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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT AND ITS GENERAL SEGMENT

27 February 2019

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its high-level segment, hearing addresses from seven dignitaries, who spoke about the situations in their countries and pointed to the surge of extreme right policies, migratory crises, and large numbers of displaced persons.  The Council also concluded its general segment.

Nhial Deng Nhial, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, noted that the three United Nations mechanisms currently monitoring the human rights situation in South Sudan discharged similar mandates, and created confusion and misunderstanding, which did not help to create a collaborative, fair or transparent working relationship between the Government and these human rights monitors. 

Mirzatillo Tillabaev, First Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, said the Government was in the process of implementing a number of national indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Uzbekistan placed particular importance on the link between climate change and human rights.  Uzbekistan had launched a project for the reforestation of the dried seabed of the Aral Sea, with the goal of planting 500,000 hectares of trees. 

Martin Nivyabandi, Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender of Burundi, noted that with the surge of extreme right policies, migratory crises, and large numbers of displaced persons, the time had come to change the approach to human rights.  Burundi had its own mechanisms to promote and defend human rights, which produced excellent results with scant resources.  Their joint work had brought down the number of cases of gender-based violence, sexual violence and murder. 

Juan Pablo Crisóstomo, Human Rights Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, stressed that democracy, rule of law and sustainable development ensured the protection of human rights.  He called attention to the suffering of people in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and condemned the human rights violations committed by the Government of Nicolas Maduro.  

Severo S. Catura, Undersecretary, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat of the Philippines, stated that the spirit of multilateralism as represented by the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, must be preserved without politicizing human rights.  The foremost responsibility of the State was to protect its people’s human rights from violations by its own agents and by the lawless. 

Joel Hernandez, First Vice-President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from Organization of American States, expressed concern about the deterioration of human rights in some countries in the American region.  He urged American States to respect the decisions and judgements of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, and called attention to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua. 

Adolfo Jarquín Ortel, Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights of Nicaragua, referring to the coup d’état that occurred in April 2018, said that there was evidence that different non-government organizations that had lost legal status had promoted illegal and terrorist acts and funded criminal groups, with a clear intention to organize a coup d’état.

In the general segment, speakers noted that the rule of law was essential in closing the gap between human rights aspirations and human rights responsibilities.  The rule of law operationalized human rights through constitutional and legal protection mechanisms.  In order for the Council to have a real and tangible impact on the lives of individuals, it had to use all instruments in its hands: dialogue, cooperation, monitoring and early warning.  The major challenges facing the world nowadays – economic and social inequalities, violent conflicts, and climate change – represented failures of human rights and the rule of law.  The Council had to retain and reinforce its leading role and intensify its efforts to encourage Governments to respect and strengthen the rule of law.  National human rights institutions could play a vital role and were uniquely positioned to advise States on the implementation of their international responsibilities. 

Speaking in the general segment were Austria, India, Nigeria, Senegal, China, Israel, Timor-Leste, Oman, Viet Nam, Côte d’Ivoire, Greece, Iran, and Syria.  United Nations Development Programme and International Development Law Organization also spoke.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Plan International, Stop the Traffik, and Graduate Women International.

The Council will resume its work on Thursday, 28 February, at 9 a.m., when it will hear delegations speak in right of reply in response to statements made during the high-level segment.  It will then hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights. 

High-Level Segment

NHIAL DENG NHIAL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, said that the transitional government of national unity had re-negotiated and signed the revitalized peace agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan on 12 September 2018.  The Minister urged the Council to support in funding the implementation of the peace agreement.  The realization of peace in the country had significantly contributed to the return of refugees and internally displaced people to their areas of origin.  The doors of the country had been opened to the international community, but regretfully, some non-governmental organizations, including Medecins Sans Frontieres, had used this opportunity to wage a negative campaign to delegitimize South Sudan.  On 30 November 2018, Medecins Sans Frontieres had claimed that 125 rape incidents had been reported in the province of Bentiu.  A committee was formed to investigate these claims, but after a thorough examination, it was established that these claims were a gross exaggeration bordering on fabrication and in no way resembled an orchestrated campaign of violence.  Moreover, the recent report formulated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Commission in South Sudan did not reflect the current situation, and it seemed that the Medecin Sans Frontieres report had been made to substantiate claims and justify the renewal of the mandate on South Sudan.  The three United Nations mechanisms currently monitoring the human rights situation in South Sudan discharged similar mandates, and created confusion and misunderstanding which did not help to create a collaborative, fair or transparent working relationship between the Government and these human rights monitors.  He called upon the Human Rights Council to shift its mandate on South Sudan from item 4 to item 10, so that South Sudan could concentrate on promoting issues of technical assistance and capacity building. 

MIRZATILLO TILLABAEV, First Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, said the Government of Uzbekistan was in the process of implementing a number of national indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Uzbekistan placed particular importance on the link between climate change and human rights, and expressed gratitude to the United Nations Trust Fund for its support.  Uzbekistan had launched a project for the reforestation of the dried seabed of the Aral Sea, with the goal of planting 500,000 hectares of trees.  Recent legislation passed in Uzbekistan had created new procedures for the nomination of judges by judges themselves, with the views of the public taken into account.  During the most recent International Day of Human Rights, the President of Uzbekistan had adopted a decree to strengthen national mechanisms for human rights. The question of establishing an ombudsman on the rights of children was currently being discussed by Uzbekistan’s parliament.  Following recommendations from the Human Rights Council, parliament for the first time would adopt a new election code, including a number of norms such as removing the limitations placed on convicts.  Uzbekistan also reaffirmed its readiness to be presented as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period of 2021-2023. 

MARTIN NIVYABANDI, Minister for Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender of Burundi, noted that with the surge of extreme right policies, migratory crises, and large numbers of displaced persons, the time had come to change the approach to human rights.  People wanted to design their own destiny without foreign interference, and they had foiled plans for regime change.  Human rights had been politicized.  It was time to reform the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.  The principle of simple majority should be re-thought, and national human rights mechanisms should be given precedence over the expensive international ones.  Burundi had its own mechanisms to promote and defend human rights, such as the National Council for Unity, the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, the National Commission for Human Rights, and the Ombudsman’s Office, which produced excellent results with scant resources.  Their joint work had brought down the number of cases of gender-based violence, sexual violence, and murder.  The country had speeded up trials, allowing for the release of thousands of prisoners.  The Minister denounced the videos circulated on social networks as attempts to foil the work of the national security forces, noting that civil society organizations needed to be prudent in their search for the truth, and should portray the situation in the country in a balanced way.  The Minister also denounced the sanctions imposed by the European Union as counter-productive and harmful for ordinary citizens.  Noting that civil and political rights had been privileged at the detriment of economic, social and cultural rights, the Minister stressed that economic, social and cultural rights should be at the core of the Council’s work.  How many million tons of food were thrown away as waste while hundreds of millions of people were hungry?

JUAN PABLO CRISOSTOMO, Human Rights Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, said that Chile had reaffirmed its commitment to human rights during the recent Universal Periodic Review.  Chile had taken part in constructive dialogues last year with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee against Torture.  Dialogues were scheduled this year with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Chile led and supported coordination between the United Nations agencies and bodies.  Universality required favourable settings for the protection of human rights.  These settings included democracy, rule of law and sustainable development.  Since it became a democratic country in 1990, Chile had followed a path in which it had strengthened its institutions.  Chile was concerned about the suffering of people in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and it condemned human rights violations committed by Maduro.  Humanitarian aid was prevented from entering the country and Chile rejected violent acts perpetrated by the police and armed forces.  There was no explanation or justification of this so it had to be repudiated by the international community.  Chile hoped that democracy would be restored under Guaidó and it would continue to seek this through diplomatic channels, as envisaged under the Lima Group declaration.  Chile called on the international community to react to human rights violations committed in Nicaragua.  There had to be an appropriate separation of forces.  Holistic and sustainable development was equally important.  Chile was seeking to establish a new human rights agenda, including a vibrant human rights culture in all public policies, and transitional justice.

SEVERO S. CATURA, Undersecretary, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat of the Philippines, stated that the spirit of multilateralism, as represented by the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, must be preserved without politicizing human rights.  The first defining responsibility of the State was to protect its peoples’ human rights from violations by its own agents and by the lawless.  The Philippines was proud of the global recognition for its achievements in gender equality and migration governance.  There was growing concern that climate change exacerbated the inherent geographical risks faced by the Philippines.  On the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he highlighted that more than one third of the population of the Philippines were children under the age of 14, adding that a new law on the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act” had been signed in January.  The realities of the drug problem and the context of the campaign were lost on those who criticized the Government, it was linked to health, welfare and dignity of the Filipino youth, and had been successful in lowering crime rates and promoting rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, as the Philippines was liberal in terms of the inclusion of non-governmental organizations and civil society in nation building, it faced the reality of the interference of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which while masquerading as a non-governmental organization, enjoyed European Union funding; discernment was therefore needed in dealing with certain parties that exploited the good faith of the United Nations system.

JOEL HERNANDEZ, First Vice-President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, expressed concern for the deterioration of human rights in some countries in the American region.  The threats against male and female human rights defenders were noted as growing more serious, leading to the loss of many lives.  Many justice systems in the region were experiencing serious shortcomings, leading to many of these crimes going unpunished.  The Inter-American Commission urged States in the region to respect its decisions as well as the judgements of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.  Particular attention was being paid to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua.  The human rights situation in Nicaragua has been dragging on for 10 months, throughout which time the State had been crushing dissident voices, violating human rights, and repressing protests, with 550 people detained without due judicial process.  There was a widespread attack against civilians which should be viewed as crimes against humanity.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for the immediate release of political prisoners, the holistic reform of judicial institutions, and to ensure that violent acts were tried before impartial courts.  Mr. Hernandez also noted the gradual deterioration of human rights in Venezuela.  This included many human rights violations because of repression of protesters and the arbitrary detention of dissidents.  The Commission had also documented a serious economic and social crisis characterized by food and medical shortages, which had led to alarming levels of poverty and extreme poverty.  These mass violations of human rights as well as the serious food and health crisis had led to a large number of Venezuelans being forced to emigrate to other countries as a survival strategy.

ADOLFO JARQUIN ORTEL, Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights of Nicaragua, said that since 2007, there had been very positive changes in Nicaragua, both in philosophy and actual work when it came to human rights promotion. Human rights protection was at the heart of policies, programmes and projects. Tangible results of targeted policies in the human rights area made it possible to ensure an exemplary level of security of citizens.  The growth of gross domestic product of 4.8 per cent made Nicaragua the third fastest growing economy in Latin America.  Nicaragua had managed to reduce poverty in a sustainable manner according to the Inter-American Bank for Development.  Efforts to combat hunger had also been praised.  Referring to the coup d’état that had occurred in April 2018, the Deputy Commissioner said that people in Nicaragua had greatly suffered.  The Office of Defence for Protection of Human Rights condemned violence, hate crimes and terrorism suffered by the people.  Those crimes had resulted in the loss of life, public and private property and the national economy.  Three universities, 18 institutions and 83 municipalities had reported destruction occurring and the overall result of damage amounted to $206.5 million.  The seriousness of crimes obliged the authorities to recommend to the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity to investigate and put on trial perpetrators of violations of human rights.  In coordination with the Truth, Justice and Peace Commission established by the legislative branch, visits were carried out to detention centres to ensure the protection of human rights.  There was no evidence that detainees were subjected to acts of torture.  There was evidence that different non-government organization that lost legal status promoted illegal and terrorist acts and funded criminal groups, with a clear intention to organize a coup d’état.  Police carried out difficult work to restore order and safety.  Faulty methodology used by the Organization of American States was rejected.  As a result of firearms, 198 persons died out of which 22 were police officers, and 1,240 were injured.

General Segment

Austria observed a lack of trust between States and a lack of trust by people vis-à-vis their public institutions to actually respect human rights.  The rule of law was essential in closing the gap between human rights aspirations and human rights responsibilities.  The rule of law operationalized human rights through constitutional and legal protection mechanisms.  In order for the Council to have a real and tangible impact on the lives of individuals, it had to use all instruments under its hands: dialogue, cooperation, monitoring and early warning. 

India noted that terrorism remained the most pernicious violation of all fundamental human rights.  Any meaningful collective response to deal with that menace continued to be thwarted by some.  The Council should actively support the United Nations-led consensus on zero tolerance on terrorism.  India had repeatedly urged Pakistan to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammad to prevent jihadists from being trained and armed inside Pakistan.  It hoped that Pakistan would live up to its public commitment in that respect.

Nigeria said that as the global community continued to witness grave human rights situations, it was imperative that everyone recognized the importance of upholding human rights as a key element in respecting the sanctity of the human person and the entrenchment of international peace and security.  As a developing country, Nigeria was fully determined to continue improving the general wellbeing of its citizens.  The Government had embarked on a number of initiatives towards economic revitalization. 

Senegal observed that in the light of rising racism, xenophobia and nationalism, the United Nations’ foundation on multilateralism could be thanked for prolonged periods of peace.  However, the international community had a duty to do more to promote and protect the rights of migrants, the disabled, women, girls and the elderly.  Senegal reaffirmed its commitment to promote human rights and all fundamental liberties and support civil society and human rights defenders, highlighting its successful democratic presidential elections.

China stated that with the rise of unilateralism, it was all the more important for States to adhere to multilateralism, taking fairness and justness as guiding principles, and opposing internal interference which used human rights as a pretext. Sustainable development should be achieved by a people first policy with human rights at its heart.  During the high-level segment, some States had regrettably criticized the Government’s actions in the Xinjiang province, claims which were grossly inconsistent with reality.  China was doing its utmost to rid the province of terrorism.

Israel stated that it was a significant player in the multilateral arena and would continue to contribute despite being hampered by bias and discrimination in this forum.  It called the Council to move on from the claims made by the Palestinian delegation and to recognise that the real victim was Israel.  It was facing challenges in the Middle Eastern region where terror organizations and hostile regimes threatened Israel.  Item 7 should be struck from the Council’s agenda, otherwise the Council would continue to lose credibility and its moral compass.

Timor-Leste said it was strongly committed to the promotion and protection of all human rights, and noted that it had recently adopted the Law on the Prevention and Fight against Human Trafficking and the Law on Immigration and Asylum.  Timor-Leste was a young democratic country which prioritized strengthening the human capacity of its public administration and combatting corruption.  It had set in place strong institutions oriented to the promotion and protection of specific human rights.

Oman highlighted its positive interactions with the Council’s mechanisms by submitting its relevant reports periodically.  Oman’s Universal Periodic Review was scheduled for next year, and would show how developed the country had become in terms of promoting and protecting human rights.  The development gap was one of the main causes of global conflict.  Oman reiterated the importance of resuming negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Viet Nam said that it strongly believed that dialogue, cooperation and respect for international law were fundamental for the peaceful settlement of differences, disputes and conflicts.  In the course of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, attention should be given to the different contexts and levels of development of each country.  Viet Nam expressed its support for the multilateral system within the United Nations, and promised to consistently fulfil its international human rights obligations.

United Nations Development Programme presented examples of its contribution to the advancement of human rights, with a focus on addressing global inequalities.  It had recently published guidelines on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  It supported countries to strengthen their human rights national policies, including through the framework of the Universal Periodic Review.  It also supported the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights, and it fostered partnership with national human rights institutions as one of its priorities.

Côte d’Ivoire recalled that in light of the resurgence of violent extremism, recurrent migration crises, and egregious and systematic violations of human rights, the international community needed to redouble efforts in search of urgent solutions.  The Council had to always pay attention to urgent situations and to ensure that it practiced a consensual and concerted approach.  Côte d’Ivoire pursued efforts to strengthen democracy and human rights, and in particular violence against women and children, and it believed that the protection of human rights was the bedrock of sustainable development  

International Development Law Organization noted that the major challenges facing the world nowadays – economic and social inequalities, violent conflicts, and climate change – represented failures of human rights and the rule of law.  Independent judiciaries, so essential to ensuring equality before the law, accountability and justice, were threatened in many places.  The Council had to retain and reinforce its leading role and intensify its efforts to encourage Governments to respect and strengthen the rule of law. 

Greece said it was the Council’s primary responsibility to empower societies, fight discrimination, and protect vulnerable people and human rights defenders, including supporting initiatives to improve the safety of journalists.  Greece worked on initiatives tackling social, economic, civil and political rights issues through sports, the right to work, youth and human rights, the enjoyment of cultural heritage, and religious pluralism.  It was facing a massive influx of refugees and kept the protection of the most vulnerable as a priority.

Iran stated that on the fortieth anniversary of its democratic revolution, it had fulfilled its peoples vision and continued to work towards sustainable development.  The Council should be shielded against those who would try to subvert its efforts and should stop turning a blind eye to human rights violations.  The United Kingdom, the United States and others should be held accountable for their meddling in the region and their defence of Israel.  Perpetrators should also face accountability for human rights violations in Yemen.

Syria stated that the Universal Periodic Review should be an opportunity to improve the functioning of the Council and find a solution to the politicization and double standards rife in the Council, as this was why there was an increase in unilateralism.  Using the Council to target legitimate governments under the pretext of human rights made it responsible for ethical crises and suffering around the world.  The Council should stay away from the internal dealings of sovereign States.  Regrettably, the Council had become a space of confrontation, not dialogue.

Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) said that across the world, the exercise of human rights was restricted.  Women human rights defenders faced gender specific threats and discrimination.  National human rights institutions could play a vital role and were uniquely positioned to advise States on the implementation of their international responsibilities.  More than 260 national human rights institutions met last October and adopted Marrakech declaration, envisaging a number of activities on how this could be done.

Centre for Policy Alternative said that the current global trend was moving away from the liberal notions of freedom of expression to a narrower notion of order and stability.  The political trend of right wing populism was based on grievances of those who had lost out of the liberal experiment.  Could globalization be reversed in this age?  The challenge was to reconcile demands for autonomy with the fact of interdependence.

Plan International said that girls continued to face violence and discrimination in every country of the world.  Globally, one in three women and girls had experienced violence in her lifetime.  Members of the Council were urged to ensure that dialogue and decisions made by the Council took both a gender and an age perspective; to prioritize the right of all girls and boys to be heard; and to provide opportunities for girls to learn about their rights

Stop the Traffik noted that while trafficking was on the global agenda, there was little evidence that the numbers were slowing.  Stop the Traffik noted that it had pioneered the way to imagine a different future, to change the environment in which traffickers thrived into one of high risk and low profit.  Stop the Traffik emphasized that the international community was at a moment in history where it had the power of people alongside the extraordinary potential of technology.

Graduate Women International emphasized that young people had an indispensable and inalienable right to protect human rights on the planet.  If they did not allow young generations to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, there would be no sphere of life where they could implement democracy and rule of law.  Young people should be recognized as a source of alternative generation-in-waiting.  As talented, passionate and idealist individuals, young people could provide transformative change in societies by taking rights seriously.



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/19/10E