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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS FROM 15 DIGNITARIES AS IT CONTINUES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SESSION

27 February 2018

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting heard statements from dignitaries of 14 countries and one organization as it continued with its high-level segment.

Alfonso Nsue Mokuy, Third Vice Prime Minister charged with human rights of Equatorial Guinea, said the Human Rights Council was the multilateral sphere par excellence building harmony, universal peace and international security. Achievements in Equatorial Guinea included an action plan to combat human trafficking, a child’s parliament, and the abolition of child labour.

Tsebang Putsoame, Deputy Attorney General of Lesotho, said the Human Rights Council must promote awareness and discuss specific human rights issues to benefit all people. Stability and security were prerequisites for peace, observance of human rights, economic growth and development.

Carmelo Abela, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Malta, said a world without a framework for human rights was a world devoid of any respect for the very essence of humanity. Malta had made human rights – particularly civil and political rights – a topmost priority on the national and international levels.

Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, noted continuous efforts to protect the rights of the child, especially of migrant children and children with disabilities. Bulgaria considered inclusive education an essential tool for the social inclusion of all children and for the fight against poverty.

Felix Braz, Minister for Justice of Luxembourg, said the universality of human rights was being contested around the world. He expressed concern over the situations in Myanmar and Syria. Luxembourg called for all parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to shoulder responsibility to achieve a lasting solution to that conflict.

Alejandro Solano Ortiz, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, said now was the time for the Human Rights Council to take action to ensure peace, dialogue, freedom, justice and progress. But the Council was not an abstract body. It was the interaction of all nations and civil society, and therefore it was important to focus on visibility. The focus had to be for an agile and brave Council.

Viktor Dimovski, State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said the human rights situation around the world was deteriorating. Of particular concern were the situations in Syria, Iran, and Myanmar. He assured that the Government was determined to build a democracy ruled by law.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, pledged to exert every effort to advance the protection and promotion of human rights and to ensure that the Human Rights Council fulfilled its mandate effectively. Ukraine would focus on three key areas: strengthening human rights as a conflict prevention and resolution tool; enhancing the prevention of human rights violations; and overcoming a long-standing ideological and even physical separation between human rights and security issues.

Cheikh Tourao Ould Abdel Malick, Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action of Mauritania, said armed conflicts, terrorism, spread of diseases, and exploitation of human beings, particularly women, children and migrants, represented some of the daunting challenges that the world was experiencing today, calling for the decisive action of the international community.

Chrystia Freeland, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said all persons must be protected from any form of abuse. The system of international institutions was now under threat. Canada remained committed to protecting fundamental rights at the national and international levels and expressed concern over the situation in Syria.

Yerhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the long-term concept of the development strategy of the nation prioritized the assurance of human rights and freedoms as a basis for development. The country was developing new national standards based on universal human rights indicators.

Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development of Ireland, expressed alarm over reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and their families, especially because of their cooperation with the United Nations. Ireland was part of the core group which had secured a resolution on reprisals at the last session and was among the first countries to recognise marriage equality by popular vote.

Hernan Quezada, Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Chile, said his country’s membership in the Human Rights Council in the period 2018 to 2020 had been led by human rights principles from the onset. The role of the Council was perceived as fundamental, particularly in light of devastating conflicts across the globe, and active support was offered to mainstreaming and cross-cutting of human rights.

Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said cooperation was being promoted with small island developing States in order to better address challenges facing the Commonwealth. Work was guided by constructive engagement among member countries with the Universal Periodic Review. Creating and strengthening human rights institutions remained a strategic priority for the Commonwealth’s Secretariat.

Karmen Laus, Director of International Organizations Division, Political Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, expressed concern about the increasing restrictions on free, independent and pluralistic media, and attacks on journalists and bloggers. The realization of human rights could not be ensured in societies without a strong rule of law.


The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today. It will continue with its high-level segment at 3 p.m.


High-Level Segment

ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY, Third Vice Prime Minister charged with human rights of Equatorial Guinea, said the Human Rights Council was the multilateral sphere par excellence building harmony, universal peace and international security in order to defend human rights across the world. He echoed the congratulations conveyed to the President of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in recognition of the homage they deserved. Guinea was convinced that the respect for the rule of law was a basic pillar making possible the enhancement of the living conditions of people and the prevention of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Human rights must guide the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It was thus vital that in addition to giving priority to these development goals at the national level, feasible indicators were drafted for follow up and review. Importance was attached therefore to the mechanisms to improve the human rights situation at the national level and to strengthen, as well as enhance best practices in protecting and promoting human rights. In Guinea, a great deal had been done to consolidate a state that was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. An action plan to combat human trafficking, a child’s parliament, and the abolition of child labour, were among some of the recent achievements. In addition, recommendations from the preceding Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review had been approved, including the adoption of United Nations Convention against Corruption, and the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

TSEBANG PUTSOANE, Deputy Attorney General of Lesotho, said a lot of work remained to truly and fully implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in practice. There was a need to reclaim those texts as vibrant, living documents. The Human Rights Council must promote awareness and discuss specific human rights issues to benefit all people. Lesotho attached great relevance to using education as a tool for creating a culture of human rights. The Government was mindful that stability and security were prerequisites for peace, observance of human rights, economic growth and development. Mr. Putsoane thanked the Southern African Development Community for helping Lesotho return to constitutional normalcy and acknowledged that Lesotho was lagging in its treaty body reporting obligations. He assured that the Government remained strongly committed to the obligations it took on by becoming a State party to international and regional instruments tasked with protecting and promoting human rights. International cooperation was extremely important to human rights and fundamental rights must be respected in efforts to achieve the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As Lesotho remained beset by multifaceted challenges, it appreciated the technical and financial support and cooperation received from the United Nations.

CARMELO ABELA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Malta, said since Malta had become a member of the United Nations in 1964, it had always highly valued the incessant efforts put into strengthening global peace and security, of which the promotion and protection of human rights constituted a crucial pillar. A world without a framework for human rights was a world devoid of any respect to the very essence of humanity. Under the current administration, Malta had made human rights – particularly civil and political rights – a topmost priority at the national level, and also a cornerstone of its foreign policy. As governments, all learned by doing, but everything started with political will and determination to challenge the status quo. The fight to protect and promote human rights wherever it was necessary to do so was not yet over. For nearly 12 years now, the Human Rights Council had been the vital organ of the United Nations architecture and it needed to adapt itself gradually to a fast-paced world, where even the most fundamental human rights were sometimes either taken for granted, or blatantly violated. The younger generations were our future. Passivity undermined democracy. The world needed young men and women to be actively engaged, to be critical thinkers, and to develop leadership skills and make their voices heard. Otherwise the democratic foundations would be weak. Promoting and protecting the civil, political and social rights of youth, especially women, was therefore a priority for Malta. In this direction, a bill to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 years of age had been approved, because the country craved the leadership power of talented young women, whose potential in different areas needed the space to flourish and to be nurtured. By taking care of future generations, Malta was sowing the seeds for an active and participatory democracy, as it had been originally conceived.

LILYANA PAVLOVA, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, noted that Bulgaria closely cooperated with all United Nations members to ensure the effective implementation of the mandate of the Human Rights Council on the entire spectrum of human rights through dialogue and cooperation. It put special emphasis on the promotion and protection of social, economic and cultural rights through education, technology and innovation. The Government made continuous efforts to protect the rights of the child, especially of migrant children and children with disabilities. It considered inclusive education as an essential tool for the social inclusion of all children and for the fight against poverty. As President of the Conference of States parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for 2017-2018, Bulgaria would continue to set high standards to illustrate just how more could be achieved together. It also attached great importance to achieving equality between women and men. Turning to the role of the Council, Ms. Pavlova underlined the importance of the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and of fruitful communication, coordination and common work among all United Nations human rights bodies. As a candidate for the Council membership in 2019-2021, Bulgaria looked for more focused and meaningful partnerships with United Nations bodies, Special Procedures, other international organizations, and civil society.

FELIX BRAZ, Minister for Justice of Luxembourg, said the universality of human rights was being contested around the world. He expressed concern over the situation faced by the Rohingya community in Myanmar, including reports of mass killing and torture. He urged the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with Special Procedure mandate holders and called on the International Criminal Court to examine actions in Myanmar. Luxembourg welcomed the appointment of the group of experts tasked with monitoring the human rights situation in Yemen. He expressed deep concern and shock over the situation in Syria. Luxembourg had from the very beginning of that conflict provided financial support to investigate the situation in Syria and hoped progress could be made on the matter. Regional peace efforts would be challenged as long as Israel’s settlement policy continued. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure respect of humanitarian law. All parties had to shoulder responsibility to achieve a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Women’s rights and their empowerment had to be a global priority. All human beings were born equal, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Luxembourg remained committed to protecting the rights of all, regardless of sex or gender.

ALEJANDRO SOLANO ORTIZ, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, said the basic principle upon which humanity rested was that all human beings were born equal and in dignity. This was the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 70 years ago. To ensure they all were on an equal footing, States were taking gradual national and international measures to implement human rights. What had to be done to solidify the pillars of the United Nations in order to respect the principles, standards and institutions of human rights? The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals were the universal ethos of all human beings, and these had to be the guiding light. Was not the motto of the Sustainable Development Goals, “leaving no one behind”, a commitment to ensure that article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would became a reality? The development goals were closely linked to the obligations of States in international and human rights instruments, in protecting human rights and above all preventing violations. Now was the time for the Council to take action to ensure peace, dialogue, freedom, justice and progress. But the Human Rights Council was not an abstract body. It was the interaction of all nations and civil society, and therefore it was important to focus on visibility. The focus had to be for an agile and brave Council that acted appropriately in clear and close cooperation with other mechanisms of human rights. It was also important to crosscut human rights. This was also the right time to think about the fact that principles and obligations could not be simply put on paper. The world could not wait to start to take action.

VIKTOR DIMOVSKI, State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, echoed the Secretary-General in saying disregard for human rights was a disease spreading across the world. The human rights situation around the world was deteriorating. Of particular concern was Syria where civilians continued to be victims of horrific attacks. Mr. Dimovski called for the full implementation of the Security Council’s 30-day ceasefire. He also expressed concern over excessive use of force against protests in Iran and over the displacement of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He urged the Government of Myanmar to grant full access to human rights mechanisms. Human rights were a tool for conflict prevention and the Human Rights Council was a central element contributing to world peace and prosperity. The Council was too valuable for Member States to ignore the Council’s shortcomings. Strong political will was needed to assess the body’s performance. Having recently overcome political violence, his country had emerged as a more mature republic. He assured that the Government was determined to build a democracy ruled by law and in which non-governmental organizations could take up their role as watchdogs.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said as Ukraine commenced its membership in this main human rights body, it solemnly pledged to exert every effort to advance the protection and promotion of human rights and to ensure that the Council fulfilled its mandate effectively. In carrying out its mandate, Ukraine would focus on three key areas. First, strengthening human rights as an effective conflict prevention and conflict resolution tool, and as an essential component of countering foreign aggression, breaches of international law and encroachments upon the United Nations Charter-based world order. Second, enhancing the prevention of human rights violations to address threats to human security. Third, overcoming a long-standing ideological and even physical separation between human rights issues in Geneva and security issues in New York. One of the main responsibilities of the Council was to react in a timely and proper way to human rights situations that required urgent attention. While the Council had a variety of tools to take action on different issues, these required a closer regular look to ensure that they were adapted to a developing human rights environment, and that they offered sufficient flexibility to address ensuing challenges. To that end, Ukraine had been promoting, since 2010, an initiative on the role of prevention of human rights violations, with the dedicated support of the core group of States.

CHEIKH TOURAD OULD ABDEL MALICK, Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action of Mauritania, expressed congratulations to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for his colossal and outstanding efforts dedicated to upholding human rights principles. Armed conflicts, terrorism, spread of diseases, and exploitation of human beings, particularly women, children and migrants, represented some of the daunting challenges that the world was experiencing today. He called for decisive action of the international community. Mauritania deployed all efforts to meet the mentioned challenges through regional and international cooperation. Policies to combat terrorism, violent extremism and poverty had been put in place. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery had visited the country last year to assess the state of play concerning the implementation of the Roadmap to combat remnants of contemporary slavery. This year, comprehensive reports would be presented in front of the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Mauritania had ratified the Arab Charter for Human Rights and this year they would host the sixty-second session of the African Commission for Human Rights and the thirty-first summit of the African Union, as well as the high-level meeting to pay tribute to the late Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his centenary.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said all persons must be protected from any form of abuse. Following two world wars, States had realized that a true world community based on shared aspirations was essential to humanity’s very survival. The system of international institutions was now under threat. Canada remained committed to protecting fundamental rights at the national and international levels and acknowledged that its legacy of colonialism had resulted in a poor relationship with indigenous communities. To achieve national reconciliation old structures must be cast aside. New structures must respect indigenous rights to self-governance. She expressed concern over ethnic cleansing taking place in Myanmar against the Rohingya population. Without respect for rights and freedoms there could be no true democracy. International humanitarian law was being contested as civilians across the world were facing attacks. In Syria, the Government had turned against its own people and destabilized the region. Russia and Iran, as Syrian allies, must be held accountable for atrocities in Syria. She said some States were sabotaging the international rules based order. In Venezuela, a humanitarian crisis was also unfolding with refugee flows resulting in regional instability. Canada would also not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism and would not tolerate challenges to democratic values.

YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that since the first day of its independence, Kazakhstan had had an unfailing commitment to the values and principles of human rights. Thanks to its constant democratic reforms, its policy in respect the promotion and protection of human rights had become sustainable and irreversible. The long-term concept of the development strategy of the nation – Kazakhstan 2050 - prioritized the assurance of human rights and freedoms as a basis for the development of the country. Progress in this important area was indicated in the Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project. Kazakhstan had risen to the 74th place in 2012, and to the 64th place in 2018 in this index. Further improvements of the national human rights system included new measures that would be taken to ensure the rule of law, the humanization of administrative and criminal legislation, continued judicial reforms, the strengthening of anticorruption efforts, as well as specific measures to promote civil, socio-economic and cultural rights. Moreover, in order to improve the monitoring of human rights in Kazakhstan, the country was developing new national standards based on universal human rights indicators. Measures taken would create conditions to achieve one of the key social and economic goals of Kazakhstan – being among the 30 most developed countries in the world.

CIARAN CANNON, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development of Ireland, stated that Ireland attached great importance to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying that the High Commissioner had represented a beacon of hope over the last four years for the marginalised and the forgotten across the globe. Ireland was alarmed by the reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and their families, especially because of their cooperation with the United Nations. Ireland was part of the core group which had secured a resolution on reprisals at the last session. Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to recognise marriage equality by popular vote and it was proud of its progressive legislation on transgender rights. During their term in the Council, Ireland had worked closely with others on issues of preventable mortality of children under five and the protection of civil society space. At the last session, Ireland had joined a small core group of States which had worked on the resolution that established a group of Eminent Experts mandated to carry out a comprehensive investigation of all violations of international human rights in Yemen. Deep concern was expressed about the situation in Myanmar, Palestine and Syria.

HERNAN QUEZADA, Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Chile, said that Chile had ratified regional and universal treaties of human rights and cooperation had been established within the multilateral system. Chile’s membership in the Council in the period 2018 to 2020 had been led by human rights principles from the onset. The role of the Council was perceived as fundamental, particularly in light of devastating conflicts across the globe. Active support was offered to mainstreaming and cross-cutting of human rights, and Chile fully supported the independence and autonomy of Special Procedures and treaty bodies as well as the Universal Periodic Review. Chile had worked with a group of countries to submit a draft resolution which had sought to focus on synergies between the 2030 Agenda and human rights and establish interlinkages. The Council had a duty to encourage countries undergoing democratic transition to stay on the democratization path. At the national level, Chile had developed and implemented institutional reform resulting in the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, the Council for Indigenous Peoples and other institutions. National human rights instruments had been strengthened to function as autonomous bodies and active participation of civil society was encouraged.

PATRICIA SCOTLAND, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said human rights were central to all Commonwealth undertakings and member countries benefited from collaboration with the Human Rights Council. Cooperation was being promoted with small island developing States in order to better address challenges facing the Commonwealth. Work was guided by constructive engagement among member countries with the Universal Periodic Review. Creating and strengthening human rights institutions remained a strategic priority for the Commonwealth’s Secretariat. Ms. Scotland pledged to remain an advocate for vulnerable groups. To be truly common, the future must be inclusive and the rights of all citizens must be recognized. While discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation remained, the Commonwealth was opposed to unequal treatment. She commended the Council’s discussions on the human rights of women and said Commonwealth leaders attached utmost importance to addressing child marriage and human rights violations related to labour, including child labour. Human rights defenders also needed protection in order for all their human rights to be realized.

KARMEN LAUS, Director of International Organizations Division, Political Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, expressed concern about the increasing restrictions on free, independent and pluralistic media, and attacks on journalists and bloggers. The realization of human rights could not be ensured in societies without a strong rule of law. Ms. Laus called for the elimination of domestic legal frameworks, including laws on foreign agents, which were frequently used to suppress the activities of non-governmental human rights organizations. Estonia stood behind the need to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention, settlement and peace building. It encouraged States to strengthen their frameworks to empower and include women in decision making at the Government level, as well as in society. It also continued to advocate for the right of every child to protection from violence and abuse, and to freedom from physical and psychological punishment. Estonia continued to support the rights of indigenous peoples, and it advocated the need to accelerate efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. As a candidate for the United Nations Security Council membership in 2019-2021, Estonia would continue to actively participate in peacekeeping, invest in development and provide humanitarian aid.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18/009E