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GA/12377
29 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)

Delegates Welcome Focus by Human Rights Council on Emergencies Worldwide, Yet Some Say Monitoring is Selective, as General Assembly Considers Body’s Annual Report

While many Member States praised the Human Rights Council for its inclusivity and focus on human rights emergencies in Afghanistan, Myanmar and elsewhere, others accused it of being selective in its monitoring and condemnation, as the General Assembly took up the intergovernmental body’s annual report today.

Presenting its annual report (document A/76/53), Human Rights Council President Nazhat Shameem Khan (Fiji) said the Council’s diverse membership is among its greatest strengths at a time when global crises require a deep commitment of all States.  “We have a collective moral duty to speak out for those who cannot speak, to champion their causes and to work towards the protection and promotion of human rights, everywhere,” she said.

Spotlighting issues discussed, she said the Council built on its work in 2020 on the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent, and against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers.  Among resolutions adopted, one established a new mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change and another recognized the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  The Council also established a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, which will benefit from additional expertise from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and is mandated to ensure accountability for violations and crimes under international law in the country.

The Council promptly responded to emergencies, holding three special sessions to address situations in Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, she pointed out.  It also extended mandates for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Special Rapporteurs on Belarus and Iran, and created a new mandate for OHCHR to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka.

Noting that the COVID‑19 pandemic has acted as a magnifying glass for pre‑existing human rights issues, she said the Council considered 12 reports highlighting multiple human rights dimensions of the pandemic and held five panel discussions.  In adopting four resolutions to further address the irrefutable pandemic‑human rights link, the body recommended ways to ensure people’s rights are respected in the face of the devastating virus.

The General Assembly President, Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), stressing the importance of protecting human rights as the world recovers from the pandemic, hailed the Council’s adoption of a text stating that access to vaccines is a basic human right.

As the floor was opened for debate, several delegations commended the Council’s work in drawing attention to the rights of vulnerable groups during the pandemic and the human rights aspects of climate change.  The representative of Bolivia supported the focus on indigenous peoples.  The speaker for Bangladesh welcomed that the Rohingya issue continues to remain high on the Council’s agenda.

The European Union’s representative, in his capacity as observer, lauded the body’s continued efforts, sometimes in difficult circumstances, to address long‑lasting crises, such as in Myanmar, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The representative of Afghanistan said that since the Taliban’s illegal takeover of power on 15 August, his country has witnessed gross violations of human rights, in particular women’s rights, every day.  He called on the international community to remain actively seized of the matter and to hold the Taliban to account.  “The Taliban must never be allowed to roll back the substantial progress that we have collectively made over the past two decades towards the promotion of human rights and gender equality,” he stressed.

The speaker for Yemen, on behalf of a group of States, welcomed the Council’s decision not to extend the mandate of the United Nations Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen.  The Group’s work failed to meet the applicable standards of reporting, shortcomings that were clearly recognized by most Council members.  Saudi Arabia’s representative agreed, stressing the only way to end the crisis in Yemen is for the parties to come to an agreement based on regional initiatives.

Liechtenstein’s delegate said that the Council’s special sessions on Myanmar and Afghanistan should have produced stronger outcomes and suggested that the Assembly might step in if the Council can no longer help chart the way forward in Yemen.  In a similar vein, the representative of the Netherlands, speaking for a group of States, said the international community must actively explore further alternative mechanisms to monitor the human rights situation in Yemen and ensure accountability.

The United States’ speaker noted her country’s reengagement with the Council as an observer and its election as a member for the 2022‑2024 term.  She encouraged Ethiopia and all other relevant parties to implement the recommendations of the joint OHCHR‑Ethiopian Human Rights Council report on Tigray.

Ethiopia’s representative, however, said his Government had asked for the necessary time and space for the investigation to run its course.  But the Council went ahead and adopted a politically motivated resolution, he said, referring to resolution 47/13, adopted in July.  His country agreed to a joint investigation by national and international authorities and has exhibited transparency.  However, unethical media have portrayed it unfairly.

Others, such as the speakers for India and Iran, said the Council continues to selectively focus on certain human rights issues and situations, which is counterproductive to its mandate of global promotion and protection of human rights.  Country‑specific initiatives must enjoy the support of the concerned States so that they lead to the desired impact on the ground.

Also today, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft decision “Participation in the high‑level meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons”.

Also speaking today were representatives of Venezuela (on behalf the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter), Germany, Maldives, Philippines, Ukraine, Georgia, Switzerland, Israel, Chile, Malaysia, Canada, Argentina, Cameroon, Bolivia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Croatia, United Kingdom, Eritrea, Egypt, Uruguay, Colombia, Belarus, Bahamas, Myanmar, Syria, Indonesia, China, Rwanda and Algeria.

The representatives of Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 2 November, to take up the report of the Economic and Social Council and to discuss follow‑up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.

Opening Remarks

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, emphasized that in recent months the COVID‑19 pandemic has contributed to the erosion of human rights around the world.  As the world tries to recover, the protection and promotion of human rights must play a leading role, he said.  In this context, he spotlighted the role of the Human Rights Council, which has highlighted in one of its resolutions that access to vaccines is a basic human right and stressed the need for equitable, affordable, timely and universal access to COVID‑19 vaccines.  Furthermore, he recalled that human rights are one of the priorities of his presidency, along with economic recovery and climate action.  He indicated that on 18 June, he intends to lead the Assembly in commemorating the first International Day for Countering Hate Speech, in collaboration with the Human Rights Council.

Introduction of Report by Human Rights Council

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN (Fiji), President of the Human Rights Council, introducing its annual report (document A/76/53), said its diverse membership is among its greatest strengths at a time when global crises require a deep commitment and the determination of all States, big and small.  For its part, the Council continued to introduce innovations, break boundaries and set new standards against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, which has acted as a magnifying glass for pre‑existing human rights issues, she said, highlighting elements of the annual report.  Having sharpened its focus and resolve on numerous pandemic‑related challenges, the Council considered 12 reports highlighting multiple human rights dimensions of COVID‑19 and held five panel discussions.  In adopting four resolutions to further address the irrefutable pandemic‑human rights link, the Council recommended ways to ensure people’s rights are respected in the face of this devastating virus.

In completing its mandated tasks while navigating pandemic‑related obstacles, she said the Council continued to lead the way for other United Nations bodies and international organizations by showing great flexibility and innovation.  The Council’s new modalities permitting virtual voting made it the first United Nations intergovernmental body to have used an electronic means for decision‑making when in‑person meetings were not possible.  Noting that a virtual high‑level event yielded record participation, with nine Heads of State and 121 ministers, she said the overall number of participants in meetings and informal negotiations increased as well, with the virtual platform providing a greater degree of accessibility for those normally unable to travel to Geneva.  Through its three regular and three special sessions, the Council extended more than 17 special procedure and investigative body mandates, created five new mandates and adopted 83 resolutions, three decisions and one President’s statement.

Spotlighting some issues discussed, she said the Council built on its work in 2020 on the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent and against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers.  Among resolutions adopted, one established a new mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change and another recognized the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  The Council also established a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, which will benefit from additional expertise from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and is mandated to ensure accountability for violations and crimes under international law in the country.

Citing other resolutions and issues considered in 2021, she said the Council also promptly responded to emergencies, holding three special sessions to address situations in Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.  It also extended mandates for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, the Independent Fact‑Finding Mission on Libya and for the Special Rapporteurs on Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Iran, and created a new mandate for OHCHR to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka.  Among its specific recommendations, the Council asked the General Assembly to, among other things, submit the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar to relevant United Nations bodies for their consideration and appropriate action, and to submit the reports of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to the Security Council for action.

Summarizing other activities, she also drew attention to robust participation in such mechanisms as the universal periodic review process and to the importance of contributions from civil society.  “We have a collective moral duty to speak out for those who cannot speak, to champion their causes and to work towards the protection and promotion of human rights, everywhere,” she said, adding:  “In order for the United Nations to live up to its full potential, it is essential that we continue to strengthen our cooperation, to build new bridges and to work collectively.”

Statements

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, said the Charter is a code of conduct that has ruled international relations between States for the past 76 years, on the basis of timeless principles such as self‑determination of peoples, sovereign equality of States, non‑interference in the internal affairs of States and refrainment from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.  He expressed serious concern about the current and growing threats against the Charter, such as the increasing use of unilateralism, attacks against multilateralism and selective approaches or accommodative interpretations of the Charter’s provisions.  These practices have led to massive violations of human rights.  The Group attaches a supreme value to the promotion and protection of all human rights, both individuals and collectives — including the right to development, without distinction of levels or categories, he said, adding that the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council is the proper mechanism to constructively discuss human rights situations.

CHRISTOPHE MICHEL JEAN-PIERRE FORAX, a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed the fact that the Human Rights Council has continued, sometimes in difficult circumstances, to address long‑lasting crises, such as in Myanmar, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Noting the Council’s ability to address systematic human rights violations but also to react quickly to try to resolve emergency situations, he welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Fact‑Finding Mission on Libya.  He also supported most of the measures taken by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) and the Council, as the latter has everything to gain in terms of effectiveness by using existing mechanisms for preventing human rights violations.  Cooperation between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council is vital, he said, stressing that the maintenance of security and the defence of human rights for all go hand in hand, as evidenced by the often complementary resolutions of the two bodies.

Regarding the Human Rights Council’s technical assistance to certain Governments, he said that he is looking forward to the results of the ongoing work of the co‑facilitators in Geneva on the Council’s effectiveness.   He called for intensified efforts by the treaty bodies to establish a predictable timetable and to harmonize and modernize the Human Rights Council’s working methods.  Any kind of pressure against the Council’s mandate holders is unacceptable, he said, condemning all acts of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the various human rights mechanisms, both in New York and in Geneva.  Finally, he called for greater involvement of civil society in the activities of the Third Committee.

MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of a group of States, detailed a litany of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by parties to the conflict — including those involving indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes and shelling, attacks on medical facilities and schools, gender‑based violence and torture, among others — as outlined in the fourth report by the United Nations Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen.  He further noted with deep regret that the mandate of the United Nations Group of Experts on Yemen was not extended in the last session of the Human Rights Council.  As the conflict in Yemen enters its seventh year, there continues to be an urgent need for independent and impartial monitoring and investigations into all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and human rights abuses, by parties to the conflict, he said.

Stressing the vital importance of identifying and using all opportunities within the United Nations system to assess facts on the ground in an impartial manner, he said it was pertinent to work towards a just and inclusive peace for the people of Yemen.  The international community must come together to actively explore further alternative mechanisms to monitor the human rights situation in that country and ensure accountability.  He went on to ask the Human Rights Council Chair what the role of the Council should be in that regard, now that the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts has ended.

ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, reiterated its support for international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and its unwavering commitment to monitor and investigate all alleged violations and hold perpetrators accountable.  He welcomed the Council’s decision not to extend the mandate of the United Nations Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen.  The Group’s work failed to meet the applicable standards of reporting.  These shortcomings were clearly recognized by most Council members.  Yemen also welcomes the Council’s resolution A/HRC/48/21, which recognizes the primary responsibility of States to promote and protect human rights, which highlights the importance of using national mechanisms.  The politicization of human rights matters in Yemen will only prolong the war in that country.  The only sustainable solution to the Yemen crisis is a political solution in accordance with Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism and outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference.

GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said human rights must be mainstreamed throughout the United Nations system.  Emphasizing the nexus between peace and security, he added that the Organization’s human rights pillar must be provided with adequate funding.  He welcomed the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on climate change and the Council’s recognition of the right to a healthy environment.  He underscored civil society’s contribution to all pillars of the United Nations and wondered what more the Council could do if it was better funded.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that the Council’s special sessions on Myanmar and Afghanistan should have produced stronger outcomes.  He welcomed steps taken by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to investigate atrocity crimes in Myanmar and called on the Assembly to prevent the flow of weapons into that country.  In Afghanistan, those who are effectively in control must respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.  The United Nations has a special responsibility with respect to the situation in Afghanistan, with the Human Rights Council playing a central role.  He called on Belarus to cooperate with Council‑established mandates and suggested that the Assembly might step in if the Council can no longer help chart the way forward in Yemen.  The Council’s rejection of a resolution on the human rights situation in Yemen is a symptom of a larger problem, he continued, emphasizing that all Council members must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.  He expressed concern at the misuse of pandemic‑related measures to erode human rights, condemned all acts of retaliation and reprisals against human rights defenders and called for civil society members to be allowed access to Headquarters as expeditiously as possible.

ASIM AHMED (Maldives), describing the Human Rights Council as the forum of global conscience, noted that the Report of the Working Group on the universal periodic review highlighted progress achieved by his country in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Regarding the impact of the pandemic on the protection of human rights, he highlighted a basic safety net set up by his country as part of the COVID‑19 response, which includes income support mechanisms, a debt moratorium and tax relief programmes.  He went on to note further efforts of his country to enhance the rights of women and children, including its withdrawal of several reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratification of the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as signing of the Declaration under article 22 of the Convention against Torture.  Moreover, in October 2020, the Maldives judiciary issued its first ever ruling of marital rape in a historic verdict.  Welcoming the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on climate change, he drew attention to the existential threat posed by climate change and environmental degradation to Small Island Developing States.  Pointing to the economic tolls of climate change and the pandemic, he called on States to redouble efforts to alleviate these pressures through increased access to concessional financing.

ENRIQUE AUSTRIA MANALO (Philippines) opposed the politically motivated use of human rights and stated that country‑specific resolutions that lack the support of the State concerned stand little chance of making a meaningful difference on the ground and are therefore a waste of resources.  He regretted that programme budget implications for country‑specific resolutions go mostly to salaries and travel, and very little is given for actual projects that benefit concerned communities.  Even the structure of programme budget implications for agenda item 10 resolutions needs to be drastically reformulated to ensure that it is fit for the purpose of generating concrete and positive change.  He stated that he sees merit in broader discussions to assess the cost of Council actions vis‑à‑vis their impact on the ground, towards further exploring pathways for more useful and depoliticized actions that invest in national institutions and communities.  With the United Nations Joint Programme on Human Rights, the Organization now has one voice, one strategy and one budget in the Philippines, instead of a piecemeal approach to human rights.  The Philippines has committed $200,000 for 2022 and invites Member States to support this programme, he said.

OLEKSIY ILNYTSKYI (Ukraine) said that the Russian Federation’s consistent efforts to have representatives of Crimea’s occupation authorities participate in Council proceedings are an attempt to exploit the Council as a diplomatic tool in Moscow’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.  The Council must strictly adhere to provisions of Assembly resolutions on the situation in Crimea, including resolution 68/262.  Ukraine welcomes the United States’ return to the Council, which should bring more democracy to its proceedings.  During its own term on the Council, which ends in 2023, Ukraine will strive to increase transparency, which the body is sometimes lacking.  He added that Ukraine needs a Council that can be an uncompromising platform for defending human rights, including of those who suffer under Russian occupation in Crimea and Donbas.

SHORENA KHACHIDZE (Georgia), detailing her country’s efforts to promote human rights, pledged to implement recommendations provided in the universal periodic review.  Pointing to the resolution on the cooperation with Georgia adopted during the Council’s twenty‑sixth session, she said repeated calls to provide immediate access to the Russian‑occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the OHCHR and other human rights mechanisms were dismissed by the occupying Power.  Detailing human rights violations of Georgian citizens that took place during the pandemic in the occupied territories — outlined in the OHCHR report — she cited a recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, which legally attested that the Russian Federation was responsible for the massive violations committed against the Georgia population in the occupied territories.  Noting that the Human Rights Council resolution and subsequent report represent valuable instruments for keeping the issue on the international agenda, she said her country will retable the resolution during the Council’s forty‑ninth session next year.

Mr. MULLER (Switzerland), highlighting the essential need to mainstream human rights throughout the United Nations system, said that only human rights‑based approaches can provide lasting solutions to promote peace, security and sustainable development, and are key for sustainable, post‑pandemic recovery.  He regretted that the briefing to the Human Rights Council by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission could not take place in September and hoped it would occur as soon as possible.  Cooperation between New York and Geneva will remain a priority for Switzerland, which remains committed to an open, inclusive dialogue with all States on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  The recognition of such a right by the Council at its last session — through the resolution jointly presented by Switzerland, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco and Slovenia — sends a strong political signal that ties in with the Secretary‑General’s call in his report Our Common Agenda.  Deeply concerned about continued human rights violations worldwide, he said reliable mechanisms are needed to ensure accountability and encouraged all States to cooperate fully with them.  He deeply regretted that the Council did not renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen at its last session, but welcomed that it addressed Yemen’s emergency situations in special sessions again this year.  Concerned about the United Nations Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights’ report to the Council that mentions reprisals and intimidation against civil society, he called on all States to take the requisite steps to end such unacceptable practices.

GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said there comes a time when staying silent against the Council’s one‑sided accusations and falsehoods against Israel is no longer possible.  “That time is long overdue,” he said.  The Council has once again let people around the world down.  The Council has the sacred task of defending human rights, yet it continues to get it wrong as it lets down the voices of the victims.  Their voices cannot be heard over the Council’s obsession with targeting Israel.  This is not a surprise, he said, adding that the Council has approved 95 resolutions against the only Jewish State.  Yet it has let down the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by only speaking out 13 times in 15 years.  And speaking out against actors in Syria less than 40 times in 15 years.  It has even let down the Palestinian people, whose leaders have let down their own people.  “The voices of the oppressed cannot be heard,” he said, adding the Council is wasting its time, budget and resources criticizing Israel.  Yet Israel is a democracy with a free press and its medical experts and scientists work around the world to help people.  He said the Council’s report should be torn up.  It whitewashes the suffering the attacks of Hamas have had on people.  “Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you,” he said, adding the Council has let all people down.  It includes in its ranks some of the worst human rights offenders.  This report embodies obsessive anti‑Israel bias. “Its only place is in the dustbin of ant‑Semitism,” he said.

RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile) expressed concern about the increasing polarization of the Council’s work around specific country situations or issues related to the progressive development of international human rights law.  Polarization and diverse approaches by States cannot be obstacles to the enjoyment of people’s rights.  He stressed the importance of the work of the OHCHR, as well as the value of the technical assistance in strengthening or rebuilding national capacities that it provides to States.  Chile has a long‑standing commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights.  Therefore, it will continue to work for the protection of human rights in the world, especially during this period that presents multiple challenges to democracy.

ELISABETH MILLARD (United States), noting her country’s reengagement with the Council as an observer in February and its election as a member for the 2022‑2024 term, said the United States looks forward to engaging with the mechanism — established by the Council during its June session — focused on law enforcement and systemic racism.  Advancing racial justice and equity is a top priority for President Joseph R. Biden’s Administration, and the United States will seek to partner with others who share that goal.  She encouraged Ethiopia and all other relevant parties to accept and implement the recommendations of the joint OHCHR‑Ethiopian Human Rights Council report on Tigray.  Expressing deep concern at reports of violence and human rights abuses in Afghanistan, she said that by establishing a Special Rapporteur to monitor the situation in that country, the Council created an important mechanism for documenting abuses and laying the groundwork for accountability.

The Council’s resolutions on Syria, co‑sponsored by the United States, continue to accurately describe the egregious violations and abuses that Syrians have suffered over the last decade, she said, urging OHCHR to keep engaging on the issue of missing and arbitrarily detained persons.  The United States also appreciates efforts by OHCHR and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to document abuses by the Assad regime and to engage with Syrian human rights defenders.  The United States continues to oppose the Council’s biased approach towards Israel and rejects the creation of an open‑ended Commission of Inquiry on that country.  No country is above scrutiny, but the Council must treat any potential concerns related to Israel in a proportionate way.  She went on to say that more can be done to ensure that Council members embody the Council’s ideas.  No country has a perfect human rights record, but those Governments that undermine human rights should not hold a seat on the Council, she stated.

WAEL AL KHALIL (Syria), speaking on a point of order, said the United States’ representative had referred to the “Syrian regime”.  She should respect the principles for speeches delivered at the United Nations.  “We are here, after all, at the United Nations, not the United Regimes,” he said.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), noting that as a member of the international community her country has a sacred duty to ensure the realization of the basic human rights of the Rohingyas, welcomed that the Rohingya issue continues to remain high on the Council’s agenda through adoption of resolutions and establishment of an independent investigating mechanism.  On the COVID‑19 pandemic, she welcomed the Council’s resolution on ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access to vaccines for all countries, highlighting its particular importance for developing countries.  As a representative of a climate‑vulnerable country, she commended the Council for putting the human rights aspect of climate change in the spotlight of its work, requesting to put additional attention to climate‑induced displacement.  Voicing her concern about the human rights of migrants, she pointed to the stigmatization and discrimination of migrants, which was exacerbated during the pandemic.  Noting that human rights and gender equality are mutually reinforcing, she drew the Council’s attention to setbacks during the pandemic to progress made on women’s advancement, while welcoming the adoption of a resolution on menstrual hygiene management.

AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia) outlined his country’s priorities when it joins the Council next year, including the rights of vulnerable groups, including children, women, indigenous groups and the elderly; the empowerment of youth; and access to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right.  With a strengthened Council and support from OHCHR, it will be possible to build back better from the COVID‑19 pandemic.  He emphasized the need to eliminate double standards and the politicization of issues, adding that any attempt to review the Council’s work and functions should involve all Member States and take the views of regional groups into account.

RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada) acknowledged the Council’s important work over the past few months, including its work on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the protection of human rights in crisis situations, such as Afghanistan.  Canada regrets that at its recent session the Council could not continue its accountability mechanism on Yemen and hopes consensus can be reached in 2022.  The pandemic health crisis has demonstrated the critical importance of cooperation between different United Nations actors and bodies.  Canada encourages cooperation among the three United Nation pillars to strengthen the Organization’s capacities to promote and protect human rights.  It welcomes Council resolution 45/31 and its intention to invite the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission to provide annual briefings.  This invitation is consistent with the Commission’s mandate to act as a bridge across the Organization’s principal organs.

YOSEPH KASSAYE (Ethiopia) said the Council is an important subsidiary organ.  His country has experienced an existential crisis over the last year as its defence forces were attacked.  Without taking swift measures, the survival of its people and even the Ethiopian State were under threat.  Ethiopia agreed to a joint investigation by national and international authorities.  While Ethiopia has exhibited transparency, unethical media have portrayed it unfairly, he said, adding that the Council adopted a politically motivated resolution.  Ethiopia asked for the necessary time and space for the investigation to run its course, yet the Council went ahead and adopted this resolution, he said, referring to resolution 47/13, adopted in July.  He thanked the 14 delegates that voted against the text.  He expressed hope that the Council would be guided by impartiality, adding that Ethiopia is fully committed to the Council and strengthening its work, which needs to be transparent, non‑discriminatory and inclusive.

FABIÁN ODDONE (Argentina), noting that his country is a Council member and was recently re‑elected for the 2022‑2024 term, reaffirmed the relevance of human rights as a fundamental State policy.  The monitoring of national situations is essential for the prevention of human rights violations and it must be carried out in a universal, impartial and non‑selective manner through constructive international dialogue, without politicization, he warned.  During Argentina’s upcoming term, it will reaffirm its support for the strengthening and independence of the Council’s special procedures and their constructive contribution to the universal periodic review.  When recommendations are formulated, it is essential to take into account countries’ varying levels of development as well as diversity and gender.  Activities related to the universalization of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance are central to his country’s foreign policy, he said, highlighting the importance of strengthening protections for the rights of the elderly and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said that for the Council’s resolutions to have tangible results, they must be accepted and owned by all countries based on universality, transparency, impartiality and non‑politicization.  The excessive politicization of human rights is unlikely to create the conditions needed for dialogue and cooperation.  It is high time to adopt a non‑confrontational approach if the Council is to be spared its predecessor’s fate, he said.  There are many topics that can bring States together, including hunger, HIV/AIDS and lack of access to education and vaccines.  Cameroon firmly believes in the value of economic, social and cultural rights and the added value that they can bring to the enjoyment of other rights, he said, adding that the true measure of any society is the way it treats its most vulnerable members.

DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia), aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said Bolivia has a progressive Constitution.  It takes dialogue with various treaty bodies very seriously and submits its country reports on time to relevant bodies.  The Government is committed to developing a common international order.  It believes the work of countries from the South must contribute to the Council’s work and be considered on an equal footing.  He requested that the Council not be used as a political forum to destabilize some countries.  He welcomed the Council’s resolution on the right to health and the universal right to vaccines.  It is an issue that requires constant work.  He also supported Council resolutions on indigenous peoples and climate action, emphasizing that more work must be done to eliminate violence against indigenous women and girls.

ASHISH SHARMA (India), noting that promotion and protection of human rights are best pursued through dialogue, consultation, and cooperation among States, pointed to the Council’s selective focus on certain human rights issues and situations, which are counterproductive to its mandate of global promotion and protection of human rights.  Country‑specific initiatives must enjoy the support of the concerned States so that they lead to the desired impact on the ground, he said.  Noting that the universal periodic review can be improved by rationalizing recommendations, he stressed the need for a more balanced geographical representation in all bodies and mechanisms of the Council to bring in diversity, grassroots knowledge and empathy.  On special procedures, he said mandate holders should carry out their duties in conformity with the code of conduct, while calling for greater accuracy in the Council’s statements and press releases.  As a Council member, India supports the role of the Council in advocating a balanced approach that considers the impact of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights while highlighting the benefits of international cooperation to combat the menace.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) stated that the promotion of human rights should be a common cause through dialogue.  The specificity of civilizations should be respected and developed according to one’s choice, she said, stressing the need not to impose anything on certain States.  She expressed her concern about the greed of certain countries that represent a threat to the cause of human rights and reiterated her call to certain States to abandon, once and for all, selectivity in the universal periodic review process.  Moreover, she reaffirmed her opposition in principle to the non‑recognition of country mandates established under the Council’s special procedures.  She regretted the application of international measures that violate international law and people’s well‑being.  During the pandemic, such punitive measures prevented access to health care.  She said she has heard unfounded allegations by the Zionist regime against her country, adding that Israel cannot erase the apartheid it has put in place with empty words.

ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ BEHMARAS (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said selectivity, punitive practices, double standards and political manipulation prevents the international community from protecting the human rights of all persons.  These practices do not improve the situation on the ground and have even led to the demise of the Human Rights Commission.  Selective profiling of several countries is not acceptable when silence is kept on situations in other States, he said, emphasizing that the universal periodic review is the only mechanism that can address such issues.  The Council could do more to promote democratic international order, without which hegemony will prevail.  As a Council member, Cuba will continue to oppose manipulation, selectivity and double standards while doing more to protect the rights of all, he said, also condemning the United States blockade against his country.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said that having failed to pass a resolution in Geneva on the situation in Yemen, the Netherlands, with the help of a few other European countries, is attempting in New York to pass the blame onto others.  This is unacceptable and a mockery of Council procedures.  Saudi Arabia rejects any attempt to politicize human rights or to take it away from its natural forum in Geneva.  What accountability has there been for the victims of Srebrenica or the victims of colonialism, he wondered.  The Council’s rejection of a draft resolution on Yemen demonstrated that it did not trust the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen or its biased reporting, which used information from Houthi rebels.  The only way to end the crisis in Yemen is for the parties to come to an agreement based on regional initiatives, he said, adding that no other country has extended as much humanitarian and economic assistance to Yemen as Saudi Arabia.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) said the Council should consider country‑specific situations with objectivity and without selectivity.  It should also pay closer attention to the human rights situation in disputed and occupied territories and take decisive action to tackle human rights violations in places under foreign occupation and alien domination.  He strongly condemned the ongoing vandalization of mosques and Muslim‑owned homes and shops in the region and called on the international community to play its role in halting a rising tide of Islamophobia and attacks on minorities.  Extremist groups should be brought under the ambit of the United Nations counter‑terrorism architecture, including in the Security Council, he said.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) noted the positive role her Government has played in human rights.  It adheres to the voluntary commitments it has made to align itself with international human rights laws and to strengthen the role of international human rights organizations.  It plays a neutral role in the region.  Qatar supports OHCHR, she said, noting that the promotion and protection of human rights is a cornerstone of her Government’s development programme.  Qatar is also working to stop the negative impact of climate change, particularly in developing countries.  The Council reports have shown the poor condition of human rights in Palestine and Syria, she said, calling on the international community to take effective and urgent action in that regard.  Qatar looks forward to contributing to the Council’s work as a member over the next three years.

MYAN MEDHAT ANWAR TANTAWY (United Arab Emirates), lauding the work of the Council in securing each country’s access to vaccination programmes and defending the rights of girls to education, announced that her country was elected as a member of the Council for the third time for the 2022‑2024 period.  In this capacity, the United Arab Emirates will focus on empowering women, protecting the rights of children and persons with disabilities, strengthening efforts to fight human trafficking and supporting rights and freedoms linked to worship, she said.

IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union and the statement delivered by the Netherlands on behalf of a group of States, welcomed the Human Rights Council’s focus on climate change and the establishment of new mandates for the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the Special Rapporteur on Burundi.  Voicing his disappointment about the failure of the Council to extend the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, he asked the Assembly to consider establishing a similar mechanism of its own.  He went on to call for more synergies between the Council and the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), as well as for the Council to play a stronger role in preventing atrocity crimes.  Condemning intimidation and reprisal against those who cooperate or seek to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms, he welcomed the adoption of a resolution to that effect.  Stressing that the topic of missing persons is of the utmost importance for Croatia, he called upon the international community to step up efforts to identify the fate and whereabouts of missing or forcibly disappeared persons, as well as to enable those detained to communicate with their families.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) said links should be further strengthened across the entire United Nations system.  Referring to discussions on sovereignty and on holding States to account, he said countries must be held responsible, including for reports of human rights violations on their territory.  Those who drafted the United Nations Charter would be appalled that some States are using the concept of sovereignty as a means to object to being held to account for their actions.  Those States should cease to violate human rights on their territory instead of attacking the system.  Despite having faced enormous challenges in 2021, he said, the Human Rights Council managed to fulfil its mandate and even hold special sessions on critical situations.

SOPHIA TESFAMARIAM (Eritrea), noting that the Council was established to replace the defunct Human Rights Commission and to be impartial and nonselective, called for effective means to address human rights around the world and apply these means equally.  A universal periodic review is a unique process.  It calls on all countries to use human rights tools in an inclusive manner and avoid the proliferation of special procedures.  Earlier, the Assembly heard a shameful statement from the United States about Eritrea’s membership into the Council.  She stressed her Government’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights everywhere, underscoring that Eritrea is making every effort to advance the principle of universality in human rights.

AHMED FAHMY ABDELGAYED SHAHIN (Egypt) said his Government fully supports the Council’s pivotal role and believes it can positively contribute to international dialogue on ways to advance human rights in a constructive and productive manner.  That means preserving the Council’s existing mechanisms, especially in the universal periodic review and the work done by the special procedures mechanisms, in line with the Code of Conduct.  However, it must avoid the unnecessary creation of new, unjustified mandates that are promoted outside the Council’s regular budget at the expense of other existing mandates, which are not receiving adequate funding.  Stressing that human rights are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated — and must be treated globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis — he warned that the tendency to overburden the Council with issues that fall beyond its capacity, let alone its mandate, should be curbed.

JUAN JOSÉ RIVA GRELA (Uruguay), pointing to the need to respect and enforce norms of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, said the Council should be able to approve all necessary measures, including mechanisms to monitor humanitarian and human rights situations.  He further emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the norms of international law to prevent attacks against hospitals, refugee camps, schools and other critical infrastructure.  Therefore, all opportunities within the United Nations system should be identified to impartially assess events on the ground and to ensure accountability, just and inclusive peace, he said.

NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) said respect for human rights is a constitutional mandate and State policy.  With a continued strengthening of the rule of law, she said Colombia has addressed difficulties related to the pandemic boldly and in a timely manner.  Citing other efforts, she said the Government has addressed rural and urban gaps within such sectors as health care and education.  Reiterating the important role played by the international human rights system, she said multilateralism is the key driver for such bodies as the Human Rights Council, with full respect for the autonomy of States.

IGOR PILIPENKO (Belarus), associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, said that the ongoing politicization of the Council is undermining its authority.  The Council must take energetic action to review the paradigm of its work and move towards a comprehensive view of all rights, including the right to development.  It needs a unifying agenda and a more balanced programme of work.  Belarus opposes the Council’s creation of country‑specific mandates and selective country‑based resolutions, and it rejects the use of the Council to bring pressure to bear on certain States.  He added that the Council’s latest report is unacceptable for Belarus, as it contains politicized decisions regarding the country.

NOELLE MCKELLA TURNQUEST (Bahamas), noting that her country is serving as a Vice‑President of the Human Rights Council Bureau, voiced support for the outcome of the recent forty‑eighth session of the Council, which created the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change.  In that context, she said her country served as a member of the core group that presented the resolution establishing that very critical mandate on an issue that is negatively impacting the world, and especially low‑income countries and small island developing States.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said that since the illegal military coup in his country, there have been many human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence and mass killings.  People have been deprived of freedom of expression and other rights.  After the monsoon, the military plans mass clearance operations.  These indiscriminate attacks will create more extreme human rights violations.  Yet the people of Myanmar want to rebuild the nation with human rights norms.  This is a historic moment in the country on the issue of human rights, he said, adding that the people need strong support from the international community.  The United Nations must keep the country at the top of its agenda.  The event on 1 February was a military coup.  All people are suffering every minute, every hour, every day, from crimes against humanity committed by the military.  Timely action is needed by the Security Council, he stressed.

WAEL AL KHALIL (Syria), associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, pointed to the paradoxical and selective work of the Council.  He further noted that a resolution on Syria promotes wrong allegations on the situation in his country and rejected the mandate as well as reports of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.  On the question of Palestine, he said it is important to shed light on the human rights violations committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Encouraging States to cooperate to improve transparency of the Council’s management, he stressed that the Council should operate by consensus.  The impact of terrorism and cohesive measures on the exercise of human rights should be part of its focus, he added.

NAZIR AHMAD FOSHANJI (Afghanistan) said since the Taliban’s illegal takeover of power on 15 August, his country has witnessed gross violations of human rights, in particular women’s rights, on a daily basis.  The Taliban have pursued a relentless campaign against civilians and Government officials, arrested and tortured journalists, instituted gender apartheid in universities, banned girls from attending high school and prevented female workers from going to their jobs.  At the same time, the socioeconomic situation is worsening, with 14 million people facing severe hunger and 97 per cent of all Afghans at risk of falling into poverty by mid‑2022.  He called on the international community to remain actively seized of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and to hold the Taliban accountable for its actions.  “The Taliban must never be allowed to roll back the substantial progress that we have collectively made over the past two decades towards the promotion of human rights and gender equality,” he stressed.

IIS WIDYASTUTI (Indonesia), pointing to the significant impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on human rights, called on the Council to strengthen its role in ensuring the right to health for all, including equal access to vaccines.  Pointing to the need to overcome ongoing human rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she urged the international community to support the continued democratic transition in Myanmar.  She went on to call for the non‑politicization of and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries.  In that context, she said States’ ability to promote and protect human rights should be strengthened through capacity‑building and technical support, as well as through greater synergy with regional mechanisms.

XU DAIZHU (China) said the Human Rights Council has worked to combat racism, promote rights and advance development, but it faces such challenges as the politicization of issues that undercut its effectiveness.  Citing several concerns, she said there is insufficient input on such issues as the negative impact of unilateral sanctions.  In addition, a plethora of country‑specific cases are being considered without the consent of States involved alongside the consideration of unverified information.  Human rights are not the privilege of a few Western countries but for all States.  Underlining China’s opposition to the politicization of human rights issues, she said these attempts aim at interfering in the affairs of States.  Instead, all initiatives must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and jointly build a community for a shared future for mankind.

ROBERT KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) expressed his delegation’s concern about the continued interference by some Western countries in judiciary processes in developing nations, as well as repeated attempts to influence outcomes through political pressure.  He went on to cite the rise of impunity enjoyed by individuals and institutions indulging in and enabling hate speech, extremism, terrorism and racism, recalling Rwanda’s recent history and world history more broadly.  Reiterating his country’s commitment to the universal periodic review process, he noted that Rwanda has so far achieved over 95 per cent of its recommendations on human rights, which were adopted in 2015.  Stressing the important principle of non‑selectivity, impartiality and objectivity in international cooperation, he called upon all States to promote and protect human rights through constructive dialogue and cooperation, adding that the politicization of human rights and double standards is counterproductive.

AHLEM SARA CHARIKHI (Algeria), noting her country’s candidacy for Council membership for the 2023‑2025 term, drew attention to the Government’s reform agenda, which aims to consolidate democratic change.  The principles and purposes of human rights are a shared objective, not a monopoly of any one country.  Human rights issues should be addressed in an impartial and balanced manner, without politicization or instrumentalization.  The status of the Council should be maintained as a subsidiary body of the Assembly, she said, adding that the increasingly non‑consensual adoption of Council resolutions can hopefully be overcome, thus sending a strong signal that human rights can be a unifying force.

Right of Reply

The representative of Belarus, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that it is unacceptable to refer to sovereign States as regimes.  He firmly rejected accusations directed at his country.  Western partners know that the situation in Belarus has stabilized, yet they continue to talk about a political crisis.  “It is time to calm down” and enter into dialogue, he said.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Israel’s slanderous language was a serious provocation that cannot be overlooked.  The country’s heinous war crimes and genocide in the region are crimes against humanity, he said, urging it to reflect on its own conduct.

The representative of Syria said that it is ironic that Israel sheds crocodile tears for the Syrian people while also extending assistance to terrorist groups such as the White Helmets and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  He added that the United States’ statement raises questions about political schizophrenia, given how it is stealing Syrian oil, cotton and cattle while also imposing a blockade on his country.

Action on Draft Decision

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft decision “Participation in the high‑level meeting of the General Assembly on the appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” (document A/76/L.5).  By its terms, the Assembly decided that Member States and observers of the Assembly, in line with paragraph 2(b) of Assembly resolution 75/283, may submit a pre‑recorded statement by their Head of State or Government, head of delegation or other dignitary, which will be played in the Assembly Hall during the plenary meetings of the high‑level meeting, after introduction by their representative who is physically present in the Assembly Hall.  Further, it decided that, in addition to the verbatim records of the high‑level meeting, the Assembly President will circulate as an Assembly document a compilation document of the statements delivered by means of pre‑recorded statements during the high‑level meeting and submitted to the President no later than the day on which the pre‑recorded statement is played in the Assembly Hall, and that such pre‑recorded statements will be attached to the verbatim records of the meeting.

For information media. Not an official record.