With Crises Disproportionately Affecting Most Vulnerable, World Community Must Ensure Economic, Social Rights Not Relegated to Second Tier, Committee Told
With Crises Disproportionately Affecting Most Vulnerable, World Community Must Ensure Economic, Social Rights Not Relegated to Second Tier, Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)
With Crises Disproportionately Affecting Most Vulnerable, World Community Must
Ensure Economic, Social Rights Not Relegated to Second Tier, Committee Told
Hears from Some 40 Speakers, as General Debate on Human Rights Issues Begins
With multiple interrelated crises affecting developing countries and vulnerable populations disproportionately — causing further erosions in the progressive realization of human rights — it was time to recalibrate the human rights agenda to better include economic, social and cultural rights, along with the right to development, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
As the Committee launched its annual general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights after procedural disagreements on the speaking order of major groups derailed yesterday’s planned start, State delegations reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. Yet, many of them expressed strong concerns that economic, social and cultural rights continued to be relegated to second-tier status compared to civil and political rights.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, Suriname’s representative further underscored the importance of the right to development and emphasized international cooperation in providing an enabling environment in that regard. As the world community prepared for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20), he said it must renew commitments to a human-centred approach to development.
Underlining the impact of the financial crisis on human rights, Uruguay’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), emphasized that no situation resulting from the crisis could justify the violation of human rights, and appealed to all States to strengthen economic, social and cultural rights in their responses to the economic turmoil.
Many of the nearly 40 speakers taking the floor today stressed that the ongoing events in North Africa and the Middle East testified to the crucial significance of universal human rights, which applied to all people, at all times, everywhere. But a number of them said that, while changes in those regions had opened up possibilities for a new political order based more firmly on democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, those transitions were not assured.
Suggesting that the uprisings had shown that Governments could not stand forever in the way of people’s right to development in all its dimensions, Liechtenstein’s representative stressed that, where change had come, the international community and the United Nations were responsible to help ensure it was irreversible. “The performance of the United Nations has improved in this regard, but will crucially depend on the international community’s sustained commitment to assist interested States in providing their people with a life in dignity and security,” he said, adding they must also hold those responsible for crimes against international human rights law and international humanitarian law accountable.
Echoing others, the representative of the European Union expressed specific concerns about the human rights situation in Libya, where cases of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings were being reported. “The new authorities should ensure that justice prevails over revenge, while, of course, the atrocities committed during the Qadhafi regime need to be properly addressed, including through full cooperation with the International Criminal Court,” he said.
Agreeing that his country’s recent bitter experience showed what could happen when human rights were consistently violated, Libya’s delegate said numerous allegations of violations in the last days of the uprising were still under investigation and if proven guilty, those who committed them would face justice. However, it was to be expected, he suggested, that some incidents would have taken place, knowing how hated Qadhafi was and how angry the population was after his abuses.
Noting that new technologies, such as the Internet and mobile phone networks, had become important tools in exercising the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the representative of the United States said that some countries continued to deny their citizens those rights both on the street and online.
In that respect, he enumerated allegations of such violations in China, whose Government harassed and detained citizens who expressed dissenting viewpoints, blocked social networking sites and Internet searches, and imposed restrictions on civil society organizations, workers and unregistered religious groups.
Categorically rejecting those “groundless allegations”, China’s representative urged the United States, as well as the European Union, to put their own houses in order before making accusations against his country. For its part, China had found a path for human rights development with Chinese characteristics that was suited to its national conditions.
He joined a number of other delegations in arguing that international human rights endeavours continued to be plagued by double standards and politicization. “A small number of countries are still using country-specific resolutions as instruments to put pressure on developing countries,” he said, stressing that interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretence of protecting civilians and defending human rights violated the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
Calling attention to a “unique situation” facing his country that was of immediate relevance to all Member States, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy for Human Rights expressed concern that the outcome of a private consultation on Sri Lanka initiated by the Secretary-General was communicated without notice to the President of the Human Rights Council last month. Not only had his delegation not been advised of that communication, but no intergovernmental body requested or sanctioned the formation, functioning or reportage of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka.
Although saner counsel prevailed and the report was not entertained before the Council, his Government considered the Panel’s report to be “irretrievably flawed”, he said. Sri Lanka’s President had appointed an independent “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” to recommend steps towards reconciliation, restitution for victims and non-repetition of internal armed conflict. Moreover, the Government would be submitting itself to the Council’s Universal Periodic Review in October 2012 and any questions could be discussed at that time.
Also participating in today’s debate were the Director of the Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, and the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs of Australia.
The Committee also heard from representatives of Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Venezuela, Norway, Thailand, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Russian Federation, Japan, Tunisia, Indonesia, Syria, Peru, Sudan, Belarus, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Argentina, New Zealand, Cyprus, Greece, Kazakhstan, Singapore, India, Serbia, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also commented.
Representatives of Syria, Bahrain, Cuba, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Turkey and Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 27 October, to continue its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Before opening the general debate, the Chair expressed concern on the running of the Committee’s debate. Recalling events the day before, when disagreement on the order of the speaker’s list resulted in the postponement of the discussion, he said he had convened open-ended consultations over two weeks ago to seek an interim measure to allow the Committee to move forward, despite the ongoing disagreement. Among other things, the interim measure was not intended to create a precedent. Consequently, he had not fixed a pattern in the speaker’s list, instead taking a rotational approach, so as not to create a precedent.
He stressed that from the first open-ended consultations, he had noted that the core issue was a matter of principle. It was now clear that the rotation was not working, since it did not take care of that principle. He had suspended yesterday’s meeting in the hope that a solution could be found. However, the opposite had happened and delegations had merely hardened their positions.
In that context, he had made a ruling based on the following criteria as an interim measure pending a permanent solution: First, respect and adherence to the principle issue. Second, any major groups that wished to speak earlier could undertake a swapping procedure, as was a normal process among delegations. Today the order would, therefore, be: the Rio Group, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and European Union. However, for today’s meeting, ASEAN and the European Union had agreed to a swap. He said any delegation could challenge that order, but cautioned that such a move would leave him no choice but to put the issue to a vote.
He then invited the Rio Group to speak, but noting that the representative of Chile was not present, called on CARICOM to open the debate.
HENRY MAC-DONALD ( Suriname), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said development gains over the past decade were being reversed as a result of multiple interrelated crises, affecting developing countries and vulnerable populations disproportionately. Those crises could lead to further erosions in the progressive realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of society’s most vulnerable members. Further, the CARICOM countries remained concerned that those rights had been relegated to lesser importance. While the right to development was, primarily, a Government responsibility, international cooperation in providing an enabling environment could not be overemphasized. As the world community commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development and prepared for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), it must renew commitments to a human-centred approach to development.
Saying that rising food prices led to increasing levels of poverty and constrained the realization of the right to food, he noted that the CARICOM Council on Trade and Economic Development endorsed a Regional Policy for Food and Nutrition Security in October 2010. That policy aimed to strengthen long-term sustainable agriculture, food security, nutrition and rural development programmes to eliminate the root causes of hunger and poverty. To that end, some States had adopted policies to change consumption patterns and advocated an “eat what you produce” approach. Because raising agricultural production was critical to food security, challenges such as high energy prices, unfair competition rules, market access for developing countries — particularly small island developing States — and the mitigation of climate change must also be addressed.
The CARICOM countries noted the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, which focused on post-disaster settings, he said, underlining the need for a comprehensive approach in the post-disaster, recovery and reconstruction response. He called on the international community to continue to fulfil their promise to Haiti and its people and to support reconstruction efforts there. The Community believed that any future review of the Human Rights Council should focus on the remaining challenges, including whether to maintain its status, no sooner than 10 years and no later than 15 years. It was also pleased with the institutionalization of the ad hoc arrangements put in place since the Council’s establishment regarding the agenda item “the Report of the Human Rights Council”. Finally, it looked forward to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, of the delegation of the European Union, said he reserved the option to check whether the criteria used for speaking order was squared with all positions.
On the subject of human rights, he said no country was immune from criticism, and all must be subjected to international scrutiny. He welcomed the democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, however he was worried at the human rights situation in Libya, with reported cases of arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings. “The new authorities should ensure that justice prevails over revenge, while, of course, the atrocities committed during the Qadaffi regime need to be properly addressed, including through full cooperation with the International Criminal Court,” he said. The European Union also remained concerned about the situation in Bahrain, and urged a process of meaningful reforms there. The situation also remained highly worrying in Yemen, where serious human rights violations and abuses took place in “a context of near impunity”.
He called for an end to multiple forms of discrimination that affected them, most alarmingly in conflict situations like that in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Transition from conflict situations required mechanisms for accountability and to end impunity — in Sri Lanka it was important to genuinely address the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts credible allegations of very serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the internal armed conflict. He highlighted other human rights situations, including concern that freedom of expression restrictions had intensified in China this year and persistent violations by Eritrea of its obligations, in particular continued detention without trial of 11 prominent Members of Parliament since 2001 and 10 independent journalists, including Eritrean-Swedish dual citizen Dawit Isaak.
The Union was also deeply convinced of the need to vigorously promote and protect freedom of religion, and would during this Assembly, as in previous years, present a resolution on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The issue of discrimination, persecution and ill-treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people also needed to be addressed to build inclusive and sustainable societies; 80 countries still criminalized same-sex relations, and 7 applied the death penalty. “Perhaps the most emblematic case of recent violent oppression of a regime against its own people is that of Syria,” he said, demanding an end to killing and arbitrary detentions and that Syrian authorities immediately alleviate the humanitarian situation in crisis areas. In conclusion, he said the General Assembly needed to address the situations and themes of concern he had mentioned to help reach the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, stressed that while migration enriched societies by making them more diverse and pluralist, migrants’ contribution to their host societies was not sufficiently recognized. The Group regretted the adoption of laws or regulations criminalizing migration and encouraged States to end excessive detention periods of people who had not committed any crime and to unconditionally respect the inherent dignity and human rights of migrants, regardless of their immigration status. It also asked all States to eliminate laws that stimulated unsafe migration and to refrain from adopting measures that discriminated against or stigmatized any group. He had further concerns over the current trend towards the criminalization of migrants, the majority of whom sought a better future themselves and their families. It was also concerned that international criminal networks had targeted migrant traffic. In that context, he underlined the need to promote policies and positive attitudes, through education when applicable, toward more tolerant and humane societies.
Underscoring the Group’s commitments to preventing and combating human trafficking and to ensuring the full protection and care of victims, he urged all States to establish and strengthen appropriate focal points for coordination between countries of origin, transit and destination. Measures must also be taken to protect migrants from the activities of criminal groups, which profited from their vulnerability. He further highlighted the importance of the right of migrants to a safe return, as well as the need to create domestic economic, social and political conditions facilitating that return.
Calling for a rational, integral and multidimensional approach to the challenges of migration, he stressed that such an approach must start from the basis that the phenomenon involved human beings, who could not simply be handled or managed in a mechanical manner. Similarly, the fight against racism, xenophobia and the defence of migrants’ human rights — particularly those who were more vulnerable, such as women and children — must not be delayed.
LILIÁN SILVEIRA ( Uruguay), speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR, said rights were universal, indivisible and inter-related. She noted that, since 2005, the Market’s member States had met annually to discuss human rights. The Institute of Human Rights Policies was set up in 2010 to contribute to the rule of law in States parties. That Institute also aimed to strengthen human rights as the central focus of MERCOSUR, which, among other things, was concerned with the impact of the financial crisis on the realization of human rights. In that regard, she emphasized that no situation resulting from the crisis could justify the violation of human rights, and appealed to all States to strengthen economic, social and cultural rights in their responses to the crisis. Moreover, she called on developed nations to fulfil their commitments to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance through 2015.
She further underlined the Market’s position that it was unacceptable for any person to be discriminated against because of their faith or belief, and incitement to religious hatred must be eliminated. They were further concerned by the violation of human rights on the basis of sexual orientation, and legal penalties related to sexual orientation must be eliminated. For their part, the MERCOSUR member States had worked to eliminate poverty and malnutrition, achieve the universalization of primary and secondary education, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. They welcomed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and invited all States that had not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying that Convention.
SAIFUL AZAM ABDULLAH (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said that its informal swap with the European Union did not change its position with regard to the matter of principle facing the Committee today. To that end, he reiterated ASEAN’s position that major groups represented by Member States should speak before member entities. He went on to say that human rights, as set out in the Vienna Declaration, were interrelated and indivisible, comprised of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and, he continued, should be addressed in a balanced manner with due regard for specific cultural, social, economic and political circumstances. The Vientiane Action Programme, adopted by all ASEAN members, was a six-year plan implemented from 2004 to 2010, which focused on regional integration, within its politically diverse membership, including complementing existing human rights mechanisms.
Since the ASEAN Charter came into force, in December 2008, actions were being taken to promote and protect human rights, including the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB), which led to the creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), whose role was to enhance public awareness of human rights issues and to constructively engage other ASEAN bodies, including civil society. Establishment of AHRB represented a new beginning. That body provided a learning process for diverse ASEAN member States to cooperate on human rights at the regional level. AICHR ensured the people that their Governments were committed to promoting and protecting their basic rights and freedoms and confirmed the need for their responsible use.
He highlighted the inauguration of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, in 2010, whose goal was to promote and protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children in the region, while taking into consideration different historical, political, socio-cultural, religious and economic contexts, regionally, and the balance between rights and responsibilities. It also aimed to promote the well-being, development and empowerment of women and children in the ASEAN community building process which would help realize the Organization’s goals, as set out in its Charter.
MAHINDA SAMARASINGHE, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy for Human Rights of Sri Lanka, said that friends of Sri Lanka gazed with wonder at the rapid gains made in the aftermath of the conflict, which ended in May 2009. The successful conclusion of a humanitarian operation to free over 290,000civilian hostages marked a watershed, as Sri Lanka had suffered three decades of terrorist-inflicted conflict, contending with a ruthless foe. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been maintained by an extensive criminal network, and even in its last desperation, when it herded people it claimed as its own into smaller and smaller areas, using them as human shields, there were those who sought to accord it legitimacy. Throughout the final phases of the conflict, from 2006 to 2009, Sri Lanka engaged the United Nations and its agencies, explaining its position. The long-term goal was freedom from fear of terrorism and united without consideration of ethnic background or other grounds of division. All efforts were predicated on the people’s right to a more peaceful tomorrow. In that vein, education, vocational training, health and other services, were being provided at a level never experienced before. In addition, Sri Lanka had made steps to address the question of reconciliation, and hence, the President had appointed the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLCRC).
Turning to an issue of immediate relevance to Member States, he focused on the methods of work and practices of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and in particular, the issue of transparency and fair dealing in relation to its support structures. In 2009, the Council addressed the Sri Lankan situation and called for support from the international community to cooperate in reconstruction. However, early last month, Sri Lanka faced a unique situation: The outcome of a private consultation on Sri Lanka initiated by the Secretary-General was communicated to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Council. The document was communicated without advice to the country concerned, and gave rise to much concern. Apart from the fact that no intergovernmental body requested or sanctioned the formation, functioning or reportage of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Panel, the Panel’s report itself was “irretrievably flawed”. He was pleased that saner counsel prevailed and it was not entertained before the Council. He viewed that move in light of attempts to second guess and call into question the work and forthcoming outcome of the LLRC’s deliberations. One country, supported by a like-minded group, launched a stillborn initiative in Geneva to discuss the report of the LLRC during the nineteenth Session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012, mere months after it was due to be finalized.
Sri Lanka would be submitting itself to the Universal Periodic Review in October 2012 and any questions could be discussed at that time. It would also give time to commence implementing the recommendations of the LLRC. The initiative was taken advantage of by interested parties who wished to pre-judge the LLRC as a less than useful exercise. “It remains unfortunate that the scattered remnants of the defeated LTTE and their declining support base amongst the diaspora are still able to reach and influence opinion,” he said. Sri Lanka was more than willing to engage with parties that were genuinely interested in discussing the truth, and he firmly stated that “we opposed all efforts to denigrate the LLRC process and its members”, without any justification even before the Commission had the opportunity to finalize its work. Those efforts against Sri Lanka had attracted some of the best-known names in the human rights community; they had fallen prey to biased propaganda from anti-Sri Lanka elements. Those elements had also managed to involve some special procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. His Government was confident that all challenges would be overcome and there would be an era of peace for persons of all backgrounds — a “united Sri Lankan people”.
RONALD GODDARD ( United States) noted that his delegation had joined over 60 other Governments last year to establish through the Human Rights Council the mandate for the Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, both of which had always been central to healthy civil society and the democratic process. New technologies, such as the Internet and mobile phone networks, had become important tools in the exercise of those human rights. Unfortunately, some countries continued to deny their citizens those rights both on the street and online. Syria had responded with violence to its citizens’ efforts to peacefully assemble and protest for their universal rights, reportedly killing more than 3,000 civilians and arresting and detaining roughly 30,000 since the protests began seven months ago. Regime forces were responsible for mass arrests, torture, targeted killings and arbitrary executions and detentions. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has said these actions may amount to crimes against humanity.
Through its security forces, Iran also continued to quash freedom of assembly, he said. It repressed all forms of opposition and harassed, abused, intimated, detained and sentenced human rights defenders, civil society actors, student activists, artists and thousand of individuals without cause or due process of law. That included political leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and their wives. More than 100 juveniles were on death row, in contravention of the United Nations convention to which it was party. Online rights were also repressed, while ethnic and religious parties were abused. Similarly, Burmasubjected members of ethnic religious monitories to unique discrimination. While the recent release of political prisoners was welcome, the Government continued to hold a high number of others who should be released.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Myanmar requested that his country be called by the name recognized by the United Nations and using any other name was insulting not only to his country, but to the Organization itself.
The Chair appealed to all countries to use the official United Nations name for all States.
Continuing, Mr. Goddard said the Burmese Government targeted political activist and censored the media. Meanwhile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintained draconian controls over almost all aspects of citizens’ lives, including the flow of independent information into, out of and within the country, including on the Internet. Cuban authorities actively targeted the Damas de Blanco and continued to incarcerate Alan Gross. Finally, while the United States welcomed China’s increasingly important role on the international stage, it noted that the Chinese Government harassed and detained its citizens who expressed dissenting viewpoints both individually and collectively, labelling them as dangers to State security or even as terrorists. It also blocked social networking sites and Internet searches and imposed restrictions on civil society organizations, workers and unregistered religious groups.
GEORG SPARBER ( Liechtenstein) said Governments had the core responsibility to guarantee and promote every person’s rights, and uprisings in the Arab world had shown they could not stand forever in the way of people’s right to development in all its dimensions. Where change had come, the international community and the United Nations were responsible to help ensure it was irreversible, as well as hold accountable for those responsible for crimes against international human rights law and international humanitarian law. “The performance of the United Nations has improved in this regard, but will crucially depend on the international community’s sustained commitment to assist interested States in providing their people with a life in dignity and security,” he said.
Unfortunately, politics had sometimes been in the way of effective follow-up of United Nations human rights reports, he said. The Human Rights Council had reacted swiftly to address emergency human rights situations in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria, strengthening its authority and relevance. While more had to be done to ensure accountability of grave human rights violations, the Council had made a substantial step toward a more comprehensive fulfilment of its mandate. “We believe that the Council is well positioned to meet its upcoming responsibilities, the most important of which will consist in ensuring implementation of the [Universal Periodic Review] recommendations during the second cycle of the peer review,” he said. Liechtenstein also welcomed efforts to enhance transparency in staffing, execution and financing of the Special Procedures; the regular budget allocation to the Office of the High Commissioner fell far short from matching the importance accorded to human rights, and his delegation hoped the Fifth Committee would address this situation and provide the High Commissioner access to the Unforeseen and Extraordinary Expenses mechanism.
The Treaty Bodies had steadily increased over the past years, while no systematic discussion on how to improve their work and functioning had taken place. “The ad hoc solutions with which this Committee has so far responded to Treaty Bodies are clearly insufficient to address this problem. In this regard, we call for more innovative approaches to rationalize Treaty Body proceedings, like the format to meet in parallel chambers,” he said. But, the core responsibility for reform lay with the Treaty Bodies themselves, and they had to do more to decrease the reporting burden for States.
MAMADOU N’DIAYE, Director of the Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, welcomed the principle whereby Member States spoke before other entities. Voicing concern that violations of human rights continued to be perpetrated around the world, he stressed that the protection of human rights required daily vigilance. No process of development could prosper without the guarantee of the free exercise of fundamental rights, or the chance of equal opportunity for all citizens. Efforts to counter conflict, build peace and establish harmonious development would be in vain, unless all forms of discrimination were eliminated. He recalled that the concept of human rights was two-dimensional: on one hand, it was absolute and, on the other hand, it required a commitment to human development. Noting the impact of the global economic crisis on the human rights situation in many countries, he called for respect and protection for the rights of minorities, women, children and migrants in the responses to that crisis.
He went on to note that the Senegalese Government had begun to align its national legalisation with international standards. It had also adopted a proactive approach to ensure the enjoyment by minorities of their rights. A linear development of human rights should not be expected, however. For that reason, his Government advocated a focus on education. Further, dialogue and consultation should be favoured over confrontation, including to avoid any so-called clash of civilizations.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), aligning with the statement of the Rio Group and the Southern Common Market, said his country was moving forward to the enjoyment of all human rights through growing public investment, and a policy of social inclusion and equality. “That is why extreme poverty has fallen from 21 per cent in 1998 to 7.1 per cent in 2010. And, according to the Gini coefficient, Venezuela is the least unequal country in Latin America,” he said. “In Venezuela, the authoritarian and repressive state, inherited from the past, is disassembled.” The country condemned any action to curtail human rights, and the national assembly had approved this month a law to investigate crimes and human rights violations planned by the State against thousands of citizens, during the period 1958-1998 a time so-called “representative democracy”. The law aimed to bring justice and due reparation to the victims.
He criticized representatives of imperial powers who cynically used the issue of human rights against countries of the South. “These are the same powers that repeatedly violate those rights, imposing fratricidal wars on the world and carrying out invasions or aggressions to sovereignty, in order to satisfy their appetites for domination,” he said. The world had been amazed to see how Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadaffi was “wounded, brutally tortured and finally extra-judicially murdered” on 20 October. “This despicable event is clearly a war crime, punishable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and those responsible must be brought to justice,” he said. It was commendable that leaders of the world and top officials had condemned the killing, but reprehensible that some in the United Nations and leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had applauded the murder. “This Organization is becoming the armed wing of the Security Council, and the Security Council is turning into an instrument for war and insecurity. The Government of Venezuela demands an immediate and total withdrawal of NATO forces from Libya,” he said.
MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway) said the popular uprisings of the Arab spring underpinned the crucial significance of universal human rights, which applied to all people, at all times, everywhere. Underlining the need for inclusiveness, he said the situation of religious minorities had proven to be particularly fragile and stressed that minority groups must be protected. He called on the Syrian Government to put an immediate end to the violence, stop the arrest and torture of political dissidents and respect its human rights obligations. He called on Yemeni authorities to protect peaceful protesters, refrain from brutal violence and bring those responsible to justice. Noting reports of a range of violations against people associated with anti-Government protests in Bahrain, he called on the authorities there to investigate those matters properly, secure basic human rights and ensure handling of all court cases in line with recognized international standards.
Welcoming many recent developments in Myanmar, he said it seemed that a lack of capacity was now a greater liability to implementing reforms. Thus, Norway believed the international community should engage in capacity-building efforts to support and promote human rights there. While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had participated in the Universal Periodic Review procedures, it had not given any response to the 177 recommendations during that review. Further, the country should grant the Special Rapporteur access, while also allowing access to international humanitarian organizations. Norway would again present a draft resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders, as well as on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons. It also welcomed the decision of the Human Rights Council to commission a study to document discriminatory laws and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identify. “If we are not able to take a critical view on our own records and show willingness to listen to constructive criticism — and make efforts to close the gap between our aspirations of human rights and its realities on the ground — we clearly undermine the validity and legitimacy of the legally binding universal human rights framework,” he concluded.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) said the country’s Constitution guaranteed the rights and liberties of the people to participate in politics, governance, formulation of public policy as well as economic and social development planning. He highlighted a number of the country’s initiatives, such as its National Human Rights Plan of Action and Employment of Aliens Act, but said there was more it could do to improve human rights protection. Work on human rights education, judicial and criminal justice reforms and national human rights institutions needed to continue. Thailand was also working hard to define torture and make it an offence under law, and training military and police officers to increase their awareness of the issue.
Thailand was also working to internationally promote and protect human rights, he said. It stood by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, and earlier this month presented its Universal Periodic Review to the Human Rights Council. The drafting and consultation processes of the report resulted in a useful exchange of views between government agencies and non-governmental organizations that helped assess the human rights situation in an objective manner, he said. He thanked Member States for the constructive dialogue and fruitful outcome.
WANG MIN ( China) said it was his delegation’s understanding that today’s speaking order was an interim measure. On the human rights issues under consideration, he said achieving the right to development remained a bumpy road for developing countries, and owing to the multiple global crises, imbalances between the North and South and trade barriers, the developmental environment of those countries had worsened. International human rights endeavours continued to be plagued by double standards and politicization. “A small number of countries are still using country-specific resolutions as instruments to put pressure on developing countries,” he said, stressing that interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretence of protecting civilians and defending human rights violated the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
He said the international community should firmly adhere to the Charter and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, as well as their freely chosen political systems, human rights development paths and diversity. Politicization and double standards on human rights issues should be resolutely abandoned. Countries that fabricated problems, amplified small ones and engaged in politicization and selectivity had seriously poisoned the sound development of human rights. The human rights dialogue and cooperation must be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Also, greater emphasis on the right to development was needed. All forms of discrimination must be eliminated and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action should be fully implemented. Further improvements in the human rights work of the United Nations were needed and the High Commissioner should act objectively, fairly and with increased transparency. Categorically rejecting the groundless allegations made by the European Union and the United States, he strongly urged them to put their own houses in order before making accusations against his country. He further stressed that China had found a path for human rights development with Chinese characteristics that was suited to its national conditions.
LUIS-ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said his country had received five mandate holders of the Organization of American States and the United Nations this year. Thanks to Constitutional reforms, also this year affected persons would be able to use the federal Amparo Trial procedure in violations of rights. As a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants, Mexico was concerned some States had adopted legislative measures that criminalized migration. Those initiatives questioned the universality of human rights, since they conditionalized liberty, physical integrity and due processes. Strategies that promoted tolerance and combated stereotypes that affected migrants should be considered, and civil society played in an important role collaborating with other actors.
Mexico also welcomed the level of support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but said that international instrument needed to be effectively observed at a national level. “This will not be possible if the Committee that evaluates and forms recommendations on the reports by States Parties, which will have a favourable impact on the lives of millions of persons with disabilities, does not have sufficient support in order to complete its important task,” he said, noting his country had presented a draft resolution asking the General Assembly to grant additional time to the work of the Committee. Mexico also considered the obligation of States to promote the respect of human rights in the fight against terrorism was a crucial issue; its delegation was looking to further strengthen the complementarity of the initiatives on the issue, to be considered in the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said that while the implementation of human rights remained a challenge, his country remained hopeful that common ground could be found to advance the rights and fundamental freedoms which the world community held dear. His Government was establishing an Office of Religious freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to promote the protection of freedom of religion as a key objective of its foreign policy. Stressing that “societies that protect religious freedoms are more likely to protect all other fundamental freedoms”, he expressed concern about the plight of religious minorities, including in Egypt, where sectarian tensions between Muslim and Coptic communities continued, in Pakistan, where the abuse of blasphemy laws had often unfairly targeted religious minorities, and in China, where Christians were driven underground.
He expressed concern about Iran’s “blatant disregard” for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens. Deeply alarmed by the situation in Syria, Canada called on the Assad regime to end violence, release all political prisoners, grant free and unfettered access to the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and meet the demands of its people for democracy. It also called on President Assad to step aside. He also stressed that the underlying sources of conflict in Sri Lanka were not being addressed and he supported calls for an independent investigation into credible allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by both parties to the conflict. He deplored ongoing violations of human rights and the absence of basic freedoms in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He said that several important issues in Burma also remained unresolved.
Speaking on a point of order, Myanmar’s representative said that calling his country by a name other than the one recognized by the United Nations was insulting. Noting that the Canadian delegation had presented credentials to his Mission a few months ago, he wondered what name that delegation had used.
Mr. RISHCHYNSKI urged the authorities of that country to promptly and fully investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Government or military personnel. He expressed further concerns about the situation in Belarus, where the crackdown against the opposition continued and the authorities appeared to have no intention to abide by internationally recognized obligations. Finally, he hoped the successful adoption of the International Day of the Girl would further promote girls’ rights.
ALAN COELHO DE SÉLLOS (Brazil), aligning with the statement of the Rio Group on the rights of migrants and the statement of MERCOSUR, said the world was going through an extremely delicate moment, which was also a great historic opportunity to use an approach that had human rights as a foundation. The first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review showed that all States faced challenges, but it had proven that, through constructive dialogue, cooperation could overcome those challenges. The international community should not shy away from raising its voice against gross human rights violations, he said.
“Human rights cannot serve as a pretext for unilateral actions that bypass international law regulating the use of force at the international level. We must ensure that the force of values is greater than the value of force,” he said. With other countries, Brazil was presenting a draft resolution on the mutually reinforcing nature of all human rights and freedoms. It aimed to reemphasize that all human rights were interdependent and true progress could only be achieved through a comprehensive approach. Brazil also hoped for the fullest support on a draft resolution it tabled on World Down Syndrome Day, which aimed to highlight the value of all human life under the aegis of the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.
NATALIA ZOLOTOVA ( Russian Federation) reaffirmed her Government’s fundamental position on the list of speakers, noting that it had supported the interim solution. However, her delegation believed Assembly resolution 65/276 did not change the observer status of the European Union, and, following United Nations procedure, observers could only speak after Member State representatives of major groups.
She stressed that terrorism, natural and man-made disasters, as well as the recent global turmoil, produced many victims and caused real suffering. Fundamental values such as life, responsibility and fairness were being devalued. Further, human rights were being used politically for internal interference in countries. Against that backdrop, it was necessary to look again at the human rights agenda and to pay due attention to economic, social and cultural rights, as well as to the right to development. This year marked 65 years since the Nuremburg Tribunal delivered its verdict against the Nazi criminals. Yet, today, there were rising numbers of groups condoning the acts of the Nazis. Legislation that recognized the position of neo-Nazi and other extremist philosophies represented a departure from the observance of human rights obligations and created fertile ground for the popularization of racial extremism.
She cautioned against the forcible export of standards by a small group of States, stressing that traditional values for various nations and systems must be taken into account in asserting dignity and human rights. Still, human rights had a powerful unifying potential, and fairness and equality should become the basis for bringing States together and for establishing dialogue and cooperation.
IBRAHIM O. A. DABBASHI ( Libya) said undoubtedly the bitter recent experience of his country showed what could happen when human rights were violated and fundamental freedoms were not enjoyed. The Libyan people, for 40 years, had been under a tyrant despot who dedicated the wealth of the country to suppressing them. When those people decided to carry out peaceful demonstrations to claim their rights, they were faced by the security forces with live ammunition, crimes against humanity and massacres. As a result more than 30,000 lost their lives and 50,000 had been wounded, while thousands of buildings had been destroyed.
The fact finding missions dispatched by the Human Rights Council confirmed that Qaddafi’s battalions committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the Qaddafi media had attributed all crimes to the rebels, he said. Unfortunately, that fooled a lot of people, when in fact in only very rare cases had some combatants committed minor mistakes that could be considered human rights violations. During the first days of the movement, they did not have any leadership to guide them and they thought that any act they took was legitimate for the sake of self-defence. Numerous allegations of violations in the last days of the uprising were still under investigation and if proven guilty, those who committed them would face justice. It was to be expected that some incidents would have taken place, knowing how hated Qaddafi was and how angry the population was after his abuses.
The fall of the Qaddafi regime on the twentieth of this month was a milestone in the history of the Libyan people, bringing democracy and respect for human rights. On the address by the representative of Venezuela, he said it unfortunately described the Libyan people as mercenaries and that was certainly not acceptable from a diplomat who had self respect. The speaker in question must be a mercenary himself, in the service of a dictator. Venezuela was definitely not a country that could be considered a defender of human rights, he said.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said promotion and protection of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community, so his country had been engaging in a human rights dialogue with more than ten countries. The special procedures and Universal Periodic Review were mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the countries in question and the international community. At the same time, in the case of serious and continuous violations, the General Assembly, as a universal body with wider membership, should address those issues as well. The consensual adoption by the Human Rights Council of the resolution of the human rights situation in Cambodia was a good model of dialogue and cooperation, he said and he appreciated the efforts of the Government towards developing an action plan on its Universal Period Review follow up.
But, Japan was gravely concerned by human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and disappointed that it never showed intention to respond to the recommendation by the Universal Period Review or cooperate with human rights mechanisms. “The abduction issue remains outstanding. Twelve Japanese citizens who have been abducted by the DPRK have not yet returned to their motherland”, he said, urging it to start a comprehensive investigation on the issue in accordance with their 2008 agreement. Japan and the European Union would submit the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, and would like to ask all Member States for their support. Japan also welcomed Myanmar’s developments towards democratization and national reconciliation, calling upon the international community to engage and assist it to achieve the Government’s commitments. He also noted that Japan appreciated its seventh human rights dialogue with Iran in May, though was concerned by the human rights situation in the country, including restriction on freedom of expression, execution by stoning, public executions and executions of under-age people.
OTHMAN JERANDI ( Tunisia) said his country’s recent revolution constituted a decisive historic step that reoriented the course of its history, allowing it to reclaim its place in the community of nations, which attached importance to the common values of democracy, tolerance, equality of opportunity, and respect for human rights in all their aspects. The Government had established an approach based on promoting and protecting human rights. That approach was represented by a general amnesty for all political prisoners held by the previous regime and accession to the Rome Statute, as well as the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Recently, numerous international human rights organizations had opened offices in Tunisia. The State was also seeking to step up judicial reform, and was also working to prosecute those involved in the deaths of demonstrators. It was also working to implement various international mechanisms, including in its fight against corruption. He called on all Governments and civil society to support those efforts, including the recovery of funds embezzled by its deposed president.
The commitment to promoting and protecting human rights took concrete form in its election of the national constituent assembly, he said. Tunisians were able to vote with enthusiasm, many of them for the first time. The rate of participation exceeded 80 per cent in many polling stations and showed the peoples’ thirst for democracy, justice and freedom. Human rights must maintain their genuine universality. Moreover, the existing disequilibrium must be corrected, in order to facilitate a more efficient and advanced path for mankind by the establishment of a world that was more peaceful and had more solidarity.
JENNY MACKLIN, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs of Australia, said over the past year the global community had been reminded of the truly universal nature of human rights, as millions of people in North Africa and the Middle East had sought to exercise their right to democratic expression — significantly, those had been movements of women, as much as men. For people with disability, though, the dignity of equal opportunity had remained out of reach, and Australia had committed to reform of disability care and support. The Australian Government also considered the level of disadvantage faced by its indigenous peoples to be unacceptable, and was working to correct decades of underinvestment in housing, schools and health services. It also understood the significance of indigenous cultures, languages and connection to land, and was working to help maintain and revive their languages.
Australia also respected progress beyond its borders; it was heartened by recent developments in Myanmar, though clearly much remained to be done and Australia was ready to do its part; it also welcomed the National Transitional Council’s commitment to a new Libya that respected human rights. But her Government had also been reminded on a daily basis that, in some countries, peaceful assemblies were crushed and the rights of citizens violated and abused. “ Australia urges Syria to immediately end the ongoing brutality against its own people. We also urge Iran to respect freedom of association and freedom of expression, and protect the human rights of all. In our own region, we call on the Fiji interim Government to hold free and fair elections that will return Fiji to democracy. Australia stands ready to assist Fiji in this process,” she said.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of ASEAN, said that under the previous action plan, his country’s national human rights agenda focused on strengthening institutional capacity at national and regional levels, preparation for the ratification of international instruments, harmonization of legal institutions and legislation with such instruments, putting in place educational programmes, implementation of standards and norms, and monitoring, evaluating and reporting. The current plan, the term of which was 2010 to 2015, built further on those priorities, adding a focus on better communications services and strengthening local human rights committees.
He said, in addition, that he shared the concerns over increasing intolerance toward migrants and their vulnerability to a variety of ills. All countries of origin, transit and destination should be encouraged to ratify relevant international conventions and establish mechanisms to better protect migrants and manage migration. He also agreed with the need to strengthen the combat against trafficking in persons and to improve the recourse for victims. His country had been active at the national and regional level in that area. Supporting a rights-based approach into disaster management, he reported that response to the tsunami disaster of 2004 and the earthquake of 2006 was conducted in that spirit. Finally, reiterating his country’s continuing commitment to human rights, he noted that on 18 October, his country ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) said human rights were not a particular product that could be exported by one country to another. Syria had recently announced a series of reforms to bring about a better future for its people. A legislative act was introduced on the freedom to establish parties. That had led to the authorization of 15 new political parties. The state of emergency had been removed, while a law on peaceful assembly had been adopted. A new information act ensured freedom of information and freedom of journalists. A national dialogue chaired by the president had been held, alongside laws and reforms adopted at a record pace. Together, those ensured that Syria would enjoy democracy, political plurality and human rights, and would be an example to be imitated throughout the region and the world.
She stressed that, to date, a month had elapsed since the constructive demonstrations took place in Wall Street under the slogan “Occupy Wall Street”. Weeks had passed since demonstrations began in Europe under the slogan of “Real Democracy Now”. Demonstrations were calling for the redistribution of wealth, the eradication of poverty and reductions in unemployment. Syria was concerned about the brutal force being used against those demonstrators to terminate their freedom of expression. For example, Naomi Wolf had been detained during the Wall Street demonstration. Meanwhile, other demonstrators were being detained in New York and other cities. Noting that the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action called for effective international measures for the realization of all human rights and sought to provide legal protection against violations of human rights, including from foreign occupation, she called of the immediate cessation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The international community must work to ensure respect for human rights without selectivity or double standards, including by ending Israel’s acts of persecution, collective punishment and torture.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru), aligning with the statements of the Southern Common Market and the Rio Group, said his country was committed to human rights. It was one of the first volunteers to be examined under the Universal Periodic Review and had received a very favourable grade, and it had also recently received a number of special mandate holders. Peru hoped the Human Rights Council would receive appropriate funding, particularly for unforeseen situations. It would support any processes intended to strengthen the work of the Council. Extreme poverty, discrimination, violence and impunity were problems that eroded the enjoyment of human rights around the world — Peru would like to see efforts stepped up to implement nationally assumed commitments.
It was the responsibility of States and the international community to contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty, he said. Cooperation through national capacities made action by States more effective, and he appealed for strengthened collaboration among national, regional and international institutions. Universal social services were also needed to battle extreme poverty, while individuals who lived in extreme poverty should be empowered and efforts should be made to include them in decision making processes. Another subject of great concern to Peru was the rights of migrants — it regretted laws that penalized them, and rejected coercive national formulas regarding their remittances.
HAMZA OMER ( Sudan) said human right protections were deeply rooted in his country’s society and the Government had ratified all international instruments on human rights to conform to and confirm that cultural heritage. Among others, it had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as conventions on children’s rights and persons with disabilities. Further, it had met all of its commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. The international community must ensure that those documents were respected by the rebels.
He said his country had seen very positive developments which contradicted any allegation, including by the European Union, that instability and human rights violations prevailed in Darfur and the Blue Nile State. Rather, peace had taken root in those regions, as the Secretary-General noted yesterday in comments on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In that context, he reaffirmed that unrest stemmed from a military rebellion, not a popular movement. In terms of the Blue Nile Region, he noted that the elected governor was a rebel. Moreover, the displaced people had been able to return to the region and were now going about their daily business. Further stressing that human rights were guaranteed by Sudan’s constitution, he said the country only had one television station and no laws prevented free expression. He welcomed the decision to end the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan. Finally, he stressed that the universality of human rights meant they should be equally incorporated and economic, social and humanitarian rights must be recognized equally with civil and political rights.
ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) said her country was conducting a policy that provided for the well-being of its citizens, based on guarantees of freedoms. It had achieved a number of the Millennium Development Goals; it no longer had poverty or famine, and had reduced child mortality while improving health and education, protecting the rights of the child. Belarus was now implementing recommendations from its 2010 Universal Periodic Review, including creation of Government agencies that addressed several economic, political and social rights, as well as the rights of the most vulnerable, such as children and the handicapped. The Government of Belarus had also adopted a 2011 to 2015 plan for gender equality. Belarus presented six national reports to the Organization’s treaty bodies, and was very actively working on a draft law to join the Convention on the handicapped.
Belarus had always assumed that activities in human rights should be implemented in the spirit of dialogue and cooperation, she said. An important role in constructive cooperation was played here at the United Nations, through mechanisms aimed at focusing on priority areas. Belarus had, in a letter, invited the High Commissioner of Human Rights to visit — proof of its firm commitment to work with human rights bodies based on full fledged partnership. There could be no hierarchy in human rights, and there needed to be a balanced approach in all categories, including economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development. Rights should not be seen only through the prism of politics — some countries should stop trying to be mentors, and should focus on their own areas and provide for the rights of their own citizens. In that respect, it was very worrying the delegation of the European Union, in its criticism of Belarus, could not find the strength to clearly and critically address such issues in its own members, she said.
SHIN DONG IK ( Republic of Korea) said that in recent months, developments in North African and the Middle East had reaffirmed that national governments must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to maintain their legitimacy. There were, however, numerous instances of human rights violations in many parts of the world and the international community had yet to respond to such issues as poverty, armed conflict, dictatorship and discrimination. External factors such as economic crises, food shortages and climate-related catastrophes further exposed the most vulnerable groups to higher risks. Serious human rights violations should be immediately ended and accountability should be promptly established.
He said that there were various human rights instruments, including the core international human rights treaties, in place and it was important that States comply with their obligations under those treaties and genuinely cooperate with respective human rights mechanism. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process had recently completed its first cycle, reviewing the 193 Member States. The Review Process was one of the vital tools for narrowing the protection gap between human rights standards and the situation on the ground. The real test of the process, however, would be the second cycle, when each country’s implementation of the recommendations and any improvements in the human rights standards at the national level would be evaluated.
EIMAN AL-RAISY ( United Arab Emirates) said her country was incorporating the fundamental human rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, into its national legislation. It had acceded to the majority of human rights conventions and covenants, and ratified the nine conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It had advanced its implementation of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The dissemination of information on human rights was coordinated across a number of ministries. Among other things, awareness was being raised about violence against women. The Government had established a national commission to follow up on recommendations stemming from the review of its periodic reports. It included the participation of several ministries and civil society representatives.
She further underlined the need for cooperation in ensuring respect for human rights. Her Government was also working to meet immediate needs, boost food security, develop infrastructure and invest in civil society. The United Arab Emirates supported the role of the Human Rights Council in promoting and protecting human rights around the world. To that end, it had submitted its candidacy for a Council seat for the 2012-2015 period. Calling the Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza a “flagrant violation of human rights”, she said actions against the humanitarian aid flotilla were representative of the violations against the rights of Gaza’s people.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said his country was committed to promoting and protecting human rights at all levels, but the delegation was constrained to take the floor again to address remarks on its blasphemy laws, which were passed under the British Raj and currently under review. Any attempt to turn those laws into religious disagreement was needless baiting that “we could all do without”, he said.
GUSTAVO A. RUTILO ( Argentina), aligning with MERCOSUR, said the international community must be unanimous that violations of human rights and impunity had to be investigated and addressed wherever they occurred. Argentina also condemned efforts against human rights defenders, he said. Among the matters relating to discrimination which must be addressed were homophobia and violations based on gender identity. Argentina rejected discrimination of any type and welcomed the work of special procedures to address that phenomenon and stimulate dialogue between Member States.
Restrictions on freedom of expression should also be contained to protecting social interests and individual rights, he said. And this year Argentina would be jointly submitting a draft resolution on enforced disappearances — its full implementation would be a decisive step in fighting impunity, and he urged all States to give it support.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) stressed that human rights were at the forefront of his country’s domestic and foreign policy. Indeed, promoting the full enjoyment of human rights by citizens should be an ongoing process requiring constant self-monitoring and careful, honest assessment. It was vital to have a range of tools within the United Nations human rights system to enable the timely consideration of grave human rights violations. All States could benefit from regular engagement with periodic mechanisms, like treaty bodies, special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review, and there was room to utilize those processes more actively. For its part, New Zealand was working through the recommendations from the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights.
As always, it was the most vulnerable who bore the brunt of the tough economic times, he said, stressing that States must do whatever they could to provide essential social protections and generate economic opportunities for their citizens. At the same time, political change across much of North Africa and the Middle East had had equally significant implications for the enjoyment of human rights in those regions. Governments would do well to give careful attention to the lessons of the revolutions there. Indeed, the collapse of authoritarian Governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya demonstrated the perils of ignoring citizen’s aspirations for fundamental rights and freedoms and economic opportunity. While those changes had opened up possibilities for a new political order based more firmly on democracy, respect of human rights and rule of law, those transitions were not assured. Transitional authorities must take special care to protect human rights with the full support of the international community. He further stressed that a solution to the crises in Syria and Yemen would not come through intimidation and brutal repression, and it was time to begin the process of meaningful engagement that would deliver the long-promised transition.
NADYA RASHEED, observer of Palestine, expressed appreciation to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 for his comprehensive report, which presented a disturbing account of the grave human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation. Violations included the killing, injuring and maiming of Palestinian civilians; arbitrary detention of thousands of civilians and the mistreatment and torture of Palestinian prisoners, including children; and the wanton destruction of Palestinian homes and property. “Moreover, cruel Israeli practices and policies have led to increasing poverty and deprivation in Gaza, which has been compounded by Israel’s more than four-year unlawful blockade despite widespread international condemnation and calls for its full lifting,” she said.
“The most striking example of Israel’s almost universally acknowledged illegality of international humanitarian law and its deliberate sabotage of the prospects for a peaceful settlement has been its fervent and unlawful campaign of settler colonialism in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in and around East Jerusalem — the heart of Palestine and the future capital of the State of Palestine,” she said. For forty years, the Palestinian people had been struggling to realize aspirations for freedom, democracy and human rights — it was high time for their calls to be answered. “The international community must find the will to do what is necessary to demand that the occupying Power finally end its occupation and all of its human rights violations against the Palestinian people, so that they can realize their inalienable rights to self-determination and independence in their State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” she said.
MINAS A. HADJIMICHAEL (Cyprus), aligning with the European Union, said Turkey’s use of military force during its 1974 invasion of his country and its subsequent and continuing occupation had been denying the basic right of the Cypriot people to peaceful co-existence for far too long. The United Nations had adopted a number of resolutions expressing its legal and moral solidarity with Cyprus and calling on Turkey to respects its obligations under international law. Instead, Turkey continued to perpetrate massive human rights violations against the Cypriot people. Families of missing persons continued to suffer because of Turkey’s continued refusal to provide information relating to the fate of their loved ones. The people and land had been divided along ethnic lines, while property rights were denied and the religious and cultural heritage of the people was destroyed.
He noted that those violations had been repeatedly condemned by United Nations resolutions and the European Court of Human Rights. The consequences of the ongoing division of Cyprus included the denial of economic, social and cultural rights. The European Court held that here were ongoing, massive and grave violations of 14 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Its judgment confirmed Turkey’s responsibility for all acts committed by its own troops or its local authorities. The systematic and deliberate plan to alter the island’s demographic composition constituted a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime, as stipulated by the Rome Statute. The enclaved Greek Cypriot people residing in the occupied areas continued to face severe human rights violations, while displaced persons continued to be deprived of their right of free access to, and the peaceful enjoyment of, their homes and properties. The fundamental right of freedom of religious was also being violated. An essential element for the successful outcome of the current negotiation process was the immediate end of those ongoing human rights violations, he stressed.
DIMITRIS TZIRAS ( Greece) said for the past 37 years the human rights and fundamental freedom of the people of Cyprus had been violated, as a result of the 1974 Turkish military invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of their territory. “Regrettably, this deplorable situation in Cyprus has yet to be adequately addressed, despite the large number of relevant UN Security and General Assembly Resolutions,” he said. Greece welcomed progress in the bi-communal Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), but it could not deal with the issue alone. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2001 that Turkey had failed to investigate effectively the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons, but Turkey had yet to respond to its call to launch a substantial process of investigation.
Almost 200,000 Greek Cypriots continued to live as displaced persons — they were not allowed to live in their ancestral homes and exercise their legal property rights. “The influx of Turkish settlers in the occupied areas continues, with the aim of changing the demographic composition of Cyprus, in violation of the Geneva Conventions,” he said. Turkey had recently taken measures for the educational and religious rights of the enclaved Greek-Cypriots, but they continued to be denied full protection of human rights, including property rights. Another concern was the destruction of the heritage of Cyprus; more than 500 Greek-Orthodox churches and many monasteries had been pillaged, as thousands of priceless ancient artefacts and Byzantine works of art had been smuggled abroad. Greece fully supported bicommunal negotiations for reunification of Cyprus, and looked forward to the conclusion of a viable agreement on the basis of a bizonal and bicommunal federation, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and values of the European Union, he said.
A. SHAKIROV ( Kazakhstan) said his country had been working to improve the promotion and protection of its human rights situation since its independence. It had been elected to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, which was a clear demonstration of its achievements. He further stressed that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was a turning point in ending discrimination. In Kazakhstan, where over 100 ethnic groups lived, the Government was focusing in interethnic and interreligious harmony. Three international forums with the leaders of traditional religions had been held, contributing toward the overall progress in promoting and protecting human rights. Kazakhstan had presented its national periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in July. Over the past two years, it had received visits from several special rapporteurs. Civil society and Government agencies were currently considering the recommendation of the Committee Against Torture.
He further highlighted the recent visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, who noted that Kazakhstan had attained some education-related Millennium Development Goals. Efforts were being made to align domestic laws with the broad range of human right standards. Besides reforms to Kazakhstan’s penal laws, the judiciary was being reformed. Trial by jury procedures had been put in place, while juvenile courts had also been created. Measures to promote gender equality had also been initiated. In August, a law on mediation had entered into force. Further, the office of the Ombudsman had quickly assumed a prominent place in advancing human rights.
ANG CHOO PIN ( Singapore) aligned with Malaysia on behalf of ASEAN, and supported the interim ruling on the speakers list, which was based on the principle that Member States representing major groupings should speak before observer delegations representing major groupings.
Turning to the human rights issues before the Committee, he said “these are interesting times”. The cold war dividend had been squandered with investments in easy credit and a bitter harvest was being reaped today. Peace and prosperity remained elusive. Yet, history had shown that amidst turbulent times, opportunities for change could be found. At the core of all a Government’s work was the duty that must be discharged to its citizens — provide good governance to enable growth and answer aspirations for a decent living, stable environment and the safe enjoyment of rights. The path to progress was a pact forged between a Government and its people, not imposed by external actors. True, how a state treated its citizens was no longer a matter for its exclusive determination, but if would be fallacious to assume that other states could effect change with a State’s borders if the people were not ready for change.
“ Singapore adopts a pragmatic and realistic approach towards human rights,” he said. The work of protecting human rights could not be divorced from historical, religious, social and cultural contexts. Ultimately, each State was responsible for deciding how to allocate limited resources between competing sets of rights. Change could not be compelled by a dogged pursuit of ideals, but must necessarily be guided by the interests of the people, the balance of rights and obligations, and the constraints of the country’s geography, size and society. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights had been established in 2009 and efforts to draw an ASEAN declaration on human rights were under way and he hoped that text would eventually be the ASEAN contribution to a meaningful global conversation about human rights. He hoped the conversation would be conducted with humility, as there was no sense in imposing one region’s human rights norms upon another region. “Unfortunately, humility is anything but the modus operandi in the work of this Committee,” he said. It was in the interest of the international community, as well as of individuals, to encourage and respect a plurality of voices and viewpoints.
VIPLOVE THAKUR ( India) said the right to development was a fundamental link in the web of human rights that promotes social progress and better standards of life for every person. She agreed with the need to mainstream human rights in the policies and activities of development actors at all levels. Affirming that terrorism was a major threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, she said that States must strike the right balance in taking a resolute stance to crush it, while fully observing human rights standards and while also not misusing the related human rights debate in pursuit of narrow political agendas. On the right to food, she stressed that States must play a key role in ensuring that national development models helped realize that right, complemented by international cooperation in an environment of transparency and equity. For sharing the benefits and burdens of globalization, reform of global economic governance was vital.
On foreign debt, she called for a concerted international effort to address “the unintended consequences that good intentions or actions can have”, in relation to export credit agencies. Commenting on the rights situation in neighbouring Myanmar, she welcomed ongoing reform efforts and the convening of legislative bodies. India, she pledged, was ready to share its own experiences in evolving parliamentary practices and had invited a delegation from Myanmar to visit for that purpose, following other State visits. “As the world’s largest democracy, India considers it an honour to uphold and cherish the values of human rights and fundamental freedoms of each and every citizen,” she said. “It will be our constant endeavour to continue to do so.”
FEODOR STARČEVIČ ( Serbia) said that in Kosovo, under United Nations administration since 1999, no significant improvement to the protection of basic human rights of the Serbian and other non-Albanian populations had been made so far. There were still significant problems regarding the sustainable return of internally displaced persons, protection of returnees, investigations of ethnically motivated crimes, freedom of movement, the right to work and to education of minority communities and religious freedom — including the reconstruction and protection of the Serbian religious and cultural heritage in the province. The 2008 unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo had brought about legal uncertainty that further diminished the prospect of improvement of human rights of the population in the province, and of the non-Albanian communities in particular, he said, underlining his statement with data on returns, physical attacks and impunity for war crimes to illustrate the “grim situation”.
Turning to the issue of the illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo as presented in the Council of Europe’s report “Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo”, he said the Office of the War Crime Prosecutor of Serbia had instituted pre-trial proceedings in April 2008 and had tried to establish cooperation with Albania, without a positive response. Although European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) had stated that it was ready to investigate, no concrete results had been achieved because of a lack of adequate witness protection. The proper investigation of organ trafficking was only part of the bigger issue of establishing the fate of persons that went missing during the conflict in the province of Kosovo in 1999. Solving the issue of missing persons and full investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity was an important part of the reconciliation process between Belgrade and Pristina.
A. ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) thanked special mandate-holders for their reports and statements, but had reservations about the arbitrary approach to the issue of abortion by the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health. “In some of the other reports, too, we have noticed that undue weight has been given to issues that are not universally accepted rights issues and hence the efforts may be construed as deliberate attempts to shift the focus from more serious issues,” he said. The fundamental rights of all the people of Bangladesh were guaranteed by the country’s Constitution, and it was of the view that rights and development should go hand-in-hand in any discussion for a successful outcome.
Bangladesh was regularly reviewing and updating its domestic legislation to make it more compatible with various human rights instruments, and as a member of the Human Rights Council since its inception, remained in a constructive dialogue with the international community for the cause of human rights. Human rights should be kept free from political manoeuvring, and Bangladesh welcomed the adoption of the third Optional Protocol to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
FARISHA SALMAN (Malaysia), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of ASEAN, said that her country viewed the full spectrum of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as universal, indivisible and interdependent; all must be protected together. The protection of human rights, however, needed to be undertaken with full respect for national and regional particularities and every State had an inalienable right to choose its own systems in every sphere, without interference in any form from external actors. Politicization of human rights did not serve the cause of their protection.
With constitutional protections for fundamental rights and a diverse population, Malaysia valued tolerance and strived to ensure that the rights of the individual did not impinge upon the rights of the community, she said. In that light, she described progress in acceding to and implementing international conventions on the rights of the child, on the rights of persons with disabilities and rights of women, along with optional protocols. She also enumerated international human rights instruments to which the Government was looking into the possibility of accession, and described the activities of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. The country supported a right to development that aimed at creating an enabling environment for all citizens to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. For that purpose, “national development must be balanced by a strong emphasis on equitable distribution of development benefits”, she said.
She announced the annulment, in September 2011, of the controversial Internal Security Act of 1960, which aimed to counter national security threats through preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organized violence and other related matters. New legislation to prevent subversive activities, terrorism and crime and maintain peace and well-being, would be formulated in conformance with the national constitution.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Syria’s representative said that certain States were conducting a virulent campaign against her country. Those States still refused to say there were armed terrorist groups in Syria for well known reasons. Those States were also known to be on the “black list” of human rights violators. To that end, she asked if anyone had heard about the human rights violations conducted in Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, many African nations and other countries, or heard about the instances of torture in Abu Ghraib, among others.
She said Syria was located in the heart of an explosive region which had been affected by its past colonization and the continuing Israeli occupation. While certain countries in Latin America and other regions might be able to give advice to her country, western colonial Powers and the United States had no right to do so. United States preaching on human rights was out of place in this framework, because the United States advocated interference in the affairs of others in contravention of international law. Moreover, the United States had been very creative in violating human rights and inventing new ways of doing so, including by kidnapping citizens of other countries and assassinating innocent civilians through terrorist attacks in other United Nations Member States. United States delegates should wake up and refrain from any further accusations, given that their leaders said nothing when bulldozers killed individuals protesting the Israeli occupation and when more than 180 States voted against its blockade against Cuba.
Turning to comments by the Norwegian delegation, she noted that Norway did not have a colonial past and her delegation advised it not to fall into the trap of politicizing human rights. He should “cease to sing a song that had been composed and put to music by others”. Noting Europe’s colonial past, she asked all colonial states who had occupied Syria and divided the countries in the region to refrain from any further criticism.
Also speaking in exercise of her right of reply, Bahrain’s representative said her delegation had listened to today’s debate and wanted to clarify certain matters. She thanked the European Union for its attention to the serious measures undertaken by her Government, including the establishment of a commission of inquiry, which would, it was hoped, meet the peoples’ needs. That commission had a free hand to interrogate anyone without interference. With regard to judges and pursuing perpetrators, however, she recalled the decision of the prosecutor to hand over the perpetrators to civilian courts, which should assuage any fears regarding the legality of the court proceedings. Noting that both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights had welcomed those measures, she said her Government would also pursue the process of national reconciliation in conformity with its national constitution and instruments.
Turning to Norway’s statement regarding allegations against opposition figures, she stressed that the Government had taken every measure possible without any external request to do so and that should confirm its respect to human rights. The prosecutor would review the cases of certain persons, who would be prosecuted through civilian courts. All of those measures aimed to facilitate national reconciliation, she said.
Exercising her right of reply to the United States, Cuba’s delegate said the United States had no moral grounds to judge her country. The United States was responsible for many human rights violations, including the kidnapping of citizens of other countries, the abuses committed at Guantanamo and the executions of minors. Stressing that human rights defenders were protected in Cuba, she said the campaign against her Government amounted to political accusations and a farce. She said no one had been sanctioned for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Moreover, the United States had lied when it said the United States citizen from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Alan Gross, was sanctioned because he was part of the Jewish community. The United States delegate knew that holding a secret operation in Cuba was a legal violation and it was for that he had been sanctioned.
Fiji’s delegate, exercising the right of reply to the statement made by Australia, reiterated his country’s unwavering commitment to its obligations under the United Nations Charter, based on the fundamental principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference. That was a position it believed all Members should dutifully observe. There was not doubt Fiji was firmly on track to deliver free and fair democratic general elections in 2014. Leaders and high-level representatives from 12 Pacific countries last month signed a communiqué reaffirming Fiji’s Strategic Framework for Change and Roadmap as a credible home-grown process for positioning it as a modern state.
The Roadmap provided that, in 2012 and 2013, Fiji would address development of a new Constitution that did away with the divisive racial categorization and discrimination, which dogged its past Constitutions. “This is a determined move by our nation to create society based on real equality and justice, a respect for the dignity of all Fijians, and a deep national desire for sustainable democracy,” he said. Fiji trusted that its trading and development partners and friends would give the understanding, space and assistance needed to ensure that true and sustainable democracy could take place.
Sir Lanka’s delegate, exercising the right of reply to the statement by Canada, said his country was more than aware of what was needed to pursue political progress. That was in mind when it launched its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) at the end of its conflict, which had brought end to the dark terrorist threat. Hardly 13 months since the end of that conflict, the LLRC report would be completed in November and presented to parliament, so that implementation would have broad support. To continue to call for broad investigations smacked of condescension and contravened the conventions of international law.
Sri Lanka had also rejected over and over again the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, which was seriously flawed. This view had been reflected by many academic writers, he said. It was also unclear what the representative was referring to when he said conflict was ongoing in the country. Sri Lanka had resettled nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons, rehabilitated 10,000 former combatants and 6,000 former child soldiers and deployed billions of dollars to conflict affected areas. It would continue to do what was necessary to serve its people. It was unfortunate that domestic political imperatives continued to dilute respect for international standards, he said.
Also exercising his right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea totally rejected the politically motivated and groundless allegations made by the United States, European Union and Japan, none of which had anything to do with the promotion and protection of human rights. The United States was a hotbed of human rights violations and sexual and violent crimes, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people overseas under the guise of the war on terror. It was attempting to bring pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under the mantle of human rights, but it had no right to do so. Instead of naming and shaming other countries, it should respect the citizens of those countries, as well as migrants and children.
He said his delegation had stated more than once that the resolution against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was totally unacceptable. It further rejected the preposterous allegations made by Japan concerning the abduction issue, which had been completely resolved. If there was any abduction case to be solved, it regarded the suffering and deaths of 8.4 million Korean people during Japan’s occupation of Korea in the past century. Japan was attempting to divert public opinion in order to prevent being compelled to provide compensation for the victims of crimes against humanity.
Turkey’s representative exercised his right of reply to the representative of Greece and Cyprus, noting first that any statements saying that the issue began in 1974 were misleading. If that were the case, why had the United Nations deployed the peacekeeping force as early as 1964, not in 1974? Those peacekeepers were deployed in reaction to o Greek attacks on Turkish Cypriots. Saying otherwise was a collective loss of memory and a stubborn denial of fact. Indeed, the suffering of Turkish Cypriots should not be forgotten. Roughly 180,000 Turkish Cypriots had been forced to live in enclaves. Nor did the Greek representative mention the ethnic cleansing plan that was designed to deprive the Turkish Cypriots of their constitutional safeguards and to hijack the State. That, he stressed, was the gist of the Cyprus problem. Moreover, there had been a military coup in Cyprus instigated by Greece and it was for that reason that Turkey intervened. Thus, the Turkish invasion was not an instigation, but an inevitable response.
He stressed that Turkish Cypriots today lived in unacceptable isolation and their human rights were being violated as he spoke. They were also denied representation in international forums. Their right to freedom of expression was also being violated. He stressed that Turkey was ready to look forward and that was why it had encouraged the Turkish people to vote for the settlement plan in 2004. He emphasized that the equal treatment of both sides would contribute to the successful negotiation of the issue.
Responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s right to reply, Japan’s delegate asked that Members not be misled that the issue of abduction had been resolved and no longer needed to be addressed. In May 2004, Japan’s then-Prime Minister visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and they agreed five family members of abductees could leave the country and there would be an investigation of the matter. In further consultations, they were not cooperative. For example, they provided what they said were the remains of two abductees, but analysis of the alleged bones contained the DNA of other people.
In 2008, both countries then agreed on overall methods of the investigation but the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea later that year informed of the suspension of the investigation, and from that time Japan had heard nothing further. As it had yet to take any concrete action, he urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to move forward with investigations without delay. Japan would appreciate if all delegates here at the Committee would provide support on the abduction issue. Addressing issues of the past, he said the numbers cited by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s representative were groundless. Japan had consistently faced its past since the end of World War II, promoting peace and prosperity and respect for human rights, he said.
Responding, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s delegate said he once again rejected distorted remarks by Japan. His country had faithfully implemented all agreements. All survivors had returned home and all information had been conveyed about the dead to Japan. Japan had acted in the opposite direction of all agreements; therefore, nothing more remains to be done. In regards to the issues of the past, he said it was a historical fact that Japan caused grave crimes against humanity.
Responding, Japan’s delegate emphasized again his delegation could not accept the position expressed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the issues of abduction and the past. Since he had already fully explained the issue of his Government, he would not repeat it again.
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