Human Rights Council
14 March 2017
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. It also started its general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention.
Yasmine Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, noted that the deterioration in the human rights situation in South Sudan was directly attributable to impunity. The challenge for accountability was that alleged perpetrators still occupied senior political and military positions. Unlawful arrests and detentions, torture, rape and killing had become the norm in South Sudan and they were occurring in many more parts of the country than before. South Sudan was the world’s third largest refugee crisis with nearly 2 million people who were internally displaced and more than 1.5 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. International humanitarians, including the United Nations, had little choice but to accept the restrictions imposed by the State as they could not walk away and let millions of people starve due to the impending famine.
Speaking as the concerned country, South Sudan said the Government continued its cooperation with all human rights institutions because South Sudan was a member of the international community; this was not done out of fear. However, the Government had observations about the report because it was as if the report was not about the country the speaker came from. There were a lot of assumptions about reality in the report that were not there. A large part of South Sudan was under the control of non-State actors. The Commission was now proposing that it be given powers of investigation. It would never be a fair investigation. The Government of South Sudan wanted the Commission to be fair, as it had not reflected in the report what the Government had said.
In the ensuing discussion speakers voiced extreme alarm about the humanitarian situation and levels of violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan, including ethnic cleansing, sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment of children by armed forces, starvation, and a blockade of humanitarian aid. They urged the Government of South Sudan to work with humanitarian agencies to ensure lifesaving assistance for those in need, and called for a sustained and inclusive political process. Delegations supported the Commission’s call for the setting up of an independent mechanism to collect evidence of human rights abuses, and thus address widespread impunity.
Speaking were European Union, United Nations Children’s Fund, Slovenia, France, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Japan, Belgium, Australia, China, Netherlands, Egypt, Algeria, Cuba, United States, Botswana, Sudan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, Albania, Slovakia, Spain and Morocco.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, and Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development.
The Council then started its general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention.
In the debate speakers noted that all human rights were universal and interdependent, including the right to development, and should be promoted through dialogue and non-confrontation. Human rights should not be used for political ends. The international community should strive for inclusion, tolerance, mutual respect and respect for the cultural diversity of States. Some delegations rejected the proliferation of country-specific mandates which were politically motivated and violated the principle of impartiality and non-selectivity. Other speakers noted the important role of the Council’s early prevention mechanisms and highlighted a number of human rights situations which the Council should keep on its agenda.
Speaking were Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Malta on behalf of the European Union, Slovenia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Egypt, Ecuador, Venezuela, Georgia, United States, China, Netherlands, Cuba, Switzerland, Czechia, Russian Federation, Canada and Denmark.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Venezuela, Turkmenistan, Philippines and Japan spoke in right of reply.
The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 March, to continue its general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minorities.
SHALVA TSISKARASHVILI, Vice President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that in its resolution 31/20 the Council had decided to establish the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to, among other things, monitor and report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan and to make recommendations for its improvement. It had requested the Commission to present a comprehensive written report to the Council at its thirty-fourth session.
The Council has before it the Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan(A/HRC/34/63).
Presentation of the Report by the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
YASMIN SOOKA, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said that in the past nine months there had been a massive increase in gross human rights violations and abuses, as well as an escalation in fighting in most of South Sudan. Unlawful arrests and detentions, torture, rape and killing had become the norm and they were occurring in many more parts of the country than before. South Sudan was the world’s third largest refugee crisis. Nearly 2 million people had been internally displaced and more than 1.5 million refugees had fled to neighbouring countries. South Sudanese civilians had been deliberately and systematically targeted on the basis of their ethnicity by Government and Government-aligned forces. Citizens were treated like enemy combatants because of their perceived political allegiance to the other side, calculated by ethnicity. The Government had also conducted a brutal campaign of repression to silence civil society. The extent and scale of sexual violence in South Sudan was so horrifying that the consequences of doing nothing were unthinkable.
In February 2017, there had been a serious escalation of the fighting in parts of Greater Upper Nile and the Greater Equatoria region with dire consequences for the civilian population. Despite claims to the contrary, the Government repeatedly obstructed and manipulated humanitarian assistance from reaching opposition areas. In Upper Nile more than 20,000 civilians were dispersed there without assistance as a result of recent offensives. The Commission had reported on a pattern of ethnic cleansing and population engineering. Aid workers estimated that 2,000 people, the vast majority Dinka, had been transported north by the Government which had asked for international humanitarian assistance while at the same time denying access to citizens who were starving in opposition areas.
The deterioration in the human rights situation in South Sudan was directly attributable to impunity. The challenge for accountability was that alleged perpetrators still occupied senior political and military positions. They had squandered the oil wealth and had plundered the country’s resources. International humanitarians, including the United Nations, had little choice to accept the restrictions imposed by the State as they could not walk away and let millions of people starve. The dilemma between being outspoken on human rights and securing access had never been more stark. An estimated 5.5 million persons were expected to reach crisis levels of food insecurity by April 2017. A quarter of a million children were malnourished. The opposition and the armed groups allied to them contributed to the famine as they attacked government installations, looted convoys, and terrorized communities suspected of supporting the Government or the Dinka tribe.
Statement by the Concerned Country
South Sudan thanked the Commission for expressing its appreciation for the help of the Government in carrying out its mandate. The Government continued its cooperation with all human rights institutions because South Sudan was a member of the international community; this was not done out of fear. However, the Government had observations about the report because it was as if the report was not about the country the speaker came from. There were a lot of assumptions about reality in the report that were not there. A large part of South Sudan was under the control of non-State actors. The Commission was now proposing that it be given powers of investigation. It would never be a fair investigation. The investigation should not just involve victims but also perpetrators, or the accused and their witnesses, to allow for self-defence. The Commission wanted to take the investigation to the Hybrid Court and other courts. The Government of South Sudan wanted the Commission to be fair, as it had not reflected in the report what the Government had said. In order to improve the human rights of its people, the Government had continued to cooperate and had accepted the regional protection force. Over 2,000 illegal arms had been collected from the people. The Government was also providing non-governmental organizations with money so that they provided aid to those who needed it.
European Union was appalled by the continuation of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan, including sexual and gender-based violence, rapes, gang rapes, ethnically motivated killings, and wholescale destruction of villages. The European Union stressed the need for accountability and the importance of establishing the Hybrid Court with the African Union’s support as soon as possible. United Nations Children’s Fund said that women and children continued to suffer the repercussions of the armed conflict in South Sudan. In the last year, 1.5 million civilians had fled to neighbouring countries and another 1.9 million were displaced within the country, and incidents of grave child rights violations were on the increase. Slovenia thanked the Transition Government in South Sudan for its cooperation with the Commission and expressed concern about the reports of systematic and deliberate targeting of civilians on the basis of their ethnicity, and the appalling scale of sexual violence. Slovenia was extremely concerned about warning signs of genocide.
France was deeply concerned about the escalation of wide-spread violence in South Sudan and the violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties in complete impunity. The safety of humanitarian staff and United Nations personnel must be assured and measures must be taken to fight impunity. Czechia said that the scale of human rights violations by all sides was evidence that the decision to establish the Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan was the right one. All sides to the conflict must stop the wide-spread sexual violence, as well as discrimination against journalists, human rights defenders and activists. Germany was deeply shocked that since the Commission’s travel to Juba in December 2016, the conflict had worsened, leading to one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the African continent. There must be full accountability for all the violations, including through the establishment of the Hybrid Court and the expansion of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
Denmark voiced extreme alarm about the humanitarian situation and levels of violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan, as well as about hunger and food insecurity. It called for the immediate creation of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan to establish accountability. Switzerland noted that the ongoing impunity, violence, ethnic cleansing, and shrinking of civil society demanded immediate action. It called on the South Sudanese authorities to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, and supported the establishment of the Hybrid Court. United Kingdom deplored the level of violence experienced by non-combatants in South Sudan, noting that women and children bore the brunt of sexual violence. The lack of accountability for those crimes was the biggest challenge. The United Kingdom supported the Commission’s call for the setting up of an independent mechanism to collect evidence of human rights abuses.
Japan requested the Government of South Sudan to take preventive measures against gender-based violence, and to end impunity for violence against women. The national dialogue announced by President Kiir was essential to promoting national reconciliation. Belgium deeply regretted that the human rights situation in South Sudan had further deteriorated, including ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, the recruitment of children by the armed forces, starvation, and the blockade of humanitarian aid. Australia remained concerned by the ongoing violence in South Sudan which had led to the devastating famine. It urged the Government of South Sudan to work with humanitarian agencies to ensure lifesaving assistance for those in need, and called for a sustained and inclusive political process.
China said given the complex nature of the situation in South Sudan, China had supported African solutions to African problems and had also supported regional organizations. The international community should encourage all parties in South Sudan to implement the peace agreement. Netherlands expressed deep concern at the sexual and gender-based violence, mass rapes, ethnically motivated killings and wholesale destruction of villages. The Commission was asked to elaborate on how the international community could support South Sudan in preventing sexual and gender-based violence. Egypt welcomed the cooperation of the Government of South Sudan with mechanisms including the Commission, and shared the concern expressed by the Commission about the situation for daily life of South Sudanese citizens. Why had the Commission indicated that South Sudan was threatened by a civil war when that statement was not justified through statistics in the report?
Algeria welcomed the cooperation of the Government of National Unity with the United Nations Assistance Mission in South Sudan. The international community was called on to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population. Cuba had faith in African leaders’ abilities and reiterated support to them. Cuba believed it was vital to send more aid and support to rebuild South Sudan, and the Human Rights Council’s support was vital to that end. United States said the Commissioners’ report highlighted how impunity remained unabated, fuelling a crisis that risked spinning further out of control. The Commissioners were asked how the violence could be halted, peace secured, and all those committing, ordering or inciting violence be held accountable.
Botswana said that the issues raised by the Commission’s report painted a deeply worrying picture of the collapse of peace and security, and expressing alarm about the real threat of ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, called upon the Government to take all necessary measures to protect all its citizens. Sudan said it treated refugees from South Sudan well, including by providing them with access to health and education, and called upon the international community to support the people and the Government of South Sudan, a young country in dire need of assistance and not sanctions. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia strongly condemned the widespread sexual and gender-based violence, mass rapes and burnt villages, ethnic cleansing and other inhuman acts and mass atrocities in South Sudan, as well as reported starvation of over 100,000 persons. There was a major risk that the situation could become uncontrollable and that the militia fighting would continue to feed violence for many years to come.
Norway noted the lack of improvement in the human rights situation in South Sudan, instead human rights violations continued on a shocking scale and 100,000 South Sudanese now faced famine conditions in what had become a humanitarian disaster. The Government’s lack of responsibility for the fate of its own people and unwillingness to resolve the conflict was deeply disappointing. In light of the declaration of famine in February and the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation, Ireland said that the vast majority of humanitarian assistance was delivered by non-governmental organizations and noted with concern the undue restrictions on the operational capacity of civil society. Portugal urged South Sudan to abide by the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict, cease hostilities and conclude a permanent ceasefire, and to comply with its obligations to protect civilians, prevent future violations and ensure accountability of the perpetrators.
Albania stressed that the Commission’s mandate was crucial in addressing the grave human rights abuses in South Sudan. Armed groups systematically targeted the civilian population, including on the basis of ethnicity. Sexual and gender-based violence had taken on alarming levels. Slovakia noted that the situation in South Sudan was even more serious given the fact that human rights violations were often committed with ethnic motivation and could amount to genocide. It called on all parties to lay down arms and find a political settlement to the crisis. Spain appreciated the support of South Sudan in facilitating visits to refugee camps. However, it deplored violence and especially sexual and gender-based violence committed by security forces against women and children. Humanitarian access should be urgently established, as well as the setting up of the Hybrid Court. Morocco commended the efforts of the South Sudanese Government to implement the peace agreement. South Sudan should be continuously supported to ensure stability and address the humanitarian needs in the country.
Albania welcomed the report of the Commission, and expressed continuing concern at violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan. The worsening pattern of gender-based and sexual violence remained an alarming issue, which Albania condemned in the strongest terms. Slovakia expressed deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in South Sudan, saying the situation was even more serious as crimes were often committed with ethnic motivations. The African Union was urged to operationalize the Hybrid Court, and the Government of South Sudan was urged to work with all the relevant forces for the implementation of the Peace Agreement. Spain deplored the continuation of all forms of sexual violence, and appealed to the Government to fulfil its commitment to address that issue. Women and children made up the vast majority of refugees, and the ethnic component of many murders was particularly concerning. Morocco said the authorities of South Sudan should benefit from assistance and support necessary to enable them to undertake measures. Morocco drew attention to the humanitarian needs of the country and called on the international community to provide it with support with a view to enabling it to face the famine in the country.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, in a joint statement with 14 South Sudanese civil society organizations, urged the Council to renew and strengthen the mandate of the Commission to include the conduct of independent investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, with a particular focus on sexual and gender-based crimes and attacks or reprisals against human rights defenders. International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said impunity continued to fuel the violence and crimes committed in South Sudan. The Commission’s call for the immediate establishment of an international, impartial and independent investigation was strongly supported.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that in South Sudan, villages were looted and torched, women were raped, and victims were often selected by ethnicity. Perpetrators had to be held to account, and a peace agreement needed to be gender-responsive. CIVICUS said that South Sudan was on the verge of an ethnic war that had the potential to destabilize the entire region. There was a real risk of genocide if action was not taken immediately. Human Rights Watch stated that South Sudan was mired in conflict and serious human rights abuses, made worse by near total impunity for crimes on all sides. Parties to the conflict were urged to immediately cease all attacks on civilians, and release or charge detainees.
Amnesty International was concerned about the lack of accountability for serious crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence. There had been little progress towards the establishment of a hybrid court for South Sudan. Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme regretted that the Security Council had been unable to adopt the resolution that would have imposed an embargo on arms. If nothing was done, South Sudan risked becoming a new Rwanda. Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development supported efforts to promote human rights in South Sudan, as well as efforts to promote dialogue among different parts of the South Sudanese society. South Sudan primarily needed technical assistance so that it could provide basic services to its citizens.
Concluding Remarks by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
KENNETH SCOTT, Member of the Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, responding to a question on whether there was a threat of civil war in South Sudan, said that the evidence pointed that an internal armed conflict had been ongoing since at least 2013. Since this conflict threatened to destabilize the whole region, the situation in South Sudan represented a real threat to international peace and security. In response to the question on the simultaneous operation of the Commission on Human Rights and the Hybrid Court, Mr. Scott stressed the need for careful coordination between all the justice mechanisms.
GODFREY MUSILA, Member of the Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, said that the international community had a critical role to play in ensuring accountability for human rights violations in South Sudan, including through supporting the efforts to investigate, collect and preserve evidence. There were reasons to believe that international crimes had been committed in South Sudan and as this situation persisted, the investigation and preservation of evidence would be even more important. Another important role for the international community was to provide humanitarian assistance, and deploy all its assets in multilateral and bilateral settings to improve humanitarian access. The 2015 Peace Agreement had proposed a comprehensive solution to the armed conflict in South Sudan, of which accountability was one issue. The Peace Agreement was facing serious challenges in terms of implementation, including the constitution of the Transitional Government, this notwithstanding, there was a need to support the implementation of the Peace Agreement, and also support the national dialogue which was complementary to the Peace Agreement, and there were fears that this dialogue might take place outside of South Sudan. Finally, since the enhancement of the mandate of the Commission might be required, it would need to be accompanied by an increase in the resources allocated to it.
KENNETH SCOTT, Member of the Commission of Inquiry, said every crisis in South Sudan today was man-made. The crisis was caused by political elites in a contest for power where ethnicity had been weaponized to carry out the conflict. A root cause of the conflict was the deep impunity. It would not stop, and there would be no sustained peace in South Sudan until there was accountability. No-one beyond a few foot soldiers had been held accountable. Mass violence was committed on a regular basis with complete impunity. There was neither will nor capacity in the South Sudanese Government to provide accountability. It had been two and a half years since the African Union Commission Report had detailed horrible crimes, but not a single person had been held to account, which was a shocking failure. Justice and accountability were not separate from peace and security, but essential parts of a real and lasting peace in South Sudan. Given the lack of progress in the Hybrid Court since 2015, there was no reason to think a robust Hybrid Court would ever be set up by the African Union. Senior officials in the region had said it would never be set up. Both the African Union and the South Sudanese Government had failed to engage with the Commission to establish the Hybrid Court. Under the mandate, a transitional justice conference had been held in mid-February. The technical assistance had been offered to South Sudan but they had refused to participate, and thus essential evidence was being lost every day. Those not in favour of collecting the evidence were not in favour of accountability.
YASMIN SOOKA, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, said the victims of South Sudan deserved justice and peace; they needed to return to their homes and their crops and they wanted to be self-sustainable. Ultimately, the primary responsibility for the protection of its civilians lay with the Government of South Sudan. If they could not do it, then the international community must take steps to ensure that those who were responsible for human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable. The international community had to end impunity, and the only way to do that was to document meticulously the violations and abuses taking place. They needed to map those who were responsible at a command responsibility level. Without that, they could not go forward.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that all human rights were universal and interdependent, including the right to development, and should be promoted through dialogue and non-confrontation. Human rights should not be used for political ends. The international community should strive for inclusion, tolerance, mutual respect and respect for cultural diversity of States. The Non-Aligned Movement rejected the proliferation of country-specific mandates which were politically motivated and violated the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity.
Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that the European Union was fully aware of the terrorist threat faced by Egypt and it encouraged the Government to open up space for civil society. In China progress had been made in the elimination of poverty, but there was still detention of human rights lawyers and defenders. In the Russian Federation concern was raised about the crackdown on civil society. As for the Philippines, the fight against the drug trade was legitimate but the high number of those killed in that fight was worrying. The European Union was gravely concerned by the continued violence and loss of life in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Slovenia noted that the Human Rights Council played an important role in the prevention of human rights crimes and therefore its early prevention mechanisms should be an important part of the prevention pillar. Slovenia reiterated its support for the rule of law in Ukraine, and expressed concern over the human rights situation in Burundi, South Sudan and Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine state.
Japan regretted that there was no progress in the dire human rights situation pointed out by the Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea three years earlier. “North Korea” was asked to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Seoul Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Japan was planning to submit a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at this session.
United Kingdom said that the Syrian people continued to suffer under the Assad regime, and war crimes had been committed in the battle for Aleppo. The United Kingdom was concerned about reports of torture and enforced disappearances in Egypt. The regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to prioritize ballistic missile tests over the human rights of its population. The United Kingdom was also concerned about the continued detention of Chinese human rights lawyers. It did not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Germany remained seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Egypt, where increasing repression against civil society threatened to undermine the very stability that the Government was seeking. Germany was also concerned about the human rights situation in China, where human rights defenders and lawyers often faced arbitrary detention and other violations of their human rights. Russia was encouraged to actively promote independent civic engagement, including freedom of assembly.
Belgium said there was an alarming increase in the degrading treatment of human rights defenders, such as death sentences of minors in Saudi Arabia. Concern was also expressed about the situation in Egypt for civil society and the media, as well as human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the discovery of mass graves. Welcoming the release of prisoners in Burundi, Belgium also demanded an end to grave violations in reports on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Egypt said the Council was being used as a tool against countries of the east, noting that in Sweden, the detention period reached up to 1,400 days, and that in the Netherlands, a new counter-terrorism law increased prohibitions on travel. There was excessive use of force by police in Caribbean regions, and as for Great Britain, they were calling for accountability but they did not hold former officials responsible. Concern was also expressed about the situation for human rights in Northern Ireland and Denmark.
Ecuador said the current international climate raised challenges for the Council. Migrants and refugees were stigmatized by countries of transit and destination, and in the opinion of Ecuador, the mentality of high walls was a serious threat to human rights. Ecuador thought asylum had to be approached from a human rights and not a security perspective. Migrants could not be called illegal because no human life could be called illegal.
Venezuela condemned selective practices by some Council Members which targeted the countries of the south, and the conversion of the Council into a forum to harass and selectively attack other States. There must be mutual respect, non-interference in domestic affairs and respect for the right to self-determination, which were key principles of the United Nations Charter. Venezuela rejected the slander campaigns to demonize some governments and promote foreign interventions.
Georgia remained concerned about the continuing armed conflict in Syria and urged accountability for those responsible for the most serious crimes against humanity, including through the International Criminal Court. Reports of ethnic cleansing and indications of genocide were of utmost concern, as was the humanitarian and human rights situation in eastern Ukraine and occupied Crimea. The human rights situation was deteriorating in occupied regions of Georgia, particularly following the closure of the crossing points along the occupation line in Abkhazia.
United States was concerned about the situation of human rights in Syria, Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, South Sudan, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Egypt, civil society was struggling in face of restrictive measures, and arbitrary detention and torture of lawyers and activists in China unduly constrained civil society and religious practices, and denied rights to Tibetans and Uighurs. The new “Yarovaya” amendments to anti-terrorist laws threatened freedom of expression and religion in Russia.
China stated that the Council should uphold sovereign equality, impartiality, objectivity, dialogue and cooperation. Public pressure and politicization of human rights issues should be avoided. China had worked to promote comprehensive economic and social development in the context of widening global wealth gaps. The European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States had made unwarranted accusations against China, which were unacceptable. Those delegations forgot that they themselves had serious human rights problems.
Netherlands reiterated its dismay about the continuous human rights violations in Syria, and the shrinking democratic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It condemned the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the security forces there against civilians. The Netherlands was worried by the increased arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, torture and sexual violence in Burundi. It condemned the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and it supported the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
Cuba rejected manipulation and double standards in the Council, which should oppose politicization by certain countries which ignored their own human rights problems. It was difficult to believe that they were concerned about the countries of the south when they simultaneously waged wars against them. The United States’ accusations against Cuba were baseless. The United States was using the language of exclusion nowadays and it was in no position to set standards at the United Nations. Cuba would continue to create its own society without any foreign intervention.
Switzerland was alarmed by the repression against civil society in many countries, including Bahrain, where anyone who criticized the Government was affected. Reprisals against victims who reported human rights violations were alarming. The limitation of the right to peaceful assembly in Viet Nam was another source of concern. Switzerland encouraged Egypt to ensure a safe and favourable environment for civil society.
Czech Republic said that there were many actions against independent civil voices in both Russian and China. It was regrettable that the Burundian civil society was a systematic target by the authorities. The Government of Egypt was called upon to support a free civil society. The situation in Venezuela was not improving, with a number of dissidents remaining in jail.
Russian Federation said that with the trend of politically motivated resolutions being introduced in the Council, Russia was concerned that problems in a number of countries were not getting enough attention, such as racial profiling and excessive use of force by police in the United States, excessive use of special procedures by law enforcement in Germany, the Netherlands and Georgia, and a growing trend of ethnic and religious intolerance and fear of migrants in Germany and France. There was a worry for non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia, and in Ukraine, radicalism and neo-Nazism was on rise.
Canada said that this agenda item remained a critical aspect of the Council’s work as all States could benefit from the scrutiny of their human rights records. The high level of executions in Iran, including of juveniles, remained very concerning. Canada was concerned about the trend to restrict freedom of expression in a number of countries, including China, while the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility and the reinstating of the death penalty in the Philippines were worrying.
Denmark was deeply concerned about the suffering of Syrian people and about continuing settlement expansions in the occupied Palestinian territories. Egypt should take first steps to ensure fundamental freedoms enshrined in its Constitution, and the high number of executions, including executions of juveniles, in Iran, was deeply alarming. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea should take immediate steps to halt all human rights violations in the country. Human rights actors and monitors must be granted access in east Ukraine and occupied Crimea.
Right of Reply
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected unfounded allegations against the country which were intended to put the pressure under the guise of human rights. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea therefore rejected any resolution on the situation in the country. The strengthening of its military capacity, including its nuclear deterrents, was legitimate and an inevitable measure of self-defence and must not be questioned by anyone. Japan continued to abuse the issue of abductions for hostile purposes, but should instead apologise and pay compensation for its own past crimes.
Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, said that Egypt had a law that organized the work of civil society and non-governmental organizations, and very few organizations violated it. Egypt said that those accusing Egypt did not know what was happening on the ground and were passing on incorrect information. The state of emergency in France and the new surveillance act in the United Kingdom were matters of concern. The counter-terrorism act in the Netherlands allowed security agencies to monitor communications.
Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that it was once again a target of baseless accusations by the United States, the most interventionist country in history. In Venezuela people fully enjoyed their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United States was not in a position to be a universal judge of human rights. In the Czech Republic, there was severe discrimination against Roma, some of whom had been subjected to sterilization.
Turkmenistan, speaking in a right of reply, stated that citizens were guaranteed freedom of opinion and access to information. The important part of media coverage in Turkmenistan was done by international journalists. More than 20 newspapers and 40 magazines operated in the country. Journalists were invited to all important public events.
Philippines, speaking in a right of reply, said that it was conducting a campaign against illegal drugs. The campaign was supported by the Philippine people, and it was not fair to attack it on the basis of unsubstantiated statistics. The Philippines did not tolerate extrajudicial killings; instead, the police were instructed to follow strict protocols. All killings were thoroughly and impartially investigated, and perpetrators would be brought to justice.
Japan, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regarding the abduction issue, reminding it that it had promised to conduct a thorough investigation of the abduction of Japanese citizens. The acts of abduction, including of young children, had caused serious concern. Japan urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to accept relevant recommendations in good faith, and reiterated its call to heed the international community’s encouragement to consider the dire human rights situation of its own citizens.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected the absurd allegations of Japan, and reminded Japan of its past war crimes, especially sexual slavery. It also reminded of Japan’s violations of Korean residents in Japan, and urged Japan to take a sincere approach towards its past crimes.
Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that its position on the crimes of the past was known. It was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not respond with concrete actions to concerns voiced by international organizations and civil society, adding hope that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would take them seriously.
For use of the information media; not an official record
Follow UNIS Geneva on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr