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29 March 2017

Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, this morning addressed a special meeting of the Human Rights Council, saying that Chile had made a commitment to head an initiative against torture that brought together countries from every continent for the purpose of preventing this crime from occurring and promoting the ratification of international instruments related to torture.

The President of the Council, Ambassador Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli of El Salvador, said this special meeting had been convened on the occasion of the visit of Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a video message, said Chile had long been a strong human rights advocate at the international stage.  Chile had made great strides since the end of the dictatorship, but too many families still did not know the truth about what happened to their loved ones.  The right to truth for victims of gross human rights violations was inalienable.  Any potential measure of pardon or early release for perpetrators must be carefully considered in light of human rights law.  The Chilean Government had also launched a participatory process towards adoption of a new Constitution, including a specific mechanism for the participation of indigenous peoples.  This was commendable as generations of discrimination had created deep-felt injustice and inequality.  Proper recognition and a meaningful dialogue were essential, particularly in La Araucania region, where the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was concerned about reports of excessive use of force and other abuses against members of indigenous groups.

In her statement, President Bachelet said that ensuring peace and security was a central task in constructing a free and prosperous world.  Human rights were the pillar that sustained the core purpose of the United Nations.  Attaining peace, security and sustainable development for societies required that people were placed, with their dignity and their rights, at the centre of policies and decision-making processes.  In order to understand and address the challenges that affected human rights, they must focus on determining the roots of the threats that swirled around them.  They had to listen to the uneasiness of citizens, resulting from their disappointment in the unfulfilled promise of development, for which they had worked so hard.  They must put an end to discrimination and create opportunities for women.  Two obligations must be met: promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.  This meant eliminating everywhere all forms of discrimination against women and girls, all forms of violence and harmful practices in both public and private arenas. 

The President of Chile said that no country, regardless of how powerful it was, was immune to these problems, and they could not be resolved by building walls, either real or metaphorical.  The Human Rights Council not only had a moral imperative, but also a mandate to promote these ideals.  Given current circumstances, they must undertake renewed efforts to enter into dialogue and reach a consensus on their work.  They could make progress towards fully achieving the goal of respect for human rights, willingly and without losing respect for their differences and uniqueness.  The Human Rights Council had a responsibility to speak out against every instance of human rights violations, regardless of sex, gender, identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, culture or religion, irrespective of the type of political regime in each country.  Preventive actions were important tools available to multilateral diplomacy and the Council must strengthen its mechanisms so that it could respond to early warnings of crises in the rule of law and in institutions.  Justice and accountability were just as important as preventive actions. 

Ms. Bachelet said that Chile had made a commitment to head an initiative against torture which brought together countries from every continent for the purpose of preventing this crime from occurring and promoting ratification of international instruments related to the issue.  After having received numerous recommendations, Chile in November 2016 had enacted a modification to the Penal Code that defined the crime of torture according to three categories: physical, psychological and sexual violence.  The Government was also working on efforts to present a bill that would create a national preventative mechanism against torture within the national human rights institution.  Simultaneously, Chile was working on policies that promoted inclusiveness, multicultural education and fair labour.  In order to meet the lofty goals that she had been speaking about, the President said that it was essential that they find a way to increase the 3 per cent of the regular budget that the United Nations currently allocated to the human rights agenda. 

In closing, the President of Chile said that it was important to preserve the essence of the Council and to prevent it from being used for alternative purposes by any State.  All countries were responsible for ensuring that the international system worked as it was supposed to.  Chile was a determined supporter of the rights of individuals.  As part of its quest to promote these rights, Chile sought to be re-elected to the Council for the 2018-2020 term and asked all countries, members and observers, to give Chile their vote of confidence. 

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