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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS FROM 16 DIGNITARIES AS IT CONTINUES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

26 February 2018

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting continued with its high-level segment, hearing addresses from dignitaries from 15 countries and one organization.

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of Afghanistan, said his Government was proud of its achievements in areas such as freedom of expression, civil society activism, and women’s growing participation in the political, social and economic domains. Equality and justice were prerequisites for peace and sustainable development.

Mikheil Janelidze, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noted that the year 2018, as the anniversary of a number of international documents related to human rights, should give a new impetus to enhance global efforts to ensure fundamental human rights and to secure a truly sustainable future for all.

Taban Deng Gai, First Vice President of South Sudan, reaffirmed the commitment of his Government to the promotion and protection of human rights. Social dialogue was necessary from all sides to encourage peace-building. But there was no single formula for building a lasting peace.
Haidar Al Zamily, Minister of Justice of Iraq, stated that human rights had always had been part of Iraq – ever since the times of the Babylonians and Sumerians. Referring to the fight against ISIS, Mr. Al Zamily said that Iraq had stood up to gangs that came out of the darkness to wreak havoc. He called upon the Human Rights Council to provide technical assistance to Iraq.

Kang Kyung-wha, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, noted that the gap between the commitments made in the Human Rights Council and the reality on the ground was still too wide in many places. Therein had to lie the focus of the ongoing efforts to make the Council more efficient and effective.

Jorge Arreaza, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, emphasized that for over the last two decades Venezuela had been exploited for its resources. The interference by the United States and several European States had been unprecedented. Venezuela was poised to hold free and fair elections next year, a process that was facing outside threats.

Sidiki Kaba, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, thanked the Member States for their support to Senegal’s membership to the Human Rights Council. He stressed that the re-emergence of slavery, the persistence of trafficking in women and children, and the increase in poverty should mobilize the international community.

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the world faced soaring challenges. Too many civilians were the targets of fighting, detention, or displacement. He urged all States to fulfil their human rights obligations, and to adopt major preventive measures

Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, noted that some States underestimated or even relativized the security concerns of others. The Global Migration Compact was an unbalanced, extremely pro-migration, dangerous and irresponsible document. Violating borders had to be considered as a crime.

Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said the situations in Myanmar, Yemen and Burundi were of great concern and exemplified the devastating consequences of the use of veto power on human rights. Another challenge was standing up for courts when investigating human rights violations. There was an alarming disrespect for international law.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, said that communication between Geneva and New York needed to be strengthened. Major reports by Special Rapporteurs and international investigative bodies mandated by the Council should come before other international forums more often.

Anders Samuelsen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, underlined the pivotal role of the Human Rights Council in promoting constructive dialogue. This year presented an opportunity to act, notably on issues such as torture, with a clear push towards the ratification of the Convention against Torture.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, remarked that today’s world required that gender, ethnic and cultural diversity were legitimately expressed in all sectors of the society, particularly in political participation. From the Latin American point of view, it was primordial to find sustainable solutions for the wellbeing of all persons, and especially for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants.

Mohammed Mohsen Mohammed Askar, Minister for Human Rights of Yemen, reaffirmed that the Government of Yemen was inclined towards dialogue since the first day of the coup. It welcomed dialogue but warned the international community not to equate between the victim and the offender.

Shankar Das Bairagi, Foreign Secretary of Nepal, pledged to work constructively to deliver on the Council’s mandates. For many developing countries the right to development was a clear priority as development and human rights were mutually reinforcing. Faithful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was central to the promotion of human rights everywhere.

Claudio Bernardo Avruj, Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, noted that human rights protection was at the core of Argentina’s foreign policy. Its own experience of human rights violations urged it to work with the international community to move the protection of human rights forward.


The Council will meet again at 5 p.m. to hold a high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming: the promotion and protection of human rights in light of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, challenges and opportunities. It will resume its high-level segment at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 February.


High-Level Segment

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of Afghanistan, said that the Constitution of Afghanistan recognized the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, and enshrined civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as gender rights. The Government was proud of its achievements in areas such as freedom of expression, civil society activism, and women’s growing participation in the political, social and economic domains. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission had officially been recognized under the Constitution in 2004, and the National Unity Government was supportive of the continued consultation and cooperation with the Commission. The Government had initiated a judicial reform programme that included a review of structures and procedures. As a result, most of the staff of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office had been recruited through a merit-based competitive process, with noticeable female representation. Girls’ education, maternal health and nutrition, and women’s access to employment and justice, and their participation in the peace process were some of the Government’s priorities. Special attention was being paid to the care for children, return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and reducing civilian casualties. In conclusion, Mr. Abdullah noted that equality and justice were prerequisites for peace and sustainable development.

MIKHEIL JANELIDZE, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noted that 2018, as the anniversary of a number of international documents related to human rights, should give a new impetus to enhancing global efforts to ensure fundamental human rights and secure a truly sustainable future for all. Georgia was ready to make its own contribution to that process. At the national level, Georgia spared no effort to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. It paid particular attention to cooperation with civil society as a core element of promoting inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Georgia also supported the active participation of civil society in the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. As a responsible member of the international community, Georgia would host the High-Level International Conference to Support the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in May 2018. Turning to the situation in Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, which were under Russian occupation, Mr. Janelidze called for an immediate access for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and international and regional human rights mechanisms, and underlined that the situation on the ground had further deteriorated.

TABAN DENG GAI, First Vice President of South Sudan, said that, while the Government unreservedly committed itself to the fundamental objective of the promotion of human rights as a basis for building an inclusive and prosperous society, it was deeply concerned by the methodology used for the framing of the February 23 report by the Commission on Human Rights on South Sudan. Moreover, in order to ensure fairness and transparency, it was necessary that crimes against humanity should require a higher standard of proof. This was not reflected in the said report. It was necessary to encourage peace-building and social dialogue from all sides, as there was no single formula for bringing lasting peace. South Sudan recently started acceding to regional and international organizations, including the East African community, and hoped that the return of the internally displaced persons to their villages would begin soon. In December 2017, the National Council of Ministers approved the draft memorandum with the African Union on the establishment of the hybrid court, as agreed under the Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan from 2015. Steps had been made towards the establishment of the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. The Government had invested efforts to raise awareness on sexual exploitation and the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Development Programme had conducted several training sessions and workshops sensitizing the armed forces on the dangers of sexual exploitation.

HAIDAR AL ZAMILY, Minister of Justice of Iraq, noting Iraq’s Membership of the Human Rights Council, informed that human rights were and always had been part of Iraq – ever since the times of the Babylonians and Sumerians. The good tidings of victory had always been a source of pride for Iraq. Referring to the fight against ISIS, Mr. Al Zamily said Iraq had stood up to gangs that came out of the darkness to wreak havoc. Iraq had been liberated from the fangs of ISIS, and work was underway to hold accountable those who had violated human rights, and to free the rest from darkness. The Government of Iraq gave priority to the principles of human rights, putting children, persons with disabilities, refugees and women first, and providing for immediate necessities and the right to a decent living, health, and potable water. In the areas liberated from Daesh, the Iraqi Government had established refugee camps for the citizens. Iraq had long suffered from the crimes of Daesh, socially, economically, psychologically, and in terms of security. The Government was holding the members of Daesh accountable, commensurate to the gravity of crimes committed. Currently, Iraq was witnessing great democratic practices, manifesting unhindered parliamentary elections and enhanced cooperation with the United Nations mechanisms. In conclusion, Mr. Al Zamily called upon the Human Rights Council to understand what was going on in Iraq, and to contribute to the establishment of institutions in Iraqi in order to enable them to work more efficiently in the fight and prosecution against members of Daesh. He asked for technical assistance in this regard.

KANG KYUNG-WHA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, paid tribute to High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and his staff, noting that he had been fearless and tireless in shining the piercing light of human rights, even in the most opaque and convoluted situations. She also paid tribute to the Human Rights Council as it celebrated it twelfth anniversary. However, the gap between the commitments made in the Council and the reality on the ground was still too wide in many places. Therein had to lie the focus of the ongoing efforts to make the Council more efficient and effective. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave powerful expression to the innate spirit of freedom and dignity that was at the core of all human beings. Unfortunately, that spirit was being suppressed, discouraged and cowered in situations of repression, protracted conflicts and terrorism, poverty and inequality, misguided nationalism and hostility towards others. The result was discrimination and marginalization, violence and hatred, further exacerbated by impunity for human rights abusers and reprisals against human rights defenders. Ms. Kang highlighted some issues that were a priority for the Government of the Republic of Korea, such as protecting the rights of women and girls, sexual violence committed in wartime, improving the human rights situation in “North Korea”, and peace on the Korean peninsula.

JORGE ARREAZA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said that for the last two decades Venezuela had been exploited for its resources and interference by the United States and several European States had been unprecedented. Venezuela was poised to hold free and fair elections next year, a process that was facing outside threats. Hidden powers were working to destabilize Venezuela. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Government was participating in talks with opposition leaders and international representatives to promote and protect democracy and freedom. Still, opposition officials were failing to fully cooperate. Upcoming elections would be free and fair and all parties should cooperate constructively in the process. Recent media reports on migration flows in Venezuela were based on spurious sources and were being used by those with imperialist aspirations to promote interference. Venezuela had invited Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Independent Expert of the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, to assess the situation in the country as he had a clear understanding of the situation. Mr. De Zayas had attested that there was no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The Government recently approved a law against hate to combat intolerance and hate speech and a national human rights plan continued to be implemented. The Universal Periodic Review was of huge importance, he said, noting that the Human Rights Council could not become a tool to be exploited by expansionist States.

SIDIKI KABA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, referring to the recent election of Senegal to the Human Rights Council, thanked the Member States who had supported Senegal, noting that this was proof that the international community constantly demonstrated confidence in Senegal for its commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights. Human rights were the source of stability in Senegal, a country based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. It was the reason why there was a vigorous democracy in Senegal, which produced peaceful handovers to power. As a Member of the Human Rights Council, Senegal would pay particular attention to the rights of the child, women, elderly, persons with disabilities, and to expanding social, economic, cultural and environmental rights. Senegal was deeply alarmed at the latest UNICEF report indicating that over 250,000 children were involved in armed conflicts. It was inconceivable that adults deprived children of the opportunity to live in a world of peace. Saluting the debates that would take place during the Human Rights Council on this issue, he also congratulated the debates on the rights of persons with disabilities as well as racial discrimination. In conclusion, he asked, how could the world understand, after 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the re-emergence of slavery, the persistence of trafficking in women and children, as well as the increase in poverty? He called upon Member States to support the indivisible, independent, and inalienable universal nature of human rights and to refuse the populist xenophobic discourse which led to violence and wars and the destruction of innocent lives.

PETER MAURER, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the world faced soaring challenges. Too many civilians were the targets of fighting, or were detained, or displaced. Urging all States to fulfil their human rights obligations, he said major preventive measures were needed. Respect for international humanitarian law was a shield against barbarism. Those affected by conflict must be able to seek safety and those seeking to provide assistance must be allowed to do so. International humanitarian law was an effective tool in guiding behaviour and offered a common language for parties to a conflict to understand each other, and it allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to conduct its work. The Committee sought to create an environment of respect through engagement with all stakeholders as a means to ensure that the rule of law was protected. Protracted conflict lay waste to populations and international humanitarian law could mitigate threats to civilian populations. The law provided the path to peace. States could either embroil themselves in violence or choose the virtuous path of the rule of law. He urged all States, individually and collectively, to engage in constructive dialogue, including with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

PETER SZIJJARTO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said the world was currently faced by unique challenges which increased the debate on human rights. Responsibility was of utmost necessity when dealing with these very important issues. The international community had a responsibility to agree upon a definition of human rights, and to ensure that everyone had the right to a safe and secure life wherever they lived. Some members underestimated or even relativized the security concerns of the Member States of the United Nations. A global phenomenon on the top of the international agenda was migration. The European Union had faced migration for the first time when it came to an illegal and massive influx in 2015. Since then the most serious threats of terror and security had been witnessed in the European Union, where, during the last two and a half years, 27 major attacks had been executed, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Unfortunately, immigration measures had proven to be unsuccessful. The massive illegal influx of migrants had given a chance to terrorists to send their fighters to Europe. Regardless of these serious challenges, the world had witnessed an irresponsible response by some high level dignitaries, including of regional and international institutions and Member States of the European Union and the United Nations. The Global Migration Compact - a very unbalanced and extremely pro-migration, dangerous and irresponsible document – was an example of this irresponsible action. Violating borders had to be considered as a crime. It had to be clear that it was only the given country that had the right to decide whom they allowed and whom they did not allow to enter their country.

AURELIA FRICK, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, noted that gender equality was an area where improvements were needed. In Liechtenstein the level of female participation had decreased in the past several years, and there also remained the question of gender pay gap. Full gender equality was an indispensable investment in the future. Violations of human rights should be treated as warning signs of erosion of peace, security and stability, and the Security Council should play its role and prevent mass violations of human rights. The situations in Myanmar, Yemen and Burundi were of great concern and exemplified the devastating consequences of the use of veto power on human rights. Another challenge was standing up for courts when investigating human rights violations, Ms. Frick stressed, adding that there was an alarming disrespect for international law. There could be no more powerful statement in defence of international law than criminalizing the unlawful use of force. Turning to the conflict in Syria, Ms. Frick underlined the importance of accountability for a peaceful future, and of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, which had been financed by some 38 countries. Ms. Frick expressed hope that many more countries would join its financing. In conclusion, she highlighted the fact that millions and millions lived in conditions of slavery and the role of the financial sector in eradicating that practice.

SIGRID KAAG, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, noted that stability and collective security remained a top priority of the Netherlands, as respect for human rights was the foundation of stable and sustainable prosperity. The World Bank Group had found that exclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community caused severe social and economic harm, inefficient allocation of human resources, lost productivity and underinvestment in human capital. Studies done by the World Bank had shown that child marriage alone would cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030. The Netherlands admired greatly the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office. The work of the human rights activist Asma Jahangir who had died in February was greatly praised, particularly her role as Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The resolution that the Council adopted on Yemen had sent a powerful message that violations of human rights would not go unpunished. The creation of Yugoslavia Tribunal and the Special Court for Sierra Leone were notable examples of the successful attempts to end impunity and hope was expressed that the investigation would be able to proceed without hindrance throughout Yemen. Communication between Geneva and New York needed to be strengthened. Major reports by Special Rapporteurs and international investigative bodies mandated by the Council should come before other international forums more often.

ANDERS SAMUELSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said the Human Rights Council was pivotal to promoting constructive dialogue. The universal participation of Governments and civil society was a clear priority. To that end Denmark would double its contribution to the Trust Fund to support the participation of least developed countries and small island developing States. Denmark would also double its voluntary un-earmarked contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Denmark supported a democratic solution to the Myanmar crisis and stressed that perpetrators must be held accountable. It strongly condemned rights violations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the abhorrent abuses against civilians in Syria. Conflicts in Burundi, South Sudan, Yemen and Libya required full international attention. Denmark also remained concerned over the situation in Bahrain and called for the release of a Danish-Bahraini citizen currently under captivity. This year presented an opportunity to act, notably on issues such as torture, with a clear push towards the ratification of the Convention against Torture. Combatting discrimination meant that gender equity and the promotion of equal opportunities for all remained a priority. Denmark called for support as it pursued membership in the Council for the 2019-2021 session.

MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, reminded that the process of national dialogue had been taking place in Ecuador since the new President Lenin Moreno Garces had assumed office in May 2017 in order to foster constructive dialogue and peaceful coexistence. The Government wanted to ensure the full development of all citizens, with particular focus on women and girls, and vulnerable groups. Today’s world required that gender, ethnic and cultural diversity was legitimately expressed in all sectors of the society, in particular in political participation. Ecuador’s National Plan of Development 2017-2021 included aspects of gender in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. One of the most significant global challenges was finding funding for the Sustainable Development Goals. From the Latin American point of view, it was primordial to find sustainable solutions for the wellbeing of all persons, and especially for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants. Ecuador had supported reform initiatives to bolster the United Nations system, and to foster a constructive spirit, based on dialogue, inclusion and mutual respect. Ms. Espinosa Garcés reiterated her country’s commitment to democratic multilateralism in which all voices could be heard equally and in an inclusive manner.

MOHAMMED MOHSEN MOHAMMED ASKAR, Minister for Human Rights of Yemen, affirmed that the only way to produce sustainable peace was to uphold human rights. This session coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a historic document that had confirmed the unalienable rights of all peoples. The Council’s session also coincided with the anniversary of free elections in Yemen in 2014. However, since 21 September 2014 when the bloody coup had taken place, people had been killed firstly by the coup masters and secondly by the ineffective action of international community. Yemen repeated in every Council session the necessity to find a solution to the crisis. The coup masters were armed groups with erroneous beliefs which had been disintegrating the social fabric of Yemen and calling other groups in society as unbelievers. Their deeds were those of terrorists. Additional problems were the terrorist attacks committed by Al-Qaeda and Daesh in areas ruled by a legitimate Yemeni Government. These attacks had been targeting the infrastructure and the Government had been investing efforts trying to bring such atrocities to an end but no adequate support had been offered from the international community. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been providing billions of dollars and humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people and support was provided to the Yemeni Central Bank. The Yemeni Government welcomed dialogue but warned the international community not to equate between the victim and the offender.

SHANKAR DAS BAIRAGI, Foreign Secretary of Nepal, addressing the Human Rights Council for the first time as a member, pledged to work constructively to deliver on the Council’s mandates. All human rights, including those of migrant workers, had to be treated in an equal manner. For many developing countries the right to development was a clear priority as development and human rights were mutually reinforcing. Faithful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was central to the promotion of human rights everywhere. The Universal Periodic Review process was a hallmark in the promotion of human rights as no single country had achieved perfection in human rights. Nepal was currently implementing recommendations from periodic reports and represented a success story regarding transition from conflict to stability. Central to this success was the recognition of equal rights for all. The death penalty had been abolished in Nepal and the rule of law was central to the legal process. Nepal’s Constitution enshrined the rule of law and universally recognized rights and freedoms. The Constitution also placed disadvantaged communities at the forefront of the development process. Nepal urged the Council to remain apolitical in its promotion of dialogue.

CLAUDIO BERNARDO AVRUJ, Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, noted that the international community lived in exciting times, full of challenges and opportunities. The international community needed to make the Human Rights Council strong to be able to face human rights challenges. Within the framework of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Minister reminded of the tenth anniversary of the Universal Periodic Review, which was vital in dealing with human rights challenges at the national level. It had contributed to the strengthening of national protection systems and had sustained the continuous participation of States. Human rights protection was at the core of Argentina’s foreign policy. Its own experience of human rights violations urged it to work with the international community to move the protection of human rights forward. Argentina had for the first time in its history launched a national action plan on human rights. In line with its commitments, the plan would be carried out in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In light of numerous armed conflicts worldwide, Argentina was committed to the Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, and to the prevention of mass atrocities. Argentina had also loosened its migration rules to receive people coming from Venezuela, and it paid particular attention to gender equality.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18/006E