Hears a Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela
11 September 2018
The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on the oral update of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, which she presented on Monday, 10 September. The summary of the oral update can be read here.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council heard an address by Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, who reminded of the fate of Chile, a country with a beautiful socialist dream, which been subjected to economic sanctions and a coup d’état organized by the United States 45 years ago, leading to 17 years of dictatorship, suffering and torture. Nowadays, the United States continued to impede the dreams of Latin Americans. The Minister condemned the attack on and siege of Venezuela, and the unilateral coercive measures against it, leading to difficulties in procuring fundamental food stuffs and medicine for its people. The economic crisis had led to forced migration, which had in turn been used to tarnish the image of Venezuela. Mr. Arreaza rejected the reports of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein as biased against Venezuela. He expressed hope that the new High Commissioner would uphold her independence and mandate. Venezuela would not allow a repeat of what had happened 45 years ago in Chile.
In the general debate, speakers supported the High Commissioner’s call to the Human Rights Council to strive for more engagement and for solutions that were grounded in principle and in openness, in collective agreements and coordinated actions. Some said the United Nations and the Human Rights Council needed the High Commissioner’s strong voice advocating for the protection and promotion of human rights, and her courage and determination. Many speakers spoke about human rights violations in various countries and regions.
Speaking in the general debate were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, China on behalf of a group of countries, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Philippines on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Timor-Leste on behalf of a group of countries, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, Norway on behalf of a group of countries, Argentina on behalf of a group of countries, Luxembourg on behalf of a group of countries, Cuba on behalf of a group of countries, Senegal on behalf of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Morocco on behalf of a group of countries, Portugal on behalf of a group of countries, Qatar, Brazil, Germany, Tunisia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Japan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Mexico, Hungary, Ukraine, Egypt, Australia, Venezuela, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Chile, Ethiopia, Senegal, Belgium, Nepal, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, Croatia, Iceland, Ecuador, Nigeria, Slovakia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, China, Canada, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Montenegro, Maldives, Thailand, Paraguay, France, Singapore, Sweden, India, Namibia, Indonesia, Libya, Finland, UN Women, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Czechia, Zambia, Morocco, Latvia, Bolivia, Iran, El Salvador, Sudan, Benin, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Romania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Algeria, Bahrain, Serbia, Honduras, Albania, Colombia, Haiti, Guatemala, Greece, Armenia, Belarus, Poland, Ireland, Eritrea, Viet Nam, Yemen, Nicaragua, Oman, Lesotho, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Organization of American States, Lebanon, Portugal, Turkey, Mali, Uruguay, Uganda, Republic of Moldova, Kazakhstan, Bhutan, Gabon, Luxembourg, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, and Jordan.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Global Alliance of National Human Rights institutions, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil, Human Rights Watch (in a joint statement with several NGOs1), Franciscans International, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, International Service for Human Rights , International Association for Democracy in Africa, Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship, American Association of Jurists (in a joint statement with several NGOs2), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers (in a joint statement with several NGOs3), Iraqi Development Organization, International Commission of Jurists, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, Alsalam Foundation, Center for Environmental and Management Studies, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, African Green Foundation International, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, World Environment and Resources Council, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, United Villages , Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Muslim Congress, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme, China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), International-Lawyers.Org, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP), World Barua Organization, International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, International Muslim Women's Union, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Le Pont, World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations, ABC Tamil Oli, Association for the Victims of the world, International Solidarity for Africa, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH), International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social (in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Le Pont and Tourner la page), Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Ius Primi Viri International Association, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand,, Women's International Democratic Federation, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, World Evangelical Alliance, iuventum e.V., Health and Environment Program (HEP), African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, "Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud ( C.D.P-C.E.N.S), Association Dunenyo , Africa Culture International, Victorious Youths Movement, Women's Human Rights International Association, International Bar Association, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, World Peace Council, L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, United Nations Watch, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) and Barzani Charity Foundation / BCF.
The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s final report on Burundi.
Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela
JORGE ARREAZA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, reminded that a country with a beautiful socialist dream had been subjected to economic sanctions by the United States 45 years ago. He was referring to Chile – not Venezuela - where a fascist coup d’état organized by the Central Intelligence Agency had led to 17 years of dictatorship, suffering and torture. Nowadays, the United States continued to impede the dreams of Latin Americans. This generation grew up under the fear that they would run the same risk as Chile had 45 years ago. Mr. Arreaza condemned the attack and siege of Venezuela, as well as the unilateral coercive measures against it. Those measures made it difficult for Venezuela to procure fundamental food stuffs and medicine for its people. Thousands of millions of dollars were needed to ensure that all Venezuelans were vaccinated. Venezuelans had lost some 100 million dollars in banks in Switzerland. In addition, recently, there had been an assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro and some military officials. The plot had been planned in Miami in the United States.
The economic crisis had led to forced migration, which had in turn been used to tarnish the image of Venezuela. The Government had in place a programme called “Return to the Homeland” to achieve the return of its citizens. Mr. Arreaza rejected the reports of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which had always been biased against Venezuela. He expressed hope that the new High Commissioner would uphold her independence and mandate. The Human Rights Council could count on the full cooperation of Venezuela and President Maduro. The Council had to reject unilateral coercive measures against any country. Venezuela had a complete and full social protection system. Healthcare was free of charge for all despite the difficulty of having trained medical doctors. Education was free of charge for everyone, and the Government had built thousands of housing units. Unemployment was below 6 per cent, and despite the crisis food had been provided to some six million homes. Lastly, President Maduro, in spite of the sanctions and pressures, had undertaken economic recovery efforts. Venezuela would not allow a repeat of what had happened 45 years ago in Chile.
General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said human rights violations warranted focused attention. The Organization hoped that the new High Commissioner would carry out the duties of the Office with greater transparency, while including a more diverse workforce. The situation of refugees and internally displaced persons was deeply worrying for the Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, especially the long-term social consequences. They regretted the negative narrative against Muslims and discriminatory immigration policies. Such policies fed the extremist narrative on both sides.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, extended their hand to bolster the protection of human rights in the Arab world as well as globally. The Arab Group felt it necessary to continue to work with States to make sure that human rights were protected through technical cooperation. They continued to believe that the specific nature of each country should be taken into account when speaking about human rights. This concept would require a broader vision that guaranteed a full idea of human rights.
China, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the respect of sovereignty and territories was crucial to the human rights of each country. The group of countries hoped that the High Commissioner would work in an impartial and objective manner. The work of women was very important as well, with consensus as a platform for communication rather than conflict. In addition, facilitating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda needed to be a priority and technical assistance for human rights interventions was an area requiring attention.
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, agreed on the need to defend the universality of all human rights. The will to strengthen a constructive engagement with Member States was stated on both bilateral and multilateral human rights issues. The Non-Aligned Movement was concerned about severe acts of discrimination against many religions and widespread violations of rights, in the context of counter terrorism. The Movement also voiced concern about the human rights violations in Palestine by Israel.
United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, spoke about the need to quicken the pace regarding resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka. Concerns were voiced over the recent reports of harassment of and attacks on human rights defenders. The Group believed that a determined leadership and a clear time bound action plan could help Sri Lanka and its people move forward towards reconciliation and posterity.
Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said they had already voiced concerns about the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and reminded the Council that Venezuelans were continuing to flee their country, 1.2 million to date. The Group stressed the serious nature of the situation in Venezuela. It was vital for the Council should take due note of the report on Venezuela.
Philippines, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, congratulated Michelle Bachelet on her appointment as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, noting that she could count on the Association’s full support. The Association hoped that in her mandate, the High Commissioner would uphold the principles of objectivity, dialogue, cooperation, and impartiality, and that she would equally focus on both civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, as all human rights were equal and had to be treated in a fair manner, bearing in mind country-specific contexts.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, firmly condemned all reprisals against human rights defenders, and welcomed reports on Venezuela, Nicaragua and on Kashmir. The European Union remained concerned about the situation in Cameroon, and threats against democracy in the Maldives. It was pleased with democratic progress in Sri Lanka. However, it condemned the arrests of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Turkey’ restrictions on the freedom of expression, the excessive use of force in Haiti, restrictions of freedoms of expression and assembly in Tanzania, and the situation in Burundi.
Timor-Leste, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded that the human rights of the Sahrawi people and the humanitarian situation in the occupied, non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara remained of deep concern. The Group urged the High Commissioner to resume the technical missions to the two sides of the Western Sahara and to the refugee camps. It noted with concern that the Polisario Front, as well as the Sahrawi National Commission for Human Rights and the Sahrawi non-governmental organizations, were still waiting for the technical assistance and capacity building programme to be implemented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Uruguay, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the independence and commitment with which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continued its activities. They made an appeal to all States to remember the independence with which the High Commissioner needed to do her work. They also asked that Member States strengthen their support of the Office and that the Office continue to work with States in a transparent and objective manner. The worsening human rights situation around the world as well as budget cuts and limitations made the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights very difficult.
Norway, speaking on behalf of the UN70 Group, said they had a view to develop and reform the implementation of the United Nations Conventions. They said the world expected a strong voice and independent leadership from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with its mandate. There were many challenges ahead and they stressed the importance of collaboration with States, civil society and others. With partnerships in place, the UN70 Group, in conjunction with the United Nations, could ensure the human rights objectives for 2030 and they looked forward to working with the new High Commissioner.
Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, voiced their deep concern over the human rights situation in Nicaragua. In that regard, they wished to echo a demand for the immediate cessation of the use of force, illegal and arbitrary detention, denial of medical attention and criminalization of human rights defenders and students. They condemned the decision by the Nicaraguan Government, which demanded the expulsion of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and urged the Government to resume dialogue with all human rights mechanisms. Cooperation was the only way to achieve universal human rights.
Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reminded of the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute as a major step in fighting impunity. The International Criminal Court had played a pivotal role in prosecuting persons guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The fight against impunity was at the heart of the United Nations’ work. The Council played an essential role in promoting that battle. The International Criminal Court was the court of last resort and was not meant to replace national courts. It was a tool for strengthening national legal frameworks.
Cuba, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, restated its decision to build an international order that was multi-polar and that respected the principles of the United Nations Charter. The Group denounced attempts to destabilize Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the terrorist attack against Venezuelan President Maduro and senior officials of that country. It also condemned the unprecedented media campaign against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Those who promoted those campaigns used the issue of human rights in a selective and politicized manner.
Senegal, speaking on behalf of the Organisation International de la Francophonie, said it was convinced that the new High Commissioner would spare no effort to promote and protect human rights worldwide. The Organisation also thanked her predecessor for his courage and honesty in carrying out his mandate. It stressed the importance of its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the promotion of diversity in combatting all forms of discrimination, support for United Nations mechanisms, and protection of the rights of migrants. The Organisation called for the High Commissioner’s vigilance to matters related to multilingualism, which allowed it to play an active role in all of the human rights bodies.
Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, highlighted the importance of perceiving early warning signs and giving regular updates regarding atrocities. Serious violations of international law were being observed around the world. The Group stressed that denouncing mass atrocity crimes was not good enough, and it was necessary to prevent them from continuing. A more effective response regarding mass atrocity crimes was called for.
Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, shared the conviction that sterile dispute should be avoided within the Human Rights Council. The African Group stressed the importance of focusing on racist and xenophobic threats as a priority for the whole group. Economic inequalities should be combatted, in particular in relation to women’s rights. The African Group called for a larger reflection on the best way to prevent violations of human rights.
Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the Group sought ways to facilitate political solutions to a number of conflicts, rather than using violence. There was concern over the lack of discussion about the situation of human rights in the Sahara. Credible initiatives were called for to deal with this particular situation. Finally, the Group agreed that the Council must be used as a bilateral tool to promote constructive dialogue.
Portugal, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the important recommendations made by human rights defenders would only bear fruit when States were capable of implementing them domestically. That was why Portugal took the initiative to create a group of countries committed to raising awareness of that subject, attaching particular importance on national mechanisms for recommendations and reporting. The Group reminded Member States that a preventative agenda was synonymous with a human rights agenda. They affirmed their continued support for the Office and the work it was doing.
Qatar hoped that the High Commissioner would address human rights violations that had been affecting Qatar since the blockade started in June 2017, which was evident in the report of the technical team of the Office of the High Commissioner. The Office and the Council’s relevant mechanisms were urged to end those measures. As part of Qatar’s efforts to uphold human rights, a new law had been enacted that guaranteed expatriate workers the right to exit and leave the country without prior permission in an effort to provide them with better working conditions.
Brazil was convinced that the High Commissioner would make a great contribution to human rights despite challenging international circumstances. She was well versed in the challenges that States faced in realizing the rights of their people. Brazil was committed to halting human rights violations. Sustainable measures, capacity building and cooperation were critical to this effect. Brazil also condemned the worsening human rights situation in Nicaragua and expressed regret at the assassination of Raynéia Gabrielle Lima. Brazil urged the Nicaraguan Government to resume talks with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Germany said it would continue to be a strong supporter of the independent mandate of the High Commissioner and her Office. The strong leadership of the High Commissioner on defending and furthering universal human rights worldwide was needed as was the full cooperation of all States with her Office. Germany underlined the great value of all civil society actors and human rights defenders. They faced harsh reprisals in many places, such as in China, Egypt, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Tunisia congratulated Michelle Bachelet on her appointment as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and it agreed with her view that consensus and dialogue were key for strengthening the protection and defence of human rights worldwide. The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals was part and parcel of guaranteeing the full enjoyment of all human rights. Cooperation among all countries in the Human Rights Council was necessary to achieve the goals and to promote human rights.
Slovenia noted that the new High Commissioner took up office at a time of great challenges to the multilateral system. The United Nations should take advantage of the vast amount of information and knowledge of the High Commissioner’s Office and use it to the benefit of all. The United Nations and the Human Rights Council needed her strong voice advocating for the promotion and protection of human rights, and her courage and determination and proven true United Nations leadership in the past. Human rights should be addressed horizontally.
Switzerland said that the recent decision of Nicaragua to expel the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had created a challenge in the context in which human rights organizations were today both vital and under pressure. The necessity of cooperation was stressed. The violation of the human rights of Venezuelans had been observed and Switzerland called on the authorities to respect the right to a fair trial, to free political prisoners, as well as to peacefully conduct fair elections. The President of Congo was congratulated for his respect of the constitution during the last elections.
Republic of Korea shared the concern of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the retreat of democracy and good governance, worsening humanitarian situations and the displacement of countless people around the world. It recommended the States concerned to accept opposition in order to create a more resilient society. The protection of civil and political rights, especially freedom of expression, was at the heart of maintaining social integrity. The Republic of Korea congratulated Bangladesh for its assistance to the Rohingya refugees.
Mongolia stressed that it was not acceptable to choose among peoples’ inalienable rights. The promotion of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue. The commitment of Member States to the Human Rights Council was crucially important for the credibility of the Council. Strengthening the Council through the promotion of human rights was a priority, noticeably through cooperation with national human rights associations.
Saudi Arabia congratulated the High Commissioner on her appointment, adding that it was fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights, and that it was fully cooperating with human rights mechanisms. On the oral update of the High Commissioner, it noted that the mentioned arrests had no link to the opinions of the arrested persons. Those individuals would be tried fairly. Turning to the report of international experts on Yemen, Saudi Arabia stated that it was fallacious, and that Saudi Arabia would soon issue its own report on the crisis in Yemen, adding that the reasons behind the royal decree were not reflected in the High Commissioner’s oral update.
Pakistan shared the High Commissioner’s concern that the report on Kashmir had not been followed up with meaningful improvements or even open and serious discussions on how the grave issues raised could be addressed. It endorsed the High Commissioner’s call for the urgent implementation of the recommendations of the report. In that regard, Pakistan welcomed the report’s proposal to establish a commission of inquiry for international investigation into human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan was willing to allow any United Nations team to visit Azad Kashmir as long as it was able to visit Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Philippines reminded that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remained the most noble venture for mankind. It had borne great fruits for humanity and had inspired transformation in many societies, communities and mind-sets. It was the task of the international community to sustain that noble project and keep the light shining in all corners of the world. The Philippines supported the High Commissioner’s call to the Human Rights Council to strive for more engagement and for solutions that were grounded in principle and in openness, in collective agreements and coordinated actions.
United Arab Emirates thanked the High Commissioner for her wish to pursue efforts to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which would require technical assistance and capacity building, but with a priority on technical assistance. An evaluation of the Universal Periodic Review to improve working methods would be of great global interest. Coordinated efforts and working hand in hand with other States was critical to maintaining respect for human rights while avoiding conflict and confrontation. The Human Rights Council should not be used as a political tool and the United Arab Emirates asked that it continue to be used to serve the objectives it was created to serve.
Japan said that although the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was facing many challenges, they expected the new High Commissioner to demonstrate strong leadership in order to promote human rights throughout the world. Japan would assist the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and would do its part to protect and promote human rights. As an Asia-Pacific country, Japan was concerned about the continued repression of people in the region, including human rights defenders and ethnic minorities. This year Japan would celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration Human Rights and they would hold an event to mark the milestone in December.
United Kingdom remained concerned about human rights violations in many countries in the world. They commended Bangladesh on their continued welcome to the Rohingya refugees but said that the country continued to place restrictions on the freedom of expression. Cambodia and the Maldives were also eroding democratic situations with particular hindrances to national elections. Viet Nam had imprisoned a number of bloggers and activists. The Philippines was urged to conduct thorough investigations into killings associated with the war on drugs.
Cuba called for the promotion of constructive dialogue in the area of human rights. Conflict resolution through diplomatic channels was stressed as a priority and it was important to contemplate each situation thoroughly. Cuba stressed the importance of objectivity at the Human Rights Council, and explained that the absence of partial discrimination between human rights questions was instrumental to ensure the Council’s credibility.
Mexico stated its awareness of the challenges to human rights in its own country and committed itself to follow the recommendations of the various mechanisms it had received. Concern was voiced over the situation of human rights in Nicaragua and Venezuela, including the 400 deaths of political protesters in Nicaragua. The decision to expel the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from Venezuela was regrettable, since two million people had already fled the country.
Hungary regretted the presence of half-truths in the report regarding Hungary. Hungary stressed that no one was held in transit zones, and that food was provided to persons who had already submitted their demand for refuge. Deliberately misleading migrants was not a humanitarian act in Hungary’s view. The need to stop illegal immigration and protect the borders was reiterated, by finding the causes of migration and providing assistance when needed.
Ukraine recalled that as a country where the Russian aggression had brought a serious deterioration of the human rights situation, it needed the involvement of all United Nations human rights mechanisms to address the problems. In 2014, Ukraine had invited the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission to follow the situation on the ground. Residents in the occupied areas of Donbas continued to suffer from indiscriminate shelling, anti-personnel mines, killings, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment. In Crimea, the Russian occupation authorities continued to disregard international law. Violations of the rights and fundamental freedoms of people living on the peninsula were widespread.
Egypt replied to the false allegations contained in the High Commissioner’s oral update. It was disappointing to see the High Commissioner misguidedly starting on the wrong foot and falling prey to the pseudo arguments propagated by certain well-known groups that shared malicious political agendas and interests. Egypt called for respect for the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the mandate of the High Commissioner. Choosing to speak on behalf of victims was double-edged, especially if the speaker confused the violators with the victims. It was even more dangerous when an international servant commented on the judiciary based on erroneous information and hearsay.
Australia welcomed the appointment of the new High Commissioner and called on all countries to avoid the disproportionate use of force during protests, including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. It voiced deep concern about the crackdown on protesters in Nicaragua, restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly in Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan, and repression of the opposition, media and civil society in Cambodia. Australia encouraged Bahrain not to place undue restrictions on political groups’ ability to participate in an inclusive political dialogue. It also voiced concern about continued targeting of certain groups in Myanmar, China and Pakistan.
Venezuela was confident in the new High Commissioner’s leadership and trusted that her contributions would ensure global respect for human rights. Venezuela assured its commitment to build a multi-polar world. These were increasingly hard times, with poverty, unemployment and inequality on the rise in the world and acting as great hindrances to development. Venezuela reiterated its full support for the Palestinian cause. Venezuela also reiterated the need for the Office of the High Commissioner to attach the same attention and resources to all human rights topics.
Democratic Republic of the Congo reassured their commitment to reporting to the Council the human rights situation in their country. Although there was a difference of opinion concerning the human rights situation in their country, they said that they would continue to fight for human rights for all. They wished to recognize the immense and complex challenges that would confront the new High Commissioner during her tenure. Her long experience in high ranking positions of State institutions would guarantee her success.
Georgia said that despite resolutions to address human rights issues in occupied areas of the country, efforts had fallen short. By constantly denying access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, occupied areas had worsening human rights situations. Ethnic discrimination and the brutal killing and detention of Georgians in those zones was worrying. Georgia pleaded that the Office of the High Commissioner be allowed to enter those regions to assess the situation. Georgia was greatly concerned about the state of human rights in Nicaragua as well as the occupied regions of Ukraine.
Iraq welcomed the appointment of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights. Iraq had waged a war for many years against ISIS and had been able to defeat them, defending not only Iraq but also the entire humanity and its values, in a battle endorsed by the United Nations. Concerning the recent events in Basra, Iraq said the Government was undertaking all measures to protect the constitutional freedoms of citizens, ensuring the right to freedom of assembly. The High Commissioner, however, had failed to condemn the violence that followed the protests. The acts of violence had been condemned by the Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, who had urged the Government to preserve order.
Chile welcomed the new High Commissioner, the former President of Chile. Her appointment was a recognition of Chile’s efforts in promoting human rights. The statement of the High Commissioner recalled the responsibility of all States to put to an end human rights abuses occurring worldwide. Multilateralism was necessary to move forward towards gender equality and the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda. In Venezuela, the humanitarian situation was critical and it was causing a migration crisis. Nicaragua had seen a drastic deterioration of human rights.
Ethiopia said its long-standing cooperation with the United Nations mechanisms was based on the strong history of international cooperation and multilateralism. Ethiopia continued to contribute to the promotion of human rights and was cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as demonstrated during the visit of the previous High Commissioner. A memorandum of understanding had been signed to host a regional office in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia was hosting refugees from the region while struggling with its own internally displaced persons who were displaced by the drought.
Senegal recognized the High Commissioner’s attachment to multilateralism. The engagement of States to human rights was essential. The mobilization of everyone was called for to deal with migration, the rise of violent extremism and climate change. The report showed the extent of efforts that remained to be made in relation to human rights. The persistence of conflicts among civilian populations must lead the international community to intensify its action and to work on the elimination of conflicts in the world.
Belgium was concerned about the number of journalists and human rights defenders in detention, and the allegations of torture in Turkey. Saudi Arabia’s enduring repression of human rights, and in particular women’s rights, undermined the credibility of the reformation process. The contribution of civil society to the bettering of human rights was essential. Concern was voiced over the large-scale use of the death penalty in Egypt since the fight against terrorism did not allow a State to forget its obligations to protect human rights.
Nepal stated the need to reflect on the universality, indivisibility and independence of all human rights. The need to develop a culture of respect for the protection of human rights for all was evoked. Nepal believed that the right to development should be taken up on an equal footing with civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other rights. Nepal insisted on its efforts to build on its newly achieved political stability to realize the prosperity and happiness of all its citizens. Cooperation between States was instrumental to the promotion of human rights globally.
South Africa welcomed High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, noting that she had lived the experience of what it meant to not have human rights. South Africa supported her clear commitment to dialogue and understanding that certain circumstances required that countries dialogued and explored all means possible to defuse tensions and through consensus find appropriate ways to prevent human rights abuses and to defend human rights. It was imperative that the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supported the efforts of the African Union mechanisms to ensure traction in resolving conflict situations on the continent.
Côte d’Ivoire was delighted to work with the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, and shared her general evaluation of the state of human rights in the world. It called on the international community to invest further in conflict prevention initiatives. The disastrous situation of refugees, internally displaced persons, and migrants around the world was of particular concern for Côte d’Ivoire, and it called on the Human Rights Council to respect their rights and preserve their dignity. Côte d’Ivoire further invited the Council to adopt a proactive approach vis-à-vis conflicts and invited countries to strengthen their actions to safeguard the human rights of their citizens, including the right to development.
Spain reiterated its support for the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Human Rights Council should overcome the artificial distinction between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand. Spain energetically condemned any attacks against civil society, and it reaffirmed its principled opposition to the imposition of the death penalty under any circumstances. Spain further underlined the importance of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Croatia noted many worrying trends regarding civil society, including funding cuts and restrictive regulative frameworks holding back their capacities. Cases of reprisals against human rights defenders were documented in 29 countries last year. Croatia condemned the decision of Nicaragua to expel the team of the Office of the High Commissioner from the country. The situation in Venezuela was appalling, pointing to the prosecution of civilians by military crimes. In Myanmar evidence was found of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by military forces in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
Iceland stressed that as a new member of the Council, it would seem logical that States siting on the Council would be the first among equals in their contribution to human rights promotion and protection. However, that was not the case and countries such as the Philippines, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were members of the Council although their human rights record had been far from exemplary. Member States, not least those elected to the Council, had to implement human rights commitments they had made and they all had to hold each other accountable when need be.
Ecuador said that the work of the Office of the High Commissioner had to be bolstered to achieve social justice and sustainable peace. As flagged in the report of the High Commissioner, the protection of human rights was an integral part of the United Nations mandate and victims of human rights abuses had to be protected. The situation in Venezuela had caused mass emigration and Ecuador had convened the first regional meeting to address the challenges. The decision of Nicaragua to withdraw the invitation to the Office of the High Commissioner was regrettable.
Nigeria invited the global community to recognize that the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms were key to the achievement of international peace and security. The principle of international cooperation was emphasized as an imperative to ensure the respect of the principles of universality and transparency, and the respect for sovereign equality between nations. It reaffirmed its determination to tackling the challenges caused by Boko Haram. Nigeria looked forward to the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration as a way of alleviating the human rights abuses of migrants.
Slovakia said that the existence of countless victims of human rights abuses was still a persistent and major issue. Prevention and mediation were deemed as the only viable solution to protect human rights globally. Attempts to preventing conflicts must have human rights at their heart. Syria was a concern for Slovakia. It was also preoccupied about the situation of fleeing people in Venezuela and Nicaragua, whose seriousness called for the action of the Council.
Afghanistan echoed the concerns of the High Commissioner regarding the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The necessity to find and achieve a peaceful solution to the armed conflict was an inevitable priority. The establishment of the Independent Human Rights Commission in Afghanistan, dedicated to the protection of human rights, had been acknowledged as a unique commission in the region for its concerns and its scope. Afghanistan thanked the United Nations for the help it had lent in the creation of the commission.
Rwanda said that it had high expectations of the new High Commissioner, considering her background as a victim of human rights abuses. Rwanda was convinced that she would be able to integrate all dimensions and to strike the right balance between diverse objectives of the collective agenda in order to promote and protect human rights. Rwanda shared the history of oppression, discrimination and gross violations of human rights with the High Commissioner’s country. For those reasons, it shared her conviction that cooperation between all actors through multilateral institutions was the best way forward.
China expressed hope that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would adhere to the principles of national sovereignty, impartiality and objectivity. China had adopted a people-centred approach to the promotion of human rights. Each country could find an appropriate way to promote human rights. Imposing one’s own standards and politicizing human rights could only lead to problems. Social and long-term stability were in line with the people’s wishes in China. China was a country of the rule of law where crimes were punished in line with the law.
Canada said that Member States were fortunate to have a High Commissioner with experience both as a human rights defender and as a national leader implementing human rights obligations as part of the effective management of a twenty-first century country. High Commissioner Bachelet brought a strong voice for human rights and accountability, when the need for such voices had never been greater. The Human Rights Council had to play its part by bringing to light human rights concerns and holding those responsible to account. Canada agreed with the High Commissioner that upholding human rights was in the interest of every country, as human rights, economic development and security were mutually supporting.
Estonia welcomed the High Commissioner and said it strongly supported the independence and integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner that was of utmost importance for the effective realization of human rights around the world. It was important for the international community, including the Council, to take a firm stance against the silencing and crackdown on dissenting voices from civil society and the opposition, including allowing their participation in the work of the Council. Countries were called to cooperate with the Council.
Liechtenstein said that the Council was established to address gross and systematic human rights violations. The High Commissioner was commended for her call for accountability for atrocity crimes committed in Myanmar and Syria. Concerns were shared about the ongoing military operations in Idlib province and their impact on almost three million civilians who lived there. Findings of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar were appalling and there had to be an imperative for justice in Myanmar so a follow-up mechanism had to be established and the leadership of the European Union in that regard was commended.
Lithuania congratulated the High Commissioner for her appointment and said that the President of Lithuania had carried out joint actions and initiatives with the High Commissioner in the past, all aiming to achieve women’s empowerment. Lithuania, a candidate for the Human Rights Council membership, pledged full support to the activities carried out by the Council in the future and wished courage and success to the High Commissioner in her future work
Russian Federation welcomed the new High Commissioner, adding that her experience would allow her to strike the right balance in protecting human rights and respecting national sovereignty. Interference in States’ internal affairs was unacceptable and contrary to the United Nations Charter. The Russian Federation would welcome the High Commissioner depoliticizing the work of the Human Rights Council, and it called on her to further topics on the right to development, economic and social rights, and combatting racism and resurgence of Nazism.
Kuwait was confident that the new High Commissioner’s experience would strengthen the work of her Office, and it looked forward to supporting the tasks of her Office. Kuwait condemned all forms of extremism and supported all efforts to promote tolerance and principles of peace. Kuwait worked hard to preserve human rights in line with legislation that was compatible with international law and local culture.
Montenegro welcomed the High Commissioner’s commitment to keep victims of human rights violations at the centre of her activities. It recognized that cooperation between all actors, good governance, openness, and striving for consensus were key for achieving that goal. Montenegro called on all Member States of the Human Rights Council to cooperate with the High Commissioner’s Office, and it remained strongly committed to the promotion of human rights and freedoms.
Maldives stated that the oral update of the High Commissioner highlighted the most critical issues that the international community had to address collectively. The Government of Maldives was confident that the Council and its mechanisms could bring credible, impartial and non-selective focus upon the rights and voices of victims around the world. The long-standing and constructive relationship between Maldives and the Office of the High Commissioner was stressed and the Council was informed about upcoming presidential elections in Maldives, which would be conducted in a free and fair manner.
Thailand stressed that it was important to look across borders to promote multilateralism and work in a cooperative spirit to overcome challenges. In that spirit, Thailand and the core group would table the annual resolution under agenda item 10 with a focus on the rights of older persons. Additionally, States had to look across pillars by building on the complementarities and synergies of human rights, sustainable development, as well as peace and security to maximize limited resources and achieve the goal of leaving no one behind. Partnerships with civil society, the private sector, academia and youth were encouraged.
Paraguay applauded the tireless fight of the High Commissioner which would assist her in promoting human rights worldwide and reiterated its commitment to multilateralism. Capacity building and technical assistance needed to be stepped up in order to follow up on human rights recommendations. Paraguay echoed the concern of the High Commissioner on the grave human rights situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Cases of deaths in Venezuela related to malnutrition and arbitrary arrest were concerning.
France reiterated its continuing solidarity with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It pointed out grave human rights violations in Syria, Yemen and “Burma”. France also noted the situation of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans in exile and said that the Government needed to accept international aid and restore democracy in the country. France also called on Nicaragua to halt arbitrary arrests and repression.
Singapore said that although Singapore was not a Human Rights Council member, it continued to contribute in concrete ways to support small States and the sharing of best practices. Singapore had contributed to various trust funds with the goal of aiding technical assistance processes in line with needs established by the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review. They also played a leading role in the Forum of Small States in Geneva.
Sweden thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for the significant work done in the field of human rights. Mainstreaming human rights throughout the entire United Nations system and in all three pillars was of vital importance. Sweden hoped that Human Rights Up Front would be increasingly emphasized to strengthen links between Geneva and New York. They added that although human rights were under pressure, with a strong and collective voice, those rights could be protected across the globe.
India underlined that all human rights were universal and inalienable, and that it saw the world as one family with ethos of openness and respect for diversity, co-existence and cooperation. It added that India’s institutions were capable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the vast and thriving milieu of people in the country. In today’s challenging times, it was important that human rights issues were addressed constructively. India regretted that the oral update made reference to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, adding that terrorism was the biggest scourge and the greatest violator of human rights.
Namibia agreed that the Human Rights Council should not pick and choose from among people’s inalienable rights because they built on each other. It asked the High Commissioner whether she was aware of the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake technical missions to the two sides of the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara and to the refugee camps every six months. If yes, and since no such mission had been undertaken since 2015, Namibia asked about the intentions of the High Commissioner to undertake such missions and to establish a relevant technical assistance and capacity building programme.
Indonesia said that it expected the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue upholding the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, and to foster closer interaction with States and regional groups on the basis of genuine dialogue and cooperation. It also expected that equal emphasis should be given to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. The High Commissioner should further facilitate and promote the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She should also strengthen her Office’s regional offices and ensure the enhancement of technical assistance and capacity building.
Libya welcomed the new High Commissioner and her oral update, saying that it had hoped that the High Commissioner was aware that Libya was investing efforts to combat terrorism in the country. Therefore, Libya should not be held accountable for what was happening, particularly at the time when Libya was sympathizing with the plight of migrants trying to reach the European shores. The problems of migrants had to be resolved in a cooperative manner.
Finland was certain that as a former Executive Director for UN Women, the High Commissioner would no doubt be a champion for gender equality. The work of the High Commissioner and her Office’s independent mandate were strongly supported. Since the Office played an important role in conveying information from rights holders, the decision of Nicaragua to terminate the presence of the Office visiting in the country was regrettable. The Office’s efforts to gain access to separatist regions of Georgia and Ukraine were appreciated and concern was raised over the situations in Burundi, Cambodia, Philippines and Venezuela.
UN Women expressed a warm welcome to UN Women’s very own first Executive Director in her new role as High Commissioner. The Office of the High Commissioner’s increased efforts to promote women’s rights through the Geneva-based human rights mechanisms were welcomed. UN Women and the Office shared a common vision to strengthen the “We the peoples” mandate of the United Nations, ensuring the full engagement of civil society in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Global progress on gender equality continued to depend on contributions of women human rights defenders.
Denmark welcomed the report on human rights and young people, which documented the challenges and discriminatory practices faced by young people around the world. Denmark saw the youth agenda as a human rights agenda, however, many limitations were put on young people’s ability to take part in politics and public decision-making. They were not just beneficiaries but rather partners and leaders of societal development.
Netherlands regretted that discussions in the Council had become increasingly politicized and polarised. They said that the High Commissioner had the task to build constructive partnerships with States, civil society and others, but also to be critical, principled and courageous. The Netherlands asked the High Commissioner to continue to guarantee the independence and integrity of her Office and offered their fullest support in this regard.
Migration remained at the top of Italy’s human rights and humanitarian agenda. They advocated for an effective international governance of migration, based on the principles of shared responsibility and partnership among countries of origin, transit and destination. Italy continued to rescue migrants at sea and their integrated approach to migration management had led to a significant decline in the number of shipwrecked victims.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regretted some stereotyped references made on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the High Commissioner’s oral update. It expressed hope that the new High Commissioner and her Office would faithfully observe impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in all future activities, and that they would refrain from biased and confrontational approaches. It remained committed to genuine dialogue and cooperation, and it strongly rejected politicization, selectivity and double standards in the field of human rights, as well as politicized resolutions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Syria stated that it was ready to cooperate with the new High Commissioner and it trusted that her approach would lead to enhanced technical assistance and capacity building programmes. The new High Commissioner should move away from politicization and polarization. The consensus in the Human Rights Council required respect for all human rights and an approach that was different from the one pursued vis-à-vis Venezuela and Nicaragua. Syria was determined to liberate Idlib from terrorists and its Government was striving to promote reconciliation.
Czechia said that as a candidate country for membership in the Human Rights Council, it pledged to continue close cooperation with the High Commissioner and her Office, to advocate for the Office’s independence and impartiality, and to support the Office with voluntary financial contributions. Czechia was pleased that the High Commissioner acknowledged the importance of people’s right to participate in decisions that affected them. It was assured that the High Commissioner would be consistent in condemning reprisals against those who cooperated with human rights mechanisms.
Morocco stressed its determined support to assist in carrying out the mandate of the High Commissioner, aiming to bolster the promotion of human rights worldwide. Morocco was fully committed to an inclusive approach providing assistance to all, including migrants. Gender equality, as a crosscutting issue, was affecting all States, so Morocco was working on promoting and enhancing it. In fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals, Morocco was particularly working on children’s rights.
Latvia highly valued the High Commissioner’s commitment to be the voice and defender of all human rights. Latvia strongly believed that civil society played a vital role in promoting and protecting human rights. Continuous attempts in some countries to restrict the activities of human rights defenders and limit their rights through intimidation, harassment, arrests as well as reprisals were alarming. Although women’s rights were at the heart of the Council’s work, millions of women around the world continued to experience discrimination and much remained to be done to ensure the right of every woman to live equally.
Myanmar believed that universality, transparency, objectivity and non-selectivity had to be the guiding principles of the work of the Council. Hope was expressed that Myanmar could renew cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner under the new leadership in a constructive manner. The challenges that Myanmar was facing were daunting. The fact-finding report was detrimental to social cohesion in Rakhine state and was undermining the Government’s efforts to bring peace, national reconciliation and development to the entire nation.
Bolivia stressed the importance of protecting all human rights. Cooperation and solidarity were critical aspects of the promotion of human rights and promoting universal citizenship. Bolivia attached fundamental importance to the protection of human rights, which was enshrined in their Constitution; their goal was to protect those who were vulnerable as well as to live well and at one with mother earth.
Iran agreed with the High Commissioner’s remarks on the importance of strengthening the multilateralism dialogue. The Council was well aware that Iran was facing unlawful sanctions by the United States. That move was in direct violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution and was categorically illegitimate, unlawful and unjust. Iran urged other human rights mechanisms to live up to their duties by denouncing such violations.
El Salvador said that all actions taken by the High Commissioner in promoting the fostering of human rights needed to take into account the different realities in the world’s societies, including legal systems and traditions. The High Commissioner’s report had to be aligned with those realities while promoting the space for dialogue and interpreting a historic reality in each specific country.
Sudan warmly welcomed the new High Commissioner and wished her the best of success at a time of great challenges for human rights. Sudan noted that double standards and politicization needed to be avoided. Being in a post-conflict situation, Sudan required a greater understanding on the part of the international community. There were pockets where rebels committed human rights abuses.
Benin congratulated Michelle Bachelet on her appointment as High Commissioner for Human Rights, and supported her preventive approach towards human rights violations. It shared her concerns about migration and the democracy crisis. That debate had to be taken further in the Human Rights Council in order to reduce differences and find remedies. The international community had to remain mobilized and act in solidarity when faced with that issue.
Costa Rica was pleased that a Latin American woman occupied the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her personal and national experience would help countries move to new horizons in the defence of human rights. As a former Head of State, the High Commissioner knew about the challenges that lay ahead. Costa Rica raised concern about the worrying situations in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council to take appropriate action.
Bangladesh said that the High Commissioner regretfully mentioned without context the students’ road safety movement. Their protest had generated huge support, including from the Government. The Government had taken immediate action to ensure justice, compensate victims and fulfil the demands of the students. Initially peaceful, the protests had turned violent when political opportunists infiltrated them. Rumours were spread in social media to turn the peaceful protests into an anti-government political movement to destabilize the country ahead of general elections.
Romania said that the Council had to remain the most important body to foster international cooperation with a view to promoting human rights at all levels. Full support to the independence of the High Commissioner was reiterated. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law were effective tools in preventing hate, extremism and discrimination. The forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which would be organized in November, would offer relevant stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the role of parliaments as promoters of human rights and hopefully it would strengthen the preventive role of the Council.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that the job of the High Commissioner was perhaps the hardest in the United Nations system. During times when human rights were under increasing pressure, the Office of the High Commissioner had the critical task of continuing the open and frank dialogue with the Council to advance an ever-stronger global human rights framework. The High Commissioner’s statement on the need to promote more multilateralism, more cooperation, more dialogue, more consensus and more coordinated action was reiterated.
Algeria shared the concern on the ongoing humanitarian rights violations in Israeli-occupied Palestine. They also reminded the Council about human rights violations that persisted in Western Sahara. The Office of the High Commissioner had reaffirmed its cooperation with the Security Council on the question of human rights in this region. Algeria asked the High Commissioner to exploit the results of a 2015 mission to ensure that the rights of people in this area were protected.
Bahrain wished the best of luck to the High Commissioner in her new post. Their delegation had listened with great interest to the statement made by the High Commissioner and in particular, her vision concerning development, peace and a human rights focus. Bahrain shared that harmonious view and agreed with the High Commissioner that there were broad challenges facing the world at the moment; cooperation was critical for guaranteeing human rights for all.
Serbia was encouraged by the High Commissioner’s statement that indicated a strong commitment and spirit of sincere cooperation during her term. Serbia had also shown through its measures and legislative acts a commitment to achieving required human rights standards and believed that respecting its obligations as set out by the international community would lead to greater prosperity. They would continue on that course.
Honduras expressed hope that the experience of the new High Commissioner would help countries address human rights problems on the ground. Honduras was committed to multilateralism, dialogue and cooperation. Defending human rights was the primary responsibility of each State, but it was also a legitimate concern of the international community and in that context the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played a key role. Honduras agreed with the High Commissioner that it was necessary to create new strategies and solid ways to prevent human rights abuses.
Albania affirmed its full support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that it looked to the new High Commissioner for strong, principled, courageous and always independent leadership to assist States in fulfilling their human rights obligations. Albania noted its support for human rights defenders, those from the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in particular, and it welcomed the High Commissioner’s intention to continue to be the voice of the voiceless.
Colombia noted that currently the promotion and protection of human rights at the global level was an unprecedented challenge. All States had human rights challenges, but Colombia was particularly concerned about the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua. It was confident that the new High Commissioner would positively contribute to the re-establishment of conditions in those countries which would lead to the full protection of the human rights of their citizens.
Haiti paid tribute to the brave work of the previous High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. In recent years, the Council had regularly monitored the situation in Haiti and numerous recommendations had been issued and fulfilled by the Government, in spite of the numerous challenges that the country faced, including the riots, which had been occurring since last July.
Guatemala seized the opportunity to welcome the new High Commissioner, reiterating its commitment to work together with the Office of the High Commissioner. Referring to the High Commissioner’s report, the Government of Guatemala wished to inform the Council that the International Commission against Impunity had been set up on the request of the Government. After 12 years, the technical competences of the Commission had to be transferred to Guatemalan institutions. Guatemala was not going to request the extension of the Commission.
Greece was convinced that in order to ensure the protection of all human rights, it was of crucial importance to ensure that those bringing human rights abuses to light had to be adequately protected and their voices heard. Greece would continue to promote relevant initiatives such as the resolution on the safety of journalists. Greek people and the Government had been making constant efforts to alleviate the suffering of refugees and offering protection, but there was a need for responsibility and burden sharing, as was the basic principle of the two Global Compacts.
Armenia said that in the light of recent political developments in Armenia and their positive impact, Armenia reiterated its strong commitment to the rule of law, democratic principles, the fight against corruption, and the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people. Armenia valued and appreciated its close cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, particularly after the closure of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Belarus said that the mechanisms of cooperation and open dialogue were lacking in the entire international system. Belarus asked that those and other mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, be reviewed. They questioned the productiveness of the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare country reports without the full cooperation of the governments concerned, which was the case in Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Poland strongly supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and was pleased that in this challenging time, a person with such a long record of the promotion of human rights was appointed to this Office. Poland expressed its solidarity and cooperation to help the High Commissioner fulfil her mandate and congratulated her wholeheartedly upon her appointment.
Ireland stated that multilateralism was under threat. Human rights abuses should remain at the heart of the concerns of the United Nations, since it was central to the achievement of peace and security, and to the Sustainable Development Goals. The rule based system needed the whole support and active protection of the Human Rights Council.
Eritrea perceived concrete developments in the treatment of human rights issues. However, it voiced some concerns about the daunting challenges which currently weighed over the world. Cases of discrimination based on xenophobia and intolerance were increasing at a rate never seen before. To combat these, Eritrea praised the institutions in place to defend inherent human rights, such as the Human Rights Council itself.
Viet Nam encouraged the High Commissioner to aid the strengthening of the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in dealing with human rights issues. The principles of mutual respect and the celebration of differences between countries and the international community was also promoted. Viet Nam found it regrettable that a few delegations should spread groundless and unverified allegations against other countries. Viet Nam advised them to take care of their own affairs before all.
Yemen congratulated the High Commissioner for her appointment and assured the readiness of Yemen to cooperate. Concerning the report, tragic conditions, stemming from the coup d’état in Yemen several years ago, were acknowledged. However, the report was full of shortcomings and was not balanced; it offered a biased view and was taking sides with the Houthis. The Government had submitted many comments and corrections to the report demonstrating biases and inaccuracies.
Nicaragua welcomed the High Commissioner and expressed hope it would be possible to work together without any biases. It was important for the international community to understand what was happening internally and to avoid rushed declarations. Appropriate language had to be used. Nicaragua rejected the statements that some countries wanted to impose on the brotherly country of Venezuela. They reeked of double standards. Nicaragua was a peace loving country, although sometimes foreign influences called for hatred.
Oman welcomed the High Commissioner, saying it was a difficult time of escalating conflicts and hatred across the globe, and hope was expressed that the High Commissioner would carry out her mandate admirably. Oman shared the High Commissioner’s view that international peace and security could only be achieved through the advancement of human rights, without politicization or selectivity. The Palestinian cause had to be at the forefront of the international scene as it had consequences not only for the region, but also for human rights worldwide.
Lesotho stressed that protracted conflicts disproportionally affected women and children. Those conflicts, they continued, needed to be resolved to safeguard the dignity and worth of the human being. States needed to cooperate at the international level to guarantee human rights and Lesotho was committed to this guarantee. In that vein, comprehensive domestic reforms would upgrade Lesotho’s legislation to be in line with international standards.
Botswana stood ready to support the High Commissioner in the execution of her onerous mandate. Solutions to the complex global challenges would require concerted efforts rather than a monopoly of ideas. Botswana appreciated the High Commissioner’s charge to overcome divisions and tear down walls that kept the world segregated. They agreed that by looking further than common borders, the power of shared diversity would allow the world to overcome its greatest hurdles.
Azerbaijan said that the plight of millions of internally displaced persons and refugees as victims of protracted armed conflicts necessitated more focused and efficient actions by the United Nations. At the last Human Rights Council, the delegation of Azerbaijan gave a statement underlining their expectations of the new High Commissioner. They added that they had made a voluntary contribution to support the Office’s advisory services and technical cooperation.
Jamaica was confident that the High Commissioner would be true to her resolve in her report, and would be able to be the voice and strong defender of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people. Jamaica encouraged the High Commissioner to work towards increasing the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to verify reports of human rights abuses, and to be agile enough to respect varying legal, cultural and political systems, and to interpret and promote human rights in a manner that was truly universal.
Organization of American States wished to refer to the grave human rights situation in Nicaragua. According to the Commission’s findings, since the outbreak of protests, 323 people had been killed, out of which 23 adolescents and children. People had been arrested and criminally tried for their participation in protests. Doctors had been subject to reprisals because they had been assisting the wounded. The Commission report demonstrated all of the figures. The decision of the Government to reject the invitation of the Office of the High Commissioner was regrettable.
Lebanon congratulated the High Commissioner for her appointment and said that due to her proven diplomatic achievements, it was looking forward to the smooth delivery of her mandate, based on the respect of sovereignty of countries. Lebanon expressed its hope for constructive dialogue with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was much needed at such dire times. Lebanon was committed to cooperation and was delivering reports regularly and working together with all mandate holders.
Portugal highlighted the trying times now in place in the world. It evoked the ongoing possibility of genocide, wars during which nothing was off limits, and the dangerous resurgence of nationalism. These challenging times called for a brave response from the High Commissioner. Portugal considered itself as a friend and an active promotor of all rights, including economic and social rights, and it voiced its will to participate and collaborate with the Human Rights Council to defend and preserve them.
Turkey ensured its full compliance with its international obligations. The state of emergency that was declared right after the terrorist coup attempt of 15 July 2016 had been terminated. This event was perceived as an opportunity to further the development of fundamental rights and freedoms. Turkey wanted to pursue the extensive reform process conducted since the beginning of 2000s, including some new efforts in the areas of the judiciary and fundamental rights. It reiterated the security threats that were still eminent to this day, which had led Turkey to continue its ongoing fight against terrorism. Finding a proper balance between freedom and security was deemed as a priority.
Mali expressed its satisfaction with the conduct of the general debate on the High Commissioner’s update. It agreed with the High Commissioner on the fact that the respect for human rights was necessary. It also stressed the responsibility that this respect brought, for all States needed to contemplate their respective obligations, both international and national. Mali consented to take note of the recommendations of the High Commissioner regarding the violence in the region of Menaka in the centre of Mali, which had led the Malian Government to open a judiciary inquiry.
Uruguay was concerned by the extreme political polarization currently plaguing many Latin American countries. The High Commissioner needed absolute independence to function. In that vein, Uruguay said that the expulsion of the Office during their visit to Nicaragua was troubling. The reactivation of an international dialogue to find a solution to that conflict was critical. Uruguay stressed that to promote and protect human rights, firm commitments needed to be made with regard to multilateralism.
Uganda looked forward to upholding universal human rights in conjunction with the new High Commissioner. In their view, strengthening national human rights institutions was of utmost importance in protecting those rights. Uganda expressed hope that technical cooperation would be a priority pillar of the Office of the High Commissioner. They concluded by expressing their gratitude to the outgoing High Commissioner for his tireless fight for human rights for all.
Republic of Moldova expressed their full support for the independence of the mandate of the High Commissioner. They agreed with the statement made by the High Commissioner that peace could only be attained when the dignity and equality of all human beings was advanced, achievable only by cooperation. In that vein, they stressed that the active engagement of civil society was paramount to the success of universal human rights.
Kazakhstan warmly congratulated the High Commissioner for her appointment and expressed hope that the Council would benefit from her experience in international relations as well as the United Nations system. Kazakhstan was fully cooperating with the United Nations system and was hoping to continue such cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including voluntary contributions provided by Kazakhstan for the implementation of the missions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Bhutan attached great importance to the universal values of human rights and the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Universal Periodic Review process was greatly valued, as it dispassionately reviewed the human rights situation in each country and encouraged all to ensure the full promotion of human rights. Though a small country, Bhutan attached great importance to cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which also played an important role in the provision of technical assistance and capacity building support to countries.
Gabon echoed tribute paid by other States to the previous High Commissioner for his tireless work and welcomed the new Commissioner. Gabon hoped that the new High Commissioner would achieve great success during her mandate, particularly having in mind her rich and substantive international cooperation. Hope was expressed that an enhanced gender approach would be brought to the United Nations system, as well as the Council, and Gabon was fully ready to cooperate on all relevant human rights related issues.
Luxembourg expressed best wishes to the High Commissioner on behalf of the Luxembourg Government. It shared the concerns of the High Commissioner concerning civil society repression and those defending human rights. The situation in Nicaragua, a country which Luxembourg had been cooperating with for years, was saddening and the Government was urged to return to dialogue and reconsider their decision to expel the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner. Luxembourg had full confidence that the new High Commissioner would meet the challenges.
Fiji noted the significance of the Least Developed Countries’ Trust Fund, administered by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and looked forward to its continuation and growth. Fiji reiterated its commitment to the vision of the Council and would continue to support its ongoing efforts to improve the lives of all persons under international and national law.
Vanuatu reminded the Council that during the last update, the former High Commissioner raised concerns that the Government of Indonesia’s invitation to visit Papua had not been honoured. The State then said that the Prime Minister of Vanuatu called on United Nations mechanisms to address the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua and to put an end to those ongoing crimes.
New Zealand looked forward to the new High Commissioner’s tenure. They encouraged her to be courageous, particularly on points concerning women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights, an issue that was of great societal importance to New Zealand. The protection of and education on those rights was critical to protecting the human rights of women and girls. New Zealand added their advocacy of the abolition of the death penalty and the promotion of the rights of the elderly.
Jordan said that many of the violations of the rights of Jordanians and others living in Jordan continued due to root causes that had gone unresolved despite a plethora of international resolutions from many United Nations bodies. For Palestinians, it would require ending the occupation and establishing a viable Palestinian State; for other States, it meant supporting ongoing international efforts while respecting sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions stated that recent years had shown the importance of the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as an outspoken champion for human rights. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions looked forward to pursuing its unique relationship with the High Commissioner. It reasserted its vocation as an advocate for the creation, development and protection of independent and effective national human rights institutions worldwide in accordance with the Paris Principles.
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil mentioned the thousands of victims of crimes against humanity due to drugs and human trafficking in Mexico, according to the High Commissioner’s report. Disappearances and murders were ongoing, while victims who continued to ask for justice remained and were not given any satisfaction. The Comision asked for the establishment of an international, independent and public organization to fight against impunity in Mexico.
Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said that on every continent, human rights were being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with impunity. The role of the Office of the High Commissioner in ensuring robust monitoring and reporting was essential in curbing and deterring violations and ensuring justice and accountability. Technical assistance and capacity building were also critical.
Franciscans International was extremely concerned by the situation in the countries in which it worked. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the conditions for the organization of free, credible and peaceful elections had not been met. In the Philippines, the cases of extrajudicial killings linked to the policy on war on drugs as well as the impunity for perpetrators continued to take place.
International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) reiterated calls and commitments laid out in the joint letter addressed by over 700 civil society organizations worldwide. With regard to Sri Lanka, the slow pace and the contradictory statements made by the highest authorities were concerning. The Government had to walk the talk to realise reconciliation, accountability and human rights across all communities in the country.
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausaliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco noted that youth involvement was the driving force towards a more sustainable future and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda. That implied the empowerment of young people so that they could fully exercise their human rights and assume their leadership roles and responsibility in society.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture welcomed the High Commissioner’s statement tackling the human rights situation in Bahrain. They hoped that the High Commissioner would make the human rights situation in Bahrain a priority. After listening to their Universal Periodic Review, they hoped Bahrain would bring about real political reform.
International Service for Human Rights said that all people sought a common agenda in a sustainable and peaceful world. Human rights defenders made that truth a reality and ensured the security of healthcare, jobs, a clean environment and education. The High Commissioner’s update identified several countries where human rights defenders were not living in security. Protecting them should be of utmost priority to the Council.
International Association for Democracy in Africa expressed their concern about continued forced marriages in Pakistan. Young brides were groomed and sold into an institution that took away their ambitions and dreams, leaving them to beg and live off of the mercy of their husbands. The consent of those women was taken away, meaning they could no longer make any rational decisions and were subject to beatings and torture, as well as forceful rape.
Article 19 - International Centre against Censorship wished to shed light on the implementation gap in the protection of free expression, highlighting the lack of progress into the murder of a journalist in Malta and the arbitrary detention of journalists. There was also President Trump in the United States who presented a constant aggression toward the media. A shared vision of reversing hatred could elevate voices that spoke out against nationalism.
American Association of Jurists, in a joint statement with several NGOs2, called attention to the violations of the rights to self-determination and to development in the Western Sahara. The gap in human rights reports remained a gap due to limited monitoring. The occupying power – Morocco – refused to allow the entry of the technical mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Association called on the High Commissioner to implement a specific technical assistance and capacity building programme with the Polisario Front.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement, noted that it was crucial to conduct an international independent investigation into the human rights abuses in Yemen. Investigations had to continue to advance accountability for those crimes, and any weakening of the Group of Eminent Experts would weaken accountability in Yemen and would encourage all parties to the conflict to continue committing crimes.
Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers, in a joint statement with several NGOs3, drew attention to the treatment of migrants, adding that in every continent the rights of migrant were violated and withheld. It called on all countries to ensure a human rights-based implementation of the Global Compact on Migration, and to be ready to work with others. It called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to play an essential role in the implementation, monitoring and follow-up of the Global Compact.
Iraqi Development Organization, in a joint statement, supported the High Commissioner’s condemnation of the human rights violations in Yemen. Over the past three years, the parties to the conflict had been unable to carry out independent investigations into the crimes committed. Crimes of horrific magnitude had occurred in Yemen, and the Organization called on the Human Rights Council to transfer the case to the International Criminal Court. Yemen did not need another report; it needed accountability immediately.
International Commission of Jurists stressed that a cloud created a shadow over the world, in the shape of political actors driven by authoritarian impulses who defied the rule of law. These individuals were said to be undermining the credibility and the efforts of international organizations. These threats to the rule of law thrived on silent indifference, and were able to cause harm to their victims with impunity by insulting the organizations and individuals promoting and defending human rights.
Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism stated that terrorism was a global threat that displaced and broke the lives of countless people. The effects of terrorism were considered to be devastating, using fear and terror to deprive communities from their most basic rights. The Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism presented itself as the representative of victims of terrorism, through the expression of global solidarity with survivors and the commemoration of victims of terrorism.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia commended the High Commissioner’s commitment to speaking out about human rights situations in Asia. They welcomed the findings in Myanmar which showed evidence of war crimes and genocide. The Forum asked that the Council refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
Alsalam Foundation said that there was a deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia with regard to women. When women were granted the right to drive, it had been one step forward. However, the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and activists was two steps backwards. Also, since July, people critical of the Government had been arrested. That coordinated campaign came at a time when Saudi Arabia was attempting to clean up its image on the world stage.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies highlighted Pakistan’s increased violence against minorities, including the drowning of women and children, which was deplorable. It was evident that the Government supported sectarian genocide and this was counter to its promise to safeguard the rights of its people, regardless of their religion.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said that Pakistan was entrenched in sectarian politics. In reality, all forms of contemporary enslavement were evident in the nation as defined by international law. Human trafficking and child labour were also found in the country. The laws meant to protect the human right of the citizens were visibly absent.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc noted that the human rights situation in Bahrain remained critical. The Government had effectively closed all civil and political space in Bahrain ahead of parliamentary elections in November 2018. All major opposition political groups had been dissolved and new legislation prevented former members from seeking or holding elected office. Free expression was curtailed by excessively broad cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws.
African Green Foundation International regretted that recently a very powerful nation had withdrawn from the Human Rights Council under the excuse of political bias. It was imperative that the Council demonstrated to the entire world that it was not politically biased. Starting from the current session, the organization expressed hope that the Council would take a fresh look at Sri Lanka, and that the majority Singhalese could expect a fair assessment from it.
Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said that the main motive behind the United States’ withdrawing from the Human Rights Council was to remove agenda item 7 on the Palestinian occupied territories from the Council’s agenda. It expressed concern about the election of members of the Council. For example, those causing the slaughter of civilians in Yemen had been elected to the Council twice in a row. The Institute called on the Council to show more deliberation in the election of its members.
World Environment and Resources Council said Pakistan remained feudal and anachronistic and limited freedom of expression in an extreme and controlling manner. This had led to a total clampdown on communication in the society. Activists in Pakistan were being persecuted for the slightest hint of left or liberal inclinations in their actions, and people who took to the streets were called traitors by the Government.
Asians Legal Resource Centre underlined that most States in the Asian region were far from allowing access to justice, dignity and equality. The protection of citizens from human rights abuses did not exist without discrimination and bias in this region, and no justice was accessible or affordable for crimes consistently being committed. The High Commissioner was asked what effective programmes her Office would initiate to address governance gaps.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the execution of political prisoners in Iran was alarming. Since Saturday, three more political prisoners had lost their lives. It was not clear if those prisoners had died due to torture or execution or even if they had had access to justice. Female prisoners were also threatened with rape.
United Villages said that the High Commissioner’s remarks concerning the situation in Kashmir had not been followed up, nor had solutions for the grave issues which continued there. United Villages asked that this become a priority of the Office and requested that the Office be allowed into Kashmir to report and monitor the human rights situation.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said the recent policies and actions of the United States had been mentioned in reports and it was regrettable that the events of the last two years had shown the promotion of xenophobic sentiment and the spread of militarization. The Organization asked the Council and its members to stand up against the violations.
World Muslim Congress expressed hope that India would allow the United Nations fact-finding mission to visit Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and that it would put an end to the systematic and gross human rights violations there. The life of human rights defenders in the province was under serious threat and the organization requested the Human Rights Council to declare all human rights defenders from Jammu and Kashmir under international protection.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme regretted that the previous High Commissioner was not able to stand for a second mandate, and welcomed the new High Commissioner. The situation of human rights was becoming worse because of the arrogance of the United States, and the international community was silent about it. The number of human rights violations was on the rise as a result.
China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) drew attention to the decrease of terrorism and separatism attempts in Xinjiang province in China. In recent years, terror incidents had been sharply curtailed in that province, and society had become stable. The Chinese people believed that contamination by religious extremism was not desirable. In addition, the number of tourist visits in that province had risen, leading to significant revenue.
International-Lawyers.org welcomed the High Commissioner’s focus on the rights of women and children to healthcare and development, expressing hope that she, as a former Head of State, would be able to encourage the Council’s Member States to provide equal attention and resources to the protection of both civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights. The organization further advocated for a dedicated mandate of the Council on climate change and human rights.
European Union of Public Relations focused on the duty of States to investigate and prosecute the crimes that took place in a country. However, State oppression was perceived in Pakistan as a dominant narrative, with no justice being given to victims and their families, who were threatened to keep quiet. In order to combat disappearances and judicial killings, which were forcing citizens to emigrate, the international community was called on to intervene.
Canners International Permanent Committee stated that Pakistan had proved itself to be very intolerant towards liberal thinking and the defense of human rights on the pretext of fighting extremists. The Government of Pakistan was authoritarian, threatening the freedom of the press and of opinion and expression, and violating the right to peaceful assembly. This affected the population of Baloutchistan and other regions.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP) addressed the issue of Libya on the international scene. They noted efforts to bring peace to the country by the United Nations, however they also found that other interventions by some countries, in particular France, were able to perpetuate the situation with impunity. Justice needed to be sought accordingly.
World Barua Organization found that many countries were very hostile toward critical analysis and would go so far as to deny the most visible problems outright. Speaking about India, the Organization said that the country had rejected the High Commissioner’s report on Kashmir and denied critical observations. They called for the High Commissioner’s help in changing India’s approach to human rights.
International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) asked the Council to focus on the right to privacy in the digital age. If a new digital representation of ourselves could be created, then it should enjoy the same freedoms and rights as a human. The protection of individuals against interference required national legislation, which, if in effect today, was ambiguous and undefined. Tools should be made public for individuals to protect themselves against cyber-attacks.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation, discussing migration issues, said that Sicily had asked an Italian navy ship not to disembark migrants it had picked up in the Mediterranean Sea. The Fellowship would hold an international conference on migration to address the links between racism and migration as well as the freedom of movement. The rights of weak people, should not be weak rights.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation expressed hope that the new High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue to take a strong stance on human rights and transitional justice for Tamils in northeast Sri Lanka. It urged the High Commissioner to maintain her Office’s focus on Sri Lanka which had not delivered accountability, redressed victims, or addressed the root causes for the conflict. Impunity for past atrocities continued to violate victims and survivors nowadays.
International Muslim Women’s Union underlined that the new High Commissioner should energetically explore the serious human rights violations in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. All those who honestly cared about the human rights of the people living in conflict areas should endorse that matter. The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserved the same level of dignity and protection as all other people in need.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme stressed that more just and respectful societies could only arise from working together in weaving a world that was non-discriminatory, equitable, tolerant and socially inclusive, and by upholding a rights-based approach to development that was sustainable and truly left no one behind. It was, thus, imperative to bolster technical cooperation to ensure that democratic governance and capacity building were sustained.
Le Pont condemned the use of sanctions against Venezuela. The embargo and the use of alleged human rights violations as an excuse could only further damage the people of Venezuela. Le Pont had had a delegate present in Venezuela over the past few months, and in spite of dire economic conditions, the situation was far from a humanitarian crisis.
World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organization expressed profound concern over the human rights situation in Ukraine since the annexation of parts of it by Russia. All mechanisms at their disposal had to be used to ensure democracy and freedom of expression. Russia was called on to free civil society lobbyists and the High Commissioner was asked to continue to closely follow the situation.
ABC Tamil Oli stressed that in Sri Lanka, nine years after the end of war, no one had moved forward. Torture, sexual violence, disappearance, abduction and militarization remained prevalent. This was probably the only process where victims had neither a say nor control. Only an international mechanism would bring justice for Tamil victims of genocide.
Association for the Victims of the world said that the deterioration of human rights situations across the world remained a cause for concern. All States were urged to react and the High Commissioner was urged to draft a report on difficulties in which civil society operated, particularly in Sri Lanka. In 2017, the Human Rights Council proposed two more years for the implementation of the resolution on Sri Lanka, but no progress had been made.
International Solidarity for Africa shared its concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu. The High Commissioner was asked to intervene to demand the immediate release of Mr. Thirumugurugan Gandhi, a human rights activist who was arrested by the Indian police.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project expressed its concern about the negative steps taken by Tanzania and Uganda in recent months. The Tanzanian Government was called on to cease all forms of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders. In Uganda, excessive violence had been reported after the intervention of the authorities during political protests following the 2018 by-elections, leading to three deaths and the detention of several journalists, with allegations of torture.
Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH) drew attention to the serious human rights crisis in Nicaragua and thanked the High Commissioner for putting out a call to countries to react to that crisis. The countries of Latin America should propose to the Council solutions for the crisis in Nicaragua and ensure that a mechanism was agreed on to mitigate it. Nicaragua had not been receiving visits from the human rights mechanisms for 10 years.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, recalling the forty-fifth anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile, stressed the necessity to strengthen the United Nations human rights system. It urged the High Commissioner to give high priority to the combat against racism and discrimination against refugees.
Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII warned that space for civil society was shrinking at the United Nations, and that human rights defenders faced hostility and reprisals from Governments all over the world because of their engagement with human rights mechanisms. The new High Commissioner was taking up her position at a time when populism, racism and xenophobia were on the rise and multilateralism was at stake.
Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Le Pont and Tourner la page, noted that the High Commissioner’s report on Venezuela was selective, partial, and based on dubious sources, thus hurting the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The previous Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order had stated that there was a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and that the economic embargo had only exacerbated it.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples said that any attempt to comprehend human rights in the Western Sahara had to take into account the legal context. The human rights situation could not ignore resolution 1514, which affirmed that the occupation was undermining human rights. What did the High Commissioner intend to do about that situation?
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that in order to respond to human rights abuses, new strategies and tools for prevention and early intervention had to be developed. Victims had to be at the centre of every approach. The unimpeded participation of civil society in the work of the Council was instrumental. Human rights defenders counted on the Council to hold their governments to account.
IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association said that in the period from September 2017 to June 2018, 993 persons had been killed in Yemen while over 600 had been injured. Further coordination was needed with civil society in Yemen to develop their capacities to assist them in mitigating the humanitarian crisis.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that in spite of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the 1951 Geneva Convention, Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons remained without a solution. Their claims for reparations were not exceptional but the lack of political will was the main obstacle.
Frances Libertes, Fondation Danielle Mitterrand stated that the Western Sahara was not an autonomous territory occupied by Morocco. Resolution 1514 of the United Nations constituted a denial of human rights. The Human Rights Council was asked to implement measures to ensure that the people from the Sahara enjoyed their inalienable right to self-determination.
Women’s International Democratic Federation stated that the crisis in Venezuela did not constitute a humanitarian crisis but rather a blockade against a sovereign State. The effects of this blockade could be felt in the areas of education, women’s rights, poverty and health. The Federation asked for the suppression of the blockade, perceived as an unfair situation, forced onto Venezuela by foreign countries.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology discussed the deplorable human rights situation in Pakistan for women, notably concerning forced marriages. It was considered one of the most unsafe countries for women to live, and those that did happen to make it out of a forced marriage were subjected to abduction and inhumane treatment.
World Evangelical Alliance said that the climate-induced degradation of pasture had become a major threat to the enjoyment of human rights, provoking internal displacement, increasing community tension and leading to violence. There was a disturbing rise in herder-farmer violence in countries like Nigeria as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, situations that needed to be addressed by the High Commissioner.
Iuventum e.V. had a strong interest in human rights in general but also in a more specific context proposed a standardized chemical and biological analysis of drinking water. By integrating schools and universities in the testing of samples, they could not only educate students on the importance of water quality but also combat the global challenge to providing safe water to all.
Health and Environment Programme said it was essential for the Human Rights Council to work independently with tools such as the Universal Periodic Review, fact-finding missions, and Special Procedures. Recalling the war crimes committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar, the organization noted that it was essential to establish an independent, international mechanism in order to ensure accountability for those crimes.
African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters expressed hope that the High Commissioner for Human Rights would give more attention to fighting racism in the context of migration in many countries in Europe. The rise of right-wing political parties that influenced Governments’ policies had to be countered.
"Coup de Pousse" Chaîne de l’Espoir Nord-Sud ( C.D.P-C.E.N.S) voiced hope that the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would bring about progress in the field of human rights. It was concerned about the situation of human rights defenders in the Tindouf camps; they had no protection and their rights were systematically violated. It was essential to protect people against torture and the organization called on the High Commissioner to protect those human rights defenders.
Association Dunenyo said that Morocco had had a promising experience in migration management over the past few years. Its integrated migration policies were based on four pillars and these included regularization of refugees and some migrant groups which had been in an irregular administrative situation. Such efforts reflected Morocco’s emerging sense of responsibility towards international conventions and regional crises.
Africa Culture Internationale was concerned about violence against children, a phenomenon that knew no borders. The violence was present in schools, at work and in the community. This scourge should not be allowed to continue. All children were entitled to protection. When would violence against children be eradicated? The organization launched a solemn appeal to all stakeholders to end the problem.
Victorious Youth Movement said that in Algeria there were witness accounts on human rights violations committed by Polisario members. The majority of the perpetrators still lived in the camps. Algeria had refused a visit of Amnesty International, which was seeking to investigate such crimes. The systematic refusal of visits to Tindouf camp was against international law, making Algeria complicit in human rights violations.
Women’s Human Rights International Association drew the Council’s attention to the recent murder of three political prisoners in Iran. It showed that Iran attached no importance to international bodies or its responsibilities under international law. Impunity for the perpetrators had to end.
International Bar Association called on the Council to support accountability mechanisms to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for serious crimes like those committed in Syria since March 2011 or to hold the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant accountable. A mechanism to investigate the grave crimes brought to light on a fact-finding mission to Myanmar would also be appreciated.
Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said that countries like India did not ensure access to human rights. India had failed to ensure access to human rights for indigenous people, especially those in northeast India. Indigenous communities in that region were under threat. It would seem the Government was not concerned about the rights of those people.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee was alarmed about serious violations of human rights of certain castes, noting that racist attacks in India had increased. Criminals responsible for those attacks needed to be brought to justice. The Committee asked that the Council address these violations of human rights and asked the High Commissioner to tell the Indian Government that the caste system was an obstacle to the protection of the human rights of its citizens.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association recalled that indigenous peoples in northeast India had been suffering discrimination for a long time. The situation had become more complicated as the Government had commenced the long-pending completion of the National Registry of Citizenship in the province of Assam. The organization urged the Council to communicate to India the need to address the growing fundamentalism in the country and to stop politicizing the issue of indigenous peoples.
World Peace Council stood in solidarity with the Chilean people who had suffered from a coup d’état 45 years ago. It called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to work together with all Venezuelan civil society organizations in order to draw a full picture of the situation in the country, and to withdraw the universally coercive measures against Venezuela, which had had an adverse effect on children, persons with disabilities, and those with chronic illnesses.
L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie expressed concern that while Sri Lanka made public commitments to cooperate with United Nations bodies, it had failed to follow through on those commitments. The Government had held a victory parade on the ninth anniversary of the end of the civil war, while preventing Tamils from commemorating their dead relatives. The organization called on the Human Rights Council to open permanent offices in Sri Lanka to ensure the process of justice and accountability.
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcomed the High Commissioner’s call for stronger tools for prevention, early intervention and accountability so that the power of justice could deter and prevent the worst violations. Recent violations registered by CIVICUS included brutal attacks on protesters in Nicaragua, killing of human rights defenders in Guatemala, and disregard for the rule of law in Maldives, among others.
United Nations Watch said that four years ago the Government of Venezuela had taken her daughter’s life, because she had been participating in peaceful protests. Over 400 individuals had been deprived of their freedom for protesting, including opposition leaders. Why was Venezuela allowed to be a member of the Council when it was murdering its own citizens?
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights said that the people of Kashmir had the same rights as people living in other parts of the world. Hope had been raised that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights cared about Kashmiri people. Sadly, the Indian military occupation continued with the mass use of pellet guns.
Barzani Charity Foundation / BCF said that the future of Iraq depended on protecting its religious and ethnic minorities. Now its minorities were threatened. There were no longer territories held by ISIS but many Yezidi women remained captured. The political instability continued to exacerbate ethnic tensions and undermine the ethnic diversity of Iraq.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Human Rights Watch, Asian Legal Resource Centre, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and International Service for Human Rights.
2Joint statement on behalf of: American Association of Jurists, Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Educational Development, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peoples and World Peace Council.
3Joint statement on behalf of: Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers; Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); Defence for Children International and International Federation Terre des Hommes.
For use of the information media; not an official record