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Human Rights Council holds separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Ukraine and with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia

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The Human Rights Council this afternoon held separate interactive dialogues on reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, and with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Ukraine were the European Union, Finland, Canada, United Nations Children's Fund, Germany, Estonia, Japan, Norway , Czech Republic, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Albania, Poland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Turkey, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Georgia, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova and France.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions : Human Rights House Foundation, Public Organization "Public Advocacy", Minority Rights Group, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, and World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations.

The Human Rights Council then held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on Cambodia were the European Union, Viet Nam on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Belgium, France, Japan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, China, Australia, Thailand, Switzerland, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Belarus, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Myanmar (video message), New Zealand, Kuwait, Lebanon, Cuba, Ireland, Philippines (video message), Egypt and Turkey.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, World Organization Against Torture, Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, and Next Century Foundation

Cambodia, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Australia, Czech Republic, China, Cuba and Germany spoke in point of order.

Russian Federation spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 October, for the enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the final report of the Team of International Experts on the situation in Kasai, followed by the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Interactive Dialogue on the Reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine

Presentation of Reports

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting two reports on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and starting with the thirtieth periodic report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, expressed concerns about the increase in violence documented by the Office of the High Commissioner in the context of upcoming local elections in October - in particular, attacks by members of extreme right-wing groups against peaceful political gatherings and offices of political parties, and against political activists and their homes. The over broad and formalistic application of Russian Federation anti-extremist laws in Crimea severely limited the manifestation of religious practices for several religious groups, including some Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Messianic Jews and Hare Krishnas.

The [report on human rights in the administration of justice in conflict-related criminal cases in Ukraine]((https://reliefweb.int/node/3676608) highlighted widespread human rights violations in the Ukrainian justice system, in particular arbitrary arrest and detention, unreasonable trial delays, poor quality of free legal aid lawyers, the use of torture and coerced confessions, as well as the lack of effective mechanisms to remedy such violations. The report detailed violations in Crimea by the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, such as retroactive application of criminal law, and failure to address credible complaints of torture and ill-treatment, and forced confessions.

Statement by Concerned Country

Ukraine, speaking as a concerned country, said Russia had shut down the voices of dissent through the occupation regime, repression and by jailing people. It targeted human rights activists, journalists, religious minorities and indigenous peoples. The ban of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis along with the mass persecution of the Crimean Tatar people was nothing else but racial discrimination. The unlawful decision of the Russian court of 16 September 2020 revealed how the occupying power used its anti-terrorist legislation to silence any dissenting voice. Marlen Asanov, Memet Belialov, Server Zekiriaiev, Timur Ibrahimov, Server Mustafaiev, Seyran Saliiev and Edem Smailov had been sentenced to a combined 110 years of prison for a crime they had not committed. Between 200,000 to 800,000 Russian citizens had been moved to Crimea. Ukraine reiterated its commitment to the ceasefire regime established as of July 27, despite everyday provocations by the Russian armed formations, and assured it was doing its utmost to move forward with the humanitarian agenda.

Discussion

Speakers asked what steps the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights intended to take for achieving unimpeded access by human rights experts to detainees and places of deprivation of liberty in all parts of Ukraine. Speakers urged the so-called authorities of the self-proclaimed republics to respect the absolute prohibition of torture and to humanely treat all detainees. Some speakers expressed appreciation for the efforts to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine, including the Normandy Format talks. There had been little or no progress in combatting hate crimes or impunity for conflict-related abuses by either side in Donbass and human rights violations in Russia-occupied Crimea. Several speakers stated they did not recognize the annexation of Crimea. What could the Office do to address the situation of Crimean Tatars who faced harsh sentences handed down on the basis of fabricated charges? Speakers echoed the High Commissioner’s call for the progressive easing of movement restrictions, until the epidemiological situation allowed for the full re-opening of the five crossing points in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Some speakers said international humanitarian law continued to be violated by Ukrainian forces, and it was concerning that Ukrainian law enforcement officers systematically resorted to torture and arbitrary arrests. Acknowledging the enactment of a new law on domestic violence and related police reforms, speakers urged greater commitment and resources to address domestic and gender-based violence and discrimination. Ukraine must ratify the Istanbul Convention.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the closing and opening of entry points had hampered access to healthcare and basis goods, in addition to disrupting family life and otherwise affecting the local population. The Office enjoyed good cooperation with Ukraine and generally had been granted unimpeded access to places of detention. It wished to enjoy similar access to all the territory of Ukraine.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia

Presentation of Report

RHONA SMITH, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia,
said civic and democratic space in Cambodia continued to contract and there was little evidence of any shift towards political reconciliation. Members of civil society, including human rights defenders, trade unionists and environmentalists, continued to report being subjected to undue interference, intimidation and harassment by the authorities. Public threats, surveillance, and arrests of civil society members were still being reported to the Special Rapporteur from a range of sources. As of 30 September 2020, Cambodia had no community transmissions of COVID-19 and the World Health Organization had recorded some 277 cases, and no deaths. Unfortunately, there was evidence of COVID-19 being politicized. Initially, the virus was characterized by Samdech Techo, the Prime Minister, as a ‘foreign disease’. This had contributed to discrimination and stigma, particularly in respect of Khmer Islam people. The Special Rapporteur said that since the submission of her annual report, the campaign launched by the Ministry of Justice to ameliorate prison overcrowding by expediting trials had produced results. By the end of August 2020, over 5,000 backlogged criminal cases had been cleared. Nevertheless, Ms. Smith remained concerned at the prevalence of pre-trial detention, the lack of viable alternatives to custodial sentencing, evidentiary standards, and the variations in due process guarantees across the country.

Statement by Concerned Country

Cambodia, speaking as a concerned country, said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Special Rapporteur had continued to have a substantive virtual exchange with the Government since August. Cambodia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic had placed the people at the centre, and had left no one behind. It had transformed the threat of the pandemic into an opportunity for reforms, notably in the fields of health, justice and education. One could not pick and choose among human rights. Regrettably, the report had deviated from this approach. It had a one-sided and excessive focus on civil and political rights, with many positive developments underreported. Cambodia was home to almost 6,000 non-government organizations, and nearly 2,000 media outlets, which were functioning freely.

Discussion

Congratulating Cambodia for its achievements in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers welcomed the active cooperation of the Government with human rights mechanisms. The working methods of the Special Rapporteur should be balanced and constructive, taking into account the perspective of the Government, as well as national circumstances. Speakers asked the Special Rapporteur how technical assistance could contribute to improving the human rights situation in Cambodia. Some speakers recommended that Cambodia review all laws, including the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, to ensure consistency with Cambodia’s Constitution and the international human rights standards to which Cambodia had subscribed. Some speakers said country mandates were riddled with double-standards and politics. Others said that reports of arrests and harassment of opposition political figures, and constraints on the activities of civil society organizations were concerning. What were the most urgent measures to be put in place to protect civic space in the country? The COVID-19 pandemic had seen an escalation of human rights violations, including the promulgation of a new law that granted broad powers to restrict fundamental rights.

Concluding Remarks

Cambodia said freedom of expression did not amount to the freedom to spread fake news. It was unfortunate that the Special Rapporteur and certain Western countries continued to perceive the application of the law as oppression of certain groups. It was the duty of everyone, including so-called human rights activists, to exercise their rights within the confines of the law.

RHONA SMITH, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said her report covered a range of rights, as her mandate required her to do so. She assured that she worked with the Government and development partners. The Government had had the opportunity to fact-check her report.