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Calling Migration a Human Rights Issue, Delegates Urge States to Consider Migrants as ‘Key’ to Development, Third Committee Hears

GA/SHC/4114
Sixty-ninth session,
35th & 36th Meetings (AM & PM)
General Assembly
Meetings Coverage

Concluding General Debate on Human Rights, Delegates Raise Concerns about ‘Politicized’ Resolutions Targeting Specific Countries

The protection of human rights, without distinction of migratory status, was key to development, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it concluded its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, including the introduction of two resolutions – on the rights of the child and on celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

More than one billion people in the world were migrants across or within borders, Michele Klein Solomon, of the Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told the Committee. “The paradox is that at a time of such significant human mobility, we are seeing increasingly harsh and restrictive responses to migration in the developed world,” she said, pointing out that since 2000, more than 40,000 people had died trying to cross international borders. Overly “securitized” responses created conditions that left migrants vulnerable to violence, including the loss of life at border crossings, she said. “We need to put an end to this cycle.”

Governments had the sovereign right to determine which non-nationals might enter and remain in their territories, she said, but determination and the processes of addressing such realities must be carried out in accordance with all relevant international legal standards. “All migrants, irrespective of their legal status, were entitled to protection as human beings under international human rights law,” she continued. As recent tragedies continued to illustrate, it was clear that “we all need to do much, much more”, she said.

During the day-long debate, many delegates agreed that mobility was indeed a human right. Guatemala’s speaker emphasized that equality was the link between migration and development, calling upon Member States to create an institutional capacity that would guarantee the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights. A delegate from Ecuador noted that despite increasing awareness on the issue, the legislation and measures adopted by certain States restricted the human rights of migrants. It was also concerned that public policies in countries of destination included sanctions and disproportionate measures against migrants. Accordingly, El Salvador’s delegate stressed the need for a comprehensive approach incorporating human rights, migration and development.

Promoting migration policies based on tolerance, shared responsibility and non-discrimination were States’ responsibilities, a number of delegates said. Sharing the perspective of a destination State, a representative of Greece said her country, a transit of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, had faced strong migratory pressure due to its geographical position at the external border of the European Union. Despite the recent financial crisis, her country remained committed to use all means to ensure the fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Some speakers provided examples of the root causes of migration. A representative of Maldives had drawn attention to the indivisible link between climate change and migration. Noting that migration was a human rights issue that had been neglected far too long, he said that his country was at grave risk of rising sea levels and land erosion, which could ultimately drive people to relocate.

Another theme that threaded through the debate concerned politically motivated resolutions singling out States, with Sri Lanka’s speaker voicing concerns about country-specific targeting in the Human Rights Council and in the General Assembly. Calling upon Member States to treat all on equal footing without selective approach, many delegates urged that and constructive discussions on human rights should not be politicized. A representative of Belarus said some countries had applied double standards when debating human rights, while Iran’s delegate emphasized his regret over country-specific solutions promoted by “self-proclaimed” human rights champions. Several delegates pointed out that human rights challenges existed in all countries.

Expressing a point raised by a number of delegates, Viet Nam’s representative emphasized that universal periodic reviews were among the most effective tools to facilitate dialogue and cooperation among Member States, as well as to promote the implementation of human rights internationally.

Among other topics discussed today, several speakers highlighted the legal and human rights implications of drone strikes. A representative of Pakistan said that the use of armed drones and mass surveillance must strictly comply with the provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law. Indeed, he underlined, the extraterritorial use of drone strikes was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, as they had caused civilian casualties and had resulted in an environment of fear.

Also participating today were speakers representing Brazil, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Argentina, Morocco, Tonga, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Gabon, Albania, Uruguay, Bolivia (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Kiribati, Cyprus, Libya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Canada, Philippines, South Africa, Costa Rica, Nepal, Tuvalu, and Syria, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union Delegation.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also delivered a statement.

Exercising the rights of reply were representatives of Armenia, Bahrain, China, Russian Federation, Turkey, Serbia, Egypt, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Azerbaijan, State of Palestine, Albania, Syria and Cyprus.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 3 November, to begin its general discussion on racism and self-determination.

Background

The Third Committee met this morning to continue its consideration of the protection and promotion of human rights. It also expected to hear the introduction of two draft resolutions: Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/69/L.12/Rev.1); and Rights of the child (document A/C.3/69/L.24). For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4108 of 22 October.

Statements

ERIKA ALMEIDA WATANABE PATRIOTA (Brazil) shared memories of the dictatorial regime that had lasted two decades, claiming the lives of many Brazilians. Only through recognizing that victims and their families had the right to know the truth and to identify perpetrators would the country be able to prevent impunity and to evolve institutionally. Turning to the right to development, she said programmes had included conditional cash transfers, decent minimum wage policies and the Government’s procurement of food and services. Those and other efforts had significantly contributed to eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities. Among her country’s concerns was the global problem of violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, which affected all regions of the world.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said that in the past year, the international community had witnessed dreadful atrocities and violence around the world, and the consequent failure to realize the human rights of millions of people. “We cannot continue to let this happen”, he stressed, welcoming the reports of various Special Rapporteurs that had focused on the rights of vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people and women. New Zealand considered the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples a significant milestone. Further, it was vital to continue to develop policies that addressed the root causes of violence against women, including by raising awareness about access to multisectoral services and avenues of safe redress. His country welcomed ongoing progress towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, and remained concerned at the secrecy and uncertainty that surrounded the use of that practice in some States.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) said that despite commendable achievements, the dream of protecting human beings around the world from indignity and freeing them from basic wants was still far from reality. Credibility demanded that the weak and the strong were held equally accountable for their violations. While civil and political rights formed the foundation of justice, the promotion of social and economic rights facilitated the realization of civil and political rights. The death penalty issue demanded to be examined in a holistic manner, taking into account the rights of victims. His delegation believed that the universal periodic review offered the best process to engage Member States in a genuine dialogue on human rights, based on international cooperation. As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan took its obligations seriously, implementing affirmative action for the political empowerment of women, and high budget allocations for child education. Turning to the subject of drone strikes, he said that such strikes had caused civilian casualties and resulted in an environment of fear. The extraterritorial use of drone attacks was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan) said that his country had signed various international human rights treaties, including those on the rights of the child and the rights of people with disabilities. The United Nations must also fulfil its obligations regarding technical cooperation and capacity building. Sudan had established an independent commission on human rights work years ago, and had completed a comprehensive judicial system overview. As Sudan was considered to be a transit point for human trafficking, the country was taking action to combat that crime, including by promoting international and regional cooperation. His delegation believed that the family was the basic unit of society, and was concerned about attempts to advance new sexual notions that ignored religious and social tradition. No country in the world, big or powerful, was immune to human rights problems, which made it incumbent on all States to cooperate with each other, instead of judging and evaluating others.

PALITHA KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said despite a long internal conflict, his country continued to achieve high Human Development Index indicators, maintaining an expanding economy. When conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lanka had launched a number of reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in affected areas. Accordingly, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited in 2013, noting that there had been threats against human rights advocacy groups in the country. Sri Lanka promised not to tolerate any force of extremism, addressing genuine allegations. However, his country was deeply concerned about the selective targeting of States for country-specific action in the Human Rights Council, as well as in the General Assembly. Concluding, he called upon United Nations entities to engage with Sri Lanka in a constructive, fair and objective manner.

FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) expressed regret over country-specific resolutions promoted by self-proclaimed human rights champions. Canada had committed human rights violations against indigenous people in the form of physical and sexual assault, poor unemployment and health, she added. At the international level, the unjust and bias attitude of the Canadian government was exemplified by extending support to Israel’s killings in Gaza. Turning to the human rights situation in the United States, she noted over 25 cases of human rights violations, including assassinations, drone strikes and the improper use of solitary confinement. She then called on that Government to investigate the detention of innocent Iranians. Grave violations of human rights had also been recorded in European countries, she added, pointing out reports of hate speeches and intolerance against migrants, Muslims and the Roma community. In the United Kingdom, she noted the approval of a new emergency law granting intelligence forces the permission to conduct mass surveillance. In Norway, she said, 83 unaccompanied children seeking asylum had disappeared, and that country had experienced increases in violence against women in their homes.

RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador) emphasized the importance of creating spaces for constructive dialogue on the promotion and protection of human rights. He was convinced that the respect of human rights was a cornerstone for social and economic progress. “The protection of human rights, without distinction of migratory status, is key to development,” he said. The country was promoting migration policies based on tolerance, solidarity, gender-equality, social equality, shared responsibility and non-discrimination. At the national level, he noted the need for a comprehensive approach incorporating human rights, migration and development, calling on all countries committed to human rights protection to raise awareness regarding instruments to protect unaccompanied children.

VADIM PISAREVICH (Belarus) expressed his opposition to the politicization of human rights and the need for a comprehensive approach, taking into consideration the economic, cultural and traditional differences of each country. At the national level, he said the focus was on economic and social rights, underscoring his country’s participation in the universal periodic review. He then expressed concern over the pressures applied by some States under the pretext of human rights. On unilateral sanctions, he welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the negative effects of sanctions. Some countries applied double standards when debating human rights, he added, pointing out that in Canada, the human rights of indigenous people to land and resources had been violated. In the United Kingdom, journalists were arbitrarily arrested if they published documents coming from Edward Snowden. In the United States, demonstrations against proposals to bomb Syria were broken up and people were still being held in custody in Guantanamo Bay. Providing additional examples, he said the Czech Republic was discriminating against the Roma people and, in Switzerland, Muslim people saw an increase in racism and intolerance, sometimes leading to extradition to countries where they had been tortured.

XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador) said that the legislation and measures adopted by some States had restricted the human rights of migrants. Public policies in certain countries of destination included sanctions and disproportionate measures, which prevented migrants from exercising their full rights. Some developed States only recognized the rights of migrants on the basis of their migrant status. It was vital to protect the sexual and reproductive health of all migrant persons, and the full range of their human rights. The instability caused by the financial crisis was gravely affecting migrants through unemployment, xenophobia and an increase in discrimination. His country reaffirmed the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of migrant children and unaccompanied minors. In 2008, Ecuador had declared human mobility a human right. His country was not only a country of origin, but also a country of transit and destination, and had fully shouldered its responsibilities by ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It was regrettable that none of the developed countries had assumed those responsibilities.

AMINA SMAILA (Nigeria) said her country had actively participated in the work and activities of the Human Rights Council, supporting all strategies at regional and international levels to promote and protect human rights. In terms of the legal framework, Nigeria had acceded to several international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However, the world faced great challenges in the advancement of economic and social rights. Accordingly, poverty, conflicts and diseases remained some of the world’s biggest problems, especially in developing countries. Concluding, he said, Nigeria looked forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to advance dialogue and cooperation.

ALIA ABDULLAH ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) said that her country attached a great deal of importance to human rights and sustainable development. Kuwait had enacted various laws to protect human rights and was teaching human rights in its education system, as well as raising awareness on democracy and the role of international organizations. Her country was also a party to various international human rights instruments, including the conventions on racial discrimination, rights of the child and people with disabilities. Kuwait had also ratified 10 labour instruments, including one against labour discrimination in the workplace. Condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she expressed concern about the violence and alarming refugee situation in Syria, and called on the international community to resolve this crisis immediately.

MARÍA LUZ MELON (Argentina) said that it was impossible to draw a distinction between development and human rights. She reiterated the need to achieve the largest number of adherents to the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Argentina also supported the promotion of the human rights of the child, regardless of their status as migrants. National legislation and international laws should be up to date with new realities and take into consideration new risks to children, such as those associated with communications technologies. Turning to forced disappearances, she added that her country was one of the co-sponsors of a related draft resolution, which would be introduced soon.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country urged the strengthening of human rights bodies. For its part, Morocco had adopted a reform process aimed at progressively moving the country forward with regard to the rule of law and the protection of human rights, as it pertained to building inclusive societies. Morocco’s scope of efforts was broad, focusing on specific rights, particularly the rights of children, refugees and women, as well as on its national policy on migration. It also sought to provide a sustainable development framework to ensure the well-being of its people. At the international level, she emphasized the country’s commitment to dialogue and constructive discussions on human rights, urging, however, not to politicize them and to treat all countries equally, without using a selective approach.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that his country was committed to the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action, known as the SAMOA Pathway document, which reaffirmed the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was agreed to by the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States earlier this year. The 2010 universal periodic review had found that the democratization of the Tongan political system had been completed to the furthest extent possible. Tonga had also made further commitments to promote education and improve the ratio of women in leading positions. Challenges remained and assistance from other countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was crucial. Nowhere was that more true than in efforts to ensure the avoidance of human rights violations resulting from the climate change.

HTIN LYNN (Myanmar) said the international community was concerned with the issues of extremism, hostility, inequality, climate change and fear of pandemics. However, he emphasized that globalization, interconnectivity and technology were bringing opportunities to address those and other emerging challenges. On the issue of the promotion and protection of human rights, Myanmar had always sought for engagement, dialogue and cooperation rather than confrontation. Accordingly, his country had been working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, receiving technical assistance and capacity-building support in promoting human rights. Thus, he called upon the Member States to change their view and approach on the “new” Myanmar, which was changing in the right direction for a democratic society.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the independent judiciary, vibrant civil society and free media were all important partners, consistently monitoring and partnering the Government in the realization of its citizens’ human rights. Turning to the challenges, he said that poverty impeded economic development, depriving people of their economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights were indivisible and mutually reinforcing, he stated, underscoring his delegation’s position being based on the principles of universality, non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity. Based on those very principles, he said his country did not support country-specific resolutions, as they did not contribute to the improvement of the overall human rights situation.

HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) reaffirmed her commitment to protecting the rights of missing persons and families, expressing concern over armed conflict and the violations of human rights caused by them, including missing persons. The lack of progress in resolving that issue, she added, contributed to hostilities and conflicts. The right to life, as well as the right to a fair trial, were fundamental human rights and should be observed by all States, she added. On missing persons, she underscored that high priority should be given to ensure that the right of family members to know their whereabouts should be respected among all parties of conflicts. Special attention should be given to accountability for perpetrators of war crimes, she added, welcoming prompt and impartial investigations on those cases. Referring to Armenia’s occupation of some parts of her country, she asked for information on hostages to be released.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) recalled the Security Council’s discussions on women, peace and security, underlining the plight of women in conflicts. Figures on worldwide development showed that millions of people were deprived of their basic human rights to health, education and nutrition, among others. Emphasizing that peace and development were the main aspirations of all countries, she noted the central role played by the United Nations in the achievement of those ambitions. Recognizing that the Human Rights Council and the universal periodic reviews were essential in promoting human rights dialogues, she called for the strengthening of dialogue, technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to ensure human rights, especially for women, children and persons with disabilities.

VLAD LUPAN (Republic of Moldova) said his country was an active member of the Council of Europe and was currently conducting a human rights dialogue with the European Union. His country had also steadily contributed to the synergies between international and regional human rights mechanisms. The Republic of Moldova had taken the decision to abolish the death penalty in 1995 and, as a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the term 2020–2022, stressed that the universal periodic review had proved to be an important tool to promote the implementation of human rights internationally. Human rights-related problems were rising in conjunction with security developments inside States, he added, and his country was concerned about the situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic. Due to an unresolved conflict, the region remained outside the monitoring process of national and international human rights mechanisms. His Government appealed to the Transnistrian side to refrain from any unilateral actions that could lead to a deterioration of conditions.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said that the protection of human rights was closely linked to the rule of law at both national and international levels. Therefore, the promotion of democratic governance, the rule of law and human rights for all should be central to the post-2015 development agenda. His country was taking measures to improve the regulatory frameworks and the judiciary, law enforcement and penitentiary systems. It was also focusing on gender equality and strengthening the rights of children and persons with disabilities. Further, Kyrgyzstan had abolished the death penalty. The promotion of human rights remained a difficult task, especially for developing countries that lacked resources to support appropriate institutions and mechanisms. It was important to take this into account within the framework of the United Nations and multilateral cooperation.

SERGE THIERRY MANDOUKOU OMBEGUE (Gabon) said that human beings were at the centre of any development process, and respect for human dignity was the foundation of a just society. For its part, Gabon had established various human rights programmes. In February 2010, Gabon had abolished the death penalty and ratified an Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Gabon was also supporting successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on that issue. Finding consensus solutions to human rights problems was a priority for Gabon, and the country’s approach involved resolving such problems through dialogue rather than confrontation and politicization. Gabon had ratified various human rights instruments, including on the rights of the child, and had adopted revolutionary measures to improve the representation of women in the Government and judiciary. Health care insurance and social benefits were available throughout the territories, showing the determination of the President of the country to have human rights prevail for all.

Mr. MULYADI (Indonesia) said every country had internal characteristics and that there was no fixed formula to address human rights, underscoring that efforts should be made in impartiality to eliminate double standards and politicization. He stressed the need for a global promotion drive through constructive and genuine dialogues, as there was no country that was immune to human rights violations. He called for constructive ways to cooperate, based on long-term technical assistance and capacity building. Recognizing the role of the universal periodic review as an important mechanism to strengthen the values of democracy and human rights, he requested that its recommendations be realistic and implementable. Human rights bodies should take an approach involving respect and sensitivity to cultural and traditional differences, in an atmosphere of international acceptance.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (European Union) noted the scaling up of its response to current crises, and reiterated a commitment to cooperate to find lasting solutions. He expressed serious concern over human rights violations in Iraq and Syria, condemning all terrorist attacks. Turning to the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said they should not be forgotten, and reiterated his commitment to support host countries. Those responsible for abuses must be held accountable without the possibility of impunity, he added, reiterating his call on the Security Council to refer those cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC). He welcomed the recommendation of the Human Rights Council to send a mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Iraq to assess the situation on the ground.

Only inclusive and genuine dialogue would allow for a lasting solution, he said, adding that measures should not be based only on security and counter-terrorism, but also on human rights. Only the full protection of the right to freedom of religion, coupled with the fight against discrimination and intolerance, would ensure the full promotion of human rights. Turning to the situation in Libya, he condemned all human rights violations, calling on all parties to ensure the full protection of civilians and the provision of help to all people in need. On Sudan, he condemned ongoing conflicts in Darfur and Blue Nile State, among others, calling for a holistic approach to its challenges. He then expressed concern over the human rights violations in the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Crimea.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), aligning his delegation with the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, said that the trend against the death penalty had gained momentum in every region and across legal systems and traditions. However, he noted, some States were moving against that trend and had resumed executions or expanded the scope of the death penalty. Albania would contribute actively to putting an end to that unjust practice. Condemning the rising number of acts of violence committed against people belonging to religious minorities, he added that the international community must heed the lessons from past atrocities and prioritize the protection of disadvantaged groups. Albania’s tradition of harmony and peace had influenced its domestic and international policy. Citing Pope Francis, he said “authentic religion is a source of peace and not violence”. He noted that a representative of Serbia had, in a statement, referred to Kosovo as a province of Serbia. Welcoming the work done to investigate the alleged crimes committed in Kosovo, he stressed that Kosovo was an independent State, recognized by various Member States, and integrated into several leading regional organizations.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

A representative of Uruguay introduced a draft resolution on the Rights of the child (document A/C.3/69/L.24).

A representative of Bolivia, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, then introduced a draft resolution on Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/69/L.12/Rev.1).

Statements

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said that his country had ratified key international human rights instruments, including all core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and was working towards the domestic implementation of its obligations. All Maldivians could claim their rights to health care, social health insurance and pensions, while those in a state of high vulnerability and poverty were entitled to monthly income support. Further, his delegation had drawn attention to the indivisible link between climate change and human rights across the Organization’s platforms. However, there was more work to be done. Gradual changes and extreme climate events were already systematically affecting disadvantaged groups in small island developing States. The Maldives, as the most low-lying country in the world, was at grave risk of rising sea levels and land erosion, which could ultimately drive people to relocate. That situation represented an emerging trend in migration, and was a human rights issue that had been neglected for too long.

NEETETI RAABAUA (Kiribati) said climate change and sea level rises had adverse effects on people, adding new and major challenges. Those challenges included loss of territory, severe coastal erosion, involuntary displacement of communities and decreases in food and water security. Those problems had become a survival issue for its citizens, he said. Human rights and freedoms were related to climate change and sea level rise, he continued, as they affected the basic rights to survive and the right and access to clean drinking water, among others. To addressing those pressing problems, he called on the international community to catalyse global action.

NAFSIKA NANCY EVA VRAILA (Greece) said her country was committed to the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, and was providing full support to the multilateral system. Greece had announced its candidature for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019–2021. If elected, Greece would work in a spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue, with all relevant United Nations bodies and Member States. To tackle the phenomena of racism and xenophobia, the Government had recently adopted a law aiming at strengthening existing criminal legislation and adjusting the country’s legislative framework. On the issue of migration, she said Greece faced strong pressure due to its geographical position at the external border of the European Union. In that context, Greece remained committed to ensure the respect and protection of fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

MONIKA PACHOUMI (Cyprus) said a number of human rights violations were being committed by Turkey in her country since the “illegal invasion in 1974 and occupation ever since of one-third of Cyprus by the Turkish armed forces”. Human rights violations “by Turkey in Cyprus have been pointed out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”, as well as by the European Court of Human Rights. The former body had also “confirmed the responsibility of Turkey in the occupied areas”. Approximately 170,000 “internally displaced Green Cypriots are being denied the right to return to their homes”, she said, adding that their homes and properties were “being unlawfully sold and exploited” since 1974. “Maronite and Greek Cypriot persons in the occupied part of Cyprus are most affected by the continuous denial of basic human rights”, she said, including rights to education, property and freedom of religion. “Widespread destruction and looting of religious and cultural heritage is also taking place in the occupied part of Cyprus.” Missing persons was also a concern, she said, calling on Turkey to launch an effective investigation and provide unrestricted access to all relevant information in its archives and complete access to places, including “military areas in the occupied part of Cyprus and in Turkey itself”, so exhumations could be carried out where substantial information showed the existence of burial sites of missing persons. A future in which all Cypriots could enjoy their rights could only happen if Turkey put an end to “the continuous occupation of the island” and ceased to violate the fundamental rights of its people, she said.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) said that the challenges that impeded the enjoyment of people’s rights included instability, terrorism, extremism, armed conflict, economic crisis, poverty, disease and natural disasters. There was no doubt that stability was a definitive factor in the enjoyment of rights in all nations. Unfortunately his country was experiencing a critical phase of instability because of armed groups challenging state authorities and impeding its democratic transition. Such groups were engaged in torture, executions, forced disappearances of activists, terrorizing human rights defenders and damaging public and private property. Hundreds of thousands of civilians had been displaced in the conflict. The elected Parliament of Libya denounced the violence and violations. The international community and the United Nations must provide support to the Government and armed forces of Libya. The people of his country wished to move forward in building a State based on human rights and the rule of law.

Ms. VRAILA (Greece), taking the floor for a second time, said 40 years had passed since “the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Cyprus have continuously been violated, as a result of the 1974 Turkish military invasion and continued occupation of 37 per cent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus”. The issue of missing persons was particularly important and highly sensitive for Greece, she added, emphasizing that “almost 200,000 Greek Cypriots continue to live as displaced persons, refugees within their own country”. Continuing, she said “Turkey prevents them from returning to their ancestral homes and from exercising their legal property rights”. Another issue of grave concern, she continued, remained the “widespread looting and destruction of the cultural and religious heritage of Cyprus in the occupied area”. Greece supported efforts aimed at a comprehensive, viable, functional and just settlement of the issue, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions and the principles and values of the European Union.

THIPHASONE SENGSOURINHA (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said the promotion and protection of human rights should be carried out in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. At the national level, poverty was the main target to be eradicated. Accordingly, the Government had implemented a five-year national socio-economic development plan. At the global level, the country was constructively engaging with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Concluding, he said his delegation looked forward to sharing good practices and experiences on human rights implementation through constructive and genuine dialogue between all relevant stakeholders.

FERNANDO CARRERA CASTRO (Guatemala) said the issue of migration was a key priority for his country, especially of women, children and people with disabilities. There must be a strategic response to address causes of migration and to ensure that the rights of migrants were fully realized. Further, he said, migrants were usually victims of migration, being subjected to human trafficking. In that regard, a consistent public policy was needed, guaranteeing their security. Concluding, he noted that equality was the link between migration and development, calling upon Member States to create an institutional capacity, guaranteeing the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights.

GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada) said that respect for democracy and the rule of law was the foundation of his country’s foreign policy. Canada remained highly concerned about the violations of human rights in Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria. Encouraging the United Nations to continue to bring attention to the plight of people in those countries, he condemned the recent execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari in Iran. Canada was appalled by the human rights abuses conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), and had joined the air strikes against them. “We will continue to do more”, he said, adding that Canadians were also concerned about the complete absence of human rights, disregard for freedom of expression and the notorious prison camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Canada looked forward to the day when international intervention was not required to promote human rights in the world.

LIBRAN CABACTULAN (Philippines) said his country’s commitment to human rights was most recently manifested in the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law, sent to Congress by the President, which stated that all laws and policies should conform to international human rights standards. His country condemned all attacks against journalists and was committed to resolving all cases of alleged extrajudicial killings through the appropriate state mechanisms. Further, the country, along with other Member States, had issued a joint declaration in favour of abolishing the death penalty, calling for a more humane justice system. Human rights and development were inextricably linked, he concluded, and his delegation was encouraged about that being reaffirmed in the post-2015 development agenda.

TSHOLOFELO TSHEOLE (South Africa) said ensuring the practical enjoyment of human rights remained significant in efforts to achieve equality and eradicate of poverty. Despite significant achievements in the area of human rights, more work needed to be done, including enhancing efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. At the national level, respect for human rights was a cornerstone for the Government. Women’s rights were further promoted and protected and they were given equal opportunity with men, both in the public and the private sectors, leading to significant increases in the percentage of women in the parliament.

NADYA RASHEED, of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, said Israeli violations continued to affect every aspect of life and every human right of the Palestinian people under its nearly 50-year occupation. Israel’s lack of respect and denial of Palestinian rights and blatant violations of international law had never been more evident, she added, as during its 50-day aggression over the past summer in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians had been suffering. Actions committed by Israel constituted gross violations of the core human rights instrument, including conventions on the rights of the child, persons with disabilities and on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, among others.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said that human rights belonged to “all of us, not only to developing countries or developed countries, not only to large or small countries”. His country reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of human rights in all places, as well as to the principles of universality, impartiality and constructive dialogue in promoting human rights. Highlighting the rapid development of information and communications technology, he added that while it was an opportunity for young people, it also carried the risks of bullying and exploitation. In order to optimize the benefits of those tools, it was vital to protect children’s rights online and democratize the use of the Internet by closing the digital divide. Concerned about the high rate of imprisonment of women due to drug trafficking crimes, he said that States must address the structural causes and risk factors. Having abolished its military, Costa Rica was able to free up its spending and invest in education and other rights. A human-rights based approach should permeate the development agenda, he concluded.

SEWA LAMSAL ADHIKARI (Nepal) said that her country was preparing for the second universal periodic review due next year, and had mandated its Human Rights Commission to monitor the State’s compliance with national and international human rights obligations. Nepal was working hard for a full post-conflict recovery with the help of the soon-to-be-established truth and reconciliation commission. The country hoped to heal its deep wounds and leave the painful past behind. Nepal was also working on strong legislative frameworks to address trafficking in women and girls, and was committed to eliminating discrimination against and exclusion of women and girls in all national processes. The right to development was at the centre of Nepal’s development plans, and the country had adopted a rights-based approach that focused on the rights of women, children, elderly, youth and persons with disabilities, among others.

PEI-FEN HSIEH (Tuvalu) said many fundamental rights, including the rights to health, food and water, self-determination and cultural expression, and even the right to life, were extremely sensitive to environmental degradation. The continuing loss of vital land, destruction of food crops, contamination of ground water supplies by seawater intrusion and other climate-related problems were challenges to the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of Tuvalu citizens. “Tuvalu is the country that contributes least to global warming, but it is the country that is being affected the most”, she said, calling on the international community, especially the major “emitting” countries in the developed world, to take responsibility by stopping their dangerous interference with the global climate system.

MONIA ALSALEH (Syria) said now, after three years, the international community had finally realized that terrorism existed in her country, and it had changed its position. Previously, Member States were concerned with the Government of Syria, and now they were disturbed by terrorist attacks by ISIL. Blaming Saudi Arabia, she said that country had financed and trained terrorist groups that were in her country. Also stressing human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, she said their delegation should remain silent and feel ashamed of the situation of human rights in their own country.

MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON (International Organization for Migration) said unimaginable dangers at the hands of unscrupulous recruiters, smugglers and traffickers tended to affect poorer and lower skilled migrants the most. According to the Secretary-General’s report, migrant children and adolescents were at a particularly high risk of human rights violations and abuses. Overly “securitized” responses created conditions left migrants vulnerable to violence, including the loss of life at border crossings. More than one billion people in the world were migrants across or within borders, she said. “The paradox is that at a time of such significant human mobility, we are seeing increasingly harsh and restrictive responses to migration in the developed world,” she said.

The Organization estimated that globally, at least 4,077 migrants had died in 2014 to date, and more than 40,000 were estimated to have died since 2000, attempting to cross international borders. “We need to put an end to this cycle,” she said. Governments had the sovereign right to determine which non-nationals might enter and remained in their territories. However, determination and the processes must be carried out in accordance with all relevant international legal standards. “All migrants, irrespective of their legal status, were entitled to protection as human beings under international human rights law,” she continued. Thus, it was essential that they were provided with effective protection and assistance in a systematic, comprehensive and integrated way. In that regard, the Organization assisted States to improve the governance of their borders and overall migration management regimes, particularly concerning human rights protection. However, as recent tragedies continued to illustrate, it was clear that “we all need to do much, much more”, she said.

SHARON BRENNAN-HEYLOCK of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noting the increasing readiness of States to advocate for the right to food, said that last week, members of the Third Committee had requested more information on implementing the voluntary right to food guidelines. Commending Latin American and Caribbean States for mainstreaming the right to food in their food and nutrition programmes, she said that 28 Member States explicitly recognized the right to food in their constitutions. Achieving the right to food, she added, required coordinated action. FAO was carrying out programmes such as the zero hunger initiative with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). FAO also supported national institutions such as human rights commissions and ombudsman in some countries who were working to monitor the implementation of the right to food.

Her organization remained ever mindful of the critical role of women in the realization of right to food. The World Health Organization and FAO were jointly convening the second international conference on nutrition in November, to improve diets through national policies and international cooperation. Reminding delegates that the review of the Millennium Development Goals was quickly approaching, she concluded that eradicating world hunger was at the core of FAO’s mandate, and it would continue to support Member States in implementing the voluntary guidelines.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Armenia said that he objected to the “blatant allegations” and “avalanche of lies” made by the representative of Azerbaijan. Thousands of Armenians were still missing, and Azerbaijani authorities refused to cooperate on this. Azerbaijan talked of international norms while flouting them. Armenian society and the international community had been shocked by the death of Karen Petrosyan, an Armenian citizen who had died while in custody in Baku. Such deplorable acts must be investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Bahrain said that authorities of his country were committed to the protection of civil liberties.

A representative of China, exercising the right of reply, said that his delegation resolutely opposed the attacks launched by the European Union, calling the statement a “sheer fabrication”. Fairness and objectivity were the principles by which human rights should be promoted. Some Western countries claimed to be judges and held a magnifying glass to human rights abuses in other countries, while turning a blind eye to their own.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the European Union delegate’s statement, said that the rule of law reigned across Russian territory. The law did not limit the right to freedom of assembly, and NGOs were allowed to work in political activities. The Republic of Crimea had joined the Russian Federation, following an “open, free and democratic expression of the will of the population”. The European Union statement had mentioned that the promotion of human rights was part of its external policy. “How did they then explain the violations of human rights within the European Union territories?” he asked, urging the Union to pay particular attention to the situation of citizens in its own countries, whose rights were being violated by “veteran marches and Nazism”. It was important that the European Union took decisive measures to eradicate racism and xenophobia within its borders.

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Turkey, responding to a statement made by the representative of Greece, regretted the “politicization of the Third Committee”, and said that Turkish Cypriots were first forced out of government institutions of Cyprus in 1963. Atrocities against them were well documented in the United Nations archives. An estimated “180,000 Turkish Cypriots had been displaced since then”, and the military coup in Cyprus was instigated by the Government in Greece. Turkey was within its rights and responsibilities to “protect Turkish Cypriots”. Cyprus had a rich cultural heritage, and protecting it was a joint responsibility of both sides. Turkish Cypriot community authorities had restored several Greek Orthodox churches, and were taking steps to investigate missing persons. “Engaging in a blame game was only counter-productive”, he concluded, and Turkey would continue to support the efforts of the Secretary-General to reach a just and lasting resolution to the problem.

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Serbia said the Third Committee should not be used as a platform to politicize issues. The Government of Serbia, she underlined, had actively contributed to overcome the accumulating problems, by finding a solution acceptable to all.

Egypt’s representative, also exercising the right of reply, said his country took the death penalty very seriously, using it as a last resort. Further, his delegation had drawn attention to similar penal codes in European States.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea rejected “motivated allegations” by the delegations of Canada and the European Union. He said those allegations had no relevance whatsoever. In addition, he said the European Union and other western countries had double standards, being reluctant to address their own human rights problems.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Saudi Arabia said her Government continued to implement justice. The Government of Syria had ignored all condemnations made by the international community, she said, adding that all forms of terrorism must be eliminated.

A representative of Israel, exercising the right of reply, said that he “did not recognize the Israel that was described today because it did not exist”. The Palestinian Authority must recognize the human rights of the citizens of Israel and their obligation to defend themselves. The Palestinian Authority should also disengage itself from the destructive policies of the Hamas. That would be “better than the mud-slinging exercises here”.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Azerbaijan said that the representative of Armenia’s comments were full of misrepresentations and attempts to mislead the international community and divert attention from atrocities. Armenia continued its aggression against Azerbaijan by occupying its territories. Further, Armenia claimed that innocent citizens were saboteurs, and charged Azerbaijan’s citizens for illegally crossing borders while they were within their own borders. Karen Petrosyan was a member of a subversive group, and had been arrested for illegally crossing Azerbaijan’s border.

Exercising the right of reply, an observer of the State of Palestine said that there was no distortion of truth in her statement, only facts regarding the violations, many amounting to war crimes that were perpetrated by Israel. The occupying Power continued to justify those violations. “There was no symmetry in this conflict,” she added. There was an “occupying Power” and there was an “occupied people”, entitled to their human rights. The right to self-defence did not permit “Israel’s repeated savagery”, and could not include premeditated military aggression. “Our children, women, and men are not terrorists,” she said.

Responding to a statement made by the representative of Serbia, Albania’s representative, exercising the right to reply, said that Kosovo was an independent State recognized by 110 United Nations Member States. Failing to recognize that reality went contrary to European Union-led efforts to normalize relationships between Serbia and Kosovo, which could eventually lead to peace in the region. “No one can see the future with eyes wide shut,” he said.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Syria said that the Saudi regime was a “terrorist” regime lacking in legitimacy. They supported jihadi groups and “the United States Secretary of State had said that Saudi Arabia was the biggest financial supporter of Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist organizations”, she said. “We tell the Saudi regime to stop its hypocrisy and exploitation of the Syrian tragedy. Stop your support for ISIS and the Syrian people will be okay.”

A representative of Cyprus, exercising the right to reply, said that the statement delivered by Turkey was an attempt to politicize the Third Committee. The answers to that statement could be found in numerous United Nations resolutions. Cyprus was doing everything in its power to ensure that all citizens, “including Turkish Cypriots”, enjoyed their rights. If Turkey really longed for lasting peace in the region, it should begin by withdrawing its troops, she said.

Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Armenia said that claims made by the representative of Azerbaijan were baseless and the representative should read United Nations resolutions carefully, if they had not done so in the last 20 years, to find a single mention of Armenia.

Also taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Turkey said that his delegation denied the allegations made by the Syrian regime. Turkey would continue to stand by the people of Syria.

Serbia’s representative, taking the floor for a second time, reminded delegates that the Third Committee did not deal with that subject. She noted that the current discussion was not helpful for an effective dialogue between the Balkan States.

Also taking the floor for a second time, Saudi Arabia’s representative said the Syrian regime was using explosives against civilians and violating human rights. Accordingly, he reiterated that his delegation would continue to stand by the people of Syria.Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia was taking pride in the “atrocities”, and mentioned the Khojaly tragedy.

Albania’s representative, taking the floor for a second time, said Kosovo was an independent State, which was fully recognized by several regional and international organizations.

Syria’s representative, also taking the floor for a second time, asked the Committee “who authorized the delegation of Saudi Arabia to speak in the name of Syrian people”.