|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
32nd & 33rd Meetings (AM & PM)
National Efforts to Protect Human Rights, Effectiveness of Human Rights Council
and Special Procedures among Issues, as Third Committee Debate Continues
Some 38 Speakers Take Floor in Debate on Protection of Human Rights;
Delegations Describe Steps Taken on Migrants, Death Penalty, Religious Intolerance
After hearing from a wide variety of United Nations human rights experts over the past week, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), today, continued its general discussion on promoting human rights, with 38 speakers taking the floor to describe national efforts to promote human rights and to address the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council and special procedures.
The Committee began its consideration of human rights last Tuesday, 19 October, when it heard from two United Nations experts on torture, and on the following day, held a dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner Navanethem Pilay. Since then it has heard from more than 25 experts on a wide range of issues, including those on the right to food, foreign debt, freedom of religion, migrants, right to development, extrajudicial executions and water and sanitation. Yesterday it heard from the expert on human rights while countering terrorism.
In today’s discussion, the representative of Thailand, addressing the problems and rights of migrants, said that the country’s Employment of Aliens Act ensured that all registered migrant workers received the same welfare and labour protection entitlements as Thai workers, that a fund was established to provide migrants with medical treatment and services in public hospitals, and that Thailand had stepped up its efforts to fight trafficking in migrants and worked to encourage safe and legal means of migration. On the same issue, Costa Rica, which stated that it received a larger inflow of migrants than other States, said that it had demonstrated its respect for the human rights of migrants, in practice, by guaranteeing their equal rights and full access to all basic public services.
With regard to the death penalty, China’s representative stated that the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in the country had been reduced and the death penalty sentencing procedure had been made more stringent. Mongolia, meanwhile, stated that, while it maintained capital punishment de jure, a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was promoted in 2010 by the President through his constitutional authority to grant pardons, and was the first step to abolishing its death penalty.
A number of countries also debated measures to combat religious intolerance, in particular, against Muslims. Both Malaysia and Senegal expressed concern about “Islamophobia”, with the former stating that the real issue was not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates and extremists of all religions, which was why Malaysia had called for the building of a “global movement of moderates” of all faiths committed to marginalizing extremists who had held the world hostage with their bigotry. The representative of Pakistan stated that, while freedom of expression was sacrosanct, the defamation of any religion, including Islam, should not be allowed.
On the work to date of the Human Rights Council, which is up for review by the General Assembly, delegates largely expressed support for the Council and its special procedures, while noting the need for greater efficiency.
The representative of Liechtenstein said that the upgrade of the Human Rights Council to a principal body of the Organization was not, at the current time, “politically feasible”, or perhaps even desirable, as it would involve an amendment of the United Nations Charter. However, there was room to improve coherence between the Council and the General Assembly, and resolve inconsistencies in dealing with the Council’s reporting and funding for the Council’s decisions. China added that the mature operational model of the Council had been widely accepted by Member States, and it should not try to “reinvent the wheel” by re-launching negotiations on the basic institutional arrangements.
At the same time, the representative of Norway added that the Council’s Universal Periodic Review had proven to be an “unqualified success”, although it was not suited to address urgent human rights situations. Ukraine, remaining cautiously optimistic about the Council, said that it considered the Universal Periodic Review mechanism an important tool that, if used properly, had the potential to improve human rights around the world, and called for development of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.
Additional representatives who spoke during the morning session included: Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR), New Zealand, Venezuela, Australia, Japan, Libya, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Canada and Indonesia. An observer for Palestine also spoke.
In the afternoon, the United States, Cameroon, Colombia, Belarus, Nigeria, Cyprus, Greece, Singapore, Serbia, Peru, Mongolia, Kuwait, Morocco, Philippines, Togo, Japan and Cuba spoke.
The representatives of Ethiopia, Iraq and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 28 October, to continue its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights. In the afternoon, the Committee will be expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on “The role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights”. The Committee will also take action on draft resolutions concerning “Cooperatives in social development”, “United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all” and “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.”
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, stressed that migration enriched societies worldwide by making them more diverse and promoting the exchange of ideas. The contribution to the economic and social development of migrants in host societies, however, had not been sufficiently recognized. The Group regretted that the adoption of laws and regulations against undocumented migration, since, as a general rule, migrants should not be subjected to unlawful detention. In that regard, it encouraged Member States to end excessive detention periods for those who had not committed a crime and to unconditionally respect migrants’ inherent human rights, regardless of their status. Further, he called upon States to eliminate laws with political objectives which stimulate unsafe migration and to refrain from adopting measures which discriminate against or stigmatize any group of people.
He went on to note that the current tendency towards the “criminalization of migrants” was of particular concern. International criminal networks had made the trafficking of migrants one of their main objectives. “We need to promote policies and positive attitudes, especially through education,” he said. The Group was committed to intensifying measures to prevent and combat such trafficking, and urged all States to establish and strengthen appropriate focal points for coordination between countries of origin, transit and destination. Cooperation and dialogue among all relevant actors in the migration phenomenon — particularly among countries of origin, transit and destination — was crucial in order to fully realize the benefits of migration and to face the challenge with a coherent, rational and multidimensional approach. Respect for migrants’ dignity and human rights must be at the centre of those considerations.
ALAN SELLOS (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), asked for a moment of silence in memory of the late President of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, which was granted by the Chair. He aligned his statement with that delivered by Chile on behalf of the Rio Group on the issue of the rights of migrants. Further, the Member States of MERCOSUR and Associated States were firmly committed to the promotion and protection of all human rights, both regionally and internationally, said the representative. He reaffirmed the Group’s conviction that, as set out in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.
In the framework of MERCOSUR and the Associated States, a Meeting of Senior Officials on Human Rights and Foreign Ministries began operating in 2005 to “deal with central human rights issues”, he said. At its last summit, the Heads of State of MERCOSUR adopted the structure and first budget for the Institute of Public Policy related to Human Rights of MERCOSUR, which was established to contribute to strengthening the rule of law in the States parties. He expressed concern over the impact of the economic and financial crisis in the realization of all human rights, including civil liberties and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. In that respect, he called upon the international community to strengthen the protection and promotion of all human rights, and called on developed countries to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to international development assistance until 2015.
Noting an increase in the episodes of religious intolerance around the world, he reaffirmed the right of all individuals to freedom of belief and religion, as well as the importance of combating incitement to religious hatred through dialogue, tolerance and education in human rights. He was further concerned by the continuing violation of human rights of persons because of their sexual orientation, and highlighted the “urgency and importance” of removing criminal sanctions because of sexual orientation. Stating, finally, that four years ago, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was adopted, the representative stressed the need for early entry into force of that Convention and called on Member States to consider its prompt ratification.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said that the upgrade of the Human Rights Council to a principal body of the Organization was not, at the current time, “politically feasible” — nor perhaps even desirable, as it would involve an amendment of the United Nations Charter. At the same time, there was substantial room and need for improvement in the efficiency and coherence between the Council and the General Assembly, in particular with its Third and Fifth Committees. The inconsistencies in dealing with the Council’s report and the adequate and timely funding for the Council’s decisions needed to be reviewed. He also hoped that the Geneva Working Group on the Review of the Work and Functioning of the Council, which was currently meeting for the first time, would encourage a constructive dialogue. He then observed that the annual debate on the agenda item illuminated the “glaring gap” between international human rights standards and their implementation. The extensive effort undertaken on resolutions and legal frameworks to address human rights violations was evident. However, he pointed out that the same effort wasn’t invested in applying what had been agreed upon.
The special procedure system and the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the treaty bodies, were essential as a synergetic framework that helped States “promote, protect and realize all human rights”. Noting that the modalities of the second round of the Universal Periodic Review were being reviewed, he stressed that the Review’s universality and the level-playing field it created needed to continue to be applied and reinforced. Further, the independence of the Special Procedure Mechanisms was indispensable in achieving high-quality work. Predictable and adequate funding to ensure the best professionals were involved was crucial in that regard. Concluding, he said that in regards to human rights treaty bodies, that were over 1000 reports overdue and that some fell short of the reporting guidelines, thus rendering the dialogue between the treaty bodies and States less meaningful. Treaty body work could contribute to concrete national policy improvements. At the same time, the bodies suffered from a massive backlog, and improvements in work methods were needed. He hoped that the practice of focused follow-up reports and the consideration of reports in parallel chambers would contribute to the quality of dialogue in a cost-efficient way.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT ( Pakistan) said that it was necessary to create safeguards against new forms of discrimination and obstacles to human rights, and Pakistan stood ready to do so. Unfortunately, implementation of human rights faced challenges because of the politics of scarcity, greed and exploitation. Under the yoke of occupation, many did not have the right to self-determination. The international community needed to show the same resolve for that right as it had showed in the fight against apartheid. None of the human rights instruments were ranked, and there was equal status between economic, civil, social, political and other rights. Yet, that could undermine all rights, as those who were at the frontline of hardship were also likely to be victims of human rights violations. While human rights were interdependent, in reality, there was selectivity in promoting human rights, as well as economic and political exploitation. Further, because poverty and human rights were linked, poverty should become the central theme of the human rights machinery and development strategies should be oriented towards economic growth and creating equitable, inclusive and just societies where benefits were shared equally.
Another emerging challenge that needed to be addressed by international human rights law was discrimination and xenophobia. Islam and Muslims were being negatively stereotyped and the people of Pakistan were alarmed and hurt by the blasphemous material that targets Islam. While freedom of expression was sacrosanct, it should not defame any religion. Joint and serious action was needed to combat excesses due to freedom of expression. Also Pakistan noted its respect for the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs, but stated that, from time to time, it came across as politically motivated perspectives and cases where their personal opinion prejudiced their mandate. Pakistan’s Constitution was based on equal rights, including social, economic and political justice, and the State had also signed international covenants relating to civil and political rights, and against torture. The Government had a citizen-centred vision; the media was one of most free in South Asia and it had worked zealously to foster a culture of accountability. Additionally, noting that the world and region was faced with extremism and terrorism, he said that Pakistan wanted to remove these elements from its soil through effective strategies. In that, the Government’s resolve remained unshaken.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) stated that “maintaining an honest and constructive dialogue on human rights is an important component in improving the situation of those who are the most in need”. In that context, he wanted to offer his opinion on some of the most serious situations where dialogue had, so far, failed to yield tangible results. In Sudan, he was concerned by the continued deterioration and called on the authorities to ensure the January referendum actually proceeds. He also welcomed the extension of the mandate of the Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan and urged Sudan’s cooperation with the Expert. Concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, brutal human rights abuses continued and he reiterated what New Zealand had said in the Human Rights Council: “The gravity and extent of these human rights abuses can only be seen as war crimes and crimes against humanity.” He was also concerned of the continued lawlessness in Somalia, “where human rights are violated on a daily basis”. He noted that Somalia itself had appealed to the General Assembly for help, stating “we must respond to that call”.
During Iran’s Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council, he recalled that New Zealand had recommended that Iran remove stoning as a Sharia court-mandated punishment. “We reiterate that call to Iran,” he said. Concerning Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he supported calls for greater protection of civilians and an immediate end to all violence. He appealed to authorities of Myanmar to ensure next month’s elections were free, fair and transparent. He added that he was particularly concerned at recent reports regarding the displacement and abuse of children and their recruitment as child soldiers in Myanmar, and called on the regime to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Last year, he noted, the nation had called on Pyongyang to cooperate with relevant United Nations mechanisms but “the situation in the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has not improved”. Turning with “some sadness” to the nation’s own region, he drew attention to the ongoing violation of human rights in Fiji. Noting that it had been nearly four years since the coup and that the country had been ruled by decree since the 2009 abrogation of the Constitution, he urged the nation’s authorities to “heed calls from their close neighbours”, speaking through the Pacific Island Forum, to pursue practical progress that “will return Fiji to constitutional Government”.
WANG MIN ( China) said the universal realization of the right to development remained a challenging task. The international financial crisis and natural disasters had left many developing countries facing considerable difficulties. Also, racism still posed a grave threat to civilization, with a surge of neo-fascism, neo-Nazism and discrimination against immigrants in some countries and regions. Politicization hampered international human rights work, and some countries were using human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. In China’s view, countries should focus on the right to development, elimination of discrimination and elimination of politicization and confrontation in human rights. Regarding the review of the work of the Human Rights Council, China believed that the overall objective should be to increase the efficiency of the Council and to enable it to deal with human rights issues in a more impartial, objective and non-selective way. It should not try to “reinvent the wheel” by re-launching negotiations on the basic institutional arrangements. The mature operational model of the Council had been widely accepted by Member States and “no major adjustments should be made” to it.
Recalling the severe natural disasters in his country this year, Mr. Wang described how his Government had made great efforts in disaster relief and reconstruction. Tens of millions in China still lived in poverty and the Government was formulating a new five-year plan to address that problem. Important progress in democracy and the rule of law had been made in the past year, with the number of crimes subject to the death penalty reduced and the death penalty sentencing procedure made more stringent. The electoral law was amended to ensure equal electoral rights for all citizens, and other laws amended to remove discrimination against those with hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS and leprosy. Concrete measures had been taken to support the development of regions where ethnic minorities lived. To help ensure basic human rights in other developing countries, China had extended “sincere and selfless assistance of various forms”, including the building of schools, drinking water facilities and stadiums. Medical teams had also gone out to nearly 70 countries.
VERÓNICA CALCINARI VAN DER VELDE ( Venezuela) began her remarks by expressing her delegation’s deepest regrets to the sister republic of Argentina for the sudden loss of its former President Mr. Kirchner. “We share the pain of the country.” Venezuela was irrevocably committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was a humanistic democracy with scrupulous respect, not only for civil and political rights, but also for the social, economic and cultural rights of its people. Its view of human rights was, thus, multidimensional. The importance of social, economic and cultural rights were minimized by the ideologies of injustice, oppression and inequality, which gave preference to political and civil rights, in the belief that other rights could be put off to another day because they were too costly. There was no real proof that the most powerful countries were models to be respected, but there was ample proof that Western countries got rich through massive violations of human rights.
“Humanitarian imperialists” had nothing to teach others about human rights; today’s imperialists were self-declared defenders of human rights, she said. That pointed to double standards. When would crimes against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan be investigated? How many people had been massacred in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian territory? When would the blockade against Cuba be lifted? It was reprehensible that imperialists were seeking to put on trial sovereign countries that did not share imperialist pretensions justified by the war on terror. In its region, Venezuela had the smallest degree of inequality, and an atmosphere of democratic freedom. Freedom of opinion was complete, elections were free and transparent, and the political opposition had full access to the media. International human rights instruments ratified by Venezuela were reflected in its Constitution and took precedence over national law. In this bicentennial year of its independence, it was Venezuela’s wish to see the universal application of all human rights.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia) said his country’s human rights consultations had resulted, this past April, in a National Human Rights Framework, which focused on human rights education and raising awareness. Significantly, it created a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, required new bills to be compatible with international human rights obligations and established a Human Rights National Action Plan. Concerning one important issue, he said Australia was committed to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and was attempting to build on the apology made on behalf of the nation to Indigenous Australians for past mistreatment, working on a range of measures to close the gap between the rights and livelihoods of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. His country had also played a leading role in developing guidelines on the protection of civilians in peace operations, he said, but there remained a gap between expectations of the United Nations system and the actual capacity of peacekeepers on the ground. Mission leaders and peacekeepers needed operational guidance, training and resources to prepare them to respond to threats against civilians. Australia would also financially support training materials for peacekeepers to prevent and respond to sexual violence; it also strongly supported the principle of Responsibility to Protect, he said.
Australia also strongly supported involvement of National Human Rights Institutions in global human rights mechanisms, he said, and added that, in a spirit of frank and mutually respectful dialogue, had, this year, made representations to all countries that maintained capital punishment. Further, two years after the global financial crisis, it remained imperative that the international community acknowledged the importance of economic, social and cultural rights. Positive developments such as Angola and Mongolia’s abolition of the death penalty, the Philippines’ commitment to addressing sexual violence and Botswana’s role as a leading light on good governance in Africa, gave Australia cause for hope. Australia was also impressed by the efforts of Laos and Kiribati, with their lack of resources, to lead up their most recent Universal Periodic Reviews. But some States such as Myanmar, Iran, Zimbabwe, Fiji and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to fail in their obligation to protect. His country recognized that a nation universally committed to human rights was a stronger, safer and more resilient nation and sought to learn from the experience of others. “We recognize that we can do better — no country has an infallible human right record and we will continue to work with other States with this premise as our starting point,” he said.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said that the promotion of human rights had been a constant of his country’s foreign policy and identity. He outlined Costa Rica’s track record in that regard, stating that it was the first country to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and was a party to all principle human rights instruments. It had supported the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had hosted the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and was a leader in the process of negotiating the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The country had abolished the army, allowing it to channel resources towards the direct benefit people, so that they could enjoy a universal system of health and education without discrimination. In Costa Rica’s legal system, the international human rights instruments were universally applied, and judicial access to those rights was guaranteed.
Costa Rica supported the fight against poverty, the right to development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said. Additionally, Costa Rica supported the fight against all forms of discrimination, celebrating multiculturalism and respecting vulnerable groups in all parts of the world. Last September, it had held a seminar concerning people of African descent and tackling discrimination in that area. Costa Rica had demonstrated, in practice, its respect for the human rights of migrants, as it received a larger inflow of migrants than other States, but had been able to guarantee their equal rights and full access to all basic public services, despite difficulties. Costa Rica also noted that any process having to do with the maintenance of international security had to incorporate human rights, and that the protection of minorities in conflict and post-conflict situations, including combating sexual violence against children and women, was necessary. Another important advancement was the establishment of an Ombudsperson with regard to resolution 1267. Noting that many challenges still needed to be faced, he also stated his support for the initiative on a moratorium on death penalty, initiatives against torture and the role of the Ombudsman in promoting and protecting human rights. He expressed satisfaction at the paradigm shift in the international community, moving from a state-centred vision to a view of human rights that was centred on human beings, which led to the recognition that violations of human rights could not be treated as exclusively domestic matters.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said the promotion and protection of human rights was a pillar of Japan’s foreign policy. Indeed, the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms was among the basic responsibilities of every Government, and violations of those rights could not be excused on the basis of a country’s economic development, culture, customs or political system. She believed promotion and protection of human rights would lead to peace and stability in the “world we share”.
In its effort to promote and protect human rights, Japan was engaging in dialogue, principally with other Asian countries, which would contribute to concrete forms of cooperation, such as assistance in judicial system reform. Further, Japan was working to enlighten its citizens, empower individuals and create communities, so that everyone could realize his or her potential and live in dignity. And it grounded its efforts in the concept of human security, which it had advocated for some time. Japan’s resolution, “Advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia”, which was adopted by consensus at last month’s Human Rights Council session, was the result of human rights dialogue between the Cambodian and Japanese Governments, she said. Her country was also working towards ending discrimination against those suffering from leprosy. In closing, she said Japan reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the international community to protect human rights, which “are a critical concern to us all”.
SAMIRA A. ABUBAKAR ( Libya) said that, in many parts of the world, human rights were being violated in many ways, including through violence, terrorism, counter-terrorism, violation of religion, tribal struggles and clashes, and foreign occupation. The Palestinians had been deprived of their rights, including the right to self-determination, by the Israeli occupying forces. Special interest was supposed to have been given by the international community to such violations. Plans had been afoot to reform the international architecture of human rights through the Human Rights Council. In general, though, developing countries had lost their economic balance and social control, as they were forced to bow to the hegemony of others. Social, economic and cultural rights had not been getting as much attention as political and civil rights; there should be a balance between all rights, which were indivisible.
Libya was party to all international human rights instruments, she said. Its people were convinced of the “sacred nature” of human rights. A supreme document encompassing human rights had been adopted in Libya, which served as a point of reference. Degrading penalties had been minimized and torture had been abolished. Libya had nothing to fear regarding human rights. Imbalances in the international community regarding human rights had led to uncertainty, selectivity and double standards. Human rights instruments had to be better implemented, in a spirit of impartiality and objectivity. Libya regretted that human rights were no longer seen as a matter of ethnics; all too often, political ends were involved.
NADYA RASHEED, observer for Palestine, reiterated her appreciation for the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, which starkly conveyed the situation there. The rights of the Palestinian people were being grossly, systematically and gravely breached by Israel, the occupying power, by means of unlawful policies and practices. The right to self-determination, which underpinned all human rights, was being violated, as were the rights to life, property, food, livelihood, housing, education, health, development, water, movement and worship. Such a situation was the result of Israel’s total disregard and wilful flouting of its legal obligations, without fear of punishment from the international community.
She said her delegation had hoped for a different situation this year, given the international efforts towards peace. But, while the international community and the Palestinian leadership had been focusing on confidence-building, Israel had hijacked the prospects for real peace. “ Israel has not ceased its violations of human rights for one moment.” Palestinian civilians were still being killed, injured and maimed; prisoners were still being mistreated and tortured; homes and property were being destroyed; and the unlawful blockade of Occupied Gaza was still in place. But the most striking example of Israel’s sabotage of prospects for peace was its unlawful campaign of settler colonialism, especially in and around East Jerusalem. That campaign had been proceeding, despite a global consensus that it was an obstacle to any peace plan, as well as a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. “The situation before us is indeed grim”, Israel would only be emboldened to act with impunity, if it was not held accountable for its human rights violations and crimes against the Palestinian people. If that continued, an end to the Israeli occupation, the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, and their right to live in freedom and dignity in an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, would be ever more distant.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) said that human rights were among the top priorities of the Royal Thai Government, which remained committed to the promotion and protection of those rights in all relevant forums. Also high on its national agenda was the right to development and human security, he said, noting that the country had made great strides, most notably in the areas of gender equality, empowerment of women and maternal health. Further, his country’s human rights protections extended beyond Thai citizens; its Employment of Aliens Act ensured that all registered migrant workers received the same welfare and labour protection entitlements as Thai workers. To that end, a fund was established to provide migrants with medical treatment and services in public hospitals, and all children, regardless of nationality, could attend school. The country had also stepped up its efforts to fight human trafficking and worked to support and encourage safe and legal means of migration.
Thailand remained active in various regional and international forums, including the newly-established Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) International Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. As a recently-elected member of the Human Rights Council, Thailand hoped to act as an intermediary between opposing views by promoting greater cooperation and consensus on human rights issues. “We hope to make the [Human Rights Council] an instrument for building common ground among different groups and regions,” he said, adding that Thailand would address human rights challenges in a progressive manner. As his Prime Minister had said when Thailand was seeking a Human Rights Council seat: “Obstacles will remain…but if people are ready to reach out to one another as fellow human beings, that will be the beginning of our success in ensuring the effective enjoyment of human rights, freedom and liberty.”
HASSAN ALI HASSAN ALI ( Sudan) said that, without dispute, human rights around the world were subject to many violations. Countries suffered from heavy violations because of colonialism and the creation of borders that fuelled problems. With that situation in a majority of developing countries, it was not acceptable for some countries to claim that they were international police officers, when their own violations tarnished that name. He said that the European Union’s dealing with human rights questions only led to further tensions between peoples and considered human rights from a limited viewpoint. While the European Union countries were considered economically more advanced, some of them constituted a real dilemma concerning the obstruction of human rights. Migration went towards Europe and people fled from the South to the North because of conflicts, but migrants often found themselves in cruel situations, facing violations of human and labour rights. Migrants and refugees found that their sacred religious symbols were being demeaned and a number of political parties also blatantly followed xenophobic actions.
Outside the European continent, he said Sudan called upon New Zealand to enforce recommendations regarding the rights of its indigenous peoples. The European Union should refrain from distorting the concept of human rights and from interfering with the internal affairs of others, criticizing in a manner that was not objective. Noticing several attempts to introduce the rights of homosexuals on agendas and the support of that from European Union countries, he also said that he blatantly rejected such a culture. Additionally, he stated support for reinforcing the role of the Human Rights Council and developing its mechanisms to enhance human rights. Further, the special situation of some countries must be considered and a democratic and more objective dialogue was needed, giving due attention to social and cultural questions. That could create a common ground upon which to have a dialogue between cultures. He expressed full readiness to cooperate with the Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights.
MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that, while her country had taken extra measures to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis, it recognized the link between development and human rights. A major policy address by the President of her country in January 2010 provided for improvements in a number of areas, including the judiciary and law enforcement. A number of laws relating to human rights had been adopted, including a refugee law and legislation to promote the equal rights of women. Several offences were being decriminalized and more attention was being given to the rehabilitation and reintegration of those who had been detained.
Commending the constructive work of the Human Rights Council and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she noted that her country was a candidate for membership in the Council for 2012-2015. If elected, Kazakhstan would work to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Council. An open invitation had gone out to all special procedures mandate holders to visit Kazakhstan; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing had already visited and the Special Rapporteur on education would be coming in 2011. They were expected to carry out their work in accordance with their mandates. Human rights would be a focus at the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to be held in Astana on 1 and 2 December. Going back to the roots of the human rights paradigm, the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter needed to be refreshed in order to bring about more credibility and impartiality and to promote a development-based approach to human rights.
TINE MØRCH SMITH (Norway), welcoming the Human Rights Council’s recent adoption of a cross-regional initiative on freedom of association, reiterated her Government’s firm opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, as capital punishment tended to foster a casual attitude to the right to life. In the application of the death penalty, any miscarriage of justice was irreversible, and she urged support for a resolution to be presented to the General Assembly, on a global moratorium on its use. The goal of the Universal Periodic Review, which itself had been proven as an “unqualified success”, was not to address urgent human rights situations. Four-year cycles were not suited to such a purpose. Hence, she wanted to address a few areas of concern. She deeply regretted there had been no observable change in Myanmar’s human rights situation. She strongly called on that regime to improve dialogue with the United Nations. As the 7 November elections approach, she called on it to lift restrictions on the freedom of assembly and of the media, and immediately release human rights defenders, democracy activists and other political prisoners.
As for Iran, she expressed grave concern at reports of torture in detention centres and prisons, as well as reports of execution of minors and of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments that breached Iran’s international obligations. In Sudan, more efforts were needed to ensure that human and political rights for all Sudanese were respected, and she urged national and local authorities in the north, south and in the Abyei area to ensure a political environment conducive to organizing referenda in 2011. Norway agreed that human rights in the Palestinian Territory were underpinned by the right to self-determination and that the only way to secure those rights was through negotiations that led to the creation of an independent Palestinian State. Also, it was important that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took steps to ensure no disparity in regards to food access, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she recommended that crimes against journalists and human rights defenders be prosecuted and that victims, witnesses and judicial personnel involved in such trials be protected. Reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan would require broad representation of religious, ethnic and civil society groups, and especially women.
ZAHID RASTAM (Malaysia), recalling that each State had an inalienable right to choose its political, economic, social and cultural systems without interference, said those basic principles underpinned international human rights and should not be taken lightly. Debate on human rights was a healthy process towards realizing the highest standards of those rights. It was up to States to create the conditions for enjoying civil and political rights, and ensuring the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights, especially for developing nations. In that work, “the jury is still out”, he said, as in too many cases, political considerations had come into play. For its part, Malaysia was creating an environment for exercising human rights and fundamental freedoms, he said. In a multiracial and multi-ethnic society, such as in Malaysia, the principle of tolerance played a crucial role. States must be consistent and constructive in the treatment of human rights situations, rather than target specific countries.
On the death penalty, he said the Committee’s past debates showed there was no consensus on that issue. His country imposed the death penalty only for the most serious crimes, but was reviewing all offences carrying that sentence and reconsidering the preferred charges. No such sentences had been carried out between the start of 2009 and April 2010. Malaysia had voted against the resolution regarding a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as it was unbalanced. On the Universal Periodic Review, while it could be strengthened, it was a good alternative to country-specific reports and offered the chance for dialogue among countries with differing views. Concerned about “Islamophobia”, he said the real issue was not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates and extremists of all religions, which was why Malaysia had called for the building of a “global movement of moderates” of all faiths committed to marginalizing extremists who had held the world hostage with their bigotry. Balance in the notions of defamation of religion, as well as on the freedom of religion, opinion and expression — in conceptual, legal and practical terms — was needed. Malaysia was reviewing its legal framework to ensure compatibility with each international human rights instrument, and considering accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others. It also would prioritize increased support for the National Human Rights Commission.
YAHYA IBRAHEEM FADHIL AL-OBAIDI ( Iraq) said that the new Iraq attached importance to human rights, and had acceded to the principal treaties, covenants and protocols, as well as brought national legislation in line with them, particularly with regard to torture and missing persons. Terrorism was a major challenge to the Government’s policies in trying to promote principles of human rights. Iraq had made a great effort to protect women, children and the elderly, and had provided protection for places of worship and ethnic and religious minorities. The Government had created laws to counter terrorism and, recently, Iraqi security forces had engaged in campaigns against terrorism, apprehending a number of terrorists from Al-Qaida, which had reduced the amount of violence in the country.
Iraq’s Constitution was the basic document promoting human rights in the country, he said. It contained a number of criteria regarding human rights, stressing the principles of equality, citizenship, the right to life, the inviolability of the home, equitable justice, the right to participate in public affairs and rights to vote, which were all protected. Iraq’s Constitution also emphasized economic, cultural and social rights, banned forced labour and slavery, and guaranteed freedom to demonstrate, freedom to join political parties and freedom to worship. In addition, Iraq had developed national structures to ensure respect for human rights. It had established groups that detected the violations of rights and created a National Institute of Human Rights. Major efforts had been made to deal with missing persons, prisoners and common burial grounds. School programmes had been revised, freedoms were broadened for national magazines and newspapers, and a number of television channels had recently been created. Iraq was also strengthening the role played by the justice system, which had to be independent and to protect the rights of citizens. After its experience with war, Iraq was trying to promote development for its citizens and a stable democracy, and so, the participation of the international community in rebuilding would be welcome. At the beginning of the year, Iraq had carried out democratic elections and he thanked those who had helped to strengthen national unity.
JOHN A. MCNEE ( Canada) said the international community needed to effectively “close the gap between aspiration and achievement” in advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms. Implementing human rights norms remained a challenge for all, yet Canada was hopeful the world community could find common ground to advance them. He welcomed the creation of the Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association as the first step towards addressing a long-standing gap in the United Nations’ human rights machinery. Regrettably, democratic rights continued to be violated around the world; Canada remained seriously concerned about curtailment of freedoms in Belarus; it also had long-standing concerns about violations “against the Burmese people”. “We have imposed the toughest sanctions in the world against the regime to indicate our condemnation of its disregard for human rights,” he said.
Canada was also concerned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s disregard for rights, and called on its Government to allow the Special Rapporteur on the issue access to the country. Attacks on journalists and media professionals in all parts of the world, including the growing phenomenon of attacks against “citizen journalists”, were also disturbing. He went on to call on the Iranian Government to allow its people to enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms. “We believe that the situation in Iran has worsened since the June 2009 Presidential elections,” he said. He said his country stood resolutely with the brave defenders of human rights around the world, and urged Governments to ensure that no unacceptable harassment or intimidation of human rights defenders took place. And, although encouraged by the decrease in abuses since Zimbabwe formed its Inclusive Government in February 2009, he called for genuine shifts in policy for improvements there. Canada was also alarmed by reports of serious violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling for an end to the violence. In closing, he asked delegates to “keep in mind the courageous individuals and organizations who tirelessly dedicate their lives to seeing the full potential of the Universal Declaration realized”.
DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said his country attached great importance to the six strategic priorities established last year by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights — fighting poverty, inequality, discrimination, violence and impunity, as well as strengthening human rights machinery. Indonesia had always believed that such human rights were interrelated to development and democracy, and that sustainable progress could not be made in any country where any of those factors was ignored or given priority over the others. In the past several years, his country had embarked on the promotion and protection of human rights under the Second National Action Plan that used a strategy consisting of six pillars: the strengthening of the implementing agencies at national and regional levels; the preparation for ratification of international human rights instruments; the harmonization of national legal institutions and legislation with international human rights instruments; the dissemination of human rights education; the implementation of human rights standards and norms; as well as monitoring, evaluating and reporting. The third phase of the National Plan, he said, would add a new pillar to better provide communication services to the people and strengthen the 456 local committees at the district level that had been established for purposes of implementation.
“We are pleased at the October 2009 launch of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights,” he stated, adding that the nation was confident it would further boost efforts in both the promotion and protection of human rights. He noted that the nation had also participated in the inauguration of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, as well as the fifteenth workshop on regional cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia believed that those steps were “in the right direction” and stressed its commitment to strengthening the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The nation invited the international community to support the Commission to ensure its success.
THOMAS O. MELIA ( United States) said that his country believed in the work of the special mechanisms and wanted to see them strengthened. With regard to the establishment at the Human Rights Council of a new Special Rapporteur for the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the United States looked forward to supporting that work. Systematic infringements on rights to gather lay at the heart of the “political recession” underway in the world, and new ways had to be found to address them. The United States also believed that Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to be grave concerns to the international community. Stating that other countries also posed a concern, he cited a number that were emblematic of the problem of denying men and women the rights to gather and speak their minds. The United States had a practice of analyzing and reporting on the human rights of countries all over the world, providing such information for policy-makers, scholars and journalists. And, his country was also prepared to be judged by the same standards. Critiques of the United States by independent groups were published, and none of those people went to jail; some had received prizes. The United States had recently presented a full accounting to the Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review and its delegation would appear in Geneva on 5 November for its self-assessment.
In the spirit transparency, he stated there were too many countries that deserved the scrutiny of Third Committee. In the country widely known as Burma, civil society was brutally repressed. The junta there has ensured that its November 7 elections would be neither free nor fair. Two thousand and one hundred political prisoners were detained, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and its barring of international media coverage stifled political freedoms. Few places, however, approached the level of violent repression that continued to be witnessed in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. The United States deplored the imprisonment of repatriated asylum seekers, extrajudicial killings and denial of other universal freedoms. With regard to the United Nations Independent Expert on Sudan, he called on all parties to cooperate with him, particularly following reports of harassment and arrests of individuals in Darfur. The freedoms of expression and assembly were also curtailed daily in Cuba, with short-term detention and Government-orchestrated mob violence used to suppress dissent and harass trade workers, for example. In Iran, there was violence against political activists, thousands of individuals were detained without cause and some were sentenced to death. The United States believed in shining a spotlight on such abuses and hoped that the work of United Nations would make the light brighter, so that victims would know “we support their cause”.
CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA ( Cameroon) said the reports that had been presented by the special procedures mandate holders signalled welcome progress. However, the overall picture had been missed — and that was that the full enjoyment of human rights, especially for those who only knew misery, had been hampered by the impact of the economic, financial, energy, food and climate crises, as well as natural disasters. The capacity of States to fulfil the needs of their populations was being put to the test. The right to development was an inalienable human right that deserved, more than ever, special attention.
Noting that her Government had spared no effort in improving the human rights situation in her country and to respond to the aspiration of the Cameroonian people, she provided an overview of measures it had taken in the field of human rights. It had signed and ratified nearly all international human rights instruments. In April 2010, legislation was adopted in the National Assembly to create a National Human Rights Commission. Economic and social efforts to improve the living conditions of the population had included concrete efforts to build rural hospitals and dig wells. Human rights was like a vast building site that needed a lot of money. To move forward, States needed to demonstrate firm political will, and the international community and developed countries had to respect their commitments.
BASSIROU SENE ( Senegal) said that blatant violations of human rights continued to be seen around the world, and causes for concern persisted in many regions. Millions of men and women were stigmatized because of their political beliefs. There were persisting inequalities with relation to vulnerable groups, which undermined development. The deprivation of many people’s fundamental freedoms deserved greater attention. Migrant populations suffered from extreme vulnerability, and a movement of solidarity was needed to facilitate their integration and uphold their rights. Human beings could only be free from fear of poverty if everyone enjoyed economic and cultural rights. Recognizing the dignity of people was the foundation of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world. It was our responsibility to consolidate progress and meet the aspirations of humanity through a fair system that avoided imbalances.
It was necessary to improve the approach to upholding human rights and to promote the United Nations principles of universality, he said. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights had to be a benchmark, and the solution to problems needed to transcend differences. Fostering education was also necessary. The spirit of the Declaration would be violated if all other communities had to abide by a single culture. Senegal expressed commitment to a dialogue about cultures and condemned “Islamophobia”. Misunderstandings between nations also could not be an excuse to ignore violations of human rights. Senegal was a party to human rights instruments and had made this issue a pillar of its foreign policy. The Government would work to protect those rights and strengthen its legislative national framework. The protection of human rights was a long-term undertaking, and education must be improved to that end.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Columbia) reiterated the nation’s strong commitment to continue strengthening ties of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and noted the President’s will to renew the mandate of the Office in Bogota for three years. She highlighted several of the Government’s current priorities on human rights: security for activists and human rights defenders, inclusion of a state policy on human rights in national and regional development plans, adoption of the law of reparation to victims and its implementation, adoption of the law for the restitution of land, the fight against impunity, dialogue with civil society, implementing the nation’s national commitments, and the creation of a National Commission on Human Rights.
She stated that Columbia was planning to present a draft resolution under the agenda item for the promotion and protection of human rights that related to the Programme of Activities for the International Year of African descent in 2011. That draft resolution, he said, would aim to raise international awareness on the issue of people of African descent and promote the strengthening of national and international agendas for the realization and enjoyment of their political, economic, social and cultural rights.
ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) underlined the importance of freedom, justice, life, well-being, human dignity, social guarantees and poverty elimination at the national and international levels. Belarus advocated a non-confrontational approach to human rights. The ongoing attempt by some States to address human rights in certain countries, while ignoring progress made, was a cause of concern. It had been proven in practice that such a teacher-student approach was ineffective. Upcoming presidential elections in Belarus would be monitored by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. They would be transparent and free elections, held in compliance with the highest international standards.
Belarus, which had undergone its Universal Periodic Review, shared the view of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that Universal Periodic Review was an effective human rights mechanism, she said. It was a competent, proven structure that provided an adequate idea of the human rights situation around the world, as well as a unique opportunity to analyse the situation in all countries, transfer best practices and share experiences. Belarus has intensified cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and invited it to address imbalances in the geographic representation of its personnel. A proposal by Belarus to the Human Rights Council for the creation of an anti-trafficking unit within the Office should be considered, as it would help combat that modern form of slavery.
J.J. AYORINDE ( Nigeria) said her country’s 2008/2009 presidency of the Human Rights Council, and participation in the Reflection Group on strengthening that body, underscored its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Recommendations made last year during Nigeria’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review had been sent to the National Assembly for appropriate legislation. The National Assembly had also passed a bill on the autonomy of the National Human Rights Commission, enabling that body to operate fully under the Paris Principles. Describing national efforts, he said a national seminar was held in February on Human Rights for Security Agencies and training programmes for security personnel had been introduced by the Government and others. The Government was considering the creation of an independent body to investigate reports of human rights violations.
Outlining challenges, she said that to improve conditions for the 47,200 prisoners in Nigeria’s 238 prisons, the Government had launched a “prison decongestion” programme, releasing detainees who had been awaiting trial for a long period of time and pardoning those who had served more than half their prison term. The Government also was collaborating with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on justice system issues. Nigeria would continue to hold its annual Consultative Forum on Human Rights. Perhaps most critical were upcoming general elections, slated for the first quarter of 2011. While logistics, funding and security for an expected 80 million voters would offer real challenges, Nigeria was confident the outcome would be acceptable to the international community. She concluded by urging States to pursue human rights in the spirit of constructive dialogue and cooperation.
MINAS A. HADJIMICHAEL (Cyprus), aligning his delegation to the statement made on behalf of the European Union, confined his remarks to specific national concerns with respect to the grave human rights violations in the occupied part of Cyprus. His country’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, as well as basic United Nations norms, were violated by Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The United Nations responded with a number of important resolutions, expressing the international community’s legal and moral support to Cyprus. The use of brute military force and occupation of more than a third of its territory had long been denying the Cypriot people, collectively, of the basic right to peaceful existence for far too long. The continuing presence of over 43,000 Turkish occupying troops perpetuated that unjustness and human rights abuses it entailed. In 1974 and thereafter, Turkey had committed and continued to perpetrate massive human rights violations in Cyprus. Those included a forcible division of the land and its people along ethnic lines with forced, mass expulsions of nearly one-third of the island’s population from their homes and the subsequent usurpation and unlawful exploitation of their properties.
The Report of the Secretary-General on “The Question of Human Rights in Cyprus” provided an overview on the situation, regarding the implementation of the Commission on Human Rights’ previous resolutions on Cyprus; those resolutions called for “full restoration of all human rights to the population of Cyprus and, in particular, to the refugees”. The European Court of Human Rights held that there were ongoing grave violations of 14 Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning missing persons and their relatives, the home and property of displaced persons and the living conditions of Greek Cypriots in the Karpass Peninsula. Ever since 1974, a methodical plan to alter the demographic composition of the island had been put in place, with the continuous arrival of settlers from Turkey. The destruction of religious and cultural heritage was an example of Turkey’s efforts to falsify history. For almost two years, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, in his capacity as leader of the Greek Cypriot community, and the Turkish Cypriot leader had been engaged in a process of negotiation under the good offices mission of the Secretary-General aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. In order for the process to come to fruition, the continued violation of human rights in Cyprus had to end at once. United Nations resolutions must be honoured, not least by a country that sits at the Security Council. That was of vital importance, not just for Cyprus, but also for the credibility and moral standing of the Organization.
DIMITRIS CARAMITSOS-TZIRAS ( Greece) said that the military occupation of 37 per cent of the territory of Cyprus had led to ongoing violations of human rights and freedoms, including the rights of displaced persons, relatives of missing persons and the rights to homes and real estate. That had not been adequately addressed, despite United Nations resolutions. Missing persons remained a particular concern. Greece welcomed the committee on missing persons, but the disappearance of such persons could not only be dealt with through that committee. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had failed to investigate the situation of missing persons, and urged Turkey to launch a substantial process of investigation.
Greek Cypriots continued to live as internal refugees, he said. Greek Cypriot properties continued to be sold, with the aim of changing demographic proportions. Measures concerning the education of Greek Cypriots in the occupied part of the island needed to be improved. Greek Cypriots continued to be denied their full rights. Greek Orthodox religious artefacts had been destroyed and priceless Byzantine artefacts had been smuggled abroad. Greece supported the unification of Cyprus under United Nations agreements, and looked forward to a viable agreement for reunification of Cyprus on a bizonal basis. Greece regretted that the human rights situation in Cyprus continued to cause concern, and hoped that it would improve and that the Greek delegation would not have to intervene again.
SERGIY KYSLYSTSYA ( Ukraine) said the protection and promotion of human rights was a key priority of Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policies. The difficulties wrought by the global financial and economic crisis should not undermine the international community’s efforts toward the protection of human rights or its obligations to fulfil commitments under international human rights law. After all, an individual’s quality of life and future abilities were based on political freedom, economic opportunities and free access to health care and education. In that regard, Ukraine was working hard toward achieving its Millennium Goals, he said.
Turning to Ukraine’s core values, he said his country remained strongly opposed to the death penalty, noting that the right to life was an “inalienable fundamental right”. Regarding the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ukraine remained cautiously optimistic, and considered the Universal Periodic Review mechanism an important tool that, if used properly, had the potential to improve human rights around the world. Therefore, he called for development of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the recommendations. Further, in an effort to improve the efficiency of the Human Rights Council, Ukraine would work with Member States during the preparatory process of its status review. To that end, he called for the Council to speak out in a timely manner against emerging situations that would violate human rights, such as genocide and crimes against humanity. Ultimately, he said, prevention was a pragmatic alternative to human rights violations.
TIMOTHY CHIN ( Singapore) said that the discussions over the past few days had demonstrated the evolution of human rights towards greater prevalence, sophistication and precision in the sixty-two years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the consensus of the international community remained fragile, modest and vulnerable to revisionist debates about the existence of a common set of core values. In the end, concern for human rights was often balanced against other national interests. Similarly, human rights advocacy was driven, not only by altruism, but by political and economic interests. In that regard, he said progress would depend on how well societies could understand and respect each other’s historical and cultural differences, and on the issue of development, noting, “there is no point in talking at each other since this is the surest way to ensure that no one is interested in listening”. In particular he believed that no country or group of countries had the right to impose their position on the rest of the world.
To that end, Singapore remained committed to protecting the rights of each individual. In order to achieve success, he said, “rights could not be unlimited and freedoms cannot be unbridled”, because an open society of excess and abandon would not be socially desirable or politically and economically stable. Singapore was able to strike a balance between the exercise of rights and the shouldering of responsibilities, and placed equal importance on the protection of societal rights — not only individual rights. That balance point was the result of Singapore’s own unique circumstances and development, and recognition that the Government was ultimately accountable to Singaporeans and did not seek to impose its views on others. Finally, he said his country would continue to identify common objectives as it strived to promote humane standards of behaviour.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia) stated that his statement would focus on the Serbian province of Kosovo, where the overall situation of human rights had been unsatisfactory for years. The human rights and the identity of non-Albanian communities in Kosovo, particularly Serbian communities, were threatened by continuous violations, particularly the denial of the freedom of movement, access to public institutions and the free and unimpeded use of the languages and symbols of those communities. The restitution of usurped property and the process of internally displaced person (IDP) returns, he said, had been repeatedly obstructed and cultural and religious sites regularly attacked. The right to peaceful assembly was also under threat, he stressed, as evidenced by two high-intensity bombs thrown into a crowd of peaceful protesters in northern Kosovo last June, leaving one person dead and several injured. As with previous cases of ethnically motivated crimes, the perpetrators had not been brought to justice. Further, telephone lines were cut in September for the second time this year, leaving 100,000 Kosovo Serbs without any means of communication. The continuation of the dire human rights situation of non-Albanians in the province clearly explained the low level of return of the more than 200,000 internally displaced persons forced to flee the province in 1999.
“The unsatisfactory human rights situation in the province of Kosovo has been reported by relevant international governmental and non-governmental organizations for years now”, he emphasized. Although Serbia recognized the efforts of the international presences in Kosovo, the situation on the ground remained unchanged, he said, “primarily due to the constant unwillingness of Priština authorities to comply with the norms and standards in the protection and promotion of human rights”. Furthermore, the legal vacuum after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Kosovo had created further uncertainty for the non-Albanian population to exercise their basic human rights. That situation was illustrated by the fact that out of a total of 224,881 non-Albanians expelled from the Province since June 1999, only 18,410 had returned, he stated. In conclusion, he wanted to underline his firm belief that disagreements on the status of Kosovo, the issue that fell under the competence of the Security Council, should not impede the dialogue on a whole range of issues, including human rights protections, and he believed that the United Nations human rights system, including the special procedures, could contribute to that process.
EDGARD PÉREZ ALVÁN ( Peru) recalled that his country had been a founding member of the Human Rights Council. It had participated actively in its institutional construction, and it had been among the first to volunteer for the Universal Periodic Review. At the national level, it had put into place a national plan for human rights for the 2006-2010 period, and received visits from working groups of the Human Rights Council and from Special Rapporteurs. It had been participating in the review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva; although that was a country-driven process, it should also include national human rights groups, civil society and regional organizations.
The human rights of migrants was an issue of concern for Peru, which aligned itself with the statement of Chile on behalf of the Rio Group on the issue, he said. He deeply regretted the adoption of laws that criminalized irregular immigration and affected the human rights and dignity of migrants. Everyone should be treated in accordance with international human rights standards, including migrants. States that had implemented such laws were called upon to revoke them. Peru was also very concerned by the link between human rights and extreme poverty, a serious problem exacerbated by the economic and financial crisis and the lack of food and energy security. Peru would be putting forward a draft resolution on human rights and extreme poverty during this session of the General Assembly.
ONON SODOV (Mongolia), stating that her Government remained committed to promoting human rights, commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner, particularly with regard to its rapid response capacity. Noting that Mongolia was a party to a multitude of international human rights treaties, including those covering persons with disabilities, and economic, social and cultural rights, she said that Mongolia’s Constitution stipulated that international treaties would take effect as domestic legislation when they were ratified. Mongolia had created a national human rights commission, which, since 2001, had served as an advocate of human rights protection, restoring violated rights and coming up with human rights considerations. Mongolia had supported the Universal Periodic Review process, and its record would be under review next week. Preparations for this review were extensive, including a three-day national training and a tri-partite meeting between the Mongolian Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and civil society. Developments noted under the universal periodic review related to the effective enjoyment of the right to a healthy and safe environment and to protection of the environment.
The Special Rapporteur on education paid a visit to Mongolia in 2009, marking the first mission by an independent expert monitoring the right to education, and concluded that Mongolia had achieved significant results with respect to maintaining gross enrolment rates, she said. However, many issues still remained. She noted that urban areas had frequent overcrowding of schools, while rural areas faced problems with dormitories and proper water. In 2009, Mongolia had submitted a draft law to parliament on gender equality, and would work to improve women’s potential through the legislative framework and to provide women with increased opportunities to participate in the democratic process. Mongolia also welcomed the establishment of UN Women. In January 2010, the Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed Mongolia’s report for the third time, and Mongolia was working to implement its recommendations. Mongolia believed that the lack of basic knowledge about human rights was one of the biggest factors accounting for human rights violations, both by public officials and citizens. One goal was to make human rights a formal component of Mongolia’s education, and Mongolia was closely following the program of human rights education coordinated by the High Commissioner on Human Rights. While Mongolia maintained capital punishment de jure, in 2010, a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was promoted by the President through his constitutional authority to grant pardons. This was the first step to abolishing the death penalty in Mongolia.
MANSOUR AL-OTAIBI ( Kuwait) thanked the Secretary-General, his representatives and the Special Rapporteurs for their reports, which had enriched the Committee’s discussions and shed light on international efforts to strengthen human rights. The human rights situation in certain countries had been addressed, and the roles of international institutions and organizations in the domain of human rights highlighted. Kuwait lent particular importance to human rights in light of its commitment to sustainable development based on the United Nations Charter. Fundamental freedoms were enshrined in law in Kuwait, where education in human rights had been introduced in primary and secondary schools in 2006. Racial discrimination was opposed by the State, which upheld religious freedom.
Kuwait had presented its national report to the Human Rights Council in May, for which it had received international praise for its efforts regarding human rights, he said. Kuwait had acceded to various international human rights conventions and protocols. It condemned Israeli policy affecting Palestinians in the Occupied Territories; their rights were being violated daily by occupation forces which restricted movement, confiscated territory, destroyed houses and imposed a blockade on millions. Settlements had been created in violation of the Geneva Conventions and United Nations resolutions. In closing, he said Kuwait had submitted its candidature for membership in the Human Rights Council for the 2013‑15 period.
Mr. ABDELMOUNAIM ( Morocco) said that the Government had taken a strategic step forward in terms of promoting human rights, so that its citizens could best express their aspirations in their own regions. The King had set up a consultative committee on regionalization, the duty of which was to take into account the specificities of the Moroccan nation and consolidate regions with suitable reform. Regarding legal reform, Morocco had adopted a new criminal policy and code, in order to arm the legal system against abuse and dysfunction. Morocco had also promoted human development, particularly in areas affected by poverty and social exclusion, with the aim of providing more social services and protecting people in vulnerable situations. Further, Morocco had launched, in accordance with the Vienna Conference, a National Action Plan for human rights, which was a suitable and coherent framework to coordinate all Government actions concerning the promotion of human rights. That inclusive process, in 2010, led to a project with specific measures and a list of priorities.
Morocco also stated that the Human Rights Council was a great step forward for human rights within the United Nations system, as it promoted universal recognition of human rights and injected new vitality into human rights. Morocco had been following the universal periodic review mechanism with a close attention and believed that it was a great step forward. Additionally, Morocco and Liechtenstein would be co-facilitators in the review process for the General Assembly, and Morocco would ensure that the task would be inclusive, open and transparent.
CARLOS SORRETA ( Philippines) said his country prioritized the promotion and protection of human rights in its national agenda. At the sixty-first anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year, the Philippines had launched its National Human Rights Action Plan 2009-2014, which served as a blueprint for the implementation of the eight international human rights treaties it was a party to. Cognizant that the congruence of domestic and international human rights instruments was key to the advancement of human rights, his country was working to ensure that its domestic laws were in harmony with its commitments. He highlighted several acts put into effect on issues such as migrant employment, trafficking of migrants, and discrimination against them.
“The full and effective implementation of human rights instruments can only be achieved when efforts at the domestic front are complemented by bilateral, regional and international cooperation,” he said. The global financial and economic crisis had increased migrants’ vulnerability to exploitation, such as by trafficking. His country agreed with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children that strengthened cooperation among Governments in key areas was vital in tackling that issue. To that end, the Philippines encouraged States to implement the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and to consider ratifying other relevant instruments, such as the Palermo Protocol and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Persons and Members of their Families. Finally, he noted with concern that the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion had listed his country as having the highest number of journalists killed in 2009. “The protection of human rights, in general, and the freedom of speech and press, in particular, are enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and any diminution of these rights in any manner will not be tolerated,” he said.
ABRA AFETSE TAY ( Togo) said the speed with which the High Commissioner had responded to State requests testified to the importance given to State cooperation. In Togo’s efforts to consolidate democracy and rule of law, the promotion of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms was a constant concern for her Government. The goal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, was to shed light on acts of political violence that took place between 1958 and 2005, and to make recommendations to ensure that the rights to truth, justice and compensation for victims were effective. Moreover, legal provisions on female genital mutilation and protection for HIV/AIDS sufferers against discrimination had been adopted and were being enforced.
Without independent and reliable justice, the upholding of human rights could be an illusion, she explained, noting that Togo was carrying out a comprehensive justice modernization programme. Actions taken were based on modernizing legislation, improving the functioning of the judiciaries and strengthening the capacity of judges and improving access to law. To help the poorest, the Government had created a legal aid fund allocating 250 million CFA francs to that. In other areas, Togo had adopted legal provisions promoting full enjoyment of the freedom of expression, and progress had been seen in the area of information and communication. To improve press performance, and its contribution to developing democracy, an assistance fund was created, which would be used for training journalists. Promotion of human rights was a long-term effort that required real political will, she said, noting that tolerance and experience exchange through regional mechanisms were also important. However, human rights also were source of confrontation between States and, as such, human rights must be addressed as a whole, taking into account different development levels. Togo had ratified the Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and had adopted a draft law authorizing the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Togo also had abolished the death penalty.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) welcomed developments in Cambodia, including the adoption of the penal code and the anti-corruption law, as well as headway made in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal process and the Government’s acceptance of all 91 recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review last year. Regarding human rights violations during civil war in Sri Lanka, it was essential that the Sri Lankan Government clarify the facts, and Japan strongly hoped that investigations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission would conform to international standards. Indeed, the Commission and the United Nations Expert Panel on Sri Lanka could coexist, and thus, Japan would continue to support the Government’s work with the United Nations, with a view to achieving lasting peace.
On other matters, he said special procedures, rather than compete with the Periodic Review, complemented it, and where systematic and serious human rights violations took place, the Human Rights Council, along with the General Assembly, as a body with wider membership, should address them. With that in mind, he expressed concern at serious violations of the right to life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as severe restrictions imposed on peoples’ civil and political rights. The issue of abducted Japanese citizens by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was also unresolved, as that Government in September suddenly informed Japan it had suspended an investigation agreed to by both countries in August 2008. Japan had heard nothing since, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should fulfil its promise by establishing an investigation committee and beginning the enquiry without delay. Elsewhere, Japan would continue to request, at a high level, that Myanmar take measures to immediately release political prisoners, resume dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and hold all-inclusive elections. He also strongly urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure that those responsible for mass rape in the eastern part of the country be brought to justice.
PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA ( Cuba), expressing condolences over the passing of former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, said some Governments continued to try to be prosecutors for the world, by introducing a single model of social organization. The United States representative had spoken today in “pejorative” terms about human rights in several Southern countries, including Cuba, and he asked that representative whether he had answers to questions raised in the Assembly’s plenary yesterday. For example, had the perpetrators of events at Abu Ghraib ever been charged? He wondered why nothing had been said about atrocities documented in Afghanistan or Iraq, or whether something could be said about the extrajudicial executions referred to by former President George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address. He requested information on whether the special joint operations command had been dissolved, and what was happening in the Guantanamo “concentration camp”. He also asked when prison conditions would improve and how the United States would explain such situations in its upcoming Universal Periodic Review.
The United States blockade imposed on Cuba was a violation of Cubans’ rights, he said, stressing that the defence of all peoples’ self-determination should be the cornerstone of the Committee’s focus. Imposing models from power centres of the North violated the universal essence of human rights. Freedom and democracy did not belong exclusively to countries in the global North. Without the right to development, there would be no world peace or security. Real work to promote human rights could be fostered only by respecting international law and the United Nations Charter. Attempts to stigmatize peoples in the global South through the manipulation of civil and political rights only deepened the economic power of countries in the global North. Reiterating Cuba’s willingness to engage in dialogue on human rights on the basis of mutual respect, among other values, he said also that the exercise of special procedures must be in line with the mandate’s limits and respect the code of conduct. Cuba reiterated its intention to continue cooperating with all experts appointed for mandates of the Human Rights Council based on non-discrimination, despite the fact that Cuba continued to be subject to a “genocidal” blockade and ferocious media campaign. In sum, Cuba would continue to work with impartiality and non-selectivity in the human rights field.
Rights of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Ethiopia took issues with remarks made yesterday by the representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, who had expressed concern about human rights defenders and the adoption of a proclamation on charities and societies. Recalling the sovereignty of States with regards to lawmaking, he said the proclamation had been adopted with good intentions for the good of the country. He explained the proclamation in detail, noting that it addressed the foreign funding of non-governmental organizations and restricted the ability of such organizations based in foreign countries to participate in activities reserved for Ethiopian citizens. The concern expressed by the representative of Belgium was hypothetical and outdated. Ethiopia preferred to be judged on the basis of substantial evidence, not unproven assumptions.
The representative of Iraq, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of the European Union had voiced concern about executions in Iraq. Such executions were carried out against supporters of the previous regime who had been involved in genocide and crimes against humanity, and conducted after public trials, he said. The Government sought to protect journalists, who could be victims of terrorists from Al-Qaida or supporters of the former regime. Arrests in Iraq were carried out through judicial rulings. Religious minorities had been targeted by the terrorist forces of Al-Qaida and supporters of the former regime in an attempt to divide the Iraqi people; the Government sought to protect its minorities. Twenty-five per cent of the seats in Parliament were reserved for women, which was more than in some European Union countries; women also occupied senior Government positions and enjoyed all human rights, which had not been the case in the previous regime. Iraq urged the European Union to avoid double standards.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria expressed shock at the groundless allegations that had been made by the representatives of the European Union and the United Kingdom. The rights of all citizens in her country to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life were recognized in the Constitution, which also asserted the right of all citizens to voice their opinions freely and take part in constructive criticism. Freedom of the press was also guaranteed. The emergency law that was put into place on 22 December 1962 and modified on 9 March 1963, and which remained in force, was an exceptional measure adopted in the face of the threat of foreign armed aggression. Syria, a founding member of the United Nations, had, like other Arab countries, been exposed to the threat of war from Israel since 1948. That threat, at times, reached the stage of aggression, as in 1967 when Israel occupied a part of Syrian territory. That occupation continues to this day, with the majority of the people in that territory displaced. The emergency law had been applied narrowly and it did not infringe on the Constitution, other laws or international commitments.
Noting that a number of other delegations had asked to speak in exercise of the right of reply, the Vice Chair, MARÍA LUZ MELON ( Argentina), said they would be given an opportunity to do so tomorrow.
* *** *For information media • not an official record