ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe


28 June 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

In the general debate, delegations voiced deep concern over ongoing intimidation of civil society actors.  Some speakers assured that the functioning of the Human Rights Council relied on the ability of civil society organizations to conduct their work.  The Council’s Presidency must publicly denounce cases of reprisals.  Speakers welcomed efforts to mainstream human rights into business practices.  The Council was urged to work transparently and mandate holders were asked to work in accordance with their code of conduct.  Some speakers stressed the importance of the adoption of a declaration concerning the rights of peasants and persons working in rural areas, which the Council had been working on for years.

The first part of the general debate was held on Wednesday, 27 June and a summary can be found here.

Speaking during the debate were the delegations of Luxembourg on behalf of a group of countries, France on behalf of a group of countries, Azerbaijan on behalf of a group of countries, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the League of Arab States, Venezuela, Belgium, China, Switzerland, Chile, Ecuador, Pakistan, Maldives, Montenegro, Colombia, Malta, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Ireland, Fiji, Malawi, Sudan, Bahrain, India, and Morocco on behalf of a group of countries.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Liberation, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, VAAGDHARA, Prahar, Liberation; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; Prahar; Center for Organisation Research and Education; International-Lawyers.Org; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; New Human Rigths Cameroon; International Service for Human Rights ; Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture; International Muslim Women's Union; Indian Council of South America (CISA); World Barua Organization; International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)  ; World Muslim Congress; Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters; Association culturelle des Tamouls en France; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme; Iraqi Development Organization; Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc; Alsalam Foundation; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; United Villages ; Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik; Association of World Citizens; Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR); International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM); Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme; Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi; Guinea Medical Mutual Association ; Global Welfare Association; Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea; Association des étudiants tamouls de France; Le Pont; L'Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie; International Solidarity for Africa; ABC Tamil Oli; Tamil Uzhagam; Association Thendral; Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP); Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”; Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health; Europe-Third World Centre and Institute for NGO Research; FIAN International.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  It will next consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of France, Tonga, Romania and Mali.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said reprisals against civil society actors affected the work of the Human Rights Council.  Human rights defenders must engage with the Council without fear.  Reports of human rights defenders being intimidated for engaging with the Council were unacceptable.  Specific cases of reprisals must be publicly denounced by the Presidency of the Human Rights Council.

France, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders played a key role in combatting intimidation and reprisals.  The role of the President of the Human Rights Council was essential in denouncing cases of reprisals.  Some Governments were trying to suppress the voices of individuals seeking to uphold human rights.  Female rights defenders played a particularly important role.

Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized the inalienable rights of all humans.  However, the world was a long way from achieving the goals set out in the document.  The overall human rights situation required a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights willing to work with all segments of society and expectations for the next Commissioner were higher than ever.

United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, welcomed the fact that focus was being placed on strengthening trade and exports.  The focus must also account for human rights.  Solutions must be presented to overcome issues of human rights violations in business.  The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises must denounce the practice of illegitimate settlements.

Venezuela reiterated its support for the adoption of internationally binding standards on businesses and human rights to establish accountability of transnational corporations and other businesses and remedy for the victims.  Venezuela was concerned that despite the code of conduct, Special Procedure mandate holders often violated them, in particular in relation to developing countries, and urged them to conduct their mandates without selectivity.

Belgium welcomed the improvements in gender and regional balances among the Special Procedure mandate holders and congratulated Afghanistan for becoming the 118th country in the world to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures.  The full cooperation of States was needed for Special Procedures to fulfil their mandates, stressed Belgium and reiterated its concern about repression and intimidation against human rights defenders and all those who cooperated with Special Procedures. 

China stressed that Special Procedures must act in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, respect national sovereignty, and discharge their mandates in a constructive, impartial and independent manner.  Developed countries must ensure that their transnational corporations which operated in developing countries respected human rights.

Switzerland called on the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations to establish cooperation with the Working Group of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on exportation credits, in order to obtain best examples in the implementation of “economic diplomacy” and environmental and social due diligence.

Chile regretted the decision of the United States Government to give up its Human Rights Council seat before the end of its term on the body.  Chile respected the sovereign decision of the United States and expressed hope that a productive dialogue on human rights could continue.

Ecuador regretted that the third pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights was ignored during the Forum on Business and Human Rights.  Victims of human rights violations were facing a myriad of obstacles and increased harassment.  There must be real mechanisms to ensure the protection of victims and provide them with access to remedy.  References must also be made to the plight of vulnerable groups.

Pakistan said it was supportive of the Forum on Business and Human Rights.  The situation of women, migrants and other vulnerable groups must be duly considered to ensure the protection of human rights in business.  It was in the best interest of transnational corporations to abide by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Responsible tax practices were also needed to promote sustainable development.

Maldives said a number of traditions and practices inherited from the Human Rights Council’s predecessor caused exclusivity and negatively affected the work of small nations.  There must be greater transparency so the Council could work in a way that was inclusive of small island developing States.  All States must have equal time to speak at the Council for the sake of transparency and multilateralism.

Montenegro reiterated its full support for the independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The role of Special Procedure mandate holders and human rights defenders was instrumental in the promotion of human rights.  Member States which had not done so were urged to issue standing invitations to relevant mandate holders.  Since gaining independence, Montenegro had been visited by three Special Procedure mandate holders.

Colombia was a pioneer in its region in adopting a national action plan on human rights and businesses.  Several civil society organizations had participated in drafting of the national action plan on human rights and businesses so a platform was established for inclusive dialogue in a post-conflict setting.  A protocol was drafted to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and community leaders, particularly in areas most affected by conflict.

Sovereign Order of Malta welcomed the report of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations.  The issue of trafficking was raised two times, first within the framework of private-public partnerships in providing remedy to victims of trafficking, and second in addressing modern slavery.  More best practices and concrete examples were needed on business and human rights.

Botswana appreciated the report presented by the Working Group and aligned itself with the statement of the African Group.  It was underscored that ensuring access to effective remedy was essential and the increasing transnational nature of businesses was noted. The business and human rights area was a sensitive space for developing countries which had to attract businesses but also protect their domestic markets and policies.

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf stressed the importance of Special Procedures for the achievement of the goals of the Human Rights Council, and underlined the necessity to achieve full cooperation between States and Special Procedures, which could be done through dialogue.  Due attention must be given to geographical and gender balance among mandate holders.

Ireland remained profoundly concerned about reports of reprisals and acts of intimidation targeting individuals seeking to engage with United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms, and was particularly troubled by reports of reprisal against civil society representatives seeking to engage in the recent session of Universal Periodic Review.  It was incumbent on all States to take all measures to prevent intimidation and reprisals.
Fiji said that the industrialization of small island States had a particularly adverse impact on their people and stressed that sustainable development must encompass the need to protect the environment and the peoples’ way of life.  Fiji hoped for greater cooperative effort in monitoring and assessing the compliance of transnational corporations and businesses with human rights. 

Malawi encouraged States and business enterprises to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles and said that business and human rights were included as a priority area in its new National Human Rights Action Plan, which included the revision of legislation and the development of a policy on businesses and human rights.  The Guiding Principles must be included in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Sudan reiterated that businesses operating in the country and their employees must fully respect human rights and treaties to combat transnational organized crime.  States were responsible for enforcing rules on the responsibility of national and transnational businesses.  All business must abide by international human rights standards.

Bahrain said positive participation and open dialogue underpinned international cooperation.  The Working Group on business and human rights must respect its mandate and code of conduct so as to present a balanced report that accounted for the difficulties faced by States.  Mandate holders must ensure the trustworthiness of the information they used.  Bahrain fully cooperated with United Nations Special Procedures.

India said the report of the Working Group on transnational corporations and human rights emphasised national action plans, stakeholder perspectives and judicial remedies.  India highlighted that the Third Pillar of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights had been overlooked.  India thanked the Working Group for its comprehensive report on the sixth session of the Forum on Business and Human Rights.

Morocco, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reiterated the crucial role of parliaments and parliamentarians in promoting and protecting human rights.  There must be greater cooperation between the Human Rights Council and national parliaments.  Such cooperation would result in greater mainstreaming of international human rights norms in national legislation.

Liberation welcomed all mechanisms set up by the United Nations for the promotion of human rights.  Some States were not responding to the communications of these mechanisms and treaty bodies.  Out of 10 communications sent to India, it had not responded to a single one.  India was urged to address the issue of racial discrimination as its report to that Committee had been due since 2007.

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee drew the Council’s attention to discrimination occurring in India, concerning the national register of citizens. The national register of citizens had not been updated in a transparent manner and the tactics employed by the Government spoke of discrimination against the Assamese indigenous communities, which were experiencing insecurity. 
Prahar said that the Government of India made a mockery of indigenous peoples.  Rendering protection to indigenous peoples was meaningless for India.  In north-east India, violations of indigenous peoples, including rape, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, were carried out by the Government and security forces.  Meanwhile, recommendations of countries like Switzerland were rejected by India.

Centre for Organisation Research and Education said that human rights treaties played an important role in promoting human rights.  Religious discrimination was occurring in India against indigenous Christians, who had increasingly become the target of attacks.  The small Christian minority, making up 2.5 per cent of the population, had been feeling insecure, but the situation had deteriorated since a Hindu radical party backed by a fundamentalist organization had come to power. 

International Lawyers.Org was seriously concerned about the protection of the right to health and the impact of climate change on the realization of human rights and called upon the Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change to encourage greater international action to protect the human rights and the welfare of the billions adversely affected by climate change.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation said that private businesses frequently committed grave human rights abuses for which they must be held accountable.  Businesses could and should be told who they should not be doing business with in order to uphold human rights.  One good example was the database compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on businesses operating in Israeli settlements.

New Human Rigths Cameroon said that inadequate justice mechanisms were enormous obstacles to preventing violations of human rights, while pervasive impunity denied the possibility of making complaints and having independent investigations.  The situation in Baluchistan was far from normal, as Pakistan had unleashed a reign of terror and had over 250,000 soldiers operating with complete impunity in the state.

International Service for Human Rights said that the Council and its Member States must adopt a zero tolerance approach to reprisals and reiterated the support for the senior focal point on reprisals, who should do more to make the post visible and accessible to human rights holders, including by developing a public policy, so that victims knew how to submit information.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that human rights were being violated by Israel.  Palestinians were suffering under the occupation and the impunity that Israel promulgated regarding torture and detention of children.  The situation in occupied Palestine resembled a kind of hell.  The Human Rights Council must ensure its resolutions on Palestine were fully implemented.

International Muslim Women’s Union said the United Nations system contained mechanisms that could be used to assess a wide range of human rights abuses.  The latest report on Jammu and Kashmir was important and was an exact reflection of the state of affairs in the region.  The report focused on health, education, human rights defenders, and violations against women and children.  India must restore all fundamental freedoms.

Indian Council of South America (CISA) said indigenous communities across Bolivia were being divided by the Government and State entities claiming to protect indigenous rights.  Justice was being administered in a way that ran counter to the country’s constitution in an effort to exploit the natural resources and land of indigenous communities. 

World Barua Organization said respect for the Human Rights Council was essential to the attainment of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  India was a country that was working counter to the efforts of the Council and blatantly rejected reports drafted by mandate holders.  The Council must urge India to respect human rights bodies and mechanisms.

International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) welcomed the report of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and especially the discussion on a legally binding agreement which would end corporate impunity.  There was serious lack of accountability in spite of the numerous documented incidents showing that transnational corporations committed atrocities with regard to the environment but also human rights defenders.   

World Muslim Congress said that human rights defenders were being killed in Kashmir.  India had to realize that Kashmiri youth were not afraid of it anymore.  Concern was expressed over the response of the Government of India to the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner.  Was this the behaviour of the world’s largest democracy?  A commission of inquiry on Jammu and Kashmir had to be established to investigate crimes committed there.

Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said that 30 journalists and human rights defenders had lost their lives in Kashmir.  Journalists and human rights defenders were regularly detained, intimidated and ordered to leave Kashmir if they wrote about pellet guns.  Indian State authorities used multiple tactics to intimidate civilians, exercising a crackdown on civil society.

Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France said that nine years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka, in which 150,000 Tamils were massacred, Tamils were still facing the consequences of the genocide.  Tamils were subjected to enforced disappearances.  The Office for Missing had failed to compile a list of missing persons.  Sri Lanka had one of the world’s highest numbers of missing persons. 

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme welcomed the recommendation of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations to use economic diplomacy to incentivise businesses to respect human rights.  A proper market-oriented corporate sector had to be based on both profit and consumer interests, and on the wellbeing of each and every stakeholder throughout its value chain.  But businesses had not been following that principle, the most prominent being Nestle. 

Iraqi Development Organization, in a joint statement, drew attention to the continued reprisals by Bahraini officials against various human rights defenders and their families.  Throughout 2018 a number of individuals in Bahrain had reported reprisals and threats against them relating to their participation in the Human Rights Council, including threats of physical violence, public defamation and rape. 

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc called attention to Saudi Arabia’s violation of women’s rights.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had launched a war against civil society, and some human rights defenders had been prevented from traveling to Geneva to participate in the work of the United Nations mechanisms.  Some had been accused of treason and their reputation had been tarnished.

Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement, noted that in the United Arab Emirates, prominent human rights activists had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges concerning freedom of expression.  In Saudi Arabia, the authorities had repeatedly targeted, harassed and detained women’s human rights activists.  The organization called on the Council to firmly address all cases of reprisal and to consider suspending the membership of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Council.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence called attention to the United States’ sanctions against Iran and their negative effect on the delivery of basic services to Iranian people.  Considering the unlawful behaviour of the United States, the organization called on the Council to send the Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures to study the effect of such measures on human rights in Cuba, Qatar, Russia, and “North Korea”.

United Villages was deeply concerned over acts of reprisals and intimidation against journalists and human rights defenders who cooperated with the United Nations.  Authorities continued harassing journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.  Human rights defenders trying to bring international attention to the human rights situation in the region were facing reprisals, including detention. 

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said Iran had failed to respond to questions by Special Procedure mandate holders on the arbitrary arrest of environmental human rights defenders, as well as the suspicious death of Dr. Kavous Seyed Emami while in prison.  Responses by Iran so far on other cases of detention were shocking. 

Association of World Citizens said Iran was yet to answer questions regarding the detention of Dr. Ahmad Reza Djalali.  He was in need of critical medical attention and was suffering from ill treatment at the hands of detention officers. The doctor had been sentenced to death in a summary and unfair trial with no evidence corroborating allegations and following a forced confession.

Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) said it was sad that India had denied access to United Nations bodies to inspect the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.  India did not want the world to know the scale of the systematic human rights violations being committed by its forces in the region.  Human rights defenders were facing increasing harassment for cooperating with the United Nations and other human rights mechanisms.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) said the Council had an important role in protecting populations under occupation.  The report of the High Commissioner referring to Kashmir was welcomed.  In order to exercise its full mandate, the Council had to at least invoke a panel discussion on the High Commissioner’s report.  In addition, a special mission had to be sent to Kashmir, particularly in the Indian-occupied area, and a special mandate could also be established.

Conseil International de Soutien à des Procès Equitables et aux Droits de l'Homme said that human rights were falling victim to increased politicization of some countries.  Western Sahara had been occupied by Morocco for many years, yet this was not on the agenda.  The politicization of measures had to be avoided.  No mandate holders could visit Western Sahara without the consent of Morocco. 

Association pour l'Integration et le Developpement Durable au Burundi noted the importance of human rights bodies in sustaining peace globally.  Many nations had been using violence in order to control the region.  The Government of India was one of them, and was controlling much of north-east India, particularly Assam, in the same way.  Granting citizenship to illegal migrants, and failing to update national registers were all signs of India seeking to erase the identity of the Assamese people.

Guinea Medical Mutual Association said that during the 30-year-long war in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers had carried out massacres against civilians.  Many mosques and Buddhists temples had been destroyed.  Tamil Tigers had killed hundreds of Buddhist devotees.  They had also killed 147 Muslim devotees during Friday prayers.  Killings continued even today, particularly in north-east Sri Lanka.

Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea reminded that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had abducted more than 400,000 during the civil war in Sri Lanka, whereas the Government of Sri Lanka had given assistance to those victims.  The massive humanitarian campaign had been successfully completed with Singhalese support and no donation from the Tamil community. 

Association des étudiants tamouls de France reminded that Sri Lanka had one of the highest disappearance rates in the world.  Tamil mothers, wives and children were continuously protesting, urging the Government of Sri Lanka to release the list of those who had surrendered to the Sri Lankan armed forces in May 2009.  The Government had failed to implement the recommendations of the Working Group on enforced disappearances. 

Le Pont noted that the Government of India and the State Government of Tamil Nadu were forcefully imposing needless projects in Tamil Nadu that would gravely harm the land and the environment.  The people of Tamil Nadu who protested against those projects were subjected to intimidation and arbitrary arrests.

L’Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie stressed that the Tamils in Sri Lanka were victims of the ongoing genocide on the island.  They faced systematic occupation of their land by the Sri Lankan military.  The lengthy delays in holding the Sri Lankan Government to account undermined the very integrity of the United Nations processes and the United Nations itself.

International Solidarity for Africa drew attention to the serious situation of occupation faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka.  From the end of British colonisation, Tamils had faced systematic occupation.  Sri Lankan military forces were targeting women and children and using sexual violence as a weapon. 

ABC Tamil Oli said that despite its portrayal in mainstream media, Sri Lanka remained unsafe for Tamils.  Land was being unlawfully seized for military and business purposes by State forces.  Evidence pointed to the conclusion that torture was being used and serious restrictions on free speech were in place.  Police forces used torture after apprehending Tamil civilians. 

Tamil Uzhagam drew attention to the brutal slaughter of Tamils in Sri Lanka.  Widespread use of enforced disappearance in the country was a grave violation of human rights.  The right to self-determination was recognized by the United Nations and the Human Rights Council must take steps to hold a referendum in Sri Lanka for Tamils to have an independent, sovereign nation.

Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle (COJEP) joined the international campaign to condemn Israeli violations in Palestine, especially as regarded the detention of children.  Israel was detaining children, with hundreds currently under administrative detention.  Children under the age of 10 had been detained by Israeli forces.  Some detainees were facing life sentences. 

Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” said that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights did not have the possibility to govern the area of transnational businesses.  Because of their nature to privatize anything of value, transnational corporations were incompatible with human rights.  It was like oil and water; they did not mix.  For three decades, this had been a burning issue.  The globalized world was dominated by 100 transnational corporations.

Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health drew the Council’s attention to the Gulf crisis which posed a security threat to the region.  The blockade against Qatar impacted thousands of persons and families, derogated property rights and affected the movement of people.  Citizens of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had also been affected. Some 646 complaints on forced family separation were received.  The right to health had been jeopardized and education had been interrupted. 

Europe-Third World Centre stressed the importance of the adoption of a declaration concerning the rights of peasants and persons working in rural areas.  Efforts had been underway since the high level panel in 2008.  The process was a testament to the strong movement and importance of the subject, and there was a necessity to develop an international mechanism which would address discrimination towards persons in rural areas, including peasants.  States were encouraged and urged to continue with this process.

Institute for NGO Research welcomed the report of the Working Group but had serious concerns and reserves concerning the Office of the High Commissioner’s paradigms on what constituted human rights abuse of businesses.  Instead of the necessity of a legally binding instrument, it would be better to promote open governance and anti-corruption.  It was unclear what constituted a violation.  There was also an anti-Israel bias in the Office of the High Commissioner. 

FIAN International said that for years, the process of adoption of a declaration concerning the rights of peasants and persons working in rural areas had been underway.  The rights of hundreds of thousands of peasants were being violated through evictions from their territories, forced migrations, unfavourable working conditions, and unfavourable market policies which had led them to lose their livelihoods.  Several thousand peasants had been killed for seeking their rights.

For use of the information media; not an official record