Ukraine + 1 more

Human Rights Council holds separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Ukraine and in the Central African Republic

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ thematic report on “arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in the context of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2021” was based on the analysis of over 1,300 conflict-related individual cases documented by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine since 2014, which allowed everyone to estimate the overall scope and prevalence of human rights violations that fell within the purview of the report.

The Secretary-General’s interim report on Crimea was based on information collected through remote monitoring. It highlighted the continuing failure of the Russian Federation to uphold its obligations as the occupying power.

Ukraine, speaking as a country concerned, noted that the reports showed the terrible consequences of the Russian aggression and occupation of Ukraine’s territories. The testimonies of Russian hostages in occupied Donbas was like a horror book: beatings with sticks, suffocation, electrocution, penetrating injuries, deprivation of basic needs, mock executions and more. The Russian Federation persistently tried to distort the truth and impose its own false narratives on the origins of dire developments in Donbas and Crimea. To that end, Moscow had unleashed a wide-scale disinformation campaign, including within this Council, to legitimise its proxies as well as to vilify Ukraine. The independent media in Crimea had been silenced, and their representatives were persecuted.

In the discussion, speakers regretted this spring’s military build-up by Russia along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, and the continued casualties in eastern Ukraine. Conflict-related detentions in the conflict-affected areas remained a key concern, as were arbitrary arrests and allegations of ill treatment, including torture. The Russian Federation should grant unimpeded access to human rights organizations to the region. Reiterating their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, speakers emphasised that Crimea was part of Ukraine. Some speakers said Ukraine was brazenly destroying human rights institutions with the complicity of the West, destroying minority languages in an attempt to stamp out people who had been living on the territory for hundreds of years. Some speakers asked why the Office of the High Commissioner had not addressed issues such as the political repression of opponents of the current Government in Ukraine.

Speaking were Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Slovenia, Canada, Germany, Lithuania, Australia, Finland, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, Japan, Estonia, Montenegro, Norway, Republic of Moldova, United States, Slovakia, Denmark, Romania, Latvia, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Georgia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Croatia, North Macedonia, Russian Federation, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Belarus, Netherlands, and Azerbaijan.

The following national human rights institutions and civil society organizations also took the floor: Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Baptist World Alliance, International Catholic Child Bureau, Human Rights House Foundation, Advocates for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, and International Council of Russian Compatriots.

Ukraine and the Russian Federation spoke in point of order.

The Council then held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said that since March, the Coalition of Patriots for Change - headed by former President François Bozizé - had continued its threats and attacks against civilians, the recruitment of children, committing sexual violence, obstructing humanitarian operations, burning of goods transport vehicles, murders, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, illegal taxation, cruel and inhuman treatment and attacks on physical integrity, destruction and looting of property, and occupation of schools. The Security Council and the international community as a whole should take the necessary steps to ensure that they answered for the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law hanging over them.

There were multiple allegations of human rights violations committed during operations by elements of the army, security forces, and other security personnel, including Russian instructors. Authorities must ensure independent and impartial investigations into these allegations.

The Central African Republic, speaking as a country concerned, said that since December 2020, the “Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement” had continued to commit human rights crimes, including gang rapes of women, kidnapping, the use of anti-personnel mines, and the recruitment of minors into their ranks, among others. The bad publicity of the international media was often based on false figures that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation. The persistence and spike of human rights abuses and violations in the country, committed by armed groups, remained worrying and justified the need for the Government to pursue its efforts to tackle impunity and transitional justice. The Government of the Central African Republic underscored the need for access to justice throughout the country to enable national and international courts to prosecute the perpetrators, co-perpetrators and accomplices of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers remained extremely concerned at the sharp rise of grave violations against children: in the first three months of 2021 alone, verified cases of sexual violence against girls had increased almost fivefold compared to the end of 2020, while child recruitment remained the most frequent gross violation in the country. Peace had to be brokered on the basis of strict respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. Speakers were deeply concerned about the acute humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, noting that full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and the delivery of humanitarian assistance remained a priority.

Speaking were Belgium on behalf of a group of countries, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, United Nations Children's Fund, Portugal, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Angola, Senegal, China, Morocco, Venezuela, United States, Egypt, Ireland, Mali, United Kingdom, Mauritania, Niger, Russian Federation, Malawi, and Chad.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, World Evangelical Alliance, International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), Elizka Relief Foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

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-seventh regular session can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 3 p.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

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

Reports

The Council has before it the report of the Office of the High Commissioner (A/HRC/47/CRP.2) on arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in the context of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between 2014-2021 and a report by the Secretary-General (A/HRC/47/58) on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine

Presentation of Reports

NADA AL-NASHIF, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ thematic report on “arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in the context of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2021” was based on the analysis of over 1,300 conflict-related individual cases documented by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine since 2014, which allowed everyone to estimate the overall scope and prevalence of human rights violations that fell within the purview of the report. Around 4,000 conflict-related detainees had been subjected to torture or ill-treatment in Ukraine since 2014. In Government-controlled territory, in the early stages of the conflict, cases of arbitrary detention included enforced disappearances, detentions without court warrants, and confinement in unofficial places of detention, often secret and incommunicado. In armed group-controlled territory, detention during the initial stages of the conflict lacked any semblance of legal process and often amounted to enforced disappearance. Such detentions were formalised with the introduction of so-called “administrative arrest” and “preventive detention”. The Office was gravely concerned about egregious violations of torture and ill-treatment documented in the “Izoliatsiia” facility in Donetsk.

The Office had unfortunately not been able to find appropriate modalities to conduct a mission to Crimea, thus the Secretary-General’s interim report on Crimea was based on information collected through remote monitoring. It highlighted the continuing failure of the Russian Federation to uphold its obligations as the occupying power. In the administration of justice, the Office documented cases of deliberate hindrance and harassment of lawyers. New allegations of torture and ill-treatment committed by members of the Russian Federal Security Service and other law enforcement entities were received by the Office. Detainees from Crimea complained about poor conditions of detention in penitentiary institutions in Crimea and in the Russian Federation, which could amount to ill-treatment. The Office recorded the arbitrary arrests of 19 persons in Crimea, including 11 Crimean Tatars. Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses remained under a blanket prohibition, while the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was under increasing pressure and was being threatened with the loss of its two largest places of worship in Crimea.

Statement by Country Concerned

Ukraine, speaking as a concerned country, noted that the reports showed the terrible consequences of the Russian aggression and occupation of Ukraine’s territories. The testimonies of Russian hostages in occupied Donbas was like a horror book: beatings with sticks, suffocation, electrocution, penetrating injuries, deprivation of basic needs, mock executions and more. The concentration camp “Izoliatsiia”, as other secret prisons established by the Russian Federation across the Donbas region, had to be closed. The Russian Federation persistently tried to distort the truth and impose its own false narratives on the origins of dire developments in Donbas and Crimea. To that end, Moscow had unleashed a wide-scale disinformation campaign, including within this Council, to legitimise its proxies as well as to vilify Ukraine. The independent media in Crimea had been silenced, and their representatives were persecuted. Increasing political, economic and sanction pressure remained a proper tool to encourage Russia to end its aggression and human rights violations.

Discussion

Speakers regretted this spring’s military build-up by Russia along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, and the continued casualties in eastern Ukraine. Several speakers condemned the Russian Federation’s acts of aggression. Conflict-related detentions in the conflict-affected areas remained a key concern, as were arbitrary arrests and allegations of ill treatment, including torture. The Russian Federation should grant unimpeded access to human rights organizations to the occupied territories. Reiterating their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, some speakers emphasised that Crimea was part of Ukraine. They urged respect for the ceasefire and expressed concerns about damages to civilian infrastructure. Russian anti-extremism laws were being applied against Protestants, Muslims, Jews and other groups, contrary to international law, speakers said. The Russian Federation must stop forcing residents of Crimea to apply for Russian citizenship. Some speakers said Ukraine was brazenly destroying human rights institutions with the complicity of the West, destroying minority languages in an attempt to stamp out people who had been living on the territory for hundreds of years.

Some speakers asked why the Office of the High Commissioner had not addressed issues such as the political repression of opponents of the current Government in Ukraine. Other speakers drew attention to online and offline attacks against civil society members, including human rights defenders. They notably cited violations against women, media workers, political actors, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons and religious and ethnic minorities, in particular Crimean Tatars. Speakers denounced the arrest of Protestant clergy, the official prohibition and subsequent persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the seizure of Islamic and Christian literature, and the seizure of property belonging to religious organizations that had been taking place since the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea. Citing the case of Emir-Usein Kuku and Vladyslav Yesypenko, speakers asked the Deputy High Commissioner what could be done to better protect human rights defenders.

Concluding Remarks

NADA AL-NASHIF, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that access to the peninsula for human rights monitoring should be depoliticised. In response to questions regarding freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly and association, she said that the blanket requirement for all assemblies to receive prior permission from the Russian occupation authorities did not comply with international law. She noted that Ukraine had a standing invitation for thematic Special Procedures and had hosted 12 visits; the Council could encourage the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to work on accountability for such violations. The United Nations Human Rights Office monitoring followed the situation of journalists, media workers, bloggers and human rights defenders in Ukraine, documenting cases of attacks, threats, intimidation and targeting individuals in relation to their professional activities, and their proactive role as members of civil society.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Statement by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, began by welcoming three pieces of good news: the new Government of Henri-Marie Dondra; the swearing-in on 2 July of the 11 Commissioners, including five women, of the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission; and the announcement of a republican dialogue by the Head of State Faustin-Archange Touadera on 9 June 2021, on the occasion of the closing of the national consultations. Since March the Coalition of Patriots for Change - headed by former President François Bozizé - had continued its threats and attacks against civilians, the recruitment of children, committing sexual violence, obstructing humanitarian operations, burning of goods transport vehicles, murders, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, illegal taxation, cruel and inhuman treatment and attacks on physical integrity, destruction and looting of property, and occupation of schools. The Security Council and the international community as a whole should take the necessary steps to ensure that they answered for the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law hanging over them. The process of national reconciliation and the extension of State authority throughout the territory required the cessation of the activities of armed groups.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the Central African Republic and its international allies, armed groups had been driven out of Bouar, Kaga Bandoro, Bambari, Bangassou, Nzacko, Bakouma, Koui, Bocaranga, Yaloké, Bossemptele, Boda, Bossembélé and Ndélé. There were multiple allegations of human rights violations committed during these operations by elements of the army, security forces, and other security personnel, including Russian instructors. Authorities must ensure independent and impartial investigations into these allegations. Expressing concern about allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by elements of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic’s peacekeepers, he called on the Mission to fully implement its zero tolerance policy and on States to train the military on sexual violence issues prior to deployment and to take exemplary sanctions on sexual violence perpetrated. The Expert called on the international community to move on from geopolitical considerations and prioritise the fight against impunity, the fate of the victims of human rights violations, and the restoration of State authority.

Statement by Country Concerned

Central African Republic, speaking as a country concerned, thanked the international community for its work to restore peace and security, and promote human rights and democracy in the Central African Republic. Since December 2020, the “Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement” had continued to commit human rights crimes, including gang rapes of women, kidnapping, the use of anti-personnel mines, and the recruitment of minors into their ranks, among others. The bad publicity of the international media was often based on false figures that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation. The persistence and spike of human rights abuses and violations in the country, committed by armed groups, remained worrying and justified the need for the Government to pursue its efforts to tackle impunity and transitional justice. The Government of the Central African Republic underscored the need for access to justice throughout the country to enable national and international courts to prosecute the perpetrators, co-perpetrators and accomplices of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Central African Republic thanked the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic through the United Nations, the country’s Russian allies, the people of Rwanda, and all the other partners for their support in tackling rebel groups.

Discussion

Speakers remained extremely concerned about the sharp rise of grave violations in the Central African Republic against children: in the first three months of 2021 alone, verified cases of sexual violence against girls had increased almost fivefold compared to the end of 2020, while child recruitment remained the most frequent gross violation in the country. Peace had to be brokered on the basis of strict respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. Speakers were deeply concerned about the acute humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, noting that full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and the delivery of humanitarian assistance remained a priority. The presence of armed groups strongly compromised the protection of more than 200,000 internally displaced persons in the country, who were at risk of forced recruitment, restriction of movement, extortion or threats. Some speakers congratulated the Central African Republic on the smooth holding of its recent general election, stressing the importance of providing technical support to the Government and building the capacity of its institutions.

Speakers underscored that any mediation initiatives must be done with the consent and participation of the Government of the Central African Republic. Speakers also commended the Central African Republic for its progress in implementing transitional justice mechanisms, and its constant engagement with regional and international stakeholders at bilateral and multilateral levels in order to resolve the crisis. The international community needed to remain alert and united in order to help the Central African Republic respond to the pressing needs of its people. Speakers called on the Central African authorities to reinstate the bill abolishing the death penalty on the agenda of the National Assembly. Speakers, noting misinformation and propaganda campaigns from all sides, asked which measures could be taken to restore calm and confidence among the civilian population.

Concluding Remarks

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, deplored that the armed forces of the Central African Republic and their allies had committed human rights violations since December 2020. The operations led by the allies needed to be conducted within the framework of international law. It was important that the Commission of Inquiry established in May 2021 was able to shed light on these violations and was equipped properly to conduct its work to pursue the perpetrators. Sexual allegations against blue helmets meant that the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic had to redouble its efforts to investigate such offences. It was essential for the international community to help overthrow plans and strategies of the Coalition of Patriots for Change that were preventing citizens from going to the ballot box. The fact that a former head of state was at the head of this organization that recruited children and prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid was regrettable and unacceptable.

HRC21.093E