9 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
In the discussion, speakers reminded that human rights defenders in the field of business faced a growing number of attacks from both State and non-State actors. Their work was crucial to achieving justice for victims, combatting corruption, respecting indigenous cultures and rights, and achieving sustainable and positive changes. The future international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and human rights should emphasize the obligation of States with respect to meaningful participation and protection of human rights defenders. They furthered stressed that the freedom of information was essential for a transparent and accountable Government, adding that for the State to adequately protect its people from human rights abuses of transnational corporations, it had to ensure that affected persons had enough information available to them to make informed decisions. That included information about the negotiation and implementation of investment protection agreements.
Speakers also emphasized that without a strong and adequately funded United Nations system, the full implementation of human rights would not be possible, and urged the High Commissioner to also address the violations of economic, social and cultural rights, and of the right to development. In addition, speakers expressed concern about the high number of children without education, namely 260 million children, the majority of whom were girls. Education was a stepping stone for employment and future endeavours. That was a particular concern for developing countries. Another concern in developing countries was illegal land grabs by international conglomerates in Africa, and pillaging of natural resources that left indigenous communities poor.
Speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: United Villages, Imam Ali's Popular Students Relief Society, Africa Culture International Human Rights, Indian Council of South America, American Association of Jurists, Association of World Citizens, FIAN International, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Global Action on Aging (in joint statement with International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations), Union of Arab Jurists, Liberation, African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, VAAGDHARA, International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination EAFORD, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Association for Integration and sustainable Development in Burundi, Friends of the Earth International, Alliance Creative Community Project, PRAHAR, Child Foundation, International Solidarity for Africa, Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru", Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Ius Primi Viri International Association, International Educational Development, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Jossur Moroccan Women Forum, China Society for Human Rights Studies, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, Tourner la page, Association pour les Victims du Monde, L’Observatoire Mauritanien des droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie, International Humanist and Ethical Union, United Nations Watch, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom1 , COJEP INTERNATIONAL, Auspice Stella, Corporate Accountability International, International-Lawyers.org, Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement Aide-Federation, Press Emblem Campaign, New human rigths cameroon, Save a Child's Heart in Memory of Dr. Ami Cohen, International Career Support Association, Sikh Human Rights Group, and International Organization of Employers.
Speaking in a right of reply were India, Brazil, China and Pakistan.
The general debate started on Thursday, 8 March and a summary can be found here
The Council will next meet on Monday, 12 March, at 9 a.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on the situations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in Iran. It will then hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eritrea.
General Debate on All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
United Villages said that education was a fundamental human right essential for the exercise of all other human rights. In Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the education process had been held hostage by the unsettled issues. Curfews, strikes, protests and shut downs had become the order of the day due to a host of factors that kept on challenging the resilience of Kashmir.
Imam Ali's Popular Students Relief Society said that in Iran the death penalty was still exercised on minors. In 2017 at least four people were executed, despite the 2013 amended Penal Code. Juvenile offenders often lived in extremely impoverished regions and a safe living space and education had to be provided to them.
Africa Culture International Human Rights warned that the problems of elderly people in the developed world had to be taken into consideration more. It was often forgotten that people over 55 years possessed substantive professional and life skills. Governments had to intervene to guide public services so as not to further isolate the older population.
Indian Council of South America said that the vast majority of tribal governments and indigenous peoples denied the right for the United States and its racist regime state of Alaska to permit the proposed Pebble Mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed drainages in western Alaska, which was an unsettled United Nations territory owned by the indigenous peoples of Alaska, as the legitimate holders of title of Alaska.
American Association of Jurists acknowledged the work done by the Independent Expert for the promotion of a democratic, durable and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas. It congratulated him for his work and recommended that the next mandate holder not lose sight of the objectives defined in resolution 18/6 of September 29, 2011, keeping in mind the openness, the spirit, and the availability that had characterized the transparent work of Professor de Zayas.
Association of World Citizens applauded the report’s recommendations to support economic, social and cultural rights, and to build sustainable societies. The attacks on Yemen were also attacks on children. Children were deprived of their right to education, and their schools were destroyed. Militias had turned schools into military barracks, and currently 200 million children were out of school.
FIAN International said its work had clearly shown the negative impact of extractive industries, of land grabbing, of the financialization of natural resources, of digitalization, of the imposition of a corporate diet, of the criminalization of human rights defenders, and other developments on the enjoyment of all human rights. It urged all States to proactively participate with constructive content inputs during the consultations and the upcoming fourth session of the Working Group on Transnational Corporations.
CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation remained deeply concerned about the relentless and unwarranted restrictions on fundamental freedoms and attacks on civil society leaders, members of unions and members of the political opposition that had expressed criticism of government policies and practices. These attacks were particularly prevalent before, during and after politically charged periods like elections, as recently observed in Gabon.
Peace Brigades International Switzerland stated that human rights defenders in the field of business faced a growing number of attacks from both State and non-State actors. Their work was crucial to achieving justice for victims, combatting corruption, respecting indigenous cultures and rights, and achieving sustainable and positive changes. The future instrument should emphasize the obligation of States with respect to meaningful participation and protection of human rights defenders.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation noted that sadly a number of influential States which had relied heavily on training persons under the age of 18 as members of their armed forces had managed to water down the text of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to exempt States from restrictions except on the compulsory recruitment, or conscription, or their active deployment in situations of armed conflict.
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) stressed that freedom of information was essential for a transparent and accountable Government, adding that for the State to adequately protect its people from human rights abuses of transnational corporations, it had to ensure that affected persons had enough information available to them to make informed decisions. That included information about the negotiation and implementation of investment protection agreements.
Global Action on Aging (in joint statement with International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations), stressed that all rights were universal, interdependent and interrelated, adding that everyone was entitled to an international order in which their rights could be realized. Without a strong and adequately funded United Nations system, the full implementation of human rights would not be possible. The organization invited the High Commissioner to also address the violations of economic, social and cultural rights, and of the right to development.
Union of Arab Jurists said that human rights and sustainable development required an environment of dialogue, not impositions by States which sought to control and dominate other States. Such interferences had come under pretexts of humanitarian interventions. Unilateral economic sanctions or arming of Takfiri terrorist groups and allowing them passages to neighbouring countries were examples of such interferences, and Syria had been suffering the consequences of such actions for seven years.
Liberation said that radical Hindu attacks on Christians in India had doubled in the past year as part of an unprecedented trend to portray Christians as acting against the State. The country had recorded 736 incidents of attacks against Christians in 2017, compared to 248 in 2016. The Council was requested to appoint a Special Rapporteur for India to investigate the right-wing Hindutva group which kept attacking Christians and churches in India.
African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said that while celebrations of International Women Day were occurring worldwide, the persecution of the women of Jammu and Kashmir continued. This included not only rape and pellet shots but also targeting of women who wore long hair by the Indian army, exposing them to attacks.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA said that the magnitude of the environmental degradation in India was increasing. However, the Government of India denied the accusations and refused to shoulder its responsibility. The Council was asked to compel India to accept the responsibility for the natural devastation it was causing.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development called the attention of the Council to the equality of all human rights. Without development, article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights would never be fulfilled. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must pay special attention to mainstreaming the right to development and the High Commissioner should continuously inform the Council on this issue.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale said the right to food was recognized in 1948 under article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The availability and quality of food was a basic prerequisite. Despite this, the quality of food was not good worldwide and over 800 million people were suffering from lack of food and extreme poverty, as a result of which serious malnutrition occurred, including in the refugee camps of Tindouf.
VAAGDHARA thanked the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence for his current visits to Asia. In Kashmir, 8,257 enforced disappearances had been documented. The concerns of the families of the disappeared had to be taken seriously. While the Indian Supreme Court was making significant progress, the truth and justice process was halted due to the non-cooperation of the investigative agency.
International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination EAFORD was gravely concerned that the prevention of atrocious crimes took a back seat by some States due to their political interests, including in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Sudan to name a few. The suffering of civilians remaining in these countries was immeasurable. The pledge of “never again” must strengthen international cooperation and bring accountability to the perpetrators.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme expressed concern about the high number of children without education, namely 260 million children, the majority of whom were girls. Education was a stepping stone for employment and future endeavours. That was a particular concern for developing countries in Africa. The organization also condemned illegal land grabs by international conglomerates in Africa, and pillaging of natural resources that left indigenous communities poor.
Association for Integration and sustainable Development in Burundi drew attention to the flagrant violation of human rights in India under draconian security laws. Sometimes the armed forces occupied schools and, as a result, children refused to attend.
Friends of the Earth International said it campaigned to dismantle corporate power and underlined the primacy of human rights over trade and investment law. It reminded that European Union trade treaties were not compatible with European Union law. Citizens across the world stated that there was no place for corporate courts to supersede regular courts. Governments could no longer turn a blind eye when corporations committed human rights violations.
Alliance Creative Community Project said that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka had over 70 years of experience of deception with the successive Sri Lankan governments and had been consistently asking the international community to set up an international judicial mechanism for the war crimes of the Sinhalese Sri Lankan Government. The Tamil people were aware that Sri Lanka would never offer justice to them and asked the Council for assistance.
PRAHAR welcomed the reports by all mandates holders and echoed the words of the High Commissioner that the ideology of hatred should be countered by every country to save the future of humanity. Sadly, India was walking in reverse direction as civilians were falling prey to the propaganda of Brahminical fascist organizations, supported by the State, leading to the increase of attacks on minorities, indigenous peoples and Dalits.
Child Foundation expressed great concern over the gun epidemics across the United States which had resulted in the loss of life of a staggering number of people. Over 30,000 had died and 70,000 had been wounded as a result of gun violence. Amnesty International reported that 80 per cent of deaths in developed countries occurred in the United States. States were asked to demand the revision of weak laws against guns in the United States.
International Solidarity for Africa said that the Tamil people had been consistently calling for the establishment of an international judicial mechanism for war crimes, or their referral to the International Criminal Court. The situation of human rights defenders was dire as well for victims seeking justice. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was asked to assist Tamils in providing access to their land.
Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru" said it had been involved in the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. While States continued to analyze these human rights 10 years after the adoption of this Declaration, indigenous peoples continued to face global marginalization. Indigenous peoples continued to suffer from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development.
Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said the impact of armed conflicts on mental health was of great concern, especially in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and in particular on children. Many had experienced serious harm and trauma, threats to their lives from armed groups, the disappearance of relatives, arbitrary detention or torture, and attacks by non-state actors and militants.
Ius Primi Viri International Association stressed the role of water scarcity in armed conflicts in the Middle East. The deprivation of freshwater may be used as a “means of oppression” as in the case of Israel, which impeded Palestinians from having access to their water sources. Regarding Syria, the provision of fresh water to the people must be prioritized.
International Educational Development, INC was gravely concerned that the right to self-determination had lost its place in the Council despite article 3 of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. There were several situations where the deprivation of this right had resulted in genocide, such as in Sri Lanka. The situation of Hmong people was also worrisome, as Laotian officials vowed to eradicate them. There was an urgent need to establish the rights of self-determination of the Hmong People.
Colombian Commission of Jurists noted that the killing of human rights defenders was a problem of great magnitude in Colombia. The number had risen from 63 assassinations in 2015 to 106 in 2017, in spite of the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and FARC. Despite numerous efforts of institutions, the State had not been successful in addressing the root causes of the problem.
Jossur Moroccan Women Forum noted that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was in decline in countries that knew conflicts, instability and insecurity. The rate of poverty had not declined as planned, school dropout was on the rise, and the rate of infant mortality showed the failings of Governments in terms of the provision of healthcare.
China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) noted that the Tibetans had the right to use their own language, which was a standard language in the Tibetan region. There was a bilingual system in compulsory education, with the use of both Mandarin Chinese and Tibetan. The digital application of the Tibetan was constantly improving and it was constantly being used online.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation noted that institutions were slow to catch up with globalization, which led to a lack of implementation of human rights. How was it possible to dump toxic waste in certain regions in the name of development without letting the local populations know about its dangerous effects?
Tourner la page said that in Afghanistan, the Hazaras minority continued to be persecuted, first because of their religion and race, and now because they had welcomed the international community and cooperated with it. The danger was increasing as there had been hundreds and hundreds of victims, though numbers had not been consistently reported.
Association pour les Victims du Monde said that a new bomb explosion had shaken Kabul today in a Hazaras populated area. Over the past few years, Shia Hazaras had been increasingly and deliberately targeted with frequent bombings. Hazaras continued to flee Afghanistan, but in other countries their situation was not much better. In Pakistan there were over 200 attacks on Hazaras, and in Iran, Hazaras refugees were sent to Syria.
L’Observatoire Mauritanien des droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie worried that while the Sri Lankan Government had officially accepted the international recommendations, it had failed to do anything on the ground to improve the situation of Tamils. The Government sought to change the demographical composition through military occupation and by not respecting the right to self-termination of Tamils.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that 85 countries discriminated against non-religious individuals and in Bangladesh, India and the Maldives bloggers and writers had been killed for being secular. In Saudi Arabia, Pakistani and Iranian individuals had been imprisoned or flogged for insulting or rejecting religion. State-based hate against those with no religious belief was also notable.
United Nations Watch said that in a report issued at the World Economic Forum, 144 countries had been examined for their record in terms of the participation of women in public life. United Nations Watch congratulated Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Rwanda for having been highest ranked on the list, but asked why the vast majority of the lowest ranking on the list, namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Chad, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen, had a place in the Human Rights Council? Did women have a voice in this Council?
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom1 said women were the victims of every kind of discrimination, gender-based violence in the work place, and other human rights abuses that were disproportionate against women. The resolve by States to ensure gender based equality should be followed by action. It proposed a legally binding instrument and urged States to offer constructive proposals and propose a gender perspective in the treaty.
COJEP INTERNATIONAL said the right to life and security had made many peoples forget what other peoples had, such as the right to education and expression. These words were not even in the dictionary in the Middle East. Torture, rape and starvation were the words left in the dictionaries of the people of the Middle East, because the United Nations had failed to hold the perpetrators accountable. It did not understand the silence of the world on what was happening in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Auspice Stella said the Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, had urged the Government of Chile to respect the rights of the Mapuche. The Government continued to imprison the leaders of the Mapuche peoples on charges of terrorism. The rule of law needed to be established, and the Mapuche peoples needed to be released. Furthermore, reparations needed to be granted.
Corporate Accountability International stressed that in order to guarantee the success of the process to come up with an international legally binding instrument on corporate responsibility, it was urgent to protect those negotiations from corporate capture and influence. Transnational corporations around the world had amassed unprecedented political and economic power, with devastating consequences.
International-Lawyers.org reminded that 15 years after the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition, the United States and its allies had to bear legal responsibility for all committed crimes and violations in that country. An official apology, reparations for the losses, accountability for the perpetrators of crimes, and justice for victims remained absent.
Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace noted that civilians were dying in Baluchistan and suffering human rights violations on a daily basis by the Pakistani security forces. Pakistan had always tried to silence any voices raised about the violations in Baluchistan. The horrific military operations, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings were among the worst human right violations in the world.
Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social reminded that the United States and the European Union had used unilateral coercive measures to take away the ability of the people of Venezuela to buy food and medicines. The organization asked the Human Rights Council to reject the economic sanctions imposed against Venezuela, and warned that the United States was preparing an oil coup against Venezuela.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy warned about the alarming human rights situation in Balochistan where the crimes of Pakistani security forces continued unabated. Since the beginning of the year, 173 persons had been forcibly disappeared and 91 had been subject to extra-judicial killings. This dire situation demanded an urgent reaction by the international community, particularly the Council.
Agence Internationale pour le Developpement Aide-Federation was shocked by the human rights violations committed in Tindouf camp where Sahrawi people were deprived of their basic rights and were exposed to forced marriages, imprisonment and torture. Violations of women’s rights were particularly grave, including rape and isolation.
Press Emblem Campaign drew attention to the dramatic increase in attacks by terrorist groups targeting media workers in Afghanistan. Last year, Afghanistan had been the most dangerous country for journalists around the world after Iraq and Mexico, with nine journalists killed, and the attacks continued in January 2018.
New human rigths cameroon said that enforced disappearances and the systematic abduction of females was being used by the Islamic State as a tool to rule and dominate Baluchistan. The Baloch females were held as sex slaves in military torture cells and were becoming victims of extra-judicial torture. The international community had to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Save a Child's Heart in Memory of Dr. Ami Cohen said it was a volunteer fundraising organization working in Israel to enable babies and children from developing countries where essential treatment was not available to them, to receive in Holon Tel Aviv Israel, life-saving surgery for paediatric congenital cardiology diseases and malformation. It suggested that the words “Rights of the Child,” be substituted by the words “Duty towards Children.”
International Career Support Association said the use of brothels by military forces was not unique to Japan during World War II. There was a substantial amount of information about the brothels called “comfort stations” by Japanese. The myth of comfort women as “sex slaves” had emerged in the 1980s that over 200,000 mostly Korean women and girls as young as 11 were forcibly taken from their homes. This myth had since been weaponized against Japan.
Sikh Human Rights Group welcomed reports 37/26 and 37/73 regarding minorities and requested the High Commissioner and the Working Group to showcase best practices from around the world. The adversarial dynamics of seeking rights for minorities and their cultures could be complimented by a more positive approach through a Declaration on Diversity which would encourage States to promote the enjoyment of minority status. The Group would further promote this proposal in future Human Rights Council sessions.
International Organization of Employers said it was the largest private sector network in the world, adding that respecting human rights was its highest priority. It had participated in three sessions of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and strongly opposed the draft element paper. Its proposals were counterproductive and it left many questions unsatisfactorily addressed. The Organization urged the Working Group not to deviate from the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Right of Reply
India, speaking in a right of reply, stated that various international organizations had documented how enforced disappearances continued with impunity, particularly in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh where people were routinely abducted and unlawfully killed. The minorities were persecuted, including through blasphemy laws. It was extraordinary that the country that had protected Osama Bin Laden and had sheltered Mullah Omar should have the gumption to play the victim. Pakistan kept referring to the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. However, it very conveniently forgot its own obligation under those resolutions to first vacate the illegal occupation of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It also continued to support cross-border terrorism in India.
Brazil, speaking in a right of reply in response to a statement by Conectas Direitos Humanos, noted that the fight against crimes and the promotion of public safety were key priorities for the Brazilian Government. Public safety was indispensable for development and the protection of human rights. The recent decision to authorize federal intervention in the area of public security in the state of Rio de Janeiro had been taken with the consent of the state Government and approval by the Brazilian Congress. The federation intervention in Rio was an exceptional measure provided for by the Brazilian Constitution in view of the serious situations of public disturbance. The appointment of a military officer to the post of interventor was perfectly consistent with the Constitution.
China, speaking in a right of reply in response to attacks and slander against China by some non-governmental organizations, said Chinese achievements in human rights were known and recognized. Chinese citizens enjoyed unprecedented freedoms and rights. All groups in the Xinjiang province enjoyed education and social rights. China urged those organizations to adopt an impartial view of human rights in China and to stop fabrications.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, stated that Jammu and Kashmir remained a territory regulated under the Security Council and that it was not a recognized Indian territory, contrary to the ambitions of India. The Indian delegation continued to politicize the genuine human rights issue. Plethora of lies spoken about Pakistan revealed the real face of Indian democracy as the plight of Jammu and Kashmir was not an isolated case but a sign of State-sponsored terrorism. The country followed Hindutva group and implemented a policy of persecution against religious minorities. There were 18 incidents of lynching of Muslims with the blessings of current governments. Freedom movements existed in 12 Indian states for obvious reasons. The Rohingya persons in India were currently at risk of expulsion, contrary to the rule of non-refoulment. The Council was asked to end the impunity of Indian-occupying forces.
1 Joint statement: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF); Association for Women's Rights in Development; Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); FIAN International; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; International Service for Human Rights and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
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