Human Rights Council discusses reports on Côte d'Ivoire and South Sudan, debates technical assistance and capacity-building
Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, and then heard the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights present reports on technical assistance and capacity-building efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including a report on South Sudan. The Council also heard the presentation of the annual report of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights and then held a general debate on technical cooperation and capacity-building.
Doudou Diene, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, said that the lengthy crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, which had been ongoing for more than a decade, was marked by political violence and a culture of impunity which was reflected in grave violations of human rights. The institutional progress alone could not address the depth of the human, moral and social suffering of the population. The absence of three key dimensions was worrying: priority was not yet given to victims; civil society was not yet strong and independent enough; and a reconstruction of the divided society had to be a collective undertaking in order to bridge the various divides.
Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as the concerned country, said the report’s observations demonstrated inter alia, the need for an open political dialogue, the fragility of the security situation, and the need to counter impunity, violence against women, and the precarious situation of victims.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers noted with satisfaction the efforts made by the Government in the area of security, rule of law, national reconciliation and economic recovery, and the adoption of a law setting up an independent electoral commission. Starting the hearings of the truth and reconciliation process was encouraging and had to be supported by all politicians. Speakers were concerned about the persisting accountability gaps in addressing serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence and violence against women, and said that impunity had to be addressed in order to restore confidence in the judicial system.
The European Union, Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, Israel, Niger, Togo, United States, Ireland, Belgium, United Kingdom, Senegal, Burkina Faso, France, Maldives, Chad, Sudan, United Nations Children’s Fund, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Benin, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria and Republic of Congo took the floor.
Also speaking were World Organization against Torture, International Service for Human Rights, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, International Catholic Child Bureau, and Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme.
Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, presenting the report of the Fund, said that the requests were continuing to increase, in part due to States’ wishes to implement recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review. Ms. Acosta Urquidi stressed the importance of the sustainability of funded projects as well as the identification of channels for the participation of civil society organizations.
Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner, said that during the visit of the High Commissioner to South Sudan in April, she had witnessed a critical level of violence, including ethnically-motivated mass slaughter and gruesome and massive revenge killings. Gross violations were being committed by all parties to the conflict, some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity and there was a need to step up efforts to protect civilians and to ensure accountability for crimes and human rights violations. Some 1.2 million people were displaced, with 900,000 of them internally.
Ms. Pansieri said that in the area of combating and strengthening the rule of law and democratic society, the key goal was building and strengthening national frameworks and institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. With regard to discrimination, the Office had provided technical advice and support on legislation and national action plans regarding gender equality, women, peace and security, violence against women and the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities. The Office contributed to improving accountability in several countries, including by establishing specific mechanisms or policies to protect human rights defenders and journalists, while efforts continued to strengthen the capacity of national law enforcement officials and the judiciary to effectively prevent and combat sexual violence.
South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, said the Government had taken a number of measures, including accepting the cessation of hostilities and negotiations, forming an investigation committee to focus on human rights violations, accepting the Committee of Inquiry formed by the African Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses, as well as ratifying all core United Nations conventions.
In the ensuing general debate, speakers recognized the resource constraints and encouraged countries to financially support the Office, especially through un-earmarked contributions which were the most appropriate manner to respect its independence. Combating political and judicial corruption, as well as corruption in the management of public resources, was essential for the enjoyment of all rights and technical assistance and capacity building should include a focus on combating corruption. Technical cooperation and assistance should be aimed at reinforcing capacities in line with States’ own priorities, provided in the spirit of international solidarity and with the support of concerned countries.
Taking the floor in the general debate were Greece on behalf of the European Union, Morocco on behalf of the Francophone Group, United Kingdom, France, United States, China, Ireland, Cuba, Algeria, India, Republic of Korea, Maldives, Thailand, Sudan, Iraq, Council of Europe, Netherlands, Canada, Central African Republic, Guatemala, Libya, and Ecuador.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, Femmes Afrique Solidarité, CIVICUS, Amnesty International, Alsalam Foundation, General Arab Women Federation (joint statement), Indian Council for South America, and United Nations Watch.
Thailand and Burundi spoke in right of reply.
The Human Rights Council will meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 26 June for a full day of meetings. The Council will examine the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Cambodia and will then begin to take actions on draft resolutions and decisions.
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire (A/HRC/26/52)
Presentation of Report by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire
DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, said that the lengthy crisis in the country, which had been ongoing for more than a decade, was marked by political violence and a culture of impunity which was reflected in grave violations of human rights. Among achievements were the reconstruction of the State apparatus, improving of the security and judiciary systems, and setting up of the authority for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Organization of a series of elections at various levels had demonstrated the institutional capacity of Côte d’Ivoire. Nonetheless, the increasing political polarization was indicative of the fundamental weaknesses of the current political situation.
The institutional progress alone could not address the depth of the human, moral and social suffering of the population. The absence of three key dimensions were worrying: priority was not yet given to victims; civil society was not yet strong and independent enough; and a reconstruction of the divided society had to be a collective undertaking in order to bridge the various divides. Many victims still needed urgent treatment and reparations; otherwise, those victims felt powerless, were ever more vulnerable and their faith in and attachment to democratic principles were shaken. The national political debate did not yet reflect the need to recognize the situation of victims, which was at the core of reconciliation.
The national human rights commission had to be reinforced, and the criminal code had to be in line with international standards, and should include, inter alia, a more vigorous response to sexual violence. The international community ought to reinforce its support to the Ivorian people. The mandate for Côte d’Ivoire seemed to have reached its limits, like many other country mandates created by the Council. Often times, mandate holders experienced passive non-cooperation by countries concerned. Human rights defenders had to bear in mind implications of such practices.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as the concerned country, welcomed efforts made by the Independent Expert to describe the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire. The report’s observations demonstrated inter alia, the need for an open political dialogue, the fragility of the security situation, and the need to counter impunity, violence against women, and the precarious situation of victims. It was agreed that some of these issues were relevant. However, the Government wished to add elements by way of clarification. The reform of the independent electoral commission was part of the spirit of national reconciliation, and had been taken in consultation with civil society. There had been clear improvements in the security environment, thanks to the efforts of the Government. Côte d’Ivoire reiterated its commitment to ensuring fair and impartial justice via, inter alia, the resumption of penal courts, as well as the ratification of a number of international instruments to ensure the better enjoyment of human rights in the context of the reinforced rule of law. The international community was thanked, as its real involvement had been crucial in resolving the crisis in the country.
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire
Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted with satisfaction the efforts made by the Government in the area of security, rule of law, national reconciliation and economic recovery, among others. The renewed commitment to bring to justice the suspected perpetrators of human rights violations during the crisis was welcomed. Niger congratulated the authorities on adopting a law setting up an independent electoral commission. Starting the hearings of the truth and reconciliation process was encouraging and had to be supported by all politicians, and there had to be awareness-raising in this regard. Israel appreciated the confirmation of the significant progress made in the consolidation of the rule of law. The resumption of political dialogue was a significant step towards national reconciliation and progress made by the Government in handling security issues was appreciated. European Union said the situation was improving, especially in the consolidation of the rule of law. However, some areas required greater efforts by the Government. Sexist and sexual violence had become ever more common and the European Union regretted that there had been no progress in dealing with this scourge.
Togo welcomed the progress made by Côte d’Ivoire in strengthening the rule of law and many initiatives of the Government in social areas, such as building social housing and improving wages. Togo invited the international community to continue to support the reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire. United States agreed that reforming the independent electoral commission and promoting dialogue between parties and communities were important. The United States was concerned about recent attacks in the Grabo region and asked what the Government and the international community were doing to address systemic inter-communal violence. Ireland noted positive developments in the situation of human rights and welcomed the ratification of the Rome Statute. Ireland was concerned about the persisting accountability gaps in addressing serious human rights abuses. Impunity had to be addressed in order for the confidence in the judicial system to be restored. Belgium welcomed the important progress made when it came to consolidating the law, and supported the opinion that there was a need for a national vision on the question of victims. It was commendable that the Ivorian Government had agreed to receive visits of several special rapporteurs. United Kingdom noted with concern the continuing reports of violence against women and urged the Government to ensure that there was no impunity for the perpetrators of such crimes. The Government was urged to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations were brought to justice.
Burkina Faso welcomed efforts made by the authorities to implement recommendations in previous reports of the Independent Expert. It was aware that the Government had sought to provide help for victims of the crisis and it was encouraged to improve and increase these efforts in a holistic fashion. France recalled that good cooperation between the authorities and the Independent Expert was the sine qua none for a fruitful dialogue. The developments mentioned were encouraging, including the consolidation of the rule of law. France supported the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert. Maldives commended the Government for its continued engagement with the Human Rights Council and recognized that the path to reconciliation in a post-conflict context was difficult. The Government was encouraged to take further measures to assist victims and address the issue of impunity. Senegal saluted the efforts made by the authorities and encouraged them to continue to do all they could and more for national reconciliation. Senegal called upon the international community to consolidate its commitment to Côte d’Ivoire. Chad noted with satisfaction that doubtless progress had been made and welcomed the setting up of national structures to bring socio-political life back to normal and peace to Côte d’Ivoire. What did the Expert mean by “making the fate of victims a national cause?”
Sudan commended the level of cooperation by the Government with the Independent Expert. The progress made by the Ivorian Government in promoting the rule of law was praiseworthy. United Nations Children’s Fund said that civil registration was a matter of concern in Côte d’Ivoire, with one out of three children currently not registered. The unregistered children of today were the excluded adults of tomorrow. The lack of reliable registration data affected the planning and budgeting of development policies. Australia strongly encouraged Côte d’Ivoire to ensure the participation of all political parties, civil society organizations and community leaders in the work of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Australia was deeply concerned about the persistent increase in sexual violence in Côte d’Ivoire. New Zealand stressed that honest and open dialogue was key for reconciliation. Despite positive progress, real and lasting improvement was nonetheless accompanied by an ongoing precarious humanitarian situation on the ground. The Government was particularly encouraged to take action against persistent sexual violence against women. Morocco welcomed the increasing stability of Côte d’Ivoire and the fact that they were winning back their role at the West African scene. Morocco supported Côte d’Ivoire in the critical stage of the consolidation of the rule of law. Significant work was being done in fighting impunity and promoting national reconciliation. Benin welcomed the progress made, including recent reforms of the independent electoral commission and in the conduct of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Benin invited the international community to provide Côte d’Ivoire with the necessary logistical and financial support needed at the current stage.
Benin welcomed the positive progress made, in particular the more recent reforms concerning the electoral commission, actions to implement the disarmament and demobilisation programme, and the national programme for social cohesion. Benin invited the international community to provide the necessary logistic and financial support. Mauritania welcomed the positive aspects and success achieved by the Government, as well as the strengthening of legislation regulating the independent commission of inquiry. Mauritania valued efforts to construct classrooms and housing units, as well as the Government’s engagement with human rights mechanisms. Mali welcomed the cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and the Independent Expert, as well as the progress in the normalisation of the situation, in particular concerning political and security areas, and measures to improve the rule of law, national reconciliation and social cohesion. Algeria welcomed the clear improvement in the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, despite the persistence of challenges. Algeria also welcomed the cooperation between the Ivorian authorities with the international human rights mechanisms and encouraged them to take this cooperation further. The humanitarian situation and addressing the needs of victims and refugees, however, remained of concern. Republic of Congo said that Côte d’Ivoire had made progress in the economic field, as well as consolidating peace and the rule of law. Ongoing efforts and reforms showed the country was moving towards reconciliation despite outstanding challenges. It was regrettable that racketeering and violence, including against women and children, continued.
World Organization Against Torture said that whilst observing improvements in the security situation, it remained very concerned about persisting grave violations of human rights, including torture, some of this committed by the Republican Forces in a situation of general impunity. International Service for Human Rights welcomed the recent adoption of a law on the protection of human rights defenders and it was hoped this would soon be promulgated, inspiring other African States to adopt similar laws. Despite progress, challenges remained and the Independent Expert should be allowed to pursue his work.
International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said the authorities, following the post electoral crisis, had stated determination that victims would be given their rights and that perpetrators would not be left unpunished. Political will had been shown but there was concern that this commitment had come up against significant obstacles. Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme urged Côte d’Ivoire to improve work to ensure there was real national unity based on credible institutions. After many visits to the country, the existence of many levels of frustration of victims of the post electoral violence had been seen, due to the inefficiency of local structures and the incoherence of policies. International Catholic Child Bureau noted that there had been no separation of adults and children in some prisons in the country. How should monitoring of prisons be carried out to ensure that there was real separation and that the conditions in the prisons were suitable for children?
Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as the concerned country in concluding remarks, said that at this stage, it did not have any particular comments to make. The main points concerning the Independent Expert’s report had been made and the ground had been covered. Perhaps the Independent Expert had some answers to the many questions put forward in the statements.
DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, in concluding remarks, said that the international community should continue to support Côte d’Ivoire and remain vigilant. Concerning elections, Mr. Diene stressed that no society could emerge unscathed from a long period of violence. Elections constituted moments of truth and the goal of the international community would be to ensure that this election took place in a peaceful, democratic and trust-worthy manner despite barriers, including fundamental questions on justice and the question of impunity. Côte d’Ivoire was taking measures to address impunity and justice. When it came to political dialogue and national reconciliation, it was necessary to combat impunity both at the national and international levels. The international community should ensure that perpetrators of serious violations were brought to justice. Victims were demanding justice and that their concerns remain at the heart of national reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. Victims should become a national cause to overcome religious and political divides and to force decision-makers to herald a new era beyond simple power considerations. The role of civil society in this regard would be essential: political considerations had precipitated the crisis. Despite ongoing efforts, politicians should not be left alone: civil society should be able to advocate on behalf of Ivorian society and to bring pressure to bear. The independent electoral commission was a sensitive element post-crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. Dialogue and consensus around the electoral commission were necessary: on this basis, Mr. Diene hoped the 2015 election would be peaceful. The international community should continue to provide support but also be critical to ensure progress was achieved.
The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on progress of technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights (A/HRC/26/23)
The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities undertaken to support efforts by States to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities in their national legislation, policies and programmes (A/HRC/26/24)
The Council has before it the report of the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the field of Human Rights (A/HRC/26/51)
Introduction of Reports by the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation and the High Commissioner on South Sudan
MARICLAIRE ACOSTA URQUIDI, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, presenting the report, said the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation provided financial support to build and strengthen national capacity, including institutions working on human rights, in the implementation of human rights standards. Requests were continuing to increase, in part due to States’ wishes to implement recommendations received by the Universal Periodic Review. The report stressed the importance of the sustainability of funded projects as well as the identification of channels for the participation of civil society organizations. The Fund’s role had changed significantly since it was established. The Board held one of its two annual sessions in a location where the High Commissioner had a field presence, making it possible for Board Members to acquire more direct knowledge of the nature and effectiveness of the Office’s work on technical cooperation.
The twenty-ninth session of the Board of Trustees was held in Mexico, in February 2014. The Office of the High Commissioner in Mexico was fully funded by voluntary contributions. The Board found that the priorities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico were in line with what was expected by national partners and that the Office continued to be seen as a critical and reliable and vital contributor, in the view of all contributors interviewed. The Office would benefit from strengthening its efforts with federal institutions, to continue translating needs into concrete capacity-building action. The Board considered field visits as strategically indispensable for its work and mandate.
FLAVIA PANSIERI, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the reports, said that during her visit to South Sudan in April, the High Commissioner had witnessed a critical level of violence, including ethnically-motivated mass slaughter and gruesome and massive revenge killings. This was compounded by the likelihood of widespread famine that the conflict had generated. As a result, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had put on hold all operational and capacity building support to the Government. Gross violations were being committed by all parties to the conflict, some of which could amount to war crimes and crime against humanity. There was a need to step up efforts to protect civilians and to ensure accountability for crimes and human rights violations. Some 1.2 million people were displaced, with 900,000 of them internally and 95,000 living in UNMISS compounds. The conflict had a devastating impact on children, while there were acute protection concerns about women and girls, many of whom had been abducted and raped. Ms. Pansieri welcomed the establishment of the African Union Commission of Inquiry as an important step toward ensuring accountability. The new mandate for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan focused on four key areas: protection of civilians; monitoring and investigation of human rights abuses; creation of enabling conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities and the peace process.
Turning to the issue of practical results and good practices that had arisen from cooperation work during 2012-2013, the Deputy High Commissioner said that many of them would serve as guides for the operational work in the future. In the area of combating and strengthening the rule of law and democratic society, the key goal was building and strengthening national frameworks and institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, including robust national human rights institutions in line with the Paris Principles. National efforts to establish torture prevention mechanisms were particularly relevant, and the establishment of the first national preventive mechanism in Kazakhstan in 2013 followed years of technical advice by the Office.
With regard to discrimination, the Office had provided technical advice and support on legislation and national action plans regarding gender equality, women, peace and security, violence against women and the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities. The rapidly growing number of ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had led to increased assistance in reviewing the compliance of national legislation and policies and in building appropriate national implementation and monitoring mechanisms, and the Office had contributed significantly to policy changes at the European Union level.
Member States required increasing support in pursuing economic, social and cultural rights and combating inequalities and poverty. In the context of the devastating impact on human rights around the world of the crises in economies, finance, food and climate, technical support and advice in integrating economic, social and cultural rights in national development policies, plans and budgets yielded highly relevant results. The development of innovative tools such as the “Atlas of Inequalities” database which mapped persistent gaps in the enjoyment economic, social and cultural rights, and promoted more coherent and targeted public policies, was likely to be highly useful to Member States.
Regarding situations of violence and insecurity, the Office contributed to improving accountability in several countries, including by establishing specific mechanisms or policies to protect human rights defenders and journalists. Efforts continued to strengthen the capacity of national law enforcement officials and the judiciary to effectively prevent and combat sexual violence. In cooperation with UN Women, the Office had finalized a Guidance Note on reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence which provided critical policy and operational guidance.
The support to human rights mechanisms continued to be marked by growing requests from States to support the process of ratification of human rights treaties and to enhance their engagement with the work of United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, special procedures and Universal Periodic Review.
Ms. Pansieri reiterated extreme alarm expressed by the High Commissioner at the deterioration of the human rights situation in Iraq and called for the immediate cessation of acts of violence and abuses committed against civilians. Violations of international humanitarian law by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other fighting groups could amount to war crimes. Iraqi Security Forces should exercise restraint in their ongoing military operations and ensure that civilians were protected from violence. Iraq’s political leaders should urgently seek a sustainable solution to the crisis, including by promoting an inclusive government on national reconciliation with equal treatment and representation for all communities.
Statement by South Sudan as the Concerned Country
PAULINO WANAWILA UNANGO, Minister of Justice of South Sudan, addressing some of the points raised in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner, recalled that on 15 December 2013, forces loyal to the former Vice-President had been repelled by Government troops in Juba, after which the former Vice-President escaped to Jonglei state. On 19 December, the commander of the division in Jonglei had declared loyalty to the former Vice-President. While the political leadership which had planned the coup was composed of individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, all officers, rank and file and the armed civilians known as the “White Army” involved in the coup, belonged to the same ethnic background as the former Vice-President. Forces loyal to the Government were made out of individuals of various South Sudanese ethnic backgrounds, including that of the former Vice-President. It was thus misleading to label those forces as representing only the two major ethnic groups. Concerning human rights and humanitarian law violations, Mr. Wanawila Unango said that some of the civilians had used weapons stolen from armouries to commit atrocities and abuses against other civilians, some members of the national army had also been arrested.
Given the urban expansion after 2005, residential areas had developed near barracks, which had probably contributed to the increase of the number of civilians killed or wounded in the crossfire. The Government of South Sudan had taken a number of measures, including accepting the cessation of hostilities and negotiations, forming an investigation committee to focus on human rights violations, accepting the Committee of Inquiry formed by the African Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses, as well as ratifying all core United Nations conventions. Mr. Wanawila Unango called on the international community, particularly the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and its partners, to continue providing the Government with technical assistance and capacity building and to identify additional areas of assistance to strengthen the capacity of its institutions to fulfil its human rights obligations and commitments. The Government and rebels had signed an agreement which included, among other things, securing access for humanitarian assistance and it was important that agencies reached internally displaced persons irrespective of who was in control of particular areas.
General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building
Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, commended the efforts of the High Commissioner to provide technical support to Member States and said that the growing number of requests for technical assistance was evidence of the relevance of the Office. The European Union recognized the resource constraints and encouraged countries across the regions to financially support the Office, and all States to see benefits of technical cooperation with the Office.
Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Francophone Group, welcomed the technical assistance in Côte d’Ivoire and the considerable progress made in improving the human rights situation in the country. The situation of victims had to lie at the heart of reconciliation efforts. The Francophone Group agreed with the analysis of deep-rooted causes of the conflict in the Central African Republic and welcomed the imminent deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to the country.
United Kingdom regretted the continuing human rights abuses in Côte d’Ivoire and called for the prompt adoption of a child protection policy and the implementation of a national strategy against sexual violence and gender-based violence. The United Kingdom was concerned about continuing human rights violations and the recent reports of torture of migrants in Yemen, and recognized serious challenges facing the authorities in Libya.
France welcomed the cooperation between the Government of Yemen and the Office of the High Commissioner, including through the establishment of a field presence, and encouraged Yemen to implement the Council’s resolutions for the improvement of the situation on the ground. While welcoming the engagement of the Government to work for reconciliation and to combat impunity, France remained concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic. France also welcomed the progress made in Côte d’Ivoire towards the consolidation of democratic institutions.
United States said that it was difficult to understate the impact of corruption on the capacity of States to protect the human rights of their citizens, including affecting the rule of law and undermining the possibilities for prosperous and democratic societies. Combating political and judicial corruption, as well as corruption in the management of public resources, was essential for the enjoyment of all rights. Technical assistance and capacity building should include a focus on combating corruption as a key factor.
China said that Governments and peoples should, in light of their specific circumstances, choose the human rights modalities and paths suitable to them. When providing technical assistance, the Council and the international community should carry out consultations and dialogue; this technical assistance should not serve as an excuse to impose human rights modalities or to politicise human rights. China hoped that the Office of the High Commissioner received the necessary resources in order to carry out its functions of cooperation and technical assistance.
Ireland agreed that un-earmarked contributions to the Office were the most appropriate manner to respect its independence. Ireland was deeply troubled by the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in South Sudan and called for the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement. Humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law in the Central African Republic was a source of grave concern and it was vital that all parties respected international humanitarian law and protected civilians.
Cuba welcomed the ceasefire agreement signed in South Sudan and the efforts of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development aimed at finding real and lasting solutions to the conflict. The international community should assist South Sudan in overcoming its challenges and trust the capacity of African leaders to ensure peace and security on the continent.
Algeria stressed the importance of the Voluntary Contribution Fund for the implementation of the recommendations received during countries’ Universal Periodic Review and believed that the mobilization of additional funds from donors and the United Nations budget was needed to enable the Office to respond to the growing number of requests for assistance. Technical assistance and capacity building must enshrine the principles that always guided the work of the Council, which should remain free from any politicization.
India recalled that States were primarily responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights. The various resolutions and decisions of the Council and the recommendations of human rights mechanisms had increased the workloads of States and it was therefore important to acknowledge the challenges faced by individual Member States and ensure technical capacities at their disposal. Technical cooperation and assistance should be aimed at reinforcing capacities in line with the States’ own priorities, provided in a spirit of international solidarity and with the support of concerned countries.
Republic of Korea echoed the concerns regarding violations committed by all parties to the conflict in South Sudan and was concerned about reports that some of these might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community should endeavour to address the suffering of the people of South Sudan and the Republic of Korea welcomed the signing of an agreement on 9 May and called on all parties to commit to this agreement. The international community should remain vigilant and ensure the cease fire was upheld. The Republic of Korea would continue to contribute to addressing the situation in South Sudan, its stabilisation and progress forward.
Maldives appreciated the technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner to strengthen its domestic human rights mechanisms during the past two years. Due to financial constraints, small island developing States and least developed countries faced a number of challenges in upholding human rights commitments as well as treaty obligations. The Universal Periodic Review voluntary fund for technical cooperation aimed at addressing this to some extent.
Thailand said that the full realization of human rights required concrete action on the ground and robust implementation by Member States, with national ownership and partnership with all relevant stakeholders. It took note of the technical assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and efforts to document good practices and lessons learned. Thailand urged that this information be distributed and supported the extension of the mandate of the Board of Trustees. It hoped for more substantive discussion on the matter.
Sudan looked forward to greater contributions and unconditional donations to help it technically and financially in the area of strengthening human rights. When it came to technical assistance and capacity building for neighbouring countries, such as South Sudan, it was regretted that the United Nations Mission in Sudan had stopped all technical cooperation and capacity building. Sudan looked forward to an immediate resumption of such cooperation, especially at such a critical moment.
Iraq said that the Iraqi forces had exercised maximum restraint and caution in dealing with armed groups in order to ensure that there was no collateral damage and that civilians were protected. A quick look at media reports and footage available showed the scale of terror by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Iraq was going through a very difficult juncture in its history which required the international community to take a firm and clear stand in condemning terrorism in Iraq.
Council of Europe informed of the new Action Plan for Azerbaijan, presented in Baku on 20 May. The Action Plan was a joint initiative of the Council and Azerbaijan and identified priorities for cooperation in human rights and the rule of law, with a particular emphasis on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and media and the fight against corruption. Azerbaijan had joined the Council of Europe in 2001 and was currently chairing the Council’s Committee of Ministers.
Netherlands was highly concerned about the deplorable human rights situation in South Sudan, where both parties to the conflict had committed massive and systematic violations and abuses of human rights. Accountability for crimes should be ensured as the people of South Sudan deserved an end to the prevailing impunity. The Netherlands also called upon the authorities of the Central African Republic to publicly condemn violence against civilians and to bring perpetrators to justice.
Canada remained profoundly concerned by the recent serious and regrettable setbacks to democracy in Thailand, especially with the continued imposition of martial law. The immediate cessation of arbitrary detentions and the release of political detainees, along with the lifting of censorship, were important and necessary steps forward. Canada believed that Thailand could make a successful return to democracy by abiding by the rule of law.
Central African Republic said the crisis in the country now urgently required the attention of the international community in order for a swift conclusion to be found. The country needed technical assistance of various levels in order to get back on its feet, including on efforts towards national reconciliation, security sector reform and strengthening of the human rights sector, and to support the implementation of the recommendations made by the human rights treaty bodies.
Guatemala said the High Commissioner’s commitment to Guatemala was clearly reflected in the establishment of a country office in 2005. This office had contributed directly and tangibly to protecting and promoting human rights, providing major contributions to the development of a human rights culture, and through advice to a number of Guatemalan State institutions, representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations as well as individuals.
Libya expressed great appreciation for assistance given to it in the process of the parliamentary elections and it was hoped that the outcome would be proof of the fruitful outcome of this cooperation. Libya was making every possible effort to make security institutions as effective as possible, dealing with the proliferation of arms and weapons, ensuring the rule of law, controlling border crossings, and combating transient crime. This could not be carried out in isolation from cooperation with neighbouring States and the international community.
Ecuador appreciated the reference to successful national initiatives in the reports presented by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and said that Ecuador’s national development plan contained policies to eradicate discrimination and strengthen equality. Ecuador’s Atlas of Inequality had been put in place with assistance from the Office and was an excellent policy tool.
International Commission of Jurists said that the judiciary sector in South Sudan was so under resourced that courts were not available to the population who were denied access to justice. South Sudan must ensure effective remedy and reparation for victims and investigation of and prosecution for human rights violations. Given the scale and gravity of the ongoing violations, the national judiciary system did not have the capacity to bear the burden; an international criminal tribunal, preferably the International Criminal Court, would need to play a key role.
Human Rights Watch said that South Sudan’s new war was characterised by horrific attacks on civilians, often because of their ethnicity and presumed allegiances. There had been no acknowledgment by either side of the scale of abuses, accountability or clear steps to stop the abuse. The peace talks were unpromising; the Council had a role to play and would fail victims if it remained silent.
Femmes Afrique Solidarité expressed its concern about the security situation and the growing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, and in particular for women and girls, who bore the brunt of conflict disproportionately. There was a need for a coordinated effort among all stakeholders to end impunity for sexual and gender based crimes. The Government of South Sudan should fully collaborate with international human rights mechanisms,
CIVICUS stated that in South Sudan, an untold number of civilians had been killed, over 800,000 people were internally displaced and over 270,000 had fled to nearby countries as refugees. The Human Rights Council was urged to consider and support the call for a special or hybrid court with United Nations assistance in order to ensure justice and accountability for the mass killings of civilians.
Amnesty International fully supported the mandate of the African Union Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed during the conflict in South Sudan. Amnesty looked forward to the Commission’s final recommendations on accountability and hoped that they would help steer South Sudan away from the habitual impunity. The Council should not limit itself to capacity building and human rights education when war crimes and crimes against humanity remained to be addressed.
Alsalam Foundation called the Council’s attention to certain areas of technical deficiencies in the human rights mechanisms in Bahrain. Both the Office of the Ombudsman for the Ministry of Interior and the National Institution for Human Rights required further reform and additional capacity assistance, in order to act as effective, independent, credible and transparent checks against further human rights abuses.
General Arab Women Federation, in a joint statement, shared concern about Iraq, which after years of neglect had suddenly re-emerged at the forefront of global attention. It was important to understand that the recent escalation was a direct result of the extreme grievances inflicted on the Iraq population in a degraded, war-torn environment. Regrettably the international community had turned a deaf ear to the desperate calls of millions of Iraqis in 2011.
Indian Council for South America said technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights needed to give special attention to the situation of indigenous peoples in South America, the Pacific, in all of North American and the Arctic. A high-level plenary session to be convened in September was simply a conference to obtain a fawned blessing from many puppet indigenous institutions.
United Nations Watch was deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. With regards to South Sudan, the report of the High Commissioner documented grave and alarming violations, including mass executions, ethnic-based killings, murder, rape, and sexual violence. It was equally concerned with the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, reportedly, killings had caused a quarter of the country’s civilians to flee their homes.
Right of Reply
Thailand, speaking in a right of reply, appreciated the concern expressed by Canada, and reassured that Thailand did not plan to delay the return to democracy. Thailand reminded that before the recent takeover by the military, the country had been paralysed for months, which was why the military had to step in and restore order. On freedom of expression, only some restrictions had been made, while most domestic and foreign journalists were free to travel around and cover stories of their choice. Thailand was not retreating from the important principles of democracy and human rights.
Burundi, speaking in a right of reply, expressed its surprise at the statement by the United States which had alleged restrictions against non-governmental organizations in Burundi. Activities of the civil sector in Burundi should be mentioned as a best practice more than anything else. Burundi deplored the ongoing trend towards the politicization of the Council by certain delegations.