Human Rights Council agenda item 4, such as France, even though the colonial history of France was known.  Syria rejected interference in the internal affairs of States.  The growing trend toward establishing mandates without the cooperation of the concerned State was of concern.  Those mandates were based on selectivity and double standards.

Iran expressed serious concerns about the rise of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia in some European countries, most notably the surge in xenophobic speech against migrants and refugees.  Those issues required increased attention by the international community and the Human Rights Council.

Israel was deeply concerned about the dire human rights situations in much of the Middle East.  It urged the Council to call to responsibility Iran which was sponsoring terrorist groups, to pay attention to the plight of women in the Middle East, to highlight cases of entrenched discrimination of women, and to condemn the promotion of terrorism by the Palestinian authorities. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that the ill practice of politicization in the Council remained unabated.  The European Union and the western countries were little better than the United States.  The issue of “comfort women” was an undeniable fact of history for which Japan had to offer apology.  It noted that inhumane sanctions and unilateral coercive measures against sovereign States negatively impacted the normal lives of citizens. 

Iceland was deeply concerned by the violations of human rights in Burundi.  It was particularly worried about the cruel and brutal nature of the crimes committed against vulnerable groups, including women, and called for perpetrators to be prosecuted.  Iceland urged the Government of Burundi to cooperate with the Council and allow access to the Commission of Inquiry.  Iceland stressed for the need of a two-State solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Ukraine drew attention to the continuing shameful practice of using Ukrainians as hostages of the Russian Federation’s aggressive policy.  At least 44 of them were still imprisoned despite repeated calls by Ukraine demanding their release.  They continued to be arrested, kidnapped and tortured in occupied Crimea and Russia while Russia kept ignoring its obligations under the Minsk agreements on the exchange of hostages.

Ireland was concerned at the alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria and Yemen.  It condemned all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief in the Middle East.  Threats to civil society space had emerged in a number of States.  Ireland was concerned by the restrictions of civil liberties in Bahrain and the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey.  The detention of human rights defenders and lawyers in China was also worrisome.

Armenia expressed alarm at the human rights situation around the world, such as in Turkey.  The indivisibility of human rights was important, and long-lasting solutions could only be found if there was respect for that principle.  The situation of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh was of concern, which Azerbaijan continued to reject.  Violations of rights and the work of civil society was of concern, and the Human Rights Council should pay more attention to those situations.

Sudan stressed the importance of the Human Rights Council playing its role, stating that exhaustive work in Sudan had allowed the establishment of a government of national harmony.  There were no political prisoners in Sudan, and all other cases were under consideration by the justice system.  Sudan reaffirmed its cooperation with mechanisms of the international community and all should consider questions of human rights in a neutral manner.  Forty newspapers had been registered and opportunities for freedom were upheld.

Azerbaijan
drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the violations of the rights of internally displaced persons around the world.  The occupied territories of Azerbaijan were among areas where accommodation services were being offered.   Most of the hotel rooms offered through search agents were the property of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons.  United Nations Member States should prevent e-commerce from engaging in such activities.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities drew attention to the situation in Pakistan administered Kashmir and Indian administered Kashmir, namely concerning limitations on freedom of media and opinion.  Such restrictions failed to meet international human rights standards.  The Government of India was trying to control things in a military way.  Freedom of expression went hand and hand with freedom of assembly and both were inter-related with self-determination.

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights stated that since February 2009, at least 150 Tibetans had set themselves on fire in one of the biggest waves of self-immolations in the past 60 years.  The Foundation urged the Council to call on China to grant independent and impartial monitors unfettered access to Tibet, as agreed by China following its 2013 Universal Periodic Review.

Human Rights Watch noted that it was critical that the Council immediately launch a Commission of Inquiry into violations committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region.  It reminded that Turkey was the world leader in jailing journalists, charging them with terrorist offences.  In Ethiopia, a state of emergency had been in place since October 2016, following a year of protests where around 1,000 had been killed by security forces. 

Baha’I Internationl Community stressed that impunity prevailed in Iran for perpetrators of crimes against Baha’i.  Iran had exported its persecution of the Baha’is to Yemen where a similar systematic campaign was being waged against them by the Houthi de facto authorities.  Yemeni Baha’i were imprisoned with no legal basis and detained indefinitely by being denied a proper court hearing and tens of others, including women had been issued arrest warrants.

African Regional Agricultural Credit Association firmly condemned the acts of torture and the violations of human rights led by the Pakistani military against the civilians of Balochistan.  In the last ten years, tens of thousands of Baloch had been forcibly disappeared under the violence of the Pakistani army and intelligence service.  Bodies were sometimes never recovered.  It was worrisome that the Pakistani army and intelligence service muzzled the media.

International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, in a joint statement with, Franciscans International, stressed that the Government of Japan and the United States had repeatedly infringed the rights of the people living in Okinawa, turning a blind eye on their opposition to the militarisation of their territory.  It strongly condemned the arrests of protesters by the Japanese authorities and called on the Government to stop human rights violations and respect the Okinawan people’s will against the construction of new United States and Japanese military bases.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said the crime rate had increased in Lebanon and in one year there had been a huge increase in the number of victims killed.  The Government of Lebanon was responsible for the increase in murder because of the lax gun laws and the attitude to criminals, who needed to be punished.  The Council should draw the attention of the Government to take legal measures.   They could not hold such a discourse when holding so many Palestinian detainees.

World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) told the story of a small girl who had been kidnapped by ISIS and held for three years.  The international community needed to stop the mass neglect of marginalized minorities and to recognize them.  Members of the Human Rights Council should pay heed to the cries of Syria and Iraq’s native Aramean population and give the younger generation a chance at a better future at home.

Human Rights House Foundation said an unprecedented wave of attacks and arrests of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers or anyone critical of the Government of Azerbaijan took place in 2014.  The Human Rights Council was asked why it had not taken serious action at that point.  The Council should do more to scrutinise a record among the worst in the region. 

International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement, stated that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons faced high levels of violence in countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  Recently, a wave of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex incidents had taken place in Indonesia.  The organization called on the Government to conduct thorough investigations concerning those human rights violations and to bring perpetrators to justice. 

International PEN, in a joint statement with, Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, The, called attention to the relentless crackdown on the freedom of opinion and expression in Turkey, which was turning into a big prison.  Some 17 journalists would soon stand trial and the quality of justice which they would face was highly questionable.  PEN International called on Turkey to end the state of emergency and protect the freedom of opinion and expression.

British Humanist Association reminded that the Rabat Plan Action stipulated that blasphemy laws were counter-productive.  The ability to criticize was the cornerstone of democracy and blasphemy laws directly contravened the freedom of opinion and expression.  The Association called on all States to repeal their blasphemy laws. 

Right of Reply

India, speaking in a right of reply, condemned Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Kashmir, outlining that terrorists and armed groups had long received the ongoing support of Pakistan.  There was a need to adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and its supporters.  India urged Pakistan to end cross border facilitation for terrorist elements in order to ensure stability in the region.  The people in Baluchistan had long suffered from torture and repeated violations of their rights.  Blasphemy laws remained in place and were often used against minorities, particularly Baluch people.  India called on Pakistan to focus its energy on fighting terrorism and to stop its illegal occupation of Kashmir.

China, speaking in a right of reply, highlighted that positive developments had been accomplished in the field of human rights in China, which was now a country of the rule of law.  Internal legislation provided for enhanced human rights guarantees allowing citizens to enjoy their rights.  Significant support should be provided by non-governmental organizations in order to promote human rights.  However, China would not allow for any possibility to challenge the basic political system of the State.  China reiterated its call to stop the politicization of human rights issues by some Member States of the Council.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply in response to France, the United Kingdom and others, said that lies and erroneous conclusions had been presented by those States.  This testified to the politicization of the statements, such as the statement of the European Union, and Egypt was uninterested in those claims.  The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister had said she would defy human rights law to combat terrorism, while France was repressing peaceful demonstrations, and in Switzerland imams had been prevented from accessing the territories.  They were criticizing a law on civil society in Egypt, which had been adopted following lengthy consultations. 

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, said on the territory of Russia there was a single system of laws which did not provide for discrimination on any grounds.  Any information on violations of human rights was investigated in line with existing legislation.  There had been a civil war unleashed on the people of Ukraine on their own territory, and today there was bloody terror being brought to bear against the people of the southeast.  Fans had staged racist demonstrations at a sports event.  In the city of Odessa, people had been burnt.  A number of Russian-speaking social networks had been blocked.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply in response to Denmark and Ireland, restated its commitment to respecting the contributions made by civil society.  Bahrain’s laws ensured that there was space for free expression and peaceful assembly.  However, those persons had to bear in mind their responsibilities.  The allegations of arbitrary detentions were groundless.  Bahrain arrested persons responsible for terrorist crimes and incitement to hatred.  Those individuals should not be considered as civil society activists when they were responsible for criminal acts.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that the crimes of the past mentioned by that State were groundless.  Responding to a statement made by civil society, Japan explained that the construction work in Okinawa was allowed by the Government of Okinawa.  The arrest of local activists took place because they used violence.  Detention was carried out according to the law and it did not in any way contravene Japan’s international human rights obligations.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected the provocative remarks made by Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States.  They were politically motivated and had nothing to do with human rights.  It rejected resolutions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which were full of fabrications and lies.  A political and military confrontation was being directed against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under the guise of human rights.  Armament was a necessary self-defence measure for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Republic of Korea should release abductees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while Japan should stop misusing the abduction issue and should instead sincerely apologize for its past crimes.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said it would not repeat what had been said about defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who had escaped of their own free will.  It called on that country to improve its policies and the human rights situation of its people.  The new Government of the Republic of Korea would put forward diverse efforts to help improve the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Turkey, speaking in a right of reply in response to references made to Turkey by some delegations, said that some seemed to have missed that Turkey had overcome a coup attempt.  It was Turkey’s right to take measures and the principles of transparency had been observed.  Turkey rejected allegations on so-called restrictions on freedom of expression, which was safeguarded by the constitution.  Some tried to exploit the profession of journalism.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply in response to India, said that Pakistan was amazed at India’s fudging the facts and distracting the Council from atrocities committed in Jammu and Kashmir.  State-sponsored terrorism was when a State policy was followed of persecuting minorities and when more than 8,000 women had been raped and thousands had been blinded.  It was also when cease-fire violations caused deaths of peaceful villagers, and when draconian laws were used to give impunity to perpetrators of torture.  Pakistan had been at the forefront of the global fight against terror, and Pakistan’s success against terrorist networks showed resolve and conviction.  Innocent Kashmiris’ rights were being violated every day by India.

Syria, speaking in a right of reply, deplored that this item had become an instrument for several countries such as France, which had a well-known colonial past, and Denmark, which was pushing political designs.  The allegations of use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun could not be asserted without clear evidence.  Syria deplored that the administration of the United States was trying to justify its unfair war against the country through every possible argument.  These States should be held accountable for their own violations of human rights. 

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to act on the issue of abductions.  Indeed, despite repeated concerns expressed by the international community and non-governmental organizations, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had not provided any substantive response to this issue.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected the misleading allegations and evasive attitude of Japan.  It rejected resolutions that were full of lies and fabrications.  It reminded of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions that called for full respect and implementation of the Inter-Korean Declaration.  It called on the Republic of Korea to change its confrontational policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to faithfully implement the Declaration.  Japan’s evasiveness vis-à-vis its past crimes was deplorable. 



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC17/097E