Hears Presentation of a Report by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants
21 September 2018
The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting heard the presentation of a report by the Intergovernmental Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and then held a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Presenting the report, Ruddy José Flores Monterrey, Deputy Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Working Group had been given a mandate to finalize and submit to the Council the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The fifth session of the Working Group took place in April this year with wide participation of different stakeholders, ranging from government representatives, international organizations, civil society, national human rights institutions, academics, and representatives of peasants. Negotiations on the revised version of the draft Declaration had been carried out in a constructive manner and significant progress had been made. There was a sense of urgency for the Working Group to complete its work to close the protection gap affecting over a billion of people. Promoting the rights of peasants was in interest of every country in the world.
In the general debate, speakers underlined that human rights bodies and mechanisms had to be guided by the principles of transparency, accountability, objectivity, impartiality, constructive dialogue and non-politicization. They also reminded that inter-governmental working groups set up by the Council should follow the rules of procedures in order to respect geographic balance, produce optimal results and reflect the views of all participants. Turning to the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, speakers noted that it could not have been more timely considering the challenges posed by climate change, especially in developing countries. Supporting the Declaration would support agricultural and related sectors, combat food insecurity, and boost efforts for alleviating poverty. Speakers reminded that small producers, usually residing in rural areas, were responsible for the production of 70 per cent of global food, but ironically it was in rural areas that hunger struck hardest. Speakers further called attention to human rights issues in various countries and regions.
Speaking were Togo on behalf of the African Group, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Ecuador on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of the European Union and a group of countries, Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan, Switzerland, Togo, Mongolia, China, Tunisia, Cuba, Venezuela, South Africa, Iceland, Ecuador, Kenya, India, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Republic of Moldova, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Jordan, Denmark, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Europe-Third World Centre, Foundation Bread for All, FIAN International , European Coordination for Association and Individues for the Freddom of Conscience, New Human Rigths Cameroon, Jssor Youth Organization, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Africa Culture International, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, United Villages , Association of World Citizens, Liberation, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Iraqi Development Organization, International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with severals NGOs1), Alsalam Foundation, Center for Environmental and Management Studies, Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, World Environment and Resources Council, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, World Muslim Congress, United Schools International, African Green Foundation International, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, VAAGDHARA, Ius Primi Viri International Association, , World Barua Organization, iuventum e.V., International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) , International Fellowship of Reconciliation, International Muslim Women's Union, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Tourner la page, Association Thendral, Le Pont, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, Tamil Uzhagam, ABC Tamil Oli, International Solidarity for Africa, Action of Human Movement (AHM), International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, International-Lawyers.Org, International Buddhist Relief Organisation , African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme, L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR), Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas, Institute for Policy Studies, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Zero Poor in Africa, Guinea Medical Mutual Association and National Union of Jurists of Cuba.
China spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will next begin a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.
The Council has before it the Report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (A/HRC/39/67).
Presentation of Report by the Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants
RUDDY JOSÉ FLORES MONTERREY, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, said it was his honour to address the Council on behalf of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The Working Group was given a mandate that was confirmed in resolution 21/19 and later reiterated in resolutions 26/26, 30/13 and 36/22 to finalize and submit to the Council the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The fifth session of the Working Group took place in April this year with wide participation of different stakeholders, ranging from government representatives, international organizations, civil society, national human rights institutions, academics, and representatives of peasants. Negotiations on the revised version of the draft Declaration had been carried out in a constructive manner and significant progress had been made.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights had pointed out that there was a sense of urgency for the Working Group to complete its work to close the protection gap affecting over a billion of people. The only way to include them was to not leave them behind. The Food and Agriculture Organization representative had said that the draft resolution addressed some of the vital issues. There was also a video message of the representative of the European Social and Economic Committee who said that the rights of rural persons had to be recognized the same as those living in cities. The report presented the summarized debates that took place. During the session, there was a webcast allowing broadcast to those who could not be present. Promoting peasants’ rights was in the interest of every country in the world. Unique challenges faced by peasants had to be addressed. The Working Group expressed concern over the situation in which peasants found themselves worldwide and reiterated that their rights had to be upheld.
Recommendations underscored for the draft Declaration to be presented to the Council for adoption. The Declaration recognized that brothers and sisters living in rural areas needed everyone’s support and it was in the world’s interest to assist them as this was related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In closing, the call of the High Commissioner was reiterated, and that was to finalize and adopt as soon as possible the draft Declaration in order to respond to the needs of over a billion people. The future of the world’s food depended on it.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Togo, speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, said many States had worked intensively to draft the Declaration, which was a priority occupation of the African Group as it concerned persons that were essential to harnessing development in Africa. It was important to end hunger in Africa, to create agricultural systems, to end climate change, and to create programmes that led to poverty reduction. It was imperative to develop programmes for African peoples based on a partnership of solidarity.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said the Arab Group believed that a positive and constructive debate based on mutual respect was critical to achieving human rights. Equal interest should be paid to all human rights, which should be treated on an equal footing, especially the right to development and economic, social and cultural rights. Cooperation between stakeholders would also ensure the credibility and independence of mechanisms.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said many countries had amended their domestic laws in line with their international obligations. The Universal Periodic Review strengthened peer review mechanisms and was a way for countries to exchange best practices. It was a process that was non-confrontational and independent. Any mechanism used to review and report should be devoid of selectivity and naming and shaming.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was concerned about the increasing number of States that refused visits by the High Commissioner to their countries and called on them to respect their commitments. Member States also needed to cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Reports of intimidation and reprisals against groups and individuals that cooperated with the United Nations were also concerning.
Ecuador, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, noted that parliaments were essential human rights actors that played a crucial role in the promotion and protection of human rights through the oversight of Governments’ human rights actions and policies, the implementation of recommendations, the ratification of international treaties, and the adoption of laws and public budgets. The group of countries encouraged States to look into relevant recommendations.
Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union and a group of countries, recalled that inter-governmental working groups set up by the Council should follow the rules of procedures. Accordingly, each working group was required to elect a chairperson through a secret ballot and in respect of geographic balance. The competence and impartiality of the chairperson was essential in allowing working groups to produce optimal results and to reflect the views of all participants. They called for the strict application of rules and standards by all.
Latvia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, highlighted that a standing invitation to the Special Procedures provided an unambiguous signal of a country’s readiness to cooperate fully with the Council and its mechanisms. The issuing of a standing invitation should result in genuine cooperation with the Special Procedures whereby States respected the independence, expertise and the working methods of the mandate holders, and took appropriate steps for continued cooperation after the country visit.
Pakistan underlined that human rights bodies and mechanisms had to be guided by the principles of transparency, accountability, objectivity, impartiality, constructive dialogue and non-politicization. The draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants could not have been more timely considering the challenges posed by climate change, especially in developing countries. Supporting the declaration would support agricultural and related sectors, combat food insecurity, and boost efforts for alleviating poverty.
Switzerland welcomed the work of the Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Rights of Peasants, and expressed its support for the rights of peasants nationally and internationally. Accordingly, Switzerland had taken part in the drafting of the United Nations draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, as it could contribute to the fight against inequalities, poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Even though the final text contained certain aspects that Switzerland did not agree with, Switzerland had found the whole process satisfactory.
Togo thanked the Working Group for its efforts in drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, despite the divergent views of those involved. The Declaration would remedy the shortcomings affecting peasants and others living in rural areas who faced paradoxical discrimination. Some 80 per cent of the world suffered from hunger because they lived in rural areas. There were great inequalities between those living in rural areas and those in urban areas, and the rights of the former needed to be protected.
Mongolia said it had adopted the Law on the National Human Rights Commission in December 2000 and the Commission had been established the following year. They had been granted “A” status and admitted as a full member institution at the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions in 2001. Mongolia would also revise the law governing National Human Rights Commission to enable the Commission to carry out its mandate in line with the Paris Principles.
China appreciated the Working Group’s efforts to formulate the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. China valued the role played by Special Procedures and cooperated with them in a timely manner. Several Special Rapporteurs had visited China. However, in China’s view, Special Procedures should abide by the United Nations Charter by respecting the sovereignty of countries and using reliable information.
Tunisia valued the efforts of the human rights Special Procedures to implement their mandates and the advice they provided in bringing national legislation in line with international laws. Objectivity, independence and impartiality were critical to this. Tunisia had already received 18 mandate holders following its 2011 open invitation. Tunisia would also host the Special Rapporteurs on the right to education and decent housing. Tunisia was committed to positive cooperation and would step-up efforts to ensure human rights in practice.
Cuba recognized the important work conducted by the Working Group on the rights of peasants and the draft declaration which was the result of this constructive and transparent process. All Members of the Council were called on to affirm their commitment towards the rights of the peasants. Special Procedures were called on to ensure there was a climate of respect between the Council and Member States and they should not defend the political agenda of some countries.
Venezuela expressed support for the Council’s mechanisms and the Advisory Committee. The Office of the High Commissioner had to allocate resources in a fair manner to all mandate holders. Special Procedures had to act in strict accordance with the Code of Conduct when working with States. The spiralling number of press releases by Special Procedures disregarding the views of States was concerning. Bolivia was congratulated for its excellent work in leading the Working Group.
South Africa was concerned that some delegations had not shown their commitment during the session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Rights of Peasants, especially in light of the view that land and land use for purposes of food production would remain. The language in the draft Declaration on the right to land and the right to seeds was welcomed as it was speaking strongly about the needs of the African continent, since the majority of the African populations lived in rural areas.
Iceland noted that resolution 60/251 setting up the Council over 10 years ago had made it clear that the Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion of human rights. Accordingly, Iceland was committed to cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner, and the Council’s mechanisms in addressing human rights concerns on their merits, working to fulfil the Council’s prevention mandate, and engaging in good-faith.
Ecuador thanked Bolivia as Chair of the Working Group for the report and reiterated its support for the six-year process and the draft Declaration on the rights of peasants which was its result. The process of drafting the Declaration had been managed transparently and the dialogue with relevant stakeholders had ensured different viewpoints. States committed to human rights were called on to support the Declaration.
Kenya agreed that the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants would be effective in reducing global hunger and poverty, and in promoting sustainable development. In Kenya, farmers accounted for the biggest group engaged in rural agriculture. Farmers comprised 40 per cent of all employed Kenyans and farming represented 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Farmers rights were a priority. The protections afforded to farmers would help women, who were the backbone of Kenya’s agricultural culture.
India said more than 50 per cent of India’s population was engaged in agriculture, an industry which contributed 17.4 per cent to the country’s Gross Added Value. Given the importance of agriculture, the Government had taken several steps for its sustainable development. India had enacted legislation on Farmers’ Rights, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, which recognised the multiple roles played by farmers in cultivating, conserving, developing and selecting varieties.
Azerbaijan said that with the increased number of human rights challenges, the role of the United Nations mechanisms and human rights bodies was more important than ever. They underlined the importance of work conducted by the Special Procedure mandate holders and treaty bodies. They also noted their voluntary contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights advisory services and technical cooperation, particularly on the African continent.
Bolivia said this was a historic session of the Council and the result of decades of calls from peasants from around the world. Bolivia was committed to efforts to give food sovereignty and combatting of hunger. The adoption of the Declaration would be a historic opportunity for the international community to achieve equal opportunity for those living in rural areas that grew food globally. Bolivia called on all countries to adopt the Declaration, which would play a key role in eliminating hunger and poverty worldwide.
Republic of Moldova reiterated its full support for the mandate of the High Commissioner. The commitment of the Office of the High Commissioner to consolidate its activities in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova in view of the improving human rights situation of the people living on the left bank of the Nistru river was welcomed. The Republic of Moldova had a standing invitation for all Special Procedures.
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf reiterated its support for the Council’s mechanisms in promoting efforts towards improving human rights situations. The importance of dialogue was underlined in the promotion of human rights. The importance of independence and impartiality was also stressed. When mechanisms were collecting information in States, they had to adhere to the Code of Conduct.
Jordan thanked the Chair of the Working Group for the efforts in preparing the draft. Jordan’s reservations were not incorporated, particularly regarding article 1 and the wording of the definition of peasant. The definition was beyond the scope of the mandate. Jordan would not be bound by the Declaration as it was not in line with its national legislation.
Denmark noted that the Office of the High Commissioner had a crucial role in ensuring scrutiny of human rights situations. The President of the Council was called on to provide oral updates on all cases of alleged intimidation or reprisal, including actions taken at each Council session, and to provide States concerned with the opportunity to respond, in line with resolution A/36/21.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations noted that small producers, usually residing in rural areas, were responsible for the production of 70 per cent of global food, but ironically it was in rural areas that hunger struck hardest. The United Nations draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants would add to previous United Nations declarations and conventions, and it would help support the respect for the food systems and livelihoods of peasants and people living in rural areas. The organization stood ready to contribute to that effort with its knowledge and expertise.
Portugal reminded that peasants and other persons living and working in rural areas were more prone to suffer from discrimination and to be victims of human rights violations and abuses, in particular of their economic, social and cultural rights. When adopted, the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants would contribute to better support the existence of peasants and rural workers, including women and children, by raising awareness of the need to fully respect their human rights.
Algeria welcomed the intensive and inclusive work achieved by the Working Group on the Rights of Peasants, which had led to the elaboration of a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Rural Workers. The adoption of that Declaration would be an important step in protecting that category of persons, and a means to realize the right to food, and fight against hunger, malnutrition, poverty and inequalities worldwide.
Europe-Third World Centre thanked Bolivia for its work and leadership in the Working Group, and called on all States to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. If implemented, the Declaration would constitute a robust basis to meet the current challenges of peasants in Africa. It would guarantee food sovereignty, contribute to the prevention of numerous human rights violations, maintain biodiversity, and contribute to the fight against climate change.
Foundation Bread for All said that the industrialisation of agriculture had destroyed the peasantry of the north. The Declaration would allow the rights of peasants to be a part of the Paris Agreement as well as contribute to the eradication of poverty in rural areas. They called on European Union States to support the Declaration, particularly given that many of their solutions were included in the text. Also, economic interests destroying peasants’ rights needed to be prevented.
FIAN International e.V., speaking for Eastern European peasants, thanked the European countries for their contributions as well as Bolivia’s transparent input. Eastern Europe had dozens of millions of people working in agriculture. Abuse, unfair market practices, and unfair land grabbing were some of the harmful practices in place that worked against the peasants. The Declaration, if adopted, would contribute to giving young people in rural areas more opportunities as well as providing peace.
European Coordination for Association and Individues for the Freddom of Conscience spoke of the attacks against the religious minorities of Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus in particular. They needed guarantees to safety, security and the right to education. Attacks had dwindled their populations. Only 1.3 per cent of the Sikh population remained in Afghanistan. Attacks raised real fears that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus would be subjected to further attacks based on their religious identity and they needed the protection of human rights bodies.
New Human Rigths Cameroon said that the number of victims of enforced disappearances was increasing every day in Pakistan. There were peaceful protests against the disappearances. Some of the missing persons included families and kids. From time to time there were dead bodies. The speaker himself was a witness to the practice of enforced disappearances as his own son was taken by force in 2009.
Jssor Youth Organization noted that millions of young people living in the Middle East were experiencing consequences of conflicts. In Libya, parties to the conflict engaged in torture in detention facilities. In Syria, armed conflict continued to destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. Humanitarian workers were also affected. The Council was called upon to adopt a strategy targeting young people in conflict areas and appoint a Special Rapporteur for the subject.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil commended the commitment of the Working Group and Bolivia to elaborate the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. The text provided progress and new tools. Privatization of water and seeds, discrimination against women and many other issues had to be dealt with. The process of work on the draft Declaration had been very transparent over the past six years.
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada had regularly called on the Council to persuade its members to uphold the “highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council” as required by General Assembly resolution 60/251. However, some Council members, such as Saudi Arabia and China, had continued widespread and grave human rights violations during their entire Council membership.
Africa Culture Internationale said that since the United States had moved its embassy to Jerusalem, rights had been violated every day. Israeli authorities had been adopting racist policies, preventing worshippers from worshipping, confiscating lands and using different pretexts to prevent Muslims from praying in Al-Aqsa mosque. It was the duty of the international community to help provide medical and educational assistance to civilians in Palestine.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that the time had come for the adoption of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants in order to close the normative gap in their protection and to bring an end to discriminatory practices against them. The organization called on all countries to protect the rights of small- and medium-size agricultural producers, and to include them in relevant decision-making processes.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence called attention to the discrimination against indigenous peoples of Canada, including limited access to basic services, such as healthcare and education. It expressed deep concern about Canada’s illegal and immoral contamination of rivers by mercury, which equalled to the genocide of indigenous communities. The organization also highlighted the mistreatment of Canadians of African descent.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that it looked forward to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, which was an important achievement of the Council. It called on all Member States to give favourable reception to the Declaration for its adoption at the General Assembly. The organization reminded that peasants produced most of the world’s food, which was an important fact given current climate change concerns.
United Villages reminded that peasants and workers in rural areas suffered from discrimination, were severely affected by hunger and malnutrition, and were forcibly displaced from their lands and left landless. The lack of a relevant legal system facilitated their continued unfavourable position. Those who worked on the issues that affected peasants and rural workers were often subjected to harassment.
Association of World Citizens said that Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali received threats that his children would be killed in Sweden in a traffic accident if he did not read a pre-written statement. His health was deteriorating. Another detainee, Ms. Narges Mohammadi, was vulnerable in terms of health and could not stand the prison environment. Ms. Golroch Ebrahimi, a prisoner of conscience, was denied the right to visit her husband, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Liberation said that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not applied to help indigenous peoples in India, who suffered permanent aggression. Indigenous peoples’ lands in India were taken by illegal means, and they had been detained, jailed and subjected to torture.
Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said States should respect the human rights mechanisms and follow-up on recommendations given at their Universal Periodic Reviews. Many States had been criticized because of their human rights violations, like India, which continued to deny that it had a caste problem. What kind of cooperation were countries like India giving the United Nations?
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee appreciated the opportunities provided to review the human rights mechanisms. India created hurdles to non-governmental organizations seeking to improve human rights. A special procedure mandate holder had said that India was trying to unduly pressure non-governmental organizations working to protect human rights. Extremist elements in India had started a killing spree without fear of being caught and prosecuted.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that there were increasing violations of indigenous peoples in north-east India, primarily extrajudicial killings and violations carried out by security forces but also because of numerous dams, which were built without recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples. The Council was urged to ask India to stop building dams that caused suffering of local populations.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that today in the United Nations the only real question was focused around the unintended consequences when implementing human rights. In the name of sovereignty, civilians were being murdered. Development aid turned into clientelism which in turn supported dictators. The situation called for a new Covenant.
International Association for Democracy in Africa was alarmed over the continued persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. There were numerous instances of violence. Minorities lived in constant fear for their lives. Baloch people were not considered an integral part of the Pakistani country. They were tortured and murdered.
Iraqi Development Organization noted the irony that the Committee on non-governmental organizations was tasked to assess the eligibility of non-governmental organizations, yet the Committee itself was made up of Member States, some of which prohibited freedom of expression, imposed blockade on civilians, and attacked human rights defenders. Or it could be those States which systematically killed civilians.
International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with severals NGOs1, raised concern about several candidates for the Council’s membership which had failed to protect human rights, such as Bahrain with its reprisals against human rights defenders, and Cameroon with its extrajudicial killings, use of torture and arbitrary detentions. In Eritrea, the authorities continued to commit human rights abuses, and the Philippines continued to target defenders and United Nations mandate holders. The organization urged all States not to vote for such countries.
Alsalam Foundation raised concern about Bahrain’s bid for Council membership given its steady refusal to work with the Special Procedures. It had taken increasingly harsh measures to silence dissenters and to criminalize freedoms of expression and association. Bahrain was one of the worst offenders of human rights, and the Government refused to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies called attention to the dismal situation of ethnic minorities in Pakistan, which did not take into account what negative effect its policy had on the wider society. The dirty jobs were reserved for Christians, which made them lose many social and economic opportunities. Often rogue groups encouraged Muslims to take over the shops owned by religious and ethnic minorities.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture reminded that Bahrain had not respected United Nations human rights mechanisms for years, and it had refused visits by Special Procedures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had launched systematic attacks on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Government had not implemented the recommendations of United Nations human rights mechanisms, threatening human rights activists who wanted to cooperate with the United Nations.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said since the annexation of Balochistan in Pakistan, the Baloch people had been treated as second class citizens, with nearly 50 per cent of Baloch people living under the poverty line. The Pakistani Baloch people had been extensively exploited. As the region was full of natural resources, Pakistan used those resources with no regard or respect given to the Baloch people.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc read a letter from a man who was concerned about the whereabouts of his son-in-law, who was wanted by authorities in Bahrain. He was hit and interrogated with no access to water or food, and was targeted and used as bait to find his son-in-law. He was sentenced to three years in jail but had done nothing wrong. Bahrain needed to stop its practice of arbitrary detention.
World Environment and Resources Council said Pakistan’s treatment of ethnic minorities was unacceptable. Pakistan had hatred and spite for any ethnic minority that was not Muslim; Shia Muslims, however, also fell into the minority category. Shias were targeted and discriminated against because of their language, which was the language of Balochistan people and not the mainstream language found in Pakistan.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology helped indigenous tribes in many areas of society. Pakistan had been very discriminatory towards ethnic minorities in their territories. The Pakistani Government only recognized Muslims, allowing them to advance on the development ladder. Other ethnic groups were not even documented properly, given national identities or allowed to vote.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that Pakistan would not let religious minorities live in peace; Pakistan made it difficult for people of a different faith to maintain their religious freedoms. Ethnic minorities were often in trouble for going against the norm. That hostility oppressed the minorities and hampered domestic harmony and development.
World Muslim Congress said that Indian-occupied Kashmir was one of the most concerning human rights situations. Civil society and human rights defenders faced a range of threats, from visa restrictions to arbitrary detentions. It was important for the collective humanity and the United Nations members to recall the circumstances that had led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
United Schools International said that because Pakistan did not recognize any other religions except for Islam, all minorities were treated worse than criminals. Many of them were nomadic communities which moved from place to place with their cattle. They were used to living the lives where their mere name was associated with persons of low morals.
African Green Foundation International said that the complaints procedure mechanism allowed injustices to be brought to the attention of the Council. Last March, a petition was filed by the organization against the procedure of the Sri Lanka constitutional reform, which was a matter falling under domestic jurisdiction. The Council was asked to review this matter before proceeding with other reforms in Sri Lanka.
European Union of Public Relations said that in Pakistan, minorities were often persecuted under blasphemy laws, regardless of their ethnic origin, and this presented a threat to all. Minorities were not able to live their lives freely and were even exposed to death penalties. Blasphemy laws were undermining the human rights of all. On most occasions Muslim mobs suffered no consequences for their attacks on minorities.
Canners International Permanent Committee criticized the attitude of Pakistan towards its religious and ethnic minorities. Not only had Pakistan not paid any attention to the wellbeing of its indigenous peoples, but it had left them to the mercy of violence by security forces. Pakistan’s establishment could not stomach the diversity of its own society.
VAAGDHARA noted that India was systematically eliminating its indigenous populations. Violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples of the State of Tripura had been taking place constantly due to the prolonged operation by Indian security forces. The fundamental rights to life, expression, opinion, assembly and freedom from arbitrary arrest had all been trampled on. Where could the victims go to voice their grievances?
Ius Primi Viri International Association expressed grave concern about violations endured by humanitarian workers in Yemen who facing arrests and other forms of violations. Militia organizations topped the list of terrorist groups who harassed humanitarian workers. Houthi militia were used as sources of information even though they committed crimes against humanitarian workers on a daily basis.
World Baura Organization said that indigenous peoples living in Manipur, India were deprived of their civil rights as well as their cultural identity as forest people. The Indian Government did not respect indigenous rights. All practices indicating superiority based on ethnic, cultural or religious differences were classified as racist. Relevant laws were not implemented and the Government used false pretexts to harass non-governmental organizations that spoke for the indigenous peoples.
Iuventum e.V. said that the categorization of United Nations Special Procedures was incomprehensible. Why was drinking water quality classified with sanitation and not food safety, for example. Regarding the language used in certain documents, human rights defender was a considerate word but stakeholder was not. How could they be classified together? More appropriate vocabulary should be sought to replace that word.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that recently, United Nations Member States had voted to cut their United Nations budgets: the cuts would adversely affect the Council. The workload had already doubled and budget cuts would mean less efficiency, less data and less expertise. They were concerned that civil society space would also be reduced as a result. Also, certain members of the Council had threatened non-governmental organizations that fought to protect human rights.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation stated that the Council was ignorant of the current situation of Western Sahara. There was no other place in the world, they said, where an official report did not exist. There was a lack of information from that territory. They wanted to know what was happening there, what was the human rights situation there. They could not accept that a non-autonomous territory could become a black hole.
International Muslim Women’s Union said that Special Procedures were the most important mechanism of the Council for the promotion of human rights. Human rights needed practical measures. A fact-finding mission needed to be sent to India to assess grave violations of children’s and women’s rights in Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kashmir needed assistance to start living a dignified life.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme stressed that Africa had the youngest population and the highest population growth. It was expected to double by 2050 and this had huge implications for the labour market. Every year, 10 to 12 million youth joined the labour market while there were only three million positions created every year. If nothing changed, all could expect collective suicide of peasants.
Tourner la Page wanted the Council to examine the genocide against Tamils between December 2008 and May 2009. In India, human rights defenders were restricted from traveling to the Council’s sessions. In Iran, the Government committed crimes against Kurds. The Council had to examine serious violations against the Kurdish people.
Association Thendral said that in Tamil Nadu, people were protesting against a proposed highway connecting Chennai and Salem. Farmers were upset about the compensation, alleging that the market rate of the farms was relatively higher than what the Government was offering. Nearly 92 villages would be affected if the highway was constructed.
Le Pont reminded that Sri Lanka occupied the second place in the world according to the number of enforced disappearances. The Government had not recognized the competence of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive complaints directly from the families of disappeared persons. The organization urged the Council to pressure Sri Lanka to include international experts in the Office of Missing Persons.
Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” noted that the Mapuche people in Chile and Argentina had been expelled from their ancestral lands, persecuted and accused of terrorism. Some had been handed sentences of life imprisonment.
Tamil Uzhagam noted that Tamil women and children in Sri Lanka had been denied protection for seeking asylum under Australia’s fast-track assessment and prospects for deportation were likely. Tamil women were always in constant fear of harassment, intimidation and sexual violence. The organization urged the Council to remind Australia of its obligations.
ABC Tamil Oli stressed that there were still some 600 male refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, including 16 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, as well as 900 men and women, including 107 children in Nauru, living in very difficult conditions, leading to attempts of suicide. Australia had to find durable solutions for all refugees and asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
International Solidarity for Africa said that a human rights defender from Tamil Nadu, Thirumurugan Gandhi, had been arrested for speaking in the Human Rights Council. In the last month alone, 16 new cases had been filed against him. The Indian Government was punishing him for giving information on the Tuticorin massacre. They asked the Council to urge the Indian Government to release Mr. Gandhi.
Action of Human Movement said that in Sri Lanka, rights guaranteed in the international treaties had not yet been enshrined in the Constitution or any other piece of legislation. Serious concerns had also been expressed about the independence of the Victims’ Protection Act’s operating body. The Constitution also did not contain any provisions expressly recognising the separation of powers or judicial independence.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues remained concerned that members of the Council featured in the report on human rights defenders at risk. Of particular concern were Saudi Arabia’s continued reprisals against human rights defenders. There were reports of involuntary disappearances and some defenders faced charges as grave as the death penalty. Also disturbing was the silence of Saudi women’s defenders during the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that human rights activists and human rights defenders were unable to communicate information or present evidence to the United Nations authorities, as doing so would lead to serious reprisals and facing punitive measures implemented by Iran. One of people who dared to bring up a case to the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances was Ms. Rahele Rahemipor who received judicial harassment.
International-Lawyers.Org welcomed the progress made on the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. Expert suggestions, supported by numerous States, of including food sovereignty and the term “Mother Earth” in the Declaration was welcomed. The Declaration must not distract from existing legal obligations but had to build on them to address the vulnerabilities and support the human rights of peasants and people from rural areas.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that terrorism was the unlawful use of violence and intimidation against civilians in the pursuit of political aims. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were named the most brutal terrorist organization and they had killed thousands of innocent Sinhalese but also Tamils and Muslims for three decades. Where were the human rights protectors at the time?
African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters was concerned about reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders who were seeking to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir continued such practice. The High Commissioner took notice of reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders.
Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said that given the number of human rights violations in many countries, it was essential to strengthen the credibility of the Council and its mechanisms. Certain countries that had participated in the work of the Council, such as Saudi Arabia, might negatively impact the legitimacy of the Council. The organization reminded Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates of their human rights obligations.
Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme and de la Démocratie reminded of those Tamils who had surrendered to the Sri Lankan armed forces at the end of the war in 2009 who had believed the false promises of the Sri Lankan Government and subsequently disappeared. The organization asked the international community to take the necessary action and provide justice to Tamils.
Association des étudiants tamouls en France drew attention to Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to consider international involvement which directly contravened the call by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a hybrid justice mechanism to ensure impartial investigations and witness protection. As justice, reconciliation and accountability had not been achieved, the High Commissioner should immediately refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court.
Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul reminded that all those Tamils who had surrendered to the Sri Lankan army in 2009 had disappeared. If the President of Sri Lanka was unable to fulfil his promise, how could the powerless Office of Missing Persons find a solution to the problem? The organization demanded that the Council immediately intervene and render justice to victims.
Association for the Protection of Women’s and Children’s Rights said that the people of Kashmir had the same rights to justice as everyone else concerned by the High Commissioner’s report on human rights. The Association noted that reprisals against those who had cooperated with United Nations mechanisms were disturbing. The brutal killings of some human defenders had threatened Kashmiri civil society.
Jeunesse Etudiante Tamoule said many Special Rapporteurs had visited Sri Lanka and a common complaint was Sri Lanka’s non-compliance in the implementation of promises made to the Council. Delays in the implementation of commitments undermined trust and raised questions about the Government’s determination to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice programme. They asked that Sri Lanka be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Colombian Commission of Jurists said that in Colombia, peace agreements contained structural rural reform and would create welfare conditions for people living in those areas. Also, a policy of land restitution allowed peasant populations to recover 330,000 hectares of land that was taken from them. They asked that the Council adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.
Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas said Cuban peasants enjoyed their rights and had a dignified life because of the agrarian reform that came out of the Cuban revolution. Cuba believed the willingness of governments in each country could help peasants to achieve greater rights worldwide. Those rights should be put into place so women and men could continue to live in their own countries.
Institute for Policy Studies rejected the statement of the European Union, which was opposing the legally binding instrument that would regulate transnational corporations. Arguments advanced by the European Union were baseless and deeply disturbing. European States had to ensure accountability of their corporations. Affected communities expected no less from the Council.
Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea spoke against the resolution 30/1, which was sponsored by the United States. Although it was signed by Sri Lanka, an unauthorised minister signed it. Sri Lanka had no authority to sign such a document. Fifteen countries had voted against the resolution, including Russia and China.
Zero Poor in Africa stressed that resolution 30/1 carried 20 recommendations, yet only one recommendation referred to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It disregarded that thousands of civilians had died since the eighties in the conflict. Why were such double standards implemented? The Council had to investigate the matter further.
Guinea Medical Mutual Association spoke about understanding the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam modus operandi and their attempts to create a separate mono-ethnic State. There was a documentary which obscured the reality of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and further investigation needed to be made into this matter.
National Union of Jurists of Cuba said that a great deal of progress had been made in Cuba between the Government and civil society, which had contributed to the Government’s drafting of reports to international human rights mechanisms. More than 2,000 Cuban civil society organizations refused to recognize mercenary organizations and elements that falsely portrayed themselves as non-governmental organizations in Cuba.
Right of Reply
China, speaking in a right of reply, said a non-governmental organization had made false accusations against China, a country which protected various human rights. China encouraged dialogue on the basis of quality and mutual respect and recognized and played a positive role in human rights. However, no protection was absolute as violations could be punished by law. The wanton accusations and unsubstantiated evidence to smear China’s progress in human rights were unacceptable.
1Joint statement: International Service for Human Rights; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia; Asian Legal Resource Centre and CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
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