General Assembly Considers Annual Report of Human Rights Council

3 November 2010
GA/11018

General Assembly Considers Annual Report of Human Rights Council

3 November 2010
General Assembly
GA/11018
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

42nd & 43rd Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly Considers Annual Report of Human Rights Council

Assembly President Expresses intention to Complete First Review of Council’s

Work during Current Session, Calls for Collaboration between Geneva, New York

In their fourth annual debate on the work of the Human Rights Council, General Assembly delegates said today that in its five years of existence, the Geneva-based body had managed to build a solid foundation, yet, its progress hinged on improving its record on mainstreaming human rights into the United Nations system.

Presenting the Human Rights Council’s report to the Assembly, Council President Sihasak Phuangketkeow, of Thailand, said the 47-member body was undergoing a very important exercise — a review of its work mandated by Assembly resolution 60/251 (2006).  Once completed, the review would feed into a separate Assembly-led process that was weighing the Council’s status within the United Nations system.

He cited progress made by the Council at the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group, established in 2009 to review the work and functioning of the Council, and which held its first session last week, marking the formal launch of the review process in Geneva.  He called that exercise an opportunity for the Council to build on its achievements and make improvements for the future.  “We must not lose focus of what we aim to achieve,” Mr. Phuangketkeow said.

In its fifth year of operation, the Council had advanced its work on a number of important thematic issues, including women’s human rights, the rights of the child, and the Council’s discussion on the impact of the global and financial crisis on human rights.  A total of 72 decisions and three Presidential Statements had been adopted during the reporting period.  It also had faced a number of “pressing” human rights situations around the globe, prompting it, for example, to hold a special session in January in support of post-earthquake recovery in Haiti, and an urgent debate in response to the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, followed by an interactive dialogue with the international fact-finding mission on that issue in its September session.

Moreover, the Universal Periodic Review — a peer-driven examination of the human rights records of all 192 Member States once every four years — had successfully reviewed 127 countries, he said, which was two thirds of the United Nations membership, with 100 per cent participation by States.  Viewed as one of the Council’s most meaningful innovations, it was grounded in the principles of universality, equality, constructive dialogue and cooperation.

Going forward, he said the first review of the Council aimed to identify ways to streamline its work to ensure its time and resources were effectively used to fulfil its mandates.  It also highlighted the need to better coordinate the relationship between the Council and the Assembly, as current arrangements did not allow the Assembly to consider the Council’s work until the end of the year.

Opening the meeting, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said the Council had been instrumental in promoting and protecting human rights in a fair and equal manner.  While recognizing that vital contribution, he said it was now important to review the Council’s work, bearing in mind both its mandate and the need to make necessary practical adjustments.  It was his intention to complete that process during the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, a task that would require effective collaboration between Geneva and New York.

In the ensuing debate, many of the day’s 35 speakers said that in the five years of its existence, the Council represented a paradigm shift away from the negative practices that had characterized the work of its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, such as coercion, politicization and “naming and shaming”.

Yet, view differed on the role, or even necessity of the Council’s special procedures — independent investigators or mechanisms established by its predecessor to address either country-specific human rights situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.  Some said the experts’ work was blatantly selective and politicized, and the country-specific resolutions were “the bane of the Commission era”.

Others, however, including Belgium’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the special procedures played an irreplaceable role in objective monitoring and reporting, allowing the Council to identify victims’ needs and possible areas for capacity-building and technical assistance to States.  Nevertheless, Cuba’s delegate expressed concern that it had not yet been possible to bring an end to the country mandates, established under the Special Procedures on a discriminatory basis.

Other speakers, including Malaysia’s delegate welcomed the establishment of a new special rapporteur mandate on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and the creation of an independent mechanism focused on discrimination against women in law and practice.   Senegal’s representative said such results showed clearly that, in a short period of time, the Council was on the right track to deliver appropriate responses to human rights situations requiring its attention.

Still other delegates said they wished to see the Council play a more active role as an early warning mechanism, with improved modalities for dialogue, and called for a strengthened relationship between the Council and the Assembly, from a procedural and substantive point of view, in a way that would bolster the Council’s role within and outside the United Nations system.

On that point, Liechtenstein’s delegate said there was also considerable potential to increase complementarity between the two bodies’ agendas.  The “back-and-forth” between them on the follow-up to the Goldstone Report and the flotilla incident illustrated the problems of the current practice, usually to the detriment of the Council.

In that regard, Israel’s delegate said the flotilla incident had further demonstrated the Council’s politicized nature by adopting a resolution condemning Israel for its actions only two days after the conflict, without any verifiable information about what had occurred.  The Council’s report on the flotilla incident embodied the same spirit of “wilful ignorance”, making clear that the body prefers to perpetuate inflammatory language and a politicized agenda rather than pursuing the truth.

“The biased manner in which the Human Rights Council handled this incident is simply unacceptable,” he said, condemning the Council for “turning a blind eye to the worst human rights violations throughout the world while conveniently and obsessively focusing on Israel”.

For his part, Turkey’s representative welcomed the Council’s report and its conclusions on the flotilla incident.  During the attack on the flotilla, Israeli forces killed 9 civilians.  The Fact Finding Mission had issued its report after having interviewed 112 witnesses of 120 nationalities.  Thus, its findings and conclusions reflected a meticulous analysis of the situation.

It had made “compelling” arguments regarding international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The Israeli military used disproportionate and unnecessary violence.  Such conduct could not be condoned on security or other grounds.  Continuing, he said the report also described various violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law and noted the illegality of its blockade of the Gaza Strip.  The vast majority of the international community supported the report.

Also speaking in today’s discussion was a Member of Parliament of India.

The representatives of Brazil, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt, Switzerland, Indonesia, Kuwait, Philippines, Sudan, Iran, Mexico, Gambia, Ukraine, Botswana, Chile, Kazakhstan, United States, Republic of Moldova, New Zealand, South Africa, Costa Rica, Maldives, Peru, Pakistan, Congo, Norway, Russian Federation and Libya also spoke.

A representative of the Holy See spoke as an observer.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 4 November to consider the situation in Afghanistan.

Background

The General Assembly met today to take up the report of the Human Rights Council (A/65/53 and Add.1), which contains the resolutions, decisions and President’s statements adopted by the Human Rights Council from 14 September 2009 through 18 June 2010 at its twelfth (14 September–2 October 2009), thirteenth (1‑26 March 2010) and fourteenth sessions (31 May–18 June 2010), and thirteenth special session, held from 27-28 January 2010.  An index of topics considered by the Council in its resolutions, decisions and President’s statements appears at the end of the report.

Statement by General Assembly President

Opening the discussion, General Assembly President JOSEPH DEISS, said the annual report of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council stressed the importance of human rights as a third pillar of the United Nations mission, alongside the promotion of peace and security, and development.  As those pillars were interlinked, it was essential that progress be made in all three areas.  Indeed, the Council’s creation five years ago was instrumental in promoting and protecting human rights in a fair and equal manner.

While recognizing that vital contribution, he observed that it was now important to review that body’s work, bearing in mind both the Council’s mandate and the need to make necessary practical adjustments.  It was his intention to complete that process during the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, a task that would require effective collaboration between Geneva and New York.  “I am pleased with the commitments undertaken in that regard,” he said, expressing hope that today’s discussion would make a constructive contribution to fulfilling the Council’s mandate.

Statement by Human Rights Council President

Presenting the Human Rights Council’s annual report, SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand), President of the 47-member body, stressed that the Council was undergoing a very important exercise this year — a review of its work mandated by Assembly resolution 60/251.  His presentation would touch on that issue, particularly the progress made at the first intergovernmental Working Group, held last week in Geneva.  Once the process was completed — no later than June next year — it would feed into a separate Assembly-led process that was weighing the Council’s status within the United Nations system.  The report covered the Council’s fourth cycle — the period of September 2009 session to the June 2010 session — during which time it had fulfilled its mandate to advance the promotion and protection through various means. 

He said the Universal Periodic Review had successfully reviewed 127 countries, which was two thirds of the United Nations membership, noting the Council had secured 100 per cent participation by States under review thus far.  The Review was viewed as one of the Council’s most meaningful innovations, and was grounded in the principles of universality, equality, constructive dialogue and cooperation.  At the national level, it brought Government and civil society together to assess and find ways to improve the human rights situations within the country concerned.

In the area of standard setting, he said the Council advanced its work on a number of important thematic issues, including those relating to women’s human rights, including maternal mortality and morbidity and gender equality, among other issues, and had established a five-member expert Working Group on that issue.  Further, the Council remained committed to strengthening protection and promotion of the rights of the child, by holding an annual full-day discussion on sexual violence against children, and extended the mandate of the Working Group to draft an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, aiming to establish a complaint procedure. 

He highlighted other thematic issues, including the Council’s discussion on the impact of the global and financial crisis on human rights, including the rights to truth, to protect journalists in situations of armed conflicts and the adverse effects of toxic human waste on human rights.  A total of 72 decisions and three Presidential Statements had been adopted during the reporting period, he said.  Panel discussions held by the Council benefited from a wide range of human rights expertise from its Advisory Committee and other bodies, and from hearing first-hand experience of, among others, victims of trafficking.

During the reporting period, the Council had faced a number of “pressing” human rights situations around the globe, and as such, it had, for example, held a special session in January in support of the post-earthquake recovery process in Haiti, and had taken part in an urgent debate in response to the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, followed by an interactive dialogue with the international fact-finding mission on that issue in its September session.  During that session, an interactive dialogue was also held with the Committee of Independent Experts to monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides in light of Assembly resolution 64/254.  On other urgent matters, the Council had also held an interactive dialogue on Somalia.

Turning next to review of the Council’s work, he noted that the first session of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group held in Geneva last week was an opportunity to build on achievements and make improvements.  “We must not lose focus of what we aim to achieve,” he said, and to that end, said the Council should be able to make real progress on the ground, and react more swiftly and effectively to chronic and urgent issues involving serious violations of human rights.  The review aimed to identify ways for the Council to streamline its work to ensure its time and resources were effectively used to fulfil the mandates given to it.  The review also highlighted the need to better coordinate the relationship between the work of the Council and that of the Assembly to enable the Council to respond to all human rights issues.  The current arrangements did not allow the Assembly to consider the Council’s work until the end of the year, he added.

In closing, he said that as the Council entered its fifth cycle, it faced many challenges in order to maintain the pace and progress while embarking on the review process of the Council.  In that regard, he reiterated the importance of constructive and cooperative approach to all human rights issues, maintaining and strengthening the capacity of the Council to make a difference on the ground and react to urgent human rights situations and ensuring that the Council’s work is inclusive of all stakeholders.

Statements

ALAN COELHO DE SÉLLOS ( Brazil) said as a Member State of the Council, his country had constantly worked towards outcomes both meaningful and acceptable to all.  In the period reported, Brazil had presented six draft resolutions and one draft decision, including, among others, on the right to access to medicines, human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS and the centrality of victims in addressing trafficking in persons, which had all been adopted without a vote and usually with numerous co-sponsors.  Brazil had also engaged constructively with the Universal Periodic Review, and noted with appreciation more than two thirds of all United Nations Members States had already been reviewed under the process. 

The Council was “overall a success story”, but had the potential to become even more effective for promotion and protection of all human rights.  Among necessary improvements, his delegation attached great priority to increasing the Council’s ability to provide cooperation and technical assistance.  He also noted that human rights was the only pillar of the United Nations that still did not have a respective body in the Organization’s structure.  The review process was also an excellent opportunity to improve the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly, but if the Council’s current status was to be maintained, its reporting line should be directly to the Assembly’s plenary.  Such an approach would avoid duplication of work and help ensure necessary resources for the Council, he said.

JAN GRAULS ( Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that Council members had a particular responsibility to the victims of human rights violations.  “They should lead by example in working to ensure the full implementation of the Council’s responsibilities,” he said, one of which related to promotion of cooperation on human rights issues.  In the review period, the Council had worked to improve its record regarding its mandate to mainstream human rights into the United Nations system, and he welcomed the holding of panel discussions involving representatives from different areas in the United Nations system, especially on protecting journalists in armed conflict.

The Council had a duty to uphold the principle of universality of human rights and he recalled various discussions within the Council in that regard and reiterated that cultural values could never be invoked to undermine that principle, nor could the debate around religion undermine existing international human rights law.  Only through objective monitoring and reporting could the Council identify victims’ needs and possible areas for capacity-building and technical assistance to States, he said.  Special Procedures played an irreplaceable role in that regard.  It was crucial that such mandate holders were able to independently assess human rights situations.  He welcomed the establishment of a new Special Rapporteur mandate on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and the creation of an independent mechanism focused on discrimination against women in law and practice.

As for the Universal Periodic Review, he welcomed that 48 States had been considered during the reporting period, but regretted that some States had failed to address all recommendations put forward, or had given replies not in line with the principles of objectivity and non-politicization on which the process was based.  The Council’s credibility depended to a large extent on whether it could respond to human rights violations in a timely and adequate manner and the Union regretted that it had remained silent on many such situations.  “The mandate of the Council is not to protect Governments from scrutiny,” he insisted.

Turning to the 2011 Review of the Council, he said one aspect to be addressed was the Council’s ability to promote international human rights law, its development and its implementation.  The Council had deficiencies in systematically upholding implementation of international norms and standards.  Its ability to address urgent and chronic human rights situations was another area that must be improved, as it was essential to preventing new or further escalation of violations.  The European Union wished to see the Council play a more active role as an early warning mechanism, with improved modalities for dialogue.  At a minimum, it should preserve the integrity of existing mechanisms to acquire objective information.

As the Universal Periodic Review moved into its second cycle, the focus should shift to implementation and follow-up of recommendations.  It should strengthen the role of expert input in the process and ensure more attention for the adoption of Review reports.  As for the relationship between the Council and the Assembly, he said the fact that the Council President sent an addendum to the regular report for the Assembly’s consideration highlighted that the reporting cycle must be improved.  The budgetary implications of action taken by the Council deserved the Assembly’s attention.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said his Government was generally satisfied with the Universal Periodic Review, as its universality had been respected by States that had participated thus far, but its success would depend on the manner in which recommendations were implemented.  States rejecting recommendations should at least engage in discussion about the reasons for their positions and, in general, should not preclude proper follow-up on the issue at hand.  A concrete proposal to strengthen the follow-up process could be States’ submission of an interim progress report.  He regretted that the Special Procedures mechanism had again come under heavy criticism, saying that allegations that an independent expert had overstepped the mandate should be addressed by the Coordination Committee.  While full independence of Special Procedures was essential to ensuring high-quality work, efforts must be taken to ensure that the best experts were chosen as mandate holders.

Moreover, the Council’s timely implementation was crucial for its authority, he said, noting that its autonomy must be strengthened, including through respect for its decisions in other forums.  The relationship between the Council and the Assembly, from a procedural and substantive point of view, could be improved in a way that strengthened the Council’s role within and outside the United Nations system.  By way of example, he said the “notorious” procedural questions about where and in what form the Council’s report should be addressed required a solution.  There was also considerable potential to increase complementarity between the two bodies’ agendas.  The “back-and-forth” between them on the follow-up to the Goldstone Report and the flotilla incident illustrated the problems of the current practice, usually to the detriment of the Council.  On the positive side, he noted the Council’s innovative ways of dealing with country situations, especially the “stand-alone interactive dialogue” on Somalia and the special sitting on the flotilla incident.  He expressed hope that models could be further explored.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said to realize international human rights conventions and agreements, there needed to be more effort to restore the balance between economic, social and cultural rights on one hand, and civil and political rights on the other, through bridging the gap between North and South.  The United Nations also needed to avoid a limited security perspective, which failed to consider social and economic dimensions when addressing human rights issues.  He said it was important to respect the Council’s mandate and to refrain from imposing country-specific resolutions, which only targeted developing countries and hampered efforts to reach consensus solutions.  The Council and the Organization’s wider membership needed to avoid double standards, politicization and selectivity, he said.

More effort was also needed to reiterate the central role of the Council ensuring respect for all human rights and international humanitarian law, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to ensure Israel fully complied with all its international obligations.  It was also necessary to enhance cooperation to ensure the Special Procedures system was effective, and to provide the necessary financial resources to ensure the High Commissioner’s Office coordinated activities of the Council.  Egypt welcomed recent work reforming the Council, but looked forward to more progress through expected recommendations from the current review process in Geneva.  In that regard, he emphasized the complementary nature of both processes of review of the Council in New York and Geneva.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) stated that the Human Rights Council should better exploit the instruments at its disposal in order to react in a “progressive and proportionate manner” to any situation whenever and wherever violations occurred.  The Council could thus address some country situations by using, for example, “presidential statements”, “stand-alone interactive dialogue” or urgent debate.  Such practices should be encouraged.  Additionally, regarding the human rights implementation mechanisms, the Council’s Special Procedures should be able to retain their independence so they could give a voice to victims and human rights defenders.  Switzerland welcomed the creation of two new Special Procedures, respectively on freedom and association and peaceful assembly, and on non-discrimination of women in law and practice.  While those rapporteurs must comply with the Code of Conduct contained in Council resolution 5/2, States must cooperate with them.  Following-up on their recommendations was a key element in achieving human rights.

Continuing, he said it was important for the Special Procedures to take initiative, as in the case of the joint study on secret detention.  While the Universal Periodic Review was one of the Council’s successes, it was nevertheless necessary to make some adjustments to its second cycle, and it was essential that all delegations were able to express their opinions in that process.  The Council’s work should be streamlined, he said, and added in that regard that the review of its working methods that began in Geneva was an opportunity to make improvements.  As a member of the Council, Switzerland was stepping up efforts in that direction.

He emphasized the need to institutionalize the Office of the President of the Council.  It also stated its view that, as next year’s review of the status of the Council by the General Assembly approached, it was necessary to establish a flexible cooperation between the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) and the Council in the interest of complementarity and to avoid unnecessary duplication.  Finally, it was fundamental that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be able to maintain “room to manoeuvre in exercising its function, including in new areas”, and it should not be placed under any supervisory authority, except that of the Secretary-General.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) stated that his delegation was engaging constructively with the Human Rights Council Review Process currently under way in Geneva, and would encourage a “productive and frank discussion” within the auspices of the Intergovernmental Working Group.  For its part, Indonesia contributed to the deliberation on various issues during the first meeting of the Working Group last week.  Indonesia wishes to emphasize that, in accordance with resolution 60/251, the review of the status of the Council was to be done by the General Assembly while the review of its work and functioning was to be carried out by the Council in Geneva.  Nonetheless, the process was not mutually exclusive, and both reviews should contribute to the enhancement of the profile and centrality of the Council, as well as to the promotion and protection of human rights.

He believed that dialogue around each country’s Universal Periodic Review had set up an example of how States could cooperate and engage constructively with one another, avoiding politicization of issues as well as the unproductive practice of “naming and shaming.”  It was Indonesia’s hope that that mechanism would be maintained and made more efficient in the future.  Furthermore, Indonesia strongly believed that Special Procedures should maintain their professionalism in fulfilling their mandates through compliance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and by building mutual trust and closer cooperation with the States.  While Indonesia fully respected the independence of such mandate holders, it also wished to draw attention to Article 4, paragraph 3 of Council resolution 5/2, which stipulated the necessity for national legislation to be respected and upheld at all times.  The Council had demonstrated its responsiveness in tackling issues of concern among countries, as demonstrated by the convening of an urgent debate and subsequently the adoption of a resolution on the attacks by Israeli forces upon a humanitarian flotilla in international waters in June 2010.

PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA ( Cuba) said the Council had established a solid democratic basis regarding its working methods and agenda, but there were threats to its climate of cooperation that must be addressed.  He was concerned that it had not yet been possible to bring an end to country mandates established on a discriminatory basis.  Cuba was concerned at the Council’s use of its agenda item 4 (human rights situations that require the Council’s attention), to voice condemnation against countries of the global South, completely forgetting that human rights violations occurred in more powerful countries.  It was undeniable that the Council’s outcome had been positive, especially as it had consolidated effective practices to bring about universal scrutiny of human rights around the world and shown its ability to deal with emergencies, having analysed serious violations perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians.

Recalling that last week the review of the Council had begun, he reminded delegates that “the Council does not need any reform”; rather, it was the unjust international order that needed reform.  Cuba had made proposals for improving its discussions.  The intergovernmental process must lay down standards for the Council’s review, and in that regard, he emphasized the need to respect mandates outlined in Assembly resolution 60/251.  The New York process must start only when the Geneva process had concluded.  The goal of the review must be to consolidate dialogue.  It must aim to adjust existing mechanisms, like the Universal Periodic Review, and deal with areas where regulations were lacking, such as the absence of a clear methodology for the two reports prepared by the High Commissioner for the Universal Periodic Review.  Cuba opposed any attempt to return to discriminatory treatment of countries, as had been seen in the Commission on Human Rights.  The Council must continue to speak out for an equitable international order.  States had created the Council and it was States that were responsible for strengthening it.

SAAD NAHAR ALHJERI ( Kuwait) said the Kuwaiti Constitution of 1962 provided a legal framework for the protection of human rights and their advancement derived from the Islamic Sharia, an international law that reinforced the concept of human rights.  On a national level, Kuwait provided free health care, education and social services to all citizens.  Its High Commission for Human Rights reviewed laws and regulations and raised awareness of human rights through the media.  The Kuwaiti Government had increased the rights of women, and had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Regarding children, Kuwait departed from the principles of its Constitution and ratified agreements concerning the minimum age of child workers and to end the worst practices of child labour and exploitation.  In 2009, 100 per cent of Kuwaiti children completed elementary school, he said.

He went on to say that Kuwait was home to peoples of nearly 120 different nationalities, all of whom were afforded appropriate living conditions.  Echoing the words of Prophet Mohammed, “All people are equal like the teeth of a comb,” he said, noting that Kuwait emphasized the consolidation of international peace and security and rejection of violence, and the respect of human rights.  In closing, he said the “clear violations” of international laws by the Israeli occupation forces exercise against the Palestinian people had deprived an unarmed population of its basic human rights.  As that was the case, the international community must provide protection for the Palestinian people.

ANA MARIE L. HERNANDO ( Philippines) noted the Council had made reasonable progress fulfilling its mandate, providing an environment to foster cooperation to solve international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character.  She particularly welcomed the resolution on the right to development, the realization of which became more urgent given current economic, financial and climate crises, as well as recurrent large-scale natural disasters.  Advancing sustainable development and realizing the Millennium Development Goals required eradication of extreme poverty which violated human dignity.  In that regard, the Philippines supported the Council’s work finalizing draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, which would help implement existing international human rights law.

She also welcomed the Council’s call for States to join the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families as a matter of priority.  The financial and economic crisis would increase the vulnerability of migrants and their families, and the Philippines hoped the Council would continue to forge international partnerships on human rights and focus on capacity-building for developing countries.  The Universal Periodic Review remained the most innovative and effective mechanism of the Council to ensure States fulfilled their responsibilities on human rights and fundamental freedoms, she said, and there was a need to strengthen it if there was to be an ever-responsive mechanism to improve situations in all countries and address violations wherever they occur.

HAMZA OMER HASSAN AHMED ( Sudan) said the Council was an important achievement of the Assembly as a subsidiary body regarding human rights and equality of all States.  The Council had provided recommendations through Special Procedures, which would be a remarkable development if mandate holders carried out their duties without politicization.  In line with Assembly resolution 60/251, the Council did not need to reform its work but must improve its objectives, he said.  Sudan was also preparing its report to submit to the Universal Periodic Review during the first half of 2011.  It was being drafted and compiled by Government authorities and civil society groups.  The report would look at the country’s democratic transition, as well as its presidential and parliamentary elections, which had taken place in a peaceful manner, he said.

The impartial elections were also noted in the report by the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan.  That Expert had also welcomed the creation of Sudan’s joint Tribunals for human rights, and subsidiary Tribunals between the Government and United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).  The Independent Expert had also commended legal developments regarding, among other issues, Sudan’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Child, as well as a new security law and ratification of the law on the upcoming Sudanese referendums.  As for the work of the Council, it had adopted “historic” resolutions, notably on the Goldstone Report and that of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, he said.

GOPINATH PANDURANG MUNDE, Member of Parliament of India, said the Council’s strength lay in its emphasis on dialogue, cooperation, transparency and non-selectivity in promoting and protecting human rights.  Five years after its establishment, there was an opportunity to formalize its current functioning and practices in the ongoing review process.  Efforts towards that end should be based on an inclusive approach which respected diversity in historical national experiences, cultures and development, he stressed.  During the review process, the Council should consider streamlining its programme of work by meeting in two regular sessions for a total of eight weeks every year.

He added that the remaining third session of two weeks should be added to the existing programme for Universal Periodic Review.  India reiterated its belief that the complaint procedure with the Council should be retained while exploring the possibility of streamlining its functioning.  Furthermore, he called for putting in place mechanisms and procedures by which the decisions of the General Assembly on the report of the Council — especially those with financial implications — could be acted upon quickly.  Overall, a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding should guide the Council’s work and India was firmly committed to continue engaging constructively with Member States.

ESHAGH Al HABIB ( Iran) said the Human Rights Council’s work would not bear fruit unless it prevented partiality, selectivity, double standards and politicization.  In that regard, the Geneva-based review must be pursued through an open, transparent, non-politicized, constructive and consensual process that included the full engagement of Member States in order to maintain their confidence.  Further, a reappraisal process of Council must be implemented to “review” not “reform” its functions, he said, suggesting that the Council should not reopen the institution-building package.  The review process should remove shortcomings and enhance its efficiency and credibility for promotion of human rights in a fair and impartial manner, he said.

Despite the Universal Periodic Review’s mission to allow the human rights machinery “to act beyond the monopoly of a few in monitoring the human rights activities of Member States”, he said certain countries continued to table country-specific resolutions in the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), which undermined the Council’s credibility.  Iran had submitted a comprehensive report during the seventh session of the Review Working Group and had cooperated with the Review mechanism.  Of 188 recommendations, 12 were accepted, which indicated Iran’s commitment to the promotion of and protection of human rights.  Furthermore, 20 recommendations were considered for further action.  In closing, he said Iran’s human rights policy emphasized interactive and cooperative approach to the protection of human rights as stipulated under the principles of the United Nations Charter.

YANERIT CRISTINA MORGAN SOTOMAYOR ( Mexico) agreed with other delegations that the last working cycle of the Council had been particularly fruitful.  Regarding the strengthening of the Special Procedures, it was important to mention the creation of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and assembly, as well as the Working Group of Independent Experts on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and in practice.  She said Mexico was fully committed to strengthening the Human Rights Council of the United Nations as the ultimate body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights in the Organization.

Since its inception, the Council had made a significant contribution to the protection of human rights, she said.  Some of its tools, such as the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, would have a greater impact in the future at the beginning of the second reporting cycle.  Therefore Mexico believed that the review process slated for 2011 would be an opportunity to pragmatically and realistically identify areas in which the Council’s work could be strengthened.

As part of its commitment to strengthening the review process, Mexico, along with France, encouraged an informal group discussion which involved 21 countries, the Office of the High Commissioner and civil society organizations, in order to explore ways in which the Council could be strengthened.  Mexico highlighted the fact that all delegations in Geneva were informed of the results of that informal process.  Finally, she said that it would use the opportunity to make proposals in order to provide greater efficiency and impact on the mechanisms and procedures that the Council had at its disposal.

SUSAN WAFFA-OGOO ( Gambia) urged the Human Rights Council to continue to fine-tune the work of its Universal Periodic Review mechanism as a tool for greater cooperation in the promotion of human rights throughout the world.  During the period under consideration, Gambia had undergone the Review and had carefully studied the conclusions of the Working Group.  She assured the Assembly that her country was studying various human rights instruments and conventions to which it was not party with a view to becoming party to some of them in line with the country’s Constitution and international obligations.

She said that the business of promoting and protecting human rights was an ongoing one, and she reaffirmed Gambia’s commitment to that end.  Taking note of the appointment of facilitators in both Geneva and New York for the purpose of reviews of both the status of the Council, and its working methods and functioning five years after its establishment, she looked forward to her country’s active participation in those processes.  Gambia was particularly interested in the Geneva process, but she cautioned any review that attempted to undermine the critical role of the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as the main expert body dealing with human rights and related issues.  The overarching role of the Third Committee, including its universal character, allowed all States to deliberate human rights questions without the usual limitations of cost of participation and non-membership of the Council, she explained.

DINA MARTINA ( Ukraine), aligning with the statement of the European Union, said the Council maintained its important role as a forum of dialogue and cooperation.  At the same time, he said, the 47-member body should work to improve its ability to address all human rights situations in a comprehensive and timely manner.  Ukraine believed cross-regional initiatives advanced within the Council would strengthen its work and unite countries, and he added that over the past year, it was noteworthy that consensus had been reached on some issues that previously divided States.

He was also pleased by attention within the Council to the issue of prevention and its role promoting and protecting human rights, hoping it would strengthen those aspects of its activities.  He also welcomed the work of the open-ended Working Group on reviewing the Council’s working methods and the involvement of Member States in that process, hoping a variety of recommendations and proposals submitted during the first session in Geneva last month would help find the optimal way of increasing efficiency.  It was important the two reviews were coordinated between Geneva and New York, and also important the review of the Council did not hinder its substantive work on human rights violations.

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said a paradigm shift had distinguished the Council from its predecessor, as States had decided to reject negative practices, such as coercion, politicization and “naming and shaming” that had characterized the work of the Commission on Human Rights.  Ahead of next year’s review of the Council’s status, States should focus on reinforcing its strengths and not on reconstructing or unravelling existing arrangements.  Indeed, the review provided an opportunity to take stock and, where necessary, make appropriate adjustments with a view to enhancing effectiveness.

More could be done to ensure protection for victims of human rights violations and, as the Council matures into its intended role, thought should be given to increasing its visibility and improving its working methods.  On that issue, he disagreed with criticism that the Council lacked the capacity to address human rights situations, saying it clearly had responded through the holding of numerous special sessions and urgent debates on pressing issues.  He went on to say that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism must be urgently reviewed in time for its second cycle, mindful of respecting the principles of objectivity, dialogue and non-politicization in that context.  The basis of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as its intergovernmental nature, must be retained.

Further, he reiterated the importance for Special Procedures to respect the Council’s code of conduct in discharging their respective mandates, saying that such calls should not be misinterpreted as interfering with their independence.  Gains in the process of nominating, selecting and appointing Special Procedures should be preserved, while the current duration of country-specific mandates provided sufficient flexibility for all concerned parties to revisit particular situations within one calendar year.  Given the Advisory Committee’s recent establishment and the nature of its work, which required significant time to develop, it should be allowed to function along present lines.  The Complaints Procedure should not be judged purely on quantitative grounds.  To strengthen dialogue and cooperation, current administrative arrangements that appeared discriminatory towards States’ representatives should be changed as appropriate.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE ( Botswana) said to meet expectations of victims of human rights violations, it was important to ensure effective implementation and follow-up of decisions and outcomes.  It was also important to strengthen existing mandates and mechanisms rather than have a proliferation of mechanisms when implementation of existing ones already posed challenges, especially in terms of funding for the Council.  But he noted it was encouraging that the review of the Council’s work through the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group consultations had been largely positive.  The introduction of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was also a major innovation and Special Procedures had been a very effective tool advancing the global human rights agenda, he said.

There was concern about the conduct of some Special Procedures, as Member States increasingly pointed to their tendency to produce reports beyond their mandates, and, as a result, did not meet expectations, he continued.  While Botswana was convinced that observation was valid, it did not discount that others might have different views about the Special Procedures’ recommendations.  Still, the concerns expressed by some Member States about the conduct of the Special Procedures should not be misconstrued as an affront to the integrity and independence of such mandate holders. 

At the same time, however, Botswana was also concerned that a few delegations sought to perpetuate unprofessional conduct by invoking the mandate holders’ “independence”.  That approach would only undermine the system of Special Procedures, the work of the Council and the United Nations human rights system in general.  His delegation recommended the Council consider instituting strict standards of professional conduct in the implementation of mandates of Special Procedures to mitigate this un-professionalism.

OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) recalled that his country had played a prominent role in negotiations preceding the Council’s creation and had subsequently collaborated fully in its work.  Chile was ready to analyse whether the Council’s composition was best for promoting and protecting human rights, and whether it should be a primary United Nations organ.  The “ New York process” on the Council’s status must be approached through pragmatic criteria; not by reinventing the resolution that had created the Council.  It should render the Council more effective in addressing human rights emergencies.  In that regard, civil society had a primary role to play.  Seminars with representatives of such groups were of the greatest importance.

He also noted that the cooperation among States had distinguished the Council from its predecessor body.  However, it was possible to do more, and States bore responsibility for agreeing to cooperate when necessary.  Progress had been made in addressing human rights situations, with the Universal Periodic Review providing a transparent process that avoided double standards.  Chile had submitted its report this year and had also presented its report on the implementation of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 (concerning indigenous and tribal peoples).  Further, his Government had launched an instrument on the protection of all persons from forced disappearance, and had reiterated its open invitation to human rights representatives to visit the country.  Regarding working methods, he cited the Chilean and Argentinean proposal to improve the Special Procedures mechanism, with a view to always protecting their independence.

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) supported the establishment of an open-ended intergovernmental Working Group to review the Council’s work, as well as the request to provide it with the necessary resources and facilities to carry out its mandate.  Kazakhstan expected that all relevant stakeholders be fully engaged in the review process and looked forward to the Working Group’s outcome document.  The newly established mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of association and of assembly, and creation of a Working Group on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and practice would bridge the gap between internationally agreed commitments and their implementation on the ground.

With full support for the authority of United Nations representatives and mechanisms as effective tools with which to leverage the promotion of human rights, Kazakhstan had extended an open invitation to all mandate holders and Special Procedures.  Recalling that Kazakhs had been given the opportunity to appeal to the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights about alleged violations of their civil and political rights, the Government had taken measures to improve national mechanisms for protecting human rights.  It also had improved the national law “on the procedure of appeals by individuals and legal entities” in 2007, and enhanced the consideration by judicial and local executive bodies of citizens’ appeals.

Moreover, the Council had positively accepted information provided by Kazakhstan on steps taken by the country to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Committee against Torture, which had evaluated Kazakhstan’s second report in 2008.  Her Government also had signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and had ratified The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.  Kazakhstan also had presented its candidature to the Council for the 2012-2015 term and if elected pledged to further enhance its credibility and effectiveness.

COLY SECK ( Senegal) said the Council was sending positive signs by constantly improving its work.  Resolutions and decisions adopted during its most recent session had shown the progress made and reflected the Council’s dynamism.  During its last session, the Group of Experts on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and practice was established, which would better promote women’s rights.  Calling that an “extremely welcome milestone”, he also welcomed the establishment of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and of assembly.  Such results showed clearly that, in a short period of time, the Council was on the right track to deliver appropriate responses to human rights situations requiring its attention.  Those positive developments also required States to step up and improve the Council, which should focus more on aspects linked to the right to development, including the fight against poverty.

Respect of all human rights, without distinction, was a guarantee for peace and stability, he said, which was why the Council should focus on the impact of the global economic crisis on achieving human rights.  He welcomed the Universal Periodic Review, which had opened a new chapter in the respect for human rights.  Having reviewed more than 120 countries, that mechanism had shown it was possible to consider human rights through an impartial approach.  However, its capacity to contribute to the promotion and protection of rights would be judged in the implementation of recommendations put forward in its sessions.  As for the review of the Council, he said enlargement of its composition was a positive sign.  Imperfections inherited from the Commission on Human Rights had inhibited the Council’s functioning and the review must show an “uncompromising” evaluation to help it better cope with human rights challenges.

HAIM WAXMAN ( Israel) said it was with “dismay and disappointment” that he addressed the Assembly on the report of the work of the Human Rights Council.  The Council — one of the leading United Nations human rights bodies — was required to conduct its work based on its founding principles and in a fair an equal manner.  Therefore, it was most unfortunate that, time and time again, it betrayed its responsibility “by turning a blind eye to the worst human rights violations throughout the world while conveniently and obsessively focusing on Israel”, he said.  The report and the series of draft resolutions showed how far the Council had strayed from its founding principles.  Once again, the forum had been manipulated to serve “the most cynical of political motivations” and had failed to live up to its responsibility to address human rights abuses around the world, while at the same time pursuing a “narrow, politicized agenda”, he said.

He went on to say that an objective examination of the Council’s report would confirm its prejudices against Israel, noting that about half of the country-specific resolutions that do not deal with technical assistance were targeted exclusively at Israel, which he called a “glaring example” of the Council’s profound institutional bias.  Since the creation of the Council, 12 of its 15 regular sessions had adopted “one-sided” resolutions condemning Israel, and 6 of its 13 special sessions were devoted specifically to singling it out.  For example, agenda item 7 was the only item concerned with one country situation, singling it out from 191 other possible country situations.  That stood in stark contrast to the Council’s notion of fairness and impartiality and was inconsistent with the letter and word of the Council’s constitutive instrument. 

Moreover, he said the Council’s politicized nature was further demonstrated in the wake of the 31 May 2010 incident involving vessels bound for the Gaza Strip.  Indeed, the Council had adopted a resolution condemning Israel only two days later, without any verifiable information about what had occurred.  Its report on the flotilla incident, he said, embodied the same spirit of “wilful ignorance” making clear the body preferred to perpetuate inflammatory language and a politicized agenda instead of pursuing the truth.  “The biased manner in which the Human Rights Council handled this incident is simply unacceptable,” he said.  Consequently, an objective, thorough and independent investigation by the Secretary-General’s review panel of the flotilla matter was currently under way in Israel.

In closing, he described Israel as a vibrant democracy that demonstrated time and time again its strong commitment to engaging in a candid dialogue with various United Nations bodies, including the Council’s Universal Periodic Review.  “However, one cannot accept such a misguided report,” he said, adding that while countless victims of human rights violations around the world cried out for their plight to be heard, “all too often, the Human Rights Council is silent”.  That should not come as a surprise, he added, “considering that some of the world’s worst human rights violators sit on this Council and all too often dictate its proceedings”.  By failing to fulfil its mandate the Council not only undermined its own legitimacy, but undermined the Organization’s ability to effectively promote and protect its founding values.

FREDERICK D. BARTON (United States), noting that the Council’s report reflected both its strengths and weaknesses, said the United States had participated in drafting many of its resolutions, notably those establishing Special Procedures on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and on the protection of human rights defenders.  His Government was also encouraged by instances of cross-regional players working together to address human rights problems.  It had participated in resolutions calling attention to human rights situations in various countries — including the situation in Sudan — which would help protect and promote human rights around the world.

However, he said the United States was disappointed with the Council’s unbalanced and one-sided approach to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  It should treat all situations in an unbiased manner.  The Council had passed multiple resolutions targeting Israel, which the United States did not support, as those texts attempted to delegitimize Israel and failed to mention human rights law violations by Hamas.  That had also been seen in the decision to create a fact-finding mission with a “flawed” mandate on the flotilla incident, and the resolution to follow up on its report.  The United States also opposed the idea that the Assembly consider that report.  He commended the Secretary-General’s constructive initiative to convene a panel to review the reports of Israel and Turkey on the flotilla incident, saying it should be the one to review the matter.

In joining the Council last year, the United States had come aboard with a promise to challenge old habits that undermined its mandate, he said, and in that spirit, would engage in the 2011 review.  His Government looked forward to working with States to enhance the Council’s response to gross and systemic violations and better implement existing criteria for Council membership, among other things.  The United States’ work would be guided by its steadfast commitment to human rights and four tenets:  the universality of human rights; dialogue among nations; principled engagement and fidelity to the truth.  His Government would work with Council members to help fulfil the body’s mission and to live out the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

GHEORGHE LEUCĂ (Republic of Moldova), in aligning his delegation’s statement with that made earlier on behalf of the European Union, said that while the credibility and capacity of the Council to effectively and unselectively address global human rights issues had been subject to debate, it had proved its relevance and vital role.  Nevertheless, he called for the appropriate implementation of the Council’s Institution Building package, adopted in 2007, with new elements of the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, the expert Advisory Committee, the Complaints Procedure, and the Special Procedure Mechanism.

He said that Republic of Moldova had benefited from a meeting last year with the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and on violence against women, and continued to increase cooperation under the special procedures.  Republic of Moldova would present its national report under the Periodic Review of 2011.  Regarding the Council’s work, he called for a strengthening of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and closer cooperation between the Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist Member States in upholding their obligations, in addition to a streamlining of the review sessions.  In closing, he reiterated Moldova’s commitment to fulfil its pledge to help strengthen the Council and its result-oriented mechanisms.

JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said there was an increased spirit of cross-regionalism in the work of the Council, and his country had been honoured to work in partnership with Burkina Faso and Colombia this year in several initiatives on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights.  That showed that, working cross-regionally, the Council could avoid some problems that plagued its predecessor Commission, and could better fulfil its mandate.  Yet, the credibility of the Council would be judged by its ability to respond to serious violations, and he welcomed the fact that it had used various tools at its disposal to that end over the past year.  The Universal Periodic Review was also a useful addition to the United Nations human rights machinery, and there was also great value in the Council’s system of special procedures.

New Zealand had extended a standing invitation to special procedures mandate-holders, and was pleased to welcome the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples this year to assess progress in the country.  Still, much remained to be done regarding the Council’s work, and the ongoing review was an opportunity to consider how it could be enhanced.  New Zealand saw value in proposals that would improve the Council’s ability to address critical human rights situations, wherever they occurred; improve the action-oriented nature of the its work, allowing for follow-up and enhanced coordination with other branches of the United Nations system; provide more balanced, transparent, predictable and streamlined programme of work; enhance the universality of the Universal Periodic Review; and make better use of the work of special procedures.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) welcomed the Council’s report, saying it contained important resolutions and decisions.  In particular, resolution 15/1 (2010), on the follow up to the report of the Fact Finding Mission on the 31 May incident involving the “Freedom Flotilla”, had endorsed the recommendation to investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  During the attack on the flotilla, Israeli forces killed 9 civilians.  The Fact Finding Mission had issued its report after having interviewed 112 witnesses of 120 nationalities.

Thus, its findings and conclusions reflected a meticulous analysis of the situation.  It had made “compelling” arguments vis-à-vis international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The Israeli military used disproportionate and unnecessary violence.  Such conduct could not be condoned on security or other grounds.  It was a “grave violation” of international human rights and international humanitarian law.  Continuing, he said the report also described various violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law and noted the illegality of its blockade of the Gaza Strip.  The vast majority of the international community supported the report.

Also, Turkey’s commitment to the Panel of Inquiry established by the Secretary-General continued, he said.  On 1 September 2010, Turkey had submitted an interim report to the Panel, with substantive attachments that included autopsies and witness accounts gained by a Turkish investigation of the ships involved.  Having received the interim report, the Panel submitted its own report to the Secretary-General in mid-September.  However, Israel had not submitted its report.  The sooner the Israelis acted responsibly, the faster relations would normalize.  In the meantime, Turkey would follow developments closely.  Depending on Israeli attitudes, Turkey could revisit its position on how to pursue the issue in the General Assembly.  If Israel did not address the issue until March 2011, it would appear on the agenda of the Council’s sixteenth session.  Welcoming Council resolutions 15/6 (2010) and 13/9 (2010), he said Turkey would continue to follow-up on the implementation of recommendations made in the Goldstone Report.  With that, he underscored importance of fighting impunity and ensuring accountability.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said the Human Rights Council did important work, and his delegation wished to emphasize that it should be solidly grounded on the fundamental principles underpinning the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on human rights.  But the Council must evolve to deal with contemporary challenges, which were rooted in debilitating poverty and underdevelopment that still defined the world order.  It should focus on civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, especially given the looming deadline for attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  It was equally important for the Council to examine the possibility of a structure to contribute to General Assembly processes which sought to fast-track the Goals, which in South Africa’s view were human rights.

The start of the processes of review of the Council was encouraging, and he hoped the Intergovernmental Working Group would continue to serve as a forum for inclusive, transparent and comprehensive discussions.  The exercise should take a victim-oriented approach and also seek to prevent violations.  South Africa also hoped realignment of the relationship between the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in line with Assembly resolution 48/141 (1993) would be realized.  It was equally important to strengthen the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, particularly with respect to the Uniform Standard Questionnaire, which must be developed as a tool to assess all States.  In the remaining process of review, the question of how the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was supposed to deal with the Council’s Report needed to be addressed, he said.

SAÚL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica), recalling his country’s profound commitment to human rights, described the 2006-2010 National Development Plan, which established human rights as a cross-cutting aspect of all State activities.  Despite the difficulties of being a developing middle-income country and receiving very little international cooperation for social, cultural and economic projects, Costa Rica had earmarked public resources to upgrade living conditions and build a strong institutional structure for protecting human rights.  He also drew attention to Council resolution 15/11 (2010), introduced by the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training, in which Costa Rica participated.

Costa Rica gave high priority to the review of the Council and, as an observer, had been deeply involved in related discussions, he said.  Sharing one recommendation for the Universal Periodic Review, he suggested improving the operation of the Troika and support provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Costa Rica also had proposed improving the classification of recommendations and consolidating them so they appeared only once in a catalogue.  As for special procedures, they were vital for improving field conditions, which was why, in addition to underlining the need for a standing invitation from all States, Costa Rica proposed the creation of region-specific mandates as a way to ensure an integral approach to human rights.  That would shore-up the principles of non-selectivity and allow for better supervision of actual conditions.  Recalling that Costa Rica was a candidate for the Council for the 2012-2014 period, he said his country would show dedication to human rights and be receptive to arguments from all sides.

ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED ( Maldives) said his country was proud to have been elected to the Human Rights Council in May, and its decision to run for a seat on the body reflected its ambition to mature its fledgling democracy through development of institutions that protected rights of its citizens.  It was also rooted in the notion that the increasingly globalized world “compels human dignity as we strive to free mankind from hunger, poverty, ignorance and insecurity.”  Representatives of the Maldives Government had earlier in the day presented the country’s report under the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, considering it an opportunity to enhance human rights protections at home.  The experience had been proof that the reviews were a true dialogue, and not an examination of one’s weaknesses, he said.  The Maldives also had standing invitations to all the Council’s special rapporteurs, since its own evolution would come from both internal pressures and external solutions to help empower its citizens.

His country had worked closely with Mexico and Colombia to establish a new human rights mechanism to promote gender equality, while endorsing the follow-up to the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza flotilla attack and co-sponsoring various resolutions to strengthen institutions protecting democracy and the social rights of its people.  But the Council needed to be transformed into an international body that met the challenges of its stated mission.  A total overhaul was not necessary but, for example, reviews of the Council’s work should facilitate active engagement of all Small States, so their unique needs and perspectives would be reflected in deliberations.  Methods for dealing with country-specific human rights situations also needed to be improved, he said, and including success stories when reflecting on a more comprehensive picture of the status of human rights would result in a more constructive process.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL ( Peru) deeply deplored the passage of laws criminalizing migration, which affected migrants’ rights, and his delegation was profoundly concerned at arbitrary arrests and detentions.  All migrants should be treated in accordance with international human rights law, and he called on States to eliminate such measures.  Elimination of discrimination against women was also important and Peru was concerned about women’s lack of equality before the law in some parts of the world.  He called on States to comply with their international obligations in that regard.  Violence against women also limited women’s progress and should be condemned.  Despite progress, extreme poverty persisted and its eradication was linked to the promotion and protection of human rights.  States must contribute to eradicating that scourge.

Supporting the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he said Peru also welcomed the new special procedure mandates.  He reiterated support for that work, as well as for the work of other special procedures, which must be carried out in a fully independent fashion.  Peru had actively participated in the Council’s institution building and had presented its candidature to the Council for the 2011-2014 period.  Peru supported the Council’s work programme and gave great importance to the body’s inclusive nature.  His Government also appreciated the results of first session of the intergovernmental Working Group, recently held in Geneva, and believed a complementary aspect should be promoted among the Council, General Assembly and the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).  In closing, he said the Council’s review should be practical and realistic, and followed by another review five years after its completion.  Peru would continue to work towards more consolidation of the Council’s work and making it complementary with the work of the Third Committee.

AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL ( Pakistan) said with all its perceived shortcomings, the Council had made tremendous progress in development of human rights standards, as well as in dealing with situations of human rights around the globe.  In his delegation’s view, the Council was well-equipped with all necessary tools to address complex situations — it only lacked their transparent, impartial and non-selective use in different situations.  Pakistan welcomed the recent by the High Commissioner for Human Rights during that official’s interactive dialogue with the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) to improve relations with the Council, which would benefit all.  In the major review of the Council to be conducted in New York in 2011, he supported the streamlining and appropriate steps to help it have enough resources to effectively carry out its mandated tasks without delays.

The Universal Periodic Review was “the crown jewel” of the Council’s work; it proved meaningful progress could be achieved on all human rights in a cooperative, respectful and non-accusatory manner, he said.  Its cooperative peer review approach must be preserved, and due attention must also be given to effective follow-up on agreed recommendations.  Special procedures complemented the work of the Council, but must carry out their duties within the agreed framework of their mandates, he said.

He went on to stress that country-specific resolutions remained “the bane of the Commission era, and we must learn from the positive examples of the Universal Periodic Review that true promotion and protection of human rights is better achieved through a non-politicized and cooperative approach.”  In conclusion, he said the Council must also increase attention combating the growing trend of racial and religious intolerance, but he expressed support for the adoption of this year’s report and hoped its resolutions and recommendations would be implemented.

RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo) said the Council had shown itself to be useful in the promotion and protection of human rights.  His Government had taken note of the Council’s report, and had expressed its appreciation for the efforts being made under resolution 62/251 (2008).  The report was composed of resolutions and decisions, which provided a complete picture of the range of activities undertaken, by the Council, as well as by United Nations institutions and civil society.  That was important in understanding human rights situations around the world, many of which were marked by crises that threatened international peace and security and impeded achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

He also welcomed the Council’s efforts to enhance cooperation in the field of human rights.  Having been evaluated by the Universal Periodic Review in 2009, Congo was implementing the resultant recommendations in its national report.  Its confidential session reflected the Government’s recognition to protect and promote human rights.  Endorsement by international community was seen in his country as part of a process of building democratic rules and human rights, he explained.  Beyond guaranteeing civil and political rights, the Government hoped to ensure its citizens enjoyed economic and social rights.

As for protecting children, Congo recently had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  This year, it would introduce a law on promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.  In sum, Congo was committed to implementing all its commitments to promote and protect human rights and as such, had decided to submit candidature to the Council for the 2011-2014 period.  He called on States to support his Government during elections in May 2011.  Indeed, 2011 was an important year for the Council, as two review processes would be undertaken, which he hoped would be mutually complementary and ensure that results improved that body’s functioning.  Congo would support any measure to that end.

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN IDUN TVEDT ( Norway) said her country took an active part in negotiations on the General Assembly resolution which had established the Council, as well as in negotiations on the institutional building package.  It was also participating in the ongoing review of the Council and, in its day-to-day work, had aimed at cooperating with partners from all regions and groups to raise its credibility, effectiveness and visibility through making full use of existing mechanisms.  The nearly standing nature of the Council was a key achievement; by meeting regularly throughout the year, it had the ability to address human rights situations timely and effectively.  The Universal Periodic Review was also a success which, if used to its full potential, could bring the work of the United Nations and the Council to rights-holders and victims, in partnership with Governments.

The system of special procedures continued to be the “jewel of the crown” of the Council, she said, and their visibility, relevance and impact had been improved through the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the almost standing nature of the Council.  But the Council should devote more time to its mandated to promote mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system.  A key shortcoming was the selectivity dealing with urgent situations, she said.  “Human rights violations in some parts of the world trigger immediate reactions by the Council — violations in other parts of the world are met with complete silence,” she said.

GRIGORY Y. LUKIYANTSEV (Russian Federation), recalling that last week marked the official start of both the review of the Council and work of the Open-ended Working Group, said there also was much to be done in the intersessional consultations.  Informal discussions had taken place for more than a year and he shared his views on that process, saying that the Council had shown it could carry out the task entrusted to it.  It did not need reform.  Rather, the review should remove the shortcomings that had come to light.  The main challenge would be to remove any politicization, selectiveness and double standards.  The theme of the review should relate to enhancing the spirit of dialogue, which should, in turn, depoliticize the United Nations’ human rights agenda.

The Universal Periodic Review had proved effective in identifying human rights problems in specific countries and remedying them with the participation of concerned States.  He emphasized that all must be done to ensure that the outcome of the review enjoyed the greatest possible support and, with that in mind, States should avoid revisiting the “institution building package”.  Turning to Assembly resolution 62/251 (2007), he said the Council’s status fell under the Assembly’s purview.  The Council should be reviewed only after its functioning had been debated.  The Council had the expertise to draw up its own recommendations for the Assembly on the question of its status, he added.

Finally, he underscored that cooperation between Geneva and New York was useful and necessary, and he welcomed the attention given by the coordinators in New York to the “ Geneva process”.  The Russian Federation was opposed to considering the Council’s membership criteria in the process, and any attempt to introduce additional criteria would be in conflict with accepted practice.  His Government also opposed the idea of the leading human rights body becoming a “club of the chosen few”.  It had found interesting a proposal for establishing a time limit on candidates for elections.  With that, he assured the Assembly of Russian Federations’ readiness to work with others to ensure the Council’s effective functioning.

IBRAHIM O. A. DEBBASHI ( Libya) said five years after its creation the Council demonstrated integrity and understood issues before it in an impartial and contractive way.  The priority should be fundamental rights of people established under international law, and Libya hoped the Universal Periodic Review would be a mechanism that could indeed promote and protect human rights.  The Council led to a new phase promoting rights and establishing equality through neutrality, without any politicization or double standards which were unfortunately present in other bodies.  He commended the role played by the Special Rapporteurs who helped promote and consolidate the principles of human rights, which he hoped all States would take into account, particularly as regarded addressing the daily violations seen in the Palestinian territories under the Israeli occupation.

Libya had the honour last year of being elected to the Council, and had supported peace and security as a member of the Security Council. It would assume responsibilities to promote human rights at international level, he said.  There remained enormous challenges in human rights, particularly in areas of conflict.  Yet, violations of Palestinian rights were unique and required the Council’s constant attention in order to put an end to the killing of Palestinian people, destruction of and expulsion from their own lands and, more importantly, to prosecute and put an end to war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  There should also be monitoring of recommendations of the Goldstone Report, he said, adding that he looked forward to implementation of the Council’s recommendations in the report.

FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, affirmed the Council’s importance for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Recognition of dignity of each and every person, which the Council was formed to protect and promote, entailed full respect for the inner and transcendent dimension of the human person.  Freedom of conscience was also intrinsically linked to freedom of religion, which Governments had a responsibility to promote and guarantee.  Yet, today there remained intolerance, discrimination and violence directed against members of many religious minorities, including Christians, in various parts of the world in the form of attacks on religious sites and suppression of individuals’ public expression of their beliefs.  Each and every Government needed to work harder to guarantee full the right to life, freedom of thought, conscience, religious or belief for each and every person.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.